Exploring Peru’s Diverse Landscapes – Top 5 Hiking Trails for Every Level

Peru is a hiker’s paradise, offering an incredible range of trails through Inca ruins, hidden cities, stunning lakes, and towering peaks.

The majestic Andes, crisscrossed by paths from ancient civilizations, create dramatic landscapes best explored on foot.

With over 25,000 km of trails winding through vast mountains, it’s an ideal place for multi-day hikes and camping. Get ready to witness breathtaking glacial lakes, snow-capped peaks, and ancient ruins along rugged paths. 

In southern Peru, the main hiking hubs are Cusco and Arequipa, while in the north, Huaraz is the primary destination.

The Inca Trail is the most famous, but it’s not the most challenging or scenic.

For both novice and experienced hikers, Peru offers a variety of trails that cater to different skill levels and preferences.

Here are the top 5 trails for hiking in Peru that will leave you in awe of the country’s natural beauty and rich history.

Top Hiking Trails in Peru

Ausangate Trek

The Ausangate trek is awe-inspiring. It features diverse landscapes, from colorful to snow-capped mountains, lakes of various hues, and stunning high-altitude Andean views.

Hiking Trails in peru

The incredible rainbow mountain lies on the Ausangate trekking route. This is the kind of trek that thousands of people on more popular hiking tours envision when they book flights to Peru: a remote trail, magnificent views, a physical challenge, and a true adventure.

The trek circles Ausangate mountain (6,384 m), the highest peak in the Cusco region, starting from the town of Tinki.

Ausangate is a tough trek through rugged terrain, with climbs at high altitudes.

The standard itinerary is 6 days with 5 nights of camping along the route.

This is a genuine high-altitude trek, with the entire route above 4000m and three passes over 5000m, with the Palomino Pass being the highest at 5200m.

This trek is best suited for experienced hikers with good fitness levels; proper acclimatization is crucial.

If you seek a challenging trek with stunning scenery, this is the route for you. It is possible to hike independently, but losing the trail and altitude sickness are real concerns.

The Inca Trail

This is undoubtedly Peru’s most renowned hike, as no trip to the country is complete without visiting Machu Picchu.

Hiking Trails in peru

Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous Inca ruin and, due to its popularity, the number of visitors is limited daily, so make sure to book your tickets well ahead of time.

You can’t just show up and get a ticket on the same day. The classic trail, over 88 km long, takes about four to six days to complete.

As you make the strenuous ascent to the city’s ruins, it’s easy to understand why this secluded site remained hidden until the early 20th century!

A guided hike is recommended to absorb the cultural and ecological insights along the way. The ruins sit nearly 2,500 meters above sea level, so be sure to properly acclimate yourself.

Choquequirao Trek

Choquequirao, a vast site of ancient ruins akin to Machu Picchu, remains largely unexcavated, with less than 40% uncovered.

Nestled in the jungle, it offers stunning valley views and serene sunrises with condors devoid of tourists. Camping near the ruins means sharing the area with only a few others.

Despite its allure, this ‘lost city’ remains remote, requiring a challenging 2-3 day trek over 60 kilometers, including a canyon and the Apurimac River.

The trek is arduous, with steep climbs and beautiful Apurimac Canyon views. Fitness is crucial for carrying all your gear and food on this tough hike.

Kuelap and Vira Vira

This hike, lasting eight to nine days, is moderately paced compared to other week-plus hikes in Peru, making it a great option for those seeking a multi-day trek among Incan ruins without the difficulty of more challenging routes.

You’ll explore the ancient cities of Kuelap and Vira Vira and admire Catarata de Gocta, a stunning 700-m tall waterfall.

Despite its status as the world’s third-highest waterfall, Catarata de Gocta remained unknown to the world until its discovery in 2006, highlighting the hike’s isolation and unique appeal.

Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay trek is the most favored alternative to the Inca Trail. It is quieter, more affordable, and more challenging than its renowned counterpart.

Acclimatization is crucial as you trek up to 4600m through the Salkantay pass.

The route spans 70 km, circling the base of the famous Salkantay mountain and offering different scenery daily, from cloud forests to snowy passes.

The trek offers stunning views that will remain with me forever; Machu Picchu and the valley from Machu Picchu mountain are breathtaking, and Salkantay Lake is so beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s real!