Top Adventure Activities in Remote Road Journeys across Spectacular Highlands of Peru’s Interior

Introduction

Peru is renowned for its diverse landscapes, ranging from coastlines and deserts to Andean highlands and Amazon rainforests. One of the best ways to experience the magical beauty and rich culture of Peru is by embarking on a remote road journey through the spectacular highlands of the interior. The highlands offer adventurers breathtaking scenery with lush green pastoral landscapes, active volcanoes, crystal clear blue lakes, and rivers at significantly higher elevations.

Road trips through the highlands offer opportunities to partake in a wide variety of adventure activities ranging from trekking and hiking to mountain biking, river rafting and more. These activities allow visitors to experience the natural splendors and local culture up close while challenging themselves physically and mentally. 

Hiking and Trekking

Hiking and trekking are immensely popular adventure activities enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year in Peru’s interior highlands. The highlands feature scenic trails winding through breathtaking mountain landscapes, offering panoramic views. Some of the best places for hiking and trekking include:

Ausangate Trek

Located in the Cusco region, the 6-day Ausangate Trek circumnavigates the majestic snow-capped Ausangate mountain, the highest summit in the Vilcanota mountain range. The trek passes through remote Quechua villages, high alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, turquoise lakes, and untouched environments offering spectacular vistas of Ausangate. Physical fitness and acclimatization to high altitudes over 13,000 feet are essential for this challenging trek.

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

Considered one of the most scenic trails in Machu Picchu, the 4-day Lares Trek takes hikers through traditional Andean hamlets, rolling grasslands, forest scenery, and over high mountain passes with panoramic views. Hikers traverse through diverse ecosystems ranging from 10,000 to 13,800 feet, making high-altitude acclimatization vital.

Choquequirao Trek

Deemed the “Machu Picchu of the jungle”, the 3-4 day Choquequirao Trek reaches the impressive Inca citadel of Choquequirao nestled between forested mountains at an elevation of 9,800 feet. The trail offers views of rugged terrain, crystalline rivers and diverse flora and fauna while passing through remote towns supporting the local economy.

Key Tips for Hiking/Trekking

  • Allow proper time for acclimatizing to high altitudes over 10,000 feet
  • Carry essential hiking gear – sturdy boots, rain gear, first aid kit, food, water
  • Hire a licensed local guide for navigation and emergency support
  • Respect local communities and preserve nature by following Leave No Trace principles

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a thrilling way to explore Peru’s mountainous terrain at a faster yet active pace. The highlands offer hundreds of miles of jeep tracks and mountain trails suitable for mountain biking with scenic landscapes as the backdrop. Some top destinations for biking include:

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Ausangate Mountain Biking Circuit

A 50-mile circuit around the Ausangate massif featuring dirt roads and single tracks through varied terrains from stark lunar landscapes to emerald green pastures. Bikers can experience solitude and expansive views of the glaciated peak.

Maras and Moray Biking

A scenic day ride through the Sacred Valley to the UNESCO sites of Maras salt ponds and Moray agricultural terraces, passing quaint Andean towns and farming settlements.

Santa Teresa Hiking and Biking

The town of Santa Teresa, situated at 10,000 feet at the base of Mount Ausangate, offers opportunities for mountain biking through pastoral countryside and hiking up to Ausangate base camp alpine lakes.

Key Tips for Mountain Biking

  • Maintain bikes in good condition, carry spare tubes and tools
  • Wear protective gear – helmets, gloves, knee pads
  • Ride at your own pace suitable to your skills and endurance levels
  • Pack plenty of food and water suitable for the climate and distance
  • Respect local communities and preserve nature with Leave No Trace ethics

River Rafting and Kayaking

River rafting and kayaking through the dramatic gorges and canyons of Peru’s interior allow adrenaline seekers to experience the untamed forces of nature up close. Some top spots for white water rafting include:

Apurimac River Rafting

Considered one of the best rafting rivers in the world, the Apurimac river plunges through deep gorges up to 1000 feet with Class III-IV rapids ideal for first timers and experienced rafters alike. Multi-day expeditions are also available through remote, untouched valleys.

Upper Urubamba River Rafting

More gentle rapids between Class I to III skills through stunning landscapes of narrow gorges and towering Andean peaks are suitable for families and novice paddlers on this section of the Urubamba River. Day trips are most common.

Cotahuasi Canyon Kayaking

For expert kayakers, run the Class IV-V rapids through Peru’s deepest canyon, dropping over 10,000 feet through narrow slots between towering sandstone walls with thundering waterfalls along the Cotahuasi River, considered one of the toughest descents on the planet.

Key Tips for Rafting/Kayaking

  • Use certified outfitters with trained safety personnel and equipment
  • Wear Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs), wet suits, and protective gear as needed
  • Consider physical fitness levels and skill sets for selecting appropriate rivers
  • Carry dry bags for cameras, passports, and electronics
  • Respect guides’ instructions for safe experiences

Rock Climbing

Peru offers fantastic rock climbing routes in remote granite mountains rising above colorful valleys and turquoise lagoons. Top areas for rock climbs include:

Chachapoya Climbing

The mystical cloud forests of northern Peru near the city of Chachapoyas contain some of the world’s best granite spires up to 300 meters tall for multi-pitch sport and trad climbing routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.13 grades.

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Arequipa Climbing

Granite formations dispersed in surrounding canyon country outside this southern city offer over 2000 single and multi-pitch routes from 5.6 to 5.14 grade. The most popular areas include Cascada de Colca, Pinchollo, and Nevado Chachani.

Huaraz Climbing

The iconic rock towers of Huascarán National Park surrounding the city of Huaraz contain some of the highest concentration of routes from 5.4 to 5.13 up classic jagged peaks with incredible valley panoramas.

Key Tips for Rock Climbing

  • Always climb with licensed high-altitude climbing guides
  • Check the weather and route conditions before climbing
  • Properly use safety equipment like ropes, belay devices, carabiners, and harness
  • Stay hydrated to mitigate altitude effects over 11,000 feet
  • Respect protective regulations of eco-systems and cultural sites

Hot Air Ballooning

For tranquil, bird’s eye views of awe-inspiring landscapes, hot air ballooning is an unparalleled experience. Balloon rides are popular in the Sacred Valley during early mornings:

Cusco Hot Air Ballooning

Offers magical flights over patchwork agricultural terraces, sparkling rivers and snow-capped mountain peaks rising above small towns and villages in golden morning light. Views extend to majestic Machu Picchu on clear days.

Key Tips for Hot Air Ballooning

  • Book in advance through certified operators
  • Arrive at least an hour before sunrise for prep and safety briefing
  • Dress warmly, as it can get chilly at high elevations before dawn
  • Savor memorable photos capturing the serenity of above-the-cloud perspectives
  • Support the conservation of natural beauty through responsible tourism

Additional Activities

Here are a few more unique adventures possible during road trips to remote regions:

Horseback Riding

Trails through Andean grasslands offer chances to experience pristine high-altitude ecosystems and interact with local herders guiding livestock. Popular areas are around Ausangate and Lares.

Mountain Climbing

For experienced mountaineers, climbing permits are available for scaling snow-capped volcanoes like Pichu Pichu, Illimani and others with technical ascents requiring ice-axes and ropes.

Sandboarding

Sand dunes of the Huacachina oasis surrounded by desert provide thrilling sandboarding rushes through graceful dunes akin to snowboarding on powdery sand slopes.

Birdwatching

Diverse habitats from 10,000-foot puna grasslands to Amazon jungle teem with exotic species like condors, hummingbirds, parrots, and more. Popular spots are Manu Biosphere Reserve, Cordillera Blanca, and Ausangate, where you can see rare high-altitude specialties. Bring binoculars and field guides for close observations of colorful avian residents and migrants throughout Peru’s seasons.

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