Clouds over Machu Picchu

South America's 'Hike Of Death' Has Its Name For A Reason

By Hillary Louise Johnson


In every postcard view of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu is there in the background, a tall, bullet-shaped mountain that’s climbable via the very steep "Stairs of Death."
The ancient Incas constructed the 2,100 stone stairs in 1450 A.D. Every step, flight, and landing is uniquely contoured to the mountain and provides views of the Peruvian jungle.
Flight after flight, the stairs climb at dizzying angles, leading all the way to the top. For comparison, there are only 1,800 stair steps to the top of the Empire State Building.
Despite the name, no tourist has yet to die climbing the stairs. You'll need a reservation for Huayna Picchu, so plan ahead to be one of the 400 permitted to climb daily.
Even if you fear heights, the Stairs of Death are not too scary, as they have solid hand-holds and firm footing. There are some actual ladders, so don’t bring a bulky pack.