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February 4, 2021 adventure, nature, peru

27 Best Treks in Peru: Hiking in the Andes and Beyond

Check out our list of the top 27 best treks in Peru, with hikes like Ausangate, Rainbow Mountain, Laguna 69, Inca Trail, Kuelap, Huayna Picchu and more.
Hikers on the Salkantay Trek in Peru.
Hikers on the Salkantay Trek in Peru.

When it comes to hiking in Peru, there is truly something for everyone. We have identified the 27 best treks in Peru for you to explore, noting the trek overview, the experience, the difficulty level and the highlights of each. Whether you want an easy hike in the tropics or you’re ready to embark on a week-long alpine adventure, you will find your perfect Peru hike right here. The list includes hikes as long as 12 days to as short as 1 hour. You’ll find well-known hikes like the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek, and lesser-known ones like Marcahuasi and Laguna Churup. By the end, you’ll realize why Peru is considered a hiker’s paradise.

Best Treks in Peru

Table of Contents

1. Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu (8 days)

  • Duration: 8 Days
  • Distance: Approx. 62 miles (101 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 3,280-15,354 feet (1,000-4,680 m)

Choquequirao is a Quechua word that translates to “cradle of gold” and is considered the sister city of Machu Picchu. The trek allows you to see both of these awe-inspiring citadels hidden in the majestic Andes on one unforgettable adventure. Aside from exploring the well-preserved Inca ruins that were once metropolises for nobles and priestesses, you’ll see some of the most beautiful vistas, flora and fauna that the Andes has to offer.

The launching point for this trek is the historic city of Cusco. From there you will be transported to the village of Cachora, which is the starting point of the trek. The trail traverses mountain passes, glacial lakes, fertile river valleys, high jungle and canyons, taking you to Choquequirao on day 3 and Machu Picchu on the last day.

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Difficulty

Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu is considered moderate, as much of it is at a fairly low elevation. However, there are a couple strenuous days mixed in as you go pretty steadily uphill for two days straight. There is also a mountain pass that reaches over 15,000 feet. That being said, anyone with a good level of fitness and hiking experience should be able to do this trek.

Highlights of Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu
  • Flora and Fauna. This trek goes through cloud forest, high jungle and alpine terrain, so you can see an amazing variety of plant life and animals. Spot tarucas (Andean deer), anteaters, condors, hummingbirds, butterflies, Andean condors and maybe even the spectacled bear among the orchids, violets, fruit trees and lush green vegetation.
  • Choquequirao. This site is amazing because there are far fewer tourists but it’s just as amazing a ruin as Machu Picchu. Located in the canyon of the Apurimac River, this ancient citadel comprises 12 sectors including ceremonial, residential, astronomic, plaza, llama and food storage sectors.
  • Yanama’s Pass. The highest point in the trek, Yanama Pass takes you to 15,354 feet above sea level to a phenomenal viewpoint of the surrounding Andes.
  • Machu Picchu. The new world wonder of Machu Picchu is the ultimate way to end this spellbinding trek. A UNESCO-World Heritage site, these famous ruins are a must-see on any visit to Peru.

Hike with us! Check out our Choquequirao to Machu Picchu daily itinerary.

The lush ruins of Choquequirao nestled on the green Andean hillside with a cascade in the distance.

Machu Picchu’s sister site “Choquequirao” with beautiful cascade in the distance. Image by Matthew Barker of Peru for Less.

2. Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (5 days)

  • Duration: 5 days
  • Distance: 43 miles (70 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6,070-15,000 feet (1,850-4,600 m)

For nature lovers, the Salkantay Trek may very well be the ultimate way to get to Machu Picchu. At 20,574 feet above sea level, Salkantay Mountain is the highest in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range and 12th highest in Peru. Salkantay actually translates from Quechua to savage or invincible, and you’ll see why the first moment you catch a glimpse of this piercing snow-capped peak. The trek showcases some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Andes, transitioning from rolling valleys to alpine passes to high jungle. The trek itself can be done in either 4 or 5 days. There is also a Salkantay Lodge-to-Lodge trek where it’s the same hike but you spend each night in the comfort of a warm bed.

The hike begins in the village of Soraypampa then crosses through Andean valleys before reaching Salkantay Pass on day two. From there it descends along rivers and lush greenery through the high jungle and ends in the town of Aguas Calientes, from which point you head over to the Machu Picchu citadel.

Salkantay Trek Difficulty

Besides day two, this trek is considered moderate. Day two is a challenging day where a steep switchback takes you to 15,000 feet above sea level for a breathtaking view of Salkantay Mountain. Overall, anyone with hiking experience and good level of physical fitness should be able to do this trek. However, those who are worried about the high altitude ascent on day two may want to consider hiring a horse for that day.

Highlights of Salkantay Trek
  • Salkantay Pass. Though the ascent to Salkantay Pass is challenging, the pass itself is unbelievably beautiful with Salkantay and nearby mountains right in front of you and maybe a refreshing snow flurry to complete the experience. Here you can build a stone tower, or apacheta, as an Inca sign of respect to the sacred mountain, or apu.
  • High Jungle. The high jungle of the Andes is a lush wonderland, where you get to hike alongside roaring rivers, while wandering among native trees, waterfalls, and coffee and fruit plantations. You’ll enjoy this delightful ecosystem on day 3 and 4 of your trek.
  • Santa Teresa Hot Springs. Usually on day 3 of your trek there is an optional drive to Santa Teresa hot springs once you reach the campsite. These relaxing thermal pools are the perfect place to rejuvenate after a long day.
  • Machu Picchu. After spending a night at your Aguas Calientes hotel where you can rest and freshen up, you will explore the entire Machu Picchu citadel with an expert local guide early morning of day 5.

Check out what you’ll do each day on the 5-day Salkantay Trek.

3. Ausangate Trek (6 days)

  • Duration: 6 days
  • Distance: 41 miles (66 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 12,395-16,814 feet (3,778-5,125 m)

Apu Ausangate or Ausangate Mountain is considered by the people of the Andes to be a holy mountain. It is also the fourth highest mountain in Peru at 20,945 ft (6,384 m) and the highest in the Vilcanota Mountain Range. While for tourists a hike to Ausangate is an unforgettable adventure, for the local people it is considered a sacred pilgrimage. Whether you are looking to traverse some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, or wanting to tap into that sanctity on a reflective journey, this is the experience for you.

The trek launches from the city of Cusco and the trailhead is in the village of Tinki. On this hike you’ll traverse around grasslands, valleys, lakes and mountain passes; and circle near Ausangate about halfway through. The trek actually ends in the town of Tinki as well, where you will celebrate the end of your voyage with a traditional Pachamanca lunch.

Ausangate Trek Difficulty

For three of the six days the gradient is considered strenuous and challenging, not only for the distance and steepness but the elevation as well. The highest mountain pass is almost 17,000 feet above sea level with two other days well above 15,000. The other half of the trek is considered moderate. Trekkers should have a good level of physical fitness and some experience hiking at high elevations.

Highlights of Ausangate Trek
  • Andahuaylillas. On day one before your trek even begins you will make a stop at the town of Andahuaylillas, notably San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas Church. This beautiful church is known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes.”
  • Abra Palomani Pass. This is the highest pass of the trek, taking you to a soaring 16,800 ft above sea level. From here you’ll get unique views of Ausangate and the whole Vilcanota Range.
  • Pacchanta Hot Springs. On day 5, after a challenging hike with elevations reaching 16,633 feet, you can reward yourself in the Pacchanta Hot Springs. These mineral rich thermal baths can soothe your muscles and relax your mind.
  • Pachamanca. Pachamanca in Quechua means earth oven, and it is a traditional style of cooking where meats, corn, potatoes, lima beans and herbs are buried in the earth and cooked. You’ll enjoy this delicious, ancient meal on the last day of your trek.

Click here to learn more about hiking the sacred Ausangate Trek.

Blue skies and sacred Ausangate Mountain, which is the star of the 6-day Ausangate Trek in Peru.

Ausangate Mountain is considered sacred. Image: “Sunset on the Cordillera Vilcanota snow-capped mountains” by sergejf on Flickr under the CC BY 2.0 License / cropped, compressed and resized from original.

4. Vilcabamba/Espiritu Pampa Trek (7 days)

  • Duration: 7 days
  • Distance: Approx. 44 miles (71 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 1,945-12,664 feet (593-3,860 m)

This lesser known trek beholds everything you’d wish for on an Andean adventure: Inca ruins, snow-capped mountains, green river valleys, high jungle and even semi-tropical rainforests — without the crowds. Vilcabamba translates from Quechua to “sacred plain” and is commonly known today as Espiritu Pampa, which translates from Spanish to “plain of the spirit.” On the Vilcabamba/Espiritu Pampa Trek, you’ll traverse some of the most beautiful parts of the Vilcabamba mountain range, making your way to the Vilcambamba or Espiritu Pampa ruins embedded in the lush jungle nearby the Chontabamba River.

This trek launches from the city Cusco, where you’ll take a transfer to the village of Huancacalle to start toward your first archaeological sites of Rosapata and Vitcos. After coursing through mountain passes, valleys and rainforests you make your way to Espiritu Pampa on the final days and depart from the village of Kiteni along the Urubamba. Prefer to see the Vilcabamba Range and Machu Picchu? No Problem! The 5 day Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek will give you the best of both worlds.

Vilcabamba Trek Difficulty

This trek is rated moderate, with the 2nd day being the hardest as you reach the 12,664 foot (3,860 m) mountain pass. From there it’s downhill through the high jungle and rainforest with 4 to 7-hour days of hiking. Anyone with a fair level of physical fitness and love for nature and hiking can do this trek.

Highlights of the Vilcabamba Trek
  • Collpajasa Pass. Collpajasa Pass is the highest point of this trek. At 12,664 feet you reach another ecological zone: the altiplano. Here you’ll enjoy well-earned mountain vistas before heading back down into the high jungle along the Pampacona River.
  • Huayna Pukara Sector. This is the very land where the Inca took their last stand of resistance against the Spanish. You will learn from your local guide how the Inca fought right up until Spanish victory on these ancient grounds.
  • Espiritu Pampa Ruins. Espiritu Pampa was the last city of the Inca, where they took refuge for decades during the Spanish invasion. See these storied ruins overgrown by lush plant life.
  • Siete Tinajas Falls. A nice touch on the last day of your hike, you can enjoy the beautiful and refreshing Siete Tinajas Falls in the town of Quillabamba.

Check out the daily breakdown of our fascinating Vilcabamba/Espiritu Pampa Trek.

Trekking Tours:

5. Inca Trail (4 days)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Distance: 31.2 miles (50 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 7,972-13,828 feet (2,430-4,214 m)

The Inca Trail follows the footpaths of ancient Inca nobles through mountain and cloud forest to the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The classic trail takes 4 days and is considered one of the top 10 in the world. Hikers from all over the globe flock to this popular trek, which must be booked at least 6 months in advance during high season as permits sell out quickly. This trail is a protected archaeological site, with precious ruins and beautiful Andean scenery throughout.

The Inca Trail launches from Cusco and the trailhead is in the village of Piscacucho. From there, you’ll course past river valleys, alpine tundra, lush cloud forests, archaeological sites, and ancient tunnels and stairways. Finally on day 4 you’ll enter Machu Picchu through the Inti Punku, or Sun Gate, to start your exploration of the famed ruins. The variety of natural landscapes and ancient ruins make this one of the best treks in Peru.

Inca Trail Difficulty

The Inca Trail is rated moderate to strenuous. The strenuous part is mostly due to the steep ascent and switchbacks on day two. The highest point, Dead Woman’s Pass, takes you to 13,828 feet above sea level so it’s a good idea to acclimate 2-3 days before your trek begins. Anyone with a good level of physical fitness and some experience hiking should be able to do this trek.

Highlights of the Inca Trail
  • Patallacta Ruins. Patallacta is a very interesting Incan Archaeological site. Translated from Quechua, Patallacta means “settlement on a platform,” and the ruins are indeed that. It is a raised site of about 100 houses, plus terraces and a shrine for ritual ceremonies that you’ll see on day one.
  • Dead Woman’s Pass. This is the highest pass of the trek at 13,828 feet (4,214 m) above sea level. Though the ascent is challenging, you’ll be awarded gorgeous vistas of the Vilcanota and Vilcabamba Mountain Chain.
  • Phuyupatamarca. Phuyupatamarca, which means “Town in the Clouds,” is a very special ancient town that you’ll pass on your way to Machu Picchu. It is characterized by irrigation systems, terraces and ritual baths once used by Inca priests. It is believed this site was a place of worship to water.
  • Wiñay Wayna Ruins. This beloved archaeological site is also the location of your campsite on your final night. Wiñay Wayna translates from Quechua to Forever Young. This impressive Inca construction was built on a steep hill overlooking the Urubamba River.
  • Machu Picchu. Last but certainly not least, you will enter Machu Picchu through the iconic sun gate at the crack of dawn to explore. See Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana Stone and more with an expert guide.

See the daily breakdown of the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and be sure to reserve your spot in advance.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with its green terraced mountainsides on a cloudy day.

Ancient Inca ruins along the Inca Trail in Peru. Image by Peru for Less.

6. Alpamayo Base Camp (10 day)

  • Duration: 10 Days
  • Distance: Approx. 63 miles (102 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 9,500-15,700 feet (2,900-4,785 m)

This is an incredible hike that gives you panoramic views of Peru’s famous Cordillera Blanca. The centerpiece of this trek is the striking Alpamayo Mountain. This 19,500 foot (6,000 m) peak covered in snow spikes steeply into the sky. An otherworldly vision for hikers, it is considered by some mountaineers to be the most beautiful mountain in the world. The name Alpamayo translated from Quechua to “earth river.” You’ll see this and so much more on your 10 day journey through the Andes.

The launching point for this trek is the city of Huaraz. Then, a car ride takes you to Vaqueria where your trek begins. The trail courses past glacial lakes, high passes, and green valleys and ends at the village of Hualcayan.

Alpamayo Base Camp Difficulty

Alpamayo Base Camp hike is rated strenuous. Though it dips under 10,000 feet in elevation on the last day, this trek is well above 13,000 feet from start to finish. Trekkers should have experience hiking at high altitude before embarking on this trek.

Highlights of Alpamayo Base Camp Trek:
  • Jancapampa Valley. Typically on day 4 you’ll camp in the beautiful Jancapampa Valley with views of the 19,835 foot Pucajirca Mountain. You’ll also find the Pishgopampa Village and see local residents.
  • Gara Gara Pass. Though considered the most challenging alpine pass of the trek, it provides the best views of Alpamayo, Jancarurish and Quitaraju mountains. You’ll ascend to 15,846 feet (4830 m) on this rewarding day.
  • Jancarurish Camp. From this camp, where you will typically spend nights 6 and 7, you can admire the star of the trek: Alpamayo Mountain. You can see for yourself why it is considered the most beautiful mountain in the world. Take an optional hike on your free day to Laguna Jancarurish for an even closer look.

7. Huayhuash Circuit (12 days)

  • Duration: 12 days
  • Distance: Approx. 76 miles (120 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 10,800–17,500 feet (3,300-5,350 m)

Located in the Andes Mountains of Peru you’ll find the Huayhuash Circuit, one of the most revered mountain circuits in the world. The compact Cordillera Huayhuash, or Huayhuash Range, is characterized by high altitude passes, vibrant turquoise lakes, Andean flora and fauna and soaring snow-capped peaks. There are even some hot springs along the way to soothe your muscles and warm your bones after a long day of hiking.

The launching point for this trek is the town of Huaraz. From there, you’ll be taken to the village of Llamac, which is both the start and end point of the circuit. The classic circuit as done with a tour typically takes 12 days, though some operators and independent hikers can complete it in 8–10.

Huayhuash Circuit Difficulty

Huayhuash Circuit is rated strenuous and is recommended for serious trekkers only, who are accustomed to cold weather and high elevations. With many of the passes above 16,400 feet (5000 m), this rugged trek attracts seasoned alpine hikers from around the globe.

Highlights of Huayhuash Circuit:
  • Yerupaja Mountain. Front row view of Yerupaja Mountain, the 2nd highest mountain in Peru and actually the 2nd highest tropical mountain in the world.
  • Siula Peak. Mountaineers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates scaled this peak in the 80s and Simpson even wrote a famous book about their experience on Siula called Touching the Void.
  • Lake Viconga. Enjoy the Guñoc Hot Springs at Lake Viconga, which you make your way to around day 6 of your trip. Perfect place to rejuvenate halfway through the trek.
  • Optional Climbs. You can enjoy some amazing optional climbs, like Nevado Pumarinri (17,900 ft) and Diablo Mudo (17,500 ft).
  • Wildlife. This trek is sprinkled with the magic of Peru, not only in the gorgeous landscape, but the animals that live there. Spot alpaca, llamas, Andean condors, Andean mountain cat and more along the way.
Steep snow-covered peak of the Yerupaja Mountain, which can be see on the Huayhuash Circuit Hike.

Along the Huayhuash Circuit you’ll see Yerupaja Mountain, the 2nd highest mountain in Peru. Image: “The south face of Yerupaja” by Jeremyfrimer, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 License / cropped, resized and compressed from original.

8. Cotahuasi Canyon (4 days)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Distance: Day hikes ranging from 3-5 hours
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 1,969-12,795 feet (600-3,900 m)

If you’re a hiker heading over to the Arequipa area of Peru, you definitely want to explore Cotahuasi. Cotahuasi Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, with waterfalls, petroglyphs and Andean wildlife hidden like treasures within it. The trek itself is not a point-to-point trek but rather a series of day treks that often start and end at the same campsite or village. Each day you can explore a different highlight of the canyon, usually first by being transported to the trailhead and then embarking on the hikes, which are about 3-5 hours or so. Keep in mind exact hikes may vary depending on what tour operator you choose.

The treks within Cotahuasi launch from Cotahuasi Village, which is located about 6 hours by car from Arequipa. From there you are transferred to your trek of the day, whether it be an archaeological site, a waterfall, hot spring, ruin or viewpoint. This remote, off-the-beaten-path hiking destination is full of amazing surprises. Plus, seeing the deepest canyon in the Americas is a huge travel accomplishment. A visit to Cotahuasi can be extended to around 7 days if desired, which just means exploring more of its hidden wonders.

Cotahuasi Canyon Difficulty

The trek difficulty for Cotahuasi is considered easy to moderate, with longer hikes having a couple strenuous points. The length of the treks are not too long, about 3-5 hours and you have plenty of time to rest before and after them. Some uphill parts can make you a bit winded since they can reach over 12,000 feet, but anyone with a bit of hiking experience should be fine. It’s a good idea to acclimate for a day or 2 before embarking on the treks.

Highlights of Cotahuasi Canyon
  • Toro Muerto. Toro Muerto, which translates to dead bull, is a collection of around 3000 rocks with petroglyphs etched into them. They date back to 500 to 1000 CE and you get to see these little wonders on a trip to Cotahuasi.
  • Sipia Waterfalls. Sipia waterfall is nearly 500 feet (150 m) tall and located just 3 hour walk from the town of Cotahuasi. On a visit to the fall you’ll look down from the top of it into the deep cavernous rocks it showers below.
  • Maukallaqta. Maukallaqta is a lesser known but highly fascinating Inca ruin. In fact, it can quite possibly be the very first city the Inca ever built. Explore the canals, walls, doorways and staircases of this underrated site.
  • Luicho Hot Springs. You will have the option to relax in the Luicho Hot Springs while admiring the river and beautiful canyon landscapes.

9. Lares Trek (4 days)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Distance: 21 miles (34 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6,690-14,600 feet (2,040-4,450 m)

The Lares Trek is a popular trek option to Machu Picchu, especially for lovers of culture. This 4 day hike takes you through the mountains, valleys and villages that lead you to the famous citadel. It’s an excellent option for adventurers who would also like more insight into traditional Andean cultures and how locals have adapted to the modern day — all while preserving and honoring their ancient heritage. You’ll have a chance to see residents’ textiles and ceramics, and even directly support them by purchasing a one-of-a-kind handmade item.

The hike launches from Cusco then takes off from the trailhead in the charming Lares Village. The trek begins by weaving through the Lares Valley, coursing high mountain passes, traditional weaving towns and picturesque lakes. It then reaches the town of Ollantaytambo, known for its ancient Inca fortress, then continues onto Aguas Calientes. After a night relaxing at an Aguas Calientes hotel, you can get rested and ready for the grand finale: your tour of Machu Picchu.

Lares Trek Difficulty

Lares Trek is moderate overall, but there is one quite challenging ascent to a 14,600 foot pass (4,450 m). You will hike 4-7 hours per day. Anyone with some hiking experience who has acclimated in Cusco 2-3 days before the trek should be fine.

Highlights of Lares Trek
  • Andean Villages. The thing that really sets this trek apart from others in the area is the cultural experiences along the way. You will be visiting Andean villages, meeting local residents and learning about their traditional ways of life. You’ll also see their beautiful handcrafts.
  • Ipsayccasa Pass. On day 2 you reach the highest point of the trek. Ipsayccasa Pass is 14,600 feet above sea level and provides a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains before your descent into the remote town of Patacancha.
  • Machu Picchu. On day 4 you will tour the Machu Picchu citadel. See the iconic ruins, snap the perfect picture and even opt for a hike within Machu Picchu to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (permit must be reserved far in advance).

Embark on a cultural adventure – see the Lares Trek itinerary.

Local guide and his horse on the grassy hilly along the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Taking a rest along the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. Image: Matthew Barker Peru for Less.

10. Huchuy Qosqo Hike (2 days)

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Distance: 10 miles (16 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 9,708-13,934 feet (2959-4247 m)

Huchuy Qosqo is an ancient pre-Inca settlement. The name, also spelled Yuchuy Cuzco, translates from Quechua to “little Cusco.” A hike to these ruins is a unique adventure that takes you through valleys, mountains and lakes characteristic to the Cusco region. The ruins, which you’ll explore on day 2, sit at 11,980 feet (2,920 m), on a green terraced hill. You’ll feel how special this place is when you go over the Inca bridge and follow a stone walkway to get there. This hike is the perfect little addition to your trip to the Andes, and a wonderful way to experience the Sacred Valley.

The Huchuy Qosqo Trek launches from Cusco and the trailhead begins at the ruins of Tambomachay just outside the city. From there you will hike Tambomachay Valley, various high mountain passes, admire the Ccauca ravine and make a stop at the Qeullacocha Lagoon before the campsite in the community of Pacamarca. The next day you’ll make your way to the ruins and then finish your trek in the village of Lamay.

Huchuy Qosqo Hike Difficulty

Huchuy Qosqo is rated as moderate to strenuous, due to the many mountain passes that you’ll be climbing (three in one day). Other than those passes, which stay below 14,000 feet in elevation, the trek is moderate, taking you through comfortable gradients across the valley. Day one you’ll hike around 6 hours and day two 5 hours.

Highlights of Huchuy Qosqo
  • Mountain Passes. This short hike takes you across three beautiful mountain passes. Abra Sicllajasa gives you vistas of the mountains and river below; at Challu Challu Pass you’ll get a bird’s eye view of beautiful Andean lakes; and Rumicruz pass provides excellent Sacred Valley views.
  • Qeullacocha Lagoon. During the afternoon of the first day you will reach Qeullacocha lagoon and see it up close and personal. Here you will enjoy your delicious and satisfying lunch alongside a peaceful lake hidden in the Andes Mountains.
  • Huchuy Qosqo Ruins. Huchuy Qosqo Ruins are one of the three most famous ruins in the Sacred Valley (along with Pisco and Ollantaytambo archaeological sites). Here you can explore a three story stone and adobe structure, ancient doorways and more.

Learn about the inclusions and daily breakdown of the Huchuy Qosqo Hike.

11. 2 Day Inca Trail (2 days)

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Distance: 7 miles (11 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6,660-8,690 feet (2,030-2,650 m)

The 2-day Inca Trail is an express version of the classic 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world, and this option allows you to experience a little piece of that magic in a shorter period of time. This trek is perfect for anyone who wants the experience of arriving at Machu Picchu by foot through the iconic Sun Gate, but does not want to commit to or perhaps does not have the time for 4 days of hiking and 3 nights of camping. You still get to experience some of the very best sites of the Inca Trail on this expedited journey.

This hike launches from Cusco and then you take a train to the trailhead at km 104. From here, you’ll wind through various ruins and ancient green pathways before reaching the Sun Gate. Once you walk through the Sun Gate you’ll get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu then spend the night in your Aguas Calientes hotel before touring the entire citadel the following day.

2 Day Inca Trail Difficulty

The 2-day Inca trek is rated as moderate due to uphill sections and some uneven ground. It does not reach the high elevation passes of the classic 4 day Inca Trail, but it does have some areas that will take a good effort. In reality, it is one full day of hiking, not two. The second day is dedicated to touring the Machu Picchu citadel. The whole hike on day one takes 6 or 7 hours and anyone with some hiking experience should be able to do this trek. As with any trek in the Andes, it’s a good idea to acclimate in Cusco for two or three days before your trek.

Highlights of the 2 Day Inca Trail
  • Chachabamba Ruins. These are the first Inca Ruins you’ll see on the trek, and they’re quite interesting because they were likely an ancient guardhouse to Machu Picchu. You’ll get an up-close look at impeccable Inca stone work here.
  • Wiñay Wayna Site. Wiñay Wayna is an extensive Inca Ruin surrounded by the beautiful native plant life of the area. This picturesque complex has an urban sector, ritual sector and tower sector that you will be able to explore.
  • Sun Gate. There is nothing quite like entering the Machu Picchu citadel through the Sun Gate. And only the 2 and 4-day Inca Trails have the luxury of doing so. This was, in ancient times, one of the principal entrances to Machu Picchu; so while everyone else is entering through the long line at the modern day tourist entrance, you get to feel those ancient vibes as you enter through the legendary Inti Punku (sun gate in Quechua).

Reserve your spot on the short 2-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

A treasured site for Inca Trail hikers, an alpaca eating grass at the ancient Machu Picchu citadel.

See Machu Picchu (and its 4-legged residents) on day 2 of this popular hike. Image by mlproject on Piaxabay.

12. Gran Vilaya Trek (4 days)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Distance: 34 miles (54 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 5,500-11,000 feet (1,676-3,353 m)

The Gran Vilaya Trek is a lesser known journey in the northern Amazonas Region of Peru that takes off from the town of Chachapoyas. The trail takes you through the subtropical highlands that are right at the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. Enjoy the beautiful scenery while learning about the ancient Chachapoyas culture. You’ll even make a stop at multiple archaeological sites, including the Kuelap ruins, which is an impressive walled settlement that was built in the 6th century.

Chachapoyas is the launching city for the Gran Vilaya trek. From there you’ll be transported to the trailhead in the town of Cruz Pata. Then you’ll course past various ruins, gorgeous river valleys, cloud forests, mountain passes, villages and dense vegetation with the Kuelap ruins as your grand finale. It is a super unique Peru trekking experience, with amazing plants and wildlife throughout.

Gran Vilaya Trek Difficulty

This trek is easy to moderate. The ascent to Yumal Pass at 11,000 feet is the most difficult part of the trek. The trail ranges between 5,500 and 11,000 feet above sea level so elevation should not be a hurdle, and two of the days are only 2.5 hours of hiking. The other days are 6 and 8 hours so those will be a bit more of a push in terms of endurance. In general, besides Yumal, there is nothing too challenging in the way of gradient or elevation. Anyone with some hiking experience can do this trek.

Highlights of Gran Vilaya Trek
  • Huaylla Belen Valley. This stunning green valley flanked by rolling hills and mountains has the Rio Serpiente de Plata, or Silver Snake River, meandering through it. You’ll be able to traverse this fairytale scenery on day 1.
  • Yumal Pass. This pass, located at 11,000 feet above sea level, is the highest point of your trek. From here you’ll get a panoramic view of the lush cloud forests and Kuelap ruins below.
  • Kuelap. Kuelap is an amazing set of ruins in Chachapoyas known as “Machu Picchu of the North.” The walled settlement, shrouded in greenery, was used as a fortress. The Chachapoyas people (known as the Cloud Warriors) would use the fort to defend from invasion, and protect the 5,000 people who lived there.
  • Native Birds. As you make your way through cloud forest and subtropical jungle where the Andes and Amazon meet, you’ll encounter fascinating birds that you’ve never seen before. Look out for the Andean toucans, Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird and many others.

13. Santa Cruz Trek (4 days)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Distance: 28 miles (45 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 9,514-15,584 feet (2,900-4,750 m)

Santa Cruz Trek is arguably the most popular trek in the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains) of Peru. For 4 days, this trek traverses Huascaran National Park through some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the Andes. Santa Cruz Mountain itself is known in the Quechua language as Pucaraju, which translates to Red Snow and soars to 20,535 feet (6,259 m). Peru is considered to have some of the best alpine hiking in this world, and this is clear once you embark on the Santa Cruz Trek (even the drive to the trailhead will blow you away).

This trek launches from the town of Huaraz and the trail begins in the village of Vaqueria, which sits at 12,140 feet (3,700 m). From here you’ll course through crisp valleys, beside turquoise lakes, and to the challenging and revered Punta Union Pass, which reaches 15,584 feet (4,750 m). This trek ends in the village of Cashapampa, where you can opt to take a much-deserved visit to the nearby hot springs. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by seemingly endless snow capped mountains on the Santa Cruz Trek.

Santa Cruz Trek Difficulty

Besides the steep ascent to Punta Union Pass (15,584 feet) this trek is moderate. You will still want to acclimate for 2-3 days before you start trekking, as much of the trail is above 12,000 feet (3,658 m). You’ll be hiking 4-7 hours per day with plenty of time to rest before and after the hike of the day. This hike is a great option for those who want to enjoy Cordillera Blanca, but don’t want to do a long, strenuous trek.

Highlights of Santa Cruz Trek
  • Punta Union Pass. This pass is quite the challenge to get to, tapping into your strength and endurance as you make the steep journey. However, once you find yourself at the top, you will feel a true sense of accomplishment with some pretty outstanding mountain views.
  • Arhuaycocha Lake. This is an optional detour, but it is totally worth it. Arhuaycocha Lake is a gorgeous bright teal alpine lake located right at the heels of Pucajirca and Rinrijirca mountains and the Arhuay glacier.
  • Hot Springs. Reward yourself at the end of your trek with an optional visit to the hot springs in the town of Cashapampa. It is a great way to soothe sore muscles at the close of your Santa Cruz adventure.
Punta Union Pass with snow and lake along the Santa Cruz Trek in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru.

Punta Union Pass reaches 15,584 feet. Image: Punta Union 01.jpg by Diego Baravelli under the CC BY-SA 4.0 License. Cropped, compressed and resized from original.

14. Laguna de los Condores (3 days)

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Distance: 28 miles (45 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 7,661-12,467 feet (2,335-3,800 m)

The Laguna de los Condores Trek honors a beautiful lake that was considered sacred to the Chachapoyas culture, who lived six centuries before the Inca. Laguna de los Condores translates from Spanish to Lake of the Condors. On this 3 day trek you’ll encounter interesting archaeological sites, natural landscapes and unique wildlife in the surrounding cloud forests. The lake itself is 2 by .5 miles long and sits at an elevation of 8,500 feet with lush green hills bursting from its shores. You’ll have a full day to explore the laguna and its Chachapoyas chullpas, or tombs, built into a lush cliff overlooking the lake. These iconic tombs gave the lake a second name: Laguna de Los Momias, or Lake of the Mummies.

This trek starts and ends in the town of Chachapoyas. From this beautiful town in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, you’ll head to the trailhead in the village of Leymebamba. Then, you’ll course through the mountains, valleys, archaeological sites and of course Laguna de los Condores. Each night you’ll sleep in a basic cabin embedded in the natural landscape to rest for the next day’s adventure.

Laguna de los Condores Difficulty

This trek is rated moderate to strenuous. This is because there are quite long days of hiking — around 10 hours — with some steep ascents. The highest point of the trek is at La Fila, an archaeological site on a grassy mountain at 12,467 feet above sea level. However, if you have a good amount of endurance and strength and some long hikes under your belt, you should have no problem on this trek.

Highlights of Laguna de los Condores Trek
  • Wildlife. You’ll come across some very interesting wildlife on the Laguna de los Condores trek. Look out for many different types of colorful birds, deer, foxes, and maybe even spectacled bears, pumas and wild cats! You will likely also see the gorgeous intimpa rainforest tree.
  • Laguna de los Condores. This lake is at the watershed of the Marañon and Huallaga rivers and the beginning of the Chilchos Valley. Here, you will take a boat across the lake and explore the amazing mausoleum, complete with hundreds of mummies and countless artifacts.
  • Leymebamba Museum. The quiet green village of Leymebamba is home to the Leymebamba museum, where hundreds of mummies and other archaeological materials are preserved. You can tour this museum on day 3.

15. Colca Canyon Trek (2 days)

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Distance: 16 miles (25 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 7,086-11,800 feet (2,160-3,597 m)

The Colca Canyon Trek is the most popular hike in the south of Peru. This 2 day trek takes you into the heart of one of the deepest canyons in the world and then back out again. Trekkers come from near and far to get the full experience of this beautiful canyon, with glimpses of rushing rivers and majestic giant Andean condors soaring above. Colca Canyon is located about 3 hours from the city of Arequipa, making it a must-visit stop if you are visiting the beautiful and historic “White City.”

This trek starts in the city of Arequipa and the trail begins at the Mirador de Pampa San Miguel. On the way there, you’ll stop at the town of Yanque for breakfast as well as La Cruz del Condor for the chance to see the famous giant Andean condor. The trek is downhill the first day to Oasis Sangalle, which is a village along Rio Colca (Colca River). The 2nd day you’ll climb back out of the canyon and make a stop at Yanque for lunch before exploring Mirador de los Volcanoes and Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve.

Colca Canyon Trek Difficulty

The Colca Canyon Trek is rated as strenuous. The primary reason for this is that you are going steeply down from almost 11,000 to 7,086 feet in a short period of time, then you have to go right back up the steep ascent the next day. However, anyone with some stamina, strength and experience with steep gradients should be able to do this trek. It’s about 5-6 hours trekking on day 1 and 3-4 hours on day 2.

Highlights of Colca Canyon Trek
  • La Cruz del Condor. This is the most famous viewpoint in Colca Canyon, providing sweeping views of the canyon, the river below, Mismi mountain and a chance to see condors whipping through their natural habitat. A highlight for many on their trip to Colca.
  • Sangalle. Sangalle is the oasis along the Colca River deep within Colca Canyon. It is a green paradise full of hotels and hostels where you will spend the night after your first day of hiking. See the canyon from below, spend time with fellow hikers and take a refreshing dip in the pool.
  • Yanque Hot Springs. Chacapi thermal baths in the village of Yanqui are easily some of the most picturesque in Colca Canyon. The hot springs are seamlessly embedded in the rocky landscape and perched right beside the river with the canyon walls surrounding. A welcome stop on your 2nd day.
  • Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve. This preserved nature reserve that you’ll visit on your way back to Arequipa is like a sanctuary for Andean camelids. Apart from beautiful views of the mountains and volcanoes, you’ll get a chance to see llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos.
Two giant Andean condors soaring majestically in the sunlight above Colca Canyon in Peru.

The Andean condors found in Colca Canyon have a wingspan of 10.5 feet.

16. Kuelap (1 day – 6 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (6 hours)
  • Distance: 6 miles (9 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 5,873-9,843 feet (1,790-3000 m)

Along with Gocta Falls, Kuelap is a star attraction of the Chachapoyas area of Peru. This ruin, known as Machu Picchu of the north, is a pre-Inca fortress that was once occupied by the Chachapoyas people. A hike to this spectacular site is a challenging journey, but it’s met with huge rewards once you get to explore the storied settlement of Kuelap. Kuelap is actually listed among the 7 wonders of Peru, and is located in the Amazonas region to the north of the country. It’s easy to see why it’s such a revered place once you traverse its buildings, passages and towers mystically perched in the subtropical landscape.

The 1 day Kuelap Trek sets off from the town of Chachapoyas and the trailhead is in the village of Tingo. The trail is very well-marked and takes you on some steep inclines with designated stops along the way to rest. The trail is largely unshaded and takes you past the green mountains leading to the ruins, edged on the limestone ridges besides the Utcubamba River. After reaching the ruins, travelers may descend back down to Tingo, or spend the night in the nearby guesthouse and catch a morning bus back to Chachapoyas.

Kuelap Trek Difficulty

This Kuelap trek is rated as moderate. It can be difficult and require some stamina as it is mostly uphill for the entire time to the Kuelap ruins. You gain about 3,970 feet of elevation in less than 6 miles. The good part is there are nice shaded rest stops along the way, the trail is clearly marked and it doesn’t reach elevations that are cause for concern in terms of altitude sickness. Anyone with uphill hiking experience should be able to do this hike. Of course, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.

Highlights of Kuelap Hike
  • Kuelap. Kuelap is an impressive pre-Inca fortress comprising 400 round houses, rectangular buildings, ancient tombs, ritual areas and more. This ruin was a walled settlement guarded from invasion. It’s a wonder to wander it and learn about its vibrant history with an expert local guide.
  • Cable Car. If you want to skip the bulk of the trek altogether but still want an adventure, hop on the 20 minute cable car from the town of Tingo, which will take you to a trail marker that is about 30 minute uphill trek more before the ruins.

17. Gocta Falls (1 day – 6 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (6 hours)
  • Distance: 6 miles (10 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 5900-8300 feet (1,799-2,530 m)

Gocta Falls, or Catarata del Gocta, is one of the top 10 tallest waterfalls in the entire world. Majestically hidden in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, this plummeting cascade reaches 2,530 feet (771 m). A trek to these falls is rewarded with a refreshing dip for the adventurous, or at the very least a stunning photo from the base of the falls. Prepare to get wet as these falls can create quite the mist around them. Though this waterfall was the pride and joy of the people of the Chachapoyas area since ancient times, tourists had no idea about them until 2002.

This trek launches from Chachapoyas, a town in the subtropical highlands of northern Peru. The trailhead is located in the village of Cocachimba from which point you’ll trek through forested and open pathways with beautiful mountains and cliffs in view. You will get different vantage points of Gocta Falls throughout your trek, seeing them from every angle of their glory. Once you reach the falls you will have plenty of time to enjoy them before heading back to Cocachimba.

Gocta Falls Difficulty

The trek to Gocta Falls is rated as moderate. There are some uphill and downhill sections both there and back, but the trail does not exceed 8,300 feet in altitude, which means altitude sickness should not be too much of an issue, especially if you’ve spent a few days acclimating or visited the Cusco area prior. There will be some rocky ground throughout so be sure to wear good hiking boots and you should be golden.

Highlights of Gocta Falls
  • Gocta Falls. Of course the star of the show is the waterfall itself. It’s hard to fathom the sheer height of this majestic waterfall, which is approximately the height of two Empire State Buildings stacked. Luckily, you’ll get many amazing views of it practically your whole hike there that will give you the opportunity to grasp its beauty. Taking a dip in its icy waters is the perfect finishing touch to the experience.
  • Overnight in Cocachimba. Ending the evening in the rustic and remote Cocachimba is a wonderful experience. Many of the lodges have views from every room of the falls, so you can continue to admire its beauty from afar while sipping a celebratory libation or taking a dip in the pool.
Gocta Falls in Peru is as tall as two empire state buildings and you trek green hills to get there.

At 2,530 feet, Gocta Falls is one of the top 10 tallest waterfalls in the world. Image: Catarata de gocta.jpg by Srooose under the CC BY-SA 4.0 License. Cropped, compressed and resized from original.

18. Marcahuasi (1 day – 5 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (5 hours)
  • Distance: 3 miles (5 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 9,843-13,123 feet (3,000-4,000 m)

If you want a unique, “trippy” hike experience, head to Marcahuasi. This Andean plateau, located just a few hours from Lima, is known for its stone forest, bursting with unique rock formations that are shrouded in mysticism. Visitors trek here from near and far to marvel at the otherworldly formations (believed by some to be placed there by aliens) and meditate in one of the many energy vortexes. Spiritualism aside, this is an excellent spot for adventure seekers to see some stunning natural scenery, check out the impressive ancient ruins, visit the ethereal Laguna Huacracocha, camp beneath the stars, and even take a mountain biking or horse riding tour.

The Marcahuasi trek launches from the capital city of Lima by car to the trailhead in the town of San Pedro de Casta. From here, you’ll trek through rocky mountains, beside local farms, and make stops at the many viewpoints along the way of the valley below. Once at Marcahuasi, most set up camp at the sandy plateau called the Amphitheater to watch the sunset and marvel at the giant rocks surrounding them. However, you can also trek right back down to San Pedro de Casta after checking out the area if you don’t want to camp.

Marcahuasi Trek Difficulty

This trek is rated moderate as it is fairly steep and reaches elevations exceeding 12,000 feet. While this isn’t incredibly high altitude, it can feel more intense since you are coming from Lima, which is at sea level. Anyone with experience hiking, especially some experience being at higher elevations, should have no problem with this trek. Just take your time, pack water and brace yourself for one of the most intriguing sites in Peru. Also, though this area typically has lots of sunshine, the trek can get a bit chilly so be sure to bring layers.

Highlights of Marcahuasi
  • Archaeological Site. Marcahuasi has an interesting archaeological site perched at its highest point. Here you can explore the collection of ruins, which includes 50 ancient structures, tiny doorways, and chullpas or funerary towers.
  • Vortexes. Marcahuasi is claimed to behold more than 20 vortexes that store different kinds of healing energy. Many spiritual-minded people come here to meditate and be healed in one or many of these vortexes.
  • Rock Formations. The large rock formations at Marcahuasi are a marvel. There are human faces and animals visible in the stone structures that are impossible to miss. See seals, a turtle, a horse, and even more abstract ones like Monument to Humanity, The Prophet, The Alchemist and The UFO.

19. Laguna 69 Hike (1 day – 5 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (5 hours)
  • Distance: 4 miles (6 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 12,467-15,092 feet (3,800-4,600 m)

The Laguna 69 hike is absolutely stunning. It is one of those hikes that you will daydream about for the rest of your life because of its sheer beauty. The expressive trees covered in moss, dainty waterfalls trickling into gushing rivers, and vibrant crystal blue lakes hugged by glaciers make you feel like you’re in a mystical fairytale. That being said, this is a tough hike due to both gradient and elevation. But, at least you will be rewarded with unbelievable beauty every step of the way. It is easy to see why this is considered one of the best treks in Peru.

The hike launches from the mountain city of Huaraz and after a jaw-droppingly gorgeous drive you will find La Cebolla trailhead in Huascaran National Park. From there you will take an uphill trail and some difficult switchbacks past the gorgeous treasures of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range). See numerous lakes, rivers, waterfalls, valleys, and lush greenery until you reach the ultra blue waters of Laguna 69, with snow capped mountains jetting out of it.

Laguna 69 Hike Difficulty

The trek to Laguna 69 is considered strenuous. The trail starts off quite gradual as you hike through the valley; but once the switchbacks hit, the uphill climb plus the altitude can be very challenging. There is an especially difficult set of switchbacks toward the end where the rocky trail sharply increases by 700 feet. It is very important to acclimate for 2-3 days before you do this hike as it reaches over 15,000 feet. Once acclimated, anyone with a good level of physical fitness, uphill hiking experience and a motivated attitude should be able to do this trek.

Highlights of Laguna 69
  • Laguna 69. Of course the main attraction of the Laguna 69 hike is, well, Laguna 69. The lake itself is a bright blue turquoise with spectacular snow-capped mountains surrounding it. Despite the tough switchbacks it’s quite easily accessible for having such heavenly scenery.
  • Greenery. The trees, moss and grassy valleys make this alpine experience absolutely magical. In certain places it’s so lush and rich with life you will be expecting a unicorn to pop out from behind an old, gnarled tree.
The bright turquoise waters of Laguna 69 with mossy trees and mountains surrounding it.

Laguna 69 is the most popular hike in the Huaraz area, and it’s easy to see why.

20. Laguna Paron (1 day – 5 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (5 hours)
  • Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 10,827-13,778 feet (3,300-4,200 m)

Laguna Paron is the largest of the 882 glacial lakes in the Cordillera Blanca mountains of Peru. Though often overshadowed in popularity by Laguna 69, it’s another stunning option if you have an extra day in the Huaraz area. This icy turquoise lake is located at 13,778 feet above sea level (4,200 m) and is about 2 miles long and 2,297 feet wide. The trail is typically less trafficked than others in the area, so you may just have this slice of mountain paradise all to yourself. After a bit of challenging uphill trek, you can find your perfect rock and sit and marvel in silence at the beauty of this special Peruvian laguna.

The trek launches either from the city of Huaraz (2 hr 25 min car ride), or the city of Caraz (45 min car ride). You will be dropped in Pueblo Paron then walk 15 minutes more until you reach the trailhead, which will take you about 3 hours to the lake. Traverse beautiful mountain trails with 360º vistas of the Cordillera Blanca along the way. Once you take your final climb and get your fix of the Laguna, you head back down the same way.

Laguna Paron Difficulty

The trek to Laguna Paron is rated as moderate. Overall it is considered one of the less challenging hikes of the area, largely due to the fact that it is lower in elevation than hikes like Laguna 69. It will still be a bit steep in areas as you gain almost 3,000 feet in elevation, so there are some challenging parts along the way. Good hiking shoes, lots of water, and two or three days of acclimating and you should be find on this beautiful trek.

Highlights of Laguna Paron Trek
  • Laguna Paron. This is the largest lake of the Cordillera Blanca making it quite a treat to reach after a good hike. The bright turquoise waters and dreamy mountain and glacier views make it the ideal spot to enjoy the colors and sensations of alpine Peru.
  • Artesonraju Mountain. You may get a little star struck when you see Nevado Artesonraju, as this peak is what the live action Paramount Pictures logo is based on. This prominent peak in the center of your view at Lake Paron spikes to 19,767 feet (6,025 m) and makes for “picture perfect” lake and mountain views.
  • Mirador. Another 45 minute climb takes to from the lakes shores to the mirador, or viewpoint so that you can see the lake from above. A great option if you have a bit more energy to spare.

21. Machu Picchu Mountain (1 day – 4 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (4 hours)
  • Distance: 2 miles (3 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 7,972-10,100 feet (2,430-3,078 m)

Machu Picchu Mountain, also known as “Old Mountain,” is one of the hikes that you can do within the ruins of Machu Picchu. It takes about 2 hours to reach the summit and 1.5 hours to go back down so it’s good to give yourself around 4 hours for the trek. At 10,100 feet, it’s the highest summit to hike within Machu Picchu and gives you incredible views of the ruins. You can add this hike on before or after your citadel tour, or return to Machu Picchu a second day to really focus on the hike and soak it in. Permits for Machu Picchu Mountain sell out quickly, so they must be purchased around 6 months ahead of time during the high season (April-September).

To get to the trailhead you have to follow the upper trail leading to the guardhouse of Machu Picchu then take a path through agricultural terraces until you get to the Warden’s Hut, which is where the trek begins. Once you show your passport and give your entrance ticket, you’ll enjoy a wide and well-marked trail through lush cloud forest, which gradually becomes more narrow and steep as you get to the summit. Once at the summit you come back down the way you came and end in Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Mountain Difficulty

The difficulty level for Machu Picchu Mountain is considered strenuous. This is because you gain over 2,000 feet in a short period of time. You will ascend steep switchbacks and lots of steps to get to the summit so it definitely is a workout. There are lots of places to stop and rest along the way, but pace yourself, drink lots of water and enjoy the beauty that is Machu Picchu Mountain.

Highlights of Machu Picchu Mountain
  • Vistas. The views from Machu Picchu Mountain are arguably the best you can get of the citadel. From the top, you’ll be able to see the ruins, plus the peak of Huayna Picchu and the river snaking around the whole breathtaking vision. The peace up there as you look down at this mystical place is hard to put into words.
The citadel of Machu Picchu from the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain on a misty day.

Machu Picchu Mountain Is the tallest summit to climb within the Machu Picchu ruins. Photo by Ana Castañeda of Peru for Less.

Machu Picchu Tours:

22. Laguna Churup Hike (1 day – 3.5 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (3.5 hours)
  • Distance: 2 miles (3 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 12,598-14,600 feet (3,840-4,450 m)

Yet another fantastic option for a day hike in the Huaraz area is Laguna Churup. This hike is less popular than Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron, but some favor it as it is more of a short, sweet, technical trail rather than a long, extensive, straightforward one. This hike has scrambling and even ropes for security as you traverse near a waterfall, which is not as challenging as it sounds and can add a rush of adventure to the experience. This trek is also shorter and a bit lower in elevation than some other treks in the area so it’s a good hike to ease you in (but still be sure to acclimatize).

The trek launches from Huaraz and a 45 minute transfer takes you to the trailhead in Pitek. From here you’ll start off pretty steeply on steps then the uphill trail sort of levels out and you can see views of valleys, mountains and waterfalls. There will be a fork in the trail from which point you have the option to do the technical climbing to the right or take a more steady trail to the mirador on the left. You then reach the beautiful Laguna Churup, which usually has a mist surrounding it – adding a magical touch to the blue-green lake that sits at 14,600 feet.

Laguna Churup Difficulty

This trek is generally considered moderate as it is shorter and an easier gradient overall. The rock climbing area can definitely add a challenge to the experience, but many say this rope climbing part is actually quite easy. However, to someone who is not acclimated and dislikes climbing, this trek would be rated as strenuous. Luckily, there is a detour around the rock climbing part so it is not required, but this detour to the Mirador is quite steep and can be one of the more challenging parts of the trail. If you have some experience scrambling and have acclimatized for 2 or 3 days you should have no problem with this trek.

Highlights of Laguna Churup
  • Laguna Churup. The blue and green turquoise lake is one of the prettiest in the area. It can sometimes be shrouded in mist so you may need to wait a bit for it to blow away so you can really see the vibrant colors. You really get a panoramic view of the lake and cliffs and mountains guarding it once you arrive, making it well worth the climb.
  • Waterfalls. A treat on this trail is the waterfalls bursting out of the stark, grey rock walls. It adds movement and energy to the otherworldly landscape
  • Climbing. Those waterfalls? You get to climb right beside them if you choose the technical route. Rocks and scrambling take you right near a waterfall so you can hear and feel it up close and personal. Many consider this part the most fun part of the trail, and even a highlight in all their Peru hiking. Waterproof hiking boots are highly recommended for this trail.

23. Rainbow Mountain Hike (1 day – 3.5 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (3.5 hours)
  • Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 14,189-17,060 feet (4,326-5,200 m)

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca in Quechua and Montana de Siete Colores in Spanish, is a multi-colored mountain in the Andes of Peru. The mountain’s unique mineralogical composition gives different colors, like pink, white, red, green, brown and yellow. It’s quite a sight to behold, which is why this truly unique geological wonder is gaining popularity exponentially. It is increasingly being considered one of the best treks in Peru. The hike to Rainbow Mountain is difficult but takes you through some gorgeous valleys and imposing mountain passes to the spectacular site.

Related Tours:

The Rainbow Mountain hike launches from Cusco and after a 3.5 hour drive you reach the trailhead. Once at the trailhead you’ll be going uphill the entire time, though it’s not too steep. Along the way you’ll see green valleys, local villages, lots of adorable alpaca and even get to see the sacred Ausangate Mountain in the distance (Rainbow Mountain is a popular detour for hikers of the 6-day Ausangate Trek). Once you reach Rainbow Mountain you’ll have time to admire and learn about the famous painted hills before heading back down. It takes about 2 hours to the top and an hour back.

Rainbow Mountain Hike Difficulty

This trail is rated strenuous due to the high elevation (17,060 feet is no walk in the park). The gradient gets especially steep in the final 1,000-foot ascent so you will want to take your time, pause to keep your heart rate at a normal pace and drink water whenever you need. Acclimatizing 2-4 days in Cusco is an absolute must before you embark on this trail. If you know what you’re getting into in terms of altitude and prepare your body properly you will be fine on this trail.

Highlights of Rainbow Mountain
  • Rainbow Mountain. Rainbow mountain is such a unique geological formation, with colors that come from the unique blend of minerals like clay, quartz, sandstone, iron magnesium, sulphur and more. This rare mineralogy has a fascinating natural history that your expert local guide will be able to explain right at the site.
  • Ausangate Mountain. A huge bonus to this hike is that you catch a glimpse of one of the most holy mountains in all of the Andes. Ausangate Mountain will be visible during your trek, and it’s a mountain that locals make a sacred pilgrimage to every single year.
Rainbow Mountain in Peru has a unique mineralogical composition that gives it many colors.

The Rainbow Mountain Trek reaches an elevation of 17,060 feet. Photo by Alicia Gonzalez.

24. Moray Ruins and Maras Salt Pans Hike (1 day – 3 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (3 hours)
  • Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation: 9,420-11,500 feet (2,870-3,500 m)

Moray and Maras are two of the most popular sites in Peru’s Sacred Valley. This hike allows you to tour both in a memorable 3 hours among ruins, nature and salt. Moray is an archaeological site comprising circular terraces that were once used by the Inca as experimental agricultural zones. The Maras Salt Pans have been used to harvest salt since before the Inca and each salt pond is still owned and operated by local families. There are over 5,000 salt pans that you will be able to observe and you can even buy some salt as a souvenir.

This experience launches from Cusco or Ollantaytambo and typically the hike itself begins from the Moray Archaeological Site. You’ll have time to explore the site then you will take fairly flat terrain across a high plain to the village of Maras. From the village you’ll descend into the gorge of the valley where you will find the salt pans. After touring the Maras Salt Pans from different viewpoints you will continue descending down to the Urubamba river where your transfer will take you back to Cusco or onto your next Sacred Valley destination.

Moray Maras Hike Difficulty

This hike is considered easy, as the gradient is either level or downhill, the duration is short with a total of 2-3 hours of hiking, there are lengthy stops along the way, and the altitude does not exceed 11,500 feet. It is still recommended to acclimate in Cusco before any physical activity, after which this hike is a great option for those who want a simpler hike. The Maras Moray Trek is also a great option for families.

Highlights of the Moray Maras Trek
  • Moray Ruins. Moray is an Inca ruin made up of circular terraces dug into the earth. These terraces were used as an agricultural area for testing different types of plants using different kinds of soils and microclimates — similar to modern day greenhouses. The archaeological site is still very much intact and you can even climb some ancient Inca floating stairs. An amazing choice as far as top sites to see in the Sacred Valley.
  • Maras Salt Pans. This is quite an impressive vision of salt pans rolling into the valley as far as the eye can see. These salt pools have been used to harvest salt since before the Inca and are owned and operated by families of the region to this day. A visit to the area allows you to view the salt pans from different viewpoints and visit the gift shop.

25. Huayna Picchu (1 day – 2 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (2 hours)
  • Distance: 1.2 miles (2 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 7,972-8,835 feet (2,430-2,693 m)

Huayna Picchu is the most popular hike within the ruins of Machu Picchu. Huayna Picchu translates from Quechua to “young peak,” and is sometimes spelt as Wayna Picchu. A hike to the summit takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes and has some steep, narrow sections as you go uphill. Besides the iconic views of Machu Picchu from its 8,835 foot peak, this trail grants you access to the fascinating Temple of the Moon, which was a ceremonial site that was once used by the Inca. Due to its popularity, permits for this hike do sell out quickly, so it’s important to secure your spot 6 months in advance during the high season (April-September).

This trailhead for this trek can be found behind the Sacred Rock along the lower tour circuit of Machu Picchu. From the starting point, you will follow a winding trail and take the lower trail first to the Temple of the Moon, then go back and take the steep upper trail to the top. On this path you’ll find some difficult switchbacks, and narrow walkways and tunnels to the summit. Once at the summit you can enjoy the stunning views of Machu Picchu before taking the trail sharply back down to the citadel.

Huayna Picchu Hike Difficulty

Huayna Picchu is rated as moderate, as it is at a lower elevation and overall the hike is quite short. There are, however, some challenging steep sections. The trail becomes very narrow, so it can be difficult for anyone who is afraid of heights or is prone to vertigo. If some narrow uphill steps don’t alarm you, this is a very enjoyable moderate hike. If the thought of narrow trails makes you very nervous, you may want to opt for another trail. Machu Picchu Mountain or even a walk to the Sun Gate or Inca Bridge are all good alternatives.

Highlights of Huayna Picchu
  • Views. That iconic mountain jetting out from behind the Machu Picchu ruins in pretty much every photo? That’s Huayna Picchu. While you won’t see Huayna Picchu while on top of it (obviously) you will get a unique view of the ruins from the other side and extending mountain ridge beyond them. Then when you get back down, or look at your photos later, and see that pointy mountain that landmarks the ruins you’ll feel quite a sense of accomplishment that you climbed it.
  • Temple of the Moon. The Temple of the Moon is an ancient spiritual site that is an incredible display of Inca stone masonry. There is also an open, shallow cave that has been constructed into. There are three planes represented in the temple: Hanan Pacha (heaven), Kay Pacha (earth) and Ukju Pacha (underworld). See the interesting animal carvings, double-jamb doorways, platforms and trapezoidal niches that comprise this sacred space.
Woman with arms up in celebration of reaching Huayna Picchu with amazing Machu Picchu views below.

Be sure to secure your spot on the Huayna Picchu hike 6 months in advance, permits sell out quickly. Photo by Peru for Less.

26. Lake Humantay Day Hike (1 day – 2 hours)

  • Duration: 1 day (2 hours)
  • Distance: 2.7 miles (4.3 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 12,700-13,900 feet

Another amazing day trek in Peru is the one to the beautiful Lake Humantay. Located a 3-hour drive from Cusco, this remote lake is known for its bright turquoise waters and crown of snow-capped mountains. It’s considered one of the prettiest lakes in Peru and certainly one of the best day trips from Cusco for hikers. The lake is right beside the Salkantay Glacier, and has been considered a sacred natural site since the time of the Inca. This is an excellent adventure tour but also a wonderful opportunity to pay your respects to Pachamama (Mother Earth in Quechua).

The tour launches from Cusco and the trailhead is about 3 hours west by car in the village of Soraypampa. Once at the trail, it is pretty much all uphill to the lake. Along the way you’ll see beautiful valleys, creeks, snow capped mountains, and local flora and fauna. Once at the lake you’ll have plenty of time to relax, enjoy the view of the laguna and glacier and even take a dip if you are so compelled (it will be cold).

Lake Humantay Trek Difficulty

The Lake Humantay Trek is considered moderate but can be a bit of challenge due to the elevation and uphill portions. The whole hike is only 45 minutes so it is not too demanding, and you gain just over 1,000 feet in just under 3 miles. It can get steep and a bit slippery in some parts so good waterproof hiking boots are highly recommended. Like all Andes treks, you should acclimate in Cusco for 2-3 days before hiking.

Highlights of Lake Humantay
  • Lake Humantay. Of course the lake itself is what attracts people to this trek. The lake’s color is truly stunning — in fact as pretty as the photos of it are they really don’t do it justice. Being there up close and personal, admiring its brilliant hue, and even taking an optional dip in its icy glacial waters is a highlight of any Peru trip. It is also a less trafficked area so you can really feel the sanctity and peace of this special place.
  • Sacred Area. Dating back to the Inca and likely even before them, this lake was and is to this day considered sacred. Shamans and spiritual healers visit the lake to perform rituals and give thanks to the earth. Visitors often build “apachetas,” which are stones stacked as an offering to Pachamama.

27. Pastoruri Glacier (1 day – 1 hour)

  • Duration: 1 day (1 hours)
  • Distance: 1.8 miles (3 km)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation: 15,584-16,404 feet (4750-5000 m)

The hike to Pastoruri Glacier is short but packed with amazing, unique sites. The glacier itself is beside Pastoruri Mountain, which reaches to 17,224 feet (5,250 m). Pastoruri Glacier used to be a popular spot to walk and practice climbing, but that is no longer permitted. The glacier is one of the few in Peru, and is melting rapidly. In fact, you can literally see it melting before your eyes, as it has lost 22 percent of its size in the past 30 years. Regardless, this striking white and blue ice glacier is an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon and totally worth the quick hike to see it if you’re in Huaraz.

This trek launches from the city of Huaraz and you drive through Andean villages until you reach the trailhead in Huascaran National Park. From here the glacier is less than an hour away by foot, though it will take longer with the short stops that you’ll make. You will have a chance to see a small, but very pretty lake called Patococha along the way where you can practice some birdwatching. You will also see huge groupings of the unusual Puya Raimondii plant scattered along the valley. These 50 foot plants are native to the high mountains of Bolivia and Peru, and are known as the “Queen of the Andes.” Once you reach the glacier you’ll have plenty of time to gaze at its beauty and get the perfect photo before you head back to the trailhead.

Pastoruri Glacier Difficulty

The hike to Pastoruri Glacier is considered moderate. The trail is well-marked and at only 1.8 miles the hike is very short. Thought it’s a relatively easy hike, it is still very high in altitude with a max of 16,404 feet. If you do not acclimate for 2-3 days before the hike it will feel a lot of more strenuous than it is. Be sure to spend time acclimating, drink lots of water, and take your time and you should have no problem on this hike.

Highlights of Pastoruri Glacier
  • Pastoruri Glacier. Pastoruri Glacier is an amazing cirque glacier located in the Cordillera Blanca. The glacier is 3.1 square miles (8 sq km) and sits at 17,200 feet above sea level. It is an amazing sight to behold, so be sure to see it before it’s gone! This glacier has lost 22% of its size in the past 35 years so it’s an honor to see this melting treasure.
  • Puya Raimondii. Puya Raimondii is a very otherworldly looking plant. Growing up to 50 feet in height, this green flowering plant is the tallest species of bromeliad. You will see hundreds of them on your trek to the glacier, so be sure to snap a picture of this royal plant, nicknamed “the queen of the Andes.”
Pastoruri Glacier jetting out from the side of Pastoruri Mountain in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru.

Pastoruri Glacier is a cirque glacier located near Huaraz in Peru. Image: Pastoruri Glacier.jpg by Edubucher under the CC BY-SA 3.0 License. Cropped, compressed and resized from original.

From the glaciers to the mountain passes to the subtropical jungle to ancient ruins, hiking in Peru is an absolute delight. There are times where you will frolic along marveling at the lush beauty and flowers and birds, and other times where you will take it slowly step-by-step, breath-by-breath as you make your way to a high elevation summit. Either way, each of these 27 best treks in Peru will make you stronger and add a memorable bit of natural magic to your life.

Start planning your ultimate Peru hiking trip now! Contact one of our knowledgable travel advisors who will be able to help plan the itinerary and destinations for your trekking vacation across the Andes and beyond.

 Gina Cronin
Gina Cronin
Gina loves the hidden turquoise rivers of the Andes, the magical pink dolphins of the Amazon, and the lush ocean-view parks of Lima. She finds Peru to be the most inspiring country in the world, and has been exploring and writing about this sacred place since 2014.
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