Trekking Peru

An Overview of Peru’s Treks

Peru is a trekking paradise, with liberal helpings of ancient Incan ruins to soaring snow capped peaks, this country has something new to offer even the most seasoned trekker.  Of course there is Machu Picchu which is rightly the jewel of Peru’s ruins, and for most the only trek they will do in this wonderful country, but there is oh so much more to the country than that. Below is a sampling of treks, note that altitude acclimation is required for most as often you will be above 14,000ft (4267m)

Salkanty Trek
Distance: 37.5 miles (60k)
Days: 4-5
Highest point: 15,091ft (4600m)
Terrain Difficulty (1-5): 3
Route Finding Difficulty (1-5): 2

The Salkanty trek, named for Navado Salkanty the mountain that dominates the skyline for the first two days of the trek begins in the town of Mollepata 40 miles (60km) outside of Cusco.  This is an alternative route to Machu Picchu if you are not able to get a Inca Trail permit, it is also significantly cheaper as unlike the Inca Trail it can be done without a guide.  The trails are well trodden and the campgrounds have excellent facilities.

The first two days are filled with views of Salkanty right up and until you reach the highest point on the hike, the Salkanty pass, from there the views of the Willkapampa range are spectacular. The following days are occupied by cloud forests and hot springs, eventually from Hidroelectrica it is a short flat walk to Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes camping is not an option but their are a number of reasonably priced hostels.  The final morning is a grind up seemingly endless number of steps. The reward is of course Machu Picchu and it is worth the crowds. Note that if you are not part of a guided group you should buy your park entry in Cusco before departure, the same applies to your train ticket out of town.

Santa Cruz
Distance: 30 miles (45km)
Days: 3-4
Highest point: 15,583ft (4750m)
Terrain Difficulty: (1-5) 3.5
Route Finding Difficulty: (1-5) 3

Spectacular scenery abounds on this trek, the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca are the stars of this walk. Starting from Vaqueria and reversing the classic route is better for independent hikers as it makes transportation easier.  The trail takes you through a few villages where navigation can be tricky, friendly locals will point you in the right direction.

Laguna 69
Distance: 7.5miles (12km)
Days: 1
Highest point: 15,255ft (4660m)
Terrain Difficulty (1-5): 3
Route Finding Difficulty (1-5): 2

The unimaginatively named Laguna 69 delivers wow factor in spades. The steep trail leads to an azure lake fringed the snow capped peaks of Cordillera Blanca. Transport to the trail can be arranged  in Huaraz.

Colca Canyon
Distance: 20 miles (32km)
Days: 3
Highest point: 10,784 (3287m)
Terrain Difficulty (1-5): 2
Route Finding Difficulty (1-5): 1

Starting from Cabanaconde, the Colca Canyon trek takes you into one of the deepest canyons in the world, descending 10,750 (3270m) over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. There are a number of possible routes within the canyon, Pachmama hostel in Cabaconde gives a nightly talk on trekking options and sells a basic but helpful map.

The classic 3 day route, takes you to the Llahuar Lodge hot springs on the first night and the oasis of Sangalle on the second. This is very much a “glamping” hike, meals can be purchased along the route and if choose to you can dispense with your tent and stay at hostels. While not terribly challenging this is a fun area to spend a few days wandering.

Lares Trek
Distance: 21miles (34km)
Days: 3 days
Highest point 15,091ft: (4600m)
Terrain Difficulty: (1-5) 3
Route Finding Difficulty: (1-5) 3.5

Lares trek combines snow capped peaks and glacial lakes, wild camping on this trek is allowed and it is very easy to find a beautiful secluded spot to call home for the night. Some high passes and sketchy route finding make this a moderately challenging hike but the rewards are more than worth it.

Distance: 40 miles (60km)
Days: 4
Highest point 9,941ft (3030m)
Terrain Difficulty (1-5) 3
Route Finding Difficulty (1-5) 1

Starting in the town of Cachora located 100miles (160km) from Cusco, the trail leads to the incredible Incan ruins of Choquequirao. Comparable in scale to Machu Picchu, in a similarly stunning setting it gets a fraction of the visitors (on average 14 per day, compared to 2500 of its more famous neighbour).  With only one trail route finding is simple, the going can be knee knackeringly steep, the word flat could never be used to describe this trek, it descends 5020ft (1530m) on day one.  The campsite on the second day is just below the main ruins on an original Incan terrace with incredible views to the valley below.

Excellent sources of information include:
IGN maps of the area
The indispensable trekking Peru Bradt guide our other blog site.

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