With the ridge of the Andes Mountains slicing the length of the country and 6,000m mountains that make the most adventurous drool, Peru is a trekker’s paradise. Some of the best Peru hiking options are easily accessed either from Cusco or by a bus journey from Lima. So once you’re done with your Spanish classes in Cusco, strap on your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trail!
Easily the most famous of all trekking in Peru, the Inca Trail that leads you directly to Machu Picchu is a classic hike, combining history and sublime landscapes with the chance to end your journey the exact same way the Inca would: at this former estate for Inca royalty.
There are several Inca trekking routes in Peru that go to Machu Picchu, however, the classic Inca Trail is a four-day 43km hike that winds up into the mountains beyond the Sacred Valley, summiting three high-altitude passes before terminating at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for sunrise on the final day.
The Inca Trail definitely ranks among the best hiking in Peru and the experience of travelling in the footsteps of this former civilization is one you won’t forget in a hurry.
If you fancy taking a Peruvian hiking trail still steeped in ancient history, but followed by far fewer other feet, consider two of the increasingly popular ways of reaching Machu Picchu: the Salkantay and Lares treks.
The Salkantay is a challenging five-day hike that reaches heights of 4,600m at the Salkantay Pass, passing pre-Columbian ruins en-route before dropping back down into cloud forest and finally reaching Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.
The Lares trek offers similarly beautiful scenery – a mix of snow-capped peaks and deep, vegetated valleys – but allows for a closer interaction with local people, as the trail passes through traditional weaving villages such as Huacahuasi and Patacancha over the two or three days. It ends at Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, from where the train takes you onwards to Aguas Calientes.
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Another trail ranking among the best trekking in Peru is to Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca, a rainbow-coloured peak just a few hour’s drive and a 10km hike from Cusco.
Although the true colours of the mountain are a little more muted than in the photoshopped images you see on the internet, the spectacle remains truly astonishing. A consequence of the mixing of minerals in the earth with water, the colours look like they’ve been painted directly onto the earth.
NOTE – AMAUTA Spanish School offers weekly weekend trips to Rainbow Mountain!
Huaraz, a high-altitude city tucked into the Cordillera Blanca mountain range has some of the best Peru hiking trails. Any sort of activity here is challenging due to the altitude – the town itself sits at 3,000m above sea level, so it’s worth acclimatising before you attempt any treks.
One of the most popular Huaraz treks is the Santa Cruz trail, a 50km adventure that reaches up to 4,760m at its highest point – and is certainly not for the fainthearted. You can expect to spend four days on the trail, with superb views of icy mountains, turquoise lakes and a feeling of being far from civilization.
The whole region offers some of the best hiking close to Lima, and can be easily accessed with a seven-hour bus journey or one-hour flight from the capital.
One of the least visited Peru hiking trails is to Inca fortress Choquequirao, a ruined city almost three times larger than Machu Picchu and still almost completely buried in the jungle.
The difficult of the Choquequirao trek is one of the reasons why only around a dozen visitors a day attempt this 64km, four-day hike. But the steep descents and ascents that characterise the trail are more than worth it: expect to explore the ruins practically all by yourself in one of the final untouched corners of Inca territory.
What’s more, plans have long been in place to install a cable car to turn the journey to the ruins to a mere 15 minutes – so be sure to plan your adventure to Choquequirao sooner rather than later.
Looking to study Spanish in Peru and want to combine it with trekking through the country’s dramatic landscapes?
Check out our trekking and Spanish language study options.