Sacred Sites, Outdoor Adventures, and Indigenous Communities
Sacred Ruins, Outdoor Adventures, and Indigenous Communities
After spending 8-weeks in Peru, we wanted to share our top 10 suggested adventures with you.
Peru is a country full of opportunities to complete world class outdoor adventures and visit fascinating indigenous communities.
The Northern Highlands is an amazing off-the-beaten-path region consisting of unexplored jungles and mountain ranges. It is also full of relatively unexplored ruins of the Chachapoyas or “Warriors of the Clouds”, a mysterious and sophisticated pre Inca civilization. Some of the highlights of the Northern Highlands include the Gotca Waterfall, Kuelap, an amazing Chachapoyas ruin, and the indigenous towns of Cajamarca and Celendín.
The Sacred Valley to the north of Cusco, which is formed by the Urubamba River, is packed full of amazing ruins. The biggest are Ollantaytambo and Pisac which are well worth it. But the Sacred Valley is also full of additional ruins that are worth exploring including Huchuy Qosqo and Moray. One way to explore these ruins is to stay in Cusco and jump on a tour. Another way to explore these ruins is to stay in the Sacred Valley and take colectivos or taxis to visit them. The later approach enables you to get to the ruins early in the morning before the tour buses arrive.
Lake Titicaca is not only the birthplace of the Incas, it is also one of the highest lakes in the world and the spiritual center of the Andes. The islands in Lake Titicaca provide amazing opportunities to experience indigenous Peruvian (and Bolivian) culture. We spent a few nights with an indigenous Taquileño family on Taquile Island, a small island on Lake Titicaca. If you would like to stay with Hector and his family here are the details http://www.ioverlander.com/pla…/110565-lodge-taquile-lorenzo. http://www.ioverlander.com/pla…/110565-lodge-taquile-lorenzo.
In our opinion, the mountain biking in Cusco is some of the best in the world. From long enduro trails in the Andahuaylillas and Sacred Valleys to high altitude bikepacking routes like the Ausangate Circuit, Peru has it all. Here are a few guides we’d recommend using if you chose to do so.
Ramon Murillo Castro, who owns Aventura Andina in Andahuaylillas (which you can find on Facebook), is a great guide for long enduro routes in the Andahuaylillas Valley. He has developed around 30 amazing and long trails in the Andahuaylillas Valley. If you ask, he’ll bring you on one of his “secret” rides as long as you promise not to use Strava! Ramon also has a nice lodge in the Andahuaylillas Valley, but doesn’t speak English. Here’s some information on Ramon’s lodge: http://www.ioverlander.com/places/108573-aventura-andina.
Robert Pacheco who owns Peru Biking (https://www.perubiking.com/) is a great guide for bikepacking trips, including the Ausangate Circuit. He can also arrange local enduro rides in Cusco. Here’s a video of Robert’s Ausangate bikepacking trip (https://youtu.be/aYOuq8fFAIE) and another video of his trips in and around Cusco (https://youtu.be/zQgrWKhN-Bc).
Vicente Chirinos (“Chente”) who owns Peruvian Mountain Rides (http://peruvianmountainrides.com) has an amazing lodge where you can stay and ride in the Sacred Valley.
Despite its continued rise in popularity, Machu Picchu is still worth visiting. We were struck by the energy we felt there, and we were happy we made the effort to witness the magic for ourselves.
There are multiple ways to visit the Amazon in Peru. Exploring the Amazon using Iquitos as a base, which we did, is a popular option, but you have to fly from Cusco or Lima to Iquitos. Another option is to explore the Amazon using Manu as a base. We’ve heard good things about the Manu (specifically the Manu Cultural Cultural Zone), but haven’t been there ourselves. One of the benefits of Manu Cultural Zone is the fact that it can be reached via full day drive from Cusco. The Manu Reserved Zone looks even better since it is deeper in the Amazon Jungle. We also explored the Amazonas Region of Northern Peru but this region is pretty hard to get to.
We teamed up with a local couple to buy and collect donations of clothes and toys to give to kids in the poor communities surrounding the Ausangate Massif. The area is inhabited by Alpaca and llama herding communities. Their only income comes from selling Alpaca wool. Without some outside help the kids in these communities can literally starve to death in the winter. Doing something like this may sound a bit complex but it really isn’t. You can buy clothes and toys for kids in markets throughout Peru. We’d recommend teaming up with a local like Robert Pacheco who owns Peru Biking (https://www.perubiking.com/) in Cusco or other locals elsewhere in Peru to identify an indigenous community or communities that could use your help and then turning the donation process into a single or multi day adventure.
An indigenous weaver whose family we stayed with on Taquile Island
A 24K (15 mile) enduro trail in the Andahuaylillas Valley
The Cordillera Blanca is one most beautiful areas of Peru. It also offers amazing high altitude hiking. These day hikes include include beautiful day hikes like Laguna Paron (from Caraz) and Laguna 69 (from Huaraz), which are great for acclimatization. Longer hikes include the Santa Cruz Trek and, if you want something really tough, the longer Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit.
The Ausangate Circuit is a 5 day, 4 night circuit around the massive Ausangate Massif to the south of Cusco. This is a hard core, high altitude hike that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But if you do complete it, you will be rewarded with amazing scenery. And even better, you’ll likely have it almost all to yourself. There are two ways to do it: solo or with a trekking company. You can also bikepack it.
I first rafted the Apurimac 25 years ago during one of the first commercial expeditions through the White Canyon. The “Apu” hasn’t lost any of its beauty and power and is still considered to be one of the top 5 rivers in the world for kayaking and rafting. And to make it even better, trips down the Apu are cheap. But the Apu can still be dangerous so we’d recommend booking with Apurimac Explorer (https://www.apuex.com). Their guides (kayakers and rafters) are some of the best in the world.