Cusco is located at the centre of many great hikes, treks and nature walks. While tourists and visitors quite often use Cusco as a stepping stone to Machu Picchu, it is also central to many fun markets, stunning views and sights of interest. Here are four fun, but entirely varied, day trips you can do from the capital of Cusco.
There are many great reasons to visit Pisac. You can browse the wonderful craft markets full to the brim with silver jewelry, alpaca products, weaved products and souvenirs. It is a colorful experience and one which should not be missed. The market located in the central plaza operates seven days a week although Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday tend to be the most popular days to visit. Following your wander through the stalls, you will have the opportunity to visit a restaurant or enjoy a coffee.
You can also tour the ruins of the Inca citadel which lies on top of the hill overlooking Pisac. It is a great day trip with very few visitors compared to some other ruins scattered throughout the Sacred Valley. If you have time, you might also want to consider visiting Potato Park, a conservation initiative, where you can sample the diverse selection of potato dishes offered by Andean chefs. For those interested in a full day trip to Potato Park, it is also possible to tour the potato fields, visit Kinsaqocha Lake and view handicraft and medicinal plant workshops before finishing the day with a delicious meal consisting of a selection of their potatoes.
Rainbow Mountain is a relatively new attraction on the tourist map and, because of that, you will find that it is one of the least crowded tours. Rainbow Mountain can be a day trip from Cusco. The solitude of the area is clearly abundant, and the only visitors other than tourists are likely to be alpaca herders and their flock. The shades of rose and blonde mineral deposits are spectacular and are worth the arduous trek to the top. There are also horses available for those who prefer to ride the ascent to the top rather than walk.
Due to the altitude, the temperature does drop, so pack accordingly. Remember also to bring a hat and sunscreen to avoid sunburn at altitude. The views are stunning in every direction and the gentle strolls through the local villages, and past the mountainous streams, will provide many opportunities to snap some wonderful photographs of your excursion.
Maras and Moray
A tour to Maras, and the nearby salt fields, as well as the agricultural wonder known as Moray, should be added to your tour list. The salt fields of Maras are impressive as is the bus journey to get there. It is extremely fascinating to visit the salt pools (approximately 6,000) to see how the locals have been harvesting the salt in this area for over 500 years.
Moray is fascinating in its own right. The site offers a series of terraced circles set into the ground in an amphitheater style. It is believed that the Incas used the circles to experiment with crops and to study how plants adapt to a new ecosystem. As the temperature differs from the top level to the bottom, the Incas used hybridization to modify crops and studied them using the microclimates on the different levels. It is no wonder that over 4,000 types of potatoes can be attributed to Peru.
Awana Kancha and Ccocahuasi
Visiting Cusco without feeding an alpaca is indeed an oversight. Alpacas, vicunas and llamas are native to Sud America, and in Awana Kancha you can get close to these spectacular animals. The farm also has an exhibition on the processing and dyeing procedures commonly used in Peru. Entrance to the site is free although a donation is expected as you leave.
Ccocahuasi is literally a short walk (or drive) from Awana Kancha. The animal sanctuary takes in wounded or injured animals and cares for them. It is a privately-owned family operated venture which houses condors, macaws, deer, pumas, falcons and the odd llama and alpaca. In Awana Kancha, donations are welcome to continue to fund the enterprise. As both Awana Kancha and Ccocahuasi are situated close to Pisac, you can also combine your visits with a market tour, depending on your time availability and itinerary.