10 Must-Do Hikes Around Cusco PART 1

The nature surrounding Cusco, Peru is some of the most astounding in the World. Complete with snowcapped peaks, deep sprawling valleys, roaring rivers, ancient buildings, and colorful sunsets and sunrises. These magical landscapes in and around Cusco are ones you’ll want to explore close up, walk through, and take a day or two to slow down to soak it all in. The perfect way to do this is by one of many half-day, day, or two-day hikes in the area. Travel to the Sacred Valley to experience astonishing ruins or stay close by and enjoy remarkable views of Cusco from the nearby mountains. Continue on to find more information on the top ten hikes we offer in this area. All of our hikes include transportation (if necessary), a bilingual guide, and some include meals.

1) Hiking Cusco’s Backyard

Duration transportation (RT): 25 min
Hiking distance: 5 km / 3 mi
Duration of the hike: 2:30 – 3:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy 1-2-3-4-5

Ideal for those getting acclimated to the elevation, this half-day trip is an easy and excellent way to get familiar with the city by hiking through the countryside above it. We begin by taking a short ride to the peak of Huayllarcocha wetlands. Enjoy the view as well as the abundant birdlife surrounding this marshy land. From there we will continue down until we reach a mysterious rock resembling a man’s face, Cara del Inca (Inca’s face). Enjoy a relaxing moment before resuming on our hike to the Temple of the Moon, a stunning and ancient Huaca (ceremonial site). This site is exceptionally unique as it is two caves set in the hillside. Marvel at the ability of the ancient individuals to perfectly carve and align the alters within the caves to bask in the moonlight during certain times of the year. Following the Temple of the moon we descent further down a grassy path to reach the Temple of the Monkeys (Cusilluchayoc). Another ancient Incan ruins complete with carvings of monkeys and other animals. Our tour comes to a close as we continue down until we reach the colorful and bustling San Blas neighborhood of Cusco. This is the perfect, tranquil way to explore the nature surrounding Cusco as well as lesser-known ruins, without the overwhelming crowds or long drive.

2) Hike to the Unknown Ruins of Cusco

Duration transportation (RT): 40 min
Hiking distance: 7.2 km / 4.5 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:00 – 5:00 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

This hike is perfect for individuals that might have some physical or time restrictions as it is close by and only a half-day adventure. Similar to the hike mentioned above, we explore the nearby areas including the Temple of the Monkeys. Begin by observing the bustling main square, Plaza de Armas, before resuming up a staircase to the colorful, artistic, and rustic neighborhood of San Blas. Next, we will enjoy the Temple of the Monkeys and the Temple of the Moon. From there, we hike to the archeological site of Inkilltambo Bridge. Enjoy a mix of Incan structures and agricultural terraces while relaxing before we finish our tour with a short car ride back to Cusco.

3) Hike to Huchuy Qosco (2D/1N)

Duration transportation (RT): 1:15 hours
– Day 1: Cusco / Qoricocha lake / Apachetas / Huchuy Qosqo
Hiking distance: 10.3 km (5.8 mi)Duration of the hike: 4:00 – 5:00 hours
– Day 2: Huchuy Qosqo / Lamay / Cusco 2:00 – 3:00 hours
Hiking distance: 3.6 km (2.2 mi)Duration of the hike: 1:30 – 2:30 hours
Difficulty: Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

The ultimate two-day overnight trip for those individuals wanting an active, yet informative tour. Beginning at the shores of the divine Lake Qoricocha (Golden Lake), we will admire the glassy reflection before ascending towards the puna. This peak will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. A barren, treeless high plateau where you’ll be able to spot herds of alpacas and llamas lazily grazing across the terrain. Enjoy lunch out in nature before continuing to Apacheta Pass and Huchuyqosqo. The scenic hike includes views of the surrounding snowcovered Andes mountains.

Day two begins with a well-balanced breakfast before our journey to the Huchuyqosqo site. This ancient site dates back to the early 15th century and is believed to be the home of the eight Inca, Viracocha. This royal Inca estate contains stone and adobe buildings, an impressive great hall, and an irrigation channel that is STILL functioning today. This architectural masterpiece is said to be where Viracocha died. We conclude our hike by traversing down a zigzag path down the mountain to Lamay.

4) Hike through Moray, Maras, and Pichingoto

Duration transportation (RT): Cusco: 2 hours
Hiking distance: 12 km / 7.5 mi
Duration of the hike: 4:30 – 5: 30 hours
Difficulty: Moderate 1-2-3-4-5

This trip is a delightful way to experience the Sacred Valley and the most impressive sites it has to offer. The first stop is Moray, one of the earliest agricultural experiments in existence. These circular terraces create microclimates that allow a plethora of crops to grow. Learn how ancient indigenous people took only the land they had to build a technology that was only matched centuries later with the creation of greenhouses. Following Moray, we continue trekking to Maras. Maras is where the residents mine salt by pooling the salty runoff from a nearby mountain. Stand in awe at the thousands of white and pink saltpans terraced in the mountainside. We will learn about how the site is still run entirely by local families while tasting the salt and studying the beneficial health properties of the mineral. After admiring these two sites we continue hiking to Pichingoto, a remote and lesser-known Inca town. These mysterious and secluded ruins include cave-like stone homes and a Spanish colonial church. Pichingoto is where this full-day experience comes to a close as we hop in the vehicle and make our way back to Cusco.

Stay tuned for the rest of the top ten hikes around Cusco next week!

Want to add one or more of these to your next Peru adventure? Contact us!

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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The Ten Thousand Star Hotel: The Skylodge

Picture this: you wake up in a plush bed to a 300-degree view of the rolling green hills, snowcapped mountains, sprawling blue skies, and rushing rivers of Peru. Now, what if I were to tell you, this could be you. Everyone is always searching for a unique way to travel and enjoy once-in-a-life time experiences. Look no further. Satisfy all your “travel goals” with one little trip. Meet the only suspended lodge in the world: The Skylodge Adventure Suites. This exclusive lodge is located in the Sacred Valley and makes for the ideal excursion from Cusco.

The transparent capsules are suspended 400 meters (1,200 feet) above ground, nestled into a mountain rock face. Handcrafted out of aerospace aluminum and weather-resistant polycarbonate, you can rest assured these clear pods are safe and secure. Each suite is complete with four beds, a dining area, and a bathroom. (And yes, you can even see the incredible views from the bathroom!). The pods are large and can comfortably accommodate up to eight people. Making it the perfect excursion for the whole family, a group of friends, or a perfect date night! Come eye to eye with massive condors, the predators native to the Sacred Valley. Sit in awe as the sun sets and allows the night sky to take over. The dark sky is littered with stars, including the impressively bright Milky Way constellation. That’s why they call it the ten thousand-star hotel!

Half of the adventure is getting to the incredible lodge. There are three thrilling ways to reach the transparent pods. You may choose to climb 300 meters on a via ferrata path, a path with permanent safety equipment installed such as steel ladders and bridges. Each person is attached to the steel cable that runs through the entire course. This gives people with no experience of rock climbing the opportunity to taste the thrill, without the fear of falling. The second option to reach the lodge is via a zip-line. Beginning with a 30-minute walk to reach the first of seven lines, each individual will soar above the Sacred Valley like the condors that share the sky. Every line of the course is unique, offering a different view of the Sacred Valley below. The final option is a combination of the two, via ferrata and zip-line.

After the excitement of climbing to reach the Skylodge, you are rewarded with pure luxury and million-star views. Enjoy fine dining in the sky with a savory dinner, complete with wine. Wake up to the beautiful morning light and indulge in a hearty breakfast before making your way back down. This trip perfectly encompasses adventure, beauty, thrill, and romance.The thousand-star hotel awaits.

Want to experience the Sky Lodge for yourself? Contact us!

Check out our itineraries and other blogs about this incredibly unique experience as well as our videos:

2-Day Via Ferrata/Zip Line/Sky Lodge in the Sacred Valley

Peru’s Craziest Hotels

NEW VIDEO: Via Ferrata + Sky Lodge + Zip-line Adventure (Sacred Valley, Peru)

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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Camino – Top Sites in Santiago de Compostela

Santiago means it is time to celebrate your Camino de Santiago Trek completion! There is so much to see and do in Santiago, it is worth spending an extra few days to explore this lovely UNESCO Heritage city. The top 6 sites in Santiago are

  1. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
  2. Obradoiro Plaza (area around the Cathedral)
  3. San Francisco Church and Convent
  4. Rua do Franco Street (Restaurant Row)
  5. Santiago Food Market
  6. Alameda Park

1) Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The Cathedral is beautiful to behold — inside and out. Inside the Cathedral, there is a Pilgrim ritual:

  1. In the entryway is a pillar with St. James. Touch the pillar and say a prayer.
  2. On the other side of the pillar is a figure of the stonemason Mateo. Knock 3 times on his forehead to receive wisdom from the master.
  3. Behind the altar, climb stairs to embrace the gilded statue of St. James. Chances are this will be a long line, but it moves relatively quickly.
  4. Then descend to the crypt where the relics of St. James are in a silver crypt.
  5. Attend the Pilgrim’s Mass at noon

2) Obradoiro Plaza (area around the Cathedral)

Then walk all the way around the outside of the Cathedral to see all the area has to offer.

  • Obradoiro Plaza – This is the plaza right outside the Cathedral. Pilgrims gather to celebrate, take pictures, and relax. It is a fun place to hang out day and night.
  • Cathedral Museum (and roof) – Definitely worth a visit to see the ceilings up close and look down on the plaza from the roof.
  • Parador – This was the Royal Hospital, but now is a 5-star hotel (to the left).
  • Fonseca Palace (to the right)
  • Platerias Plaza (to the right and behind)
  • Quintana Plaza (behind) – This is a very lively plaza with restaurants, music, and jugglers. Be sure to look for the Hidden Pilgrim shadow at night! The Holy Door (or Door of Forgiveness) dates back to the 17th Century. The luggage storage service is on the corner.

3) San Francisco Church and Convent

As you face the Cathedral, follow the street to the left. This is where the Pilgrim’s Mass is being held while the Cathedral is being renovated. An amazing church in itself!


4) Rua do Franco Street (Restaurant Row)

This street goes from the Cathedral towards Alameda Park and lined with lovely outdoor and indoor restaurants and bars. All the narrow windy streets around the Cathedral area offer an amazing selection of dining options!


5) Santiago Food Market

Stalls of fruit, vegetables, fish, meats, cheese, local bread, wine, and gift items. The market is open from Monday to Saturday, from 7am until 3pm. Saturday is the busiest day, and enjoying lunch at one of the many restaurants is a highlight.


6) Alameda Park

Large, beautiful park with a church and fountains. Great for walking around on a sunny day and getting great pictures back at the Cathedral. Walk down Rua do Franco Street from the Cathedral, and it is across the street.

Camino de Santiago Treks >>

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Camino de Santiago – Packing Your Day Pack

Packing for your day of hiking on the Camino de Santiago is easy! You don’t have to pack much, so keep it light and share common items with your companions.

Left to right:

  • Rain jacket (if needed)
  • Rain cover for pack (if needed)
  • Headlamp (if needed)
  • Sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • Kleenex and wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hair binder
  • Snacks, candy, gum
  • Backpack – about 20 liters (Camelbak, hip belt, and chest strap are nice
  • Pilgrim Passport
  • Scallop shell
  • Sun hat
  • Walking notes and pen
  • Wallet
  • Phone/camera
  • Water bottle

If needed:

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Venice – Great Addition to Your Dolomites Trek!

If you are starting or ending your Dolomites Trek in Cortina, Venice is the closest airport. Why not spend a few days in this amazing city?? Find out getting there, what to do, getting around, where to stay, and more information!


Getting There

You can get a private transfer or tourist bus between Cortina and Venice. If you are coming from Cortina, you will go to the Piazzale Roma. This is where the main bus station, Santa Lucia Train Station (Ferrovia), and parking area are.

You can get around by water bus, water taxi, and walking. Ask your hotel for directions to get to the hotel. They will give you the bus route and/or walking directions. If there are 4+ of you, it is worth the money to get a Water Taxi down the Grand Canal – fun experience!


What to Do

The main tourist sites are:

  • St. Mark’s Square
  • St. Mark Basilica
  • Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs
  • Rialto Bridge
  • Grand Canal
  • Gondola ride (80 Euros for up to 6 people during the day / 100 Euros at night)
  • Day trip to Murano and Burano
  • Eating
  • Shopping

Get tickets in advance online for the St. Mark’s Basilica (even day of) and Doge’s Palace (48 hours in advance) to skip the long lines.


Getting Around

You can take a water bus from Piazzale Roma to St. Mark’s Square. The San Marco and San Zaccaria water bus stop is where the St. Mark’s Square is (main tourist part of town). Route 1 takes longer but goes through the Grand Canal. Route 2 is faster and goes around but still scenic and great for sunset. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Piazzale Roma to St. Mark’s Square. Water Taxis are available, but expensive. There is also a Grand Canal Cruise from the train station.


Where to Stay

Hotels are mostly by St. Mark’s Square, Piazzale Roma, or along the Grand Canal. Unless you are on the Grand Canal, a “canal view” room is of limited value. Hotels are very expensive, so don’t be shocked.


More Information

Make sure you have a phone with data service for using a map, or download maps on the map.me (or other) app. Maps are very handy in Venice!!

Rick Steves Pocket Venice – nice walking tours and handy tourist info (see Practicalities in the back).

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Taquile Island: The Community of Men Who Love to Knit

Situated 45km on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca in the middle of the pristine blue-green waters is the quaint little island of Taquile. With a modest population of around 2000 Taquilenos, the community has an important role to play for the local Quechua speaking inhabitants, attracting culture hungry and inquisitive travelers from corners all over the globe.

Over the past one thousand years, very little has actually changed on the island, and the locals have created a sustainable way of living, cultivating their crops, building homes from natural resources and weaving their clothes by hand. They don’t depend like most of us on modern day appliances like electricity, gas and cars, adding to the intrigue and harmony of this untouched Inca community.

Upon arrival to the island you immediately sense the simplicity of daily life and the presence of generations of history that have shaped its ancestry. Free from the distraction of modern technologies and the digital world, women can be seen preparing a sumptuous lunch, sheep idly graze and roam freely whilst the men are out catching fish for the evening dinner. However, once the daily chores are put to one side a rather unexpected social scene begins to unfold, as the men exchange and chew a few coca leaves, before congregating to sit down and begin their knitting traditions.

What may appear, as a casual interchange of the morning’s activities is the beginning of serious business and for good reason. Each man that lives on the island wears what’s known as a “Chullo”. The rather pantomimesque looking hats, are carefully knitted from llama, alpaca, vicuña or sheep’s wool and at a quick glance can reveal a man’s marital situation and current mood. If the hat is red and white, the man is single, but all red symbolizes he is not up for grabs and married. The Chullo’s are also characterized by the long, narrow pointy tail which depending on the way it is leaning indicate the individual’s mood. If the tail is flopped to the left he’s worried, to the right side he’s happy and to the back it means he’s busy which is normally the adopted position whilst knitting.

The hidden messages and importance of the men’s knitting skills don’t end there and arguably the most crucial test for a man, is how tight he can knit his hat. When he is looking for a life partner to marry, he must prove his self by drinking water out of his hat. If the “Chullo” has been knitted loosely, the water will drip, on the contrary and a drop won’t be lost showing off his skills and indicating that he is off sufficient caliber to consider partnering with.

The art and culture of textiles on Taquile Island is literally woven into the heritage of the locals, with the skills, techniques and cultural meanings being taught and passed on over generations. So much so, that the textile art they produce is now protected by the UNESCO Traditional Craftsmanship and Social Practices, and their work is amongst the most prestigious in the world.

Check out these itinerary options of ours that include Taquile Island and Lake Titicaca:

3-Day Lake Titicaca and the Floating Isles
3-Day Sea Kayaking on Lake Titicaca / The Magic Triangle

To start planning your next Peru trip, contact us!

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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What is the Hiking Like on the Camino de Santiago?

Depending on the route and itinerary you choose, you will hike 9-17 miles / 15-28km per day. There are hills, but any steep sections are relatively short. Because you are hiking a good distance every day, the main problem people encounter are blisters and sore muscles. Footwear, blister first aid, and ibuprofen are important. Hiking poles are also highly recommended. There will be cafes and rest areas along the trail where you can stop for a rest. Here are some of the different types of paths on the Camino de Santiago trek.

Dirt road through a canopy of trees
Hiking through a larger town – a great look at local life
Hiking on a quiet paved road
Through the beautiful countryside of small local farms
Over stone bridges
Stone pathway
Narrow dirt path
Past cute cafes
Through forests of fragrant Eucalyptus trees
Hiking into Santiago de Compostela
Final Destination – Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela!

Plan YOUR Camino de Santiago Trek!

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The Magical Uros Floating Islands of Peru

The floating Uros Islands of Peru is one of the magical places to visit in Peru. Home to the Uros indigenous people, the islands are situated on Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest freshwater lake, that overlaps the border between southern Peru and western Bolivia.

The Uros are one of the first ethnic groups that inhabit the Andean region and they live on the man-made floating islands on the lake. The islands are constructed out of the totora reeds that grow around the lake.

Visit the magical floating Uros Islands and discover the rich culture and traditions of the people as well as their day-to-day activities.

For more information on how to include a visit to the magical floating Uros Islands of Peru in your trip, please check out some of the following itineraries or give us a call:

3-Day Lake Titicaca and the Floating Isles

21-Day Peru Greatest Hits

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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Finding Your Way on the Camino de Santiago

Many people ask how they will be able to find their way on the Camino de Santiago trek. Just follow the signs!

Most markers come with the kilometer distance from Santiago.
Arrows on the side of a building.
Decorated with rocks on top.
As part of a shrine.
Well worn shoe!
Modern sign.
Also artsy….

Plan your own Camino trek!

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The Torres del Paine Circuit Trek: Join Now!

Are you ready for an exciting, out-of-this-world adventure? Patagonia is the place to come! This southern region is full of amazing treks, biking excursions, running opportunities and more. There are tons of adventures for different ages and abilities, all fun and active! As we kick off this year’s trekking season in Patagonia we would like to highlight one of our wildest and most spectacular treks: The 9-Day O-Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

The Paine Circuit is one of the best trekking experiences in Torres del Paine. It’s a 9-day trip, covering all of the park’s major highlights and some off-the-beaten-track areas. We recently made a video of this exceptional multi-day excursion! Check it out and see what makes this experience so special.

For more information about this trek, check out the full itinerary here:

9-Day Patagonia: Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek with EcoCamp

This trek is a circuit around the famous Paine Massif. This is the best adventure for trekkers who seek a challenging trip in Torres del Paine and a true wilderness experience.

The accommodation is camping every night. Guides provide the tent and trekkers only need to bring a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad.

Torres del Paine O- Circuit

Trekkers only carry a day pack with box lunches and personal belongings. The guides provide two duffel bags and porters will carry them during the trek.

Group size is normally 8 to 12 trekkers with a maximum group size of 12. There is 1 guide for every 6 trekkers.

Season and departures: Departs every Wednesday from November to March

Your friendly Patagonia expert,
Gretchen

Posted in Chile, Patagonia, South America, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment