Peru is home to some extremely diverse landscapes. You will be able to partake in amazing outdoor and cultural adventure activities from the coast to the jungle up into the Andes Mountains.
If you are a hiking fanatic, you will definitely have some of your most memorable and favourite Peruvian experiences up in the mountains, on the winding trails and down in the valleys. Walking through the remote mountain terrain, coming across small citadels, lichened stone walls and ancient half-buried archaeological sites like Machu Picchu is when you will truly fall in love with Peru. Sounds good? Keep on reading 6 Do’s and Don’ts of Hiking in Peru.
Cover at least a few kilometers of a hiking trail
If you are new to hiking or are a reluctant hiker reading this blog to decide whether or not a hike is worth your time. We can’t emphasize enough how essential “hikes” are to the Peruvian travel experience. If you don’t cover at least a few kilometers on a hiking trail, you will not take advantage of your trip to Peru.
Covid –proof tour
And don’t fret; you can make any hike in Peru more relaxing by hiring an agency to solve all of the details and hard planning for you. And this is now more important than ever if you want a COVID-proof tour or a safe travel agency to help protect you and keep you healthy while travelling abroad.
Why hiking in Peru?
All you have to worry about is the fresh mountain air, making it to that glacial lake, the mountain peak or the Inca citadel in the clouds. You never know, you may fall in love with hiking despite the blisters and the early wake-ups. Do you know why? Because there are some really special places that you will only be able to see with a pair of hiking boots firmly secured to your feet.
Prepare for a trek in Peru
You may have a million questions buzzing through your mind about what you need to pack, what season to come if you can handle the high altitude and a whole slew of other questions you need answers to so you don’t set out looking like a rookie.
Well, here we are going to help put your mind at ease by bringing you as close as we can to “hiking prepared” without you actually having stepped foot in Peru.
6 Do’s and Don’ts of Hiking in Peru
1. Don’t underestimate the altitude
The fastest way for your Peruvian adventure to get ruined is to underestimate the high altitude’s power. Remember, hiking requires physical exertion for anyone, but it can make a seemingly moderate hike difficult when you throw altitude into the factor. Imagine taking in deep breaths and feeling like your not taking in anything at all.
While there are many ways to help you prepare for the altitude in Peru our most significant recommendation is to give yourself enough time to acclimatize in Cusco, Huaraz or Arequipa before tackling any of the surrounding hikes. You may need 3-5 days to acclimatize fully!
Even more importantly, make sure your travel insurance covers hiking at high altitudes (and any health issues during the Corona pandemic). Both TrueTraveller and World Nomads will provide coverage for trekking at altitude.
Be ready and be conscious of the consequences of not being prepared for the altitude. Seriously, you never know how the height will affect your body.
2. Storing your extra stuff and rest days
Most hostels and hotels in Peru will offer luggage storage for free for their guests. When you are heading out on your trek, make sure to leave any unnecessary equipment, luggage or stuff you don’t need to survive at the hostel. You do not want to lug any extra belongings up a mountain.
We recommend leaving behind any non-essential in the storage rooms, but make sure you have your own lock (preferably a 10-digit one!) Private lockable lockers may not be available; the storage room could literally just be a back room.
Even though these rooms may be locked, many people are moving in and out of these rooms each day to pick up and drop off their bags. Lock rooms are not high-security places, and we don’t want to see you lose any valuables.
Besides securing your extra goodies away safely, we also recommend factoring in enough rest days around your single and multiday hikes. There is nothing worse than getting on a 10-hour bus ride when all you want to do is get some well-deserved rest, lay in bed, consume way too much food and watch Netflix.
3. Pack smart
Purchasing good quality hiking gear is always a great idea, as it can last for all your hikes for years to come. However, if you don’t have much luggage space or your budget is tight, you can rent or buy key pieces of equipment from various shops in Cusco, Huaraz, and Arequipa or your tour company i.e. hiking poles or sleeping bags.
We recommend packing:
- At least one quality pair of broken-in, waterproof hiking boots
- Lightweight versatile fleece
- A well-fitted 20-40L backpack
- Refillable/filter water bottle 75cl (Water-to-Go Bottles or The Grayl Ultralight)
- Hiking polls
- Swiss army knife
- Hiking clothes to get sweaty and dusty during the day and something warm and cozy for night
- Sport shorts
- Two high-wicking vests
- Sport bras
- A clean pair of underwear for each day
- A clean pair of hiking socks for each day
- A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- A multifunctional hike head wrap
- Rain poncho
- Swim stuff
- Leggings / slouchy pants
- Clean cotton t-shirt for the nights
- Long-sleeved t-shirt
- A packing cube to keep the dirty clothes from the clean ones
- Toiletries (Toothpaste, travel towel, soap, sunscreen, bug spray, roll-on deodorant, face wash/face wipes, toilet paper roll, travel hand soap, blister packs, rehydration sachets, travel first aid kit, medications)
- Insurance details
- Food + snacks + cash
- Power bank/charging block
Read more: packing List for the Inca Trail
4. Understand the seasons in Peru
We can happily confirm that hiking during the rainy and the dry season are both possible and enjoyable, but they will present you with very different hiking experiences.
The dry season, which coincides with winter in Peru, falls between May and October, more or less. During these months you can mostly expect clear skies and little rain. The dry season is also the most popular time to visit and hike Peru. Almost all of the hiking trails, excluding the very off the beaten path trails, will be busy and make sure you book your hike in advance.
The months of December to March mark the rainy season in Peru, and it can get quite wet. If you are starting your hike at the beginning of the rainy season, you may experience a little rain, but if you are hiking well into the rainy season, you can expect TORRENTIAL downpours in the afternoon, almost like clockwork.
Of course, you can get a lucky day where you escape a heavy downpour, but don’t count on it. Note that it is not possible to hike the Inca Trail in February, and many of the multiday hike operators in Huaraz shut down during February and March.
For more details on the best seasons to hike, check out this article about When is the best time to visit Peru
5. To pole or not to pole
Hiking poles are not just for the elderly or for looking hardcore; they can seriously save your knees from a lot of unneeded impacts and can significantly reduce your recovery time from the nasty aches and pains that can linger in your legs for days.
Not to mention they can be extremely helpful for balance on slippery mountain inclines. You CAN hike in Peru without hiking poles if you’d like. If you’re new to hiking and hiking poles, we recommend buying a lightweight, collapsible/telescopic set that can fold up easily in your bag when they aren’t needed.
6. Have a positive mental attitude
Anyone who has successfully and happily completed a trek in their life can say that a positive mental attitude is an essential component to finishing! You always need to give yourself a pat on the back here and there because hiking in Peru can get tough.
There will be crucial moments when you are trekking up a steep incline to a false summit where you just want to give up. Or you’re carrying 15 kilograms on your back and you know it the worst decision you have ever made. Sometimes, the last place you want to rest after hours and hours of hiking is in a tent at 3,000 meters above sea level.
But those moments that push us past our limits, give us blisters, make us drip sweat are what make us feel vigor, alive, free, enthusiastic for life and what makes hiking in Peru truly magical.
And the hikes are (usually) always worth it!
If you feel this bog made you more discouraged than encouraged, please do not be put off to hike your dream hike!
View this time as an opportunity to get in shape and do some preparation work, such as hiking at home to practice and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
If you want to book a trek in Peru, make sure you book with a travel agency that the Peruvian Ministry of Health recognizes. If you are in Cusco, the Tourism Directorate of Cusco, as a safe agency in the time of COVID-19.
Safe agencies will make sure tourists are protected against COVID-19 by following international health protocols and WHO guidelines while in the agency’s care.
An essential component of any hike is to respect the environment and the trail. Do not leave anything behind to damage the trail or act in a way that will hurt the local communities or affect future hikers’ route.
Finally, if you are hiking independently, please only do it if you have trekking experience, you well acclimatized, you’re in good health, you know what you’re doing. And don’t forget to let someone know your exact route.
Happy trekking in Peru!
P.d. Do you want to read this article in Spanish?