The best of the best Peru hikes challenge your stamina, but reward you with breathtaking scenery and a chance to view a wide variety of historic sites. The list of best hikes in Peru also includes one of the most famous treks in the entire world – the Inca Trail, which occupies a place on the bucket list of many an avid hiker. Even if you can’t snag a permit for this trail, there are still alternative ways to hike to Machu Picchu that offer views just as spectacular along the way.
Because most of the best Peru hikes are in the towering Andes Mountains, they require a good amount of physical fitness. These aren’t the kind of hikes you attempt if you’re a couch potato at home. If you’re planning to do some trekking in Peru, be sure to do some training hikes and plenty of workouts at home to get your body in shape. Most of the hikes on this list are also located at high elevations, so build a couple of days into your trip to acclimatize to the altitude before you hit the trails. That time gives you a great opportunity to explore places like Cusco and other smaller villages. Check out this Peru bucket list for more great ideas for things to do before or in between the hikes you have planned.
Best multi-day Peru hikes
The trails listed here will take you anywhere from 2-12 days depending on which routes you choose, so they involve both a decent time commitment and good fitness levels. If you have your sights set on going trekking in Peru, these are the trails you’ll want to hit. Happy hiking!
4 days/27 miles
One of the most famous hiking routes in Peru is the Inca Trail. The classic 4-day trek is a challenging journey along ancient Inca roads that traverse through the Peruvian Andes.
The 44 km (27 mile) hike is a point-to-point trail that starts in the Sacred Valley and ends at Machu Picchu, the iconic Inca citadel. Trekking companies transport hikers to the trailhead at the Urubamba River, 82 km (51 miles) from Cusco, and accompany them throughout the entire hike, since the route can only be hiked with a licensed agency. Trekking companies also obtain the required permits and provide tents, food, cooking equipment, a chef, guides, and porters.
While hiking the Inca Trail, trekkers go through cloud forests, areas of alpine tundra, and high altitude mountain passes offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Besides the natural scenery, there are several impressive pre-Columbian ruins along the trail, including the Winay Wayna agricultural terraces and cliff-hugging town of Sayacmarca. Other notable spots on the hike are Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the trail at 4200 m (13,800 ft) above sea level, and the Sun Gate at the end of the trek where exhausted hikers get their first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
By Rhonda from Travel? Yes Please!
4 days/25 miles
High in the Vilcabamba mountain range, you’ll find Choquequirao – forgotten Inca ruins that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The site resembles Machu Picchu, but there’s one notable difference: far fewer people ever manage to get to Choquequirao. Its remote location at 3,000m (9,842 feet) atop a canyon ensures it stays uncrowded in a way that so few sites in the Sacred Valley are.
The only access to Choquequirao is via a quite tough 40km (25 mi) hike called The Choquequirao Trek. Unlike the Inca Trail, you don’t technically need a guide to hike it, but it can be nice to have a guide or muleteer with you in the interest of getting some context and supporting the local economy. Starting from Cachora (a small town about 3 hours from Cusco), you’ll hike or take a taxi to the Capuliyoc Mirador and embark on a steep descent into the canyon.
After an overnight at one of the campsites along the trail, you’ll undertake a steep climb back up to the other side and up to the ruins. The trail is full of switchbacks and false summits, and at some times of the year, the bugs or unshaded heat can be unbearable. And since it’s an out-and-back hike, you have two major ascents and two major descents over the course of four days, which can be mentally tough. But push through it. I swear you’re in for the experience of a lifetime.
The Choquequirao complex is made up of temples, residences, warehouses, chambers, and farming terraces. While it’s still being excavated, it already sprawls some 6km² (3.7 mi²) across a leveled mountain top. From the ruins, you can look out across neighboring peaks and into the valley below. And since the site averages 20 visitors a day, it’s not improbable that you’ll be the only one there. It’s Machu Picchu like you always imagined. It’s almost as if you can hear the sounds of life some 600 years ago.
By Taylor from Travel Outlandish
4-5 days/43 miles
The Ausangate trek is a multi-day high-altitude hike with a distance of 70km (43 mile) hike in the Peruvian mountains near Cusco with an average altitude of over 13,100 feet. Unlike most other hikes in the region, the Ausangate trekking route is not about Inca ruins – it’s all about beautiful scenery; snow peaks, glaciers, colorful mountain lakes, and the Rainbow Mountain.
The route takes 4 to 5 days to complete, hiking through remote areas in the mountains, and with a one-day detour from the route it’s possible to visit the Rainbow Mountain. It is a challenging hike requiring good acclimatization since the whole route is above 4000m (13,100 feet) with two passes over 5000m (16,400 feet). The hike is a circuit route that starts and finishes in a small town of Tinqui, about 62 miles from Cusco. The Ausangate is often done with a company or guide, but is possible to do independently. There are no special permits for the route, and the entrance fee of US $4 is paid at the exit from Tinqui.
Ausangate is a wild hike and trekkers have to carry all the necessary gear and food for the entire duration of the hike, water can be obtained on the way but it’s recommended to use a water filter or purifying tablets.
The scenery on the hike is astounding with bizarre mountain formations, lakes of different colors, hanging glaciers and the famous Rainbow Mountain, you will see hundreds of alpacas on green pasture fields with not another person in sight. The Ausangate trek in Peru is a highly recommended activity for those who likes hiking, adventure and mountains.
By Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
4 days/46 miles
One of the best hikes in Peru – if not the world – is the Salkantay Trek. This challenging hike winds around the imposing Mount Salkantay and ends in the town of Aguas Calientes before you tick off that bucket list favorite: Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay trek is an alternative to the well-known Inca Trail, and sees far fewer hikers. There are nights where your group will be the only people sleeping at a particular campsite. The trek is typically a five-day, four-night itinerary to complete the 74-kilometer (46 mile) route. The trail starts about 100 kilometers (62 miles) outside of Cusco.
There are many companies that coordinate the hike, but my recommendation is Alpaca Expeditions. You can also do the trek independently if you’re an experienced hiker and come prepared with adequate camping gear, including all your food. No special permits are required. The most challenging day of the Salkantay trek is day two, where hikers summit the Salkantay Pass, 4620 meters (15,157 feet) above sea level. Altitude sickness affects many people along the Salkantay trail, but the guides have plenty of experience in helping people deal with it.
Across the four days spent hiking, the trail leads through many different landscapes and climates: rocky fields cut with bubbling streams give way to snow-capped peaks and stunning turquoise lakes take your breath away (sometimes literally given the altitude!). Then, it’s not long before you’ll be stripping off your outer layers as you walk through tropical forest that provides the perfect climate for coffee growing.
A highlight is the campsite beside Llactapata, the site of some ancient ruins. From here, you’ll have a view across the valley of Machu Picchu. The fifth and final day is the reward for all your hard work: a day spent exploring Machu Picchu, one of the most incredible sites in the world.
By Rebecca from Rebecca and the World
4 days/34 miles
The Trek Gran Vilaya (also known as the Chachapoyas trek) is one of the best hikes in Northern Peru. This multi-day hike is located in the Cordillera Central, and it combines great landscapes, history, archaeology, and adventure. Because of its similitude with the Inca Trail, the Trek Gran Vilaya is often called the Inca Trail of the North.
The Trek Gran Vilaya (4 days and 3 nights, level difficult) is a mystic trek through the jungle, beautiful valleys, lost citadels (some of them still to be discovered), and Inca roads. It explores some of the main sights of the Chapapoyas, a people of warriors who controlled this area from AD500 until its defeat by the Incas in the XVth century.
The trek starts in the colonial city of Chapapoyas. On the main square (Plaza de Armas) there are some travel agencies that can help you organize the trip (guide, food, transportation, and accommodation).
During 4 days expect to walk an average of 6-7 hours per day, sometimes with important slopes (+1400 m, -1000m/+4600 ft, -3300 feet). The trek’s highlights (apart from the amazing panoramas) include the watching warriors’ sarcophagi in Karaija, or the citadels of Pirquilla and Lanche, the latest uncovered from the jungle only 3 years ago. The trek finishes at the sacred city of Kuelap, Chachapoyas’ main citadel and center of their power.
By Elisa from World in Paris
2-3 days/7.5-18.5 miles
The Colca Canyon trek is one of the best treks near Arequipa. Most people head to the Colca Canyon to see the famous Andean condors that fly through the valley. They are one of the largest birds in the world. But the birds are not the only attraction here, because they fly through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Peru.
The Colca Canyon is full of traditional villages rich in local culture and food. The area is home to the Collagua people that have been living there long before the Spanish and even before the Incas. The colorful dresses that the women still wear are a common sight in the Colca Canyon.
There are plenty of day tours from Arequipa, but the best way to explore Colca Canyon is by doing the Colca Canyon trek. You can do this either on your own or through a tour company. There are several routes going in and out of the canyon ranging from 12 to 30 kilometers (7.5-18.5 miles). Most start in the village of Cabanaconde where you can get by bus.
The Colca Canyon trek can be challenging, because it is one of the deepest canyons in South America. It’s a long steep descent into the canyon. Although some do the trek in only 2 days I would recommend 3 days to allow you some time in the villages where you can sleep in one of the homestay-like accommodation options.
It’s a tough climb up to get out of the canyon again, but the views are spectacular. The Colca Canyon trek is very rewarding and it will be a highlight of any Peru trip.
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
3 days/20 miles
The Lares Trek is one of the trails around Cusco that offers an alternative to the overcrowded Inca Trail. It goes along the Lares Valley towards Machu Picchu and passes through small communities, with dramatic landscapes as the backdrop.
One of the reasons the Lares Trek is so spectacular is that so few other people walk it. Unlike the Inca Trail, where you are always surrounded by hundreds of other hikers, you’ll probably only pass one or two other groups during your entire time on the Lares Trek. This means you’re able to enjoy the scenery uninterrupted.
And the scenery is incredible – with turquoise glacial lakes, jagged mountain tops, and long, green valleys. In the evenings, the sky lights up with one of the brightest star scenes you’ll ever see. During the day, it’s not just the landscapes that make the Lares Trek so enjoyable. You’ll also be able to interact with the local communities, as you pass through villages and grazing lands. There are opportunities to see some daily life, have a chat, and buy some local hand-made products.
The easiest way to do the Lares Trek is with an organized tour. You can arrange that in Cusco or with a larger international organization like G Adventures (who I did it with). If you’re doing it independently, you need to be very prepared – there is no obvious route to follow and the highest pass is 4800m (15,748 feet). The classic trail starts from the town of Lares and you’ll need to organize transportation to get there. The standard route is about 33 kilometers (20 miles) long, taking three days, and finishing at Ollantaytambo. However, there are lots of variations you can make along the way. Most people will camp but you can also organize a stay with local families. To get to Machu Picchu, you can catch the train (or a bus) to Aguas Calientes.
By Michael from Time Travel Turtle
Santa Cruz Trek
3-4 days/31 miles
While traveling in Peru, I did several multiday hikes. One of my favorites was the Santa Cruz trek in the Huascarán National Park, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The park is located on a stretch of the Central Peruvian Andes, and the closest major town is Huaraz, which is also the best base if you are thinking of visiting the area.
Most people start the trek in Vaquería and finish in Cashapampa, but you can also do it the other way around. The advantage of starting from Vaqueria is that, even though you get to the highest point on the trek much sooner, it’s all mostly downhill after Punta Union, the highest point at 4760m (15,617ft). However, if you are not fully acclimatized to the altitude, you might want to start from Cashapampa as we did. To get there, we took a bus from Huaraz to Caraz, and from there, we took a shared taxi to the starting point of the trail.
The best time to do this trek is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. The trek is about 50 km (31 miles) long, so it should take you about 3-4 days to complete. Since we did the Santa Cruz trek without a guide, we didn’t have to rush and took five days to complete it so we could enjoy better the places where we camped.
By Bianca from Nomadbiba
8-12 days/56-81 miles
The Huayhuash hike is located in northern Peru near the city of Huaraz. It is a circuit around the snow-covered peaks of the Huayhuash mountain range. You can either do 8, 10 or 12 days and will be hiking between 90km and 130km (56-81 miles) depending on exactly which path you take. The Huayhuash trek can be done independently or with a guide, though bear in mind you will need to pack enough food to last 5 days as it takes 5 days to get to the only village you will see on this hike and you will need to carry all your camping and cooking equipment as there is only toilets and water provided at the campsites.
If you plan to do the hike independently then on the first day you will need to take a van from Huaraz to Llamac and from there hike to the first campsite of Quartelhuain. If you go with a tour then after around 5 hours of driving from Huaraz you will arrive at the first campsite.
No permits are required in advance to do this hike, though you will need to pay the landowners to either cross their land or camp in their campsites, if you are doing as part of a tour then the company will collect this money from you beforehand and pay all the fees for you. This hike is not an easy hike – most of the time you are hiking between 4,500 meters and 5,500 meters (14,500-18,000 feet) and many people can have trouble with the altitude. The views though are amazing, the mountain range is truly stunning and the hikes over the passes blow your mind away. Sometimes the only thing you can say when you go around a corner is “wow.” It truly is one of the best hikes in Peru and certainly one of the best hikes in Huaraz.
By Clare from Travels in Peru
Best day hikes in Peru
These trails are shorter than the ones in the previous section and can be done in one day. The time required ranges from a couple hours to a whole half day, though the altitude and elevation gains they involve mean that many of them are still strenuous. The scenery is every bit as spectacular as it is on the longer Peru treks listed above, so check these out if you don’t have the time or desire to commit to a multi-night excursion.
3-4 hours/9 miles
Rainbow Mountain is one of the places in Peru and has recently risen to fame from Instagram. It’s not hard to see why – this multicolored mountain looks incredible and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Be warned, getting to Rainbow Mountain is no easy feat. It’s located about 3 hours from Cusco and is usually done as a day trip. You will leave at 3:30 am and arrive around 7-8am after having a small breakfast.
While it may not look like a tough climb, the altitude is a whopping 5000m (16,400 ft), and this makes hiking very difficult and slow. It’s really cold and windy at the top so be prepared and ensure you pack everything you need! I would recommend acclimating to the high altitude in Cusco for a few days before even attempting to hike Rainbow Mountain.
If you’re not up for the hike, there are horses that you can use for a price, of course. These horses are guided by local Peruvian guides who do the hike effortlessly and it’s really amazing to see.
After reaching the peak of Rainbow Mountain, to your right is a slightly higher peak which offers amazing 360° views of the valley. While you might feel like you are literally dying (from the lack of oxygen at this extremely high altitude), push through and go a little higher because the views are truly incredible.
Rainbow Mountain was one of the toughest Peru hikes I did, and also one of the most rewarding! It definitely deserves a spot high on our bucket list!
By Naomi from Eat Love Explore
3-4 hours/7.5 miles
There’s no shortage of spectacular Peru hikes. The problem is, many of them are multi-day treks that aren’t beginner-friendly. The Laguna 69 hike is one of the most beautiful hikes in Peru that can be done by inexperienced trekkers and only lasts half a day. A half-day might not sound like much, but it’s an adventure you won’t want to miss.
The best way to do this hike is through a tour agency operating out of Huaraz. A tour is not required, but it’s both safer and cheaper, so there’s really no reason not to. With a tour, all you have to do is show up at the dedicated meet point, and you won’t have to worry about confusing transportation.
The hike is an out and back that lasts around 6 hours total. Depending on your hiking speed, it’ll take around 3.5 to get to the top, then another 2 hours to get back down. The entire hike is stunning, but the real gem is the crystal blue laguna at the top.
Even though the terrain itself isn’t too difficult, it’s important to remember that you’ll be hiking at around 15,000 feet (4,600m), and altitude sickness can be a real issue. I recommend taking things slow and steady, especially if you haven’t had time to properly acclimatize. The altitude makes it a challenge, but it’s totally worth it. I guarantee it’ll be a hike you’ll never forget!
By Mitch Glass from Project Untethered
1-2 hours/5 miles
Humantay Lake is a beautiful green/blue glacial lake nestled between snow-capped mountains high in the Andes. You can hike to the lake as part of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu or you can take a day trip from Cusco, either by booking with a tour company or arranging for a taxi and doing the hike yourself. If you self-guide, be aware that there is a 10 soles entry fee to the national park where the hike starts.
The route up to Humantay Lake is quite steep, but it is short enough and the views are stunning. With mountains all around and a view down into the valley below, this hike is worth it. Towards the top of the climb, before reaching the lake you will hike along some narrower more rocky paths but nothing difficult or technical.
From the Humantay Lake parking lot you walk 5-10 minutes to the head of the trail. This hike should take around one to two hours depending on your level of fitness and brings you back to the parking lot.
Be aware that Humantay Lake sits 13,90 feet (4200 m) so it can get a little chilly. Even though you will likely be warm while hiking, pack layers and a hat so you can enjoy the views at the top without feeling too cold.
You should take hiking poles, toilet paper and spare change for the bathrooms, warm layers and a hat, sun lotion, plenty of water and some snacks, and your camera. Planning to visit Peru? Take a look at this succinct South America Packing list to help you pack for three months in hand luggage only.
By Jo from Backpack and Bushcraft
2 hours/3 miles
Most people who travel to Peru visit the most typical attractions – Huacacina, Arequipa, Puno, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Marcahuasi, on the other hand, is a place that not many even know about- including Peruvians. There’s a bit of mystery about this site. Some research says it’s an archaeological site. Others, however, claim it is the result of natural erosion.
The site is set at over 4000 meters (13,100 feet) above sea level and it’s not exactly easy to reach. You have to get to San Pedro de Casta (100 km [62 miles], several bus changes and a 5-hour drive from Lima). You can hike directly from there. The trail is easy to follow but the hike is strenuous due to the altitude. Make sure to factor in at least a night in San Pedro de Casta as buses are not reliable.
The village is tiny village – no more than 300 inhabitants. There is one “hospedaje municipal” with basic rooms (no running water at night and a shower but with only cold water) and a couple of eateries. It’s VERY cold so go prepared with plenty of layers and bring food and water for the hike.
By Claudia from My Adventures Across the World
2 hours or 5 hours/1 mile or 12 miles
Lake Parón, one of the most popular hikes in Huaraz, is known for its breathtaking views and iconic backdrops. Though located ~4200m (13,800 feet) above sea level, Lake Parón is actually one of the easier hikes in Huaraz due to its short duration. The actual hike itself is short (1 hour up, 45 mins down), but the altitude can be problematic even for physically fit individuals. There is a longer trail route if you don’t start from the lake itself. It is advised to acclimatize to this altitude by staying a few days in Huaraz and doing some of the even easier hikes around the area such as the Wilcacocha Lagoon. The hike starts at the bottom of the lake, where you already have an amazing view of it and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The short hike takes you up to the nearby vantage where you will get a panoramic view of Lake Parón, as well as a partial view of Artesonraju mountain, the poster logo for the famous film company Paramount.
Lake Parón is located inside Huascarán National Park and accessibility is not so easy. My recommendation is to take a tour from the nearby city of Huaraz. It is a much more comfortable and cheaper option. Though if you do want to spend a little more time at Lake Parón or have it to yourself, consider staying in Caraz and then taking a mixture of local transportation and taxi to get there. However, it is not going to be easy.
By Sean from Living Out Lau
Not quite ready to go trekking in Peru? Or looking for some other activities to fill in the time? Check out some of my favorite things to do:
- Peru Bucket List
- Maras & Moray via Taxi Tour
- Things to Do in Cusco
- Magic Water Fountains in Lima
- New Rules for Visiting Machu Picchu
Don’t forget to save these Peru hikes for later on Pinterest!