In the areas surrounding Cusco, there are dozens of hot springs. Here are just a few of the lesser-known places within the Peruvian Andes where you can go for a soak.
Paucar Yacu: in the high jungles near Tarapoto
[caption id="attachment_156904" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]Though Paucar Yacu hot springs aren't located as far in the Andes as other hot springs in this article, these springs are worth visiting if you find yourself in the region of San Martin, in the area of the jungle city of Tarapoto. You can get to these hot springs by taking a short detour off of the road between Tarapoto and Sauce. Most people who make their way to the popular tourist destination of Sauce are not aware of these springs. [caption id="attachment_156905" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]If you like sulfur, these are good springs to visit, because the water is filled with it. And if you wander along a pathway away from the developed pools, you'll find an area of mud baths. People say that this mud is medicinal. Bathing yourself in the mud is a great experience.[caption id="attachment_156906" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]
Chimor hot springs: several hours drive from the Sacred Valley
[caption id="attachment_156907" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Lisa Sims[/caption]People passing through the Sacred Valley travel in droves to Lares Hot Springs, but few are aware of the neighboring Chimor hot springs. At Chimor, the water is clearer and fresher, and you won't find the same crowds that you do at Lares. Chimor hot springs are located within the Mapacho River Valley, which is an isolated and vast area where residents live very traditionally. There are many people around here who speak their indigenous language of Quechua but do not know Spanish.The only downside of Chimor hot springs is that it is more difficult to visit them than it is neighboring Lares hot springs because there is not as much public transport. But if you are willing to rent a taxi for about 100 soles, or 30 USD for the day, you can easily find somebody to take you to the springs, and wait for you in order to take you back to the Sacred Valley in the evening.
Colcaymayo: outside of Santa Teresa, near Machu Picchu
[caption id="attachment_156908" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]These hot springs are very well known and are very accessible. Many people on their way to Machu Picchu choose to take a stop here for a soak. Though these springs are popular with locals and foreigners alike, you don't feel cramped while sharing these pools with so many others. There are a handful of large pools, offering room for many dozens of people to comfortably enjoy the warm waters. These springs are located about 5 km outside of the town of Santa Teresa. To get here you can either take an hour-long walk from the village or hire a taxi. If you want to stay the night, bring your tent, because camping is allowed, and there is space within the springs to set up camp.
Cconoc hot springs: off of the road between Cusco and Abancay
[caption id="attachment_156910" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]These springs seem to be an unknown jewel. The water is pure and clear, and the springs exist in a semi-jungle setting alongside the beautiful Apurimac river. There are a half a dozen different pools with natural stone bottoms, and you can easily jump in the river if you'd like. When I was there, there was one other visitor to the springs. The springs are located about 2.5 hours outside of Cusco, and you can easily get there by taking public transportation that frequently passes between Cusco and Abancay. The only downside is that you will have to walk 3 km down a steep dirt road which branches off of the main highway if you take public transportation. But if you hire private transport, your driver can easily take you to the entrance for the hot springs.
Pincahuanco hot springs: between Nasca and Cusco
[caption id="attachment_156911" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]These hot springs are not so exciting, and not so natural. The springs consist of several developed pools which are filled with fresh water every morning and emptied at night. These are not springs that most people will have the change to visit because they're located in a rural area off of the road that stretches between Lima and Cusco. You can get to the springs by finding your way to the Andean town of Chalhuanca, which is about 8 hours away from Cusco, and 6 hours away from Nasca.These are great springs to visit if you have your own transport, and are traveling between Cusco and Lima. The town of Chalhuanca is a great town to stay overnight in order to cut this 20+ hour drive into a two-day haul.