Adventure travelers looking for incredible mountain treks will find a wealth of truly off the beaten path locations scattered around Peru.
While Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail receive the majority of attention, Peru offers a number of alternatives if you’re hoping to feel less like a tourist and more like a true explorer.
The Andes form the longest continental mountain range in the world, offering treks of all lengths and degrees of difficulties. Peru is lucky enough to be home to many of the most notable mountain treks along the range, many of which manage to remain under the radar from mass tourism.
There is no denying that Machu Picchu is an incredible Wonder of the World, but those looking for something more unique and less restrictive may want to look into some of Peru’s other incredible mountain treks.
The following treks will not only provide you with equally as impressive scenery, but will also leave you with stories very few other travelers have experienced.
The Best Mountain Treks in Peru (that Aren’t Machu Picchu!)
Why Skip Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail have began feeling the strain of over-tourism and finding alternative Peruvian experiences can often provide a far more rewarding adventure.
But it can also help alleviate the pressures caused by too many tourists flocking to the famous citadel. Restrictions have already been placed on travelers wishing to hike the Inca Trail as well as those looking to witness Machu Picchu.
Only 200 hikers are allowed to start the Inca Trail each day (500 total people when you include guides and porters). Machu Picchu has also placed limits on the amount of daily visitors as well as recently enforcing guided tours with time limits.
When you’re forced into a guided tour and can’t venture off from your group, can’t take a photograph without a million other tourists, and can’t enjoy the view without being elbowed, is it really still worth visiting?
Especially when you can head out on one of these equally as incredible treks …
This nearly two week trek has become one of the world’s finest mountain treks, bringing you up close and personal to some of South America’s most remarkable peaks such as Yerupajá.
The Huayhuash Circuit Trek reaches heights of 15,000-16,000 feet where you’ll pass pristine glacial lakes and a treeless landscape for uninterrupted views of the many snow capped peaks.
If you have ever read Joe Simpson’s famous book “Touching the Void” or seen the documentary, this is where the epic adventure took place. This trek will not only allow you to camp in the same camp as Simpson and Yatches, but you will also experience a great deal of Andean culture.
At around 100 miles long, the circuit and its side trails definitely don’t make for a simple stroll, and a good deal of dedication and stamina is required. The scenery and encounters with wildlife such as Andean condors and vicuña make it well worth the effort though.
Image credit: Brice Pollock (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The journey across Peru’s Altiplano is one through earth’s most extensive areas of high plateau outside of Tibet. Here you will be hiking in the cradle of Inca civilization through cities like Puno, along Lake Titicaca; South America’s largest and the highest navigable lake in the world.
Getting to Lake Titicaca usually involves a stunning bus or rail journey from Cusco. Travelling by bus allows for stops to take in the beautiful peaks of the Carabaya Range, while the train offers up the world’s fourth-highest rail route.
On Lake Titicaca, experience the famous totora reed boats and Uros Floating Islands. There are many ruins to discover and fascinating islands to explore including Taquile Island and Island of the Sun. Enjoy the lake via a relaxing cruise or opt for a more active kayak journey.
Journeys to Lake Titicaca usually include entering the much less visited country of Bolivia where you’ll find the highest capital city in the world, La Paz, with its eclectic witches’ markets, cholita wrestling, and stunning landscape of the Valle de la Luna.
The city’s high altitude will challenge your leg muscles and lungs while choosing to travel by bike down the famous Death Road will challenge your nerves.
Alpamayo and the Cordillera Blanca
Follow ancient Andean-trails and visit Quechua communities as you take in the literally breathtaking scenery of the numerous snow capped peaks that reach well over 18,000 feet along the Alpamayo Circuit.
It is here where Peru’s tallest Mountain, Huascarán, stands at over 22,000 feet. In addition, you will witness the insanely beautiful pyramid shaped Alpamayo mountain.
Alpamayo is often said to be the world’s most striking mountain and along with turquoise glacial lakes and glaciers themselves, this trek offers up a remote, seldom visited area of Peru with some of the country’s finest landscapes.
The roughly week and a half long trek provides wilderness camping at its best, where you can safely witness crashing avalanches in the distance from the safety and comfort of your tent.
Image credit: Masa Sakano (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Ausangate and the Rainbow Mountain
Those looking for a bit more color in a mountain trek need look no further than hiking to Ausangate and the Rainbow Mountain. Also known as Vinicunca, the trek is a more manageable hike than some of the above options; a 4-5 day hike that is easily accessed from Cusco.
Rainbow Mountain is quite literally painted in shades of purple, yellow, pink, green, and blue. It almost looks as though an alpine color run event just took place there … or maybe the result of the local condors eating too many skittles and expelling them through their digestive tracks across the sides of the mountain.
This trek also includes seeing the impressive Ausangate, the largest peak in the Cusco region. You may also see wildlife such as llamas, alpacas, pumas, and more.
Unlike the Inca Trail, no permits are required for this trek and you may not even run into another group of hikers. Winning!
Those looking to visit a citadel much like Machu Picchu without all the hectic chaos should experience Choquequirao.
While a bit more of a challenge to reach than Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca site is very similar to MP in terms of architecture and offerings. In fact, it looks almost exactly the same. But with none of the tourism.
Seeing Choquequirao requires a 2-day hike which starts just outside of Cusco near the village of San Pedro de Cachora. The experience is well worth the hike and you won’t have to share the journey or the site with many tourists.
Less than 10,000 hikers visit the site annually which is far less than the nearly 1.5 million people that flock to Machu Picchu each year.
Explore the ancient site which is actually larger than Machu Picchu and even camp there. You may even be blessed with having the site to yourself where you can marvel at the shrines and temples as well as incredible rock artwork depicting motifs of people and animals set in the terraces.
Those looking for a longer trek can extend this journey to include a visit to Machu Picchu, but coming in via a much less traveled route than the Inca Trail that offers unique views of the famous citadel.
OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL GUIDES TO PERU. CLICK TO LOOK INSIDE ↓
INSPIRED?! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓
If You Liked This Post You May Also Like:
This post was completed in collaboration with World Expeditions. For more information on mountain treks that aren’t Machu Picchu visit worldexpeditions.com/Peru