Best Independent Hikes Peru

by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Friends are planning to travel Peru in May / June 2022. Hiking will be part of that adventure.

They’ll bring tents, gear and sleeping bags, looking to hike independently as much as possible.

Both are experienced in the Rocky Mountains. Peru trails can be higher — but I’d consider them no more difficult. Weather is always a factor. I’d recommend they book nothing in advance.

Our #1 independent hike in Peru is Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountains out of Cusco. They’d fly into and acclimatize in Cusco 3326m (10,912ft). Next head for Machu Picchu.

Our favourite hike to Machu Picchu is Salkantay. (Even better would be Choquequirao to Machu Picchu — but that might be difficult to do independently. One guided 7-day adventure for 2 people would cost USD $2275 each.)

I’m recommending they instead take the bus Cusco to the Ollantaytambo ruins. Stay there one night. Then take the train to Aguas Calientes. Walk up to Machu Picchu – 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) in about 90 minutes. Best is to walk in the early morning to arrive at the gates before the tourist buses.

So … Cusco and Machu Picchu to acclimatize. Their first hike would be Ausangate , about 100km south of Cusco.

Next they’d head south towards Lake Titicaca on the well trod Gringo Trail. There are many tourists stops en route.

From the lake they are hoping to detour into Bolivia. La Paz and the local attractions.

For hiking, I’m recommending they bus up to the mountain town of Sorata, Bolivia. Speak to locals on recommended hiking options.

Returning to Peru they’d continue up the coast towards Lima.

From Ariquipa they could hike Colca Canyon and/or climb Misti. Both excellent short adventures.

From Lima it’s a long bus ride north up to Huaraz — one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world.

But when you get there it’s a pleasure to hang out at Cafe Andino planning your next hike or cycling trip.

Many acclimatize on a quick walk to Laguna 69.

Then set off for the very popular Santa Cruz trek.

If time and energy allow, they could resupply and continue immediately on the Alpamayo trek.

Ultimately my personal favourite hike in Peru is the long and challenging Huayhuash Circuit near Huaraz. But it’s not easy to do independently. We hired a mule driver / guide and were happy we did so.


Questions? Suggestions?

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Related – Best Hikes in South America

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