Huchuy Qosqo, hidden fortress
Find out everything you need to know to visit the ruins known as “Little Cusco”, via a walk through spectacular pristine scenery.
The one-day route
The starting point for exploring the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo is the small village of Tauca, situated at an altitude of 3750 meters, beyond Chinchero in the Sacred Valley. The trek crosses the entire valley on the route to the village of Lamay, on the banks of the Urubamba River. It is possible to travel to Chinchero and there meet up with people who can guide you, or to hire the services of a travel company in Cusco. Via this route the hike takes between 5 and 6 hours, involving steep losses and gains in altitude. You will begin in the midst of a typical Andean landscape with fields of corn, potatoes and quinoa, as well as other Andean grains. The first goal is the Huchuy Qosqo pass (4050 meters above sea level), from where the trail continues through a landscape dominated by coarse highland ichu grasslands. The reward for hiking this section of the route is the fine view you will have of the Vilcanota range, including the peaks of Verónica, Pitusiray, Chicón and San Juan. You will then begin the descent towards the ruins. You’ll find yourself walking past tarwi and cactus before reaching the León Punku canyon, where parts of an original Inca road and bridge are visible.
After passing through the canyon, you will arrive at the ruins of Huchuy Qosco. This site is majestically located on a plateau between Andean terraces, with a view of the Vilcabamba range. Although these ruins are becoming more well-known, they are still less-visited than other destinations in the Sacred Valley. The Inca architecture here is remarkably imposing and well preserved; however, the most enjoyable aspect of this itinerary is the incredible scenery experienced at the ruins and on the way there. From the ruins, the return route takes walkers down into the village of Lamay, where transport is available to other locations throughout the Sacred Valley. Lamay is just twenty minutes from Pisac and one hour from Ollantaytambo, from where it is possible to catch the train to Machu Picchu.
Another option is to start at Lamay and end the day at Tauca and Chinchero, although this route involves steeper climbs. Local guides are vailable. We recommend not attempting the route individually without a good map and enough provisions.
The experiential route
If you would like to make this experience even more special, don’t hesitate to contact Tierra de las Yachaqs (yachaqs.com), an organization that can put you in touch with local communities. At Patabamba there are ten rural houses available for guests. They offer a formula that includes walking, a local interpreter (Spanish and Quechua), snacks, two breakfasts, two lunches, an evening meal and one night in a rural house. With this itinerary, you will leave from Lamay to walk up to the ruins.
The route for trekkers
If you’re looking for a good trek and want to experience more isolated scenery, this is the route for you. It involves leaving on foot from Cusco. First you will pass the ruins of Tambomachay, where according to legend the fountains are the source of eternal youth. From here you will climb for 15 kilometers to where there are views of the entire Cusco valley. You’ll pass the Qoricocha and Yanacocha lakes, and pass through the village of Pukamarca, with its traditional adobe houses. In the afternoon you’ll walk through the León Punku canyon and arrive at Huchuy Qosqo in time for sunset. You’ll camp at the archaeological site, from where the sunrise is spectacular. Take a good sleeping bag with you, or if you prefer you can stay in a local house if you arrange accommodation through a travel company. You can tour the ruins during the morning. Many travel companies also recommend visiting Moray and the Maras salt pans, and a full tour can include a visit to Machu Picchu (by bus and train). The agency Pachacutec Expeditions will charge you US$450.00, including Machu Picchu and the return trip to Cusco.