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Cusco’s Must-Visit Sites in 4 Days

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Cusco’s Must-Visit Sites in 4 Days

Ever dreamed of exploring Peru? We’d like to present you the must-visit places and share helpful tips on how to experience these sites differently allowing you to avoid the crowds.

Everybody that comes to Peru wants to visit Machu Picchu. However, Cusco offers a lot more than “only” that. Let’s see what thousands of travelers who’ve visited Peru call their favorites and what many others are looking for: a Cusco 4-Day tour that includes the must-visit spots without missing out on anything important. 

Some of the most breathtaking places you can visit are…drum roll…the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake. Especially the 3 places that are not Machu Picchu might sound new to you. In case you’re a traveler looking to enrich your horizon, to learn about the country’s culture and to enjoy the beauty of mother nature, you’re right here.  

So, without any further due, let’s dive into it. Before we examine the individual tours in more detail, let’s take a look at the destinations first.

diashow of tourist sites in cusco

Table of contents:

 

4 Must-Visit Sites in Cusco

Sacred Valley (History, Architecture & Local Culture)

Cusco’s Sacred Valley is famous for the Inca’s agriculture and history. You could call it the perfect exposition, like in a theater, introducing you to the fascinating history of the Incas, before getting to explore Machu Picchu, the climax.

Imagine standing in front of the terraces, viewing over the fields up to the Andes in the back.

 

Machu Picchu (World Wonder at the Rim of the Jungle)

The highlight for every traveler when visiting Peru (probably the reason why it has been named one of the 7 New Wonders of the World).

It was built in the 15th century, high in the Andes on top of a mountain and later abandoned during the Spanish conquest. Most archaeologists share the option that it was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacutec.

 

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Impressive fact: you won’t believe that the Incas didn’t use mortar or wheels to move these massive stones during the construction of the ruins.

The mystery about Machu Picchu continues until today, because there are still many surprising things that we keep discovering about this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Rainbow Mountain (Nature, Mountains & Alpacas)

Located at around 5200 m (17,000 ft), this will most likely be the highest place you’ll reach in Peru. Cusco’s Rainbow Mountains became popular in 2015 when some locals discovered them while hiking. 

Its incredible colors are due to the minerals in the soil. Depending on the weather conditions, the colors can shine more or less extreme. Can you believe that since then three different rainbow mountains have been discovered in Cusco?

 

Humantay Lake (Nature, Lake & Mountains)

Imagine a turquoise lake and a snow-capped mountain in the back. After a 1.5-2 hour hike, this is a dream come true for nature lovers. This beauty is located at 4200m (13,800 ft) in the Andean mountains and is one of Cusco’s hidden gems.

humantay lake with snow capped mountain

By now, do you already have a favorite of the four sites? As these are the 4 most visited places in Cusco, you can imagine that everyone wants to see them. We personally don’t like crowded places, especially not during COVID-19. 

That’s why we use some tricks to avoid the crowds while enjoying these places almost on our own. Read on to find out more…

Do you love the idea of avoiding the crowds and experiencing Cusco differently? Let’s talk about your questions and more details via WhatsApp or email.

 

Our Cusco 4-Day Tour: The Best of Cusco in 4 Days

Everything we do is based on having the best experience, as you probably travel to Peru only once in your lifetime. The reason why we combine those 4 magical experiences.

 

Day 1: Sacred Valley Tour

sites of our sacred valley tour

As we start this tour a little earlier…abracadabra…we get to the first site before the large tourist groups arrive. 

We’ll visit:

  • A small llama/alpaca farm
  • Chinchero: Traditional ruins and a textile workshop.
  • Moray: Archaeological Inca laboratory where they tested crops and plants.
  • Salt mines of Maras: Over 5000 salt ponds dating back to Incan times.
  • Local but professional restaurant with a nice view and delicious buffet.
  • Ollantaytambo: Stone terraces located on a hillside.

After having visited Ollantaytambo, you’ll have the option to:

  1. Return to Cusco.
  2. Get dropped off at the Ollantaytambo train station to take the train at 7:00 pm to Aguas Calientes (I’ll get to the benefit of point 2 in the next part).

 

What our travelers love about this tour:

No crowds, and plenty of time on each site.

Learn about the history in a small group.

Explore 4 must-visit archaeological sites. Others see less.

 

Day 2: Machu Picchu Tour

machu picchu with two couples

Depending on whether you stay in Cusco or in Aguas Calientes, you’ll have less or more sleep (read further below).

Experiencing Machu Picchu is a real hustle considering the coordination. So many tickets and transfers to consider plus finding a skilled guide. This means that stress is almost guaranteed. Remember, it’s the most important day of your Peru tour

The solution here is the help of an expert, so you can lean back and enjoy. 

From the train rides in the fascinating valley, the emotional bus ride up to the Machu Picchu entrance until finally standing in front of it…the gate to Machu Picchu. Your heart starts to beat faster. Only a few more steps and you have this magical place in front of you. 

The first spots you visit in the guided Machu Picchu tour are made for postcard-like pictures. From there, you continue your exploration, learning more and more about this place. It’ll be a day you’ll never forget.

 

What our travelers love about this tour:

Visit spots touristy groups don’t get to see.

A bit more time than touristy groups at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu expert guide with great photography skills.

 

Day 3: Rainbow Mountain Tour: Palccoyo or Vinicunca

It’s so worth it waking up a little earlier than the othersamazing pictures without the crowds in the back, the Vinicunca or Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain.

And there’s more…

rainbow mountain palccoyo and vinicunca

On the one hand, the hike to Palccoyo takes 45-60 minutes, it’s rather plain and includes 3 rainbow mountains. In collaboration with the local community you have the amazing opportunity to hike with an alpaca or llama. Travelers that don’t want to hike that much prefer this place.

Vinicunca, on the other hand, is a 1.5-2 h hike that is more strenuous and a lot more touristy than Palccoyo. It’s one large rainbow mountain with the option to go to the viewpoint of the Red Valley. A problem here is that many inexperienced travelers suffer altitude sickness, and because touristy groups split up, they are left behind by their guides. This is one of the reasons why we prefer small groups wherever we go.

As it’s strenuous, renting a horse (cost: $20) is an alternative to the entire hike. However, the last part you have to hike yourself.

In fact, we recommend this hike to avid hikers. Amateurs would be better off at Palccoyo or should consider renting a horse to go up.

 

What our travelers love about this tour:

Get to Rainbow Mountain before the crowds arrive.

Palccoyo: Hike with an alpaca or a llama.

Vinicunca: Explore the Red Valley viewpoint.

These three sites together make up our Best of Cusco in 3 Days tour. Now, if you have one more day at your disposal, we highly recommend adding Humantay Lake.

 

Day 4: Humantay Lake Tour

Humantay lake is the last site that we visit in our Cusco 4-day tour. We start early again, guess why? Exactly, to be one of the first ones getting there.

humantay lake with two travelers

After a 1.5-2 hour hike (you can rent a horse for around $20) to Humantay Lake you have the privilege to enjoy this beauty peacefully for quite some time. No words can describe that feeling.

 

What our travelers love about this tour:

Get to Humantay Lake before the crowds arrive.

Our guide shows you the best spots for photos.

 

banner best of cusco 4 days

Now, why is this the best order of the tours for you? It’s because of the altitude

 

The Best Order of your Tours in Cusco

When in Cusco (3400 m, 11,155 ft), you’ll definitely want to avoid the altitude sickness. It’s not wise to engage in any strenuous activities, such as hikes, in the first 48h after your arrival. Most travelers visit the city of Cusco after having arrived or head directly to the Sacred Valley.

In the first half of the tour, you’ll visit sites that are at a similar altitude like Cusco. The destinations in the Sacred Valley are either at the same altitude or lower. Machu Picchu is located at 2430 m (7,972 ft). This helps your body get used to the altitude gradually.

clients at machu picchu

The best way to combine the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu is to make use of the drop-off in Ollantaytambo (the last site you visit in the Sacred Valley tour) after the tour. From there, you can take the train to Aguas Calientes at night and spend the night there

This allows you to enter Machu Picchu on the second day early in the morning before the crowds arrive from Cusco. Also, it’s less of a hassle as traveling from and to Cusco can be spread over two days. If you prefer starting the Machu Picchu tour from Cusco, this is totally fine. You only need to consider that it won’t be possible to enter Machu Picchu at the earliest entrance time possible.

By now your body should be acclimated to the altitude, ready for the second half of the tour: two regular hiking tours to Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca for avid hikers, Palccoyo for less avid hikers) and Humantay Lake.

 

Is this Cusco 4-day tour for you?

In a nutshell, this Cusco 4-day tour offers the must-visit sites when in Cusco at a very fair price considering the excellent service you get. It’s for you if you

  • Desire a hassle free planning and travelling experience (we take care of tours & transfers, you book your own hotels).
  • Want to get to the sites before the crowds.
  • Prefer a unique experience in small (or private) group instead of a large one.
  • Would like to be guided by experts, not amateurs, who also have great photo skills.

If you don’t believe us just check out our TripAdvisor where we have a 99% excellence rating with over 750 reviews!

Oh and by the way, we even include free airport pickup & drop-off for you! 🙂

How does this all sound to you? In case you love the idea of experiencing Cusco differently and would like to know more, let’s talk about your questions via WhatsApp or via email at info@exploor.pe.

2 Comments
  • 11 September, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Wow that is what we need! Are both mountains at Machu Picchu still closed?

    • 11 September, 2021 at 11:20 am

      Hey Hendrik, glad you like the info! Indeed both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are still closed. It’s not clear yet when they will be opened up again. If you have any other questions feel free to shoot us an e-mail at info@exploor.pe 🙂 Cheers!

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