Trekking experts Robert & Daisy Kunstaetter introduce their top trekking spots in this incredible country.
The Cordillera Huayhuash was made famous by Joe Simpson's mountaineering classic, Touching the Void. The Huayhuash trekking circuit from Chiquián to Cojitambo has eight passes over 4700 m and requires plenty of stamina. You will be rewarded with views of massive ice faces rising out of the puna, azure lakes, deep gorges and high pastures.
Visible from Cuzco, the strikingly beautiful summit of Ausangate stands at 6384 m. The four- to six-day circuit of the mountain includes spectacular vistas of the heavily glaciated Cordillera Vilcanota, two passes over 5000 m, hot springs and beautiful turquoise lakes. The circuit rarely drops below 4000 m, so trekkers need to be fit and well acclimatized before attempting it.
This Inca city is as spectacularly sited as Machu Picchu but far less visited. The four- to five- day hike starts at the village of Cachora (accessed from Cuzco) at 2875 m, descends into the seemingly bottomless Apurímac canyon at 1500 m and climbs back up to Choquequirao at 3000 m, so you can figure out just how much climbing up and down is involved. Do this trek now, before the cable car arrives.
Peru’s most famous trek is a four- or five-day organized hike through magnificent scenery, varied ecology and Inca ruins to Machu Picchu. For all its popularity, this is no easy stroll: it starts at 2600 m, climbs up to 4200 m, descends 1000 m on an Inca stairway, and, depending on the time of year, includes freezing nights and/or deep mud.
The world-famous trekking routes to Machu Picchu follow but a tiny fraction of the 25,000-km Inca road network. Vestiges of the Capaq Ñan can be found the length of the Andes and in Peru there are many well-preserved sections which make exceptional off-the-beaten-path trekking routes. The ancient road and stairway to Pariacaca in the Central Highlands and the 200-km stretch from Huari to Huánuco Viejo are but two examples.
North of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca is the trekking heart of Peru. The most popular multi-day trek in this area takes three to five days from the Santa Cruz Valley to Llanganuco or vice versa. Less travelled and more demanding, but well worth the additional effort, is the Alpamayo Circuit, a seven- to 12-day trek around one of the most perfect peaks in the world. Both of these trekking routes are offered by many tour operators or they can be undertaken independently by those with sufficient experience.
Robert & Daisy Kunstaetter are authors of Trekking Peru, as well as resident Peru experts at Footprint.