Peru is a great destination for hiking, with a number of organised trails and routes. The country offers something to interest almost every traveller, depending on the season and the hiker’s level of fitness. There is a surprisingly varied range of climates due to its geography and land formations, with rivers and jungles. Apart from preparing well for your itinerary with essential equipment and first aid supplies, do remember that because Peru is a distant location outside Europe, travel insurance is as important as ever.
Here, we review some of the most popular treks.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
A definite challenge, this trail is considered a ‘must do’ by many hikers. The route follows ancient Incan paths along passes over the Andes Mountains, before descending into the Amazon jungle. There are opportunities to explore Inca ruins, settlements and tunnels and before reaching Sun Gate, high above Machu Picchu. To appreciate this forty-kilometre (twenty five miles) trail to the most, a four-day itinerary is best, although a two-day option still gives a quick introduction to the area. One’s first glimpse of the forgotten city of Machu Picchu is more than sightseeing – it is a moment to remember.
The trail is closed in February for maintenance work. Booking well in advance is advisable; the government of Peru limits the number of hikers to five hundred per day including porters and guides.
The nearby Salkantay Trek offers magnificent views of the incredibly tall Andes. The route has been classified by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine as one of the twenty-five best hiking trails in the world: its remote, ancient footpaths combine peace with breath-taking scenery. Fitness preparation and good breathing technique are important, due to the altitude.
This route starts to the east of Machu Picchu and is shorter than the Inca Trail. Because of its altitude, the Lares Trek is spectacular, but requires proper planning.
Santa Cruz Trek
Starting in Huraz, the Santa Cruz route takes you over the White Mountains, usually with good weather from May to September. There are fewer regulations than other trails; the route is generally considered safe – though beware of cattle while marvelling at the unspoiled landscapes.
About five hours from Cusco, Choquequirao is the sister city of Machu Picchu and a peaceful alternative with similar structures and remarkable ruins. Four or five days are necessary and a good level of physical fitness due to the ups and downs, climate and altitude. Nonetheless, this tough trek is one of the least trodden and most rewarding.
Finally, if you have spare time in Lima, why not enjoy a free guided tour of the old colonial town, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site? At 12.30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the interesting free tour starts from Plaza Peru and lasts for around an hour and a half, with no booking required.
Photo by Emmanuel Dyan