5 free and incredible treks in Cusco

Cusco is one of the favorite tourist destinations for lovers of hiking trails. The most famous route is definitely the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. However, this 4-day trek can only be done with a tour whose cost ranges from approximately $ 600. For tourists on a lower budget there are other walks. Some of them also end in Machupicchu. Here are five free hiking routes in Cusco.

Trek Cusco
Treks in Cusco


The Salkantay trek

Salkantay Trek
Salkantay trek

The Salkantay trek is considered one of the best hiking routes in Cusco. Most tourists do this trek through a 5-day all-inclusive tour. However, doing this adventure on your own is also possible since it is free.

The route runs through high Andean roads near the imposing Salkantay mountain range. It is estimated that approximately 70 kilometers are traveled until arriving at Machu Picchu. The entrance to the Inca city does have an approximate cost of 43 dollars (152 Peruvian soles). However, traveling the famous Salkantay trek route is free for everyone.

The only cost that must be paid is at the time of entering the Soraypampa camp located at the foot of the snowy Salkantay. The right to camp in this area has a cost of 10 Peruvian soles (approximately 3 dollars). It should be noted that the camping equipment as well as the other utensils must be carried by the tourist himself.

The route begins in the town of Mollepata, located 101 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco. At this point you have to walk uphill for about 16 kilometers until you arrive at the Soraypampa camp where you spend the night. As an optional adventure you can go and return to the famous Humantay lagoon (free admission).

The rest of the hike is on hilly roads. On the second day, the highest point is covered, the Salkantay pass at 4,650 meters above sea level. The third day begins the descent to the tropical jungle of Cusco. Camp at night will be at ‘Playa Sahuayaco’ or in the town of Santa Teresa.

Finally, on the fourth day, you will walk to the town of Aguas Calientes through the Hydroelectric route. In this tourist town you can camp or spend the night in a lodging. Finally, on the fifth and last day, Machu Picchu is visited.


The hydroelectric route – Machupicchu town

Hidroeléctrica - Machupicchu
Hydroelectric – Machupicchu

There are three ways to visit Machu Picchu: the classic train trip, the Inca Trail and the alternative route by Hydroelectric. The latter is the most economical. You only have to make a long trip by bus (journey of about 6 hours on average) from the city of Cusco to the Hydroelectric station in the town of Santa Teresa. Finally, an incredible walk must be made to Machu Picchu town, also called Aguas Calientes. This last hike is totally free.

The Hydroelectric route to Machu Picchu town is only 10 kilometers long. It takes approximately 2 hours to complete this flat path, easy to travel, and surrounded by green mountains and the murmur of the Vilcanota River.

The walk follows in a straight line the train rails that lead to Aguas Calientes. It is impossible to get lost. Almost at the end, you must take a detour towards the ‘Puente Ruinas’ sector. This will avoid two tunnels destined for the passage of the train. Finally, you must walk a few meters along the Hiram Bingham road until you reach Machupicchu town.

Aguas Calientes is only 10 kilometers from Machu Picchu. This section can be done on foot, along paths and stairs always uphill. This hike takes 2 hours or more and is physically demanding. That is why many tourists prefer to do this section on a tourist bus (cost per section of 12 dollars).


The route to Putucusi

The Inca city of Machu Picchu is surrounded by three high mountains: the Huayna Picchu, the Machupicchu mountain and the Putucusi. The entrance to the first two summits has a cost of 200 Peruvian soles (57 dollars approximately). Entrance to Putucusi is totally free.

To make the walk to Putucusi you must start from the town of Aguas Calientes. The route is along a flat path full of vegetation until it meets a complicated section made of wooden stairs. To continue you must climb the set of stairs, at almost a 90 degree incline. It is in this section where many visitors give up continuing.

If you can overcome the stairs, you only have to walk along paths of dense vegetation until finally reaching the top of Putucusi, located at 2,650 meters above sea level. The route can take from 2 to 3 hours.

Putucusi comes from a Quechua word that means ‘happy mountain’. From its top you can see Machu Picchu in the distance. Despite being a totally free route, due to its difficulty, not many visitors dare to go.

It is recommended not to do the route in the rainy season (especially in January, February and March). Rains can cause rockslide. The rest of the year you can do the walk without major risks.


The route to Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo
Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo is an Inca archaeological site hidden in the middle of the mountains of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There are two ways to get there: through a car trip from Cusco and a 10-kilometer walk. The latter is definitely the most adventurous way.

Although most tourists prefer to go to Huchuy Qosqo with a tourism agency; It is also possible to go on your own. To do this, you must start in Tambomachay, an Inca archaeological site located on the outskirts of the city of Cusco. After a 3-hour walk, where you cross mountains, lagoons and streams, you arrive at Huchuy Qosqo.

The walk is totally free, however, the entrance to Huchuy Qosqo does have a cost: older adults pay 22 Peruvian soles (about 6 dollars approximately). The good news is that camping is allowed nearby.

The tours, in addition to the walk and visit to Huchuy Qosqo, include the train ride to Machu Picchu. This service, called Huchuy Qosqo trek to Machu Picchu, lasts 3 days and has an approximate cost of 450 dollars per person (the price varies depending on the tourism agency you choose).

In any case, you can visit the archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo, a citadel built by the Inca Huiracocha in the 15th century. Due to the difficulty of getting there, few tourists get to know the place.


The Choquequirao trek

Choquequirao
Choquequirao

Choquequirao is an Inca archaeological site that for its beauty is compared to Machu Picchu. As well as the ‘Wonder of the world’, it has a special beauty surrounded by vegetation, platforms, temples, squares, enclosures and more. However, unlike Machupicchu, the only way to get to Choquequirao is by walking.

The difficult walk to get to Choquequirao is free. Tour the towns and roads surrounding the Apurímac canyon. The route begins in the town of Cachora, located 164 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco.

From Cachora you must make an arduous walk of approximately 32 kilometers until arriving at Choquequirao. On the way, you pass through mountainous landscapes, Andean towns and more. This route can take 2 days to go and another 2 days to return to Cusco.

Because it can only be reached on foot, Choquequirao is a destination rarely visited by tourists. Thus, the people who completed the walk will be able to enjoy the archaeological site almost to themselves. The entrance has a cost of 60 Peruvian soles (18 dollars on average).

Tours to Choquequirao last 4 days and cost approximately $ 450 per person on average.

The trek to Choquequirao is considered a challenging but worthwhile route. Peruvian authorities are planning to build a cable car to facilitate this route. Thus, the number of people visiting this place would multiply. Even so, the walk to Choquequirao is considered one of the best adventures in Cusco. And it’s free!

 

By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, June 10, 2021