A perfect weekend trip away from Lima awaits in this rock forest hidden in the Andean Plateau. Here’s how to get to Marcahuasi and what to expect.
It may be a short trip from Lima, but it’s a world apart. Perfect for adventure and nature seekers, Marcahuasi contains mystic rock formations and an opportunity to camp under the stars. After your visit, make time for Callahuanca, deemed a chirimoya paradise.
Peruvian archaeologists Daniel Ruzo and Julio C. Tello were the first to explore Marcahuasi, or Markawasi, and write about the curious rock formations. Though much has been said about their mystical origin and powers, we know the formations were produced by erosion.
How to get to Marcahuasi
Marcahuasi is located in the Huarochirí province of the department of Lima, at an elevation of 4000 meters. The starting point for the hike is the town San Pedro de Casta. Because you’ll be in Lima’s sierra (mountains), expect warm sun-filled days and cold nights.
To get to the site from Lima you have a few options. There are colectivos (shared taxis) and city buses that go to Chosica along the carretera Central. You can hop on either from the Ovalo de Santa Anita (which isn’t really a roundabout). The ride is about 45 minutes. You can also use the app redBus to purchase tickets and get on a bus in one of their designated stops.
From Chosica, take a bus to San Pedro de Casta, which depart at either 7am or noon from Chosica’s Echenique park. The ride is about 2.5 hours. If you arrive at San Pedro de Casta before noon, you can begin the hike to Marcahuasi. Otherwise, visitors spend the night in the town to get acclimated.
If you want to go on a 4×4 from Lima, take the the carretera Central up to km 38 where you’ll turn toward Santa Eulalia. From there, head to San Pedro de Casta.
Hiking above the clouds
The hike to Marcahausi is approximately 3 hours. In the town of San Pedro de Casta you can purchase the supplies you’ll need if you’re camping overnight at the site. There, you will register with the office of tourism, can arrange for a guide and horse (if you’re not up for the hike), as well as pay the entrance fee:
Children S/ 5.00; National adults S/ 10.00; Foreigners S/ 20.00.
Take in the beautiful view of the area’s green hills on the hike up to Marcahuasi. You’ll also find rest stops and signage along the way to guide you.
Camp under the stars and explore
The camping site at Marcahuasi is right at the entrance, in a flat, grassy area named the Amphitheater. Surrounding the area are the stone formations that have a liking to human and animal figures, earning names such as the turtle, the prophet, the frog and monument to humanity. Explore, find new figures, or rename the figures as you imagine the rocks to be.
Other sites at Marcahuasi include lakes, including Cachu-Cachu and Huacracocha lakes, and chullpas, which are pre-Colombian funerary structures. You see some of the mummies discovered in these sites at the museum in San Pedro de Casta. You can also explore the area and return to the town to spend the night in a hotel.
Best time to visit Marcahuasi & what to take
Because it doesn’t rain as much in the area, it’s possible to visit Marcahuasi year round, but ideal months are April through October. Try to avoid the Peruvian independence holiday, fiestas patrias, on July 28, as the number of visitors rises.
What should you take on your visit? Sleeping tent and bags if you’re camping; flashlight and other nighttime gear; layers of clothing including a warm jacket and a beanie; sunscreen and sunglasses for the sunny days
Callahuanca: Chirimoya paradise
A few kilometers south of Marcahuasi and along the carretera Central is Callahuanca, a small and charming town surrounded by agricultural fields that yield avocados, apples and the sweet chirimoya fruit. It’s become the area’s staple crop, with farmers allowing visitors to visit their fields. Locals have also produced jam, yogurt and ice cream made with chirimoya- all of which you can taste at the fruit’s annual festival at the end of April.
Cover photo: Edwin Bellota/Flickr
Now that you're here:
We're asking you, our reader, to make a contribution in support of our digital guide in order to keep informing, updating and inspiring people to visit Peru. Why now? In our near 20-year journey as the leading English-language source on travel in Peru, we've had our fair share of ups and downs-but nothing quite like the challenges brought forth in the first quarter of 2020.
By adapting to the changing face of the tourism and travel industry (on both local and international levels), we have no doubt we will come out stronger-especially with the support of our community. Because you will travel again, and we will be ready to show you the best of Peru.
Your financial support means we can keep sharing the best of Peru through high-quality stories, videos and insights provided by our dedicated team of contributors and editors based in Peru. And of course, We are here to answer your questions and help whenever you need us.
As well, it makes possible our commitment to support local and small businesses that make your visit an unforgettable one. Your support will help the people working in these industries get back on their feet once the world allows us to make our dream of enjoying everything Peru has to offer a reality again-from its mouthwatering gastronomy, thriving Amazon and archaeological wonders such as Machu Picchu.
Together, we will find a way through this. As a member of our community, your contribution, however big or small, is valuable.