Unmissable Day Trips from Cusco
Cusco is known as the capital of the Incan Empire, which comes as no surprise as you arrive into this cobbled street town full of grand buildings and the many Incan ruins just a short distance away. The following list of places are just a few hours away and can easily be done as a day or even half day tour. We highly recommend the epic ATV adventure! Check out our unmissable activities from Cusco.
The Rainbow Mountain's of Cusco have become an Insta sensation! The mountains have naturally formed multi-coloured layers from the minerals in the Earth it sits on. It is a wander to see – although popularity is it's enemy and it is now very difficult to get a picture without at least 50 people in your shot!
If you’re on a budget, you can get a tour very cheaply, at around £20. You'll be driven near to the viewpoint and you will then have the option to get a donkey to the top of the mountains or do the hike. Some warning here – firstly, whether you take the donkey or need it half way up, you’ll still pay the same price. Secondly, however long it takes you to get to the top, you’ll still have the allocated time they gave you at the bottom. If you struggle with the altitude or simply want to have more time to try and get a good shot, we’d advise you take the donkey.
Our true recommendation though, is the alternative route that requires no difficult hikes or abuse of donkeys and you are guaranteed a shot all to yourself and it comes with an excellent Peruvian guide to teach you all about the phenomenon. It does however cost a fair bit more but what are a few pesos to save a donkey's or your lungs? If you’d like to know more about our alternative Rainbow Mountain experience – check out our blog here.
Machu Picchu is a no brainer of course. If you’ve come to Cusco, you’re going to see this magnificent wonder. It is honestly one of the most incredible things you will ever see and somehow, even with the hundreds of people wandering around the ruins, just like magic, every picture looks like there is no one in it! You have two options to visit Machu Picchu, take the hike or take the train. We’ve helped you plan your trip with our full guide on Machu Picchu here.
Ollantaytambo is a small, cobbled street old town with the main train station taking you to Machu Picchu. We really enjoyed our afternoon here and might have stayed overnight with more time too! If like us, you’re short on time, enjoy a few hours here with a bite to eat and a wander around.
There are plenty of restaurants with seating upstairs, overlooking the Incan ruins in Ollantaytambo. You’ll find some great deals for food and drinks as they are all competing for your business. Wander around and find yourself some flavoured Pisco Sours and a Menu Del Dia you like the sound of. Relax whilst you watch the world go by, musing over another Incan wonder.
Salt Pans of Maras
The Salt Pans of Maras are beautiful pools of salt, which from a distance look like hundreds of small pink hue thermal pools. We struggled to not dip our toes in! Extra bonus points if you manage to catch the sunset here too, as the sun disappears behind the mountains the pink hues reflect the tones of the sunset, leaving you stunned by all the pretty colours!
We took this tour as a package with the ruins of Moray below, we would definitely recommend doing the same and take the quad bike if you enjoy adventure and epic scenery.
The Ruins of Moray
If you haven’t learnt by now, the Incan's were truly remarkable and intelligent people and this ruin is essentially a grand science experiment used to help the Incan's understand where best their crops grew. Today, it looks more like crop circles within each other – coincidence? We think not!
As we mentioned above, we took this tour with the salt pans of Maras on a quad bike. It was definitely one of favourite tours we took in South America so if you enjoy a bit of adventure, do it! A small word of warning - a zip-line is sometimes offered in this package. We absolutely love a zip-line but not this one - according to news articles there have been a number of accidents on it so probably best to avoid.
Where To Book
We found the best tour operators and prices on Avenida El Sol. We chose to go with a lady who you'll usually find on the street outside her shop. If you look for a small door opening with a small corridor and a barely visible flight of stairs at the back. A lady will be sitting at a desk at the bottom of those stairs - she will give you a great deal on the Moras and Moray and Rainbow Mountains trips.
You will also need a pass named 'Boleta Turistica del Cusco' for some of the ruins we’ve mentioned here, particularly the ruins of Moray and Ollantaytambo. The most efficient buy is the full ticket, which allows you to visit all the ruins over one week. It is a little pricey but you are likely to make good use of having the ticket for a full week.
Check out our full guide on everything to do in and around Cusco too!
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