6 Great Cusco Treks


Arriving in Cusco is an adventurer's paradise as there are a number of great treks and adventures to choose from. It's worth doing a little research before you arrive on where you'd like to go and what kind of trek expedition might be the best fit. Below are some of the more well-known routes along with a couple of lesser-known ones. These routes will provide an ideal starting point for your trip whether you're a pro or a novice trekker. We've graded them according to difficulty to help you understand a bit more about the challenge each one presents.

1. Salkantay to Machu Picchu

  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Altitude: 4600 meters
View of mountain at back with green hills in the front
National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine listed the Salkantay trek among 25 Best Treks in the World

Salkantay, one of Peru's most famous nevadas, lies in the heart of the Cordillera Vilcabamba and is considered as one of the best trails. It is also famous for being an alternative to the Inca trail which tends to sell out very quickly. Over the course of 4 or 5 days, you’ll trek by a beautiful glacial lake known as Laguna Humanta, passing over the Salkantay Trek pass before descending into the cloud forest. This trek is a perfect route for travellers with less experience who are looking for a challenge. Without waiting lists for trek permits, this trek makes the ideal substitute to the Inca trail.

2. Humantay Lake

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Altitude: 4000 meters
A view of turquoise-colored lake surrounded with hills and mountains
Humantay Lake hike in Peru is a short but a very steep hike

Discover one of the most spectacular lagunas in the Salkantay region of the Peruvian Andes on this day trek to Lake Humantay. Hit the 1.5 hour hiking trail to Lake Humantay gaining around 396 meters along the way. Having some leisure time at the laguna means you can relax and enjoy the mountain landscapes, including the Salkantay Nevada, along with the pristine translucent colours of the laguna itself.

3. Lares Valley

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Altitude: 4505 meters
View of the lake and Lares Valley from the top of the mountain pass
The Lares trek is a 2 – 3 days high-altitude trek in Cusco, Peru which starts near the village Lares. Photo by wolfishstein [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Embark on a beautiful 2 or 3 day trek through the Lares Valley deep in the Sacred Valley. This is a trek route through traditional Andean communities where you can learn and understand how these populations survive and thrive using resources local to their region. You can stop for a dip in the Hot Springs of the Lares Valley, and trek through local towns suchs as Quisarani, Cuncani, Huaran, Huachuasi and Patacchanta. In these towns and poblados full of culture, llamas and horses graze and are kept for many of the farmsteads. 

At the end of the trek, you can easily head to Machu Picchu by travelling through to Ollantaytambo to catch a train to Aguas Calientes. Machu Picchu rounds off a great couple of days, especially with the new Machu Picchu lodge trek trail, before your journey back to Cusco.

4. Ausangate Nevada & Rainbow Mountain

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Altitude: 6384 meters (Ausangate); 5200 meters (Rainbow Mountain)
View of the colourful and vibrant Rainbow Mountains in Peru
The Rainbow Mountains in Peru are formed partly of colorful sediments that give it a unique and surreal look

A breathtaking trek area in the Cordillera Vilcanota, south of Cusco, the Ausangate Region is a charming place. The distance outside of Cusco is great enough for it to be considered remote but it’s also near enough to be accessible for an incredible adventure. Along the way, you will cross paths with numerous small local communities known as Poblados with many farming llamas as their means of subsistence. It’s a simple way of life out here, and largely off the grid, but it's a way of life that's been maintained and sustained over centuries.

Trekking around the Ausangate circuit, you can incorporate Mount Vinicunca also known as "Rainbow Mountain", and Red Valley. There are also options to climb Ausangate and other peaks within the mountain range.

5. Choquequirao

  • Difficulty: Hard to Challenging
  • Altitude: 3050 meters
A view of the ruins of the Incan site in Peru atop a hill
Choquequirao is a 15th and 16th century settlement associated with the Inca Empire

A trek to this Incan citadel, as opposed to trekking to its more famous sister site — Machu Picchu and the largely oversubscribed Inca Trail will leave you admiring the engineering of the site and serenity of the Apurimac Valley where the route passes through. Considerably less frequented, this Choquequirao trek leaves you in awe of appreciation the effort the Incans went to, to build this citadel.

Starting from Capuliyoc (we recommend to avoid starting your trek from Cachora) the trekking can be hard, depending on the number of days you plan to do it in. It's a series of steep descents and inclines, but every stage is satisfying to complete. The imposing views with interesting and varied ruins along the way make this a trek to remember for a long time. 

6. Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Altitude: 3900 meters
A female backpacker on her trek from Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu
The Vilcabamba Mountain Range feature the characteristic forests of the eastern slope of the Andes and the pajonal of Puna in its highest part

The Cordillera Vilcabamba is a mountain range that is home to a multitude of historical and natural attractions that were of great importance to the development of Andean civilisation. This part of the Andes was widely known to be a refuge to the last of the rebel Inkas fleeing the Spanish invasion; the rebel group was led by Manqo Inka II for about forty years.

The landscapes, wildlife and a rich history of the area will take you on an adventure through a remote region of the Southern Andes all the way through to the famous site of Machu Picchu. There are quite a few off the beaten path routes that exist in this part of the Andes and it's incredibly rare to meet other trekkers or traveling groups.

It will take most of the day to arrive there from Cusco. Parts of this region are in close proximity to the Amazon jungle which makes a great climatic change to your trekking. Various towns of the jungle zone are accessible, such as Quillabamba, Kiteni and Santa Teresa. For a unique Andean environment and stunning scenery, the Vilcabamba region is hard to beat!

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