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Huchuy Qosqo Trek – The Shortest Trail to Machu Picchu

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For anyone short on time or concerned about their fitness levels but still hoping for a taste of trekking in Peru and a visit to the famed Machu Picchu, the short Huchuy Qosqo trek is the ideal solution. Most versions include two days of relatively easy trekking combined with a visit to Machu Picchu on the third day. While being short on days, the trek still allows for a glimpse of the Andes in a rarely visited part of the Sacred Valley that receives fewer visitors than many of the more popular trails.

Overview

This trek offers a snapshot of what you might expect on some of the longer treks and is one of the best Machu Picchu treks. On the first day, trekkers are treated to sublime views of lakes and distant snow-capped peaks, while also having the chance of crossing high mountain passes before spending a night out in tents. The highlight of the second day is a tour of little-visited Incan ruin, Huchuy Qosqo, before taking transport to the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). The reward on the third day is a visit to Machu Picchu itself before making the trip back to Cusco.

Highlights

  • Relatively easy trek for those short on time
  • Close to Cusco but feels far from the beaten track
  • Simple way to have a taste of Andean trekking
  • Beautiful scenery away from the crowds
  • Get a taste of a longer trek in Peru in a less challenging form

Lowlights

  • Although short, the trek is still a high-altitude trek. Altitude sickness is a real risk and spending a few days in Cusco before the start of the trek is recommended.
  • Temperatures during the night can be freezing at high altitudes
map of the Huchuy Qosqo trek
Overview map of the Huchuy Qosqo trek

Huchuy Qosqo trek facts

Trek difficulty: Easy – moderate
Trek duration: Two days  
Remoteness: Remote despite being close to Cusco
Starting altitude: 3,800 m
Maximum altitude: 4,300 m
Accommodation type: Camping and guesthouse
Best season: May – October
Start / end locations: Cusco – Tambomachay – Aguas Calientes - Cusco
Permits required: No permit required but need a ticket to visit Machu Picchu
Physical fitness: Reasonable fitness required but the trail is not too hard

Huchuy Qosqo trek: 2D / 3N Standard Itinerary

There are many possible variations of the Huchuy Qosqo Trek but all include a visit to the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo and most end in Lamay. A standard 3 days/2 nights version including a night at Aguas Calientes at the end of day two and a visit to Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco on day three as explained below

Day 1: Cusco – Tambomachay (by car or bus), Tambomachay – Pucamarca

The first day starts with a short early morning drive from Cusco to the trailhead at the ruins of Tambomachay (3,700m). After visiting the ruins, the trail ascends to around 4,000m and leads across four gentle passes of between around 4,100 – 4,200m. Early in the day, there are some great views of Cusco city from above and later, trekkers can see pretty mountain lakes as well as some imposing peaks in the distance. The night’s camp is at Pucamarca (3,980m).

Day 2: Pucamarca – Lamay, Lamay – Ollantaytambo (by car or bus) – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes (by train)

The first objective of the day is to visit the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo. After spending around an hour visiting the ruins, trekkers continue to Lamay and the end of the trek. From there, transport by bus and train completes the journey to Aguas Calientes where the night’s accommodation is in a guesthouse.

Day 3: Visit Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Ollantaytambo (by train) – Ollantaytambo – Cusco (by car or bus)

The third day starts with an early-morning visit to Machu Picchu followed by transport back to Cusco by train and bus.

A trip to the Sacred Valley opens you to access to Inca ruins
Huchuy Qosqo trek will take you through rarely visited parts of the Sacred Valley that receives fewer number of trekkers

Huchuy Qosqo trek: Alternative itineraries

Other routes are possible that take in the Huchuy Qosqo ruins on a one day or two-day trek. Instead of travelling to Tambomachay to start the trek, some prefer to drive through Chinchero on the way to Tauqaq and start the walk from there. Another possible point of departure is the small town of Corao. If starting from Tambomachay, it is also possible to finish at Tauqaq instead of Lamay. If finishing at Tauqaq, it is common to visit the Incan agricultural ‘laboratory’ at Moray en route to Ollantaytambo.

For visitors who are really short on time, it is possible to walk from Chinchero to Lamay in one day, taking in the ruins on the way. This is considered more challenging than two-day versions.

An alternative Huchuy Qosqo trek can take trekkers to Moray
Moray is an ancient Inca ruin which is a land withseveral circular terraces. While it is still unknown why these were created, archeologists believe it might have been created by the Incas to study the effects of climate change on crops.

Alternative treks

For those who prefer something longer or more challenging, there are many other possible treks in the area, all of which can be combined with a trip to Machu Picchu on the final day. These include the Salkantay trek, the Lares trek, the Ausangate trek, the Choquequirao trek amongst other treks to Machu Picchu. Of course, the quintessential Sacred Valley trek has always been the classic Inca Trail, the only trek that finishes at Machu Picchu itself – but this is by far the most popular trek in the area and is always fully booked many months in advance.

Ancascocha trek to Machu Picchu provides views of the Salkantay mountain
The Salkantay mountain as seen from the Salkantay trek trail
Llamas on the Ausangate trek
The Ausangate mountain area is surrounded by llama and alpaca farming communities
Choquequirao trek will bring you to the famous Choquequirao ruins
The spectacular Choquequirao (also called the 'other Machu Picchu') ruins from afar
Lares trek vs. Inca Trail offer beautiful and rugged mountain scenery
Trekkers stop to admire the rugged mountain scenery on the Inca Trail

Good to know

  • The Huchuy Qosqo trek can be thought of as a number of different trails – and the site of Huchuy Qosqo is the one thing they all have in common.
  • Although this is considered a relatively easy trek by Andean standards, it should not be undertaken lightly. Altitude sickness can set in from anything above 2,500m and most of this trek is at around 4,000m. This means a couple of days of acclimatization in Cusco before starting is highly recommended.
  • On this trek, you will usually be accompanied by porters with mules. At the end of the trek, if you are happy with the service, it is customary (although not obligatory) to give the muleteers a tip. They are often paid very little and the tip will help to supplement their income, and will certainly be greatly appreciated.

For those hoping for a taste of the mountains who want to experience some rewarding hiking in the high Andes without the exertions and privations of the more challenging trails, the shorter and easier Huchuy Qosqo trek can be a good choice.

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