If you’re looking for an awesome day hike near Cusco, the Huchuy Qosqo trek should be at the top of your list! The trail brings you to the rarely visited Huchuy Qosqo ruins and features unbelievable views of snow-capped mountains far in the distance. The route covers 10 miles with nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain, making it the perfect hike for acclimating to the altitude in Cusco while preparing for a longer trek. Unlike many hikes in the area, the Huchuy Qosqo trek is only about an hour’s drive from Cusco, making it perfect for a day trip. Even better, the hike is seriously under the radar so you’ll likely see few other hikers along the trail. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to tackle this awesome adventure.


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Huchuy Qosqo Trek

Often overlooked in favor of the Sacred Valley’s more famous ruins, Huchuy Qosqo is an Incan archeological site located north of Cusco near the town of Lamay that remains off the beaten path of most tourists. The ruins can be reached by two possible hiking routes:

  • A very steep 3-mile out and back hike from Lamay with 2,200 feet of elevation gain, OR
  • A 9.5-mile one-way trek from Chinchero to Lamay with 1,900 feet of elevation gain (Huchuy Qosqo Trek)

In this article, we’ll focus on option 2, the classic Huchuy Qosqo Trek. The Huchuy Qosqo trek begins near the small town of Chinchero and traverses nearly 10 miles one-way to Lamay, passing by the Huchuy Qosqo ruins along the way.

We love this route because it features stunning 360-degree views of the snow-capped Urubamba mountains. Additionally, hiking one-way from Chinchero allows you to avoid climbing up to Huchuy Qosqo from Lamay, a surely exhausting endeavor gaining 2,200 feet over just 1.5 miles up to the ruins!

Our experience hiking Huchuy Qosqo

We decided to tackle the Huchuy Qosqo trek as an acclimatization hike while preparing to backpack the Ausangate Circuit, as it was one of the only longer day hikes we could find near Cusco. While we went into the hike with few expectations (other than exposure to high altitude), but we were completely blown away by the beauty we found along the Huchuy Qosqo trek!

Not only are the ruins situated on a beautiful plateau overlooking the Vilcanote River, but the entire trail features incredible views and, from the tallest point on the trail, you can see jaw-dropping vistas of snow-capped mountains in the distance. If you’re looking for an epic day hike near Cusco that is far from the hordes of tourists found in other areas, this is the hike for you!

Leave No Trace

Huchuy Qosqo is a remote hike that is definitely under the radar of most visitors to the area. Please do your part to help preserve this incredible place for generations to come, and remember to practice the 7 principals of Leave No Trace.

It especially important to remember to stay on the established trail, be well prepared (especially for the high altitude), pack out any food and trash you bring with you, do not feed animals, treat the archaeological site with respect and take only photos and memories with you!


Huchuy Qosqo Trek overview

Hike Stats

  • Location | 1 hour from Cusco
  • Mileage | 10 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,900 feet
  • Highest elevation | 14,500 feet
  • Epicness rating | 8.5
  • Time | 5 – 7 hours (may vary depending on your acclimatization level)
  • Difficulty | Hard

Huchuy Qosqo Trek Trail Map

The map below displays the trail for the Huchuy Qosqo hike from Chinchero to Lamay. Please note that this Huchuy Qosqo route on AllTrails is technically NOT the Huchuy Qosqo Trek. You can use our AllTrails recording linked below. From the starting point, you’ll see a very clear sign for the Huchuy Qosqo Trek.

  • Use our route on AllTrails: Huchuy Qosqo Trek (we started recording a bit late, and forgot to stop the recording after getting into a colectivo, hence the “trail” that extends past Lamay)

Which direction should I hike?

The Huchuy Qosqo trek is a one-way route, meaning that you could technically hike it in either direction. However, we would highly recommend starting in Chinchero and ending in Lamay to reduce the total amount of elevation gain.

  • Elevation gain from Chinchero to Lamay | 1,900 feet
  • Elevation gain from Lamay to Chinchero | 5,000 feet

Highlights

  • Beautiful ruins perched atop a lush green plateau overlooking the river.
  • Stunning 360 degree mountain views at the highest point.
  • Abundant wildflowers.
  • Escape the crowds! We saw one other group of hikers the entire day.

Lowlights

  • Logistics to get to and from the trailheads are slightly complicated.
  • Very steep downhill section at the end.
  • High elevation makes the hike significantly more challenging than you’d expect.

How difficult is the Huchuy Qosqo Trek?

The Huchuy Qosqo trek is a challenging hike, covering just under 10 miles with 1,900 feet of elevation gain and 5,000 feet of elevation loss. Now, that much downhill may sound nice, but let us assure you that it takes a serious toll on your knees to walk downhill at such a steep incline.

Remember that the hike will be more difficult than you are used to due to the high altitude, especially if you are not well acclimated. On paper, it may not sound that hard, but with the high altitude and very steep downhill finish, we found ourselves more exhausted than we expected by the time we reached Lamay!

Altitude sickness

At it’s highest point, the Huchuy Qosqo trek reaches an elevation of 14,500 feet. If you’re ever hiked a 14er (or mountain reaching 14,000 feet in elevation), you know that the air becomes very thin at that high of an altitude! Altitude sickness is a serious concern, and should not be taken lightly on this hike.

If you start to feel any symptoms, such as nausea, light-headedness, headache, dizziness, or shortness of breath (without being able to catch it), it’s important that you turn back. Altitude sickness can quickly become dangerous, and rapid descent is the only real cure. You don’t want to be that person airlifted off the mountain!

When is the best time of year to hike?

The best time to hike Huchuy Qosqo is during the fall, winter and spring, from April through November. The summer months, December through March, are Peru’s rainy season, so it’s best to avoid visiting during this time for the best shot at clear weather.

We hiked during the fall and the wildflowers were absolutely beautiful! We can only imagine the colors that bloom along the trail during the spring.

How to get to the Huchuy Qosqo trek from Cusco

It’s possible to complete the Huchuy Cosco trek independently or as a guided tour. Below we’ll explain how to do both options.

Huchuy Qosqo trek independently

  • Total cost | $20 per person (taxi to trailhead, Huchuy Cusco entrance fee & colectivo back to Cusco)

If you wish to hike Huchuy Qosqo independently, you’ll need to arrange transportation. We did the hike on our own, and found it to be fairly easy to get to and from the trailheads. Knowing a little bit of Spanish is definitely helpful if you want to do the trek on your own so that you can communicate with taxi/colectivo drivers.

How to get to the trailhead in Chinchero

  • The easiest way to get to the trailhead is to take a taxi. Simply tell your taxi driver you are trekking Huchuy Qosqo from Chinchero. Most drivers will know the area, but make sure to settle on a fee before you get in the car. We paid 120 soles total (~$33) for a ride to the trailhead, although I’m fairly confident you could haggle the cost down a bit more. It’s very easy to get a taxi in Cusco. They are everywhere! Our impression was that most taxis you see zipping around Cusco tend to stay fairly close to the city but you could almost definitely convince any driver to bring you to Chinchero for the right price. Whenever we needed a taxi to bring us out of Cusco, we headed to the Pavitos area. This seems to be where all the taxis that bring people farther distances wait for passengers. Just plug “Pavitos” into your GPS or ask anyone how to get there and you’ll find it. It’s a little street near the San Pedro Market. You’ll know you’re there when you see all the taxis lined up.
  • Alternatively, you could take a colectivo from Cusco to Chinchero, and then find a taxi to the trailhead. Although this option would certainly be cheaper, it’s more logistically complicated and will take longer.

How to get back to Cusco from Lamay

  • To get back to Cusco, take a colectivo from Lamay for 5 soles per person. The colectivo picks up from a stop located on the first street you reach after crossing the bridge towards Lamay.
  • It’s also possible to take a taxi back to Cusco, but we don’t think it’s necessary as the colectivo is super convenient and much cheaper.

Tip | In case you aren’t familiar, a colectivo is a minibus (usually a white van) that is a common form of transportation around Peru. You can flag them down anywhere you see one, and if there is space on the bus the driver will pull over for you. Just make sure they’re headed in the right direction before you hop on! The colectivo is a cheap (and surprisingly easy) way to get around in Peru.

Huchuy Qosqo with a tour group

If you prefer to leave the logistics to someone else, you can also book a private tour. If you do the Huchuy Qosqo trek with a tour guide, they will pick you up and drop you off from your hotel in Cusco. You won’t have to worry about transportation or navigation on the trail, and you’ll almost surely learn more about the area than you would hiking independently. That being said, the convenience will certainly come at a cost!

Booking a guided hike may especially be a good idea for you if:

  • You do not have experience hiking at high altitude or navigating difficult to follow trails.
  • You don’t speak any Spanish. Most taxi/colectivo drivers speak only Spanish and/or Quechua, so transportation would be quite difficult to arrange without basic Spanish skills.

Tips for a great hike

  • There is a 10 sole per person entrance fee for the Huchuy Qosqo ruins. Even if you don’t want to explore the ruins, you will still need to pay the fee to continue along the trail. Make sure to have cash with you!
  • Make sure that you are acclimated to the altitude before attempting this hike. The Huchuy Qosqo Trek reaches an altitude of nearly 14,500 feet. We’d recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days in Cusco before the hike.
  • Be sure to pack plenty of water for the hike, not only to stay hydrated but also to fight off altitude sickness.
  • For the most part, the trail is well worn and easy to follow. However, there are a few places in the first couple miles were the trail becomes very faint, and animal tracks can make it confusing to figure out which way to go. There is no cell service along the trail, so we recommend downloading the trails on AllTrails Pro (or your preferred means of offline navigation).

Huchuy Qosqo packing list

Below are a few key items to make sure you pack for the Huchuy Qosqo hike:

  • Hiking backpack and water bladder
  • Water and snacks
  • Sun protection, including sunshirt, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses, as there is no shade for the majority of the hike. Remember that the sun is stronger at high altitude (I am usually not sensitive to the sun, but got absolutely fried on this hike!)
  • Hiking poles | Hiking poles are key for the steep downhill sections of this hike!
  • Hiking boots | Because the hike is so steep in sections, we’d recommend a pair of boots or shoes with good traction.
  • Cash | To pay for the taxi/colectivo if traveling independently AND the entrance fee for the Huchuy Qosqo ruins.
  • Camera or GoPro to capture your experience.

P.S. For a complete list of gear to pack for a day hike, we’ve compiled all our favorite essentials here:

Huchuy Qosqo hike details

In this section, we’ll provide more detail about each part of the hike so that you know what to expect.

Getting to the trailhead

The trailhead for Huchuy Qosqo is located east of Chinchero past Laguna Piuray. The trailhead is marked with a huge sign that says “Huchuy Qosqo”. Your taxi driver should know where to take you, but just in case, you can find the coordinates here on GoogleMaps.

A note about using AllTrails

If you are using AllTrails, the trail map titled “Huchuy Qosqo” will NOT bring you to this trailhead. It’s possible to get to Huchuy Qosqo via the route on AllTrails, but it’s not the “official” Huchuy Qosqo Trek. We were very confused when our taxi driver dropped us off and we were quite far from the trailhead on AllTrails. Given the very clear sign, we decided to just go for it and ended up following a different trail. You can see our route on AllTrails here.

Horses near the trail at the start of the hike

Starting the hike

After passing the sign for Huchuy Qosqo, you’ll continue along a dirt road before veering left. Here, the rough dirt road continues briefly, but you can pickup the trail to the right of the road.

The trail slowly begins to gain elevation as you meander through a golden valley, with views overlooking Laguna Piuray behind you and mountains rising up ahead. At about 2 miles into the hike, you’ll pass by a small lake to the lefthand side of the trail.

Next, you’ll tackle the steepest incline of the hike, as you switchback your way up the ridge, with awesome views looking back over the lake. Because of the high altitude, you’re likely to feel yourself struggling more than you might expect by this point!

Luckily, the steep part only lasts about half a mile before flattening out as you come up over the ridge to find a stunning view overlooking an alpine lake with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Alpine lake and mountains views after coming up the ridge from Chinchero

360 degree viewpoint

After coming up the ridge, the trail veers to the left and continues to gain elevation for about another half a mile. Here, you’ll reach the tallest point of the Huchuy Qosqo trek, at about 14,500 feet!

There is a small hill to the right of the trail that you can climb up for incredible 360-degree mountain views. This viewpoint was definitely the highlight of the Huchuy Qosqo trek for us, and luckily, it’s all downhill from here!

The tallest point of the Huchuy Qosqo trek reaches an elevation of roughly 14,500 feet.

Starting the descent

After thoroughly soaking in the viewpoint, begin your descent to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins. From the tallest point of the hike, it’s another 3 miles downhill before you reach the Huchuy Qosqo ruins. While the grade starts off fairly gradual, it begins to get steeper and steeper as you approach the ruins. A pair of trekking poles is key for stability and keeping some of the pressure off your knees.

On this side of the mountain, you’ll pass through a beautiful valley of vibrant wildflowers (depending on the season) with views overlooking the Willkapampa Valley and the Vilcanote River.

Views on the trek down to Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo Ruins

As the trail approaches the Huchuy Qosqo ruins, you’ll first catch an amazing view of the ruins from above. The ruins sit on a lush green plateau overlooking the Vilcanote River surrounded by mountains.

Eventually the trail makes it ways down to the ruins, where you’ll have to pay a 10 sole fee per person. Even if you don’t want to walk around the ruins, you’ll still need to pay the fee just to pass through and continue down to Lamay.

Huchuy Qosqo ruins in Peru's Sacred Valley
Huchuy Qosqo ruins
Huchuy Qosqo ruins

Descent to Lamay

After exploring the Huchuy Qosqo ruins, begin the final descent to the small village of Lamay, where the trek ends. While it’s only about 1.5 miles downhill to Lamay, this section of the hike is extremely steep and, quite frankly, making sure you don’t lose your footing after 9 miles of high altitude hiking is exhausting!

When the trail finally levels out, head towards the bridge over the Vilcanote River, and continue until you arrive in town. There is a colectivo stop right at the intersection of the first major road you reach after crossing the bridge over the river. Wait here for the next available colectivo (we waited less than 5 minutes for one to come along), or grab a taxi if you don’t have the patience!

mountain views from the tallest point of the Huchuy Qosco Trek

Other Peru resources

Looking for more to do in Peru? Check out the resources below for more inspiration!

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For all things Peru: Peru Travel Guide

Questions about the Huchuy Qosqo trek or how to get there from Cusco? Tell us your favorite day hike near Cusco! Drop us a comment below!

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