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The best part about living in Cusco is that nature is right on the city’s doorstep and there are so many day hikes in Cusco that are easy to reach without a tour or long bus ride.
This step-by-step guide to hikes near Cusco will walk you through some of the best day hikes near Cusco and includes:
- Cristo Blanco to Chacan Cave to Temple of the Moon Route
- Temple of the Moon to Chacan Cave Route
- How to start your hike in Cusco with a taxi instead of on foot
- How to go horseback riding to Chacan Cave and Cusco Temple of the Moon
- Cusco day hikes cost
- Bonus guide to Sacsayhuaman and the surrounding ruins
- And much more!
There’s no need to hire a tour or take a long drive up into the mountains for this hike in Cusco, because you can start it directly in Plaza de Armas!
The next three routes will all take you to the same place: Chacan Cave, Balcon del Diablo, and the Cusco Temple of the Moon (Also called Amaru Markawasi, this is the most mysterious and beautiful site you’ll visit in the hills above Cusco).
However, I’m writing out all of them because the routes vary in starting point, time required, price, and more. So, check out all three of these Cusco hiking routes to decide which one will work best for you.
Are you ready to try the best (and totally underrated) day hikes in Cusco? This guide covers absolutely everything you need to know to make it happen.
The Cristo Blanco statue in Cusco – your first stop on this first Cusco hiking route!
1. Hiking in Cusco on the Cristo Blanco – Chacan Cave – Temple of the Moon Route
Begin your hike to Cristo Blanco in Cusco in the Plaza de Armas center square.
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.
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 Blanco (Jesus) statue.
You can take a few different paths to check it out and enjoy the view from above.
Afterwards, walk back out to the main road and continue along it.
You’ll pass entrances to the Sacsayhuaman ruins 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 to Chacan Cave and the Temple of the Moon.
I’ll cover both below!
The entrance to Chacan Cave
How to Hike to Chacan Cave
If you choose to walk, you can stop at the horse stand 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.
Personally, I do not recommend walking if you have your heart set on reaching the Chacan 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.
You may not actually make it to Chacan, but either way the views are incredible so it’s certainly worth the attempt.
If you do decide to hike to Chacan Cave rather than take the horses, you’ll come up to a large rock face.
Here you can descend into the grassy field and discover the cave entrance to Balcon de Diablo. It’s directly across from the rock face and has its own awesome views of Cusco. 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 Chacan Cave, return the way you came and walk all the way back to the horses. Now you can continue on another one of the best hikes near Cusco – the Temple of the Moon!
View of the dirt road leading to the Temple from the top of the Temple of the Moon
How to Hike to the Temple of the Moon
This hike will again start at the horses.
Enter the large lot they’re 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 – the Temple of the Moon ruins are the large pile of stones on the right side.
If the Chacan Cave route seemed a bit overwhelming, nix it from your Cusco hike and just go to Cristo Blanco and the Temple of the Moon instead because they’re both awesome in their own right.
Afterward you explore the Temple of the Moon (it’s awesome and uncrowded unlike most other ruins near Cusco, so I recommend enjoying the stillness and silence of the place for awhile), finish your hike in Cusco by returning to the city center.
The best way to get from the Cusco Temple of the Moon to Plaza de Armas is by following 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 into Cusco.
Horses and the Temple of the Moon (which kinda just looks like a pile of rocks) in the distance
2. Hiking in Cusco on the Temple of the Moon – Chacan Cave Route
In my opinion, this route is the the best option for your hike in Cusco.
You’ll do it backwards from the one above, beginning with the Temple of the Moon first and then hiking to Chacan Cave second. You can also continue to the Cristo Blanco Statue after Chacan Cave at the end of this route as well.
How to Hike From Cusco to the Temple of the Moon
To do this hike in Cusco, start in Plaza San Blas (directly above Plaza de Armas).
Take the stairs on the right side of the church, and turn left at the top. Then, take the first right onto Suytuqhatu street and continue up it until you reach the main road.
If the stairs in option one sound too difficult for you, this choice may be better – 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.
It will eventually dead end into a field where your real hike in Cusco will begin. Take the path that runs into it from the corner and simply follow it for a few minutes until you reach the Temple of the Moon!
River running into Chacan Cave
How to Hike from the Temple of the Moon to Chacan Cave
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 walk to Chacan Cave, 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 following the directions and blog posts linked above.
Once you return, you can hail a taxi on the main road to get back to Plaza de Armas, 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 (which is the best choice in my opinion).
3. How to Do These Hikes Near Cusco by Taxi
The final and easiest way to do the Cristo Blanco, Chacan Cave, Balcon del Diable, and Temple of the Moon hikes in Cusco is to simply take a taxi to the starting point instead of walking from the Cusco city center.
For this option, you want to begin by talking a taxi to the Temple of the Moon.
All the drivers will know where it is 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 to Chacan Cave and the Balcon del Diable or hire a horse to visit it. Then, walk down to the Cristo Blanco statue by following the directions in the first hike in this article backwards.
From there, it’s easy to walk back to the Cusco city center and celebrate a day hike well done with some drinks and good food in Plaza de Armas!
Heading to Chacan Cave on horseback
How to Go Horseback Riding in Cusco
The most complicated part of these day hikes in Cusco is finding Chacan Cave and the Balcon del Diablo.
So, I recommend doing what Dan and I did and taking a horseback ride to the cave and the Temple of the Moon instead of walking!
Follow the directions above to walk to the horses from Plaza de Armas and then haggle your price. We paid 35 soles / $12 usd each for a 2.5 hour ride to the Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon and it was great because we could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the views without worrying about getting lost!
I highly recommend this option, especially because horses were calm and looked well taken care of.
Takin’ a rest near Chacan cave
How Much Do These Hikes Near Cusco Cost?
Well, it depends on which route you decide to take.
Following the directions in Route 1 and Route 2 and completing these hikes in Cusco completely on foot is definitely possible and will make your day trip completely free.
If you decide to walk from Cusco to Cristo Blanco to the horses and from the horses back to Cusco, but hire a horse for the ride to Chacan Cave and the Temple of the Moon (which is what we did and again, I recommend this route) the price will be about 35 to 50 soles / 12 to 15 usd depending on your negotiating skills.
Finally, you can take a taxi from Cusco to the Temple of the Moon, and then walk to Chacan Cave, down to the Cristo Blanco statue, and back to Cusco. This trip will cost around 20 to 40 soles / 6 to 12 usd depending on if you take a taxi up and walk back to Cusco or decide to wave down a taxi for the return trip as well.
Sacsayhuaman ruins and their awesome view of Cusco
Bonus: Guide to Sacsayhuaman and the Surrounding Ruins
If these hikes near Cusco aren’t enough to fill your time you should also add a day trip to the Sacsayhuaman ruins as well.
Sacsayhuaman and the nearby ruins of Qenko, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay are right near the Cristo Blanco statue so you can walk from Cusco to Sacsayhuaman as well.
Unlike the Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon the Sacsayhuaman ruins do have a pretty steep entrance fee (about 25 usd to see all four) but they’re one of the most popular hikes around Cusco and worth adding to your itinerary if you have the time.
I highly recommend opting for the horseback ride to Chacan Cave and the Temple of the Moon rather than walking – but whichever option you choose, you’re bound to have an awesome time.
What to Pack for Your Hike to Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon
- Snacks and a packed lunch
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Cash for taxis, horses, etc.
- Light jacket or sweatshirt in case the weather changes
This is some of the hiking gear I can’t live without:
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Follow These 3 Step-by-Step Guides to Hiking in Cusco
I love this simple little hike in Cusco, where you get so much nature and culture for such a small price.
Take this hike in Cusco when you’re dying to get out of the city but don’t want to pay for a tour!
You can start it right at the Plaza de Armas and do it on your own. I think the photos speak for themselves – the views are absolutely stunning and for a day trip it’s definitely worth your time.
Ready to go? Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Cusco and then explore accommodation like unique stays on Airbnb or the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in the city.
This article is part of the Cusco Hiking series. Read the rest below:
Then, explore the complete Peru series for more tips on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in Cusco and beyond.
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➤ Upwork allowed me to take the leap to travel full-time because they make it so easy to find freelance clients in any field.
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