Multi-day treks to Machu Picchu aren’t the only way to experience adventure in Peru’s Andean region. A wide range of excursions in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley offer something for any traveler, from the cautious thrill-seeker to the extreme adrenaline junkie. Here’s an overview of some action-packed activities to occupy your free time.
Cusco & Sacred Valley: Adventure Sports
There are half- and full-day bike excursions suited for any level of experience, with a majority of trails navigating the beautiful scenery of the Sacred Valley between Pisac and Ollantaytambo. There are easy, moderate, or advanced bike paths on dirt and paved trails; difficulty varies depending on experience and fitness level. Attractions along the way may include the Quarries of Cachicata; villages along the banks of the Urubamba River, such as Sillque and Chillca; and sites, such as Moray agricultural terraces and the Maras Salt Mines.
Mountain biking in and around Cusco can be enjoyed year-round. The rainy season is spotted with days that experience little or no rainfall, but even on wet days riding on paved routes avoids muddy conditions. Bike tours include a professional English-speaking guide and generally round-trip transportation to/from hotels and complete equipment (front suspension mountain bike, helmet, and gloves, etc.)
Independent travelers, groups of friends and families can choose from a variety of rafting options in the Sacred Valley. A 1-day rafting excursion will provide a safety briefing before departure, round-trip transport to/from your hotel, and a list of items to bring. If desired, a longer rafting trips of 2 or 3 days can be arranged.
River rafting is a year-round activity. Rainfall is heaviest from December to early March and the rapids of the Urubamba River can be class IV or higher. During the dry season, between May and September, the water flow is gentler and travelers enjoy good class II and III rapids.
Travelers without a fear of heights can enjoy a full and half-day ziplining tour in the Sacred Valley, no prior experience needed. Tour operators generally offer the option to climb a rock face with the via ferrata and then zipline down the mountain. Via ferrata allows climbers to safely ascend a steep mountain face while being attached with a double-carabiner system to a steel-line that follows the route. At the top people can enjoy the view of the Sacred Valley and then harness in for an adrenaline-pumping zipline ride down.
Ziplining tours generally offer transportation, bilingual guides, trained specialists, and a box lunch. All CE certified professional equipment, such as the harness, helmet, via ferreta lanyard, zip-lining set, gloves and helmet, is provided.
From Cusco, horseback riding tours depart not far from the city’s main plaza and explore the surrounding hills. Bring a camera because you’re guaranteed to see beautiful Andean vistas and lookout panoramic views of Cusco during your ride. Stops may include the archeological sites of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, the Temple of the Moon, Pucapucara and Tambomachay. With the exception of the Temple of the Moon, a Boleto Turistico is needed to enter these ruins.
Most horseback riding tours get a morning start and offer guided excursions between 2 to 4 hours long.The sun is strong in the Andean region and the riding terrain around Cusco and into the Sacred Valley has limited tree coverage. Sturdy shoes, hat, and sunglasses are recommended. Weather changes quickly at altitude, so pack a rain poncho for a riding excursion during the region’s rainy season to be on the safe side.
Compared to the established climbing routes of Huaraz in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, rock climbing in Cusco is still gaining popularity in the region. For this reason, booking a 1-day outdoor climbing excursion is not as easy as booking a rafting tour. Travelers may hear about a few key spots to sport climb (where the rock has already been bolted) and boulder (no ropes needed), but the trick is getting connected with professionals in the area to discover more climbing spots.
Visiting a local climbing school once you’ve arrived in Cusco is a traveler’s best bet for adding this adventure sport to their trip itinerary. These schools can give helpful instruction for beginners and offer proper equipment. Travelers with their own gear can inquire about accompanying a group from the school on a weekend climb.
Which activity answers YOUR CALL to ADVENTURE?
For more information about booking an adventure tour in Cusco and the Sacred Valley region. Contact our team of expert travel advisors.
Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America in 2013 and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.