It’s one thing to ogle other people’s photos of the mythical Inca city of Machu Picchu. It’s another, I discovered, to huff and puff your way up Andean mountainsides and steep Inca staircases to take your own. That’s the glory of a Peru walking vacation: Each step reveals a new vista more impressive than the last. 

The ancient Inca citadel as viewed from Machu Picchu Mountain.

While hundreds of visitors queue up before dawn each morning to climb Huayna Picchu (the distinctive horn-shaped mountain that appears in the background of many Machu Picchu photos, including this one), we wisely opted to make the the steep sixteen hundred foot ascent up the lesser known Machu Picchu Mountain to capture this bird’s eye view of the ancient metropolis, the iconic Huayna Picchu pinnacle, and snaking below, the silvery streak of the Urubamba River.

 View more Peru photos

Plan your own Peru walking vacation.

Read Mark Adams’ wry travelogue, Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

Discover National Geographic Traveler’s Top 10 Machu Picchu Secrets

Consider extending your stay at the luxurious Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel 


About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel expert Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of and Learn more here and connect on Twitter at,FacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.