The Best Hikes in the Cusco Area

The nature surrounding Cusco, Peru is some of the most astounding in the World. Complete with snowcapped peaks, deep sprawling valleys, roaring rivers, ancient buildings, and colorful sunsets and sunrises. These magical landscapes in and around Cusco are ones you’ll want to explore close up, walkthrough, and take a day or two to slow down to soak it all in. The perfect way to do this is by one of many half-day, day, or two-day hikes in the area. Travel to the Sacred Valley to experience astonishing ruins or stay close by and enjoy remarkable views of Cusco from the nearby mountains. Below you will find more information on the various hikes we offer at Explorandes. All of our hikes include transportation (if necessary), a bilingual guide, and some include meals.

 

1. Soft Hiking Cusco’s Backyard

Duration transportation (RT): 25 min
Hiking distance: 5 km / 3 mi
Duration of the hike: 2:30 – 3:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy 1-2-3-4-5

Ideal for those getting acclimated to the elevation, this half-day trip is an easy and excellent way to get familiar with the city by hiking through the countryside above it. We begin by taking a short ride to the peak of Huayllarcocha wetlands. Enjoy the view as well as the abundant birdlife surrounding this marshy land. From there we will continue down until we reach a mysterious rock resembling a man’s face, Cara del Inca (Inca’s face). Enjoy a relaxing moment before resuming on our hike to the Temple of the Moon, a stunning and ancient Huaca (ceremonial site). This site is exceptionally unique as it is two caves set in the hillside. Marvel at the ability of the ancient individuals to perfectly carve and align the alters within the caves to bask in the moonlight during certain times of the year. Following the Temple of the moon we descent further down a grassy path to reach the Temple of the Monkeys (Cusilluchayoc). Another ancient Incan ruins complete with carvings of monkeys and other animals. Our tour comes to a close as we continue down until we reach the colorful and bustling San Blas neighborhood of Cusco. This is the perfect, tranquil way to explore the nature surrounding Cusco as well as lesser-known ruins, without the overwhelming crowds or long commut.

2. Soft Hike to the Unknown Ruins of Cusco 

Duration transportation (RT): 40 min
Hiking distance: 7.2 km / 4.5 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:00 – 5:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

This hike is perfect for individuals that might have some physical or time restrictions as it is close by and only a half-day adventure. Similar to the hike mentioned above, we explore the nearby areas including the Temple of the Monkeys. Begin by observing the bustling main square, Plaza de Armas, before resuming up a staircase to the colorful, artistic, and rustic neighborhood of San Blas. Next, we will enjoy the Temple of the Monkeys and the Temple of the Moon. From there, we hike to the archeological site of Inkilltambo Bridge. Enjoy a mix of Incan structures and agricultural terraces while relaxing before we finish our tour with a short car ride back to Cusco.

3. Soft Hike to Huchuy Qosco (2D/1N)

Duration transportation (RT): 1:15 hours
– Day 1: Cusco / Qoricocha lake / Apachetas / Huchuy Qosqo
Hiking distance: 10.3 km (5.8 mi)Duration of the hike: 4:00 – 5:00 hours
– Day 2: Huchuy Qosqo / Lamay / Cusco 2:00 – 3:00 hours
Hiking distance: 3.6 km (2.2 mi)Duration of the hike: 1:30 – 2:30 hours
Difficulty: Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

The ultimate two-day overnight trip for those individuals wanting an active, yet informative tour. Beginning at the shores of the divine Lake Qoricocha (Golden Lake), we will admire the glassy reflection before ascending towards the puna. This peak will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. A barren, treeless high plateau where you’ll be able to spot herds of alpacas and llamas lazily grazing across the terrain. Enjoy lunch out in nature before continuing to Apacheta Pass and Huchuyqosqo. The scenic hike includes views of the surrounding snowcovered Andes mountains.

Day two begins with a well-balanced breakfast before our journey to the Huchuyqosqo site. This ancient site dates back to the early 15th century and is believed to be the home of the eight Inca, Viracocha. This royal Inca estate contains stone and adobe buildings, an impressive great hall, and an irrigation channel that is STILL functioning today. This architectural masterpiece is said to be where Viracocha died. We conclude our hike by traversing down a zigzag path down the mountain to Lamay.

4. Hike through Moray, Maras, and Pichingoto

Duration transportation (RT): Cusco: 2 hours
Hiking distance: 12 km / 7.5 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:30 – 5: 30 hours
Difficulty: Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

This trip is a delightful way to experience the Sacred Valley and the most impressive sites it has to offer. The first stop is Moray, one of the earliest agricultural experiments in existence. These circular terraces create microclimates that allow a plethora of crops to grow. Learn how ancient indigenous people took only the land they had to build a technology that was only matched centuries later with the creation of greenhouses. Following Moray, we continue trekking to Maras. Maras is where the residents mine salt by pooling the salty runoff from a nearby mountain. Stand in awe at the thousands of white and pink saltpans terraced in the mountainside. We will learn about how the site is still run entirely by local families while tasting the salt and studying the beneficial health properties of the mineral. After admiring these two sites we continue hiking to Pichingoto, a remote and lesser-known Inca town. These mysterious and secluded ruins include cave-like stone homes and a Spanish colonial church. Pichingoto is where this full-day experience comes to a close as we hop in the vehicle and make our way back to Cusco.

5. Pumamarca to Ollantaytambo

Duration transportation (RT): Cusco: 4 hours
Hiking distance: 7.2 km / 4.5 mi
Duration of the hike: 2:30 – 3:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy 1-2-3-4-5

Fun for the whole family! This half-day adventure and trek will allow you to explore the Sacred Valley. It gives a glimpse into the local culture and communities in the area and visits archaeological sites. Travel from Cusco, past the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo, to Palata where we will begin our trek. The trail inclines to reach the stunning Pumamarca, an Inca treasure. Once again the Inca chose a remarkable site to build. This high vista point overlooks the Patacancha Valley and nearby rivers. Explore the archaeological compound of Pumamarca, where you can observe the impressive Inca stonework. From stairs to buildings to storage units, observe the diverse ability of the ancient civilization. After discovering all that Pumamarca has to offer, we continue trekking through phenomenal Andean landscapes to Musqa Pukyo. These farmed terraces make for a stunning sight against the backdrop of the panoramic view of the Sacred Valley. Our day comes to a close in the village of Ollantaytambo, where we drive back to Cusco.

6. Quillarumiyoc to Zurite Terraces

Duration transportation (RT): Cusco: 2:15 hours
Hiking distance: 7.4 km / 4.6 mi
Duration of the hike: 3:00 – 4:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

Take in the vision that is Quillarumiyoc on this half-day, but undemanding trek. Quillarumiyoc is a pre-Inca temple built over 3000 years ago. Erected to honor Mama Quilla, which is the Goddess of the Moon and one of the most important of all the ancient gods. Although partially buried by an avalanche, you can still see the ancient stonework, engravings, and symmetrical carvings of this site. After having to time to explore this area, we stroll down to Qapac Ñan, the most important road running through the Andes. Wander through eucalyptus forests, vast potato farms, and ending at the village of Zurite. In Zurite we will enjoy a lunch in a beautifully restored colonial house before heading to the nearby terraced farms. This trip is a perfect melody of nature, Inca and pre-Inca ruins, and cultural education.

7. Chinchero to Urquillos

Duration transportation (RT): Cusco: 2:30 hours
Hiking distance: 9.2 km / 5.7 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:00 – 5:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy 1-2-3-4-5

Enjoy a half day of adventure in the Sacred Valley! This easy hike is comprised of mostly downhill trekking complete with incredible scenery and wildlife. We begin by driving to Chinchero, a small, traditional Inca town known for its colonial buildings and skilled weavers. We will spend some time in the town, observing its archaeological complex before proceeding on our hike. Feel the history as we hike down a reconstructed, but original cobblestone Inca trail. Pause to drink in the staggeringly beautiful views from a lookout before descending a zigzag trail to the Urquillos Canal. Along the way, our knowledgeable guides will point out the blooming flora and abundant birdlife and wildlife. Our day comes to a close when we reach the Urquillos Bridge, suspended over the Urubamba River. Enjoy the sounds of the flowing river before hopping in the private car back to Cusco.

8. Hike Palccoyo

Duration transportation (RT): 6:15 hours
Hiking distance: 3.3 km / 2.1 mi
Duration of the hike: 3:30 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

Enjoy a lot of the same experiences listed in the two hikes above, but with a more relaxed and less strenuous trek. In the same area as the Vinicunca hike but on a different route, we start out on a scenic stone path, passing two viewpoints along the way. Once we arrive at the main viewpoint we’ll be enchanted by the entire Vilcanota Mountain Range, including the snow-capped Ausangate glacier. This glacier is one of the three most important Apus (sacred peaks) in Incan culture. We have the option to hike up to the stone forest viewing the unusual rock formations before taking another path to complete our circuit.

9. The Vinicunca Experience

Duration transportation (RT): 7 hours
Hiking distance: 10 km / 6.2 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:30 hours
Difficulty: Challenging 1-2-3-4-5

Vinicunca, more commonly known as the “rainbow mountain,” is one of the most famous hikes in all of Peru. A challenging, but rewarding hike where you’re able to marvel at rolling rainbow-colored mountains littered with alpacas. The unusually colorful mountains are created by striped layers of sediment formed by diverse minerals. The trek begins in Chilca, making stops at Urcos and Checacupe along the way. In Urcos you’re able to enjoy the bustling local market and in Checacupe, google at the colonial bridges and Churches. Next, we continue to Pampachiri where the challenging ascending trail begins. Drink in the crisp mountain air as you make your way to the viewpoint. Rewarded with panoramic views of unimaginably colorful mountains, it’s a trek you’ll be writing home about.

10. The Vinicunca Experience and Red Canyon

Duration transportation (RT): 6:30 hours
Hiking distance: 16 km / 10 mi
Duration of the hike: 7 hours
Difficulty: Challenging 1-2-3-4-5

This trek is similar to the one listed above but includes the Red Canyon in addition to Vinicunca. Enjoy the vibrant rainbow mountain before continuing to the impressive Red Canyon. Another colorful masterpiece, these scarlet hues contrast beautifully with the blue skies and vibrant green terrain. And if that wasn’t majestic enough, observe the striking white glacier of Apu Ausangate and the Vilcanota Mountain Range. If you’re lucky you might even spot a golden vicuna, the wild ancestor of the alpaca.

Explore Cusco and the staggeringly beautiful landscapes and culture that surrounds it with treks tailored to your liking. Be sure to get in touch with one of our specialists today to pick the best option for you and your loved ones.

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