We all know that Cusco is famous for its Inca and colonial history as well as being the departure point for Machu Picchu excursions. Once you have seen these architectural wonders and want to hang around a little longer then we really suggest exploring some of the less visited regions around Cusco.
Here we provide you with 3 suggestions that are a guaranteed lust for the traveling soul and will get you right off the beaten tourism path:
Valle Del Sur
The first route is located in the South Valley of Cusco. This region is mostly known for the Inca settlement of Tipon, however a little further up the road you can find the archeological remains of a much older culture: the Wari. At about 30 km’s from Cusco, they build the Pikillaqta site, which in its aftermath consisted of more than 700 structures. Belonging to the archaeological park is the Huacarpay wetland which offers splendid views and an aura of tranquility (if you don’t mind the enormous variety of wildlife going about their business). It is possible to visit all these locations in a half a day, stopping by the lustrous ‘Sistine Chapel of America’ in the town of Andahuaylillas. However, we suggest continuing your day-out to the humble town of Lucre, a couple of minutes away from Huacarpay. Here you will be pleasantly surprised with an exquisite lunch prepared with duck and a fantastic pastry shop. The locale easily recognized by the hundreds of cow ornaments serves a delicious sauco cheesecake and lucuma pie.
Located in the upper provinces of the Cusco region, Espinar abounds with things to see and do and can be reached in about 5 hours (give or take). First of all it is regarded as what used to be the epicenter of agricultural development for pre-Columbian civilizations with over 20 archeological sites. The most important complex is Maukallaqta meaning ‘old town’ with its impressive chullpas (stone funeral towers for nobles). Close by are the caves from where the brothers Ayar emerged, the mythical forefathers of the Inca reign. All these sites and local communities are surrounded by truly spectacular scenery, with the Suykutambo Canyon as the most awe-inspiring. The canyon with gorges of over 3000 meters is considered as one on the deepest in America (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA). Here three river mouths come together to converge into the Gran Apurimac; a geological formation known as Tres Cañones, the source of the Amazon river basin. This is one of the most impressive natural spectacles to the human eye and an unreal spot to practice adventure sports in Peru such as kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling and paragliding.
This province is a popular destination due to its colorful local markets (such as the one in Pisac), laidback vibe and pleasant climate. The Sacred Valley tour from Cusco takes in all the main sights, but not the archeological remnants of Huchuy Qosqo (or little Cusco). The site is inaccessible by public road but can be reached hiking, either from the village of Lamay, at little over an hour’s drive from Cusco, up a steep set of hairpin bends in about 2 – 3 hours. The other option, taking about the same time is to set off from Tauca with a pass at 4400m. The remoteness and the beauty of the landscape make for an extraordinary excursion, intensified by the snowcapped mountains. For relaxation there are the sulfurous hot springs of Machacancha near Calca and the ones in Lares, reached after a 90 minutes’ drive through a stunningly beautiful valley where flocks of llamas and Andean farms are scattered all over. The medicinal thermal baths have three pools with a temperature varying between 42 – 35 °C, and are an excellent way to relieve the symptoms of muscle ache, arthritis and improve blood circulation. Camping allowed!
There is no doubt that Cusco is a magical region with an incredibly rich natural and cultural heritage, where each community has its own traditions, music, gastronomy, flora and fauna, legends and stories to be told by its hospitable people.
If you decide to go down any of these less conventional routes you will discover the beauty of a Peru rarely seen and a universe of new experiences to remember forever.
For more detailed travel info about these destinations or tips for other Cusco excursions, do not hesitate to send Dos Manos Travel Agency in Cusco a message!