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Seven Of The Best Day Trips From Cusco – Ruins, Mountains And Pretty Little Towns


by Harlie Beckett



Peru is a country of captivating landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. One of its most renowned destinations is Cusco, a city nestled in the heart of the Andes. With its stunning architecture, cobblestone streets, and proximity to ancient ruins, Cusco offers a plethora of attractions for visitors to explore.


While Cusco itself boasts numerous historical sites, such as the famous Plaza de Armas and the impressive Qorikancha, taking day trips from the city allows you to delve deeper into the region’s fascinating past and natural wonders. From breathtaking mountain peaks to well-preserved Incan ruins, these day trips offer a diverse range of experiences that will leave you in awe.


In this article, we will highlight seven of the best day trips from Cusco, each offering something unique and unforgettable. Whether you are an adventure enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Andes, these day trips are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is without a doubt one of the most iconic and breathtaking archaeological sites in the world. Located high in the Andes Mountains, this ancient Incan city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and attracts millions of visitors each year.


To reach Machu Picchu from Cusco, you can take a train from the city to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the archaeological site. From there, a shuttle bus will take you up the steep mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Alternatively, you can embark on the famous Inca Trail, a multi-day hiking adventure that culminates at the ancient citadel.


Once you arrive at Machu Picchu, you will be immersed in the awe-inspiring beauty of the stone ruins, terraces, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The architectural precision and engineering of this ancient site will leave you marveling at the ingenuity of the Incan civilization.


Exploring Machu Picchu is a truly unforgettable experience. You can choose to explore the site on your own or hire a knowledgeable guide who can provide insight into its history and significance. Be sure to hike up to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain for stunning panoramic views of the entire citadel and the surrounding landscape.


Keep in mind that Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination, so it is essential to book your tickets well in advance, especially during the peak travel season. Additionally, there are limits on the number of visitors allowed each day, so it’s important to plan accordingly.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an extraordinary adventure, a visit to Machu Picchu is a must-do when in Cusco. Its mystique, grandeur, and cultural significance make it an unforgettable day trip that will leave you in awe of the ancient Incan civilization.


Sacred Valley

Located just a short distance from Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a picturesque region that stretches along the banks of the Urubamba River. With its fertile land, stunning landscapes, and historical sites, a day trip to the Sacred Valley is a must for anyone visiting Cusco.


The Sacred Valley is home to a number of impressive Incan ruins, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Pisac, perched high on a mountainside, offers stunning views of terraced agricultural fields and intricate stone structures. It is also famous for its vibrant artisan market, where you can purchase traditional handicrafts and souvenirs.


Ollantaytambo, on the other hand, is a well-preserved Incan town that showcases impressive stone masonry and intricate water channel systems. Climbing to the top of the Temple Hill provides panoramic views and a glimpse into the ancient past. Ollantaytambo is also the starting point for the train journey to Machu Picchu.


Aside from the ruins, the Sacred Valley is also known for its natural beauty. The region is filled with breathtaking landscapes, from towering mountains to lush valleys. It’s the perfect place for outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and even zip-lining.


For a more immersive experience, consider visiting one of the traditional Andean communities in the Sacred Valley. Here, you can learn about Andean culture, witness traditional weaving techniques, and even participate in a traditional ceremony.


One of the highlights of the Sacred Valley is the chance to sample delicious traditional Peruvian cuisine. Many local restaurants and markets offer mouthwatering dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to try some of the region’s specialties, such as roasted guinea pig (cuy) and chicha, a fermented corn drink.


The Sacred Valley is easily accessible from Cusco, with frequent buses or organized tours departing from the city. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or outdoor adventures, the Sacred Valley offers a perfect blend of all three, making it an excellent day trip destination from Cusco.


Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca or Montaña de Siete Colores, is a natural wonder that has quickly become one of Peru’s most sought-after attractions. Located in the Andes Mountains, this breathtaking mountain boasts vibrant stripes of colors that create a stunning visual display.


To reach Rainbow Mountain from Cusco, you will embark on an adventure-filled journey through the picturesque landscapes of the Peruvian highlands. The tour will take you on a scenic drive through the Sacred Valley and past traditional Andean villages, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the region.


Upon arrival at the trailhead, you will begin a challenging but rewarding hike to the summit of Rainbow Mountain. The hike can be quite demanding, as the high altitude and steep ascent require physical fitness and acclimatization. However, the effort is well worth it once you reach the top and witness the breathtaking vista before you.


The vibrant colors of Rainbow Mountain are a result of mineral deposits that have been exposed over time. Shades of red, yellow, and green create a mesmerizing spectacle that is unlike anything else in the region. The view from the summit is truly awe-inspiring, with rugged mountains, snow-capped peaks, and expansive valleys stretching as far as the eye can see.


It’s important to note that Rainbow Mountain has gained popularity in recent years, resulting in a significant increase in visitors. To preserve the fragile ecosystem and ensure a sustainable experience, it is essential to follow sustainable tourism practices. Be sure to stay on designated paths, dispose of waste properly, and respect the local culture and environment.


Visiting Rainbow Mountain is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to witness nature’s artistic masterpiece. The combination of stunning landscapes, challenging hikes, and vibrant colors makes it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


It is recommended to join a guided tour to Rainbow Mountain, as they provide transportation, guides, and necessary equipment for a safe and enjoyable experience. With proper planning and preparation, you can have a memorable adventure and witness the breathtaking beauty of Rainbow Mountain.


Moray and Maras

A visit to the archaeological sites of Moray and Maras offers a glimpse into the agricultural and salt production techniques of the ancient Incan civilization. These two sites, located in the Sacred Valley, are often visited together due to their close proximity.


First, you will explore the intriguing circular terraces of Moray. These terraces were used by the Incas for agricultural experiments and are believed to have served as an agricultural laboratory. The circular design allows for microclimates at different levels, allowing the Incas to cultivate a wide variety of crops.


As you wander through the terraces, you will notice the temperature differences between each level, creating a fascinating agricultural marvel. The ingenuity of the ancient Incas in developing such advanced agricultural techniques is truly remarkable.


After visiting Moray, you can continue your day trip to the nearby town of Maras, famous for its salt mines. The salt mines of Maras have been in operation since Inca times and are a marvel to behold. The salt is harvested by evaporating salty water that flows down through a series of terraced ponds.


The resulting salt ponds create a stunning mosaic of white terraces against the vibrant Andean landscape. Exploring the salt ponds and learning about the traditional salt production methods is a unique and educational experience.


Visiting Moray and Maras provides not only an opportunity to learn about ancient Incan agricultural practices and salt production but also a chance to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Sacred Valley. The combination of historical significance, stunning landscapes, and cultural immersion makes this day trip a must-do while in Cusco.


Both sites are easily accessible from Cusco, with guided tours and private transportation options available. A knowledgeable guide will enhance your experience by providing historical context and interesting anecdotes about these archaeological sites.


Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the terrain at both Moray and Maras can be uneven. Additionally, consider bringing sun protection, as the Peruvian sun can be intense. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning beauty of the terraces and salt ponds.


Visiting Moray and Maras offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the ingenuity of the ancient Incas. The combination of historical sites and natural wonders makes this day trip a memorable and enriching experience.



Ollantaytambo, located in the Sacred Valley of Peru, is a remarkable Incan archaeological site that showcases impressive stone masonry and ancient urban planning. Considered one of the best surviving examples of Incan architecture, a visit to Ollantaytambo offers a fascinating glimpse into the ingenuity of the Inca civilization.


As you explore the well-preserved ruins, you’ll be amazed by the colossal stone terraces, intricate water channels, and imposing fortress walls that dominate the landscape. Ollantaytambo served both as a religious and administrative center during the height of the Incan Empire.


Climbing to the top of the Temple Hill, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the quaint town of Ollantaytambo below. The strategic location of the site allowed the Incas to control access to the Sacred Valley and served as a key defensive stronghold.


While visiting Ollantaytambo, take the time to explore the narrow cobblestone streets of the town itself. This charming Andean village retains much of its original Incan layout and architecture, with well-preserved adobe buildings lining the streets.


Within the town, you’ll also find a traditional market where you can browse for local handicrafts, textiles, and alpaca wool products. This is a great place to shop for souvenirs and support local artisans.


Ollantaytambo is also an important transportation hub, serving as a starting point for the train journey to Machu Picchu. Many travelers choose to stay overnight in Ollantaytambo to catch the early morning train to the ancient citadel, avoiding the crowds that arrive from Cusco.


Whether you visit Ollantaytambo as part of a larger Sacred Valley tour or as the starting point for your Machu Picchu adventure, a visit to this impressive archaeological site is a must-do. The well-preserved ruins, stunning vistas, and charming town will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the ingenuity and grandeur of the Incan Empire.


Getting to Ollantaytambo from Cusco is relatively easy, with frequent buses and organized tours available. If you prefer a more leisurely journey, you can hire a private taxi or enjoy a scenic train ride through the beautiful Sacred Valley.


Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as there is quite a bit of walking and climbing involved in exploring the ruins. Also, bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water to stay hydrated, as the Andean sun can be strong.


Overall, a visit to Ollantaytambo is a rewarding experience that allows you to step back in time and marvel at the architectural wonders of the Incan civilization.



Pisac is a charming little town nestled in the Sacred Valley of Peru, known for its vibrant artisan market and magnificent Incan ruins. A day trip to Pisac offers a delightful blend of cultural immersion, natural beauty, and archaeological exploration.


The main attraction in Pisac is the impressive Incan ruins, set high on a mountain overlooking the town. As you ascend to the site, you’ll be greeted by terraced agricultural fields and intricately carved stone structures. The ruins are believed to have served as a ceremonial and administrative center during the Incan Empire.


Exploring the ruins, you’ll have the opportunity to see ancient temples, royal residences, and impressive defense structures. The craftsmanship and precision in the stone masonry are awe-inspiring, providing a fascinating window into the ingenuity of the Inca civilization.


Aside from the archaeological site, Pisac is famous for its vibrant artisan market. The market is a treasure trove of traditional Peruvian handicrafts, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry. Here, you can browse through countless stalls filled with colorful textiles, intricately woven tapestries, and unique souvenirs.


Interacting with the local artisans is a delightful experience, as they proudly showcase their craftsmanship and explain the cultural significance behind each piece. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample some traditional Peruvian cuisine at the market as well. Local food stalls offer delicious dishes such as empanadas, tamales, and fresh fruit juices.


Pisac is also blessed with natural beauty, surrounded by verdant valleys, towering mountains, and the picturesque Vilcanota River. The stunning landscapes make it a great destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and even paragliding.


Getting to Pisac from Cusco is convenient, with regular bus services and organized tours available. The scenic drive through the Sacred Valley offers breathtaking views and photo opportunities along the way.


When visiting Pisac, make sure to wear comfortable shoes for exploring the ruins and navigating the cobblestone streets of the town. Sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water are also essential, as the Andean sun can be intense.


Whether you’re interested in history, shopping for unique souvenirs, or simply immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the Sacred Valley, a day trip to Pisac is a delightful and enriching experience that shouldn’t be missed.



Chinchero, a small Andean village located just outside of Cusco, is a hidden gem that offers a glimpse into traditional Andean culture and breathtaking natural beauty. With its rich textile traditions, Incan ruins, and stunning vistas, a day trip to Chinchero is a must-do for those seeking an authentic Peruvian experience.


Chinchero is renowned for its skilled weavers who continue to create beautiful textiles using traditional techniques passed down through generations. A visit to Chinchero provides a unique opportunity to witness the ancient art of textile weaving in action. You can visit local cooperatives and learn about the intricate processes of dyeing, spinning, and weaving these vibrant textiles.


In addition to the textile traditions, Chinchero also boasts impressive Incan ruins. The archaeological site, located on a hilltop, offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Exploring the ruins, you’ll find well-preserved stone structures, terraces, and ceremonial platforms that give insight into the daily life of the Incan civilization.


Chinchero is also known for its colorful Sunday market, where locals gather to sell a variety of goods, including fresh produce, traditional crafts, and locally made textiles. The market provides a vibrant and bustling atmosphere where you can interact with locals, indulge in delicious street food, and shop for unique souvenirs.


Aside from its cultural and historical attractions, Chinchero boasts stunning natural beauty. Surrounded by mountains and verdant valleys, the village offers breathtaking hiking trails that showcase the Andean landscapes in all their splendor. You can hike to nearby lakes, explore remote ruins, or simply enjoy the tranquility of the countryside.


Getting to Chinchero from Cusco is relatively easy, with regular bus services and organized tours available. The scenic drive through the Andean countryside is a treat in itself, providing glimpses of rural life and stunning vistas along the way.


When visiting Chinchero, make sure to bring cash, as many of the local artisans and businesses may not accept credit cards. Additionally, be respectful of the local culture and traditions, and always ask for permission before taking photographs of people.


A day trip to Chinchero allows you to immerse yourself in the deep-rooted traditions and natural beauty of the Andean highlands. From the intricate textile weaving to the fascinating ruins and breathtaking landscapes, Chinchero offers a truly authentic and unforgettable Peruvian experience.



Cusco, Peru is a treasure trove of historical, cultural, and natural wonders. From the iconic Machu Picchu to the vibrant markets of Pisac and Chinchero, the region offers an abundance of day trip options that cater to every traveler’s interests. Whether you’re fascinated by ancient civilizations, captivated by breathtaking landscapes, or eager to immerse yourself in the local culture, the day trips from Cusco provide an unforgettable and enriching experience.


Experiencing the wonders of Machu Picchu allows you to witness the ingenuity of the Incan civilization and marvel at its stunning architectural achievements. The Sacred Valley offers a chance to explore the remnants of Incan agricultural experiments at Moray, marvel at the salt ponds of Maras, and delve into the rich history of Ollantaytambo.


Rainbow Mountain offers a unique opportunity to witness nature’s artistic masterpiece with its vibrant colors and picturesque landscapes. Meanwhile, the village of Chinchero provides a glimpse into Andean textile traditions and the chance to explore ancient ruins.


Each day trip from Cusco is a journey that reveals Peru’s astounding beauty, deep-rooted traditions, and the cultural legacy of the Incan Empire. Whether you choose to hike, take a train, or join a guided tour, the experiences that await you will leave a lasting impression.


When planning your day trips, be sure to consider factors such as travel time, physical fitness requirements, and the need for advance ticketing. It’s also essential to respect the local culture, the environment, and the archaeological sites by following sustainable tourism practices.


Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history enthusiast, or a culture lover, the day trips from Cusco are bound to offer something remarkable. Prepare to be amazed, inspired, and immersed in the beauty and richness of Peruvian heritage as you embark on these unforgettable journeys.