Quick info about my trip
- 2 days, 1 night, travelling alone
- <40 USD (bus/taxi, tent rental, food, donkey to carry pack)
- From Lima to Chosica, San Pedro de Casta, then Marcahuasi
- No bookings required
- Bring very warm clothes and snacks. Camping gear can be rented at the site.
Marcahuasi is a plateau with incredibly stunning rock formations, so named from the Quechua words for “Protector of the house”. Getting there is a little tricky, but obviously doable, very cheap and well worth it. Seeing the lifestyle of the rural villagers in this tiny 1,000-person town high up in the Andes is also fascinating.
I lived in Miraflores in Lima. I tried to get good directions from my friends and from the tourism sites but they left a lot of things to the imagination. I knew that there was a bus leaving from Chosica to San Pedro de Casta at 8.30am, the base town for hiking up to Marcahuasi. Travel time to get to Chosica is 2-2.5 hours so I played it safe and left the house at about 5.30am. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the right bus stop from Central Lima so I skipped a step and took an Uber to the Ovalo de Santa Anita, which would then enable me to catch a ‘colectivo’, or in other words a random car driving by collecting people travelling in the same direction. Ubers in Peru were famously cheap (at least in May 2016) but a standard taxi would have been similar – around 25 soles to take me from Miraflores to the Ovalo, where I could then flag down a car on the way to a town called Chosica. It is literally one straight road from where my cab dropped me off to Chosica, and many cars and minibuses have signs in their window saying where they are going. You simply wave one down, hop in and pay them 5-10 soles depending on their rate. A car will definitely be more comfortable than a van, but probably more expensive.
Once you get to Chosica, they will tell you to hop out at the park, and you just need to ask around for the bus stop to go to for San Pedro de Casta. People will point you in the right direction, and it should be waiting there outside a restaurant at least an hour before departure time (8.30am or 1.30pm – but forget about camping if you take the 1.30 bus). I had time to walk around the town for an hour due to my paranoia about missing the bus, and explored down to the markets by the river, grabbed some food for the evening and returned to the bus for departure.
3.5 hours later after a terrifying bus ride on the edge of the mountain, we ate lunch in San Pedro de Casto which was very cheap, but they only serve Peruvian food – the lomo saltado was great. Stock up here on water and snacks, then head to the tourism office to collect your tent and pay your park entry fee. Here, I also knew I would get tired so I rented a donkey to carry my things, but this is optional. They also give you a map, though it is hard to follow. Incidentally, I happened to go on a weekend with a ‘feriado’ or a festival, which involved a lot of music, colour and running around the village with a cow’s head.
We started hiking up the mountain, and as you climb, take a look behind you at the town of San Pedro de Casta – the tiny town is teetering off the edge of a cliff and the view is stunning.
We ended up taking the long way around in order to see the spectacular Rostro de la Humanidad, or “Face of Humanity”. There were several other ‘notable’ rocks on this route but this was the most striking.
However, we got lost and it was before dark and quite stressful. I would recommend following the map more closely in order to avoid this! Eventually, we found the camp site (the “Anfiteatro”) and hiked up a little higher to somewhere more private. There we bunked down for the night, had a campfire and stared at the endless array of stars dotting the sky.
The next morning, I set off by myself to go check out the surroundings from the campsite, and sent my tent and pack back with the donkey woman to avoid carrying it.
The views are mesmerising, complete with oases and views of the valley. I was making my way to one of the landmarks on the map (La Fortaleza) and the fun part was trying to figure out how to navigate the mountains in order to get there.
Once I arrived at my destination, I promptly had to leave again – the bus back to Chosica from San Pedro left at 2pm and if I wasn’t on it, I would miss work the next day. I knew it would take me roughly 3 hours to get back so by about 10.30am I started my return. As much as I followed the map, I got hopelessly lost again. Even in the day-time, this was stressful. However, I just kept going in the direction said on the map, found a couple of landmarks on the way, and eventually got sight of the town. Once I had this, even though I was going an alternate (and off-track) route, I at least had my bearings and was heading in the right direction. Eventually I made it to the main path, arrived back at Chosica in time, and got the bus back. I took the same route back to Lima, except this time I stayed in my colectivo until I got to the main city, then took a taxi back to my house in Miraflores..
All up the trip was around 130 soles, so <40 USD at the time – bargain.
What I would do differently
The only thing I would change is not getting lost! Not sure how this can be avoided except to have a better sense of direction and ability to read maps. Otherwise I think everything I did on the trip was great, and at the right price point. Also consider going with a friend – it doesn’t lower the cost but it will make the incredible memory of the trip something that you can share!