Every year Peru receives tons of tourists looking for adventure, and they couldn’t have chosen a better place! The country is famous for having the best hikes in South America and some of the best in the world, Salkantay for example, is on the Nation Geographic’s list, but it is not the only one that deserves attention. In this list, you will get to know the best hikes in Peru for beginners and first-timer travelers.
Trekking in Peru is a must for anybody who loves outdoor activities and enjoy having contact with nature. Home to the second biggest mountain range in the world, the Andes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Peru offers a variety of trekkings and hiking.
The diversity of landscapes and ecosystems in Peru helps to provide the hikers with many uniques trails, each one of them, will bring you to the most different places, so you will never get tired of the landscape if it is possible somehow.
Whether you are a professional hiker or just a beginner, Peru has all kind of trekkings and hikes for you, and to help you find the perfect hike for you, here is a list of the best hikes in Peru for beginners and first-time visitors.
5 Best Hikes in Peru for Beginners and First Time Visitors
If you have time or if you are really into hiking, I suggest you take more than one or even all of the trekkings listed below, as they all give you different experiences and are worth a try.
If you are just a regular traveler or a beginner, try picking the one that will fit you better, taking into consideration your own limitation, remember to never force your body into things it is not prepared to, be patient and respectful to yourself.
Peru is located at a high altitude and most of the trekkings in Peru are reaches altitudes of over 4000 m above sea level. So it is important to acclimatize before starting any trek in order to avoid altitude sickness.
Also, don’t forget to always bring a bottle of water with you, and even oxyshots, just to make sure. Another good tip is to bring a portable water purifier, you may need it as you will have to fill your bottle along the way in lakes and rivers. Check this article to help you packing for outdoor adventures.
To travel around Peru, I took the Peru Hop tour, which takes you all around the country, making the trip way easier and so much more fun, as you have the chance to meet other people along the way.
Best Hikes in Peru
The most famous hike in Peru, that leads you to one of the most iconic historical sites in the world, the Machu Picchu, is by itself as historical as the Sacred City. Yeah, that’s right, the Inca Trail is really, the same old path used by the Incas centuries ago, to go from the city of Cusco to the Machu Picchu.
In total, the Incas build more than 40,000 kilometers of trails to connect all parts of their territory, that used to go from Ecuador to Chile.
There are different options for those who want to take this adventure but the classic trail takes 4 days and covers 82 kilometers between the starting point, and the Machu Picchu.
Besides the ruins of Machu Picchu, along the way, the Inca Trail passes close to many other Inca ruins that can only be visited by those taking this route.
It is important to note that the Inca Trail ascents to more than 4,200 meters, which can cause altitude sickness, so my advice for those up to take the Inca Trail, is to get used to the altitude first, so if you are flying directly to Cusco, stay in the city for at least 2 or 3 days before starting the journey.
It is important to note that the Inca Trail is regulated and limited, so bookings should be done at least 4 months before.
If hiking in high altitude for 4 days sounds too extreme, you can also reach Machu Picchu in one day, leaving from Cusco.
If you are planning to hike the Inca Trail, don’t forget to check this guide for packing for the Inca Trail, to make sure you will be prepared and won’t forget anything.
Check the best hikes in South America here.
Considered by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine as one of the 25 Best Treks in the World, the Salkantay Trail is another ancient path used by the Incas and located in the same region as the Inca Trail. The Salkantay Trail is considered almost mandatory to hikers and backpackers coming to Peru.
There are many options for those interested in taking this hike, the longest route takes six days and also leads to Machu Picchu, passing by stunning natural sites. The Salkantay is considered the best trail, less crowded, and probably the cheapest way to get to the Machu Picchu.
The trekking was named after Salkantay a glacier-capped summit, considered magical by the Incas and the local people, standing in the middle of the Cordillera Vilcabamba and this trail raises to 4,600 m, so again, it’s important to spend a few days in Cusco first in order to avoid Altitude Sickness.
The beautiful thing about this trail is that each day you will see the landscape around you changing, during the six days of trekking, which is one of the best parts of the experience, you will see from rainforest to snowy mountains.
The trail starts in the city of Cusco and goes all the way to Machu Picchu if you choose the full trek. To visit Machu Picchu after finishing Salkantay you must buy your ticket, as normally it is not included in the price of the Salkantay trekking.Source: Choose Life / Flickr
Not so popular, the Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, is a mountain in the middle of the Vilcabamba. The path to Rainbow Mountain was discovered only two decades ago due to the melting of the snow and only opened to the public recently and it is becoming one of the main attractions in Peru.
The Rainbow Mountain receives its name due to the different natural pigments of the rocks in the mountain that makes it look like a rainbow.
It is extremely rare and only happens in a few places in the world. Even more recently, another path was opened to the Rainbow mountain, so now you have two possibilities to get there.
It is located close to Cusco and if you are just starting your hiking life, Rainbow mountain can be done as a day trip leaving from Cusco, it is cheap and is relatively easy for beginners, or if you prefer, you can extend the tour to the red valley.
On the way up to the Rainbow Mountain, you will pass by beautiful scenarios, llamas, and alpacas. If the trails sound too extreme for you to hike your way up, you can also hire a horse on the way.
To start the trip, you will be picked up at your hotel around 5 am and make your way to the first camp, at Rainbow Mountain’s foot, from there you will start the trail.
It generally takes two hours to ascend and one hour to decent the trail, you will also have time to admire the beauty of the Rainbow Mountain at the best viewpoints before the descent. It is important to bring warm clothes as you will ascent to 5200 during the trail.
When visiting Arequipa, it is impossible not to notice the huge volcano that steals the attention of every tourist in the region. It is definitely the charm of the Plaza Mayor of Arequipa. You can see Misti Volcano from pretty much anywhere in the city.
Although it is not the only volcano around the city, it actually has many volcanoes that can be admired from one of the terraces, Misti is definitely the most beautiful one, it is the main volcano in the city of Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru, and is probably the most scenic in the country due to its perfect coned-shape and snow-capped during the winter.
If admiring Misti from a certain distance is not enough for you, you can also come closer. A good option is taking the 2 days trekking up to the top of Misti.
Leaving from Arequipa, you will have 2 hours drive to the starting point of the El Misti hiking, bear in mind that this is not the easiest hiking, and besides the not easy path, you will also have to carry all your belonging by yourself, including tends, water, etc.
The hiking takes from 3 to 5 hours of hiking to the basecamp, it will depend on your experience and preparation. The altitude of this hike starts at 3,400 m, the base camp is located at 4,500 m and the summit is at 5,822 m above sea level.
The second day of hiking starts around 1 am or 2 am so be prepared to wake up super early, or barely sleep. The final ascent takes around 7 hours.
Although it is relatively fast hiking since you only spend 2 days at it, it can be hard for unprepared people, and not everybody makes it to the top, which is fine, if you feel uncomfortable or can’t deal with the altitude, the best thing to do is to accept it and leave it for the next time you get the opportunity.
Although Misti is still active, its last eruption happened in 1985, it is completely safe to come close to the volcano, so don’t worry, this won’t be a problem. Regarding the altitude, I recommend bringing a lot of Coca leaves to chew along the way and as much Coca tea as possible, drinking it as often as you can, a bottle of water is also essential.
To return to the starting point is way easier and will only take you around 5 hours.
Colca Canyon is an Andean Valley with Inca-roots, considered some years ago as the deepest canyon in the world, with a depth of 3,270 meters, almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, now Colca Canyon is only behind China’s Tsangpo Canyon.
Steeped terraces built by the Incas around the mountains and are still in use by local Indians to cultivate. It is believed the valley has been inhabited by the Inca since around 1320 AD.
From Arequipa, the Colca Canyon trail can be done as a day trip from Arequipa, or you can also go for the 2 days trekking, in this case, you will be able to see small villages on the way, as you make your way to the town of Chivay, the start of the trekking.
Although Colca Canyon is considered relatively easy and short, especially for beginner hikers, it is pretty tiring, considered by some, more tiring than the Inca Trail, especially in the second day when you will make your way out of the canyon, the difference of altitude will cause you discomfort and altitude sickness, so be prepared.
To get to the bottom of the canyon, by the river, it will take around 3 hours, from there you will pass by some small villages and spend the night in one of them before starting climbing back to the top in the second day of trekking, and face 3 more hours of trekking.
It is a completely different trek from all the others listed in this post since you will pass by the steep cliffs and get a chance to see the Andean Condor, the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement, with a wingspan of 3.3 meters. The experience of seeing this majestic animal flying free above your head is unforgettable.