Peru’s Paths Less Travelled: Top 4 Alternative Treks to the Inca Trail

Peru is a South American nation abundant with natural diversity, from the Amazonian jungle to the Andean mountains. You can explore the cobbled streets of Cusco or sip on Pisco Sours in Lima before embarking on an adventure which will guide you straight to the centre of Peru’s heart. The depths of the Inca Trails are scattered with ancient ruins and flecked with local villages which brim with vibrant culture and traditions. Visit Awanacancha to see the camelids (llamas and alpacas!) and experience a unique way of life as you hang out on the floating island of Lake Titicaca. From the 40 man-made islands of Uro to the textile territory of Taquile Island, this place is bursting with pre-Inca charm and traditions found only in this specific region of Peru. 

The Peruvian Andes snake down the centre of the country like a spine, holding together some mesmerising variations in landscape that make for some of the best trekking in the world. These hikes attract travellers from far and wide who are compelled to complete the famous Inca Trail. However, there are plenty of other beautiful routes which are neglected in favour of the notorious, classic route. If you’re eager to peruse Peru’s paths less travelled, read on to discover the top 4 alternative treks to the Inca Trail. 

1. Lares Trek

This trek is often suggested to travellers who were not able to secure a permit for the Inca Trail, but the scenery is just as breath-taking as its famous counterpart. Commencing just outside of Cusco, you’ll set off on a three day adventure which takes you through the town of Ollyantambo to the Lares Valley beyond. You’ll hike on a path which rises even higher than the Inca Trail – the highest point reaches 4,750m (15,583ft)!

This trek is ideal for culture vultures. It brings travellers closer to the indigenous Quechua people and provides an opportunity to learn more about the centuries-old tradition of weaving. Passing through Andean farmlands, you’ll catch a glimpse into what local life is like for the Peruvians that call this outstanding part of the world home. 

2. Choquequirao Trek

Listen up history buffs, this one’s for you! This trek is challenging but oh so worth it! You’ll travel back in time to the age of the Incan Empire, stepping through the heart of the  Choquequirao complex via the Willkapampa mountain range on a pilgrimage which concludes at Aguas Calientes, the entry town to Machu Picchu. Discover hillside ruins and learn more about lost Incan cities on this 8-day expedition. The most memorable moment is said to be the sight of the Choquequirao ruins at sunrise!

3. The Huayhuash Circuit

The city of Huarez, capital of the Ancash Highlands, is the gateway to many of the area’s trekking routes. The Huayhuash Circuit is an exciting 7 day feat taking you to a maximum elevation of 5,000m (16,404ft) in one of the most remote sections of the Andes (you aren’t likely to see too many fellow travellers despite the increasing popularity of this circuit!). The area is comparable to the Himalayas and the Rockies in terms of its outstanding alpine beauty and dramatic skylines. Breathe in the pure mountain air by the lungful as you revel in the awe-inspiring scenery of this trek, categorised by glacial lakes and the all-encompassing, snow-capped Andean peaks which appear to pierce the sky above.

4. Salkantay Trek

This trek is claimed to be even more magnificent than the classic Inca Trail, with Salkantay being one of the most spectacular peaks in the Peruvian Andes. You’ll start out from the Sacred Valley and pass through the Willkapampa mountain range. The overall trekking elevation of 4,200m (13,779ft) is lower than that of the classic Inca Trail, so this is the perfect route for hikers who are not used to walking in such thin air. Despite this, the trek does require effort and perseverance, but you will be rewarded! You’ll have a pinch me moment as you absorb out-of-this-world views of Salkantay, a sight so mesmerising and unreal that you’ll be thinking it’s a painting (or perhaps another planet entirely!). The trek finishes up at Santa Teresa, the backdoor of Machu Picchu, where you can hop on a train to Aguas Calientes for an early-morning visit to Machu Picchu, Peru’s ultimate bucket-list location.

Is Peru the destination for you? Lace up your hiking boots and check out our Peru tours to one of South America’s most tremendous countries. Your chance to soak in the serenity of the Sacred Valley is just a click away!

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