Peru is a country perfect for lovers of the great outdoors and hiking in Peru offers some of the most picturesque trails. However, not every visitor has the time or inclination to spend several days trekking through the mountains at a high altitude. For those looking for some tamer walking and the chance to see something of the Andes without quite so much hardship, here is a guide to some of the best hikes in Peru, in no particular order.
Laguna 69 day hike is one of the most popular day-hikes out of Huaraz, either as a warm-up for a longer trek or as a rewarding excursion in itself. The starting point is Cebollapampa, from where it is a moderate walk of several hours up to Laguna 69 (Lake 69), widely recognized as one of the most beautiful lakes in Huascaran National Park. A day-trip takes around 10–11 hours including transportation. The maximum altitude is 4,550 m. Reasonable fitness and proper acclimatization are required. A permit is necessary to enter Huascaran National Park.
Another equally beautiful lake in the Huascarán National Park is Laguna Churup (Lake Churup). A day hike to Laguna Churup is similar to the Laguna 69 day hike and is commonly attempted in preparation for a longer trek or simply as an enjoyable one-day trip. The trailhead at Pitec is easily reached from Huaraz, from where it is a 4 – 5 hour round trip to the lake. Maximum altitude is 4,450m and good fitness and proper acclimatization are necessary. A permit is required to enter Huascaran National Park.
A day-trip to Peru’s Rainbow Mountain is fast becoming an obligatory stop on any tour of the country. The hike starts at the village of Quesiuno, three hours from Cusco. From there, it is a tough walk of several hours up to 5,020m, the highest point of the hike and the spot with the best views of the multicoloured mountain. This is a high-altitude hike and good fitness and proper acclimatization are essential. No permits are required.
Several treks that take in the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo (Little Cusco) are possible and the two-day version is considered one of the easiest alternative treks to the Inca Trail. A one-day hike starting at Patabamba, Chinchero or Tauqa and passing the ruins on the way to Lamay is another option. The highlights are the seldom-visited ruins themselves as well as the unspoiled Andean scenery. The trailhead is a short drive from Cusco. The one-day version is considered moderately challenging but proper acclimatization is required as the maximum altitude gained is above 4,300m. No permit is required.
If you don’t have enough time for the four-day classic Inca Trail, a one-day Inca trail can be the perfect hike in Peru. Transport is organized from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, from where a train ride completes the journey to kilometer 104. From there, the trail takes in the archaeological sites of Chachabamba and Wiñaywayna before reaching the highest point on the hike, Intipunku, the Sun Gate (2,750m). The path then descends to Machu Picchu itself. Although permits are easier to obtain than for the classic Inca Trail, you should reserve early to avoid disappointment. The trek is not too hard, but acclimatization is recommended.
The Colca Canyon trek is commonly completed in two days. It is possible to do a day hike from Cabanaconde to the oasis of Sangalle (1,900m) and back. At 3,300m, the highest point is the trailhead, from where hikers descend into the Colca Canyon. Most people camp overnight at Sangalle but it is possible to turn around and walk back up again the same day. Those attempting this need to be in good physical condition. You can get to Cabanaconde from Arequipa. A ticket is required to enter the Canyon. There is a good chance of spotting condors in this area.
A tough but picturesque hike is possible from Ollantaytambo. The trailhead is in the Patacancha Valley, from where you hike for 12 hours to the village of Lares. The maximum altitude reached is 4,300m but the scenery along the way and the chance to pass through several traditional villages makes it worth the effort. No permit is required. This is not a common trail and you are unlikely to see other tourists along the route.
Basing oneself at Cotahuasi village in the Cotahuasi Canyon offers excellent opportunities for day hikes. One of the most popular is the six-hour round trip to the Sipia waterfall, possibly the most spectacular feature of the Cotahuasi Canyon. Cotahuasi village is at 2,680m and this trek is not considered particularly strenuous. No permit is required.
Cotahuasi is a remote location and provides some of the best trails for hiking in Peru. Most people will undertake several hikes while staying there to make it worth the time and effort to reach it. For the more adventurous, check out the Cotahuasi Canyon trek as well.
This half-day hike leads to a unique archaeological site near Cusco as well as the colonial village of Maras and the ancients salt pans. Hikers take transport from Cusco to the fascinating Incan agricultural ‘laboratory’ of Moray. From there, it is a relatively easy walk of around six kilometers to Maras and on to the salt pans. Maximum altitude is 3,200m. No permits are required. This hike is suitable for all fitness levels.
Lake Humantay is sometimes visited as part of the Salkantay Trek. For those who don’t have the time or stamina for this high-altitude trek, it is possible to do a one day hike to Lake Humantay. After taking transport from Cusco to Soraypampa (3,900 m), it is a three-hour, 10 km round-trip to the lake and back. The maximum altitude reached is 4,200 m so acclimatization is necessary but the hiking itself is not overly taxing. No permit is required.
Peru has countless trails suitable for all levels of experience and fitness, from easy half-day walks to long multi-day treks that will test the determination and stamina of almost anyone. If you want to go hiking in Peru, you are sure to be able to find a suitable trail.