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Peru is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world - from gruelling treks to easy day trips, it's the one country that has something for everyone!
I discovered Peru whilst on a 40-day exploration trip there and have honestly been craving more ever since.
So, I've put together this short list outlining my favourite activities from the mountain town of Cuzco, that you won't want to miss out on...
THE GATEWAY TO THE ANDES...
Cuzco serves as a vibrant and culturally rich hub for the adventurous. The majority of treks depart from here, so this is where you're going to want to be based if you're looking to explore places such as Machu Picchu and beyond.
Without further-ado, here are my top three things to do from Cuzco...
1. THE AUSANGATE TREK TO RAINBOW MOUNTAIN: remote is an understatement, you're more likely to make friends with the roaming herds of wild Alpaca than other trekkers.
This 5-6 day trek around the base of Mt. Ausangate (the tallest mountain in Southern Peru) is one of the most difficult treks in the area, but also one of the most visually rewarding. Be prepared to tackle 4 high altitude mountain passes, some of which reach over 5,000m (16,400ft) high. If you're willing to stick it out, you'll be rewarded with jaw-dropping glacial flanked by dramatic towering peaks.
To top it all off, on the last day you will make your ascent to Rainbow Mountain before the crowds of day trippers arrive. We had the entire mountain to ourselves for sunrise - a fantastic way to end 5 days in the backcountry of Peru. If you only have time to do one trek, I would suggest this one.
*Early into the trek, you'll pass through a Quechuan village and a school filled with kids. This is a great opportunity to hand out school supplies from town, something as simple as a colouring book is enough to put a smile of their faces for the rest of the day. Don't worry about trying to talk to the kids in broken Spanish either - this area of Peru still primarily speak Quechua, an ancient Incan language. The universal language of smiles and laughter is all that's needed!
2. SALKANTAV TREK TO MACHU PICCHU: the Salkantav Trek is a longer and more difficult route to Machu Picchu taking most groups 5-7 days.
The main draw here is that it's a much less crowded and more scenic way to hike to Machu Picchu. You'll make stops at places like the famous Laguna Humantay and even drink coffee with local coffee farmers. This is a great option if you're looking for an "off the beaten path" Machu Picchu experience.
You'll still be able to cross "walking on the Inca Trail" off of your list - the Salkantay Trek meets up with the Inca Trail on the second to last day. Before making the final push to Machu Picchu, you'll typically spend the last night of the adventure in a hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes. The closest town to Machu Picchu. Fresh beds and a warm shower never felt so good after getting your butt kicked for 5 days.
3. SALINERAS DE MARAS: if multi-day trekking isn't exactly your idea of a good time, then a day trip to the Maras Salt Mines is a great way to explore a little bit of ancient Incan culture without tackling high mountain presses.
Thought to predate the Incan empire, the mines are about 40kms North of Cuzco and are still harvested by hand to this day.
So, there you have it. My ultimate guide to visiting Peru!