Peru Guide:

Finding the Best Hikes

Peru Guide:

Finding the Best Hiking

best hikes in peru can be found in peru. best hikes in peru include machu picchu. best hikes in peru also include huaraz treks. best hikes in peru should also include rainbow mountain. best hikes in peru; the huacachina dunes. best hikes in peru have some great hiking just like other best hikes in peru.

The Best Hikes in Peru

This is a guide for how to find some the best hikes in Peru. Of course, the famous Macchu Picchu hikes are the first that come to mind. But hopefully this will also help you discover some off the beaten path. From the up and coming Rainbow Mountain hike to the amazing Laguna 69 trek in Huascarán National Park. The Andes are a phenomenal mountain range that have some of the best hikes in Peru, and all of South America.

See how these fit into our Peru Route:

Before we even get started with how to hike Machu Picchu, we just have to say that there are Alpacas everywhere. Our guide, Percy, said that they are pretty friendly and accustomed to humans so feel free to take pictures with them. However, they are pretty dirty so its probably best not to pet them. With that being said, they are wild animals so you really shouldn't be touching them anyway. You wouldn't want to unintentionally upset them because be warned, they can spit or bite you. Also, there are clearly marked boundaries of where you can and cannot walk around Machu Picchu. Please don't venture off to where you shouldn't be, even if its just to take pictures - it's still not an excuse.

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Machu Picchu to Sun Gate Loop

Length: 2.4 miles
Elevation:

Min: 7,986 ft. | Max: 8,897 ft.
Gain:
 911 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆

The Machu Picchu to Sun Gate Loop is probably the most popular hike to do at this site. Most people go straight for the ancient ruins and miss the part up to the Sun Gate, which is where the Inca Trail ends. The entire loop is about 2.4 miles, but the portion to the Sun Gate and back is approximately 1.7 miles. From the top you will be rewarded with an amazing view above the ancient ruins. When we went, there was quite a bit of cloud cover so it was really cool to watch the ruins disappear and reappear from the Sun Gate. Walking around Machu Picchu and watching the clouds rolling up mountains was unreal.

machu picchu rice terraces
machu picchu to sun gate sign
machu picchu ruins on a cloudy day
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machu picchu ancient ruins
top of the sun gate hike

Huayna Picchu

Length: 2.5 miles
Elevation:

Min: 7,498 ft. | Max: 8,232 ft.
Gain:
734 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆

The Huayna Picchu Loop is another popular hike that can be done during a day trip. It is a 2.5 mile loop that is a bit more strenuous than the loop around the ruins and to the Sun Gate. However, this one requires the purchase of a permit as only about 400 hikers are allowed per day. The cost is approximately 48 Soles or $15 USD. We did not do this hike, however, heard that the views were amazing but the hike was a little challenging.

From our experience, if you're planning a day trip it would be pretty difficult to do this hike and the hike to the Sun Gate. If you're ambitious and in good shape it would be definitely be doable. Speaking from experience, we like to enjoy our hikes and not feel rushed so that is why we opted out.

Classic Inca Trail from Km 104

Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation:

Min: 6,539 ft. | Max: 8,909 ft. |
Gain:
2,370 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆☆

You have probably heard of people raving about the best hikes in Peru have to be to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. Usually these treks are called the 'Classic Inca Trail', but what does that mean? It means that they hike on part of the original Inca trail to the sacred ruins. However, there are a few different routes that can be taken, but it's worth noting that you will need a tour guide for these. As of 2001, it is unlawful to hike on the Inca Trail without a proper tour operator.

With that being said, this 'Classic Inca Trail' hike from Km 104 can be done in a day, albeit a long one. In spite of that, it's typically it is a 2 day/1 night journey. Nonetheless, as I mentioned before you will need to hire a tour operator. The trailhead is not very accessible so finding a ride would be necessary anyway. This is a point-to-point hike so you will most likely need to arrange transportation at the end of the hike. Better yet, it might be best to spend the night in Aguas Calientes after doing this long hike.

machu picchu pachamama and huayna picchu mountain

Classic Inca Trail from Km 82

Length: 22.7 miles
Elevation:

Min: 8,761 ft. | Max: 13,866 ft. 
Gain:
5,105 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆☆☆

The Classic Inca Trail from Km 82 is probably the most popular of the 'classic' treks. It is typically a 4 day/3 night excursion that spans just over 22 miles. This hike is the definitely the priciest of the options to hike to Machu Picchu. Prices typically hover around the $500$700 USD range. However, we hired a tour guide, Percy, for a day trip to Machu Picchu with MontesTravel and he was awesome. The full day tour is only $40 USD so we would recommend asking for a quote from him before booking anywhere else. He also offers a 2 day/1 night trek from Km 104.

If you're looking for the best hiking in Huaraz, you should start with Huascarán National Park. It is home to the popular Laguna 69 and Santa Cruz treks. Huascarán is like something out of a fairy tale story. The hike to Laguna 69 is absolutely mind blowing. It's one of the hardest hikes we had ever done, but by far the most beautiful scenery you could imagine.

The park is about a 3 hour drive from Huaraz, but much of that is on an unpaved road. In fact, there isn't a single paved road in the entire park. It is extremely primitive compared to other National Parks we have been to, which is part of its allure. There was something calming and unique about the untouched environment of this place.

Nonetheless, regardless of the hike you choose to do, the 30 Sole (~$10 USD) is required to enter the park. We thought this was more than reasonable since most of the U.S. National Park entrance fees are more than 3x that price!

Length: 8.1 miles
Elevation:

Min: 12,797 ft. | Max: 15,160 ft.
Gain:
2,363 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆☆☆

Here is everything you need to know about Laguna 69. We booked our trip through Andes X-Plorer for $17 USD. This seemed like a good price at the time, but we would recommend waiting until you get to Huaraz to book your treks. Our hostel, Alpes Huaraz offered tours for as low as 35 Soles (roughly $11 USD). Booking there would've been cheaper, and allowed us to go hiking in the park with new friends we met at the hostel. Oh well, you live and you learn.

How to get to Laguna 69

If you're doing a day trip to Laguna 69 from Huaraz be prepared for a long day because the drive takes about three hours each way. The hike takes approximately 6 hours to complete so you're looking at a 12-13 hour day (leaving around 5 am). However, we did get to stop at a cool little breakfast place on the way to the park. The food is delicious and super cheap - an egg sandwich was 3 Soles (less than $1 USD). It's also a nice place to take a bathroom break. Be warned you should probably bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Though, this is the case with most places in Peru.

breakfast on the way to laguna 69
What to expect

The hike to Laguna 69 is absolutely mind blowing. It's one of the harder hikes we have done, but by far the most beautiful scenery you could imagine. This hike is an 8.1 mile out-and-back trail that has an elevation change of 2,670 ft. The first two miles take you through a valley with winding streams of glacier water and oxen grazing in fields. It started out pretty flat so once we got to the halfway point we were feeling pretty good.

laguna 69 trail head huascaran national park
huascaran national park hiking
oxen on laguna 69 hike huascaran national park
how to get to laguna 69 huaraz huascaran national park
cordillera blanca huascaran national park
almost to laguna 69 huascaran national park huaraz peru

Not too long after the halfway point, we hit loads of switchbacks that made us gain elevation quickly. Once we made it to the top of the first series of switchbacks, we hit a false peak. We thought we were done with gaining elevation. Wrong. After hiking through another valley, we reached the final set of switchbacks. This was the toughest part, but so worth it once you get to the top. The glacier water at Laguna 69 was out of this world. We stopped for a short lunch break and to catch our breath before descending back down.

**Pro Tip** - bring lots of layers for this hike. We were sweating during the first part but after we got to the lake at the top, it started raining/hailing. It's definitely worth bringing a warm jacket and/or a poncho with you on this hike as the weather changes quickly. Also make sure you bring plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person).

Length: 30.1 miles
Elevation:

Min: 9,695 ft. | Max: 15,524 ft.
Gain:
5,559 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆☆☆☆

The Santa Cruz trek is quite challenging, though we heard it's one of the best hikes in Huascarán National Park. Full disclosure, we did not do this one. In fact, we didn't even know about before we got to Huaraz. Our hostel, Alpes Huaraz, can also help you book this trek. We met some people at the hostel who said this trek was absolutely amazing. This trek typically takes 4 days/3 nights to cover the full 30 miles.

Some trekking companies even offer to carry your gear for you. Costs online will vary anywhere from $150 - $300+ USD depending on the services offered. One hiker we talked to said that all he had to do was carry his water. The hired guides even provided porters to carry the gear and set up the tents/prepare food at the camp sites. He said it was nice not having to do anything, but that kind of took the fun out of the backpacking experience.

Anyway, we would recommend connecting with Alpes Huaraz before booking anything online. They offer a 4 day/3 night trek for 430 Soles, which is roughly $130 USD. This is most likely cheaper than you will find anywhere online. Like I mentioned before, we would have saved some money booking through them instead of a third party online. Their trek to Laguna 69 was only $11 USD instead of the other company's $ 17 USD.

santa cruz trek hike huascaran national park

Rainbow Mountain

Length: 5.7 miles
Elevation:

Min: 14,829 ft. | Max: 16,252 ft. 
Gain:
1,423 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆☆☆

Rainbow Mountain is the highest hike we have done to date. For reference, this hike ends at 16,252 ft, just 1,400 ft. below the elevation of Mt. Everest Base Camp. So you are really up there in the highlands of Peru. According to our guide, Percy, this hike has exploded in popularity since 2015. Slowly but surely it's becoming one of the best hikes in Peru!

Before going to Rainbow Mountain we read varying opinions on the internet about whether or not it's worth the difficult hike. Not to mention the three hour long drive from Cusco. Even though we did the hike in their Spring, it was raining and snowing. Nonetheless, we still thought it was absolutely worth the trek. Please note: we love hiking. We’d only recommend attempting Rainbow Mountain if you're okay with possibly hiking in the rain, sleet, and snow.

How to get to Rainbow Mountain

Going to Rainbow Mountain is at least a full day excursion. The drive out from Cusco is about 3 hours each way. The majority of the drive is on an unpaved road, which means you'll be in the car just about as long as you are hiking. The hike can take anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on how your experience level. Additionally, times will vary depending on how well you are acclimated to the altitude, and your physical conditioning.

Unless you somehow rented a car or brought your own to Peru, you will need to find a ride to Rainbow Mountain. There are many tour companies available, but we highly recommend our friend, Percy. He took us to Machu Picchu, and also did a tour of Rainbow Mountain with us for $40 USD/person. This included transportation, the entrance fee to Rainbow Mountain, a guided hike, and some tea/crackers afterwards. He is super friendly, knowledgeable, and we would absolutely book another tour with him. His website and contact info can be found here to book a tour.

percy montestravel rainbow mountain trek
andes glacier on the way to rainbow mountain
What to expect

If you are planning the hike with hopes of seeing an overly saturated mountain from instagram, this isn't the place for you. If you want to see some amazing views of the Andes mountains, glaciers, and conquering a 16,000+ ft mountain, then this definitely is for you. You should plan on being well equipped with proper hiking boots, hiking poles, and a well insulated raincoat. If you didn’t bring hiking poles or other hiking equipment, they can be rented at almost any outdoor store in Cusco. Also, be sure to bring your coca leaves for the altitude!

bathroom bano at rainbow mountain
rainbow mountain hike in the snow
rainbow mountain hike in the snow
toilet at rainbow mountain
Length: <2 miles
Elevation:

Min: 1,325 ft. | Max: ~1,640 ft.
Gain:
315 ft.

Difficulty: ☆☆

Huacachina is surrounded by massive sand dunes. I mean, it is in the middle of the desert. When you get to this small oasis town everybody and their mother will be trying to sell you dune buggy tours or sand board rentals. Instead of doing those, we decided to take a hike (for free) up to the top of the sand dunes. Huacachina may not be first to mind when thinking of trekking. However, we love the desert so we thought it should include it in our list of the best hikes in Peru.

Note: Dune buggies can't actually reach the top of the highest dunes due to the possibility of flipping over. So, that leaves hiking up there your only option. Although there's no official trail on AllTrails, it's pretty easy to see where you need to go. If you're wondering where I got the elevation change from, it's from this topographical map website.

After our last attempt sand boarding with a bare longboard at Pink Coral Sand Dunes, we thought it would be hopeless. However, to our surprise the sand here was actually very soft and thick. Running down the dunes felt like running down on a bouncy house. It was super cool and we have never experienced anything like that before. In retrospect, sand boarding may have actually worked out quite nicely here so we'd recommending giving it a go.

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By |2019-05-15T04:43:56-04:00November 9th, 2018|Peru, South America|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Inca Trail March 24, 2020 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    It’s an amazing post!
    One of our best experiences has been traveling to Peru.

    • worldlywander March 25, 2020 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you 🙂 We loved the hiking in Peru!

  2. Inca Trail March 27, 2020 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    We were fascinated with the experience that we had to live with the Salkantay Trek 4-day, I and my brother booked it with Salkantay Trekking. At first we thought that we would not get to Machu Picchu, but we did.

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