Hiking to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu
When visiting Machu Picchu, the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, you have three options of doing additional hikes that are between 1.5 – 2 hours each (one way). You can hike up Machu Picchu Mountain, Huayna Picchu (the mountain behind the ruins of the ancient city) and you can also hike to the Sun Gate or Inti Punku. This post focuses on the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu and tells you all you need to know about it.
What is the Sun Gate?
The sun gate (2,720 m / 8,924 ft), also known as Inti Punku (sun gate in quechua), is a viewpoint of Machu Picchu on one side of the Machu Picchu Mountain.
In fact, it goes almost parallel to the path leading up to Machu Picchu Mountain but the good news is that it’s not as steep. It takes approximately between 1.5 – 2 hours each way and you’ll make up around 290 m (951 ft) in altitude.
People at Sun Gate ruins
It’s more than just “a viewpoint of Machu Picchu”, it is the first viewpoint of Machu Picchu for all the people that do the classic 4-day Inca Trail.
It used to be control gate for people who entered and left the holy city of the Incas. Due to its rather remote location from the ruins, it is believed to that Machu Picchu only welcomed people from the elite of the empire.
How to get to there
When you enter Machu Picchu (having passed the entrance) just follow the regular path where all the people go until you get that first initial view of the Machu Picchu ruins and of Huayna Picchu.
Then you need to turn left and follow the path leading away from Machu Picchu passing the agricultural terraces.
Look for wooden signs on which it says “Inti Punku”. As already mentioned, the hike takes quite a bit so it is required that you have a good level of fitness. A 3-4 hour (round way) hike doesn’t seem to bad, I agree, but don’t forget that you are hiking at over 2500 m.
After the Inti Punku viewpoint, the trek goes on to Wiñay Wayna, the last control point of the Inca trail. However, you won’t be able to continue the trail as you’d need the Inca Trail permit. All the people coming this way have done the Inca trail.
What ticket do I need for the Sun Gate?
You can hike up to the Sun Gate with the regular Machu Picchu ticket if you choose to go there before doing the tour of the Machu Picchu ruins.
If you decide to do the tour first and then visit the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, you would have to buy an additional ticket (or a Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain ticket) because you would have to leave the complex after the tour has ended and enter again.
If you decide to go to the Sun Gate first, you can witness the sunrise and how the sun illuminates Machu Picchu without many people hiking up with you.
This is undoubtedly a beautiful moment, but don’t worry if you decide on doing the tour first because the view will always be amazing.
However, for some people the hike might be tiring so that you won’t enjoy the tour of Machu Picchu afterwards. For them, we recommend to do the hike to the Sun Gate after having done a guided Machu Picchu tour.
What weather should I expect?
During the dry season, which is from April to September, you can expect dry weather and a lot of sun.
The annual average temperature is around 16°C, but it can be up to 25°C in this time of the year. Due to the altitude, this feels even warmer so make sure to protect yourself with proper usage of sunscreen. Even though it might seem weird, but in the mornings it can get really cold (even up to -2°C), which is why it’s crucial to wear various layers of clothes.
During the rainy season from October/November to March, the paths can get a little slippery and you need to watch every step twice.
We recommend to do the hike in the morning because there will be less travelers around.
In general, the best time to visit Machu Picchu is shortly before or after high season (May, June or September, respectively). For more info, we recommend you to check out our post about the Machu Picchu weather.
In order to be prepared very well for this hike, we recommend that you are in a good physical shape and that you are acclimatized to the altitude already. There are many people that suffer from the altitude sickness as they haven’t got acclimated properly after having arrived to Cusco. Even though the hike to the Sun Gate or Inti Punku is not as steep and narrow as the Huayna Picchu hike, don’t forget that you are hiking at a high altitude level.
The symptoms of the altitude sickness can be headaches, nausea, shortness of breath etc.….something you definitely don’t want to experience during your vacation.
Apart from that, as said before having the right clothes is crucial in order to make the most of your Machu Picchu visit. We recommend you wear multiple layers (performance shirt, a light fleece, a zip-off hiking pants), take a small backpack, wear hiking shoes, bring sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, bug repellent and a rain poncho (for rain season).
Is it worth to hike to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu?
¡In general, yes it is! The view you get of Machu Picchu is breathtaking and the hike itself also isn’t too hard, considering that you are in a good physical shape and that you are acclimatized already.
The advantage to the hikes to Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu is that you don’t need an additional ticket if you decide to go to the Sun Gate first. If you have the time to do the hike to the Sun Gate, you should go for it.