Running like a backbone down the center of Peru, the Peruvian Andes are the lure for many adventure travelers seeking a heart-pumping custom adventure travel holiday to Peru. From deep canyons to rolling valleys and icy peaks, there’s mountaineering or trekking options in Peru for every season, every whim, and every sort of traveler.
CORDILLERA BLANCA, PERU`S WHITE MOUNTAIN RANGE
The thrill of being out in the wilderness with just your own two legs to carry you is unrivalled. For trekkers who want a blend of nature, scenery and culture, it’s hard to beat the Cordillera Blanca. The sky-skimming peaks of this colossal range – classified as the highest tropical mountain range in the world – often soar somewhere in the region of 20,000 feet and are crisscrossed by various trails. What’s more, it’s part of Huascaran National Park and is protected as a Biosphere Reserve and for its Natural Heritage by UNESCO, meaning it’s rich in native flora and fauna as well as pre-Inca ruins.
CORDILLERA HUAYHUASH, HUAYHUASH MOUNTAIN RANGE
Located in the central Peruvian Andes just south of the Cordillera Blanca is this huddled collection of ice-ridden peaks. Around them, the ice yields to water, which feeds the cascading rivers and turquoise lakes where flora and fauna flourish. It is one of the best trekking circuits on the planet and indeed, avid trekkers may already be familiar with some of its famous summits. Most notable of them are the 21,768-foot Yerupajá, Peru’s second highest peak, and the 20,813-foot Siula Grande, the setting for Joe Simpson’s incredible true-life survival tale, “Touching the Void.”
CORDILLERA VOLCANICA, PERU`S VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN RANGE
For adventure seekers who like a challenge, it’s nigh impossible to ignore the dangerous allure of a volcano. And there is no denying that staring into the fiery-red pit of a belching beast certainly elicits a thrill. But even the extinct volcanoes of the so-called Valley of Volcanoes possess a unique appeal, namely, an incredible lunar-like landscape. Stretching along the southern half of Peru, the Valley of Volcanoes counts Mount Coropuna, Peru’s highest volcano (21,079 feet), among its ranks and is studded with warped geological formations and extinct craters.
CORDILLERA VILCABAMBA, VILCABAMBA MOUNTAIN RANGE
Hiking isn’t just a way of exercising; it’s also a way of admiring the scenery, getting closer to nature and learning about ancient culture. This route, which weaves around the valley that was last refuge of the Incas, and makes a tempting alternative route to Machu Picchu. This trail to the “lost” ancient city links jungles, snow-dusted mountains and archaeological sites – all without the crowds frequently associated with the more famous Inca Trail.
The Andes are Peru’s trekking heartland and this particular “Apu” (mountain) overlooks Cusco, making it an ideal escape from the city. Stride over mountain passes, through authentic Andean villages, by thermal hot springs and turquoise lakes. Every step of Ausangate brings another postcard-worthy vista.
Hiking enthusiasts planning a trekking vacation to Peru might not have heard of Choquequirao, but with plans to install a cable car system here already underway, that probable won’t last long. This under-the-radar archaeological site is often referred to as the “sister city” to Machu Picchu. Getting to the ruins is a challenging hike, but the rewards – empty, intriguing Inca ruins and magnificent scenery – are ample.
COLCA CANYON & VALLEY
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca offers hikers landscapes of a truly magnificent scale. Treks here will lead you past meticulously constructed terraces built by the native Collaguas and Cabanas of the valley and offer views over the gaping canyon. The greatest reward? The sighting of a majestic Andean condor swooping overhead. Keep one eye on the sky while you walk.
COTAHUASI CANYON & VALLEY
With a depth of 11,686 feet, Cotahuasi Canyon is nothing if not epic. Quaint towns with colonial churches, Inca paths and ancient archaeological sites containing cave paintings dot the valley, while the imposing Coropuna and Solmana peaks act as a scenic backdrop. If traveling by foot isn’t exhilarating enough for your taste, try canoeing, paragliding, hang gliding, mountain biking, rock climbing or horse riding instead. Don’t miss the Sipia waterfall, where sheets of water fall almost 500 feet. Trekkers who want to really experience the breadth of the valley should devote at least three days of their customized tour of Peru to the region. Cotahuasi Valley’s hot springs are a good salve for stiff leg muscles.
Complete this stunning circuit to experience the world’s highest tropical mountain, Alpamayo, which – at 19,511 feet – towers over the surrounding landscapes. Many believe the icy pyramid-like peak to be the world’s most beautiful mountain.
SANTA CRUZ LLANGANUCO TREK
Tackle this justifiably popular trekking circuit in the Cordillera Blanca. Spend a few days of your private Peru trip walking here, where the soaring peaks, serene lakes and rushing rivers provide more than enough inspiration to keep you marching on.
INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU
The Inca Trail hold a great allure for travelers. And if you have time during your personalized tour of Peru, it is a must-do experience. Over its relatively short 26-mile course, the trail manages to pack in a lot, including cloud forest, subtropical jungle, mountain scenery and, of course, various ancient Inca remnants. The high point is the final few steps when you enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate – the main entrance provides what is possibly the best perspective on the cluster of stone constructions below.
The classic Lares route is extremely beautiful: massive snow-covered peaks, high-altitude alpine lakes and crashing waterfalls all feature. Still, it’s not the scenery, but the native people that are the main draw. The route links together several Andean villages; cultural adventurers will have ample opportunities to meet the locals. The trek offers so much cultural immersion within the high-altitude weaving hamlets that it has even been dubbed the “Weavers Way.”
SALKANTAY TREK TO MACHU PICCHU
Often counted among the best trails in the world lists, Salkantay is a fantastic alternative for those who want to trek to Machu Picchu but avoid the masses on the oversubscribed Inca Trail. The path runs beneath the soaring Salkantay Mountain, which rises to more than 20,000 feet above sea level. Hike from the rocky glacier-clad peaks down through the warm cloud forest to Aguas Calientes, the launching town for Machu Picchu visits.