The best part about living in Cusco is that nature is right on the city’s doorstep. 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!
This hike is appropriate for many different skill levels and will take you to Chacan Cave, Balcon del Diablo, and the Temple of the Moon.
Are you ready to try it? There are three different ways to start your hike…
Option 1: The Cristo Rey Route
Begin your hike in 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.
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 (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.
We chose to ride, and paid 35 soles / $12 usd each for a 2.5 hour ride to the Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon. I highly recommend this option, especially because horses were calm and looked well taken care of.
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.
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.
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 and walk all the way 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 – the Temple of the Moon ruins are the large pile of stones on the right side.
Afterward, finish your hike in Cusco by returning to the city center.
The best way to get to Plaza de Armas is on 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.
Option 2: The Temple of the Moon Route
In my opinion, this is the best option for your hike in Cusco. You’ll begin with the Temple of the Moon and go to Chacan Cave second.
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 ends 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!
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. Again, you can find some walking directions here and here.
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).
Option 3: Take a Taxi
The final and easiest way to do the Chacan Cave and Temple of the Moon hike in Cusco is to simply take 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 / 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 or hire a horse to visit it.
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.
PS looking for more unguided hikes in Cusco? Learn how to hike to Huchuy Qosqo on your own, visit Kinsa Cocha to see Pisac’s three lakes, or try walk to the Sacsayhuaman ruins (and three more sites) from Plaza de Armas!