Huchuy Qosqo Trek - a short but sweet Inca Trail alternative
We've known for many years now that not only the classic Inca Trail road leads to Machu Picchu. The area around Cusco, its fertile valleys and towering mountains, are home to a myriad of paths, many leading past Inca ruins before leaving you in the town of Aguas Calientes - either on foot or navigating the last kilometres by train.
The Huchuy Q’osqo (Oo-chee Cusco) is one of many treks, but it is one that can be done when time is short - you could even do it in a day. We recommend an overnight at a homestay in beautiful rural countryside, and then adding a second night in Aguas Calientes, followed by a visit to Machu Picchu on day 3.
Stunning views and ancient terraces
The hike does offer a lot in a short time - you will be treated to magical views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains as you come over the Pukamarca pass at 4200m, before descending to a canyon leading you past Inca remains, Inca bridges and sets of Inca stairs.
It is a stunning path, and you are guided by the river to your destination, the Huchuy Q’osqo ruins at 3600m.
Here you rest for the night at the welcoming home of a local, an experience not to be missed and a perfect show of hospitality as well as an insight into life in these remote parts.
The next day is spent exploring the ruins and the impressive terraces that seem to endlessly cling to the hillsides. From here it is on to Ollantaytambo to board the train to Aguas Calientes, and the next day Machu Picchu.
Being mostly downhill it is one the easier options around, but do come acclimatised - allowing several nights in Cusco (or similar) before starting.
What Tom thinks
We sent Tom to see for himself where the beauty of the Huchuy Q'osqo lies, and he was not disappointed. He writes...
"The Sacred Valley is full of surprises and Huchuy Q’osqo certainly grabbed me unexpectedly.
Trekking in the high mountains we saw no other tourists, just traditionally dressed women shepherding and weaving while their flock grazed.
Fantastic views to Lares and snow-capped Pitusiray were the perfect complement to a slow descent through a tight canyon called Leon Punku – the Lion’s mouth.
The soothing fall of a small waterfall played quietly in the background while we hiked on ancient Inca Trails – still used by people living here. Along the way, incredible rock formations in the stream and above our heads.
We had the Huchuy Q’osqo (Little Cusco) ruins to ourselves – they are not little! We spent a long time exploring the various rooms and ruins.
Then, to Wilma’s house. Our host, made delicious soups, pachamancas and stews, so we had the power to walk on and she also made sure our cosy beds were warmed with hot water bottles and lots of blankets.
After a great nights’ sleep, we faced a three-hour steep descent, watched from overhead by a gliding condor.
So much packed into such a short walk."