When you see pictures of your friend’s trips to Peru, you’re bound to see them posing from high above Machu Picchu, on the summit of a neighboring mountain called Huayna Picchu. It’s an incredible ruin, and there’s a good chance it was the sight that made you decide to book your tickets to Peru.
No one can deny Machu Picchu’s mysterious beauty. But you’ve got a lot of hiking to do before you can say you’ve seen the best views in Peru. Venture into more remote parts of Peru and see if there aren’t a few more hikes you need to add to your itinerary.
Wiñay Wayna, Inca Trail
If you take the 4-day guided hike to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, you’ll come across citadels that put Machu Picchu into some context. Wiñay Wayna is one of the grandest, and is at one of the highest altitudes on the hikes. (Keep in mind that this high-elevation hike requires you to be physically fit.) From the ruins of Wiñay Wayna you can also see the Urubamba River.
What was the purpose of Wiñay Wayna? Like so much of what the Inca left behind, we’re not really sure. But we do know that Wiñay Wayna translates to “forever young.” You’ll be out of breath, but definitely full of life when you reach this part of the trail.
Hot Springs at Colpapampa, Salkantay Trail
Serious hikers, and hikers who want a less popular trail, can opt for the 5-day hike to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay Trail. On the second day of the hike, you’ll arrive at a small village called Colpapampa. This village has hot springs where you can get in some rejuvenation before the rest of your hike.
Chullpas of Sillustani, Lake Titicaca
Before the Inca, the Quechua people lived on the shores of Lake Titicaca. “Chullpas” are funerary towers, where the Quechua would bury their dead. From the ruins, you’ll look over the placid water and feel the serenity of this ancient, high-altitude lake.
Gocta Waterfall, Chachapoyas
Gocta Waterfall is nestled deep in the jungles of Peru’s northern highlands. You can reach this waterfall after a day of hiking, or horseback riding. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, at 2,530 feet (771 m).
According to local legend, there is a mermaid that lives in the plunge pool. This mermaid drowned a young man she had bewitched — visitors beware! It’s just as well that you believe the legend, because the tremendous force the cascade makes the plunge pool a dangerous place to swim. You’ll hear the roar of the waterfall well before you arrive.
Salt Mines of Maras & Moray, Sacred Valley
While you’re in the Sacred Valley, you can take mountain biking as well as hiking trips to see some of the more unusual structures the Inca built. The Moray Amphitheater is a deep depression in the earth, lined with circular stone walls. Historians believe this pit may have served as lab for the Inca — planting seeds at different elevations would help them determine the ideal atmosphere for each crop.
The Inca built the Salt Mines of Maras by digging shallow pits in the side of a mountain. They collect rain, and when the rain evaporates, it leaves salt behind. These mines form a patchwork of white squares on the side of the mountain, making an unusual sight.
Colca Canyon is in a remote part of the northern high plains. Hike along the edge of the canyon, and see the rushing rapids of the river below. Make a stop at the La Cruz del Cóndor vista to look for rare Andean condors gliding through the air. Visit the hot springs in the nearby town of Chivay, and see the small villages that dot the canyon.
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6 of the Best Hikes in Peru with Jaw-Dropping Views was originally published in Anywhere.com on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.