Your guide to hiking in Peru: the most amazing destinations and useful tips!
Peru has forever been a top bucket-list country for backpackers heading to Latin America. With snow-capped Andean peaks, fiery volcanoes, and some of the largest waterfalls in the world, it’s no wonder that Peru is one of the most popular places to visit.
This guide will explore hiking in Peru, and why this Andean nation is one of the best to explore off-road.
Specifically, it will look at four destinations in Peru that are great for hiking, how to get there, organizing independent trips where possible, and other important details.
Why Hike In Peru?
Peru is a fantastic country to hike. The South American nation is one of the most diverse, with many different biomes to explore, such as the sweltering jungle, mountainous highlands, as well as the alpine, emerald-colored lakes hidden within the Andes.
For anyone thinking of embarking on a South America backpacking trip, Peru has many off the beaten path hikes that can be done, which means you can feel like you’re truly exploring a new gem instead of treading with the endless waves of tourists behind you.
Whilst resting between hikes, you can then explore the amazing colonial towns and fascinating cities around where you’ll be based. The destinations covered later in this guide are a gem in their own right, home to lots of pre-Colombian cultures, authentic Peruvian customs as well as some really great foods typical of this South American gem.
Despite its large size, getting around Peru is actually relatively easy and cheap. All of the destinations listed here can be reached by bus from Lima, with domestic flights sometimes even as cheap!
Buses will most likely be overnight with some up to 20 hours; however, the bus quality is usually very good with fully reclining seats, not to mention costing very little even for the long haul trips.
Peruvian Hiking Destinations
This section will now explore four of the top destinations in Peru for hiking. Each includes the best trips that can be taken, as well as how to get there and other important tips.
Huaraz is the undisputed king when it comes to hiking in Peru. Located within the Cordillera Blanca, here is where the famous towering Andes mountains and snow-topped peaks can be found.
Huaraz itself is a small city that is surrounded by mountains, located at an altitude of 3050m. It’s a great place to stay for a few days to get acclimated and also to buy any altitude sickness medications.
The city is also a perfect jumping-off point for hikes into the region. Whilst some of these (such as Laguna Parón) are very touristy, there are some others that are more off the beaten path.
Even if going with a tour, prices are still quite low (sometimes as low as $20 for a day tour with everything included), which makes for a bargain day trip.
Nevado Mateo is one of these. Located within the Cordillera Blanca, this mountain is great for those looking for a more intermediate climb.
It’s possible to visit by yourself with the surrounding mountains making for some awesome photoshoots, however, any ascent is best with a pro tour guide who knows the mountain well, as it can sometimes be dangerous depending on the weather and mountain conditions.
Of all the destinations that made it onto this list, Chachapoyas is by far the least heard of and visited. Located in the north of Peru, this region is great for hiking in the jungle and Sierra regions.
The city itself is perfectly located to explore most of these hikes within a day, with plenty of options available. To get here from Lima it’s easiest to first fly to Jaén and then take the bus to Chachapoyas in around 5 hours.
The best off-the-beaten-path hike to be done from here is Yumbilla Falls.
Hardly heard of in comparison with the more popular Gocta Falls, Yumbilla is actually one of the tallest in the world at 896m (the fifth tallest overall), however, was only recently discovered hence the low-key vibe is still retained.
The hike here starts with a bus to Pedro Ruiz and then a moto-taxi, taking you to the remote village of Cuispes. From here, you’ll then be walking for an hour along the unmarked path through the jungle.
The route will pass by smaller waterfalls and impressive mirador views before arriving at Yumbilla.
Here, it’s possible to see both the first waterfall drop below and also stand face to face with the crashing second waterfall.
This imperial, colonial city is often the highlight of any trip to Peru.
Located high up in the mountains at an altitude of 3400m, Cusco is one of the most spectacular cities to visit in the Andes. With narrow, winding streets, ancient ruins, and its own unique culture, it’s possible to spend weeks, if not months, here.
There are also many great hikes to be done in the region. Most guides focus on hiking Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail; however, this guide will cover a lesser-known gem.
The Ausangate National Park is located around 2/3 hours from Cusco. With dizzying peaks of over 6000m, the landscapes here are truly breathtaking.
It’s also well known for its seven brightly colored lakes, which range in colors from blood red and turquoise to crystal-clear blue. The national park can be reached by car, whilst also possible independently.
Most go by tour, however, once you’ve arrived there’s a small cafe where one can prepare for the trek. It’s recommended to take altitude sickness tablets or drink coca leaf tea beforehand as the altitude here can bring in symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.
It’s also recommended to arrive early in the morning and start the hike early, as it will take around 3/4 hours to complete the circuit. By mid-afternoon, the winds become bitterly cold, so it’s best to finish before or to bring extra layers in case.
Arequipa really is a striking city. It’s known for its impressive architecture, with lots of buildings and monuments built from the volcanic “Sillar” white rocks.
It’s located around 1010km south of Lima and can be reached by bus in around 17 hours from the capital.
The other main draw here is the volcanic landscapes, and upon arriving, one will be greeted with a backdrop of the three main volcanoes of the area: El Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu.
It’s also a great area for exploring the Colca Canyon located nearby, and at a depth of 3400km, it is one of the deepest canyons in the World.
The Colca Canyon is one of the best independent hiking trips that can be done in the region, if not in the whole country.
Whilst most head-on one-day tours, these only really scratch the surface of this impressive natural spectacle. Taking the bus from Arequipa (or driving), one can arrive at the Colca Canyon and first see the Mirador Cruz del Condor.
Here is one of the tallest points of the canyon, where condors soar just below, allowing visitors a glimpse of the famous Andean bird going about its everyday life.
Afterward, one can head deeper into the canyon and explore remote villages along the way, such as Chivay. Further within, there are many stunning lakes, rivers, and crevices to be explored.
Recommendations For Hiking In Peru
The most important tip we can recommend is to take the altitude seriously. In some parts of Peru (as mentioned earlier in the destinations), elevations regularly soar above 3000+m, and sometimes up to 5000-6000m.
At this level, it becomes very difficult to breathe with less oxygen in the air, commonly resulting in altitude sickness. The best ways to prepare for this are to acclimatize properly by spending a few days at a similar altitude before hiking, as well as taking altitude sickness medications.
These can be pills bought from any Inkafarma or pharmacy in most higher-altitude Peruvian towns or drinking Coca-leaf tea that is also common in these areas.
Another recommendation is to consider going with a tour to some of these destinations.
Whilst a lot of these can easily be done independently (which have been stated where possible), some would be downright reckless to try alone, not to mention if you don’t have the right experience level. These include some of the hikes in Huaraz, for example, where there are some dangerous parts, not to mention the weather changing randomly at will.
Despite the reluctance to go on a tour, they are still very cheap in Peru, with day trips sometimes only around $20. And for the price, you’ll have all gear, food, and an experienced guide all included!
Peru, overall, is an incredible country to visit.
With its rich history, indigenous cultures, and colonial cities to explore, this Andean nation is a must-visit when heading to South America.
However, perhaps the biggest pull to this Latin American nation is its spectacular landscapes, which are great for hiking trips.
This guide has covered Peru and the main reasons why one should hike here. It’s looked at four top hiking destinations and the best trips that can be done from each.
Finally, this guide has explored some of the best recommendations that should be followed to have the best experience possible.
About The Authors Of “Hiking In Peru”
Dan and George are two seasoned travelers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no-nonsense backpacking guides. You can read all about their Latin adventures on BLATAM.
Thanks for stopping by!
If you enjoyed this post featuring a guide to hiking in Peru, please pin it on Pinterest to help it reach more readers!
You may also enjoy: Top 5 Things To Do In Bali.