Wiñayhuayna is one of the most famous archaeological sites on the 4-day Inca Trail route. Its tropical mountainous geography as well as its stone constructions give it a similarity to Machu Picchu. This Inca site can be visited on the third or fourth day of the route, after approximately 34 kilometers of walking. Due to its scenic beauty and historical importance, it is one of the most photographed tourist attractions on this hiking route.
Wiñayhuayna is the last archaeological site included in the Inca Trail before arrival at Machu Picchu. You get there on the third or fourth day of hiking. If the camp for the third night is in Wiñayhuayna, you can visit it that same day in the afternoon. On the other hand, if tourists camp in Phuyupatamarca, they can visit it on the fourth day in the morning (before arriving at Machupicchu). The Wiñayhuayna camp is just a few meters from the archaeological site. It is the camp that most tourists want during the Inca Trail tour (the camps are chosen according to availability).
The archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna
The archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna is one of the most famous architectural monuments of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. It was built by Emperor Pachacutec in the 15th century, almost at the same time that Machupicchu was built.
Wiñayhuayna is a Quechua name that means “Forever young” or “Eternally young.”. The reason for this name is that orchids abound in this territory. One of the most famous is the ‘Wiñayhuayma’, an orchid of great beauty and color.
Due to its location on top of a mountain, its entrance is exclusive for tourists who make the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, either in its classic version of 4 days or in the short version of only 2 days.
Wiñayhuayna was an Inca citadel that had an important religious function. In addition, like Machu Picchu, it was a key point of agricultural production.
The archaeological site is divided into different levels, the majority includes the platform sectors. Each of these floors is accessed through stone steps.
Wiñayhuayna is made up of more than 40 agricultural terraces built on the slopes of the mountain. The lower constructions were built for the common population while the upper structures for the Inca elite. These have fine carvings and sets of windows overlooking the beautiful landscape.
Likewise, they highlight the set of liturgical sources, on a strongly inclined surface. The whole small city is made of granite rock and seen from a high part, clearly, we can see that it has the same architectural distribution as Machu Picchu.
Wiñayhuayna is located in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. It belongs to the Urubamba valley and the Vilcabamba mountain range. Geographically it belongs to the province of Urubamba, district of Aguas Calientes.
Wiñayhuayna is located just 5 kilometers on foot from Machu Picchu. Its altitude reaches 2,650 meters above sea level.
How to get there?
To get to Wiñayhuayna, you must walk 34 kilometers from the starting point of the Inca Trail (at kilometer 82 of the railway that connects Ollantaytambo with Aguas Calientes).
From the starting point of the 2-day Inca Trail, you must walk 8 kilometers uphill. From Machu Picchu to Wiñayhuayna there are approximately 5 kilometers of walking distance.
These are the most famous buildings in Wiñayhuayna:
- The House of the Inka – The best-built set of enclosures that were destined for the exclusive use of the highest authority of Wiñayhuayna, probably the Inca ruler. It is made up of patios, water channels, doors, windows, niches and rooms for various functions.
- The tower – In the upper part of Wiñayhuayna there is a semicircular construction with seven windows with impressive views of the landscape. Its function was that of a tower, or temple where the sun and mountains were worshiped. It is accessed there by stone stairs. It is the most striking building in the place.
- Water sources – Next to the tower, ten ritual water fountains are deployed for ‘purification’ purposes. The water flowed through each of the water sources. You get there through the main road that leads to the Qhapac ñan.
- The platforms – The set of terraces in Wiñayhuayna is one of the most solid and largest that can be appreciated on the Inca Trail. More than 40 terraces have been registered. Each one is over 2 meters tall. There the Incas cultivated products such as potatoes, corn, quinoa and even the coca leaf.
The flora of Wiñayhuayna
Wiñayhuayna is one of the archaeological sites of the Inca Trail where more species of flora can be appreciated. In its environment it is possible to appreciate ferns, molles, cedars, carnations and eucalyptus. However, the most abundant species is the orchid.
About 300 varieties of orchids have been registered in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The ‘wiñayhuayna’ orchid stands out, with a purple coloration. In 1942, the Peruvian archaeologist named this archaeological site with the same name as the flower: Wiñayhuayna.
More information and tips
From Wiñayhuayna the path of the Inca Trail to the Intipunku, the entrance door to Machu Picchu, is shown horizontal. The route takes almost 2 hours (approximately 5 kilometers).
Wiñayhuayna, as well as Machu Picchu, was discovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham. The famous researcher sought to find the Vilcabamba citadel, also called “The lost city of the Incas.”
Wiñayhuayna can only be visited in two ways: with the 4-day Inca Trail and with the 2-day Inca Trail. In the first case, the tour must be purchased 6 or 7 months in advance. In the second case, just weeks in advance.
By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 17-12-2021
Interested in the Inca Trail? Know more about Archaeological sites!
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- Phuyupatamarca archaeological site
- Intipunku archaeological site
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