- Explore an Inca fortress perched atop a spectacular waterfall
- Hike through ancient terraces with sweeping views of the Sacred Valley
- Enjoy a picnic lunch from a unique vantage point over Ollantaytambo
- Soak in the Lares Hot Springs after a long day of hiking
- Chat with local farmers and learn about a way of life that has remained largely unchanged since Inca times
Which hike should you do?
For those with a few extra days to explore, the Sacred Valley offers a great selection of stunning day hikes. The best hikes enable travelers to explore ancient Inca Ruins, remote mountain communities and stunning landscapes, then return to their hotel in time for dinner.
While there are great hikes throughout the Sacred Valley, a few of the best are located near the village of Ollantaytambo, a highlight in its own right and the perfect base for a few days of hiking and exploration.
For those interested in doing an alternative Inca Trail trek, you can connect a few of these hikes together into a multi-day trek that takes you to Machu Picchu.
While some of these hikes can be done on your own, we recommend taking a local guide who knows the proper directions, can introduce you to the local places and communities, and ensure everything going smoothly and safely.
(Note: All hiking times are estimates and vary based on fitness, acclimatization and starting point.)
#1 Cusco Ruins
This great day hike begins just above the city of Cusco at the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, an impressive complex of stone ramparts offering panoramic views of the city below. From here, you’ll hike between a network of ruins — smaller and lesser known sites — that take you away from the crowds and showcase the Inca heritage of Peru. These sites include Tambo Machay and the Temple of the Moon. This hiking tour often includes a picnic lunch, as well as a knowledgeable guide who can explain the history of the ruins. Sacsayhuaman, itself, was the scene of a fierce battle but is now a ceremonial grounds for sacred events such as Inti Raymi and Warachikuy.
#2 Chinchero to Urquillos
|Duration:||4-5 hours including transport|
For those who prefer walking downhill rather than up, the hike from Chinchero to Urquillos is a great option. Hire transport to take you to the Chinchero, which boasts beautiful mountain views and is famous for its weaving traditions. From there, descend into the Sacred Valley via well-worn Inca trails, finishing in the colonial village of Urquillos. From there you can hire transport to return to Cusco or continue on down the Sacred Valley.
#3 Huchuy Qosqo (Little Cusco)
|Duration:||3-4 hours from Lamay; 6-7 hours from Patabamba|
Epic views, rural setting, small villages, people tending to crops, a canyon, and two Inca ruins — all in a single day hike. As Steve Wilson, one of our local specialists, put it, "the best day walk I’ve ever done in Peru."
Located at an altitude of 3,600 meters, Huchuy Qosqo is a sprawling archaeological site, accessible only by foot, with sweeping views over the Sacred Valley. After a one-hour drive from Cusco, the hike begins from Patabamba and leads up to the ruins before descending a series of switchbacks to Lamay, the end of your hike. Along the way, you'll ascend over the Apacheta Pass (4,200 meters). Although longer, we recommend going from Patabamba to Lamay given the more gradual ascent for safer acclimitzation. Keep in mind that there is an entrance fee to the ruins, but its well worth it.
If you have more time, this route can be done as a 2-day hike, staying overnight at a homestay along the way (highly recommended).
#4 Moray to Maras
|End:||Ollantaytambo or Cusco|
Between Cusco and the Urubamba River Valley lies a plateau with expansive views, ruins, and great hiking opportunities. One option is to hike from the Moray Crop Circles to the salt mines of Maras. You’ll have expansive views of the Sacred Valley along the way, combined with a visit to two of Peru's unique cultural sites. At the end of the day, you can either spend the night in the quaint village of Ollantaytambo or return back to Cusco via arranged transport.
#5 Ñaupa Iglesia
|Duration:||2 hours round-trip|
The Ñaupa Iglesia sits at the end of a short, steep but highly rewarding hike near Ollantaytambo. The site is an an old Incan temple carved into the rock above a steep gorge. The roof has been lost, but it is still a peaceful place with interesting carvings. Watch out for bats. To get there, hire a taxi to drive you to the start of the hike, a short ways from Ollantaytambo. Once the taxi drops you, the hike should take approximately 20-30 minutes up a steep series of terraces.
#6 Pelroyniyoc Waterfall & Ruins
|Duration:||1-1.5 hours up (from Socma)|
The Pelroyniyoc ruins are spectacularly perched atop a cliff, with a waterfall flowing below. Arrange for a taxi from Ollantaytambo to the village of Socma where you begin the steep hike. Socma itself offers perspective on rural life in the Valley. Above the falls there are a few remote communities that will occasionally welcome travelers into their homes if you arrive with a local guide and a welcoming smile.
The hike starts and ends in Socma, which is a 45-minute taxi ride from Ollantaytambo.
#7 Pumamarca Ruins
|Duration:||3 hours up, 2 hours down|
The Pumamarca ruins are an old Incan fortress situated high on a ridgeline with sweeping views overlooking the Sacred Valley. Though not ornate, the ruins are fun to explore and make a great spot for a picnic. They can be reached by a 2-3 hour hike from Ollantaytambo through terraced countryside. For a shorter trip, you can also take a taxi to a nearby village, walk the last mile, and then hike back to Ollantaytambo.
#8 Chacan Cave
|Duration:||1.5 hours up to Chacan Cave, 7-8 hours for a full day tour of nearby attractions (consider hiring a guide)|
For those seeking to explore the natural wonders around Cuzco, the hike up to the Chacan Cave is an excellent option. Bring a bathing suit if the weather is nice as you might have the option to cool off under the falls. For those with the time, consider continuing your walk to the tunnels of Cusiyuchayoc (1 hour) and the Temple of the Moon before returning to Cuzco (20 minutes by taxi or 1.5-2 hours walking). This common combination makes for a fun full-day trip from Cusco and can be arranged with local tour operators.
#9 Royal Inca Trail (104 KM) to Machu Picchu
This hike follows the last day of the famous Inca Trail, ending at Machu Picchu. If you are short on time, this is a great way to experience the historical route that the Inca followed and pass through the sacred Sun Gate, from where you can walk down into Machu Picchu. Along the way, you’ll enjoy great views of the Sacred Valley and pass through one of the most beautiful sections of the Inca Trail.
You’ll need to take an early-morning train from either Cusco to Ollantaytambo and disembark at KM 104, from where you can access the trailhead. Keep in mind, you must have a permit and a guide arranged for this trek. Often, it makes sense to have your luggage sent ahead to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll be staying the night after your hike.