Bucket-List-Worthy Hikes in Peru (that aren’t the Inca Trail) | The Bucket List Series

The Bucket List Series: A series of short, inspirational travel articles focusing on single bucket list experiences from all over the globe. The goal; to bring you the very best things that our fabulous planet has to offer.

Bucket list worthy hikes in Peru

Peru is home to some of the most incredible hikes. From the snow-capped Andean peaks to fiery, towering volcanoes, there’s an incredible hiking experience to be had for everyone in this fantastic Latin American nation.

In this guide, we’ll explore two awesome hikes that we have done in Peru. Both were on our must-do bucket list for Peru, so we already knew a lot about them before attempting the hikes.

We’ll cover our own experiences during each, the highs/lows, what we learned as well as some important tips and recommendations before attempting any of these hikes.

Bucket List Hike #1: Chachani Volcano

Located in the region of Ica, Chachani is a 6000m+ volcano that is known for its tough terrain and stunning landscape views. 

Chachani is a must-do for anyone backpacking in South America and hiker enthusiasts who are thinking of passing through Peru. With the multi-colored mountains that form the surrounding landscape being simply breathtaking. And then of course there are the views from the top, which includes a shiny snow-covered peak with clouds sitting just below. Depending on the weather, you may be able to see through the gaping holes in the clouds to reveal stunning views of the arid landscapes around. 

It sits just outside of the city of Arequipa, which is a popular destination known for its white sillar buildings and stunning architecture. All tours to Chachani depart from Arequipa. You can get to this city by bus, with a bus from Lima taking 17 hours, as well as the bus from Cusco taking 10 hours.

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Chachani Vocano Base Camp | Latin America Backpacking

I did this hike myself when traveling through Peru and making the stop at Arequipa. I didn’t plan on it as I didn’t know it existed (only the popular El Misti was the word of mouth before heading here), however, I was pretty pumped as I learned about it and signed up straight away for the hike the very next day. As we arrived at 3 am up to an altitude of 5000m to start the ridge walk, I remember feeling the bitter cold air pierce through my clothes as soon as I opened the van door. 

I also remember the thin air making it noticeably more difficult to breathe after around 30 minutes. There was no sound apart from our footsteps and the howling wind gliding through the mountains, creating a peaceful yet eerie setting (especially as it was pitch dark at the time with no other signs of life around). Due to my poor preparation, which included drinking alcohol, eating junk food, and not taking any altitude sickness medications prior, I suffered pretty quickly.

Just after two hours of the ridge walk, we arrived at the base camp; I was already stumbling around with a crazy painful headache setting in. I couldn’t make the ascent and spent the next 7 hours being sick due to the altitude. 

It was difficult emotionally as I really wanted to climb the remaining section, however, every two steps were greeted by a pause and heavy breathing just to keep myself upright. From this failed hike I truly learned the importance of preparation and taking a hike seriously, with the most important lesson being to respect the mountain.

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Chachani Ridge Walk | Latin America Backpacking

Bucket List Hike #2: Nevado Mateo

Nevado Mateo is a snow-covered mountain located in the Cordillera Blanca, which is close to the hiking capital of Peru which is Huaraz.

This mountain is a great climb that is not too demanding. You’ll pass through jagged, rocky landscapes and also up through the glacier to reach the summit.

At the peak, you’ll have incredible views of the Cordillera Blanca, as well as some stunning lakes and views of the surrounding mountainous landscapes.

All ascents of Mateo are done with an organized tour, which set off from Huaraz. This high-altitude mountain city sits at around 3050m and is one of the most popular in Peru for hiking due to its fantastic location. You can arrive here by bus from Lima in around 6 hours.

Whilst in Lima I decided to head to Huaraz to attempt this hike among others. After my failed attempt at hiking Chachani I was very much determined to reach my first peak, so this time I prepared much better. Once in Huaraz, I spent a few days acclimatizing to the higher altitude and also doing other small hikes before to get my body in rhythm and physically prepared.

As the day came we left early in the morning in a shuttle bus towards the start of the trek, which took around 2 hours. Once here we then put all of our equipment and layers on and started the first portion of the climb with the sunrise behind us. This includes using ropes for the more dangerous sections, as well as scrambling up many large rocks.

It was not as cold as I thought it would be, making it a lot more of a comfortable experience than I had expected. Similar to the Chachani hike, due to being located in the wilderness with nobody else around, there were no sounds aside from the occasional howl of the wind.

It really did feel like I was on another planet at times! We then reached the snow line and put on our crampons and other necessary gear and climbed the remaining portion to the summit. Once we arrived I let out a huge sigh of relief as I had finally conquered my first-ever summit.

I sat there for a while contemplating how good it felt to persist and never give up, to respect the mountain, and also how proper preparation can do wonders for the experience that you’ll have.

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Nevado Mateo Summit | Latin America Backpacking
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Nevado Mateo Trek | Latin America Backpacking

Hiking Recommendations

As we’ve discovered, hikes in Peru can be somewhat daunting especially if you don’t have much experience. Below we’ll list some of our top tips on how to get prepare for the hikes so you’ll have the best experience.

Firstly, it’s important to consider the altitude you’ll be climbing at and prepare accordingly. Usually, anything around or below 2000m doesn’t have much effect on the human body. However, as you go higher the air starts to become thinner, which can make breathing slightly more difficult. In the worse cases, this can lead to altitude sickness, which can bring on symptoms like sickness, fatigue, and painful headaches. We recommend buying altitude sickness tablets as well as drinking coca leaf tea, both of which can be found easily in most shops in high altitude cities like Cusco and Huaraz.

Another recommendation is to join an organized hiking tour instead of going solo. Of course, if you’re more experienced then it’s your call, but for most, it’s imperative to go with experienced hikers who know the mountain very well.

Not only will it be safer (as they’ll know when the weather is safe for a climb as well as the best route up), but they’ll also be there to help if you have any issues such as altitude sickness or injury. Generally in Peru hikes are pretty cheap compared with the rest of the world, so it’s best to get your money’s worth here!

Final notes

Peru is an incredible all-around country to visit. And this is especially the case when it comes to hiking, with this nation one of the best in Latin America with the variety of experiences on offer and sceneries to be witnessed.

In this guide we’ve explored Peruvian hiking, looking in-depth into two of the best hikes we’ve done when in this beautiful country. We’ve also given our top recommendations to prepare for a hike, and also for you to get the most out of your experience.

About the Author

Dan and George are two seasoned travelers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no-nonsense backpacking guides.

Find out more on their blog Latin America Backpacking.

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

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