The City of Cusco is an international hub for worldwide travellers. This multicultural, historical Inca city, is the perfect combination of the old and the new. There is so much to keep you busy in the City itself however if you are looking to escape the city for a few hours or a few days, on your free time in the imperial city, here are some great alternative treks for a Cusco City escape.
The Devil´s Balcony is an excellent day hike from Cusco. This trek takes you from the city to a remote cave with incredible farmlands and scenery along the way. This is a great day hike in preparation for a longer multi-day option, or you can even take horses to this site. You can rent a horse just past the Qenqo ruins if you prefer or if you are still in the acclimatisation process. The river offers the perfect picnic spot and the site has become popular for mystical tourism. There is an archaeological site with an altar perfect for ceremonies to the mother earth, the local way of saying thank you to the planet for what she offers.
The Inca archaeological site is situated in the South Valley, heading south from Cusco. The site is an excellent example of Inca irrigation and terraces for growing crops in Inca times. The site is one of the lesser-visited Inca ruins and the perfect place to get away from the crowds. The town of Tipon is also famous for the local Andean delicacy of “cuy”. This is a traditional dish in The Andes and the main staple food for special celebrations in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. You will find the sellers offering their delicious meals all along the main highway, so it is a fabulous option after a visit to the ruins.
Inkilltambo is a recently excavated archaeological site close to Cusco. You can hike from the temple of the moon and arrive at this remote site in about 2 hours, making this about a 5 hour round trip. The site has a ceremonial temple as well as rolling terraces perfect for a picnic. There is a longer hike heading off to Tambomachay if you are ready for a longer option! It is thought that the ruins were originally a ceremonial site with representations of the cosmos engraved in the rocks as well as markers of the sun’s rays during both the summer and winter equinoxes. The rolling hills and incredible scenery, as well as the archaeological site, are mind-blowing and once more a perfect one-day hiking option from Cusco.
Huasao is an interesting little town in the South Valley of Cusco and is dedicated to mystical tourism. The town is a collection of self-proclaimed mystics and witches, who will be more than happy to read your coca leaves and tell you your future! They often do Mother Earth ceremonies and special ceremonies for individuals to resolve any existential crises they may have. It is also home to the wetlands of Huasao which is home to a lot of different animal and plant species native to the area. Close by you can also visit the small town of Oropesa famous for its traditional bread making and is known as the bread capital of Peru.
Ccorca is a small touristic destination and national park developed to promote tourism in the area. You do have to go past the Cusco garbage dump, but don't let this put you off, there is a mini paradise on the other side. The system of rivers and valleys makes for some excellent hiking and beautiful scenery and the town consists of a number of different Quechua communities who partake in their traditional activities such as guinea pig farming and traditional crop growing such as the native potato varieties. You can actually hike a part of the original Inca trail or “Qapaq Ñan and there are even ancient cave drawings in the area, demonstrating that this was previously the home to ancient civilisations.
Qenqo is an incredible archaeological site found within the shadows of Saqsaywaman. This Inca site was ceremonial and astronomical and it is thought that sacrifices and offerings were made here to the mother earth and to the Inca deities. The site is a great example of how the Incas used natural formations for more practical purposes and there is a magnificent Inca ceremonial altar that was originally used for the sacrifices and mummification purposes. Qenqo actually means labyrinth in the native language of Quechua and was so-called to a complex system of underground passways that form part of the site. There is also a huge monolith as well as an amphitheatre type structure which form part of this mysterious archaeological site and definitely worth a visit on your trip to Peru.
Just outside of Cusco heading towards the Apurimac valley and found in the Apurimac canyon is Chonta, the incredible viewpoint which is home to the magnificent Andean condor. The 1 hour hike to the viewpoint is breath taking and seeing the condor soaring above on the thermals is a sight to behold. This area is also the home to the Andean foxes, jaguars, deer, eagles and chinchillas. You can see how the local families live and also magnificent views of the Salkantay mountain.
The rainbow mountain of Vinicunca has rapidly become one of the most popular touristic attractions in Peru and there is a reason. This stripy rainbow mountain is a stunning site up at 5200 metres elevation and combines artistically with the backdrop of the typical deep blue Andean sky. This is not an easy hike and you must have acclimatized for a few days before trying this option, the altitude catches out a lot of people! There is an endless amount of travel agencies who offer this day tour for a budget price and an average group service, but I would recommend a 2 day trip and camp there overnight. Yes, its blinking cold, but to have this incredible site to yourselves is an incomparable experience and should be considered.
Pikillacta is an ancient Pre -Inca “Wari” site in the south valley of Cusco and was built at the end of the 6th century AD. It is characterized by its high walls still in existence today and a wonderful feat of architecture which kept even the Incas at bay for years. This site was a strategic city protecting the entrance from 3 different valleys and had a population of over 10,000 people during ancient times. It is thought that the Wari civilisation abandoned the site in 950 AD after a large earthquake in the area and the Incas improved the structure of the site and occupied it after the Wari culture.
Humantay is a stunning turquoise glacial lake sourced from the Humantay glacier and nestled between Humantay and Salkantay mountains and close to the small town of Mollepata, at the start of the Salkantay trek. This stunning hike is home to abundant flora and fauna- This spectacular hike is a one day trip from Cusco and is a bucket list item for many people due to its natural beauty. This option has also been combined with the 5 day Salkantay trek as a more picturesque option for the first day.
Ok, so the Choco museum is actually based in Cusco so a great option if you are looking for something close by. You can take a tour which explains the whole history of chocolate in the area, has a museum, explains the processing techniques used, you can do a tour to the chocolate growing regions and you can also take part in some workshops and make your own chocolate! You can finish off the experience with their special hot chocolate too. Heaven??? well it’s pretty darn close!