Distinguished by three topographical regions, mountains, jungle, and desert coastline, Peru is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts as all roads seem to lead to a superb hiking trail. Peru is a dream destination for hikers with a staggering array of trails winding through Inca ruins, lost cities, impossibly perfect lakes, and imposing peaks. Here we will talk about the classic and epic Andean trails as well as some newer trekking alternatives for the best hikes in Peru for 2023.
Rugged as well as high-altitude, the Classic Inca Trail (Camino Inca) has become the most famous trek in Peru for its incredible array of diverse landscapes and the fact that it is the only hike that directly enters the wonder of the world, Machu Picchu. The trek begins on relatively flat terrain from Kilometer 82 of the Inca Trail, the classic route steadily ascends as it cuts through valleys, Andean villages, gigantic mountains, and rivers, converging with smaller Inca ruins along the trail. The final climb is up a set of stairs that lead to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), from where Machu Picchu can be seen for the first time. Of all the epic treks in the world, The Inca Trail Peru hike to Machu Picchu has to be a bucket list item.
Authentic and uncrowded, Choquequirao is the more challenging and isolated alternative to Machu Picchu for avid hikers seeking a route steeped in Inca history. Located in the Apurimac Valley, this archaeological site is believed to be three times the size of its more famous sister city and can only be reached by foot, limiting the number of visitors. Trekkers descend into the Apurimac Canyon, surrounded by terraced farmlands that trace the edge of the canyon’s river eventually giving way to an exhilarating shift from vertical desert to high-altitude cloud forest. Finally, after reaching 3050m above sea level (10,006ft), hikers can appreciate an eagle-eye view of these spectacular ruins. Not even half of what archaeologists believe of Choquequirao has been uncovered and yet the 12 visible sectors sprawled across three hilltops are an incredible sight, especially when accompanied by just a handful of other hikers, if any at all!
Located in Huascaran National Park, Laguna 69 is one of the most picturesque places in Peru, if not all of South America, and yet only a handful of tourists that visit this Andean country, see it in person. With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, the pristine, turquoise water is absolutely stunning and well worth the climb. This scenic trek begins after a two-hour drive from the city of Huaraz in north-central Peru. Livestock and cattle, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque meadows will come and go, but the towering peaks of Cordillera Blanca are the constant on this hike. The trail gently eases into an ascent for most of the route, however, the last 30-40 minutes are quite a climb. The elevation of Laguna 69 is over 4600m above sea level (15,091ft), so be sure to spend a day or two acclimatizing in the city of Huaraz beforehand.
One of the tallest waterfalls in the world, Gocta was only rediscovered and brought to international interest as recently as 2002. Trickling down from the cloud forest of northern Peru’s Amazonas Region, the two-drop waterfall is 771m tall and is surrounded by lush flora. To observe both the lower and upper falls, begin the trek at the trailhead in San Pablo, a short bus ride away from the town of Chachapoyas. The well-marked, trail of this Peru trek, leads past small villages and coffee plantations as well as plenty of viewpoints of canyons and deep valleys. The hike to the upper fall is more scenic, however, the complete view of Gocta seen from the base of the lower fall is unparalleled. The loop finishes in Cocachimba from where your car will usually collect you to take you back to town as you contemplate one of the best hikes in Peru.
The Ausangate trek is simply mind-blowing. Diverse landscapes range from colorful to snow-capped peaks, different colored lakes, and amazing high-altitude Andean landscapes, making this one of the most naturally stunning Peru treks. Rainbow mountain is also included on some of the Ausangate trekking routes. This is an Andean trek that thousands of people on popular hiking tours dream about when they purchase their plane tickets to Peru; a remote trail, magnificent views, a physical challenge, and a real adventure. The trek is a circuit around Ausangate mountain (6,384 m) the highest mountain in the Cusco region and generally departs from the small town of Tinki.
Machu Picchu might be super touristy, but it is still breathtakingly beautiful and belongs high up on any trekker's bucket list. This iconic Inca Archaeological site is the ultimate destination following if you are hiking through the Andes mountains. The Salkantay trek is the most popular alternative to the Inca Trail. It is less busy, cheaper, and slightly tougher than it’s more famous counterpart yet always has availability. It is important to acclimatize, trekking as high as 4600m through the Salkantay pass. The route is 70 km long going around the base of the famous Salkantay mountain passing through different scenery every day, varying from cloud forests to snowy passes. There are some supreme views on this trek that will stay with you forever. Take the hike that includes Humantay Lake on the first day, a lake so beautiful it is difficult to believe it is real, which is why Salkantay is still an iconic Peru hike to Machu Picchu.
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