Top 5 Peru Mountaineering and Trekking Destinations

Blake P
Top 5 Peru Mountaineering and Trekking Destinations

Peru is synonymous with the Andes Mountains.

Situated on the western coast of South America, the world’s longest mountain chain runs through the centre of the country and serves as a defining feature of its climate and culture. 

Since tourism in Peru began to take off at the beginning of the 21st century, the incredibly diverse country has become a much sought after destination for mountaineering enthusiasts.

Boasting a number of different subranges – including the Cordillera Blanca, Cordillera Huayhuash and Cordillera Vilcanota, among many others – Peru offers the perfect mountaineering opportunities for climbers of every level and predilection.

During the dry season, which runs from May to October, climbers from all over the world flock to the country to take on some of Peru’s most iconic summits and enjoy the stunning views of the glacially-carved valleys, high deserts and tropical rainforests that many of the peaks provide.

Located a few hundred kilometres north of the cosmopolitan capital of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca boasts both some of the easiest ascents found anywhere in the Andes as well as the toughest. 

Keep reading: Top Volcano Climbing Experiences in Ecuador

For those looking for a combination of culture, cuisine and climbing, then Cusco is the place to go. Located near the Cordillera Vilcanota, the former Incan capital serves as a great starting point for any number of incredible climbing challenges. 

Cusco also serves as the gateway to Machu Picchu, the well-preserved and ancient city. Some guides will combine climbing adventures with a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Take a look below to learn more about the top five mountaineering destinations in Peru and begin planning your next adventure today!

1| Alpamayo

Situated along the northern end of Peru’s stunning Cordillera Blanca, Alpamayo is widely considered to be one of the country’s top mountaineering destinations. 

While it is far from Peru’s highest peak, Alpamayo’s distinctive pyramidal shape and massive ice-clad walls allow it to stand out from the neighbouring peaks. Appearing almost like an obelisk rising above the Santa Cruz valley, the peak was voted the “Most Beautiful Mountain in the World” by a German magazine in 1966.

While the ascent of Alpamayo is considered to be quite challenging, its base camp is usually teeming with activity. Along with climbers preparing for a step and technical ascent, the camp is also a popular stopping point along the famed Santa Cruz trek. 

As with most Peruvian mountaineering expeditions, any trip to Alpamayo begins with a flight into Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), in Lima. From here, it is easiest – and most scenic – to make the eight-hour bus ride on to Huaraz.

Once climbers have made the scenic two to three-day trek to the peak’s base camp, there are eight different routes to choose from that head up to the summit. 

Of these, the Ferari route, which heads up the southwest face of the mountain, is the most popular. Rated as AD+, the route climbs via the southwest face of the mountain and involves nine different pitches of ice climbing, ranging in steepness from 45º to 55º. 

Away from the Ferari route, the French direct route is the other most popular. Rated as D+, it is slightly easier than the Ferari route, but takes a bit longer to complete, with one more pitch of ice climbing. 

Regardless of the route that is being taken, all climbers heading to Alpamyao will need to be in excellent physical condition and prepared to climb for consecutive hours on summit day with few chances to stop and rest. Away from the physical aspect, the ascent also requires a high level of ice climbing ability. 

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 5,947 m (19,511 ft)
  • Duration: 6 to 10 days
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Best period: May to September

2| Ausangate

Towering above the stunning Cordillera Vilcanota, roughly 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Cusco, is the mighty and hallowed Ausangate.

Peru’s fifth highest peak is both a challenging and popular mountaineering destination as well as the centre point of one of the country’s top trekking circuits. The dark granite massif is commonly climbed from its long and sloping eastern ridgeline, but also boasts a stunning 70-kilometre (45-mile) trekking circuit that circumnavigates it.

While the trekking portion is generally more popular – as well as far less technically and physically demanding – than the actual climb, a decent number of outdoor enthusiasts opt to take in the best of both and combine the three-day climb with a weeklong trek around the peak.

Regardless of whether the plan is to climb or trek, many expeditions up to the top of Ausangate begin from the village of Tinqui. The small settlement can be reached easily enough from Cusco. Most adventurers opt to fly into Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ). From here, the vast majority of guides provide transport to the start of the trip.

After arriving in Tinqui, the only main route to the summit follows the start of the Ausangate trek and heads southeast around the northern slopes of the peak. 

While trekkers will follow the Apu Ausangate route and continue heading south, climbers will veer off from the trail and follow the long and sloping eastern ridgeline up to the summit plateau. Afterward, a short but steep scrabble takes climbers to the top of the peak.

While the climb is not considered very technically difficult, it still offers plenty of challenges. The ridgeline is long and quite exposed, with steep drops on either side. Climbers should be prepared for a long 5-kilometre traverse of the ridge until arriving at the summit plateau. 

Along with the actual climbing, Ausangate is at an extremely high elevation and boasts more than 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) of prominence. Therefore, a high level of physical fitness and proper acclimatisation are both paramount to a successful ascent.   

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 6,384 m (20,945 ft)
  • Duration: 5 to 8 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Best period: May to September

3| Nevado Pisco

Situated roughly 15 kilometres (10 miles) south of Alpamayo, in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca, Nevado Pisco is one of Peru’s many popular mountaineering destinations. 

Composed of two summits – Pisco Oeste (the west summit) and Pisco Este (the east summit) – the mountain is named after the country’s national distilled spirit, a potent cultural symbol. While Pisco Oeste is slightly smaller than its eastern neighbour, it remains the more popular of the two summits to climb. 

Part of the reason for this is that Pisco Oeste is slightly shorter and easier, but the main reason is the views from the western summit are some of the best available in the Cordillera Blanca, with an astounding panorama out over Huascarán and Alpamayo.

Like any other peak in the Cordillera Blanca, all trips to Nevado Pisco begin with a flight into Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), in Lima, and are followed by an eight-hour bus ride to Huaraz. Guides generally opt to meet in the small city and provide transport to the start of the trip. 

After making the one-day trek to the mountain’s base camp, which sits on its southern flanks, the vast majority of climbers opt to make the ascent to the summit via the southwest ridge route. Also known as the normal route, the way is rated as PD and widely considered to be the easiest route up the mountain. 

The ascent begins with a steady hike to the mountain’s western col, where climbers may opt to spend the night. The following morning, getting an early start, climbers will make a mixed snow and glacier climbing ascent onto the glacier and up the southwest ridge before arriving at the  summit. 

Keep reading: The Basics of Glacier Travel: Top Tips and Tricks

Away from the normal route, there are four other main routes that lead up Nevado Pisco and range in difficulty from D to ED, each of which requires more technical ice climbing as well as snow and glacier travel.

While Nevado Pisco is generally considered to be one of the easiest high-elevation climbs in all of Peru (as well as the rest of the Andes), the peak still presents various challenges on the way to its summit. 

The climb does require some rudimentary glacier climbing skills, such as the use of crampons and ice axes. However, the main difficulty is generally the altitude and physical fitness requirements. 

The entire ascent takes place at more than 5,000 metres, so being properly acclimated is highly important. The ascent also requires sustained scrambling and glacier travel on summit day, with few places to stop and rest along the way.

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 5,752 m (18,871 ft)
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Best period: May to September

4| Ishinca

Situated on the southwestern slopes of the Cordillera Blanca, Ishinca is a popular training ground and acclimatisation peak for mountaineers headed on to tougher challenges in the Peruvian Andes. 

Rising to a comparatively modest elevation of 5,550 metres (18,140 feet), Ishinca is sandwiched in between a number of classic mountaineering destinations, including Tocllaraju and Urus. 

Many climbers with their eyes on their first 6,000-metre (19,700-foot) ascent head to Ishinca as a warm-up. However, the peak boasts plenty of reasons to make it a stand-alone destination. From the summit, the mountain offers stunning views back into the Ishinca Valley as well as of the surrounding peaks. 

As with other peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, Ishinca is most easily reached from Huaraz. Most guides opt to meet in the city before providing transport to the trailhead. 

After making the scenic trek from the trailhead onto the base camp, which not only services Ishinca but also Urus, Tocllaraju and Ranrapalca, there are two main routes that are commonly used to reach the top. 

Both of these routes start with climbers departing from base camp and traversing a moraine before hiking up to the toe of the glacier, where the high camp is located.

The following morning, climbers opting to head up the northwest slope route – also known as the normal route – will hike toward the mountain before crossing over the toe of the glacier. From here, climbers follow the northeast ridge until the summit pyramid before crossing over to the northwest slope and following it to the top. 

The other route, which is a bit longer but less technically difficult, is the southwest ridge route. From the high camp, climbers will depart in the opposite direction from the northwest slope route and hike toward the other side of the mountain. After climbing the moraine, climbers will scramble over a combination of rock and snow, all while following the southwest ridge directly to the top.

While climbing Ishinca is not technically difficult and is widely considered an excellent challenge for advanced beginners in the Andes, there are still a series of challenges climbers will face along the way.

Some previous glacier, rock and snow climbing experience is required prior to the start of the trip. While the peak is not very prominent, it is quite steep, so a high level of physical fitness is also required to get up from the high camp to the top and back down to the base camp on summit day.

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 5,530 m (18,140 ft)
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Difficulty: Advanced beginner
  • Best period: May to September

5| Urus

Situated on the western slopes of Peru’s iconic Cordillera Blanca, in the heart of Huascarán National Park, the Urus massif boasts stunning views of its neighbouring peaks.

The massif is composed of three separate summits – Urus Este (5,423 metres/17,792 feet), Central (5,495 metres/18,030 feet) and Oeste (5,450 metres/17,880 feet). However, most mountaineers opt only to climb the eastern summit.

While Urus Este is not the tallest of the three, an ascent to any of the other summits will require climbing the eastern peak first. Since the views from all three are very similar and require a very long day of climbing, many opt to stick with the eastern summit.

As with other peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, the Urus massif is most easily reached from Huaraz. Most guides opt to meet in the city before providing transport to the trailhead. 

Urus Este is classified as a trekking peak and, in addition to being a stand-alone destination, is also a popular part of some variations of the Santa Cruz trek. 

Keep reading: A Beginner's Guide to Mountaineering

However, climbers opting just to climb the peak will begin the adventure by trekking from the trailhead to the base camp, which sits at the foot of the mountain and also services Ishinca among others. From here, there is only one main route that leads up to Urus Este. 

The ascent begins with a steep hike up the eastern slopes of the peak. As climbers approach the summit, a mix of scrambling and climbing over snow is required to reach the summit. While none of this is overly technical, it does require the use of crampons.

Climbers heading to Urus Central, must first climb most of the way up Urus Este before veering off and traversing a ridgeline that connects Este to Central and scrambling to the top of the summit.

The route to Urus Oeste also requires climbers to ascend most of Urus Este, before turning to the west and hiking across the base of the three peaks until arriving at its eastern ridge. From here, climbers will follow the ridgeline up to the summit.

While climbing Urus Este is widely considered to be the easiest ascent of a 5,000-metre (16,400-foot) peak in the Cordillera Blanca, the climb comes with some challenges.

Climbers will need to know some very basic glacier and snow climbing techniques, both of which can be taught during the trip (though this adds an extra day to the ascent). Climbers will also need a high level of physical fitness and be prepared for a long day of steep climbing on summit day.

Climbing the other two summits of the massif, however, requires more technical snow, rock and ice climbing abilities.  

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 5,423 m (17,792 ft)
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Best period: May to September


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Cordillera Huayhuash.

Peru offers no shortage of incredible mountaineering experiences for climbers of every level! 

Whether you are a beginner looking to get that first high-elevation experience or a seasoned veteran seeking out a thrilling challenge, Peru will not disappoint.

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Related locations

Location :
 5,947 m / 19,511 ft
Location :
 6,384 m / 20,945 ft
Cordillera Huayhuash Valley
 6,635 m / 21,768 ft
Location :
 5,530 m / 18,143 ft
Urus (Yanaraju)
 5,420 m / 17,782 ft
Nevado Pisco
Location :
 Nevado Pisco
 5,752 m / 18,871 ft

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