Acclimatisation hikes, Cusco, Peru

by on 5th August, 2016

Huchuy Qosqo Trek

Acclimatisation hikes, Cusco, Peru

Peru and particularly Cusco is a massive draw for trekkers, with great hikes from the Inca Trail to Salkantay and more to enjoy – and everyone needs to acclimatise to the altitude before hiking.

Andean Trails’ owner Kathy Jarvis has written many Peru trekking guides, including the recently updated Bradt Peru trekking book.

Here, she shares six top Cusco acclimatisation hikes, perfect preparation for your trek – be it Ausangate, Lares, Choquequirao or another trek in Peru.

We can arrange all of these day hikes with an expert, bilingual guide, packed lunch, water and private transport to and from Cusco included.

Check our Facebook photos from the treks, contact us for more, and also read our advice on what to do at altitude.


Trekkers Choquequirao trek Peru

Trekkers, Choquequirao trek, Peru


Full Day Walk to Huchuy Qosqo

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate



  • Good acclimatization hike (highest point 4,200m/13,780ft)
  • Dramatic scenery
  • Andean farming communities
  • Archaeological site

We drive to Patabamba (3,800m), and with daypacks on, head into Andean landscapes that lead to the town of Tauca. This town is known for its archaeological remains and crops, such as tarwi, as well as a large quantity of cactus.

The path leads upwards still, and our destination is the Pukamarca pass at 4,200m. From here, we can enjoy views of the surrounding area, including the immense, snow-capped mountains of Veronica, Pitusiray, Chicon and San Juan.

We descend towards the beautiful and remote Andean pueblo of Pukamarca (4,010m) and we walk down an ancient path to the Leon Punku Ravine. En route, we go through a narrow corridor between some immense rock walls.

As we pick our way through, Inca remains, Inca bridges and sets of Inca stairs – some of the best Inca Stairs anywhere – are revealed. This canyon is absolutely magical.

The majestic rocks and boulders, a beautiful geographical feature, guide the river to our destination, Huchuy Qosqo (3,600m). Upon our arrival, we explore the site and then continue on to our accommodation in the Sacred Valley or back to Cusco.


day walks Sacred valley peru

Day walks, Sacred Valley, Peru


Full Day Tour with Half day Pumamarca walk

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate



  • Good acclimatization hike (highest point 3,650m/11,975ft)
  • Dramatic scenery
  • Andean farming communities
  • Archaeological sites
  • Local villages

This day tour combines authentic encounters with native Andean communities and an insight into their ancient weaving methods, with important archaeological sites such as Pumamarca and Ollantaytambo.

We drive through the scenic Sacred Valley to the village of Ollantaytambo, then on to the farming communities of Marcacocha, Willoq, and Patacancha.

In Marcacocha, locals demonstrate weaving methods dating back hundreds of years used to create unique pieces of the highest quality. In this and the other communities, we can appreciate the traditional lifestyle and work of the indigenous people whose mother tongue continues to be Quechua, the language of the Incas.

Our half-day hike begins near Willoq, from where we walk to the small archaeological complex at Pumamarca. The origin and purpose of this site remains a mystery, but is thought that it was a control point for water distribution to the Sacred valley below, and also for storage of provisions.

Continuing along some beautifully made Inca trails we observe agricultural terraces and have superb views over the valley below. After walking for approximately 2 to 3 hours we reach the town of Ollantaytambo, where you have the option to visit the impressive ruins and Inca town before returning to Cusco or spending the night.


ollantaytambo-Inca site-peru

Ollantaytambo, Inca site, Peru



Half-day Walk to Devil’s Balcony

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate



  • Good acclimatization hike (hike goes up to 3,765m/12,350ft)
  • Pleasant scenery and views

Take a taxi up to Sacsayhuaman and you then walk with the guide up to Chaqan/Balcon del Diablo and then back via Sacsayhuaman to Cusco.

This is a beautiful walk of approx 8 km. into the hills above Cusco, with a huge natural rock bridge over a gorge as your destination.

You start the walk just above Sacsayhuaman and wander across the hillsides and past ploughed fields, with beautiful views over Cusco and as far as Ausangate mountain in the far distance. Take some snacks, water and a hat with you.



Half-day Walk to Cusco’s Outlying Inca Sites

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate



  • Good acclimatization hike (highest point 3,755m/12,320ft)
  • Pleasant scenery
  • Archaeological sites

We arrange for a taxi up to Tambo Machay and you walk back to Cusco via other outlying sites – take hats, sunscreen, snacks and water.

This is a lovely way to get out of Cusco and see the outlying Inca sites, whilst avoiding the endless tourist buses and large groups.

The half day (8km. approx.) walk links the Inca sites on the hillsides above Cusco, using a network of small paths – mostly wandering through the countryside (though there is a short section along the road side).

We drive 20 minutes out of Cusco to Tambomachay, 3,700 m above sea level. It is believed that this was an Inca shrine to water, and it may also have been a military outpost guarding the entrance to Cusco.

At Tambomachay there is a network of water channels, terraces and small cascades. In Quechua the name ‘Tambo’ (or Tampu in Quechua) usually refers to a building used for military or administrative purposes or a place of rest. The name ‘machay’ means underground cavity. It is thought the site dates from 1500 A.D.

After visiting the site we wander 1km along the roadside to Puca Pukara (Quechua for red fortress). This site is built on top of a small hill with stunning views down the valley. It was probably a fortress of some sort, protecting Tambo Machay and controlling access to Cusco from Calca and the Amazon area.

Our route now heads off the roadside and crosscountry to Qenqo. It is thought that this site was dedicated to animals. There are many beautiful carvings, plus an underground sacrificial area and an amphitheatre with many carved niches.

From here we continue walking to Sacsayhuaman, a vast fortress just above Cusco. Sacsayhuaman hosted many epic battles between Conquistadores and Incas, and consists of gigantic carved boulders fitted together in zigzags encasing the battle ground. The site took over 70 years to build and 20,000 men were employed to do this.


sacsayhuaman-Cusco peru

Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru

From here we walk down to Cusco in time for a late lunch.



Full Day Walk to Maras/ Moray and the Salt Mines

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate



  • Great acclimatization hike (highest point 3,760m/12,335ft)
  • Dramatic scenery
  • Andean farming communities
  • Archaeological sites
  • Colonial village
  • The Salt mines

This beautifully scenic one day downhill hike in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a perfect way to get out of Cusco for the day and enjoy the splendour of the outlying region.

We depart Cusco in the morning and go by private transport to the archaeological site of Moray, passing through the typical Andean farming village of Chincheros on the way.

At Moray, you can observe the extensive circular terraces where the Incas once experimented with adapting plants to new climates and temperatures. Leaving Moray, we follow a dirt path for approximately two hours to the colonial Andean village of Maras, where we have a delicious picnic lunch.

From here, we begin our descent to the Salt pans, which have been harvested for hundreds of years.

Surrounded by the incredible views of the fertile valley below and the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Urubamba, we continue hiking to the Urubamba River, where our transport will be waiting to take us back to Cusco or to another point in the Sacred Valley for those who wish to spend the night.



Full Day Tour to the Sacred Pampa and Chinchero 

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate 



  • Great acclimatization hike visiting rarely seen archeological sites
  • Dramatic scenery
  • Andean farming communities
  • Colonial village


We travel from Cusco to Quillarumiyoc – Moon Temple. This is an important, but rarely visited, archaeological site located north of Cusco in the Ancawasi district, the main region of Anta Culture.

After visiting the Moon Temple we will start hiking, taking 2-3 hours on a small country trail, which has great views of the Andean Sacred Pampa (Xaqui Xahuana), before arriving to the small town of Zurite, where we have lunch.

After lunch we continue on by car to Chinchero, a small village in the Sacred Pampa where the locals speak mostly Quechua, the language of the Incas. Along the way we will see Huaypo Lake, a very beautiful lake set against a mountain, also we will enjoy the relaxing countryside of the area, and views of the Vilcanota Mountain Range in the distance.


Inca Stonework at Quillarumiyoc Moon Temple Perú

Inca Stonework at Quillarumiyoc, Moon Temple, Perú

Then we will have a tour of the impressive Chinchero archaeological site, before returning back to Cusco in our private transport, arriving around 5pm.

Contact us for more.


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