As the heart of the Inca empire, it’s little wonder Cusco entices thousands of hikers to tackle its seemingly endless kilometres of Inca trails. But, one hike we came across, with a fraction of the usual tourist numbers, was the Huchuy Qosqo trek. A dreamy hike through an ever-changing landscape, following along the sublime Royal Inca trail. The trek culminates with a visit to the ancient settlement of Huchuy Qosqo, Peru, just as the Incas would have walked it. The views over the Sacred Valley are quite something. And, for Dan and I, it was the perfect introduction to hiking in Cusco. Also, it’s a great one-day hike to acclimatise to the high altitude hikes that scatter this incredible landscape.
Also known as Huchuy Cusco, the name literally translates to ‘Little Cusco’ in Quechua. The site was an important Royal Estate of the Inca Empire. As ‘Little Cusco’, it was almost certainly modelled on the Inca capital and would have been used as a country palace as well as an important defence post.
If you’re looking for a quieter trail with all the same breathtaking views of the Peruvian landscape as with other, more well-known trails, then you can’t go wrong with the Huchuy Qosqo day hike. In this guide, we’ll provide some general info important to know before you set out. We’ll present some hiking stats and a map, as well as give details of the trek and the Huchuy Qosqo archaeological site itself. The guide will discuss how to get to Huchuy Qosqo, and include tour options and alternative hiking routes. We’ll also give you an idea of what essentials to bring.
What to Know Before Hiking The Huchuy Qosqo Trek
- Huchuy Qosqo entrance fee: It costs S/7 ($2USD) to enter the Huchuy Qosqo archaeological site. You pay this upon arrival.
- Altitude: Cusco sits at 3,300m above sea level and this hike ascends to 4,300m. So, it would be wise to spend a few days acclimatising to the altitude in Cusco before tackling this hike. No one wants to be on a trail needing first aid after suffering from altitude sickness. Trust me, I’ve been there. However, this hike is also a great way to acclimatise to even higher hikes you may have planned.
- Full-day supplies: the Huchuy Qosqo trek is a full-day affair, so make sure to bring all your hiking supplies with you including food, water, money and layers for varying weather conditions.
- Early start: if hiking the Huchuy Qosqo trek independently, be sure to leave Cusco nice and early to ensure you have enough time in the day. We recommend leaving around 7am.
- Trail navigation: we’ve heard it’s common to get a little lost on the high plains of this hike. Make sure you come prepared with a GPS map.
The Huchuy Qosqo trek in Peru is a wonderful stand-out day-hike for those wanting to experience the sheer beauty of the Sacred Valley in almost complete isolation. You won’t find crowds of people on this trail. Instead, you’ll experience a more serene Inca trail trek. Filled with jaw-dropping natural wonders, it’s almost like experiencing the landscape and royal trail as the Incas would have done.
The hike to Huchuy Qosqo turned out to be one of our favourite hikes in Peru. Whatsmore, we’re sure you won’t be left disappointed either.
Huchuy Qosqo Trek Preview and Map
- Type: One-Way
- Distance: 13.2km
- Time: 4-6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 95m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Cuper Alto
Huchuy Qosqo Trek
After a very scenic drive from Cusco to the high plains above Laguna Qoricocha (Lake of Gold), the Huchuy Qosqo trek in Peru begins at just over 4,000m above sea level. From here, the trail gradually ascends over the next 3km to an elevation of around 4,300m. This is as high as the Huchuy Qosqo trek reaches, and from this point, the hike is downhill.
The landscape on these high plains immediately reminded us of our hiking in Scotland. The rolling hills and tree-less scenery feels remote and barren, yet utterly beautiful. Add to that the lack of any other person, and we were in hiking heaven.
Usually, Dan and I like to speed hike when we’re out and about on the trails. But, on this occasion, we were still acclimatising to the high altitudes of hiking around Cusco. So, our pace on the Huchuy Qosqo trek was slow and steady, stopping for regular breaks. Our tactics worked a treat, but, it meant speed hiking would have to keep for another day.
WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? It’s hiking at a quicker pace than usual, covering more ground and having a pretty good workout at the same time. Find out more about speed hiking here.
Descending, the breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley will leave you awestruck, filling the horizon ahead of you. Walking along the Royal Inca trail feels exciting, and like following along a little path of history. But then, most hikes in Peru are likely to be following an original Inca trail. It’s what helps make hiking in Peru so appealing.
The trail is clear and defined. We marvelled at the neat cobblestone borders of the path left by the Incas. We knew we were hiking somewhere special.
You’ll notice the landscape begin to change. The faded yellows and dry grasses of the high plains are swapped for lush greens, towering canyon walls, pretty waterfalls and tranquil streams. It’s a truly beautiful Inca trail to experience. It’s little wonder there were settlements here. The blues of the lupins and fluttering of hummingbirds create a most tranquil atmosphere, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Urubamba Canyon.
Quaint wooden bridges cross over the gently flowing streams. Stone steps are impressively carved into the rockface. And, there’s historic evidence of the Inca civilisation every step of the Huchuy Qosqo trek.
As the canyon begins to open up, the Sacred Valley is perfectly framed by its imposing walls. It’s like looking at a masterpiece. You’ll pass through some Inca terraces before rounding the corner to the left and heading for the main gate into Huchuy Qosqo.
The Ruins of Huchuy Qosqo
After around 9km of hiking, you’ll reach the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo. As you enter through the main gate, the archaeological site is sprawled below. It looks almost intact. The restoration work here is incredible. A broad grassy path leads you down to the main complex. This wide road would have been lined with people welcoming the King in the time of the Incas, and you get a real, palpable sense of its grandeur.
On arrival at the site, there’s no obvious place to pay the entrance fee, but don’t worry. An official will soon head over to collect the S/7 admission fee. From here, you’re free to explore the amazing Huchuy Qosqo site, surely one of the best archaeological sites in all of Peru! The famous Inca terraces are present, as are numerous buildings of varying importance, genius Inca irrigation systems, and a large ceremonial open space. There’s plenty to delve into.
As the only way to visit Huchuy Qosqo in Peru is by foot, it feels pretty special to be here after your hiking efforts. We stopped and enjoyed a quick lunch, enjoying the views of Huchuy Qosqo and the Sacred Valley surrounding us.
It’s possible to camp overnight at Huchuy Qosqo, if you fancy it. There’s no extra cost, but you do need permission. So, if the thought of sleeping at an ancient Inca settlement is right up your street, then remember to bring that sleeping bag with you!
Huchuy Qosqo to Lamay
After enjoying your time exploring the site, the trail veers to the right and joins a steep zig-zag track down the mountainside to the town of Lamay. This is where the hike finishes. The trail can be a little slippery in sections due to loose rock and dust, so take your time. The views, however, are simply incredible and a great distraction from sore knees and the roughly 2km descent down from the tall mountainside.
For a tranquil, picturesque and history-filled short Inca trail, then this full-day trek to Huchuy Qosqo from Cusco is a must for your Peru itinerary. The hike makes for a wonderful introduction to the Inca Empire and the sublime Peruvian landscape, as well as being a great option for an acclimatisation hike before tackling some of the high altitude, multi-day treks, from Cusco, like Ausangate or Salkantay.
Huchuy Qosqo Trek With a Guide
We chose to hike Huchuy Qosqo as a day tour with a guide. We went with Apu Andino Travel Peru and were not disappointed. Their friendly, knowledgeable and experienced owner, Antonio, gave us the perfect introduction to the Sacred Valley and showed us a hike to Huchuy Qosqo which, quite frankly, you can’t do without a guide.
You see, the trailhead we began from can’t be accessed by public transport. Or at least, not very easily. We drove via 4×4 up a narrow dirt track of countless switchbacks to reach the high plains, before basically driving across potato fields and around Laguna Qoricocha. A bus or taxi won’t be doing that.
What Makes This Hike Special?
The real selling point, however, is that the utterly beautiful canyon we hiked through is also only accessed from this trailhead. Dan and I were keen to experience the very best of the Huchuy Qosqo trek, and Apu Andino sure did deliver.
You won’t find many tourists opting to take on this hike. Not because it’s particularly difficult. It’s just less well known than other Cusco hikes tourists opt for when visiting this part of Peru. For that reason, you might just find you have the trek to Huchuy Qosqo to yourself. The price is $120USD per person. The cost can feel a little steep, but this hike is easily one of the best in the Sacred Valley. And, having a personal tour guide added, for us, a source of information and adventure we never knew we needed.
It’s important to note, that the route we hiked is not recommended to do independently, even if you can find your way to the trailhead. It’s easy to get lost on the high plains and the logistics of getting yourself to our starting point may be too difficult. Perhaps this would be where you might get a little lost. However, if you want the best views of the Valley of Cusco and a stellar hike down the Urubamba Canyon, then we can’t recommend this version of the Huchuy Qosqo day hike enough.
We also explored with Apu Andino for much of our other Cusco-based hiking and they were great. They are especially renowned as one of the best Ausangate and Salkantay trek companies.
To book a private Huchuy Qosqo Trek Tour, simply contact Apu Andino Travel Peru on Whatsapp (+51 984 609 485 or +51 984 067 472). Otherwise, drop into their office in Cusco (Centro Commercial Imasumaq, Office #216) to find out more information. Also, feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Hiking Huchuy Qosqo Independently
It’s very straightforward to trek to Huchuy Qosqo independently. However, as mentioned, you’ll likely take a different route to that which Dan and I completed. There are a couple of options.
How to Get From Cusco to The Huchuy Qosqo Trailhead
By far, the easiest way to visit Huchuy Qosqo independently is to hike the trail as an out & back from the town of Lamay. However, this option means you miss out on the beautiful Urubamba Canyon section of the trail. I can’t help but feel this would be a real shame. But, if it’s just the ruins you’re after visiting, then this is probably your best option. We saw a couple of hikers visiting this way once we reached the ruins.
Another option, which is more similar to the hike we did, is to begin from Laguna Piuray. You can take a colectivo from Cusco to here. Head to Calle Pavacitos and take a colectivo towards Ollantaytambo. Just let the driver know you intend to alight at Laguna Piuray. The journey should cost around S/6 ($1.50USD). From Laguna Piuray, you’ll need to take a taxi to the ‘Camino Inca Huchuy Qosqo’ trailhead. The taxi drivers will know where to go and the price should be between S/10-15 ($3–4USD).
Following this trail will cover a similar route over the high plains and descend down towards the Sacred Valley, but will arrive at Huchuy Qosqo on the opposite side of the complex to that which we arrived. The views over Huchuy Qosqo from here are awesome, but, you will miss entering through the main gateway and you’ll bypass some of the terraces.
However, this is probably the best trail route if you want to hike to Huchuy Qosqo independently. By all accounts, this is a great hike.
Returning to Cusco
Once you reach the bottom of the switchback section descending from Huchuy Qosqo, cross over the bridge and wait for the bus/colectivo back to Cusco on the roadside. The buses are fairly frequent. In just under an hour you should be back in Cusco, with the journey costing little more than S/5 ($1USD).
Five Hiking Essentials for the Huchuy Qosqo Trek
Why do you need this?
See it in action
A sturdy, comfortable and lightweight hiking boot goes a long way when hiking in Peru. We love the Merrell Moab 2
This camera is super lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for backpacking and hiking in Peru. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
The initial sections of the hike begin at over 4,000m, so you'll want some good layers before you descend to some warmer temperatures
The versatile gaiter is great at keeping the sun off your neck!
I never hike anywhere without my waterproof jacket. You just never know
Make sure to also pack 2L of water, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Other hiking options: It’s actually possible to hike the Huchuy Qosqo trek to Machu Picchu. This is a 3-day trek. Then, you can just add on your Machu Picchu tour. Alternatively, you can begin your hiking straight from Cusco, all the way to Huchuy Qosqo. This is usually done as a 2-day trek. These hikes are less readily available as group tours, as they are less popular Cusco trek options. So, you may find you’ll have to do them privately with a tour company, or, take them on independently.
- Easy does it: the start of the hike does begin at a high altitude, it’s important to be acclimatised to avoid any serious altitude sickness. Dan and I spent 3 days resting in Cusco before hitting this trail.
- More of the Sacred Valley: the Sacred Valley is one of the most beautiful hiking locations in Peru. Another incredible, yet less walked trail, is the hike to Choquequirao. Another favourite hike of ours in Peru!
Have you day hiked or camped at Huchuy Qosqo in Peru? If so, let us know in the comments below.
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