Top Treks in Peru

What are the top treks in Peru?

With so many to choose from it is impossible to list them all, and even more impossible to rank them in any kind of order of preference! Although trekking isn’t everyones cup of tea, what is certain for those that enjoy it is that a trek through the mountains of Peru can be the highlight of a Peru holiday.

Here are the best of the most famous and well-known treks in Peru, with a few surprises or lesser known treks thrown in for good measure.

1. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

City of Departure: Cusco

Length: 4 days / 3 nights

Difficulty: Medium

Maximum Altitude: 4100m

The Inca Trail is one of the greatest and most famous hikes in the world. A life-changing journey in all senses of the word – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The highlight of the Inca Trail is the morning of day 4, when an early start leads you to the sun gate to watch the wonderful sight of the sun rising over Machu Picchu ahead of you.

However what many people don’t realise is that there are many other Inca ruins that the route passes, many of which are only reachable on the trek itself.

The trek is completely closed each February for repairs.

2. Santa Cruz Trek

TREK SANTA CRUZ FOTO 3

City of Departure: Huaraz

Length: 4 days / 3 nights

Difficulty: Medium / Advanced

Maximum Altitude: 4750m

One of the harder treks in this list, mainly due to the altitude, this well-known trek near the Huaraz region passes stunning mountain vistas, endless glacial mountain landscapes, and the famous lakes of Jatuncocha and Ichiccocha.

The beauty of this trek, certainly compared to some of the treks near Cusco, is that your group will probably have the route all to themselves so you can soak up the views in peace and quiet.

3. Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

LARES TREK, FOTO 5

City of Departure: Cusco

Length: 4 days / 3 nights

Difficulty: Medium

Maximum Altitude: 4700m

This alternate trek to Machu Picchu is becoming more and more popular each year as people look for alternatives to the more famous Inca Trail.

The main difference to this trek and the rest listed here is that the final night is actually spent in a hotel rather than camping! The evening is normally spent in Aguas Calientes with the trip to Machu Picchu by bus the following morning.

However, aside for this “detour” to standard trekking formalities on the final night, days 1, 2 and 3 of this trek through the Andean valleys near Cusco are actually very interesting, as it passes some very traditional Andean villages where there are opportunities to meet the locals, and it is also occasionally difficult due to the high altitude.

The high point of the trek, Condor Pass, is reached on day 2, and at 4700m offers breath-taking views of Andean vistas.

4. Trek to Choquequirao

CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK, FOTO 6

City of Departure: Cusco

Length: 4 days / 3 nights

Difficulty: Medium

A good alternative to the Inca Trail, many actually find this trek to Choquequirao much more enjoyable than the Machu Picchu alternative. This is for a number of reasons: some find the Choquequirao ruin more visually impressive than Machu Picchu (hard to believe, but it certainly gives Machu Picchu a run for its money!), there are far less people walking along the trail so it is less “touristy”, and the trek itself follows a route with stunning views of many of the famous mountains in Peru and in the Cusco region, including Mount Salkantay.

5. Cedros Alpamayo Trek

CEDROS TREK, Portachuelo pass view FOTO 2

City of Departure: Huaraz

Length: 9 days / 8 nights

Difficulty: Advanced

Maximum Altitude: 4860m

By far the most difficult Peru trek option listed here, this lengthy trek through the Huascaran National Park is also probably the most stunning and through the best landscapes. Certainly don’t expect luxury if this is a trek you choose to complete, however the rewards are worth the pain, as you find yourself surrounded by endless mountains, glaciers, turquoise lakes, and astounding Andean scenery.

The journey passes uncountable mountain passes, rural traditional farming communities, ancient Inca terraces, and is, quite simply, stunning.

Advertisements

Top 5 Things to do in Peru

The Lonely Planet has recently announced its list of the “Top 5 Things to see and do in Peru”.

Here is their list (in no particular order), along with our comments on their choices:

1. Machu Picchu

machu-picchu

Machu Picchu inevitably had to feature on this list of the top things to see and do in Peru… how could Lonely Planet not include it?! If you’ve never been to Peru before, or are a “list-ticker” and want to tick this ruin off your world-wide list, then absolutely this is a must-visit site.

By far the best way to visit the site is after the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – the arrival at the sun gate after 4 days of hiking makes the site even more impressive, and you arrive early before the bus-loads of tourists.

For alternative ruins of equal splendour, try the trek to Choquequirao, or if you are feeling even more adventurous then visit the ruin of Kuelap near Chachapoyas in the north of Peru.

2. Colonial Arequipa

Colonial Arequipa is a worthy edition to this list – the old plaza with its beautiful arched walls, and the Santa Catalina Monestary is a tranquil “city within a city”, with pastel-coloured walls through majestic little gardens and plazas. A must.

3. Manu

Manu cock of the rocks foto 1 2D

Of the three main regions to visit the Amazon in Peru, Manu, Tambopata and Iquitos, for wildlife lovers this is by far the best. Iquitos has the real “Amazon river”, hundreds of metres wide, and it is true that Tambopata has better accommodation and is more geared for tourists… but that makes a visit to Manu all the more special. The jungle is prime, untouched, and the wildlife and bird-watching opportunities are amongst the best on the planet. A worthy addition to any holiday to Peru.

4. Floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca

PUNO titicaca lake 2

The Uros Islands make for great photography – the harsh polarising light creates beautiful shades of turquoise and blue within the waters of Lake Titicaca which constracts with the bright dress of the Uros people. This is certainly one of the “post card” photo opportunities on any trip to Peru. However the area can be a little touristy and a trip to nearby Isla Taquile can be equally rewarding and more representative of traditional life on Lake Titicaca.

5. Cordillera Blanca

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For lovers of trekking, mountaineering, mountain sports, down-hill mountain biking and just about anything else you can think to do on a mountain: this region of Ancash in Peru is one of the best locations int he entire world for this kind of thing. Near the city of Huaraz, which is fast-becoming the Andean capital of Adventure sports, the Cordillera Blanca offers incredible views over glacial mountain peaks, deep valleys, gorgeous blue lakes, and some of the finest walks on the planet.

It has to be said that due to the altitude this region of Peru is not for the faint-hearted and there are few “beginner” treks to be found…  but if you are looking for adventure this is the place to be.

Chiclayo: The Best Archeaology in Northern Peru

Northern Peru – Undiscovered Archaeology and Adventure in Chiclayo

 Peru’s Forgotten Northern Wonders

Peru certainly has some of the greatest tourist sites in the entire world: Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca… however although these sites are very certainly worth seeing, they are all situated in the south of the country and many tourists visit no other part of Peru, completely skipping the north of Peru and missing out on some of the greatest sights, excellent archaeology, culture and history that really make a holiday to the Undiscovered north of Peru a very special trip! If there is one city you should try to visit other than Cusco when in Peru, then it is Chiclayo.

The City of Chiclayo

The city of Chiclayo, and the surrounding region in the north of Peru is certainly one destination that any deserving traveller should visit. The area surrounding the city is an archaeological and cultural centre, with many of the ruins equally as important as Machu Picchu in the long and detailed pre-Incan history of the Peru region of South America.

Moche Ruins

The Moche ruins of Sipàn, dating back from around Ad 100 to AD 700, are weathered adobe ruins situated within a valley known as “SugarValley”, so-called today as thousands and thousands of acres of land are used to grow sugar and artichokes. The Moche culture dates back long before the time of the Incas, from around AD 100 to AD 800, and the culture is famous for painted ceramics, gold, and for giant constructions like those at Sipàn. This part of the world really is Indiana Jones inspired – these ruins were only discovered by the archaeological world in 1987, and only then because an archaeologist working in the area called Walter Alva noticed a sudden rush of treasures being sold on the black market in and around Chiclayo and realised that a new ruin must have been discovered by thieves. Teaming up with the local police, and even the FBI at one point, Walter and a team of archaeologists approached the site and found locals digging up graves using shovels and tractors. The police fought with the locals for control over the site, raided their houses to reclaim treasures (one incident even involved a policeman shooting and killing one of the “bandits”) and still to this day retain a presence at the site. Despite the fact that this ruin is far from anywhere, and it is 20 years since the original problems, there is still a Police Station to retain order and ensure the current workers do not walk off with any finds. The site is so big that excavations will continue for many years yet.

Giant adobe pyramid.

Giant adobe pyramid.

The Lord of Sipàn

The ruins at Sipàn are very famous in Peru and in the archaeological world for being the resting place of the “Lord of Sipàn”, and also for being one of the most important discoveries in archaeology in the past 30 years. Luckily the early bandits had only excavated parts of the site, and hadn’t found some of the key treasures buried underneath the desert ground. One such found not discovered by the bandits was unearthed during early excavations by Walter Alva, when a tomb containing thousands of cups was found, which was a sign that the location was of significance to the Moche people. Soon an untouched tomb was discovered which turned out to be one of the richest ever finds in the Americas:  the tomb of The “Lord of Sipàn”. He was buried dressed in very flamboyant clothing, wearing incredibly rich decorations made from gold, silver, copper and turquoise including a giant necklace made of silver and gold that represented the sun and moon. Found alongside his body were the bodies of 7 other people – his wife, the chief of the military, two concubines, a watchman, a child, a banner holder, two llamas and a dog, all ritually sacrificed to protect and serve the Lord in his afterlife. When he was alive, approximately 1500 years ago, this man was a very very important person and ruler. Although the tomb has now been fully excavated and relocated to a museum close by, tourists visiting the site can see the precise location of the tomb, which contains an exact replica of the bodies positioned within the tomb itself.

Final resting place of this once great ruler.

Final resting place of this once great ruler.

The Sipàn ruins themselves are almost unrecognisable as pyramids, and it is obvious why this ruin wasn’t discovered until 1987. Over 1500 years of rain and wind have played havoc on the mud adobe bricks that the Moche people used, making the ruin resemble little more than a muddy hill. There are only very few places dotted around the ruin where bricks are evident, apart from one small segment where excavations have taken place to reveal the base of the structure. For tourists it is possible to walk up one side of one of the pyramids to a lookout point with amazing views of the valley below.

The Valley of Pyramids

Also close by the city of Chiclayo, in the Lambayeque region of Peru, are the fabulous and awe-inspiring ruins of Tucume.

Only a few of the hundreds of pyramids at this majestic site.

Only a few of the hundreds of pyramids at this majestic site.

Only a few of the hundreds of pyramids at this majestic site.

From ground level these ruins appear similar to Sipàn: weathered adobe pyramids, however from ground level it is very hard to get a good perspective of the site. A 10 minute walk up a small hill to a look-out point changes all that, and it will suddenly become clear how amazing, and how large, this site is. Stretched out over a staggering 540 acres are a total of 26 pyramids of varying sizes, with connecting walls and smaller buildings and residential areas between them. In the very distant horizon you can also see additional pyramids in the middle of the green plantations that stretch for miles and miles.

Peru, and the tourist board of Peru, have recognised this area as archaeologically significant, and have taken the sensible decision to house items found in this region in a purpose built museum within the Chiclayo region itself, rather than relocate them to Lima. The “Tumbes Reales” museum is a world-class, high security facility, deserving of a visit from any serious tourist.

The world-class museum show-casing the best in Peruvian archeaology from the region.

The world-class museum show-casing the best in Peruvian archeaology from the region.

Of the hundreds of priceless artefacts on display the main draw are the remains of Senor de Sipàn and the contents of his tomb, not to mention countless incredibly intricate gold and silver decorations, each around 1500 years old.

How to Visit

The region of Chiclayo, and the surround LambayequeValley where the ruins are situated, is truly one of the most important culturally and historically rich areas of Peru, as well as being one of the best Peru travel destinations in the entire country. For travellers that do venture into Northern Peru it is also a method to get away from the crowds of thousands that descend onto Machu Picchu and Cusco every day. If you are lucky, and you travel to Tucume or Sipàn, you will probably find that you are one of only a handful of people lucky enough to be visiting.

The city of Chiclayo can easily be reached via direct bus or flight from Lima. The easiest way to visit the ruins at Sipàn and Tucume is to visit on a tour from the city, and regular “combi” buses (Peruvian local transport buses) also travel around the region and pass close to the sites, although this may involve a small walk – ask locals for directions.

  ———————-

Blog entry and travel guide written by Jonathan, who has lived in Peru and has travelled extensively throughout the entire country, particularly throughout northern Peru. He currently works for Go Andes, a UK travel and tour company specialising in tours and holidays to Peru, where his expert knowledge of travel in Peru is invaluable.

All photos Copyright, All Rights Reserved.