If you’re looking for a spectacular day hike close to Cusco, the Huchuy Qosqo trek has to be top of your list! The trail takes you to the lesser-visited Huchuy Qosqo ruins and features unbelievable panoramic views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. The route covers 16 km and has an altitude gain of 600m making it the perfect hike for acclimatizing to the high altitude, and while preparing for a longer trek. Unlike many other hikes in the region, the Huchuy Qosqo trek is only about an hour’s drive from Cusco, making it perfect for a day trip. Even better, the hike is seriously under the radar so you’ll likely see few other hikers along the trail. Find out more about the awesome Huchuy Qosqo Trek here!
Huchuy Qosqo is one of the most intact and least visited Inca sites in Southern Peru. The trail to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins snakes its way through a variety of landscapes beginning in the clay streets of rural Peru and climbing to a towering 4572m above sea level. This trail isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is particularly beautiful on a sunny afternoon. You’ll get expansive views of the Sacred Valley and unrivaled views of the small towns far below, towering mountains, and sweeping green valleys dotted with cacti and small waterfalls before reaching the Inca site.
Despite being relatively easy to navigate and astonishingly beautiful, this is one of the least visited trails in the Cusco area. Only about 20 people per day in the high season hit these paths. Likely because of the altitude. Hiking to 4572 m without a guide can be intimidating to those of us not familiar with trekking at high elevations.
The trail should take you around 6-7 hours if you’re in decent physical shape, allowing for stops along the way to take epic photos and catch your breath.
For the first mile, you’ll share the path with sheep for company. The incline is gradual as you snake your way along the dirt path toward the grassy green hillside in front of you. Here you’ll get a sense of the difficulty of climbing at elevation as the trail begins at around 3962 meters elevation. This is the only difficult part of the Huchuy Qosqo trek. As you ascend into the foggy mountaintops you’ll follow a slightly trodden path into high elevation. Don’t be fooled by the first false summit either. This portion of the trail will take around 1.5 hours if you’re stopping periodically to drink water, catch your breath, and savor your surroundings. When you see the stones that are shaped like steps, you’ll know you’re almost there.
Once you’ve traversed 4574 meters, you’ll be pleased to start your careful descent through different scenery and have a chance to catch your breath. You can take solace that the hike from here on out is mostly downhill. Here the landscape is vastly different from the start of the trail. Cacti cling to grey cliffsides covered in green foliage, and tall golden grass fields ring the trail. When you reach the bottom of the canyon, you’ll find the only trail marker- a simple sign directing you away from the river and further down the canyon. It’s here you will enter the Huchuy Qosqo Inca site and witness some of the best views of the entire trail. Facing the mountains and overlooking a scenic valley town, making the Huchuy Qosqo Trail one of the most stunning treks in Peru.
The hike downhill takes no more than one hour, maybe an hour and a half if you stop for many photos. Once you reach the Inca site, you should pause for lunch if you haven’t already. You will spend around an hour at Huchuy Qosqo itself, eating lunch and watching the resident Llamas graze, not a bad place for a lunch stop!
Many hikers argue that this is actually the most difficult section of the Huchuy Qosqo trail. If you have bad knees, then you might agree. The descent into the town of Lamay is a one-hour section of constant steep downhill along cliffside dirt switchbacks. The epic views will remain in your mind as a reminder of why you decided to embark on this long one-day hike in the first place! The trail will then level out as you arrive in the town of Lamay.
The best time to trek Huchuy Qosqo is from May-October, but you can hike this trail all year round. Since Huchuy Qosqo is still relatively unknown and underappreciated, you can visit the trail any day of the week and expect to have a few fellow hikers, making it the perfect day trek from Cusco.