Huchuy Qosqo, Peru – Enjoy the tranquillity of Little Cusco
Huchuy Qosqo, One of the Sacred Valley’s lesser-visited archaeological sites is well worth the difficult hike
The only thing Huchuy Qosqo (Quechua for Little Cusco) has in common with its much bigger namesake is that they’re in the same region. This is one of the least-known archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley, but for me, that made it all the more special after I completed a tricky hike and had the whole site to myself.
My first thought when I crossed the bridge from Lamay and saw the mountain in front of me was, “Well there must be a tunnel somewhere because I can’t possibly be climbing all the way up that.” I was wrong. Huchuy Qosqo is one of those places where the journey and the destination are equally impressive, with the trek zig-zagging up the side of a mountain, the track flanked by brightly coloured flowers with hummingbirds flitting across every few seconds.
Only a family of four passed me on the two-hour hike, which is relentlessly uphill. The combination of this difficult trek and the lack of information online and in travel guides means that it’s unusual to see many more people than this on the trail, although it’s part of the Inca trail which connects Sacsayhuaman and Tambomachay with Machu Picchu.
The best parts about the trek are the views of the Sacred Valley and the town of Lamay, which are beautiful.
I imagine that arriving at Huchuy Qosqo and seeing it from above is a mesmerizing sight, but, because I took the wrong path and entered from the bottom of the pyramid-shaped ruin, I didn’t get to experience that. What I did get though was the experience of having an Inca ruin completely to myself for about 15 minutes. It was an eerie experience, walking into the remains of living quarters, sitting by the fountain, and trying to guess what each part was used for. It also gave me a chance to sit down on the grass next to a gushing stream and relax and read for a bit, as well as seeing how the buildings and nature co-existed with each other.
After about 20 minutes at Huchuy Qosqo, I came face to face with another living being that didn’t have at least four legs: a local farmer, who was on his way to give an offering of water to Pachamama (also known as Mother Earth), stopped and told me about Huchuy Qosqo.
The name Huchuy Qosqo is nowhere near as old as the site itself, having only been christened this in 1945 by the Spanish landowners who really liked Cusco. Previously, it was called Kacya Ccawarina, meaning ray/lightning observatory in Quechua.
We walked around a little and I learned more about the site. The temple dedicated to Huiracocha – the most important Inca God – was the only building that had been modernized, with cement put in to keep the building standing.
The site is watched over by Condor Tiana, the highest mountain of those surrounding Huchuy Qosqo.
After spending a little time with my farmer-turned-guide, I went back to spend some more time taking in the beauty of the views and the location of the site itself. Human sounds were totally absent; I only heard the buzz of insects, the occasional moo of a cow, and the twittering of birds. I spent a little longer soaking this up before heading back down to Lamay.
What is the altitude of Hochoy Qosqo?
The Huchuy Qosqo archaeological site is situated at a high elevation in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, above the small town of Lamay, approximately 2,800 meters (9,186 feet). It’s approximately a one and a half hour drive from the city of Cusco. The site itself sits at an altitude of 3,650 meters above sea level (11,800 feet).
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
There are a number of ways to get to Huchuy Qosqo, including hiking via Lake Piuray. which is said to be beautiful.
However, I’ve written about the easiest way to get there; the whole trip can be done in roughly four or five hours from Pisac or Calca. Add another hour on for Cusco.
Depending on your starting point, you can take a colectivo (minibus) from either Cusco, Pisac, or Calca to the village of Lamay. If you can’t remember Lamay, tell the driver Huchuy Qosqo (pronounced Hoochie Cusco) and they will drop you off in the right place.
Then, cross the bridge and follow the path. There are some signs for Huchuy Qosqo at the bottom of the trail but they disappear further up. It should take between two and two and a half hours depending on your fitness and hiking experience. The path returns to being clearly signposted close to the top, but it’s a good idea to have an app like Maps. Me to help you.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
There isn’t any accommodation at Huchuy Qosqo itself; most travelers decide to see it on a day trip from either Cusco, Pisac, or Calca. There are a couple of budget hospedajes in Lamay below.
To find the best places to stay in Pisac, check out our post about the ruins there (link to Pisac article).
Eat – Restaurants
There’s nowhere at the site to eat, however, it’s a beautiful place to take a picnic and spend a couple of hours relaxing with a light lunch. If you do bring food, please make sure that you take your rubbish away with you.
If you forget or choose not to bring something to eat, there is food available in the village of Lamay, and a big choice of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in nearby Pisac.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
It’s best to visit Huchuy Qosqo in the dry season, which runs from April to October. Although the ruins and paths are well maintained, the infrastructure isn’t as good as Machu Picchu or the ruins which are included in Cusco’s Boleto Turístico. In the wet season, there’s a risk of landslides on the paths up the mountain, and – unsurprisingly from the name – more chance of getting soaked to the bone.
Safety – Possible risks
Heading to Huchuy Qosqo with the wrong footwear can be a safety risk. Make sure you have a pair of sturdy hiking boots, as there’s lots of loose shale on the tracks and it’s easy to lose grip. The hike down is easier but tough on the knees.
Sunburn and altitude sickness are the biggest dangers, more about that in the reality check section. The only other thing to be aware of is that some colectivo drivers will sometimes overcharge western tourists. More of an annoyance than a safety risk.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Huchuy Qosqo is a very cheap day out. Entrance to the site only costs 7 soles (about £1.60 at the time of writing). A colectivo from Pisac should cost no more than 2 soles, and roughly 6 or 7 from Cusco. The only other thing you need to think about is the cost of snacks, but you can pick up fruit, nuts, sugary snacks like cookies, and water for very low prices. These are the best kind of snacks for the steep walk up to the ruins.
A limited number of travel companies offer treks to Huchuy Qosqo, however, they charge roughly 170 soles per person. To put that into perspective, my entire half-day hike cost me 10.5 soles. I didn’t eat, but almuerzos are usually available for 5 or 6 soles.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
There are a lot of paths into Huchuy Qosqo that bypass the main entrance, meaning that it’s very easy to get in without paying the entrance fee of 7 soles. However, that doesn’t mean you should. A law passed by the Peruvian government means the site is no longer owned by the colonial families; it’s now a co-operative where any revenue is put back into maintaining the site or supporting the local (mostly agricultural) workers who live nearby.
Reality Check – Be Aware
As I’ve mentioned already, it’s a steep hike up to Huchuy Qosqo. You’ll climb around 700m in just two hours if you trek from Lamay. There’s also a risk of soroche (altitude sickness), so make sure you’ve given yourself a couple of days to adjust to the altitude in Cusco or the Sacred Valley before attempting this hike.
Also, although the site is beautiful and gives incredible views of the Sacred Valley, there’s not a lot of shade. Whatever time of year you come, bring sun cream.
There’s very little online information on Huchuy Qosqo online, and it doesn’t have an official website.
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