Unguided One Day Hikes From Cusco City Center
The best part about living in Cusco is that there are hikes you can do straight from Plaza de Armas in the city center. There’s no need to hire tours or take long drives up into the mountains for these hikes from Cusco to explore the nature surrounding the town.
The first hike from Cusco begins in the city center. This hike will take you to Chacan Cave, Balcon del Diablo, and the Temple of the Moon.
There are three different ways to do the hike…
The First Option is Via Cristo Rey
Begin this hike from Cusco in Plaza de Armas. Take the road that runs along the right side of the Cathedral, and turn left on Choqechaka road. Walk along the road and then take a right on the Atoc’sekuchi staircase. Good luck. This staircase isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s actually the toughest part of the hike, and will definitely get your heart racing! If you brave it, though, you’ll be rewarded with increasingly amazing views of Cusco as you climb.
Keep trucking along until you reach a main road, where you will turn left. Walk along the road for a few minutes, and you’ll see the Cristo Rey statue. You can take a few different paths to check it out and enjoy the view from the mound.
Afterwards, walk back out to the main road and continue along it. You’ll pass entrances to Sacsayhuaman and eventually come to a crossroads. Take the sharp right, and continue up the road along the switchbacks.
After about 15 minutes, you’ll come to another crossroads, where your road dead ends. Turn left, and almost immediately on your right side you’ll see a large group of horses. From here you have two choices: walk or ride.
We chose to ride, and paid 35 soles each ($12 usd) for a 2.5 hour ride to the Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon. I highly recommend this option. The horses were calm and looked well taken care of.
If you choose to walk, you can stop at the horses and ask for directions if your Spanish is good. Or, just continue up the road past the horses. On the left side, there is a sign with a beaten path right behind it where all the horses cross to begin the walk to the cave. Cross here and climb the hill to begin the trek.
The path is very obvious in some places, but in others, it seemed to disappear into a field or hillside, only to reappear again on the other side. I personally would not recommend walking if you have your heart set on reaching the cave, because it will be difficult to find. However, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay for the horses, this is still an awesome trek. Even if you don’t make it to the cave, the views are absolutely incredible, so it’s certainly worth the attempt. This blog and this write up both have some walking directions you can check out
If you hike, continue until you see a large rock face. Descend into the grassy field and the cave entrance to Balcon de Diablo, which has a view of Cusco, is directly across from the rock face. A river runs into the cave, so if it’s been raining, the water may be too high to enter it.
Once you hike to the cave, return the way you came back to the horses. Enter the large lot they are in the take the right hand dirt road to reach the Temple of the Moon. It’s only about a 10 minute walk from there, and it will be clear when you reach it – it’s a large pile of stones on the right side.
Afterwards, you can take the path through the field in front of the temple to the group of houses. The path ends at a fork at two roads. Take the left hand road going down, and follow it back to Plaza de Armas.
Option Number Two Via Temple of the Moon
Your second choice is to begin with the Temple of the Moon, and do the Chacan Cave hike second.
To do this hike from Cusco, begin in Plaza San Blas. Take the stairs on the right side of the church, and turn left at the top. Take the first right onto Suytuqhatu street, and continue up it until you reach the main road. If stairs are difficult for you, this choice may be the one for you – it’s still has plenty, but it’s nothing like the massive staircase you scale in the first option.
Once you reach the main road, simply cross it and continue climbing up on the stone paved road on the other side. This road eventually dead ends into a field – take the path that runs into it from the corner and follow it until you reach the Temple of the Moon.
After checking out the temple, climb down or circle around the back side to the dirt road. Go left on it, and continue walking until you reach the large group of horses. From there, you can either hire a horse to take you to the Chacan Cave, or continue walking to take the trail on foot. To do so, continue past the horses to the paved road and turn right. After a minute, on the left side, there is a sign with a beaten path right behind it where all the horses cross to begin the walk to the cave. Cross here and climb the hill to begin the trek. Again, you can find some walking directions here and here.
Once you return, you can hail a taxi on the main road, walk down the main road outside the horse pasture to the staircase that will lead you back to Cusco (you will only come to two forks – take a right at the first and a left at the second) or walk back to the Temple of the Moon and return the way you came up.
Take the Third Option and go via Taxi
The final, and easiest, way to do this hike from Cusco is simply to take a taxi to the Temple of the Moon – all the drivers will know it, and it should cost somewhere between 15 to 30 soles ($5 to $10 usd) for the trip. Once you check out the Temple of the Moon, follow the directions above to hike or hire a horse to visit the cave.
These are my tips and directions for your first hike from Cusco. I think the photos speak for themselves – the views are absolutely stunning and for a day trip it’s definitely worth your time.
By the way, if this isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t worry! I felt this got a bit too long, so I created separate guides on how to hike to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins or the beautiful and seldom visited Kinsa Cocha, Pisac’s three lakes. Both are easy unguided day trips from Cusco that really shouldn’t be missed!
All my love,
P.S. if you’ve done this hike or others from the city, comment below with your tips and routes! I’d love to hear from you!
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