You’re likely to spend most of your time in La Plaza de Armas in Cusco, and for good reason. It has enough to entertain you for a couple days, with shopping and the beautiful colonial-style buildings built on top of Inca foundations. Once you’ve exhausted the historical center, it’s time to set your sights to the sights snd ruins in around Cusco. Here is our guide to the best day trips to take from the city.
About 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Cusco lie the Incan ruins of Moray. These ruins are circular terraces that decrease in elevation as you move towards the middle, creating multiple layers of terraces that were used for agricultural purposes. It is believed that the Incas would test various agricultural techniques at this site. To enter the site you’ll need a boleto touristico, which can be purchased in Cusco.
The Pisac market is truly a spectacle, especially if you head there on a Sunday when everyone – seriously, everyone – is out and about selling something. It is without a doubt the best place to get souvenirs, and at cheaper prices than in Cusco.
This sprawling multi-use ruin is one of the main tourist attractions in Cusco. It was used for military and religious purposes, and while the ruins are large, only about 20% of it is left for us to see today. Unfortunately, most of the structure was destroyed by the Spanish during the conquest, but what remains is more than worth the price of admission.
In Quechua, Q’enqo means ‘labyrinth’ or ‘zig-zag,’ which makes sense as you wind your way through the small, zig-zagging tunnels of the ruin, made out of carved rock. People are not entirely sure what the purpose of the temple was, but one thing is for certain is that many offerings took place there. Down inside the bowels of the structure is an altar, where archeologists have found llama and alpaca bones. The original function of the ruin remains a mystery today.
El Balcon is a ledge that overlooks a river with a cave below. Once you check out the view, hike down to explore the cave. Located about a 30-minute walk away from Sacsaywaman, you can take the hike to El Balcon before returning to Sacaywaman. If you want to make it more challenging, you can begin the hike from a different location, up the road from the white Christ statue, which will make it a full-day adventure. You can also rent horses to take you to the cave.
The Inca fortress sits atop a hill that overlooks all of Pisac, giving you the best views of the city and a (usually) empty view of the ruins. You can hike from Pisac to the top (it will take you about two hours) or take a short taxi ride. The site also has agricultural terraces that go from the south to the east side of the mountain.
Salinas just might be the most beautiful site in all of the Cusco area. Salinas is a collection of thousands of salt flats that the Incas used to gather salt, and which are still operational today. A hot spring at the top brings heavily salinated water to gather in ponds, where the salt is then collected. The overall effect of seeing the salt flats is astounding.