The Cusco region in Peru is a paradise for hikers. Here you will find a great variety of trails, ranging from the short and easy to the long and arduous. In this article we highlight the three best one-day hiking trails near Cusco.
Cusco – Huchuy Qosqo – Lamay
Huchuy Qosqo (little Cusco) is a fascinating archaeological centre located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is situated at approximately 3,600m above sea level, just above the villages of Lamay and Calca. The ruins of an Inca town with cultivated terraces, it makes for an ideal viewpoint of the Sacred Valley and many beautiful peaks, such as Chicon, Pitusiray, Sawasiray, Waccaywilca and Veronica. What sets this hiking trail apart from the others is that it almost entirely follows the original road that the Incans walked themselves; a road that was built five hundred plus years ago with phenomenal precision and expertise by this ancient civilization.
Trekking to Huchuy Qosqo can be accomplished in one full day or broken apart into two. The duration of the trek will depend on the physical fitness of the hiker and their acclimatization to the altitude. The highest points of the trek exceed 4,300m above sea level. Those who have already spent several days in the Andes and are in good physical condition could aim to complete the trek in one day, walking for about 8-9 hours from start to finish.
If you are determined to complete the trek in one day, having been appraised of the physical and acclimatization requirements, then you should start the expedition no later than 7.00am. Without breaks the village of Lamay or Calca can be reached in 7-8 hours, and with stops around 9-11. But if one has doubts about the requirements, it is better to break it down into two days.
- 5:45 Wake up
- 6:00 Breakfast
- 6:30 Depart from the city of Cusco to the start point of the trek (public transport or taxi)
- 7:00 Beginning of the hike
- 18:00 End of trek in the village of Lamay or Calca
The route is demanding and difficult only if done in one day. The first difficult section appears near the beginning. You must climb to the pass at over 4,000 metres. This section is completely uphill and will take over an hour. But after this the route is mostly flat or even slightly downhill, except for a few small hills. The final section is very steep downhill and can present problems for knees. An alternative option is to descend to the village of Calca. The descent is milder but it takes a little longer, which after many hours of hiking can be the less desirable option.
- You can shorten the route by starting it in another place.
- You can do this route on horseback.
Ollantaytambo – Inti Punku – Ollantaytambo
Inti Punku means ‘sun gate’. In the Incan Empire, stone gates atop hills were extremely important. These rocky ruins are located throughout Peru and can be mightily impressive. One of these gates can be reached from the charming town of Ollantaytambo, following a trail that takes you over the wondrous beauty of the Sacred Valley. Along the way you will pass by other ruins from the time of the Incas, as well as the places from which they transported the stones to build the incredible fortress in Ollantaytambo. And to crown it all, there is also a lovely natural swimming pool, where you can swim and admire the beauty of the agricultural terraces and snowy peak of Mt Veronica. Once you arrive at Inti Punku, there is an amazing view of four different valleys; the perfect place to sit and ponder for a bit, away from daily life.
- 6:30 Wake up
- 6:45 Breakfast
- 7:30 Beginning of the hike
- 18:00 End of the hike in Ollantaytambo
It is not a challenging hike but it requires physical strength. The first section is more difficult, being uphill for 4-5 hours, but it is not steep. And the return hike is conversely lightly downhill.
- You can do this route on horse.
Valley Patacancha – Lares
Patacancha Valley is a beautiful part of the Cusco region. The picturesque landscapes are full of tradition and welcoming people who make this place truly unique. It is almost worth coming to this remote part of the world not for the beautiful mountain scenery of Cordillera Urubamba but for the people who inhabit it. It is something special to get to know their way of life and the colourful handmade textiles. Patacancha Valley is very colourful, through the incredible clothing, dominated by various hues of the colour red.
- 4:50 Wake up
- 5:00 Breakfast
- 5:20 Depart from Ollantaytambo to Patacancha Valley, to the start point for trekking (taxi)
- 6:15 Beginning of the hike
- 18:00 End of the hike in Lares
This is definitely the most challenging of the proposed one-day treks in the Cusco region, but it is very picturesque. You will have to meet the challenge of the trail through local villages and mountain passes at an altitude of 4,300 metres above sea level. The trail can be overcome in around 11-12 hours by those who are acclimatised and fit enough. But at the end of the trek there await hot springs to bathe in and rest weary bones.
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