Even if you’ve no intention of doing any serious hiking , there’s a good deal of walking involved in checking out many of the most enjoyable Peruvian attractions. Climbing from Cusco up to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, for example, or wandering around at Machu Picchu, involves more than an average Sunday afternoon stroll. Bearing in mind the rugged terrain throughout Peru, the absolute minimum footwear is a strong pair of running shoes. Much better is a pair of hiking boots with good ankle support.
Hiking – whether in the desert, mountains or jungle – can be an enormously rewarding experience, but you should go properly equipped and bear in mind a few of the potential hazards . Never stray too far without food and water, something warm and something waterproof to wear. The weather is renowned for its dramatic changeability, especially in the mountains , where there is always the additional danger of soroche (altitude sickness). In the jungle the biggest danger is getting lost. If this happens, the best thing to do is follow a water course down to the main stream, and stick to this until you reach a settlement or get picked up by a passing canoe. If you get caught out in the forest at night, build a leafy shelter and make a fire or try sleeping in a tree.
In the mountains it’s often a good idea to hire a pack animal to carry your gear. Llamas can only carry about 25-30kg and move slowly, a burro (donkey) carries around 80kg, and a mule – the most common and best pack animal – will shift 150kg with relative ease. Mules can be hired from upwards of $5 a day, and they normally come with an arriero, a muleteer who’ll double as a guide. It is also possible to hire mules or horses for riding but this costs a little more. With a guide and beast of burden it’s quite simple to reach even the most remote valleys, ruins and mountain passes, travelling in much the same way as Pizarro and his men over four hundred years ago.