A guide to Marcahuasi: the off-the-beaten-path destination in Peru
Updated: Jan 8
Are you planning to travel to Marcahuasi and see what this upcoming destination is all about? This hidden gem town in Peru will not disappoint. We spent 2 days in this area in the summer of 2018 and absolutely loved it. The remoteness, the people, the vibe, the views... Marcahuasi has it all! In this article, we share our insights on Marcahuasi, including reasons why you should visit, things to do, where to stay, and how to get there from Lima.
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Marcahuasi is a natural wonder located 90km to the east of Lima, near the town of San Pedro de Casta in the Andes Mountains. Sitting at 4,000m above sea level, this site is known for its granite rock formations that resemble human faces, animals, and religious symbols. There are many theories about its existence and therefore this archeological site is such a “mystery”. Some scientists argue that the unusual shapes are formed naturally through erosion, while others claim the sculptures are shaped by ancient people. Whatever the truth is, you'll be surely blown away by the beauty of this site!
Recently, this off-the-beaten-path destination has started to attract adventure travelers and hiking enthusiasts. As it is not so far from Lima, it is the perfect getaway. And we believe that everyone should include this in their Peru Itinerary!
Things to do in Marcahuasi
The stone forest of Marcahuasi
Marcahuasi is all about its mysterious rock formations and thus that is the main attraction in the area. At the tourist office on the main square of San Pedro de Casta, you can get a map that highlights all the interesting rock formations and archeological remains. To get to the entrance of Marcahuasi, you will have to hike, take a minivan, or rent a donkey in the town.
We chose to hike to Marcahuasi as it offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. There are two routes to choose from: the short versus the long one. The long route is recommended as it takes you to the main entrance of the stone forest where the camping site is located. Besides, this path is less steep and can be easily walked in less than three to four hours. If you decide to go by donkey or minivan, you'll have to pay an additional fee.
Once you arrive at the site, which is almost a "plateau", the various rock formations and even small lakes can be explored, which are scattered around. Take your time to walk around (minimum three hours) as some of the attractions are distant!
Museum in San Pedro de Casta
If you want to acclimatize first, you might want to explore the small town itself and its only museum. In the museum, you can find some skeletal remains of the people who were found at the site of Marcahuasi itself. But besides that, you'll also be introduced to the local history. It's a great way to learn about Peruvian rural life, and the town's history and archeology. Want to prevent altitude sickness? Then this natural remedy might help!
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Explore the Andes
As San Pedro de Casta and Marcahuasi is located deep in the Andes, you can also enjoy the breathtaking nature on a horseback, on a bike, or on foot. There aren't necessarily marked trails to follow, but we are sure that if you talk to the locals they will be happy to help you. Rent a local guide and explore the surrounding mountain landscapes!
Why visit Marcahuasi?
There are a few reasons why we think you SHOULD visit Marcahuasi:
Marcahuasi is a hidden gem
It is relatively unexplored by tourists, mainly known and visited by Peruvian locals from Lima. There hasn’t been much written about the place, and even current guidebooks lack information. You will feel like a pioneer!
Lonely Planet included a chapter about Marcahuasi recently, so the word is out!
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By: Lonely Planet
Marcahuasi boasts some of Peru's most spectacular views!
Towering above the surrounding mountains, Marcahuasi offers spectacular views of the Andes. It was given the nickname “the gate to heaven”, which you will totally understand when you are there. Besides, the stone forest is an ideal place to watch the sunset and stars – and watching these will probably be one of the most memorable and unique experiences in your life!
The drive from Lima to San Pedro de Casta is unique
The drive from Lima to San Pedro de Casta is beautiful and an adventure in itself! You'll be driving mainly on a dirt road that winds through the Andes, with sheer cliff drop-offs and gorgeous mountain vistas. It can be especially nerve-wracking when you take the local bus!
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Marcahuasi is cheap compared to other tourist destinations in Peru
There is no such thing as “tourist prices” meaning that the price of accommodation and entrance to the site is exceptionally low. We hope that it will stay this way, but much will depend on how much popularity Marcahuasi will gain over the following years!
How to get to Marcahuasi from Lima?
The first leg of the journey goes from Lima to Chosica by bus or taxi. You have several options:
Take a small bus from the center (Paseo Colón or Vitarte) which can take up to two hours, but only costs 5 soles.
Take a colectivo bus (probably the easiest and cheapest) from Jr. Chota and Paseo Colón, Jr. Leticia and Abancay, or Ex-Cine Orrantia and Óvalo de Santa Anita.
Take an Uber or Taxi (more or less 70 soles from the Downtown area).
The second stretch is by minivan and takes you from Chosica to San Pedro de Casta. When you arrive at the park “Echenique” (center of Chosica), ask the locals about the minivans which leave about 120m north from the park (Jr. Libertad). The cost of the ride will be between 10 to 20 soles, depending on the date you travel. The buses leave daily at 7 am and 12 pm and the drive lasts about three hours.
Where to stay in Marcahuasi?
There are two options:
The town of San Pedro de Casta
There is a government-run hotel (Hotel de La Municipalidad de San Pedro de Casta) located next to the main square. The rooms are very basic and cheap (there is no hot water, brrr). Breakfast/lunch/dinner can be requested for an additional charge. There is no need to book this accommodation in advance. Just show up! This is also the only hotel in the town. So there are no other options. This might have changed by now or will change once Marcahuasi becomes more popular! However, it is a very small town.
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Camping at the site of Marcahuasi
If you have good camping gear, this is undoubtedly the best option. It is a truly unique experience to camp at the site itself, with outstanding stargazing and sunsets awaiting. Many Peruvians go to Marcahuasi to camp, so you will have a chance to meet locals (mainly from Lima) as well! It also offers you the opportunity to explore Marcahuasi for at least two days, which is a good thing as our day was a little rushed! I would definitely camp if I were to go again. It is possible to rent camping gear in the town.
We hope that this article will help you plan your trip to Marcahuasi. For more Peru inspiration, check out our other articles:
For more information about Marcahuasi (Spanish only), visit: marcahuasi.com
Due to the altitude, it is recommended to spend at least two days in the town or on the site. Otherwise, you will get altitude sickness, especially when coming from Lima at sea level. Some of our friends DID get sick because they didn't take a day or two to acclimatize. Want to prevent altitude sickness? Then this natural remedy might help!
Have you been to Marcahuasi? What did you enjoy the most?