Featuring everything from arid deserts to ominous mountains and sweltering jungle, Peru is known far and wide for its incredible natural terrain. A mecca for trekkers, this vast and varied country has a multitude of diverse landscapes, each as unique and spectacular as the next. Here are the best regions to visit to enjoy some epic hiking in Peru.
Colca and Cotahuasi
Each plummeting far deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, these two incredible ravines near the colonial city of Arequipa are famous for their spectacular scenery, traditional indigenous settlements, and the majestic condors that soar effortlessly overhead. Colca is the more popular of the two for its accessibility, while Cotahuasi is much more isolated but entirely worthwhile.
The Machu Picchu Route
The best way to reach Machu Picchu is on foot, with a number of tough multi-day treks reaching the ancient Inca citadel on the final day to provide a stronger appreciation of this breathtaking site. The classic Inca Trail continues to attract hordes of hikers each year, although there are plenty of less crowded and cheaper alternatives too.
The Cusco Region
Cusco is without a doubt the most popular region for hikers in the country – and with good reason. Aside from trekking to Machu Picchu or the mysterious archeological sites of the Sacred Valley, lesser-known routes such as Choquequirao see travelers pass through spectacular Andean terrain to reach a breathtaking Inca fortress that rivals Machu Picchu, all the while with barely another tourist in sight.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Amazon rainforest offers awe-inspiring trekking opportunities for hikers who like getting hot and sweaty in the tropics. Most go in search of exotic wildlife, of which an incredible array can easily be spotted with the assistance of a well-trained guide.
The Cordillera Blanca
Not quite as popular as Cusco but certainly no less spectacular, the Cordillera Blanca is paradise for hikers who have a love affair with the mountains. Most base themselves in Huaraz and go on a number of day-long acclimatization hikes before setting off on the multi-day Santa Cruz or Huayhuash treks for a seriously epic adventure.
Get right off the beaten track and try your hand at trekking in Chachapoyas, a little-known town in the Andean foothills of northern Peru. Highlights include the incredible Inca ruins of Kuelap and the immense Gocta Waterfall, although there are plenty of other captivating nearby trails for hikers who value their solitude.
A sacred lake perched on the Andean altiplano (high plateau), Titicaca attracts trekkers for its serene crystalline waters and the opportunity to interact with traditionally dressed natives. Some head to the islands for an easy hiking escapade, while others prefer to traverse the perimeter of the lake to veer well away from the tourist crowds.