Seeking adventure in the great outdoors? Look no further than Peru. South America is known for its beautiful geography and jaw-dropping beauty, and Peru offers ample opportunities to experience this up close. Pre-Colombian Peru was home to the Inca Empire; treks to Machu Picchu, the famous Inca citadel, are popular, as are other journeys through the Peruvian Andes. Read on for a list of the 10 Best treks in Peru sure to satisfy your curiosity.
A Note On The Inca Trail
This trek is so popular that Peruvian authorities have been forced to restrict access to the route. As a result, tickets can both be incredibly expensive and hard to come by. For that reason, the Inca Trail has not been included on this list.
1. Cordillera Huayhuash, Huaraz
Cordillera Huayhuash is a hiker’s dream, covering 115 kilometers from start to finish. It typically takes nine days to complete and has a reputation for being one of the most demanding hikes in the Americas. But for those who are prepared to make the climb, Cordillera Huayhuash rewards the intrepid hiker with stunning views of glaciers, mountain lakes, and peaks that top out at 6000 meters. As an added bonus, it’s a circular route, making trip planning a little easier. Cordillera Huayhuash is also relatively less explored than other trails in Peru due to its difficulty.
2. Kuelap, Catarata de Gocta and Vira Vira Trek, Chachapoyas
Located in northern Peru, this is a great option for hikers looking to get in a history lesson on the side. There are multiple archeological sites located along this trail. The region is known for the Kuelap ruins, an ancient city that was built by the Chachapoyas people in the 6th century. The Vira Vira settlement is located relatively nearby and is also relatively less well-known than the Kuelap site. Both treks take approximately seven to ten days. A third site, Catarata de Gocta, was only discovered in 2006 and is the world’s third-highest waterfall.
3. Lares Trek
The Lares Trek is often popular among hikers who weren’t able to get a spot on the Machu Picchu trek, but that doesn’t mean this hike is any less spectacular. The Lares Trek is a three-day journey through Lares Valley, from Ollyantambo, and is very remote.
Trekkers get to spend time in indigenous Quecha settlements, warm up in the hot springs, and ultimately arrive in Machu Picchu. However, the Lares Trek reaches a higher elevation than the Machu Picchu trek – it’s 4,550 meters at its highest – which may prove tough for some hikers.
4. Choquequirao Trek
Choquequirao was one of the last Inca sites that held out before ultimately succumbing to the Spanish. It’s been remarkably well preserved. For those seeking an alternative to the crowds at Machu Picchu, this is one of the Best treks in Peru that lets you experience a stunning Inca site without many tourists climbing alongside you. At night, there is a magnificent view of the Southern Hemisphere and the Milky Way. Choquequirao is filled with ecological diversity: there are many birds, plants, and insects that are native to this region alone.
5. Cotahuasi Canyon, Arequipa
The Cotahuasi Canyon offers trekking options for every type of hiker, from one-day hikes to four-day adventures. This majestic slice through the Peruvian Andes is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The longer treks through Cotahuasi Canyon take hikers to the top of the Cascada de Sipia waterfall. At 150 meters high, the waterfall is the perfect standpoint for taking in the surrounding beauty. Isolation has preserved many cultural customs that are unique to the region. Birdwatchers, take note: this trek is perfect for spotting native birds.
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6. Santa Cruz Trail
Like the Cotahuasi Canyon, the Santa Cruz Trail is a top pick for spotting wildlife. It is one of the most famous treks in the Cordillera Blanca region. Helpful guides can point out rare wildlife like the Andean Spectacled Bear and eagles. Because the Santa Cruz Trail is so popular, campsites can be crowded, and the elevation (4,760 meters) means nights can become bitterly cold. But the incredible sights of glaciers and cerulean lagoons make it well worth the trip.
7. Vilcamba Trail
Vilcamba Trail is a true hidden treasure. Only a few hundred people attempt the trek each climbing season. The Vilcamba Trail takes hikers deep into the Amazon jungle to Espiritu Pampa, which is believed to have been one of the last Incan strongholds before the Spanish ultimately conquered the Inca Empire in 1533. It’s not uncommon to be completely alone at the ruins, which is certainly something to savor. Because Vilcamba Trail is such a difficult hike, it is only recommended for experienced hikers climbing with a guide.
8. Ausangate Trek
The Ausangate Trek is one of the most beautiful on this list. The trek averages five to seven days and offers stunning views of the Rainbow Mountains, so named for the thick, multicolored stripes of mineral deposits that paint the peaks. Most of the trek is spent at very high altitudes. It requires an advanced level of physical fitness, so the Ausangate Trek is recommended only for very experienced climbers. During the trek, climbers are immersed in traditional Quechua culture, one of the last pastoral societies in the world. In the Quechua mythology, Ausangate is believed to be the deity of Cusco. Many Quechua pilgrims come to celebrate the Star Snow festival, which takes place in the Rainbow Mountains every year.
9. Ancascocha Trek
The Ancascocha Trek is an excellent alternative to the Inca Trail, but still offers a stop at Machu Picchu. It will take you deep into the heart of Peru. The Ancascocha Trek is located in the Sacred Valley, which has many Inca ruins. This is a little-known trek that few tourists experience. Much of the climb is spent at 4,600 to 5,000 meters, which requires three days of acclimation in Cusco beforehand.
10. Huayhuash Circuit Trek
Our list of the 10 Best treks in Peru concludes with the Huayhuash Circuit Trek. This is a beautiful trek for those climbers wishing to truly test themselves. It is filled with demanding summits, including the Siula Grande and Yerupajá, Peru’s second-highest peak. There are hard ascents and cold temperatures, partnered with beautiful sights of Peru’s mightiest mountains.
With ten amazing treks to choose from, there is bound to be one to inspire your next climb. Lace up your hiking boots and prepare to experience the beauty of the Peruvian wilderness.
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