Expedition & Adventure, Plan South America | Peru | 07.03.24

Top 10 Treks Around Cusco

Cusco, the heart of the ancient Inca Empire, offers a range of treks, from the iconic to the less traversed.

Rugged mountains, remote valleys, and ancient footpaths leading to archaeological wonders; trekking here is not just about the physical journey. These hikes offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Peruvian Andes.

Varying in difficulty, scenery, and altitude, check out our top 10 treks in Cusco below. Need help planning your trekking adventure to Peru? Get in touch with our travel team to learn more.

 

10 top treks around cusco

1. Inca Trail

 

Spanning 43 km and typically taking around 4 days to complete, the iconic Inca Trail is dotted with ancient sites and follows various landscapes from cloud forests to alpine tundra. Visit archaeological wonders like Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Phuyupatamarca along the way, culminating in the Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu. The most challenging part of the trail is the ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass, where the highest point reaches 4,200 meters. But don’t be scared away. This pass actually gets its name from the silhouette of the mountain, which looks like the profile of a woman lying atop the hillside. Permits are limited, making early booking essential.

  • Top Altitude: 4,200 meters (Dead Woman’s Pass)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Durating: 4 days / 3 nights
  • Lodging: Camping

2. Short Inca Trail (KM 104 Trek)

 

Requiring just one day, the Short Inca Trail is an excellent option for those who have less time but still wish to experience the magic of the Inca Trail. Starting at KM 104, the trek passes through the Wiñay Wayna ruins and joins the main Inca Trail at the Sun Gate. This is a condensed version of the iconic Cusco trail, offering a glimpse into the beauty and history of the region and leading to Machu Picchu without the need for camping.

  • Top Altitude: 2,700 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 6 – 7 hours
  • Lodging: N/A (one-day trek)
treks around cusco

3. Salkantay Trek

 

The Salkantay Trek requires a little extra physical effort than the Inca Trail, but it’s considered by some to be the most scenic trek in Peru. You’ll pass through cloud forests and rugged highlands. The highlight here is the Salkantay Pass, where trekkers are rewarded with spectacular views of the snow-capped Salkantay Mountain. This path concludes near Machu Picchu after around five days of hiking.

  • Top Altitude: 4,650 meters (Salkantay Pass)
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 4 – 6 days
  • Lodging: Camping
cusco treks

4. Ausangate Trek

 

Renowned for its high-alpine scenery, the Ausangate Trek is a journey through some of the most sacrred landscapes in the Andes. The trek circumnavigates the Ausangate Mountain, offering views of glacial lakes, alpine meadows, and Rainbow Mountain. This trek is a physical challenge and can last four to six days, but it is perfect for those looking to explore remote high-altitude terrain.

  • Top Altitude: 5,200 meters
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 4 – 6 days
  • Lodging: Camping
Cusco trek

5. Lares Trek

 

The Lares Trek is as much about cultural immersion as it is about the scenery. Completed in around 2 to 3 days, you’ll journey through remote Andean villages, getting an up-close look into the daily lives of local communities. You’ll encounter diverse landscapes, from hot springs at Lares to high mountain passes, getting the opportunity to spot rare Andean wildlife. This is an excellent choice for those looking to combine cultural experiences with a trekking adventure.

  • Top Altitude: 4,450 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 2 – 3 days
  • Lodging: Camping
top treks around cusco

6. Cachiccata Trail

 

The Cachiccata Trail is a quieter, less-trodden trek, away from the typical tourist path. Over 4 days, you’ll meet Inca quarries, where stones were carved for Ollantaytambo. Look out across the Sacred Valley and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. This one is ideal for those after a deeper dive into Inca history while enjoying the tranquility of the Andean countryside.

  • Top Altitude: 4,800 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 4 days / 3 nights
  • Lodging: Camping
Maras to Moray

7. Maras to Moray

 

From Maras to Moray is a single-day trek, covering around 8km. It winds through the Maras salt pans and the circular terraces of Moray, believed to be an Inca agricultural laboratory. This trek is perfect for those short on time and looking for a less strenuous hike.

  • Top Altitude: 3,500 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Length: 5 – 6 hours
  • Lodging: N/A (day trek)
Cusco, Peru Holidays | South America

8. Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

 

The trek to Rainbow Mountain, known locally as Vinicunca, is a challenging full-day trek up steep paths at a high altitude. However, the naturally multi-colored mountainside, a geological phenomenon created by mineral deposits, rewards weary hikers. This trek has seen a recent surge in popularity, but its difficulty level keeps the crowds at bay.

  • Top Altitude: 5,200 meters
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 8 – 9 hours
  • Lodging: N/A (day trek)
cusco trek

8b. Palcoyo – Rainbow Mountain Alternative

 

Palcoyo offers a less touristic alternative to the Rainbow Mountain trek with a similar visual spectacle. This one is easier and shorter, making it accessible for those who might find the original too challenging. Palcoyo provides equally impressive views of striped mountains in a quieter setting.

  • Top Altitude: 4,900 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Lodging: N/A (day trek)
treks around cusco

9. Choquequirao Trek

 

Choquequirao, often referred to as the ‘sister city’ of Machu Picchu, is accessed through a challenging trek known for its rugged terrain. The journey typically takes around 4 days to complete, but some treks can last for up to 7 nights. It is quieter than other well-known trails, largely because it is very difficult. Only trekkers who are very fit and well acclimatised should consider this route. The reward is the impressive ruins of Choquequirao.

  • Top Altitude: 3,050 meters
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 4 day, 3 nights
  • Lodging: Camping
treks around cusco

10. Huayna Picchu / Machu Picchu Mountains

 

These day treks offer a different perspective of the Machu Picchu citadel. Huayna Picchu, known for its steep and narrow paths, provides a bird’s-eye view of the ruins. The Machu Picchu Mountain trek is less steep but higher and longer, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. Both require a separate ticket and are limited in daily visitors, ensuring a more exclusive experience.

  • Top Altitude: 2,720 meters (Huayna Picchu), 3,082 meters (Machu Picchu Mountain)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Duration: 2 hours (Huayna Picchu), 3 hours (Machu Picchu Mountain)
  • Lodging: N/A (day treks)

 

Get in touch with our dedicated travel team to start planning your next trekking adventure.

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