With such an amazing variety of scenery, Peru is the sort of country that has even the most lethargic tourist at least thinking about dusting off their walking boots and heading out into “them thar hills”. The famous Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the most well-known, but there are many other ways for you to get in some trekking on your Peru holidays which take you a bit further off that beautiful but somewhat beaten path…
Trekking in Colca Canyon
It’s a little-known fact that Peru boasts the two deepest canyons in the world, both of which are situated in the very south of the country, just outside the lovely colonial city of Arequipa. The very deepest is the Cotahuasi Canyon, but it’s very remote and very inaccessible, so unless your holidays in Peru will involve a full-on two week expedition, you might like to look at the stunning Colca Canyon instead. Colca Canyon can be reached by road from Arequipa in a day, and then your trek can begin as you set off down into the heart of the Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US. You’ll see giant Andean Condors circling in the sky above, and the canyon sides are lined with vertiginous terracing, almost like something out of South-East Asia rather than South America. Treks can last from two to five days, and the altitude (between 2000-4000m above sea level) means Colca is a great place to acclimatise for treks at a higher altitude later on in your holiday.
Trekking on Lake Titicaca
Obviously not actually ON Lake Titicaca, of course – unless you have some sort of messiah complex, that is! But the islands on Lake Titicaca – Taquile and Amantani on the Peruvian side, and the Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side of the lake – offer some lovely day treks with some beautiful scenery. The altitude isn’t to be sniffed at – you’re getting up close to 4000m the whole time – but the rich earth tones of the islands, contrasted with the blue of the lake and sky, and the snow-capped mountains in the background do make for some stunning photos. Again, because the islands are very small, a day trek here can be good preparation for a more serious trek later on.
Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu
The centrepiece of many people’s Peru holidays is a trek to Machu Picchu, and although there are a variety of different ways to get to this lost Inca city, the Inca Trail trek has transcended the world of holidays to Peru to become a real international phenomenon – you’ll find very few people interested in travel who don’t have the Inca Trail on their ‘bucket list’, even if not all of them can tell you which country it’s in! There’s no doubt that it’s a fantastic trek, but if you speak to people who have done a lot of trekking in Peru, they’ll often suggest that you look at one of the alternative Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay trek instead. This route, trekking via Mt Salkantay, is a bit more arduous than the classic Inca Trail route, and you don’t get the small Inca sites such as Wiñaywayna along the way, but the natural scenery – glacial lakes and glistening peaks before you drop down into the humid sub-tropical slopes around Machu Picchu – is arguably even better than the ‘classic’ route, and it’s definitely something you should consider.
Treks in the Amazon Jungle
For something completely different, you could also look at doing some trekking in the Amazon rainforest instead. A trip into the Amazon gives you a chance to see a totally different side to Peru than the Inca ruins and pan-pipes that are the popular image of Peru holidays, and there’s no better way of getting up close and personal with the fabulous Amazonian wildlife than by getting out of your boat and trekking off into the jungle – probably best to take a guide with you, though!
Dan Clarke works for Real Peru Holidays, the UK’s specialist in tailor-made trekking and holidays in Peru. He’s done his fair share of trekking in Peru and offers expert advice on treks from the Inca Trail to the Amazon jungle.