If you’re looking for the best adrenaline-packed adventure, here we have gathered some of the most impressive trails in Peru, as well as some of the most strenuous but totally worthy treks in our country.
As you may know, the Andes of Peru are the most sought-after destination in the ancient country of the Incas, where towering snow-capped mountains, greenish valleys and turquoise-water lagoons tell the story never told of our lands.
Likewise, some of our top picks of trails take you through impressive archeological sites, and we are not talking only about Machu Picchu, but other outstanding attractions in Peru yet unknown to many!
Nonetheless, we’d like to mention that some of these treks will take you over 4,000 meters above sea level, which is why it is best to be properly acclimatized before committing to any of these activities. But don’t worry, we’ve also listed some recommendations regarding this!
Dare to travel off the beaten track and discover the real authenticity of Peru like a total expert!
1. Inca Trail
Let’s be honest here, if this is your first time in Peru, you surely go to Machu Picchu. But what if you take one of the biggest adventures in the Andes to reach this wonder of the world? As you may know, the Classic Inca Trail is one of the most in-demand alternatives to get to the historical sanctuary, something that should be on your bucket list.
The trail will take you on a 4-day journey where you’ll cross the Andes before getting fully immersed in the thick cloud forest. The natural setting in this route is like no other since you’ll be crossing different ecosystems thoroughly.
Besides the beautiful landscapes along the Inca Trail, you’ll also get to visit several archeological sites, all of them nearly intact since the Spaniards never got to discover this ancient road. That way you’ll get to know even more about the Inca civilization and how they managed to integrate these structures with the surrounding nature.
The trek will take you to altitudes that surpass the 4,000 meters of elevation before getting to Machu Picchu. On the last day, you’ll get to enter the historical sanctuary by the main entrance used during Inca times, the sun gate, while also glancing at the first sun rays that hit the citadel.
2. Salkantay Trek
This famous snow-capped mountain is located within the Vilcabamba mountain range in the Peruvian Andean region at 6,264 meters above sea level, making it one of Peru’s highest peaks.
According to historians, the name Salkantay means “Wild Mountain” in Quechua, it was a sacred mount for the Incas since they granted it recognition as one of their Apus, which were spiritual protectors of their people and nature.
Only a few have reached its summit, being the Swiss Bronnimann and Marx, the first documented persons who climbed this imposing snow-capped mountain. However, later in 1978, the Italian mountaineer Consuelo Bonadiel was the first woman to climb all the way up to the Salkantay’s summit.
The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu passes by several ecosystems and natural wonders, including this marvelous snow-capped mountain before reaching the famous Inca Sanctuary. The famous trail is considered the best alternative to the Inca Trail.
3. The 7 Lakes of Ausangate Trek
The Vilcanota mountain range holds an outstanding natural landscape, where towering snow-capped peaks, turquoise-water lagoons and the Rainbow Mountain itself harmonically converge to make a dream-like scenery.
In case you didn’t know, there’s a tall mountain that looms over the city of Cusco during the brightest days, which also was considered a mighty Apu to the Inca culture. The Ausangate Mountain is surely one of the most impressive mounts in Cusco and this is one of the many ways to experience it.
Although this trek won’t take you as far as its summit, you’ll be able to get fully immersed in the beautiful surroundings of the region, while also visiting 7 lakes that originate from this massive snow-capped mountain.
The 7 Lakes of Ausangate Trek will take you on an awe-inspiring journey through the Andes, where you’ll get to meet an ancient cultural expression at the very heart of the mountain range and a natural landscape like no other.
4. Rainbow Mountain Trek
If you’re up for a bit of adventure during your trip, then the Rainbow Mountain Trek should be your go to option. This outstanding colored mountain sits on an elevation of 5,200 meters above sea level and is surrounded by an otherworldly scenery.
Keep in mind that you need to be properly acclimatized to join this adventure, which is why we recommend leaving it for the last thing to do in your Cusco trip itinerary.
The Rainbow Mountain is one of the most in-demand trekking activities in Cusco since it gathers over 1,000 travelers per year. The natural landscape of this region is like nothing you’ve seen before, complemented by towering peaks, hoards of llamas and alpacas, and the Red Valley behind it.
5. Waqrapukara Trek
Among the different things to do in Cusco, Waqra Pukara is certainly one of the most impressive attractions near the Imperial City. Although the structure wasn’t originally constructed by the Incas, the site is a total masterpiece situated at the edge of the Apurimac Canyon.
Waqra Pukara is one of those off-the-beaten-track attractions that, if you’re the adventurous traveler type, you should definitely include it in your itinerary. The site was traced back to the Qanchis culture, a civilization that was established in these lands around 2500 B.C.
However, it is uncertain to know the purpose it had during the pre-Columbian era. Some historians point it out as an astronomical observatory or a religious sanctuary of the Qanchis, which also served as a fortress against the Inca Empire.
The archaeological site is located at 4,300 meters above sea level and comprises an impressive natural setting, surrounded by agricultural terraces, chambers and cobbled stone stairs.
You can visit Waqra Pukara on a full day trek, but we have to highlight that the trail is quite challenging due to its steep inclines and the altitude. Keep in mind that if you wish to visit this attraction, you must be fully acclimated in Cusco.
6. Choquequirao Trek
For those who didn’t know, Machu Picchu has a sacred sister and it’s located at the heart of the cloud forest, in a remote location that not even the Spaniards could have discovered. Choquequirao is thought to be the last Inca refuge and one of their most impressive structures.
The archaeological complex comprises over 1,000 hectares and only 30% of them have been fully excavated. It is linked to the Inca Citadel due to their similarities in architectural style and distribution.
Currently, the only way to get to this wonder of ancient Peru is by a 4-day trek through the cloud forest. It has a moderate to challenging difficulty but trust us, all that effort will be paid off day by day.
On this adventure, you’ll be crossing different ecosystems with sublime mountain landscapes home to the famous Andean Condor. The trail starts at 2,900 meters above sea level and goes all the way to 3,050 meters on its highest peak.
Choquequirao is a rising attraction in the region of Cusco, though not many dare to hike all the way to this archeological site. So far, the so-called Cradle of Gold receives about 9,400 visitors per year, but the regional government expects to raise the numbers up to 1 million tourists per year by implementing a cable car to this ancient structure.
Therefore, if you wish to visit this uncrowded tourist attraction, you better hurry and organize your trip soon. Get in touch with us for more information.
7. Lagoon 69 Trek
Northern Peru also has its charms and one of the most sought-after destinations there is the Huaraz region since it is the starting point for most of the treks and adventures to the Huascaran National Park.
This famous protected area houses 27 mounts that surpass the 6,000 meters of altitude, the tallest snow-capped mountains of Peru to be exact. For that reason, it is known as the Trekking Capital of South America.
The entire region is recognized for its visually striking scenery, where towering mountains, turquoise-water lagoons and archeological sites complement the overall experience through the northern Peruvian Andes.
We are sure that most of you adventure seekers have heard of this outstanding lagoon. It is located at 4,604 meters above sea level within the Cordillera Blanca. Laguna 69 is characterized for its crystal-clear water and particular coloration, where the concentration of minerals in its water give it a vibrant turquoise tone.
Since there’s so much to know and visit in Huaraz, we have included this attraction along with another magical natural wonder of the region. Check our Llanganuco Lake & Lagoon 69 Trek while you’re here.
8. Ausangate Trek By Andean Lodge
For those adventure-seekers that would love to experience one of the greatest natural sceneries of Cusco while in total comfort, we have a new experience for you!
The Ausangate Trek By Andean Lodge is our most recent adventure, where you’ll get to hike to the foothills of the tallest mountain of Cusco and the protector of the Andean culture. The Ausangate mountain sits on an elevation of 6,385 meters above sea level, making it the 5th tallest peak in Peru!
On this experience, you’ll get to stay in the cozy facilities of Andean Lodges, where four beautiful eco-lodges will give you the comfort you need as you make your way through the Andes. Each of these accommodation options is located in a remote location, surrounded by towering mountains and even lagoons!
Here you’ll experience much more than just the mountainous landscape since the Andes region is surrounded by a great mysticism that you should definitely know about and our professional guides will take you on that road as well!
Connect with nature physically and spiritually with this 5-day trek through the Vilcanota mountain range and let the everlasting energy of the Andes shine through you.
Altitude Sickness: How to Prevent and Deal With It
If you’re planning a trip to Peru, you surely have heard of the so-called “Soroche,” a condition that affects most tourists and residents that travel to places that surpass the 2,500 meters of elevation.
Therefore, some travelers may experience dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath and headaches upon arrival to these high-altitude places, those are the most common symptoms of altitude sickness.
We’d like to highlight that this condition may affect anyone, including those who have lived over 1,000 meters above sea level. For that reason, we highly recommend taking things slowly on your first 2-3 days in the main city before committing to a physically demanding activity.
Luckily for you, we have gathered some tips that will help you prevent and deal with altitude sickness:
- Keep yourself hydrated
The water will be your best ally to fight and prevent this condition, so make sure to drink enough liquid throughout your stay. Higher altitudes are associated with dehydration as a result of dryer air and more rapid breathing, causing a greater loss of bodily fluids.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking at all costs
Yes, we know this is hard and even worse if you’re on vacation but trust us, it’s best to wait at least 48 hours before drinking alcohol or smoking. These could worsen dehydration and shortness of breath if ingested on your first days in Cusco.
- Drink Coca tea or chew Coca leaves
The Coca plant is a medicinal herb used since pre-Columbian times. It is known for helping to ease any altitude sickness symptoms and improving acclimatization. You can either drink tea or just chew on the leaves.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet
Higher altitudes increase our need for fuel, which is why it is best to have a calorie-based diet. Make sure to eat healthy snacks including lots of whole grains in your meals.
- Take it easy
The key to everything in life! Don’t rush yourself, take the necessary time to get used to the altitude and don’t do any demanding activities during your first days. In the meantime, you can take a walking tour through the city to help you get acclimatized.
If you’re wondering if there are any medicines that can help you with the altitude sickness symptoms, you could buy Diamox or Soroche Pills from any drugstore in Peru. However, we recommend consulting with a doctor first before taking any of these medications.
Peru is undoubtedly one of the perfect travel destinations in South America and we’d love to show you everything about it. In case you’re planning a trip to our country, check these travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu.