Peru Outdoors: Where to Get Started
By Maureen Santucci
If you’re the type of person who prefers to be outdoors, Peru offers so many choices, you may find it difficult to decide where to go. It is one of the most fantastically diverse countries in terms of biospheres on the planet, each with their own multitude of adventures to offer you.
First time travelers to the country will surely have Machu Picchu on their must-do lists. One of the best ways to get there is via the Salkantay Trek. Although you won’t get to hike directly into the citadel as you can on the Inca Trail, this one offers more varying scenery along the way as you pass by snow-capped glacier mountains, through pastures and down into the high jungle. Along the way you may spot Andean condors and, once in the cloud forest, a variety of orchids.
Another hike that is a must is to Choquequirao, another impressive Inca citadel. Although it may not be quite as awe-inspiring as Machu Picchu, it’s at least a close second. And when you consider that you can have the site almost to yourself given the difficulty of the trek, it’s an unbeatable experience. If trekking is really your thing and you have the time, you can continue on from here to Machu Picchu. There is talk again of building a tramway to the site so go soon while you can still enjoy the solitude.
In the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco, there are a number of activities you can take part in such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, river rafting and more. This area is a bit lower than Cusco and warmer. The temperate climate and gorgeous scenery will have you wanting to spend days playing here.
Although many people think of Brazil first when it comes to the Amazon, the jungle actual encompasses around 60% of Peru, making it the country with the next greatest amount of the rainforest. You can take a river cruise from Iquitos or stay at a lodge in the jungle near that city or in the Tambopata Reserve or the Manu Biosphere. Keep in mind, the longer you can stay, the more you will probably get to see. Manu, in particular, is known for being a pristine haven for flora and fauna.
Near the city of Arequipa, you can hike in the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. It’s known for having a great concentration of Andean condors, the bird with the greatest wingspan of any landbird in the Americas. There is also some great whitewater rafting available in a nearby canyon.
Peru is also becoming more and more known for its surfing possibilities. Although there are a lot of places you can go on the northern coast, you can actually go surfing on beaches in the capital city of Lima itself. Lima is also a great place to go parasailing.
True outdoor enthusiasts will not want to miss Huascaran National Park if vacation time permits. Located north of Lima, the park offers fantastic opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing, biking, horseback riding, rafting, skiing and more. The views are simply breathtaking and, in addition to the gorgeous snow-capped mountains, there are more than a hundred lakes as well as streams and waterfalls and a huge variety of wildlife.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived and worked for almost 5 years as a travel consultant and as a write for Fodors Travel Guide. She wrote this article on behalf of Tambo Blanquillo, a family-owned lodge in the Peruvian Amazon.