The mighty Inca Trail circuit in Peru is one of the world’s most famous treks, culminating at the magestic Machu Picchu it provides one of the most incredible experiences in world travel.
Peru is a land built for trekking; it’s an adventurer’s dream, and while the Inca Trail is an awesome experience there is so much more to be explored and discovered in every corner of this beautiful country.
We’ve found 5 of our favourite alternatives treks in Peru (i.e ones that aren’t not classic the Inca trail) to showcase what other options are out there to tickle your fancy.
5 Treks That Aren’t The Inca Trail
The route of the Lares trek is spectacular and many people who have done it say it’s actually better than the Inca Trail for a few reasons: firstly, It’s not as busy. Many tourists go for the more well know Inca Trail so on this trek you’ll get a more ‘authentic’ feel for the environment and the history as there are fewer tourists and guides. It’s a really great way to soak up spectacular mountain scenery in a less tourist heavy environment.
Secondly, you’ll pass through remote villages throughout the Lares Valley and have the opportunity for much more interaction with the direct descendents of the Incas, so you can experience their way of life and see that it has actually not changed that much since the Inca times.
You’ll get back to basics as hardworking Alpacas, Llamas, Herders, Horses, and Horsemen walk with you as you pass through Calca the capital of the Sacred Valley while wandering through various micro-climates. Keep an eye out for Wild Fox, Chinchillas, Eagles and Condors on your way through.
A trip like the Lares Trek is the perfect choice for anyone unable to get a permit to trek the Inca Trail; you will automatically be trekking the Lares route on any of our own tours that include the Inca Trail as part of the itinerary, if Inca Trail permits are not available. So, don’t be put off booking Peru tours last minute or if no permits are available on the tour or date that you want; with the Lares Trek you’ll still have an amazing experience ahead of you!
Some of the incredible views you can expect to see on the Lares Trek. Image courtesy of chrisstreeter
At 4,160m, it’s one of the deepest canyons in the world and one hell of a trek. It’s more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon meaning the ascents are steep and hard going but the rewards are spectacular.
See families of condors soaring above, pass a lush river oasis where you can swim in clear natural pools, dodge scorpions and (maybe) even snakes, as you walk and rest your hard working bones in riverside hot springs.
The nearest larger city is Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, although most of the treks through the canyon start from the canyon rim towns of Cabanaconde or Chivay.
Misti Volcano Trek
El Misti is an active volcano just 17km from Arequipa; a city which has been largely built using El Misti’s white volcanic stones. At 5825m high, getting to the top is no mean feat, but the terrain is beautiful and deserted, and the while it’s undoubtedly high and tough, it is also known to be one of the easier, most accessible high summits in the world.
Although it’s possible to trek it independently it’s recommended that you join an organised group in Arequipa as the climb is high, windy & cold and completely unregulated, i.e, there are no park rangers, no campsites and no toilets, so climbing independently is hard going and can be risky; doing it alone so it should only be attempted by really experienced trekkers.
In 1998 archaeologists found 6 sacrificial Incan mummies near the crater of the volcano making the trip to the top that bit more exciting and historically intriguing. The best months to climb the volcano are in the dryer months of May to September although altitude sickness is a real issue; a few days acclimatising in Arequipa before you start the trek is recommended to help.
The Salcantay Trek is the route to Machu Picchu via the ‘back door’, so to speak.
The trek takes you across to Santa Teresa as you pass Salcantay, one of the most stunning peaks in the Peruvian Andes.
This is another sure fire way to make sure you don’t miss the beauty of Machu Picchu while also skipping the crowds of the Inca Trail and touring the Sacred Valley and interacting with inhabitants and explore the Ollantaytambo ruins.
The trek is challenging, you’ll tackle several high passes, including the highest at Tocto, reaching 4,900 metres above sea level before descending into valleys nestled in the mountains.
Frequently listed as one of the top hikes in the world and far more challenging than the Inca Trail the Huayuash Circuit is a remote, high-altitude wilderness comparable to the Himalayas and Canadian Rockies. Surrounded by alpine scenery including snow-capped peaks, glaciers, hot pools and glacial lagoons; the hike is best tackled by confident, experienced trekkers.
Located in one of the most remote sections of the Andes, the majority of the hike takes place at greater than 4000m above sea level. Spend your days tackling several spectacular passes along the circuit and your nights camping under the stars.