The Best Alternative Trekking Routes in Peru
The idea of hiking the Inca Trail is the first thing that comes to mind for those thinking of going to Peru. Thousands of people walk through the Inca path every year, but this is not the only option available in the country. For those seeking greater adventure, history and culture and want to discover and experience a route less taken, here are four of my favorite alternative trekking routes in Peru.
5 days of descents and climbs on the slopes of the Apurimac River Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. It’s entirely worth it if the objective is exploring one of the most amazing archaeological sites in Peru: Choquequirao, an impressive stone citadel built by the Incas in the fifteenth century. With an area of 1080 sqm, only 30% of this archeological site has been discovered creating a mystery and intrigue, interesting all to uncover the uncovered. Unlike Machu Picchu, Choquequirao receives very few visitors, and can be explored in a pleasant and more intimate way.
This route can be walked in 60 km. and is listed with a high level of demand, therefore it is recommended to go in the company of an expert guide. The hike begins in the town of San Pedro de Cachora (Abancay), a 4 hour drive from Cusco, and ends in the town of Huanipaca. Multiple landscapes and altitudes are crossed in order to reach Choquequirao. At 2902 meters, where the climate is dry, you can enjoy the view of imposing mountains as the Padreyoc, to 1500 meters where the climate becomes tropical and a variety of flora and fauna from the high forest ecosystem can be seen. Photo: Danielle Pereira.
2. Huayhuash – Ancash
The Cordillera Huayhuash, located north of Ancash, is one of the most impressive of all the Andes. Although its snow peaks are not as high as those in the Cordillera Blanca, breathtaking landscapes make it a must-do for the more adventurous who visit Peru. Away from the commercial circuit that surrounds the city of Huaraz, this trek, moderate to high difficulty, allows you to completely disconnect and be one with nature.
This adventure is a total duration of 8 days and to begin, you need to take a short drive from Huaraz to Huayin, 4000 meters above sea level. From this point, the magnificent scenery begins to accompany the demanding yet highly rewarding route: green valleys, lakes and towering snow peaks among which you can find the Huayhuash, Jirishanca, Yerupajá and Rondoy. Photo: Paulo Tomaz.
3. Laguna de los Cóndores – Chachapoyas
This hike is a treat because the North East, specifically the Chachapoyas, has some of the most abundant and varietal biodiversity in Peru. Its level of demand is moderate, but due to the difficult shape of the roads it is reccommended that you are accompanied by a local guide.
The journey to the Lake of the Condors, 4 days, starts in the district of Leimebamba at 2200 m (two hours from Chachapoyas). The adventure begins here: descending through canyons in the middle of a cloudy forest and observing endemic birds are the preamble to reach this mythical lagoon that is full of history. In its surroundings more than 200 mummies were discovered in perfect condition. In addition to the archaeological site, the lake is surrounded by an impressive landscape where you can see several species of birds such as tanagers, hummingbirds and wild ducks, a must do for nature lovers! Photo: Andreas Kambanis.
4. Apu Pariacaca Lima – Junín
This alternative route, the least known of the four, is perfect for those looking to learn more about the pre-Hispanic traditions of Peru. The Apu Pariacaca was the highest divinity to the ancient inhabitants of central Peru and is a fundamental piece for the spirituality of the Andean world. This route, in addition to the stunning scenery, has great historical significance being based in the ancient Inca Trail -or Qhapac Nan- that has linked Lima’s coast to the center of Peru (Juaja).
Due to the high altitude of this particular route, the trek requires good physical condition and the company of a specialized mountain guide. The journey begins in Lima, where you have to drive to Pachacayo in Junín. This is where you begin the exciting trek where you are guaranteed to experience the most incredible views, like the Mullucocha lagoon, the Tunsho Nevado and, of course, the snowy Pariacaca. You can also see the cave paintings of Cuchimachay and a well-preserved stretch of the Inca Trail called Escalerayoc, made up around 2000 steps. Photo: Rainbowasi.
An ideal destination for outdoor activities
Peru is the perfect country for practicing outdoor activities. While it is known worldwide as a destination for cultural tourism, every year the number of visitors looking to experience nature and adventure through tourism increases. And no wonder, the varied geography of this country offers endless possibilities.
The Pacific coast is the perfect place for sports such as surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Breakers like Chicama, Pico Alto, Lobitos, Cabo Blanco Pacasmayo receive thousands of athletes and fans every year.
The rivers of Southern Peru, such as the Cañete River south of Lima, the Vilcanota river in Cusco and Apurimac River between Cusco and Abancay, are crowded with kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts. According to the season and the conditions of the area in which these activities are practiced, different classes of rapids are presented, from I to V — I being ideal for beginners and III to V for experienced.
Rock climbing is another outdoor activity alternative to satisfy your appetite for adventure while in Peru. Destinations such as Ancash, Pasco and even forest-filled Cusco have large natural rocks that are a treasure for any climber. Hatun Machay, two hours from the city of Huaraz, has everything you need to spend a few days climbing: more than 200 routes equipped for exploration, a hostel where you feel like home and dreamlike landscapes. Photo: Neils Photography.