When people think of Peru the first thing that comes to people’s minds is Machu Picchu; some might know about the Inca Trail but beyond this Peru’s hiking routes are almost completely unknown. Just in the Cusco area alone there are a wide variety of routes that can easily be hiked without much pre-planning or preparation. To give you a taster here are some of the more common routes that are hiked by tourists.
The Inca Trail
This is Peru’s most famous hike and combines a wide mix of stunning scenery, visits to Inca archeological sites and the opportunity to see a variety of flora and fauna including many species of orchids that flourish in the Machu Picchu National Park.
Starting out from the Sacred Valley of the Incas and finishing at the Inca sanctuary of Machu Picchu this hike covers 41.5km / 26 miles of intact Inca Trail over a period of 4 days; the route passes by high mountains and through the enigmatic cloud forest that surrounds Machu Picchu eventually bringing you directly in to the city itself via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). There is a limit of about 180 people (500 people in total including support staff) who are allowed to hike each day so Inca Trail permits need to be booked several months in advance to guarantee a place. Hikers need to book with either a licensed tour operator or guide to be permitted to enter the route.
The Salkantay Trek
If you missed out on booking a spot on the Inca Trail then the Salkantay Trek is the most recommended alternative route to bring you to Machu Picchu. Starting from the small village of Mollepata the path slowly works its way up to the base of Salkantay (The Savage) mountain before crossing the high pass (4621m / 15160ft) and heading down in to the lush valleys that surround Machu Picchu.
The route is considered to be one of the most spectacular on offer in the region passing beneath several peaks that tower over 5300m / 17388ft each. The highest peak is Salkantay itself which at 6271m / 20574ft is the highest peak in the region and the 38th highest peak in the Andes. In contrast to the high peaks, the route also passes through an area of verdant highland jungle in which a wide variety of birdlife can be spotted.
Covering a distance of 82.5km / 51 miles over a period of 4 days and with a 5th day to visit Machu Picchu this is quite a demanding route, especially considering it is undertaken at altitude. The path itself is very easy to follow and with obvious camping spots. Many people opt to hire local arrieros (mule drivers) in Mollepata to carry their gear as they not only ease the load but also serve as a guide to show you the way.
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