Peru: 3 Day Hikes off the Beaten Path
Peru: 3 Day Hikes off the Beaten Path
The Cusco region in Peru is known for its soaring peaks and stunning scenery. For this reason, there are so many great hikes that you can do in here, such as the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek. For those treks, you need a travel agency (especially for the Inca trail as only official operators can offer this trek).*
But there are also some really nice smaller hikes you can do on your own. Tackling the Cusco region can be a bit daunting so make sure you are well prepared. With some many mountains and so many unmarked trails left by the Incas, it´s hard to know just where to start.
But for those with an adventurous spirit, interested in exploring this awesome area, we have prepared a list of three day hikes in Cusco, off the beaten path. These hikes are not quite as well-known to the average tourist, so you can enjoy the tranquility of nature without being surrounded by hordes of people! Make sure you are well prepared.
Balcón del Diablo
This hike is easy to access from the backside of the Sacsayhuamán ruins and offers a great view of the ruins as well as the famous Christo Blanco Statue from above. The trail is mainly used as a horse trail and meanders through fragrant eucalyptus forests and wide open pastures. Along the way, cool rock formations line the trail and depending on the season; you will pass some ponds and streams.
After about an hour and a half, you will reach your destination; a large cave called the Chacán Cave. This is where you will find the Balcón del Diablo, which is a specific lookout in the cave. To locate the lookout, you´ll need to search for a crack that descends into the rocks with a makeshift trail and stairs. These will lead you to an opening to allows you to look out onto the cliffside, on the Balcón del Diablo. Expect to get your feet a little wet as a river extends back into the cave. Depending on the time of year, there can sometimes be a waterfall that spills over the Balcón del Diablo viewpoint.
How to get here to Balcón el Diablo
To get there, you will need to either take the stairs from San Blas or a taxi up to Sacsayhuamán. You will need to walk or taxi a few switchbacks above the main entrance to Sacsayhuamán. The trail should leave from where the horseback riding tours begin. Whatever path you take, make sure it ascends upwards towards some rock formations on a hill. Once you crest this hill, you should see a lake that you need to walk down to. From there follow the wide dirt path uphill and when you come to a fork in the road, turn downhill, and the cave will be in sight!
Temple of the Moon
Also situated near Sacsayhuaman, the ruins of the Temple of the Moon are not quite as well known as their nearby counterparts of Q´enko and Puku Pukara. These ruins are off the main road and have no entrance fee. There´s a lot of mysticism surrounding these and still some disagreement as to whether or no these ruins are Incan or pre-Incan ruins! Some carvings within the two caves below the temple suggest these carvings were done some 12,000 years ago because one of the carvings many believe to resemble a mammoth.
Departing from the Temple of the Moon is an old Incan road that used to take people all the way out to the jungle. Nowadays, the road doesn´t reach that far, but it still goes on for many miles. The part closest to the ruins is still well-maintained, held in place by a stone retaining wall. The trail snakes along the hillsides above Cusco, providing you with a great view of the whole city. On clear days, you can also see the snow-capped face of Ausangate, rising in the distance to the South.
How to get to the Temple of the Moon
To get there, take a taxi up to the Q´enko ruins. Take the road that branches off for the Q´enko ruins from the Cusco-Pisac highways. Walk past the Q´enko ruins and veer off on a trail to the right that should take you through a field until you reach the reach the ruins. Below the left side of the ruins, a trail begins that will bring you down to cross a stream and then begins to ascend. Follow this path for as long or short as you desire.
Chincero to Urquilla
This hike offers a pretty descent from the Chincero plateau down into the Sacred Valley, with excellent views of the Chichero ruins, terraced farms, and some unmarked ruins further down the path. Likely the only other people you will encounter on this route are local sheep herders and farmers, whose terraces you will walk by.
As you descend, you can feel the air begin to warm as you lose altitude and enter the valley. In the rainy season, the hillsides are dotted with wildflowers, but in the dry season, you are more likely to catch a glimpse of the beautiful glacial peaks that loom above the valley floor. This hike will take about 3-4 hours in total.
How to get here to Chinchero
To get there, take a bus to Urubamba from Cusco and get off in Chincero. You need to follow the dirt road that is across from the Chincero ruins. Follow the dirt road out past the textile museum and into the mountains. When you come to the first fork in the road, stay right to continue your descent, as the left-hand side ends in a dead end. Once you reach the town of Urquillos, take the path along the river out to where you can catch a combi back to Cusco.
*Dos Manos Peru Travel is an official operator of the Inca Trail recognized by the Cusco authorities.
Thanks to Erin Riccio.
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