Peru's mountains offer you an incredible getaway, and some outdoor bragging rights. Next to the Himalayas, the Andes are the highest mountain chain on Earth. They run down the center of Peru and form four separate mountain ranges, or 'cordilleras,' which are known as the Blanca, Negra, Oriental, and Central. If you're looking to hit the trail and explore the outdoors, then you couldn't ask for a better destination.
The most famous of Peruvian mountain towns, Cusco is a lovable city within reach of one of the world's most iconic treks: the Inca Trail. But, that isn't the only mountain journey worth making in Cusco. In fact, the longer you spend in the valley surrounding this high-altitude city, the harder it is to leave.
As well as the Inca Trail — and the increasingly popular alternative, the Salkantay trek — there are countless other hikes to tackle from Cusco. You can continue your Incan exploration with a journey to the ruins of Choquequirao or follow the Ausangate trek through green pastures, glaciers, and a collection of otherworldly rainbow-striped mountains.
Closer to Cusco, you'll find Inca ruins and mountain vistas from Saqsayhuaman in the city itself and from Plaza San Cristobal. For accessible mountains, rich culture, and a little travel luxury, Cusco cannot be beaten.
If you could visit only one mountain on your trip to Peru, then the rugged mountain ridges above Aguas Calientes should surely be where you go. After all, this was the chosen location for an Incan Emperor's estate. And, really, nothing screams Peruvian mountains more than the view of that ancient stone citadel perched on a ridge with the iconic shapes of mount Huayna Picchu and Putukusi behind it.
Machu Picchu can be accessed a number of ways from the town of Aguas Calientes, including by road, horseback, and by foot through the forest. There are also a number of nearby peaks — such as Putukusi — that you can summit for a birds-eye view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aguas Calientes is as close to the action as you can get.
Many other trails and mountain viewpoints surround Aguas Calientes, and there are waterfalls and hot springs to enjoy here too. Come for Machu Picchu and stay to discover the secrets spots this small riverside town has to offer.
At 10,142 feet above sea level, the city of Huaraz is in the top ten of Peru's highest cities and the snowy peaks of the surrounding Cordillera Blanca range are a testament to this high altitude location. They offer a jaw-dropping backdrop to the city and a chance to take on some serious Andean hiking.
After a few days acclimatizing in the city, you won't find it hard to organize a trek into the mountains. Top trekking guides are abundant in Huaraz and offer all kinds of guided trips. There are 25 official trekking routes in neighboring Huascaran National Park alone. Take a day hike to the teal-hued Laguna 69 or organize a multi-day voyage deep into the Cordillera Huayhuash in the southern Cordillera Blanca.
Whether you tackle multiple mountain peaks or take just one afternoon out to find one of the many glacial lakes that dot the mountains, you'll always be rewarded with spectacular views in Huaraz.
Travel south from Cusco towards the coast and you will pass through one of the deepest river canyons on the planet: the Colca Canyon. The traditional market town of Chivay acts as the gateway to this incredible region and sits at a breathtaking 11,971 feet above sea level. If you haven't acclimatized to Peru's altitude yet, then you'll certainly feel it here.
From Chivay, you can reach a number of spectacular viewpoints carved out of the mountains to afford views of the deep canyon. And, for a totally different perspective, you can take a hike down into the canyon. For those who want to stay away from the edge, fantastic views can be had from inside the town's cafes, too!
Chivay is also the perfect place to learn more about how life has thrived in these steep valleys for centuries. The steep agricultural terraces near Chivay that are still in use today actually pre-date the Inca.