Trekking in Peru tops my bucket list. When planning a trip to Peru, be prepared; get fit, take time to acclimatise and enjoy the magnificent view from several thousand metres above sea level. Peru offers some of the best treks in the world, which is no surprise when you remember that you're in the middle of South America's Andes, steeped in rich Incan history.
Here are our top treks in Peru.
The Classic Inca Trail and The Cachicata Trek
Machu Picchu - The City of Gold - the ancient Incan capital city is located in Cusco, one of South America's most popular trekking destinations. Take the train into Rio Urubamba, the Incan 'Sacred Valley' and walk in, as the Incas did, for four days and three nights along the stone pathway into the city ruins. For a shorter, easier journey, opt for the Cachiccata Trek, which takes you through Chokekillka and Intiwatana temples. Undiscovered until 1911, Machu Picchu boasts a string of fascinating ruins, including Puyapatamarka, with its circular walls and aquaduct, and Huinay Huayna, which features ceremonial baths and intricate stonework set into a steep incline.
Peru's Ausangate Trek is about as authentic as it gets. Located southeast of Cusco, Ausangate offers a less crowded and more challenging trip for experienced trekkers. Comprising four high passes, two of which are over 5,000 metres, the Ausangate Trek peaks at 6,372 metres and boasts several rigorous ascents and a variety of mountain scenery. Take in views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, grasslands and valleys that are home to abundant wildlife. Indigenous people inhabiting this region live in relative isolation, and exist the way they have done for centuries.
Peru's Salcantay Trek is another more challenging hike, offering the opportunity to head along the Classic Inca Trail at its merge point and discover the multiple Inca ruins situated along the original stone path to Machu Picchu. Take a detour to spend time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley or continue through Incachuana Pass and Salcantay village before joining the Inca Trail, which takes you through swirling cloudforest to Machu Picchu.
Cordillera Blanca, the 'White Range', is located in Peru's northern Ancash region and boasts the greatest number of peaks over 6,000 metres outside of the Himalayas. Stable weather conditions and perfect panoramic views make Cordillera Blanca an excellent option, regardless of trekking experience. Enjoy a gradual incline through alpine meadows to the snow-capped peak of Huscaran. Drink in spectacular natural scenery and discover Quechuan villages during a five or ten-day hike that allows you freedom to explore untouched, unspoiled Peru.
For a five-day trek of a different kind - and one you can do independently - take the plunge and descend into Colca Canyon from the Cruz del Condor lookout. Take in the views of the canyon and native wildlife, including soaring condors, magnificent in flight. Descend to Cabanoconde, San Juan de Chuccho and Sangalle, where you can swim before you make your ascent.