Peru Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration
PureTravel Says: “The Republic of Peru shares borders with Ecuador and Colombia in the north, Brazil in the east, Bolivia in the southeast and Chile in the south. Peru is an outdoor lovers (and camera snappers) utopia. The cultural and topography diversity brings about an ethnic and landscape variance seldom found in other countries twice as far removed. From trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to tackling one of the many footpaths in the Andes, Peru is a boundless secret awaiting your quell. When you’re ready to ride the rivers, climb the mountains or view the wildlife (or all three at the same time) it's all here, just waiting to be discovered.”
Walking & Trekking - As the tectonic plates heaved the Andes into the air, it must have been the Gods who decided that this place would make a trekker’s paradise. Like hiker’s heaven on earth, Peru permits those interested in adventure to have their cake and eat it too. There is something here in nature for everyone as the various climates, it’s not just tropical, but because of the Andes and the Humboldt Current, the climate ranges from tropical to below zero and everything in between.
People come to Peru to trek the famous Inca Trail. There are many routes leading to the famous Machu Picchu, though the Classic Inca Trail hike is probably the route most taken. With two-day, four-day, seven-day and twelve-day plus itineraries, there’s something for everyone’s fitness level or personal preference. From the one-day Llaca Valley and Ranralpalca Glacier trek to the multi-day choices in the Cordillera Blanca range, Peru awaits the hardiest of trekkers.
Culture & History - Various peoples throughout history have populated this area of the world. Though they have been here for some 10,000 years BCE, the best known culture in Peruvian history is the Incas, circa 1500s. By most estimates, in less than one hundred years, the Incas structured the largest empire in the area. They grew with such force and stamina because of their practices of irrigation and raising crops with terracing techniques. No money ever changed hands in the Inca economic system either. A simple notion of a shared distribution of goods kept everyone alive and happy.
From then onwards, the history and culture began to change. With Spanish traditions today as the backbone of their society, the arts in Peru start with the religious topics. Writing was introduced sometime in the 16th century, giving a head start to literature. Mostly, however, the most standard form of creative writing was religious and Romantic literature. Traditional music has roots in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, which includes some folk instruments.
Rafting - As of late, individuals are finding out how the white water rafting here is distinguished in its own right. You’ll have more surroundings to look at as you spin and drop throughout the rivers, traverse through gorges and float between dense covered canyons. Most people start their rafting vacation in Cusco, on the Apurimac and Urubamba Rivers. The trips are usually multi-day, as the rivers are long and require some overnight camping.
Wildlife - Peru is an open-air zoo that contains everything from grasshoppers and butterflies to Parrots and bears. If you like to get amongst nature, get your knees dirty looking for the Ceiba Borer Beetle or the Rhetus Periander Butterfly. If you like the bigger more ferocious varieties, the Spectacled Bear and Scarlet Macaw (yes, parrots can be ferocious too) will keep you on your toes.
Mountain Biking - Biking and mountain biking is popular here and you local guide can ensure an exhilarating ride through some of the best pre-mapped trails that tyres can ride. Near Cusco, many guides go through Chinchero to Ollantaytambo or from the Inca ruins of Tambomachay to Calca. Both of these have downhill sections with some rides along Sacred Valley and single-lane tarmac roads.
Near Huaraz, on the other hand, you’ll find some of the best mountain biking. El Callejon de Huaylas is the scenic valley near the Cordillera Negra and Blanca, a day car trip from Lima. Most tour operators will have your guide meet you in town and after a rest, you’ll head off for a multi-day trip through some of the best mountain scenery this side of the International Date Line.
When To Go
Though Peru has 25 regions and more altitudes than can be counted, the best time to get out and about and enjoy nature, especially trekking and hiking and walking, is to come between June and September. During this time of year, the skies will be bluer, the sun brighter and the nights cooler. Along the coasts, however, it’s going to be much hotter and more humid. As altitude is wont to do, you’ll find the higher you go the colder it becomes. If you’re venturing into the Andes, there will be considerably less rain during April to October.
-Never head up into the Andes or the Amazon alone, seek a specialist local tour operator.
-Always have your permits on hand. With getting deported and high fines to pay if you’re caught without them, it’s a good idea to keep them waterproofed in a bag and on your person.
-A local tour operator can make sure that your trek or bike trip goes smoothly as they have all the local knowledge. Be sure to book through a tour operator before you venture to the unknown.
-Give yourself plenty of time to acclimate. AMS is a serious illness. Be fit and stay active before your vacation to enjoy the scenery and culture at its best.
Holiday In Focus
Walking and Trekking
There are looping day hikes, meandering multi-day hikes and mountain treks aplenty in this part of the world. If you want to take it easier you can just do a day hike while those that are more adventurous can undertake a multi-day or multi–week hike. All hikers and trekkers should be aware of altitude.
Many of the unbeatable treks you’ll find in Peru are above 4,000 meters. Since anything over 2,000 meters can start the onset of altitude sickness (AMS), make sure to acclimatize at least a couple days before venturing too far above sea level. This means coming to the start city (or base camp) early and getting use to the lack of oxygen.
If you’re into sticking to the definitive itinerary, then you’ll not want to miss the four-day Classic Inca Trail trek. Though you may have to walk uphill for some hours, this hike is only considered moderate. With hiking poles in hand, you’ll see some of Peru’s best mountain landscapes and prolific rainforests all while being a part of history: The Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Runkuracay ruins await your camera all well before reaching Machu Picchu. The permits for hiking the trail can be backlogged for several months, so be sure to book this sought-after trek well in advance with your tour operator.
If you and your hiking buddies want a trek with a few more days in the wild, and more history en route, then a seven day, moderate to difficult Mollepata to Salkantay to Wayllabamba to Machu Picchu trek is in order. This trail is an alternate route until finally meeting a few days later to the Classic Inca Trail route. This trek is much more rustic, quieter and devoid of the Classic trail throngs.
If you like the sound of total peace and quiet in Peru, but not the tumult of the multi-day hike, you can try the Macashca Hills day hike. Unlike the rest of the “mountain treks,” this hike takes you through the undulating hills of Huaraz for five to seven hours. This one is a good trek to get you acclimated to the area, as the entire area is above 4000 meters.
Other day-long hikes (again near Huaraz) are the Laguna Shallap and the Laguna Churup day treks. They are similar but also very different. The latter hike, on one hand, starts at Pitec and climbs upwards to the emerald green lake of Laguna Churup and return (4,440 meters). The former hike, on the other hand, takes you from town to the valley of the Cordillera Blanca to the Laguna Shallap with car return (4,250 meters). Both hikes do require some uphill walking and last from five to six hours. The Laguna Shallap should only be attempted if you’ve had some days getting use to the altitude (though it’s lower, you’ll hike up more).
If you were starting to think that Peru is only for serious trekking, you’d be wrong. There are plenty of hikes where a driver can drop you off and pick you up at various points depending on your personal fitness and choice. Similarly, there are some really first-rate easy day hikes where you won’t even need your boots or poles. The Quebrada Quillcayhuanca, for example, takes you by flat trail and footpath through the Quebrada Quillcayhuanca Valley. The trek lasts six hours, including lunch and walking out and back. This tour combined with the Llaca Valley & Ranralpalca Glacier trek (under two hours) makes for two easy but really special day hikes for families with children.
Culture and History
The culture of Peru brings with it some complexities little understood outside ethnic boundaries. In fact, marriage and land usage and ownership are organized on the immediate and extended family. By and large, the system is used as a way to track reciprocity. A family may “owe” another family work. This assures everyone has enough food to survive the winters. Fields today are often farmed by draft animals and by workers’ hands.
For several centuries, the mixing of the cultures has always taken place. Most peoples are one of two of the major ethnic groups in Peru, that of the American Indian or the European background. In the Andes region, there are two main groups with several subgroups falling under these. They either speak Quechua or Aymara, especially the closer you get to Bolivia. The Pampa Cangallo and Morochucos people have lighter skin and eyes and hair. They often speak Quechua as well.
Peru offers a vast cultural diversity that spans many different ethnic groups, such as the Misti and many other ethnic groups that live in the Amazon jungle or in the more tropical regions east of the Andes. In the early 1900s, everyone from Africans to Japanese were brought in to better Peru’s infrastructure.
Aside from the Apurimac and Urubamba Rivers, there are other places that few people have the chance to experience. In the south, a trip down the Tambopata River can last more than seven days, with the latter half of the trop taking you through the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone. If you’d like more of a technical challenge and grade variations, the Cotahuasi and Colca Canyon toward Arequipa are very challenging. If, however, you are in need of a rest but want the best scenery money can buy, the Majes River will keep you cheerful.
Wildlife and Adventure
There are many animals living in many different environments in Peru. Because of the various micro ecosystems, caused by the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest and the Pacific Ocean just to name a few, Peru houses some of the world’s greatest and rarest creatures. Peru has had over 50 protected natural areas, such as parks, reserves and sanctuaries and hundreds of endemic animals. With just shy of 2,000 species of birds and hundreds of mammals; jaguars, pumas, river dolphins, Peru will not leave the wildlife (picture) hunter down in the least.
Though when you think of endemic wildlife you may think of llamas, these animals are just the beginning. Your trip into the Amazon will display macaws, parrots, wild boars, snakes, monkeys, and jaguars. As long as you’re not scared of heights, you’ll be able to climb up on “tree stands” to get a better glimpse into the canopy of the rainforest, it’s here that over 70% of the life resides in the rainforest, in fact.
Once you move away from the Amazon, even the coastal desert areas have their species. You’ll find the little ones, such as the iguana and skunk, the deer and chinchillas, the condors and hummingbirds and many more which create a true adventure holiday to remember. Additionally, if you come during the right season, you’ll be able to view the giant turtles that plod slowly along with not a worry in mind. The animals of Peru live their lives, as everything is balanced and natural. There is little intervention thus far that has caused the animals to become disturbed in this part of the world.
Classic Peru Itineraries
-Santa Cruz Trek (easy-moderate; 4-5 days)
-Cordillera Huayhuash (moderate-difficult; 3- over 12 days)
-Alpamayo (moderate-difficult; 10-12 days)
-Classic Inca Trail (moderate; 4-5 days)
-Easy/Short Inca Trail (easy; 2 days)
-Mollepata to Machu Picchu (moderate to difficult; 7 days)
-Vilcabamba (moderate to difficult; 7 days)
By Julie Bowman