Peru is one of the best countries in the world for hiking and trekking. Hiking in Peru you will discover vast mountain ranges and deep canyons, stunning snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes as well as the ruins of ancient civilisations. There aren’t many countries in the world which can match the variety and beauty of trekking in Peru! I asked fellow travel bloggers to share their favourite hikes and multi-day treks in Peru to come up with this epic list of the best hikes in Peru. So prepare to be wowed!
Hiking in Peru
There are four main areas for hiking in Peru: in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, around Arequipa, in the Cordillera Blanca near Huaraz and in the northern Amazon region near Chachapoyas. Each region has its own unique beauty and challenging hikes. Remember that most of these hikes reach altitudes of over 4000 m above sea level, so you need to make sure you are fully acclimatised to the altitude before you attempt any of the treks. Some of the hikes can be done with little to no training, but the more training you do, the easier and more enjoyable the hike will be!
Make sure you have comfortable hiking boots, and warm, waterproof clothing. A [amazon_textlink asin=’B01G7SQBPQ’ text=’water bottle with a filter’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’talesofaback-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8e8a588a-0155-11e9-8e2e-75c0233f6001′] is also very useful for topping up your water in lakes and streams. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat with a brim to protect you from the sun’s rays.[amazon_link asins=’B073JWR23X,B01G7SQ8GS,B07JF1YM86,B008FIFFY0,B019MM7XVK,B07CM1GP3L,B019TT9PJY’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’talesofaback-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3aea4efc-0156-11e9-871b-a182cc4d596a’]
The Best Hikes in Peru: The Sacred Valley
Of course, everyone has heard of the Inca Trail, but there are several treks you can do to reach Machu Picchu. The whole Andean region around the Sacred Valley is incredible for hikcing and trekking, so take your pick of the best hikes in the Sacred Valley!
The Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is a 42 km four-day trek that starts near Cusco, takes you through the Andes Mountains, and culminates in the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Hiking the Inca trail is among the best travel experiences I’ve had to date. The hike is unique as it’s the original path used by the Inca Empire. Throughout the trail, there are ancient ruins, so it really feels although you are walking through history. The trail also takes you through the most breathtaking scenery, passing through snow-capped Andes mountains, lush jungle, and mystical cloud forests.
Due to the popularity of the trail and limited permits available, you need to book in advance. It is required to go with a tour company and many of them fill up at least five months in advance. Another tip is to spend a couple of days acclimatizing in Cusco before starting the Inca trail, as the hike goes up to 4200m which can cause altitude sickness. While hiking the Inca trail does require some planning in advance, it is absolutely worth it and should be on any travellers’ bucket list.
By Lora from Explore with Lora
A popular alternative to the Inca Trail, there’s a lot to love about Salkantay. Book a good tour company and they’ll pick you up in Cusco to start the trek in Mollepata, then take you up to Machu Picchu after a night’s rest in Aguas Calientes at the end.
The trek takes 5 days/4 nights, covering 61km and a series of stunning landscapes. It was 4 full days trekking, then overnight in Aguas Calientes, and on day 5 we hiked up to Machu Picchu. Salkantay is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range – it means ‘savage’ in Quechua, and the views are mesmerising. You’ll pass snowy peaks, grassy moors, lowland jungle and Inca ruins that whet the appetite for Machu Picchu. This is a longer trek than the Inca Trail, but it’s often cheaper and less crowded.
Like a lot of Peru’s hikes, the altitude is likely to be your biggest challenge. The Salkantay trek starts at 2900m and reaches 4650m at its highest point; don’t underestimate the importance of acclimatising first (a great excuse to hang out in Cusco!).
Being reasonably fit and experienced helps too, of course. Salkantay was the first multi-day hike I’d ever done, and to be honest I struggled – muscles burning, feet aching, body attacked by freezing cold, blazing sun and insects. Bring the usual essentials: thermals, sunscreen, flashlight, bug repellent and antihistamines.
By Lisa from Rebellious Tourist
The Lares Trek
The Lares trek is a brilliant alternative to the more traditional Inca Trail. I ended up on the Lares trek when I was too late to book my Inca trail permit but in retrospect, I am so glad I ended up doing the Lares trek instead. The main benefit being how quiet the route is. We only saw a few local farmers and the occasional child walking miles to reach their closest school.
The Inca Trail has 500 people trekking it each day and the campsites are busy. Or campsite was so remote – nothing around us for miles! The scenery is also absolutely stunning. Rugged mountains and raging rivers, the landscape dotted with fluffy alpacas and lamas.
The distance is around 34 km and it is usually hiked over 3 days. The altitude reaches 4800 metres so I recommend taking medication for altitude whilst you are there.
I would highly recommend the Lares trek and given the option again I would choose it every time!
By Leanne from The Globetrotter GP
The Ausangate circuit trek is one of the most stunning treks in the Cusco region! Typically done as a 5-day circuit of the great Ausangate mountain (at 6230m the second tallest mountain in Peru) trekkers were greeted with turquoise blue high alpine lakes, glaciers and wilderness scenery. However, with the recent popularisation (won’t say discovery!) of the Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca, it is now possible to do a 5-day Ausangate Vinicunca trek that starts with the hordes of tourists at the Rainbow Mountain but then connects with the traditional Ausangate circuit, typically remote and un-touristy.
With several really high passes (eg, over 5000m) the Ausangate is a high altitude trek and considered difficult. Finishing up near Tinqui, a highlight is soaking in the hot springs at Pacchanta with views of Ausangate in the background. Our top tip is to pack lots of warm clothes, travel with a reputable agency and make sure your sleeping bag is rated for -20 C or even colder as temperatures are well below freezing at night! You should be well acclimatised, for more than 3 days before attempting this trek.
Travelling with kids on our latest trek, we opted for a Lodge to Lodge trek in the Ausangate region
By Ariana & Norman from World of Travels with Kids
Have you ever stared at a photo of Machu Picchu and seen the towering mountain in the background? Well, if you’re lucky, you can hike to the top for an epic view of the famous Machu Picchu landmark. Huayna Picchu, or “Young Peak” in Quechua is a semi-challenging hike that takes you up an ancient pathway to the top of this peak. You’ll follow in the footsteps of the ancient Inca, even using their stone steps to make your way over exposed, jungle landscapes.
Arrive at Machu Picchu on one of the first buses, the park only lets in 400 people a day to make this climb. Follow the crowd towards the back end of Machu Picchu to sign in and start the hike.
It takes around 1 hour to ascend 1,000 vertical feet to the top of this beautiful mountain and about 45 minutes to get down. This hike is suitable for anyone who is relatively fit, however, the park requires that hikers be at least 12 years old. Just be sure to be prepared for your hike by bringing a few snacks, water, sturdy shoes and a camera! The final parts of the climb offer a thrilling chance to step along ancient ruins and “staircases” (read, rocks jutting out of a stone wall) with plenty of airy drops below, so watch your footing!
By Meg from Fox in the Forest
Inti Punku in Ollantaytambo
If you are looking for an easier one day hike in Sacred Valley to help you acclimatize for hiking the Inca trail or Salkantay trek, hiking to the sun gate Inti Punku in Ollantaytambo might be just the perfect choice for you. It starts directly in the city of Ollantaytambo, one of the most touristy places in Sacred Valley due to its Inca’s ruins, so getting to the starting point is no brainer – just take a collectivo from Cusco or any other town in the Sacred Valley.
This hike takes you to the height of 3900 m and the high altitude will be the only hard thing on your path, otherwise, the path is quite cleared (though unmarked) and easy to follow. It leads through the Inca quarry from which stones were brought to Ollantaytambo to build the temple and the fortress and ends with a residue of Sun gate at the top with a beautiful backdrop of Veronica and Salkantay if you are lucky on a clear sky. From the top, you also get a great view to 3 sides of the valley. The whole hike took us around 6 h, the total distance is 18 km in which you gain 1150 m in elevation.
By Tereza from Czick on the Road
Rainbow mountain has fast become one of the most popular hikes in Peru and is now one of the main tourist attractions from the city of Cusco. Vinicunca, as the mountain is traditionally known, was only discovered in the last two decades due to melting snow exposing the magnificent array of colours. Much of the colour comes from minerals in the ground and erosion caused by the sun and the wind.
An easy day trip from Cusco, many tour operators offer the trek for around 60-100 soles, there is not much difference in the price besides comfortable buses and a better lunch. The trek takes around two hours to ascend and one hour for the descent with some time at the best viewpoints. If you wish you can extend the tour to bring you into the red valley. This should add an extra two hours to your trip.
Operators will collect you from your accommodation in Cusco and drop you back to the main square in town the same evening. Expect an early start at around 5.00 am. I definitely recommend bringing warm clothes as you reach an altitude of 5200 meters.
By Eoin from DollysQuest
What Choquequirao lacks in notoriety it makes up for an all-out adventure. It’s the Machu Picchu that no one has heard of and it’s well worth the effort when you’re planning your trip to Peru. The Choquequirao Trek refers to the 4-day hike from Cachora where you dip into the Apurimac Canyon, stay the night and spend the next day climbing up to the 15th and 16th-century ruins on the other side. While Machu Picchu gets around 5,000 visitors per day, Choquequirao averages 20, meaning you’ll have the chance to explore the ruins without tons of other hikers around. After exploring the ruins, you can camp out at a nearby campsite before beginning your trek back the way you came to Cachora.
As the hike is relatively unknown, the campsites are basic and don’t require advance reservation. You can simply show up, pay a small fee, and pitch your tent for the night. You might be the only one spending the night if you go in low season! Some of the tour operators in Cusco are catching on to the demand and offering the trek, but it’s also possible to arrange it on your own or hire a local guide once you get to Cachora. A final word of warning: this trek is HARD. The days are long with major elevation change, and the lack of tree cover and low altitude means the hike is hot and humid most times of the year. But if you’re looking for some real adventure, the Choquequirao trek is worth every blister, ache, and sweaty t-shirt. Go because it’s an alternative to the major Inca Trail treks and definitely go before they build the teleferico cable car!
By Taylor from Travel Outlandish
The Best Hikes Near Lima
Lima isn’t known for hiking, although it does have several other activities to offer such as surfing and paragliding! However, relatively close to Lima is the mysterious Marcahuasi, or ‘Stone Forest’.
Marcahuasi is a little-known archaeological site (or is it a natural site? There is still a debate on how it was created). Marcahuasi is an eerie place to visit: eroded rocks take the shape of faces or animals. There is nobody there, so visitors have a very private experience when at the site.
To get there, you have to hike for 4 hours (one way) from San Pedro de Casta, a village of no more than 500 inhabitants. Although San Pedro de Casta is only 100 km from Lima, it takes a good 5 hours to get there by public transport, so this is not a day trip (though with a bit of effort the hike can be done in one day). In Lima, take a cab to the bus stop where colectivos to Chosica pass by, then from Chosica a bus that slowly covers the 40 km or so to San Pedro. This is the kind of place where buses go when they want to, so make sure you have at least a couple of days set aside for the trip! Also, keep in mind that the altitude is fierce (4000m above sea level), so you will feel out of breath. Camping in Marcahuasi is allowed, though there are no roads, so you will have to carry whatever you need for the night.
San Pedro de Casta has some very basic accommodation at the Hospedaje Municipal and a couple of basic “restaurants”. There is no running water after 8:00 pm, and it often rains (and gets extremely cold) in the afternoon, so make sure you are properly prepared for this off the beaten track adventure!
By Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
The Best Hikes near Arequipa
Arequipa is a beautiful city, known for its location on Peru’s ‘Ring of Fire’ and being surrounded by volcanoes. It is also a popular base for a visit to Colca Canyon, which can be visited independently, or you can join a tour to hike the canyon and spot Andean Condors.
When you visit Arequipa, the first thing you will notice is the perfect looking volcano which dominates the town. The hike to the top of El Misti is a tough 2-day hike. You start from Arequipa and it’s about a 2-hour drive to the starting point of the hike. You need to carry all your own things, including tent, water and crampons if there is snow at the top and your bag will weigh between 15-20kg.
The agencies will tell you it’s a 3-hour hike to basecamp but I was one of the first there and it took me 5 hours. This is because of the altitude – the hike starts at 3,500 m above sea level and basecamp is at 4,500 metres.
Day 2 you will be up between 1am and 2am to start the final ascent up to the summit at 5,822 metres. It’s one of the hardest hikes I have done, but after 7 hours I was finally at the top. Out of our group of 7, only 3 of us made it to the top, some people just could not deal with the altitude.
I was chewing on Coca leaves all the way to the top to help with altitude sickness and to give me an extra bit of energy. I would always recommend doing this or having as much Coca tea as you can.
Once you reach the summit, the views are amazing and well worth the pain of the hike. It is the hardest hike I have done but one that I will remember forever.
Returning is much easier as you can just run/slide down the scree field and it takes around 5 hours to return to the starting point.
By Clare from ilive4travel
The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world, at a depth of around 3,600 meters (twice as deep as the famous Grand Canyon). Unlike many other hikes in Peru, you don’t need a guide for the Colca Canyon trek, you can do this on your own.
The closest city to Colca Canyon is Arequipa, and we hired a car to get to the Colca Canyon the day before starting our 2-day hike. We stayed in Cabanaconde, a sleepy village, and first thing in the morning we went to the Cross of Condor to see these magnificent birds flying above the canyon (they do it every morning, following the air current). The trek starts going down and follows a zig-zag trail. The views are simply amazing during the whole walk.
It took around 3 hours to get to the bottom of the canyon, where the river flows. We continued walking for a couple of hours along the river, crossed some picturesque settlements like El Relajo, before getting to the Oasis Sangalle, where we spent the night.
The main challenge was the climb on the second day back to Cabanaconde. We had to wake up very early (around 4 AM) to walk in the shade as long as possible. Taking enough water with you is also essential. We climbed the steep trail in around 3 hours and were dead tired, but very happy when we reached Cabanaconde again.
By Gábor from Surfing the Planet
The Best Hikes in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca
Huaraz is the usual base for exploring the magnificent Cordillera Blanca mountain range. There is a range of hikes in the Cordillera Blanca, from day hikes to epic multi-day treks across mountain peaks and glaciers.
Peru’s majestic Cordillera Blanca mountain range is becoming increasingly popular with casual backpackers and serious alpinists alike. For the average traveller to the region, the most boot-beaten trail is the endlessly picturesque, but also very crowded 4 day Santa Cruz trek. Those looking for a side of solitude with their hike or for the chance to challenge themselves with more advanced terrain should consider a trek up to Mateo Peak. Rising to a staggering 5165m, a trek to the peak can be accomplished as either a long day trip from Huaraz, departing at 4 am or as part of a 2 or 3 day trek. Reaching the summit requires some straightforward trekking, followed by a bit of light scrambling until arriving at the foot of the glacier. There you will put on all your gear for glacier travel and make the final push for the summit at sunrise.
Spending a few days getting used to the elevation is essential to a successful summit, so the longer treks are an ideal way to make the most of one’s time in the Cordillera Blanca. It is easy to pick up a certified guide in Huaraz who will help you get used the equipment and lead you safely across the glacier. The glacier itself is not overly complicated so this the perfect trek to try mountaineering for the first time. With the most breathtaking views awaiting you at the top, you’ll be glad you did!
By Thea from Zen Travellers
The Huayhuash trek is located in northern Peru and 180 km (112 ml) long. It’s most commonly done as a 10-day trek, but can be done anywhere from 8 to 14 days.
Doing this independently is possible, but I recommend going with a tour company (The company I went with was called The Huascaran Adventure based in Huaraz). Hiring guide, and getting rental equipment can be arranged from Huaraz, the nearest town where you should spend a few days acclimatising to the altitude. Due to the length of the trek and altitude involved – altitude sickness and getting caught in bad weather is a real risk. Even with donkeys carrying most of our gear, it was still one of the hardest treks we’ve done. All of our group members experienced some form of altitude sickness. Not surprising since most of the walking is done at over 4000m and some of the 8 passes are at 5000m.
One of the peaks in the Huayhuash range is Siula Grande, featured in the movie “Touching the Void”. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how spectacular this area is. We passed numerous turquoise alpine lakes and forbidding jagged peaks. One for the bucket list for sure.
By Jill from Jack and Jill Travel
I only had time for a one day hike in Huaraz, after suffering a bout of food poisoning. Trekking Laguna 69 is one of the most popular hikes in Huaraz, and although it isn’t particularly difficult, the altitude at the start point is already 3900 m above sea level, climbing to a dizzying 4500 m above sea level, making it a difficult hike for anyone not completely acclimatised to the altitude. Although it is possible to hike to Laguna 69 independently, the public transport isn’t always reliable so I’d recommend arranging a tour from Huaraz. The tour package includes transport to the start of the hiking trail, a guide, breakfast and lunch. It takes 3 hours to drive from Huaraz to the beginning of the trail, so expect an early start from Huaraz.
Driving through the beautiful Huascaran National Park, keep an eye out for vicuña, a relative of the llama, which roam the plains below the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Breakfast is at the beautiful Chinancocha lake, before beginning the hike. The trail starts off relatively flat as you walk toward the mountains, then the trail leads up into the mountain to the lake. The lake is a stunning turquoise colour, and the water is pure as it comes from the glacier and mountain tops beyond. The return leg is along the same path, which gets easier as you descend.
By Me at Tales of a Backpacker.
The Best Hikes in Northern Peru
Northern Peru has been relatively unknown until Lonely Planet named it one of the best regions to visit in 2019. Still off the beaten tourist track, venturing to Chachapoyas in the Amazonas region of Northern Peru you’ll find ruins three times older than Machu Picchu, and spectacular hikes and waterfalls.
Trek Gran Vilaya
The Chachapoyas multi-day hike, also called Trek Gran Vilaya or Inka Trail of the North, is one of my favourite treks in Peru. Located in the Amazonas Region, in northern Peru, it explores the highest parts of the Amazonian forest while visiting some of the best sites of the Chachapoyas culture. The Chachapoyas were a warrior people who inhabited the region centuries before the arrival of the Inkas. The Inkas occupied the Chachapoya lands and incorporated them into their Empire around the second half of the XV century. When the Spaniards arrived in the area, the Chachapoyas were a province of the Inka Empire
The Chachapoyas 4-day hike starts in the colonial city of Chachapoyas. It is here where you arrange the permits, guide, and logistics in one of the local agencies. The trek is considered moderate-difficult, with some important slopes, especially during the third day. The trek goes through ancient Inka paths, beautiful river valleys, and interesting archaeological sites. The accommodation is basic, in local huts during the first two days and in a posada for the last night. The food is also basic, especially during the day, so it is a good idea to bring some snacks. The trek finishes in the ancient city of Kuelap, the Chachapoyas capital, with interesting remains of streets, houses, and temples. Despite its beauty and archaeological importance, Kuelap does not see many tourists so it is really great to end the trek here and walk around without the crowds.
by Elisa from World in Paris
Gocta Falls, Chachapoyas
Located in a very remote area of the Peruvian forest, the Gocta falls are one of the best-kept secrets of the country. These beautiful falls, also known as “La Chorrera” by the local people, are 771 meters high, making them the third highest waterfall in the world.
To get there, you’ll need to travel to the remote town of Cocachimba and take a short hike through a muddy and steep jungle. The hike itself, which can be completed in about 2,5 hours, is pretty straightforward and not too demanding. Just keep in mind that it can be somewhat slippery in certain sections. Once you leave Cocachimba, you’ll see the falls for the first time, then you’ll be getting closer and closer, enjoying great views of the Gocta Falls and the mountains around. One of the greatest things about this trek is that you can walk down to the base of the fall, get a bit wet and enjoy all its energy.
The easiest way to get to Cocachimba is by taking a local bus from Chachapoyas town. There are some tours offering transport, guide and lunch. However, you can do it on your own easily.
By Miguel from Travelsauro
Have you been hiking in Peru? Do you agree that these are the best hikes in Peru or have we missed any epic treks in Peru that you would recommend? Please share your comments below!
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