Easy Trips for Volunteers – An Adventure Week in Cusco

After not being able to welcome any new Volunteers in almost a Year Intiwawa is more than happy to start working with international volunteers on site again soon. Already in march or April traveling will hopefully be possible again. Volunteering with Intiwawa and living in Arequipa for a while also gives you the opportunity to discover more places that are easily to reach, maybe before, after or during your stay. To prepare you not only for your work for Intiwawa but also your travels to South America in general I want to tell you about my Trip to Cusco.

Going to Cusco and its surroundings isn’t only a must-see in Peru or Southamerica but also a super easy trip for beginners, in case you’re afraid of traveling through the continent or even travel by yourself. You can use Cusco as a base to visit all the beautiful places around it. And there is a whole bunch of them and as many ways how to get there. That’s why I can only tell you what we did and how it suited best for us.

We took a night bus from Arequipa to Cusco, which is the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to go. Arriving in Cusco in the morning gave us a full day in the city. We used our time to book some tours for the following days and do some sightseeing. Accommodationwise, we’ve only reserved a room for one night in advance, as we weren’t sure, which nights we would actually spend there.

The City of Cusco

Some people fall in love with Cusco and could stay there for a week and even though the town is really pretty, we found that one day was really enough to get an impression. After the main plazas we had a look at San Blas. San Blas is the creative and artistic part of Cusco and it’s really worth it to enter all the cute little shops.

Typcial Stores

Due to the exhausting bus ride we got tired really fast and went to bed early to be ready for our first tour. One of the main reasons to go to Cusco is, of course, Machu Picchu. Many people decide on a three to five-days hiking-trip but as trekking isn’t completely our thing, same with an expensive one-day-train-trip, we chose the three-day-Inka-jungle. And this was the perfect choice.

The first day led us to the highlands behind Ollantaytambo, where we startet mountainbiking for 50km and 3000m downhill. Going down, the landscape changed really fast into the rainforest, which we weren’t really aware of before, but yes, going to the Machu Picchu includes an adventure in the jungle.

After lunch (all the meals were provided) the activities continued and we went rafting in the Rio Urubamba, which later leads to the Amazonas. That was really fun but all the impressions were tiring as well, so we were really happy to fall into our beds in Santa Teresa that night.

Adventures moved on next morning and we went to a ziplining-pacour, that existed out of six different ziplines, with which you flew over or right into the jungle, one suspension bridge as well as one rockclimbing station. Having done all those fun things, we couldn’t avoid having to walk. We were dropped off in Hidroelectrica from where we had to follow the train rails for 2,5hours.

Vertical Zip Line
Walking by the Trainrails

Spending the night in Aguas Calientes, the Machu Picchu village, we were ready for the highlight on the last day. We had to get up at four to be early enough. If you don’t want to take a bus, the way to the top consists of 1500 Inka steps, it was a collective suffering but as always: it was definitely worth it.

Arriving at the peak of one of the world wonders it was completely covered in clouds. The guide told us, that it was normal, so we waited for two more hours before the fog suddenly cleared up and in this magical moment we got to see the ruins for the first time, wow! Although this place is really really touristy, is has something special to it. It’s this mixture between stunning history and a crazy surrounding, that takes your breath away.

The rest of the day was rather unspectacular, we had to walk all the way back and took the bus back to Cusco. And although we had decided, that we didn’t like trekking, our step counter counted almost 30.000 steps that day.

Luckily, we could sleep in the next morning, as the tour we booked only started in the afternoon. We decided to leave out other sights in the Sacred Valley and booked a Quadbike tour to the Salineras de Maras. Suiting our adventurous week, this was the perfect thing to do and so incredibly much fun! After driving through some traditional and poor villages and feeding some alpacas, we arrived at the salt mines. For some reason, nobody really wants to know, there’s a stream of warm water coming out of the mountain, that contains three times more salt than the ocean. The Inkas used this water to harvest salt by creating over 4000 little pools where it evaporates with the sun to become salt. This place is really impressive and you can get your beloved ones some salty presents.

Salineras de Maras

Coming to an end, there was the trip’s last highlight waiting for us. Having already seen some places in the jungle as well as some historical Inka sights, this one was more of a nature one: We were going to the “MontaƱa de siete colores”, the Rainbow Mountain! This crazy creation of mother nature can be found at over 5000m above sea level, that’s why you should acclimatize in Cusco first before going in such hights. Luckily, we didn’t struggle with altitude sickness at all as you have to walk for 1h each way, getting really steep at the end. You can also choose to ride a horse up there for 80 soles. I did not regret it but wouldn’t do it again as the job seemed to be really stressful for the horses.

The views on the way up there as well as on the top were priceless, whenever the clouds disappeared for a second, they revealed a whole bunch of beautiful colours. It is not only the famous picture of the Rainbow Mountain itself but rather the panoramic sight of all the directions, that make it so special.

Later that day, we recharged ourselves and our phones in a restaurant and took the nightbus back to Arequipa. This trip is a perfect get-away as you can also make it shorter or longer by choosing your own favourite sights to visit.  

And one last tip for your perfect trip: Don’t book the tours in advance and know what they should cost. We met people on the same tour that paid for times our price. We paid 150USD for the Inka jungle and around 160 soles for the rest.