Another week, another inspiring solo female travel story. For those who don’t know, Women Who Wander is a travel series I have on my blog where other bloggers can share their stories of Solo Female Travel. It’s something I personally have not done enough of but reading all these incredible stories inspires me to no end! This week, Jen is sharing the empowering story of her solo climb of Wayna Picchu. If anything has ever made me want to go on a mountain hike RIGHT NOW, it’s Jen’s story!

Meet Jen

Wayna Picchu

Jen is a full-time lawyer, writer and solo female travel blogger on a mission to complete 12 trips in 12 months. Join her as she embarks on a year of adventure on her blog Jen On A Jet Plane

You can also find her:

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Early Bird Catches the Bus

I woke up at 4am thinking I’d be among the first in line to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. I wasn’t.

By the time I had my hair in the perfect fishtail braid and retrieved my pre-ordered sandwich from the front desk, it was closer to 4:45am and the line was a half mile long. Not the orderly lines you see at Disney, but a cluster of groups and latecomers trying to squeeze in unnoticed.

As I secured my position in queue, I overheard a nearby guide explaining how the site went undiscovered for so long. “This is a sacred city,” he said. “Only the most elite had access. It’s not easy to find, and it looks mystical enough to scare away those who believe the legends.”

Wayna Picchu

His eyes roamed to the mountains in the distance and as I followed his gaze I couldn’t help but agree. The peaks were covered in a thick morning fog. The air was damp and cool against my skin. The vultures cawed ominously. It felt eerie, like if I was one of the unsuspecting boat passengers about to disembark on the island of Kong.

Still I continued, because it’s 2017 and I didn’t come all this way to not get a picture.

The Trail to Wayna Picchu

I boarded the 8th or 10th bus to depart. I lost count. When I arrived I was expecting to encounter the most epic sunrise view–and out maneuver crowds to get the best shot–but it never came. There was light, but no sun visible through the fog. I walked around the immediate area but didn’t see anything. Was I missing it??

A little confused and disillusioned, I decided to head to the Wayna Picchu entrance. Machu Picchu is the name of the site but it is surrounded by several mountains, including Wayna Picchu, which you can access from the ruins. Guests sign up weeks, if not months, in advance to reserve one of 200 entry spots available at both 8am and 10am.

In an effort to beat the crowds, I chose 8am. Before you enter, you have to sign a guestbook, noting your time in and leaving a space to sign out when you go. “Why do we have to do this?” I asked the attendant in Spanish before signing. “So that if you don’t come back, we know,” she replied with raised eyebrows and a look that said from here on out, I was on my own.

I trepidatiously stepped forward, ready to conquer this mountain, having no idea what I was in for.

Solo Travel Doesn’t Always Mean Alone

Wayna Picchu

I was traveling alone but made friends along the way. Some shared their coca leaves to help me combat altitude sickness. Others engaged in small talk during one of my many sit breaks. But the one who kept me motivated the most was a 6 year-old boy. He was there with his mom and dad and they were all visiting from China. His parents seemed to be struggling, like me, but their son was like the freaking Energizer bunny. He had boundless energy. It seemed whenever I would limply plop down in defeat, he’d simply cruise on by, practically skipping with ease.

You don’t know this about me, but few things motivate me more than little kids showing me up. Sure, they’re reckless and act without thinking about consequences. But a prior showdown with 6 year-old got me off an unsuspecting stranger’s shoulders and into the water with stingrays in the Cayman Islands. I couldn’t let this kid reach the top before me.

So I persevered. I carefully navigated slippery moss-covered rocks, even as the stone stairs became a stone ladder, requiring you to rise vertically on your hands and feet. I could hear my own breathing keeping pace as I trekked along. I felt the drops of sweat converting my once tamed braid into frizz, but pushed the thought aside.

A View to Envy All Views

When I reached the top, everything I had gone through was worth it. It was like I’d been invited to a secret cloud party. There were jagged boulders jutting out and the fog lingered in the air, enveloping us in a final hug. I sat to watch it clear and catch my breath. About 15 minutes later, I finally saw it. Machu Picchu, there it was! The moment I’d been waiting for and the view that took my breath away. Needless to say, I got great pictures.

Wayna Picchu

Wayna Picchu was my first solo mountain climb, but it would not be my last. There’s something empowering about hiking alone. You find a piece of yourself in nature, when you have to push through the elements and your own internal limitations to reach your goal.

My advice? Climb every mountain. Take a solo trip even if you’re hesitant to book. Learn something new about yourself by interacting with others in a foreign environment. You never know–reach for the stars and there’s a good chance you’ll end up amongst the clouds.

Find more Women Who Wander entires here

Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at Can’t wait to share your stories

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Women Who Wander: Jen shares her empowering story of her solo hike of Wayna Picchu which led to some increbile views of Machu Picchu!

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17 thoughts on “Women Who Wander: Wayna Picchu Solo Hike”

  1. What an awesome experience!! Jen is incredible, and I giggled at the mention of the 6 year old (totally would’ve had her same thoughts!) So glad she persevered because these pictures are stunning!

  2. This is such a cool feature. I’ve always been a solo female traveler myself, so I love hearing other women’s stories! And I relate to them a lot, even though I’m not tryna climb any mountains, haha

  3. Good on her! We visited Machu Pichu and that mountain climb was unavailable to enter by the time we arrived, the entrance was closed. Wonder I long it took her to climb all of it…it is quite a way! Great feature concept.

  4. How thoughtful of you to feature empowering women travelers on your blog. Jen’s hike was truly amazing. It’s true that kids have more adrenaline and energy to go on hikes. I’ve experienced it too when I went hiking in Cebu, Philippines. There was a 9 year old boy traveling with his parents and this boy was taunting his parents to catch up with him.

  5. wow it seems an amazing experience!!! I love to travel alone and meet people during the trip, and I never been to Machu Picchu! I hope to visit it one day because it looks so awesome! 🙂

  6. What a great first solo mountain climb! And yes, Jen’s photos turned out amazing! Like you, I don’t think I could ever hike alone (out of fear of many imaginary things) so female solo travelers really inspire me, especially knowing that like Jen, you won’t really be alone but even meet new friends!

  7. That looks incredible. Machu Picchu is so high on my list of next destinations, I can wait to experience that hike myself! I was reading recently that from now on it will only be possible to access the site with a licensed guide, so I might not be able to do it solo when I visit!

  8. Man that sounds like quite the experience. I’ve never thought about kids motivating me. But they do have amazing energy and really do things without over-thinking. And I love making friends in foreign places too.

  9. It’s really a great story of the great hike. It was a happy ending with clouds clearing and great views appearing. Nice read, thanks for sharing!

  10. I absolutely loved hiking up Wayna Picchu back in 2012. Much love from another solo female traveler! Keep up the great work!!

  11. I’m glad that the skies finally cleared and you were able to get an epic view. There’s really nothing better than finally being rewarded for hard work and a big climb, right? And you’re right – you DID get some awesome pictures! Might I recommend hiking Kalaupapa next time you’re in Hawaii? I think you’d love it!

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