The Huchuy Qosqo trek is the shortest and easiest of alternative treks to Machu Picchu.
The route is situated just north of Cusco, making access easy and is ideal for visitors who either don’t have much time in the region or would like to do a little hiking without too much of a strenuous workout.
Most tour companies offer the trek on a two-day schedule, with one-night camping, and an additional night spent in Aguas Calientes before visiting Machu Picchu on day-three.
In this detailed Huchuy Qosqo trek article we provide a brief historical overview on the Inca site, a route itinerary, a short description on the equipment packing list requirements and information on acclimatisation and weather considerations.
Huchuy Qosqo (pronounced Oh-chee Cusco), which means ‘Small Cusco’ or ‘Little Cusco’ in Quechua, is an Inca archeological site situated at 3,600m above sea level, north of Cusco and above the town of Lamay (3,000m) in the Sacred Valley (see map below).
It is believed that the site was built during the reign of the eighth Incan Ruler, Viracocha, and originally had the name Kakya Qawani. It was only remained to Huchuy Qosqo in the 20th century.
Like many Inca ruins in the Cusco region, the site was largely demolished during the 1500s. Today one can still see the many terraces that surround the site as well as evidence of a kallanka (great hall) which would have been 40m long, and an Incan irrigation channel that would have supplied natural spring water to the site.
The site can only be reached on foot or horseback, although there is a dirt road that runs from Lamay to a viewpoint which is about 150m from ruins that can be accessed by car.
There are a few route itineraries for the Huchuy Qosco trek. The itinerary set out here is for a typical 3D/2N trek to Machu Picchu that starts from the ruins just north of Cusco, called Tambomachay.
Please note that this itinerary may vary from from trekking company to trekking company. For example some trekking companies start from Chinchero, instead of Tambomachay
Day 1: Cusco – Tambomachy – Pucamarca
After being picked up early, around 06:00, you will be driven 7km north of Cusco (3,400m) to an Inca ruin called Tambomachy (3,700m). This is the starting point of the Huchuy Qosco trek. After a brief visit to these ruins you will begin trekking up a gradual hill that gets steeper and tougher as you approach the first pass called Sicllaccasa (4,020m). The views of the Sacred Valley and Cusco city are great from the top of this pass.
From here the trail ascends and descends over number of undulating hills (small passes). The first is called Queullococha (4,185m). The views of the snow-capped Cordillera Urubamba along this part of the trail are awesome. Ask your guide to point out the peaks of Veronica, Pitusiray, Chicon and San Juan.
You will then pass by an impressive alpine lake called Queullococha before continuing up to the Challu Challu Pass (4,220m), where you will be afforded great views of the Chinchero plains and the Piuray and Qoricocha lakes below.
The trek continues a little further up to Rumicruz (4,230m) before descending to the homestead of Pucamarca (3,980m), where most trekkers camp for the night.
The total trekking distance is ~13km and takes the average trekker 7-8 hours to complete. Interaction with locals is minimal but you will likely see llamas and alpacas eating Ichu (Andean gras), Puyas (Bromelia bushes) and small cactuses. The scenery is also fantastic.
Day 2: Pucamarca – Huchuy Qosqo – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes
Today is a lot easier than the first day. You will have breakfast relatively early and then trek down to the ruins at Huchuy Qosqo (3,600m). The site takes a good hour to explore and most tour operators will provide a guided tour (typically your trekking guide will give you the tour of the ruins).
After the tour of Huchuy Qosco you will either continue trekking to the village of Tauqaq (sometimes spelt Taucca), or follow a steep descent to the village of Lamay, where you will have lunch. From Tauqaq or Lamay you will be transported to Ollantaytambo. If your tour takes you to Tauqaq, it is likely that you will be transported to Moray (aka “The Greenhouses of the Incas”), to briefly visit the Inca ruins there before continuing on to Ollantaytambo. It is thought that this Inca site, which consists of terraces carved into a huge bowl, was used by the Incas to investigate the optimal conditions for growing their crops.
From Ollantaytambo you will catch a train to Aguas Calientes, which takes approximately an 1 hour 30 minutes. You will overnight in a hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes.
Day 3: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
Waking early on day three you will take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The first bus departs around 05:30 and during the peak season (May-September) queues for buses start forming before 05:00. The bus journey takes about 30 minutes, which if you leave early gives you enough time to trek from Machu Picchu to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate), to witness sunrise.
Most tour operators organise a guided tour of the Citadel for trekkers which lasts 2-3 hours. If you are not afraid of heights and are relatively fit, it is worthwhile organising a ticket to climb Huayna Picchu, the large mountain behind Machu Picchu. There are only 400 permits available per day to climb Huayna Picchu so make sure you book early.
After visitig Machu Picchu you will need to get a bus back to Aguas Calientes to catch your train back to Ollantaytambo. Most tour operators will have booked your train tickets for that afternoon. It takes about 30 minutes to return by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, but there are often 30-60 minute queues to catch a bus in the afternoon, so make sure you give yourself enough time to catch your train. It is possible to walk back to Aguas Calientes from Machu Picchu (allow 2 hours).
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The Huchuy Qosqo trek map below shows the two route variations typically taken to Huchuy Qosqo.
The most common route departs from the Inca ruins at Tambomachy and goes via the village of Pucamarca, to Huchuy Qosqo (as set out in the itinerary above). From here trekkers either continue on to Lamay and are then transported to Ollantaytambo to catch a train to Aguas Calientes, or trek to Tauqaq where they are transported to another Inca site at Moray before going to Ollantaytambo.
The second route variation starts at Chinchero and goes via the village of Tauqaq to Huchuy Qosqo.
There are two main weather seasons in this part of the Peruvian Andes.
A dry season that runs from May through to September, and a wet season that starts in October and runs through to April. The best time for a Huchuy Qosqo trek is during the dry season (May-September). You can however trek to Huchuy Qosqo all-year-round, but we recommend avoiding January and February which are the wettest months. The dry shoulder months of March / April and October / November are pleasant, although there is a higher probability of encountering rain.
Temperatures throughout the year are relatively consistent. The days are warm (in the high 20s Celsius), and the nights and early mornings cold (low digits and sometimes below zero Celsius). Layered trekking clothing is important (see packing list below).
Micro-climates dominate in the Andes, which means weather conditions can change quickly and rain is possible all year round. Do bring wet weather gear, like a poncho, even in the dry season. Click here to see historical monthly weather charts for Machu Picchu.
Please note: May through September is the peak trekking season, however, as the Huchuy Qosqo trek is one of the least popular routes you are unlikely to encounter many trekkers on the trail. Machu Picchu, on the other hand, will be busy. You should try book your train tickets to Aguas Calientes and entrance tickets to the Citadel as soon as possible (note: these tickets are usually included in your tour package).
Although the Huchuy Qosqo trek has a reputation of being the easiest trekking route to Machu Picchu, it still requires trekking to high altitudes (over 4,000m). This comes with obvious altitude sickness risks.
We recommend you take a moment to read our guidance on acclimatisation and altitude sickness so that you are fully aware of the risks associated with high altitude trekking, and well-informed on best practice safety methods.
Trekking for 5-days or trekking for 2-days, still requires certain fundamental gear like basic trekking clothes, hiking boots, walking poles, a daypack and sleeping bag.
We have written a detailed packing list for the Inca Trail which you can use as a template for the Huchuy Qosqo trek. However, as the trek is shorter you will not need as many changes of clothing (i.e. only 2-3 pairs of socks, 2-3 shirts etc.). Also, because trekkers on the Huchuy Qosqo trek only camp for one night, it is more economical to rent a sleeping bag.
Please see our Classic Inca Trail Packing List for full details on required gear.
Treks to Huchuy Qosqo do not require a permit and therefore technically you can do this trek unsupported. We don’t recommend solo treks, but if you are part of a small group and have some experience of backcountry hiking, then this trek could be done unsupported.
Please note: A DIY Trek of this nature requires backcountry hiking experience, as you will be carrying a much heavier load than you would on a formally organised trek and will not have the luxury of porters or support crew to setup camp and cook.
Insurance for your trek to Machu Picchu is a must. Most operators will require you to carry sufficient travel insurance for your trek. As most trails to Machu Picchu go over high 4,000m passes, you will need to make sure your insurance covers you for high altitude hiking (up to 6000m). We have reviewed a number of travel insurance providers. The most affordable and best by far is World Nomads.
Use the Calculator below to get a travel insurance quote for your trek.
If your still have any questions about the Huchuy Qosqo hike, feel free to leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours. We would also love to hear from you if you want to share your knowledge or experience of this trek.
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