Author: Marie-Hélène Couette
When you think about traveling to Peru, it’s almost always the same destination that comes to mind first: the mystic Machu Picchu. Yet, this wonder of the world is only one of the many tourist attractions of the Peruvian territory. Rich in culture and gastronomy, the country also offers a variety of distinct environments and climates, making it a paradise for outdoors and ecotourism lovers. Whether on the desert Pacific coast, atop the majestic Andes or in the depths of the Amazon, it is better to equip you with good walking shoes and a camera before you go there. Peru is full of options for hikers, and here are some examples of breathtaking scenery that you can expect to discover.
Beaches, glaciers and deserts on the “costa”
From its border with Ecuador to the one it shares with Chile, Peru runs along the Pacific Ocean. Between the sea and the Andes, the area is mostly desert, but especially dotted with many archaeological sites that are real open-air museums. Whether you choose to visit Chan Chan in the region of La Libertad, the Ballestas Islands near Paracas or the Nazca Lines, you will undoubtedly be amazed by the incredible remains of the different settlements and nations that have inhabited the country.
In the north of Lima, there is the Huascaran National Park in the Ancash region, where you can find shelter at the Hof Hostel. The park encompasses the entire Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range that stands out from its neighbors by its eternal snow and glaciers. It hides several jewels of nature, like the magnificent Laguna 69 and its crystalline water. With several hiking trails of varying difficulty, this is the place for hikers who are not afraid of being cold!
To experience the sand dunes of the Peruvian desert, many travelers go through the controversial but oh so popular oasis of Huacachina in the region of Ica. If, however, you wish to enjoy your visit to this part of the country off the beaten track, there are some private tour guides that now offer excursions to the Los Perdidos Canyon. At the same time, why not visit local vineyards and taste a famous Pisco Sour? Make sure you do not miss anything in the Ica and Nazca areas by staying with the Watkin family at Wasipunko Ecolodge.
Volcanoes and mountains of the “Sierra”
Definitively, the Andean Cordillera and the many other mountain ranges that are connected to it have the highest concentration of hiking trails in Peru. Whatever your interests, time and skill level, there is a wide variety of options for trekking in an enchanting setting. One thing is certain, you will need a preliminary preparation if you are not used to being aloft so as not to suffer from mountain sickness.
If you were previously in Ica or Nazca, you must stop in Arequipa. From the white city, you can observe the emblematic condor in the Cañón del Colca, and you can also go on an adventure and climb the Misti, a volcano reaching a total altitude of 5825 meters! Between the two treks, take the time to rest and acclimate while staying at Casa Las Flores.
To live the typical Andean experience, the most popular destination is the region of Cusco. The Sacred Valley of the Incas alone has more than a dozen archaeological and natural sites accessible to travelers. Among other things, you can discover Vinicunca, this rainbow mountain so popular with nature lovers. However, there are also similar alternatives for walkers who want to get away from traditional tourist areas, especially in the Amazonas region. Located in the north of the country, the city of Chachapoyas is the starting point for many excursions that will give you the opportunity to discover the treasures of Cha-cha culture outside masses of tourists.
Tropical forest, waterfalls and rivers in the “selva”
Although Peru is known for its Andean culture, it is more than half of the country that is part of the Amazon! The region of San Martín is very popular for ecotourism lovers as it is considered the “high” jungle and therefore has many mountains and streams. It has an impressive amount of waterfalls, such as Huacamaillo, Carpishuyacu and Tunumtunumba, for example. In addition to receiving help to plan your stay, at Joicy V. Bartra Cultural Center you will have the opportunity to learn about the region’s indigenous peoples, their customs and local products, such as fruit and chocolate.
If your thirst for adventure is great, you must absolutely go through the Río Abiseo National Park that promises thrills in the heart of the rainforest. The area also has several hikes that allow you to visit caves, cliffs and rivers, all surrounded by fauna and flora unique to this part of the world. The jungle is distinguished from other parts of the country not only by its climate, but also by its culture and gastronomy. Take the opportunity to try local food and visit nearby native communities.
To end this outdoor adventure in nature, why not sail on the Amazon to the city of Iquitos? With several options available according to the level of comfort that suits you best, you can enjoy the Loreto region by river, which is full of surprises and mystery. If you want to take advantage of your visit to find out about the indigenous way of life of the natives, visit www.vaolo.com to find out about the two solidarity accommodations that allow you to live this unique experience.
One thing is certain, it is impossible to get bored in Peru. Whether with feet in the sand, head in the clouds or the body submerged in the fresh water of a river, this country offers you a thousand enchanting ways to reconnect with nature. What are you waiting for? Put on your boots now, the adventure is waiting for you!
Author: Marie-Hélène Couette