Perched high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Cusco is a city steeped in history and culture. Once the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for travelers from around the world. While there are plenty of things to see and do in the city itself, many visitors also choose to venture out on day trips to explore the surrounding area. From ancient Incan ruins and breathtaking natural wonders to traditional villages and vibrant markets, there are plenty of options for day trips from Cusco that offer a glimpse into the rich history and culture of this fascinating region. In this article, we’ll highlight 10 of the best day trips from Cusco, each offering a unique perspective on the wonders of Peru.
10 amazing day trips from Cusco
1. Machu Picchu
No visit to Cusco would be complete without seeing Machu Picchu, the iconic citadel that was once a major religious and cultural center of the Inca Empire. Visitors can take a train or hike the Inca Trail to reach this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where they can explore the ruins of temples, plazas, and houses, and marvel at the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
2. Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a stunning region that stretches between Cusco and Machu Picchu, featuring picturesque towns, scenic landscapes, and many archaeological sites that were considered sacred by the Incas. Highlights include the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, as well as the impressive terraced fields and agricultural experiments at Moray.
3. Rainbow Mountain
Located a few hours south of Cusco, the Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca) is a spectacular geological formation that features colorful layers of sediment and minerals. Visitors can take a challenging hike to reach the summit and enjoy panoramic views of the Andes Mountains and the surrounding valleys.
4. Moray and Maras
Moray is an impressive complex of circular agricultural terraces that were used by the Incas for experimental farming and climate testing. Nearby, the salt mines of Maras are a unique attraction that consists of thousands of small ponds that have been used for salt production since pre-Columbian times.
5. Humantay lake
Humantay Lake is a stunning turquoise lake that is located at the foot of the Humantay Mountain, about a 4-hour drive from Cusco. The lake is fed by glaciers and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, as well as opportunities for hiking and birdwatching.
Often called the “sister city” of Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is a fascinating Incan archaeological site that is located in a remote region of the Andes, about 4 days’ hike from Cusco. The site features impressive terraces, plazas, and temples that have been partially restored, and offers a glimpse into the daily life and beliefs of the Incas.
Pisac is a picturesque town that is located in the Sacred Valley, about an hour’s drive from Cusco. The town is famous for its vibrant market, where visitors can buy local handicrafts, textiles, and produce, as well as its impressive Incan ruins that feature impressive terraces, tombs, and a temple.
Ollantaytambo is a living Incan museum that is located in the Sacred Valley, about 2 hours’ drive from Cusco. The town features an impressive fortress and temple complex that was built by the Incas to guard the entrance to the valley and control the trade routes. Visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins, climb the steep terraces, and admire the impressive stonework that was used to construct the buildings.
Chinchero is a charming Andean village that is located in the Sacred Valley, about 45 minutes’ drive from Cusco. The town is famous for its traditional weavers, who use ancient techniques and natural dyes to create beautiful textiles and clothing. Visitors can learn about the weaving process, visit the local market, and explore the impressive Incan ruins that overlook the town.
Tipon is an impressive Incan engineering marvel that is located about 30 minutes’ drive from Cusco. The site features an extensive network of terraces, canals, and fountains that were used to irrigate the crops and provide water for the surrounding areas. Visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins, admire the intricate stonework, and learn about the advanced engineering techniques that were used by the Incas.