Peru is one of the most fascinating countries to visit in Latin America. With snow-capped peaks, scorching deserts, humid jungle, and endless beaches to delve into, you’ll have a hard time leaving.
And with such amazing landscapes to explore, this Andean nation rightfully ranks as one of the best in the continent to go hiking in. Not only can you visit the must-dos like Machu Picchu, but there are also tonnes of opportunities for doing more remote hiking too.
In this guide we’ll explore some of the best hiking destinations you must visit when in Peru, as well as the best time to visit this stunning nation.
Why hike in Peru? Is it safe?
Peru is one of the safest Latin American countries to visit.
Sweltering jungle, mountainous highlands and alpine, emerald-colored lakes hidden within the Andes await travelers in this diverse South American nation.
Peru also has many off-the-beaten-path hikes that can be done, which means you can feel like you’re truly exploring a new gem instead of treading with the endless waves of tourists behind you.
To make things even better, whilst resting between hikes, you can then explore the amazing colonial towns and fascinating cities around where you’ll be based. The destinations covered later in this guide are a gem in their own right, home to lots of pre-Colombian cultures, authentic Peruvian customs as well as some really great and typical foods.
Despite its large size, getting around Peru is actually relatively easy and cheap. All of the destinations listed here can be reached by bus from Lima, with domestic flights sometimes even as cheap! Buses will most likely be overnight with some up to 20h. The bus quality is usually very good with fully reclining seats, not to mention costing very little even for the long haul trips.
The Best Time to Hike Peru
This diverse country is actually a lot bigger than most think and has many different regions with their own micro-climates.
For example, the jungle is almost always hot and rainy, whilst the sierra gets bitterly cold during the winter season. Here we’ll do our best to cover what you’ll need to know.
Best Time to hike Cusco
First up is the most popular destination of Cusco. Located in the Andes, this city has both a dry and wet season. The wet season runs from December until April and is the most popular time to visit as it’s the warmer time of year. Average temperatures hover around 52°F, with highs of between 63-66°F and lows of 39°F.
Rainfall during this period ranges from 100-150mm per month, with January being the wettest month of the year in Cusco with 155mm of total downpour. The dry period, on the other hand, is of course much drier, but also colder too. Running from May until November, average daily temperatures range from 48-50°F, with similar highs of 64°F, however the more chilly lows of 27-34°F.
Rainfall is sparse with between 5-40mm of precipitation throughout each month. June and July are the driest months of the year with only 3-5mm of rain throughout each.
It’s worth mentioning here (as we’ll discuss later) that Huaraz, another popular hiking destination in Peru also located in the Andes, has similar temperatures yet slightly more rain.
The Best Time to hike Lima
Another popular destination to visit is Lima. The warmest time to visit the capital is during the summer, which runs here from December until April. Average temperatures range from 72-75°F, with highs of up to 77-81°F and lows of around 67°F.
Whilst Lima is infamous for its near-constant grey skies, during the summer these tend to give way to the more classic clear blue skies to enjoy at the beach. Alternatively, the winter season is a lot colder, which is between May and November.
Daily average temperatures sit between 59-63°F, with highs of 66-73°F and lows of 59-63°F. Rainfall is virtually non-existent in Lima throughout the year, owing to its own micro-climate (which is due to being sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes). In any given month you can expect anything from 0-15mm of drizzle, although historically it’s been more likely during the late winter months of August and September.
The Best Time to hike Chachapoyas
Last but not least is the small city of Chachapoyas, located in the Amazonas district in northern Peru. Also in the Sierra, Chachapoyas can also experience cold temperatures, although it’s still a much-deserved break from the chillier lows such as those found high up in the Andes. Average daily temperatures are quite consistent throughout the year, sitting at around 61-63°F, with highs of between 70-74°F and lows of between 48-52°F.
The hottest time to visit is September with highs of up to 74°F, and the coolest month is July with lows of down to 48°F. Rainfall is at its heaviest between January and March, with around 60mm falling throughout each. June until September is virtually bone-dry with a maximum of 10mm falling in each month, making this period a great time to hike around and explore the region.
Top hiking spots in Peru
Now let’s take a look at our top picks for the best destinations to go hiking in Peru. We will talk about our experience and give our best recommendations on what to do at each hiking destination.
Huaraz is the ultimate hiking destination in Peru. Full of snowy mountains and brightly-colored alpine lakes, it’s one of the best for higher altitude climbs and stunning, serene panoramic views. You can arrive here by bus from Lima, which takes around 6 hours from the capital. Lake Parón is one of the most popular to visit, and sitting at an altitude of 4150m, is a great first trip to take to get your body acclimated to the higher elevations.
After arriving by bus, you’ll see the crystal-blue lake in all its glory and can hike for around 45 minutes up to the mirador for the best views. Another top hike in Huaraz is Nevado Mateo, which is our top pick for those who want a demanding experience with some simply incredible views at the end of it. Located in the Cordillera Blanca, Mateo is located at an altitude of 5150m.
You can only go by an organized Peru tours trip, due to difficulties in the terrain as well as sometimes rapid changes in the climate which affect climbing conditions. Once you arrive at the start of the route, you’ll then ascend up rocky boulders using ropes, then weave your way between impressive, towering mountains. Lastly, you’ll then reach the snow-line, and hike up the remaining portion until you reach the peak, where you’ll be greeted with amazing views of glacial lakes, imposing mountains, and a mist that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world!
Marcahuasi is an extremely underrated destination to visit in Peru, however, is a must with its beautifully jagged-shaped mountain peaks and classic off-the-beaten-path vibes. Located in the Huarochirí province, which is close to Lima, to get here you’ll first need to take a colectivo (like a small shared minivan) from Lima to Chosica, and then a bus up to the mountain town of San Pedro de Casta. This small town is good to gather any needed supplies before starting the hike up.
You’ll first pass by small farms and then up the winding path through the mountains. It will take between 2-4 hours depending on your physical capability, and also how your body reacts to the higher altitudes (Marcahuasi is located at around 4000m). At the top of the path, you’ll reach a large campsite, and we recommend staying here for the night (although you’ll need to bring your own tent with you).
After another half, an hour of hiking upwards and you’ll reach the peak, where you’ll see an otherworldly dome landscape of white rocks and mountains that looks like something out of a sci-fi film. You’ll also see the infamous sharp, jagged rocks, as well as some impressive views over the horizon. Head up during sunrise or sunset for some truly unforgettable views.
Chachapoyas is another lesser-trodden destination by travelers who make their way to Peru. Here you’ll find a completely different kind of scenery to the classic mountain landscapes that are often conjured up when thinking of Peru. Chachapoyas is located close to the steaming jungle, with some really impressive waterfalls waiting to be explored!
To get to Chachapoyas, you’ll either need to fly into Jaén or Tarapoto and then take an overnight bus, or alternatively take buses up from Lima to Chiclayo, and then another to reach this city. One of the best yet least known hikes to do here is to Yumbilla Falls. Standing at an impressive 895m, Yumbilla is actually the 5th largest waterfall in the world. However, since it’s only recently been discovered, hardly any are making the trip here which makes it best to go now rather than later!
You’ll first need to take a bus to Pedro Ruiz, and then a mototaxi up to the remote village of Cuispes (taking around 3 hours in total from Chachapoyas). After paying a small entrance fee to enter the National park, you’ll then start your trek from the end of the road and into the jungle. Along the way, you’ll pass by small waterfalls, jungle huts as well as impressive mirador views of the sierra. After around 45 minutes of trekking, you’ll then reach the Cataratas, where you can view two different cascades – one from above for an awesome panoramic view, and the other crashing down right next to you from above.
Last but not least we have the popular destination hub of Cusco. Known for its incredible location in the Andes, most come here to then jump off and visit nearby Machu Picchu. However there are tons more to do here in this region, and you could easily spend weeks hiking around this gem.
To get to Cusco, you can either fly from Lima in around 2 hours or take the grueling 22-hour bus through the winding mountain roads. Whilst there are many great hikes to choose from, we would recommend a hiking trip to the Ausangate National Park.
Located at an altitude of around 4000m, here you’ll be able to visit as many as seven brightly colored lakes as well as take in some really stunning backdrops of the snow-capped Andean mountains. You’ll first need to get to the national park, which can be done with a tour from Cusco, or driving up to the visitor center if going independently.
From here, the hiking circuit weaves in a circle, which takes around 4/5 hours to complete. Due to the altitude, it’s recommended to first properly acclimatize in Cusco and to also take altitude sickness medications to prevent any problems. Some of the best things to see along the circuit include a bright red lake as well as the classic deep-blue lake that most come here to explore.
Arequipa really is a striking city. It’s known for its impressive architecture, with lots of buildings and monuments built from the volcanic “Sillar” white rocks. It’s located around 1010km south of Lima and can be reached by bus in around 17 hours from the capital.
The other main draw here is the volcanic landscapes, and upon arriving one will be greeted with a backdrop of the three main volcanoes of the area; El Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu.
It’s also a great area for exploring the Colca Canyon which is located nearby, and at a depth of 3400km, is one of the deepest canyons in the world.
The Colca Canyon is one of the best independent hiking trips that can be done in the region, if not in the whole country. Whilst most head on one-day tours, these only really scratch the surface of this impressive natural spectacle.
Taking the bus from Arequipa (or driving), one can arrive at the Colca Canyon and first see the Mirador de Los Condors.
Here is one of the tallest points of the canyon, where condors soar just below allowing visitors a glimpse of the famous Andean bird going about its everyday life.
Afterward, one can head deeper into the canyon and explore remote villages along the way such as Chivay. Further within there are many stunning lakes, rivers, and crevices to be explored.
A couple of extra tips for hiking in Peru
One of the most important recommendations when hiking in Peru is to take the country’s altitude seriously. Elevations in some parts soar above 3000m, reaching 5000 and 6000m sometimes.
At that level, breathing becomes challenging and may result in altitude sickness. Hence it is key to acclimatize properly by spending a few days at a similar altitude before hiking, and taking altitude sickness medications with you on the hike. Pills can be bought from any Inkafarma or pharmacy in most higher-altitude Peruvian towns. Drinking Coca-leaf tea, also common in these areas, might help too.
The second tip is to consider going on a tour. Truth is most of these hikes can be done easily but some of them is better to avoid going on your own unless you are a very experienced hiker. And even then, a guide never hurts. Huaraz is one of the destinations where this one could come in handy. Gear, food and an experienced guide are included in the price, which can get as low as $20 per day trips.
And that’s all for our guide to the best time to travel to Peru. This Andean nation continues to rank as one of the most popular to visit in Latin America. With its unique culture, stunning national parks, and diverse regions, it’s easy to see why many keep coming back for more.
In this guide, we’ve explored the best time to travel to Peru, which includes the varied regions that are some of the most popular to visit in the nation. We’ve also covered 4 of the most popular areas for hiking, including what you can see and how to get there yourself.
If you are headed to Latin America and enjoy hiking, check our article on the best climbing and long-distance trekking spots in South America.