The ancient capital of the powerful Inca empire, the Peruvian city of Cusco is a fabulous base from which to explore fascinating archaeological and historical sites, as well as enjoying time in nature.
The UNESCO World Heritage City boasts extraordinary colonial-era architecture, including beautiful churches and squares, and it is common to see indigenous residents strolling the streets dressed in traditional clothing.
Cusco, one of the main tourist destinations, offers numerous accommodations suitable for different budgets, restaurants serving traditional cuisine and global specialties and lively bars to relax after sunset.
Although the city has a lot to be proud of, many of the area’s delights can be found beyond the city limits.
Here are some of the best day trips from Cusco for a fabulous Peruvian adventure to remember.
1. Huchuy Qosqo
Spend a day hiking to the well-preserved Huchuy Qosqo (Little Cuzco) to admire historic sites, nature, panoramas and interactions with the locals.
Going through several passages, there are many breathtaking views across the valley to admire.
The picturesque Queullacocha lake and grasslands offer even more natural beauty and there are many species of birds to spot.
The archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo is believed to date back to 1420, although evidence suggests that the area was inhabited long before the development of the remains you see today.
There is a mixture of stone and adobe structures, with impressive terraces, reconstructed storage buildings, a large great hall, religious buildings, an extending irrigation canal and more.
2. Rainbow Mountain
One of the most unique natural wonders in the Cusco area, Rainbow Mountain is truly a sight for sore eyes.
Known locally as Vinicunca, the locals worship the mountain, considering it sacred.
Spiritual rituals and worship have taken place here since before the Inca era, and people still come to the suggestive mountain to pray, thank and leave the offerings.
Colored layers, formed by mineral deposits, create an unusual spectacle, with shades of red, brown, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
Enjoy the splendid views of the nearby snow-capped peaks, the Ausangate glacier and also the verdant valley.
The journey from Cusco to the trailhead takes about three hours, followed by a demanding trek.
Tour available : Rainbow Mountain Trek from Cusco
3. Humantay Lake
A spectacular sight in the Peruvian Andes, a trip to Lake Humantay is not one that you will easily forget.
Formed when the glaciers melted many centuries ago, the sparkling, calm and turquoise waters reflect the surrounding snowy peaks like a mirror.
Look for small precariously balanced stone towers built around the lake to worship the Inca land god.
You are also likely to see a number of interesting flora and fauna.
Horse riding is available around the lake or you can enjoy wonderful excursions.
It is a fabulous destination for photography enthusiasts and the great outdoors.
Chonta is a small Andean community west of Cusco.
Besides being able to see how local people live in the village and admire breathtaking views that embrace the Salkantay mountain, spotting the wildlife is the highlight of this trip.
Look for Andean foxes, deer, cougars and majestic birds of prey such as hawks and eagles.
Seeing the mighty condor – the world’s largest bird of prey – hovering in the skies is nothing short of extraordinary.
Make sure you have the camera ready.
5. Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a popular destination in the Cusco area of Peru, and a day trip will certainly be full of many magical moments.
There are numerous monuments to admire and you will pass through several cities and villages, each with its own unique flavor.
The verdant Urubamba valley is animated by the Urubamba river, which is home to native wildlife.
Another highlight of the valley is Pisac with its lively traditional market.
Browse a wide range of crafts and souvenirs and enjoy lightly while bartering with the sellers to ensure the right prices for everyone.
Various activities are available on the premises, including rafting, trekking, exciting quad bikes and exciting adventures with the zip line.
6. Maras Moray
The city of Maras is located about 26 miles outside of Cusco, within the larger area of the Sacred Valley.
There is a Catholic church – the mayor of El Templo San Francisco de Asis – a local market and a handful of restaurants where you can enjoy traditional Peruvian cuisine.
The real gem of the city, however, are the wonderful salt pools.
Arranged in geometric formations that are terraced along the slopes of a yawning canyon, a stream flows through the shallow pools, evaporating to leave salty deposits behind that glint in the sun.
The area provided the Incas with salt and still supplies the ore to the locals; the harvesting processes are almost the same as in the past and you could see local families scraping the ground to collect the salt for sale.
About two and a half hours drive from Cusco, Lares is the ideal place to rest, recharge and regenerate after long days of excursions and exploration of Cusco and its surroundings.
Visitors can calm their mind, body and soul with a pleasant bath in an ancient natural thermal spa built by the Incas.
The mineral-rich waters help with a number of conditions, the atmosphere is serene and the views are spectacular.
There are also many peaks on hand if you want even more hiking.