Taking Day Trips in Cusco Peru is extremely important if you take the time and make the investment to travel to this part of the world. It is not all about Machu Picchu; there is much more to see around Cusco. The Top day trips are outlined in this post.
Cusco, Peru was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Until you have studied the history of this powerful empire or see the ruins that are left behind, you will not understand the significance of the magnitude of being the capital city meant to these people.
When you visit this breathtaking part of the world give yourself time to take advantage of the Day Trips from Cusco, Peru. There are endless amounts of amazing sites to see besides getting the best view of Machu Picchu and it is important that you take several day trips while in Cusco.
If you would rather listen to our detailed podcast episode on this subject, check out
Podcast 30: Machu Picchu and Cusco, Peru (Bucket List Journey).
We did all of these day trips from Cusco during multiple days out with a driver that we contacted through our Airbnb stay. You may get your own tour guide but it is not absolutely necessary. Many of the local drivers know the city as well as the tour guides.
- Puka Pukara- Located 7 km (4.3 mi) outside of Cusco, the name comes from the Quechua words puka, “red” and Pukara, “fortress or defend place” which means “red fortress”. This fortress is made up of red walls, terraces, and staircases that once comprised a military, defense compound for the city of Cusco.
Travel Tip: Make sure to bring a Portable Charger on these Day Trips from Cusco. You will likely be away from a charger all day and you will be taking a ton of photos on your camera(s). For information on this and other Travel Tools follow the Tools link.
- Q’inqu- Located 6 km (3.7 mi) north of Cusco, the word Q’inqu in Quechua means “zig-zag” or “labyrinth”. At over 3,500 meters (11,482 feet) above sea level on top of Socorro Hill, this fortress is named so for its “zigzag”- like canal cut out of its rock. It is unknown what this canal carried in its former days (holy water or even blood. It is believed that Qenqo was used as a place for rituals or some types of sacrifices (animal or human) to the gods who were worshiped at this place. On this day trip from Cusco, you will hear that the dead were judged at this site and embalmed inside the rock tunnels of Qenqo. The blood from the dead bodies may have been offered to the heavenly gods. The site spans over 3,500 square meters and includes an amphitheater and a labyrinth of underground tunnels.
- Chinchero- This day trip from Cusco takes you to a small, rustic, Andean Indian village located more than 3,700 meters above sea level (11,155 ft), overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas, approximately 30 km (18.6 mi) from Cusco. The village is comprised of adobe houses, a colonial, Spanish church, a local, town market, and the Chinchero ruins. Stone walls built by the Incas spill over the hillside and the Vilcabamba mountain range and peak of Salcantay Mountain can be seen off in the distance. Local women in Chinchero entertain tourists with alpaca weaving demonstrations and explain how the alpaca wool is dyed with natural dyeing agents (plants, roots, insects, flowers, trees, etc.) prior to weaving the alpaca sweaters, scarves, blankets, tapestries, etc.
- Tambomachay- Located about 8km (5 mi) from Cusco, the name comes from two Quechua words, “Tampu”, collective accommodation and “Mach’ay”, resting place or caves. At this site, there are several canals and waterfalls that run through terraced rocks with water from the nearby hot springs. It is thought that the Incas worshiped water here.
- Moray- Located 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Cusco, 3,500 meters above sea level (11,500 feet), this Inca site consists of a series of concentric, stone-walled, perfect circles with the largest depression measuring 30 m (98 ft) in depth. The purpose of the circular depressions is unknown. It is thought that this site was used by the Inca to study the effect that climate had on agriculture. In some areas of the circular depressions, the temperature varies by 15 C (27 F) due to the wind and sun. This was Matt’s favorite day trip from Cusco. I think you can see his excitement in this video.
- Tipón- Located inside the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 22km outside of Cusco (13.7 mi) and 3,400 meters above sea level (11,155 ft), Tipón consists of agricultural terraces fed by natural springs of unknown source. Water flows through the ruins, all year round, even during dry season. A must see day trip from Cusco! You will be shocked when you see the precision of the irrigation systems built.
- Písac- Located inside the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 28 km from Cusco (17.3 mi) at 3347 m above sea level (10,981 ft), the Pisac ruins lie atop a hill and are believed to have served both a defensive purpose for the southern entrance of the Sacred Valley and agricultural purpose with its many stone wall terraces. On this day trip from Cusco you will find that there are also thousands of holes in the side of an adjacent mountain that are thought to be former tombs in which bodies were placed. The bodies have been since removed.
- Ollantaytambo- Located 72 km (45 mi) northwest of Cusco, and 2,793 m above sea level (9,160 ft), Ollantaytambo is a common starting point for the Inca trail. This fortress was used to hold back and defeat the Spanish. It is comprised of stone terraces, taller than the average man. At the top of the fortress there is the Temple of the Sun, which houses large discarded stones referred to as “piedras cansada” (“tired stones”) and you will also find the Wall of Six Monoliths (each of these stones is said to weigh 50 tons and were carried up the hill from a nearby quarry). It is said that the temple was not completed due to attacks, death, and abandonment.
Here is a short video we put together to that captured walking through Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
There is much to see near Cusco, Peru so please do not limit yourself with just a few days focused on Machu Picchu. We spoke to many people that felt rushed and didn’t get the chance to do any of these amazing day trips from Cusco which were a big bonus for us during our trip.
Traveled April 2017