Day Trips from Cusco
When we gave you some ideas on what to do in Cusco, we mentioned a very important advantage this city has: it’s very close to plenty of interesting archaeological remains and natural beauty for you to consider some day trips from Cusco. We’ve prepared a selection of some of them. But warning! After you read these, you’re going to have a strong desire to redesign your trip and dedicate your full attention to this part of the country!
Important!! The places described here can be visited at your own pace, or you can book private tours that will take you through some of them in a combined day trip. There’s a touristic ticket that will allow you to access the majority of the attractions listed here, and plenty of others. It’s called the Cusco Tourist Ticket (Boleto Turístico de Cusco in Spanish). More info here
Also spelled Puka Pukara, this military and administrative centre is also known as The Red Fortress (that’s actually the meaning of Puca Pucara in Quechua). It’s located about 7km from Cusco (4.35 miles). Unlike other sites, famous for their “big stones”, in this case the limestone used was way smaller, so the aesthetic of the walls is different compared to other places to visit. You still get to see terraces, aqueducts, stairs, bathing areas, all organized in three levels. Very close to this one you have the Archaeological Centre of Tambomachay.
This place is dedicated to water, just 8km away from Cusco (5 miles). The water has been flowing through the canals, aqueducts and waterfalls for centuries up to this precise moment.
It remains unclear among the experts whether this was an imperial bath, a religious temple, even a military location, or actually all of the above. Many also think that the main function was to provide water for tillage. Today, plenty of people refer to this area as “the Inca Baths”.
The Sacred Valley
The Incas Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado de los Incas, in Spanish) is one of the most famous landmarks in Perú. This valley is irrigated by the Urubamba River, so it’s also referred as the Urubamba Valley. Its geographical conditions made this area ideal for agriculture, so today we can find many important sites within this area, and they’re a great build up in your journey towards Machu Picchu. Some of them are:
Famous because of the Craft Market and the archaeological remains known as Pisac Ruins, a great extent of structures that have lasted centuries. It’s quite common to visit these ruins in the same trips that go to Puca Pucara and Tambomachay.
The main square of this town is located on what used to be an Inca Palace, in yet another great example of the architectural mix between the Inca empire and the Spanish. In this place you will see locals still using the barter system. Within the ruins you’ll get to know the terraces used for farming and agriculture.
Maras Salt Mines
These salt ponds apparently existed before Inca times, the Incas just expanded the area and built more. Filled with salty water, when it evaporated it would leave behind crystallised salt. Today, many of these ponds belong to families in the community and the resulting product is available for purchase at the local market. The landscape is incredible.
There’s two main reasons why you’ll hear this name here and there: it connects by train to Aguas Calientes, to get to Machu Picchu (this is also where you’ll be when you’re coming back from the Inca Trail –>see more info here!). And also, because of the Ollantaytambo Ruins. It’s considered one of the most important set of archeological remains in South America, that during Inca times was a fortified city with crops, urban centres and temples.
Adventure Sports: if you need a break from history and want some adrenaline, the Sacred Valley is also a great place for some adventure sports: rafting, zip lining, mountain biking, trekking, climbing. Most of these trips you’ll be able to book them from Cusco city.
Remember: as mentioned above, several companies will have arranged tours that will take you to some of these areas. A typical combination is to do Pisac, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo (something like this could take about 10-12 hours). Others do Chinchero and Maras. There are plenty of possibilities so take a moment to ask around and find what you like!
The Rainbow Mountain
Also known as the Seven Colour Mountain, the presence of minerals provides us with a completely surreal image. You can’t miss this one from your list of day trips from Cusco. Each mineral generates a different colour, and you will definitely remember this day trip. This area is way more remote than other visits named in this article so when going from Cusco this will be your activity of the day: the hike alone to get to the lookout point takes approximately 2-3 hours of hard level trekking (this mainly depending on how the tour is prepared, the size of the group, etc). The observation point is at an even higher altitude than Cusco, so it’s important to take the proper precautions to avoid altitude sickness and follow any instructions your trekking guides give you.