For years now, there has been a move away from camping in Peru and other popular trekking destinations. A shift towards day treks that stay in hotels in the valley and of building permanent accommodation on trekking routes. However, the reality of camping in Peru is that it offers you the opportunity to get a little closer to what makes Peru so unique and fantastic.
This blog will explore the best camping spots in Peru, and for those sitting on the fence, we will also discuss the pros and cons of camping in Peru vs getting a hotel.
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Pros and cons of Hotels and Hostels over Camping in Peru
Con: Hotels can isolate your from your environment and local people
Even though they are still more “in the mountains” than a valley hotel, hotels and hostels on trekking routes still isolate you from the world and the people outside. Sipping cocktails in a hot tub does not bring you closer to the locals, it emphasizes the difference. Remember when you are camping in Peru, you are never far from local communities, it is a very different experience to camping in the US or UK. If you are choosing to trek in Peru to get closer to nature, to see the local way of life, choosing not to camp while doing so alienates yourself from the very thing you set out to achieve.
If you choose the day trek with the valley hotel option, you miss the best part of the day in the mountains. It is a bit like watching a great movie and leaving halfway through. The mountains and riverbanks do not suddenly stop when you go home. Life carries on without you and early and late is when some of nature’s best moments occur.
Pro: Hotels offer more comfort
There is something to be said for a good night’s sleep, in a huge bed, with freshly laundered linen and chocolate on your pillow. There is something to be said for walking across a heated floor in the middle of the night to the bathroom. And many people just have bad memories of camping as a kid, especially if they grew up in the UK. Hotels simply offer more comfort than camping- even the keenest camper can’t deny that.
Check out: Our Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek– a 9 day adventure through the Andes
Con: Hotels change the place for ever
Any permanent structure also changes the environment around it forever. If you have ever seen a ski resort in summer you will understand what I mean. A tent by contrast, if carefully placed, will leave no trace on the landscape. You could walk by an hour later and not know anyone was ever there. It’s one of the reasons we truly love camping in Peru- you leave no trace on such incredible landscapes.
If you don’t believe the problems that can be caused by permanent structures in Peru, please go and look at the disaster that happened in Soraypamapa- the starting point of the Salkantay trek. Groups camped there for years with minimal impact, enjoying the spectacular view of the glacier. Yet now the place has become a hideous shantytown- rules state that the structures cannot be permanent, so no real hotels are here, but there are a lot of semi-permanent structures littered around.
Incidentally, the whole Soraypampa area is designated as a buffer zone for the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, in order to protect the flora and fauna that live within the Sanctuary, such as bears, deer, and a number of endemic birds. So really, there should not have been any buildings built at all.
Pros and cons of camping in Peru
Pro: Camping in Peru brings you closer to the locals
Camping takes you far away from the hustle and bustle of city life, it immerses you in the landscape 24 hours a day and also reduces the barriers between you and the local people that live there. They too huddle against the cold, they too feel that joy at the first rays of the sun, they too trod the same path to get here, felt the same stones beneath their feet, the same moisture on the grass, the same sway of the wooden bridge. If you want to truly understand the locals in Peru, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
Con: It is not as comfortable
Certainly, camping in Peru is not as comfortable as a hotel but sometimes getting out of our comfort zones can be good for us. Getting out of our comfort zones challenges us, and getting out of our comfort zones can open our eyes to new experiences.
It is too easy for life to become too comfortable and we start to take things for granted. Soon we are comparing the thread count of various hotels, the size of their bathtubs, or the pattern of their rainfall showerhead. Is that really so important?
Yes, camping in Peru can be cold, and the campsites can be high in altitude. Our backs are not as young as they once were, and that full-length inflatable mattress is not as comfortable as a real bed. You have to duck to get in the door of your tent, there is no wardrobe to hang your clothes, and no telephone to call for room service. But it is a small price to pay for access to true wilderness. Besides anyone who has camped with us knows we offer a pretty comfortable style of camping.
Pro: Camping in Peru immerses you deeper into the country
Camping in Peru immerses you in the soundscape of a place. There is sound everywhere, the early cockerel, the tinny transistor as people head to the fields, the laughter of the kids walking to school, rain on the tin church roof, birds squabbling for territory, the sing-song chatter of Quechua-speaking women wandering by. They are not even all pleasant sounds- but they are very much the sounds of Peru. Hotels are far away from the organic sounds of the Peruvian outdoors.
Con: Camping can get cold
There is something magnificent to be said about getting back from a hard day’s adventure, grabbing a hot shower, and turning the heating up. This isn’t possible while camping. It can get cold if you are not properly prepared with your equipment. While we have a full range of top-of-the-line camping equipment at your disposal if you are choosing to wild camp or choose your own sites, be very aware of just how cold camping can be at high altitudes.
Pro: Camping brings you closer to your travel companions
Camping in Peru not only brings you closer to the locals and the landscape, but it also brings you closer to the people you travel with. Many years ago I guided treks around Mont Blanc. We offered camping trips and hotel-based trips, both lasting two weeks. The bonds formed by the campers always outshone those of the hotel groups. Barriers were broken down so much quicker, experiences were shared, and memories were created.
Bonds form while you sit chatting by the light of headlamps. They form around camp dining tables or while you are outside your tent watching the stars. And in the morning, you share experiences. People stand around together as the sun rises with a cup of coffee in hand. You see each other without makeup, with your hair in a mess. You see and take each other for who you really were, not the clothes you wear, the wine you choose, or the job you do.
Check out: Our 5-day Inca Trail. The best way to avoid the crowds, with fixed departure reduced price available!
Imagine how powerful that opportunity to spend time with loved ones and friends can be, no distractions, no hotel door to close between you, no disguises to hide behind, just you and them.
Where to Go Camping in Peru
Below is a breakdown of the best and most popular cities to camp in while you are visiting Peru.
Best Camping Spots in Cusco, Peru
This selection of one-night camping trips in Peru was designed specially to give you a taste of just how special an experience it can be.
Overnight Hike to Huchuy Qosqo :
Not an easy trek, but a truly unique experience camping in Peru. Where else can you camp a few hundred meters from Inca ruins with practically no one else about? Huchuy Qosqo is a beautiful hike and a lot of fun for people with a bit more experience.
Overnight Waqrapukara trek:
Trek to the little-visited Inca site of Waqrapukara and spend a night camping beneath the stars. Suitable for families as long as you are acclimatized. A truly spectacular trek that takes travelers through incredible landscapes- often touted as better than Machu Picchu.
Overnight Rafting the Apurimac Black Canyon:
This is a full expedition in two days. Stunning roads, great rapids, and riverside campfires. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to lie on a beach in the middle of a canyon with nothing but silence and the sound of flowing water surrounding you and the milky way unfurling before your eyes after a fun day of rafting the rapids, ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>the Black Canyon is the trip for you, suitable for kids from 10 years upwards.
Overnight Raft the Apurimac Granite Canyon:
Two of the best days rafting you will ever have. Remote, wild, and technical, with a memorable beach camp. This is just like the camping you will experience on the Black Canyon, but the Granite Canyon is just a little more wild, just a little more remote, and just that little bit more exciting. Over 16 years only.
Camping in Peru, Lima
Lima isn’t most people’s favorite part of Peru, but it gets its fair share of visitors. There aren’t any decent camping spots in the city itself, but if you care to venture further afield, there are some awesome places perfect for an overnight camping experience in Peru.
Rupac is a set of ruins that are found above the clouds a few hours outside of Lima and a popular place to camp in Peru. If you go there in February then you may be lucky to see the ‘colchon de nubes’ (a blanket of clouds) where a layer of cloud covers the valley below and a beautiful sun is visible.
It’s a full day there and back, with a few hours’ drive to the start of the trek. To get there on public transport you must take a combi to Huaral, and then a taxi to the start of the trek. The taxis know where to go and they will wait for you on your return the next day.
Make sure that you pack things inside a waterproof casing, especially in the months of Jan-March. You will be walking up through a cloud. The trek to Rupac is not necessarily an easy one, but the view is incredible, and camping amongst ruins is something people can rarely do- making is a great choice for your camping trip in Peru.
Marcahuasi is an ancient site with ruins and a rock forest. It’s famous for the spectacular scenery and is a fantastic camping spot, accessible by a 4-hour hike or a 20-minute drive from the closest town, San Pedro de Casta. It’s an increasingly popular camping spot in Lima, and for good reason. It’s beautiful and really deserves the hype it receives.
Camping in Tacna, Peru
Most camping in Tacna is offered through hotels with campsites attached. Since Tacna is not a very touristy destination, you may be able to wild camp or find some amazing off-the-beaten-path locations there regardless! Most people who stay in Tacna do it on their way to or from Chile.
Camping in Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz is beautiful. Huaraz is also very cold. Camping in Huaraz is only really advisable to do with high-quality equipment. If you opt for a multi-day trek through the mountains then you will be camping and experiencing some of the best of Peruvian scenery, as multiday treks in Huaraz take you deep into the wilderness- guaranteeing incredible scenery and beautiful night skys. It’s a great place to try camping in Peru. Below are some of our favorite places to camp in Huaraz:
The Huayhuash trek is a 10-day trek through the mountains of Huaraz, and each day gets more and more impressive. The only option is to camp, and while you won’t be wild camping (there are campsites along the way, and choosing wild camping means you open yourself to the possibility of running into an angry local… or worse) there are still plenty of incredible and beautiful options for you to choose from.
Santa Cruz Trek
This is a famously beautiful trek that battles an aggressive uphill over 4 or 5 days through the mountain ranges of Huaraz. You can find a complete guide for the Santa Cruz Trek here, including various places to camp and enjoy along your way.
Camping in Puno, Peru
Camping in Puno is not very popular, owing to the very high altitude and cold harsh weather. There are not many readily available campsites in the area, similar to Tacna, camping options are more or less restricted to camping on hotel grounds after booking your spot. While camping is often the cheaper option- Puno really is very high in altitude and very cold. Not only this, but you can find very cheap hotel and hostel rooms- so if your choice to try camping in Puno comes down to cost, rethink it and check out hostel prices.
You can also find ‘glamping’ options in Puno, such as staying in domes on the shore of Lake Titicaca where you garner the middle ground between camping and hotels. This is a great way to dip your toe into camping in Peru without risking the cold or discomfort of a tent.
Camping in Chiclayo, Peru
Chiclayo is a little-visited city in the north of Peru with some incredible places to visit and camp- often with few other tourists. There are campsites in the city and also closer to the coast. If you are visiting Chiclayo, it is a fantastic time to try out camping in Peru- as the city itself is off the usual tourist track with a few incredible places to visit- such as Gocta Falls and other fantastic landmarks.
Camping in Mancora, Peru
As a beach town famous for backpackers and the insatiable surf, camping in Mancora is never far from anyone’s mind. There are plenty of options to camp, both campsites and hotel grounds for a little more comfort. You aren’t allowed to camp on the beach itself, but there are many options a mere stone’s throw away. You can simply turn up with your tent and ask around for the best deals and prices. Mancora is probable one of the best places to camp in Peru.
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