How to Hike to Huchuy Qosqo Without a Guide
This weekend, Daniel and I tackled the little known 11-mile hike to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins. The trek follows the Imperial Inca trail and leads to ancient Huchuy Qosqo ruins that were once the summer home of an important king… who’s name I can’t remember, and definitely can’t spell.
While they’re not on most tourist’s must-do list, they’re certainly worth the picturesque trek to reach the remote outpost.
The best part? This hike is an easy day trip from Cusco that you can absolutely do on your own.
How To Get to the Trail
I couldn’t find any information on the Huchuy Qosqo hike online. When we went to tour operators in the city, they reluctantly offered it… for $170 per person!
Instead we got a hold of our friend Diego, a Peruvian tour guide, who took us on the trek. With his expert guidance I can now give you the exact directions to enjoy this hike on your own.
Starting from your hotel, take a taxi to the “Estacion Papitos”, Cusco’s small bus station. This should cost about 4 soles from the city center.
Once you arrive at the station you’ll be bombarded with men to help you, so just tell them you need to go to Laguna Piuray and they’ll point you to the right van. The drive to the lake is about 45 minutes and cost us 6 soles per person. Remind the driver once or twice where you want to get off, and they’ll make sure you end up in the right place.
You’ll get off on a dirt road in a small town. Here you can wave down a taxi (or any car really) and ask them to take you to the “Camino Inca Huchuy Qosqo.” Yep, just like the ancient royalty, you’re going to be doing the whole hike on the Imperial Inca Trail. This 20 minute drive to the trailhead should cost around 10 soles.
And just like that, you’ve made it to the start of the Huchuy Qosqo trail!
My Tip: Even if this seems complicated (I promise it’s not) whatever you do, DO NOT start your trek in Lamay. DO NOT book with any tour operator who wants you to start your trek in Lamay. Doing this will take something beautiful and enjoyable and totally destroy it. You’ll go from about an hour of uphill hiking to six or more. Trust me, the route from Lake Piuray is the only way to go.
Once you’re on the Inca trail, the route will be obvious. Although it was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores, a wide and clear path remains. Start early (we left Cusco at 6:30am) and you won’t see another soul all day.
So, what can you expect on the Huchuy Qosqo hike?
It begins with a meandering uphill walk through sloping hills, where you can see the remains of Incan terraces and aqueducts. As you climb, you’ll start to see beautiful cliffs and even some lakes. Finally, a steep but short push will take you over the mountain pass and on top of the world.
You’ll be rewarded for your hard work two hours into the trek with sweeping views of mountaintops and icy glaciers for miles. Continue on the path and you’ll soon begin your descent.
As we climbed down into the valley where the Huchuy Qosqo ruins are, it was amazing to watch the climate change before our eyes. The landscape started out dry and arid, but soon the surroundings became green and lush from the heat trapped in the valley. It was easy to see why the warm mountainside was chosen as the royal escape from Cusco’s cold winters!
Continue down the trail for two more hours and you’ll come across the ruins. On your way, keep an eye out for condors, giant hummingbirds, and pumas who like the roam the nearby brush.
My tip: Take a few minutes to stop hiking and just listen – the absolute silence and stillness on the roof of the world is a stunning experience.
The Huchuy Qosqo Ruins
The cost to enter the Huchuy Qosqo ruins is 22 soles per person. They are so remote (over an hour walking from the nearest towns) and rarely visited, but somehow a man appeared just as we did to collect our money and issue our tickets. He disappeared again, and we were left alone to wander the ancient ruins.
For me, the best part was the remains of a giant pool in the middle. I can only imagine the infinity pool with an amazing mountain view was the center of all the wild parties thrown in the estate!
If you’re a huge history buff, this place will be heaven. Not only will you have complete run of the entirely empty ruins, but you can also set up camp and spend the night in them for no extra cost. Although we opted not to, I’m sure the view of the stars and milky way from the sacred Incan spot is breathtaking.
This is my least favorite part of the hike and the reason why I rate this trek as moderate instead of easy.
We left the ruins around 1 pm by passing through them and turning right on the path at the bottom. Soon, you’ll spot the colorful little lego town of Lamay and quickly realize just how high you are.
Yeah… the decent is over and hour and a half of switchbacks down a sheer cliff face. It’s extra fun because the path is extremely dusty and rocky so you’ll be slipping and sliding right up to the edge for extra fear! Really, it’s not so bad… as long as you don’t look down.
Once you reach the bottom, turn right to get to the bridge, and once you cross it you’ll come to a bus stop where you can wait and catch the next van back to Cusco. An hour later and you’ll be home!
The hike to Huchuy Qosqo is totally exhausting but DEFINITELY worth it!
I spent eight weeks in Cusco alone and this was definitely one of my favorite experiences. If you find yourself with some extra time in the city, this hike is a perfect day trip from Cusco.
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