The Cusco region and nearby cloudforest and lowland Amazon provide a fantastic range of activities, from river-based ecotourism and whitewater kayaking to mountain biking, hiking and horseriding, not to mention white-knuckle experiences of the spiritual variety.
Hiking and horseriding
The mountains to the south and the north of Cusco are full of amazing trekking trails, some of them little touched, most of them still rarely walked (see Alternative treks to the Inca Trail). Less adventurous walks or horse rides are possible to Qenko, Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Chacan, in the hills above Cusco and in the nearby Sacred Valley. Many jungle trip operators are based in Cusco.
Cusco is also a great whitewater rafting centre, with easy access to classes 2 to 5 (rivers are generally rated from class 1 – very easy – to class 5 – very difficult/borderline dangerous) around Ollantaytambo on the Río Urubamba and classes 1 to 3 between Huambutio and Pisac, on the Río Vilcanota. From Calca to Urubamba the river runs classes 2 to 3, but this rises to 5 in the rainy season. Calca to Pisac (Huaran) and Ollantaytambo to Chilca are among the most popular routes, while the most dangerous are further afield on the Río Apurimac. The easiest stretch is from Echarate to San Baray, which passes by Quillabamba. Costs range from around $40 to about $200 a day, with price usually reflecting quality, but it’s always recommended to use a reputable and well-established rafting company such as Mayuc. Remember that most travel insurance policies exclude this kind of adventure activity, and always ensure that you are fully equipped with a safety kayak, helmets and lifejackets.
Bungee jumping and hot-air balloon trips
Bungee jumping is big in Cusco. The tallest bungee jump facility in the Americas (122m) is offered by Action Valley Cusco, Santa Teresa 325 (240835, actionvalley.com), just a fifteen-minute walk from the plaza in Poroy (buses run here from block 8 of Avenida Sol). Equally breathtaking but slightly less scary is the option of a hot-air balloon adventure (from $400, shared between groups of 5 to 10 people) in the Cusco or Sacred Valley areas.
Psychedelic tourism is popular in Cusco these days, though not as developed as in Iquitos. This doesn’t involve taking drugs and wandering around the Andes: essentially, psychedelic tourism is based on traditional healing techniques that tend to focus on inner consciousness and well-being through often highly ritualized ceremonies. San Pedro and ayahuasca, the two principal indigenous psychedelic plants that have been used ceremonially in Peru for over 3500 years, can be experienced with the assistance of Etnikas Travel and Shamanic Healing (C Herrajes 148; 244516) or Another Planet (Triunfo 120; 2445168, anotherplanetperu.net), who also lead organized spiritual tours.