Cusco undoubtably has some of the best hikes in Peru precisely because the region is the only area of the country that’s highly developed for tourists, which means safe paths that take you right through the heart of the Andes and offer a wide variety of experiences in nature. Contrary to popular belief, the Inca Trail isn’t among our list of the best hikes in Cusco because it’s become highly commercialized and crowded, even though the Ministry of the Environment restricts entrances. Thankfully, there are many other options for every type of traveler from Cusco day hikes to more adventurous multi-day treks through the mountains.
Machu Picchu Hike from Aguas Calientes
A typical tour of Machu Picchu doesn’t actually involve any hiking at all. You’re usually transported from Cusco to the closest town (Aguas Calientes, also known as Machupicchu Town), and you take a bus up to the Machu Picchu archeological site. Alternatively, you can do a “Machu Picchu Hike” by opting out of the bus ride and hiking from the base of the mountain to the archeological site yourself. This hike is usually unguided and is completely free, but you want to be relatively fit for this one because it’s a completely vertical climb for 1 to 2 hours.
Ausangate 7 Lakes Hike
Ausangate is one of the tallest mountains in the entire country and is considered the mountain protector or guardian of the city of Cusco. Although the area is freezing at high altitude, if you’re bundled up for the hike, it’s worth the experience through the snowcapped mountaintops. This is also one of the only hikes where we can have you on a horse through most of the route if you’re worried that you won’t be able to make it through this Cusco day hike.
The Lares Hike in Peru
We highly recommend this alternative to the Inca Trail. Instead of 4 days on crowded paths, you’ll hike for 4 days peacefully through backtrails that meander through varied settings in the Andes mountains. From lakeside camping to seeing how the locals live, this is one of the truest cultural Andean experiences you could have in such a short time. The best part is that you still get to see the glorious Machu Picchu archeological site on the 4th and last day to top off the trip.
Rainbow Mountain Hike
The Rainbow Mountain hike is one of the most popular add-on Cusco day hikes if you have an extra day in the area. You’ll be transported to the closest town, and the hike itself will take around an hour and a half, including 30 minutes of uphill hiking. The hike is at very high altitude, higher than the city of Cusco as you’ll be at over 5,000 meters (or 16,000 feet) above sea level once you reach the top, but the views of worth it. From the summit, there’s even an optional extra hike to the Red Valley around 20 minutes away.