What would make your trip to Peru as memorable as possible?
How about showing off your Spanish skills to the locals?
Or camping in the Andes?
You could even hike to one of the most famous spots in South America, Machu Picchu.
Well, good news. You can do all those things in Peru! The best way to make your trip one for the books is to trek around the country.
If you can’t hike around all of Peru, simply taking on one trail will make your trip more epic than you ever imagined.
Why Go Trekking in Peru?
If you’re planning a trip to Peru, you might want to consider making it a little more adventurous than visiting museums and eating local food.
Try taking advantage of the vast array of treks the country has to offer. Peru has drastically varied landscapes and climates, as well as routes of varying difficulty, length and altitude. There really is something for everyone.
What better way to explore the country’s rich history than by trekking through the Andes along paths walked by the Incas themselves?
Or hearing snippets of the Quechan language from locals while hiking through parts of the Cordillera Blanca?
Or spotting the country’s famous bird, the condor, overhead as you trek the base of Colca Canyon?
How to Choose the Right Trek for Me
So you want to go on a trekking adventure. But how and where do you start?
You should consider the following factors to help you decide which trek is the right one for you. Who knows, if time allows, you could hike all the trails on this list!
Where should I trek in Peru?
What type of scenery are you looking for?
If you prefer rugged mountains and lakes, think about trekking the Cordillera Blanca or Cordillera Huayhuash.
If it’s history you’re looking for, Peru has many ancient Inca sites. Or for stunning natural beauty you might want to check out the cavernous Colca Canyon.
When should I go trekking?
The ideal time to trek in Peru is from May to October. This is when the weather is best and mountain views are clearest. Heads up, July and August can be touristy.
What about the trek length and altitude?
Are you looking for something that’s just one day? Or do you want the challenge of a multi-day hike?
When deciding on the length of your trek, think about your level of physical fitness, your time frame, whether the trek is beginner or advanced and the altitude.
Many of Peru’s mountains reach above 6,000 m (19,700 ft) and altitude sickness can be a serious issue.
Do I need a guide?
You don’t need a guide for all the treks, but it’s generally helpful to have one.
If you’re traveling alone, don’t fear! You can easily join a group of trekkers through an agency. Using a guide also helps the local economy.
Sometimes guides have limited English skills, so make sure you book with a reputable company.
If you’re learning Spanish, this could actually be a great chance to practice. Check out FluentU to practice your Spanish before the big trip and to review in your tent when you’re finished hiking for the day.
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Trekking Peru: The Top 5 Hikes for Travelers
The Inca Trail
Moderate, 4 days, 43 km (26.7 miles), camping
Why trek the Inca trail?
If you’re planning a trip to Peru, you’ve probably heard of the Inca trail. Guided tours book up months in advance, and for a good reason.
The classic four-day trail takes you through the Urubamba valley, past beautiful mountain scenery, tropical jungles and several historic archaeological sites.
The trail finishes at Machu Picchu. This magical ancient Inca citadel is one of the modern wonders of the world. The trek follows the original paths that were traversed by the Incas themselves. It’s a great way to connect with the fascinating history of the country.
The Inca trail leaves from Cusco. The trail ascends to 4,200 m (13,800 ft) so it’s best to spend a few days acclimating first. The trek length is 43 km. It’s moderately difficult and takes four days to complete.
The trekking permits are limited and released several months in advance, so keep a look out online. The trek costs around 600 USD and includes a trail permit, guide, transportation to and from Cusco, food, equipment and tents and entry to Machu Picchu. Book your Inca Trail hike here.
Moderate, 13 km (8 miles), 1 day, no accommodation necessary
Why trek Laguna 69?
When you finally reach the otherworldly electric blue glacier lake nestled in the mountains of Huascarán National Park, you will see why the trek to Laguna 69 has become one of Peru’s most epic trekking destinations.
Although just a one-day jaunt, it climbs to over 4,500 m (15,000 ft), making it great for those who want a challenge. You pass through rolling hills, steep mountain walls, waterfalls, and discover several of the park’s 400 lakes.
The starting point is a two-hour drive from the mountain city of Huaráz. The out-and-back hike takes between five and seven hours. Most of the trek is a moderately difficult, although with the altitude, the final incline is tough.
You can book the day trip from one of the many companies in Huaráz, with transport, guide and lunch for around 45 USD.
You can also usually find cheaper online deals. If you find a discount company, just remember to bring a packed lunch.
Easy, 3 days, 20 km (12.4 miles), hut accommodation
Why trek Colca Canyon?
Nature and wildlife lovers, this one’s for you.
Walk along the Colca River, where you’ll find vast amounts of tropical vegetation, mountains stretching for miles and beautiful hidden churches.
You’ll continue on to explore one of the deepest canyons in the world, hued with intense colors and sweeping views. It’s the best area to see condors in the country.
Most people opt for a three-day, two-night guided hike, which ranges from easy to moderately difficult depending on your fitness level. The trek costs around 130 USD. This fee covers transport from Arequipa, a guide, accommodation and food.
You don’t need any camping gear for this one, because you’ll stay in huts. Whether hiking with a guide or going solo, you’ll need to buy a boleto turístico (tourist ticket) for 70 PEN (22 USD) at Chivay, where the trek begins.
Difficult, 12 days, 120 km (74.5 miles), camping
Why trek the Huayhuash Circuit?
Often referred to as one of the world’s top treks, the 12-day Huayhuash Circuit is definitely for real adventurers.
You’ll see vistas of Peru’s tallest snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes and a variety of flora and fauna. You might also catch a glimpse of the mighty condor.
You’ll camp along the way, giving you the chance to experience the Andes up close. Quechua is still spoken around parts of the national park, so you’ll get an authentic snapshot of Andean culture.
The Cordillera Huayhuash is located five hours from Huaráz. The trek itself is 120 km and takes 12 days. Elevation ranges from 3,300 m to 5,000 m (10,800 ft to 16,500 ft).
Tours provide camping equipment, food, donkeys and transport from Huaráz. We recommend booking with an agency, but for experienced trekkers it’s possible to go unguided. To book your guided hike, you can contact Chris Benway with La Cima in Huaráz.
It’s a long walk, so why not download some language learning podcasts to brush up on your Spanish along the way?
Moderate, 4 days, 50 km (31 miles), camping
Why trek Santa Cruz?
A stunning trek in the Cordillera Blanca, many describe Santa Cruz as one of the most beautiful alpine treks in the world.
You’ll climb and camp through dramatic mountain scenery, red quinoa trees and azure lakes. The highest point is the Punta Unión pass at 4,760 m (15,617 ft). Bring plenty of water to fight altitude sickness here!
The trek leaves from Huaráz, and it’s worth checking out the city for a couple days beforehand. Relax with a classic Peruvian cocktail, the pisco sour, or try out some Peruvian slang with the locals.
The route generally takes four days and is suitable for beginners.
We recommend booking with an agency. This way you won’t have to worry about arranging a guide, transportation, food, water, camping equipment or carrier donkeys. There is a fee of 65 PEN (20 USD) into Parque Huascarán. Book your hike here.
There you have it: Five of the most scenic treks in Peru. And in the world!
Now you just need to start planning your trekking adventure. Regardless of which trail you choose, you’ll experience a slice of the country’s magic. ¡Buen viaje! (Have a good trip!)
Hanna Greeman is a language lover and global traveler. After graduating in Spanish and Italian from the University of Bristol, she has lived in Colombia, Peru, Italy, Australia and Thailand, and traveled across four continents. When not working as a freelance writer, catch her salsa dancing, reading or seeing live music.
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