Top 12 Things to do in Peru

Flag of Peru waving in the wind

Aaah. Peru. Where do we even begin? The heart of the Great Inca Empire. The Land of the Incas. Home to the world famous Machu Picchu. Not interested? How about sheer natural beauty in the form of the Great Amazon, exotic jungles or breathtaking peaks. Still need inspiration? What about fascinating walking trails. A rich and varied gastronomy. Resurgent cities.

Irrespective of where your interests lie, Peru always manages to entertain you with all sorts of sights and attractions that are sure to transform you into one of the most influential travel personalities on social media. Provided you manage to come back to reality and remember to click photographs! While the options are just about endless when it comes to things to do in Peru, we have managed to shortlist a few that become a part of most traveler itineraries in the country.

The Amazon Rainforest

Amazon Rainforest
Amazon Rainforest

Oh yes. The great beauty. The most majestic rainforest in the world. The biggest of them all. Did you know that Peru hosts the second largest expanse of the rainforest after Brazil? The Amazon covers close to 60% of Peru and the Peruvian Amazon is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The rainforest offers the same amount of wildlife as the Brazilian Amazon, but is friendlier to your wallets and is also known to be less traversed than its Brazilian counterpart. One of the best experiences is to sleep in an open cabin in the midst of the Amazon jungle. The sound of howler monkeys, the eerie chilly feeling, the peaceful surroundings and the sound of rain drops hitting your thatched roof takes you into another era and lets you enjoy the little beauties of Mother Nature at their scintillating best.

Insider Tip – The two main points of entry into the Amazon are Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. If going there, we recommend you to fly to both destinations as the road infrastructure isn’t the best.

Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail

Machu Picchu at sunset when the sunlight makes everything golden-warm. Sunset at Machu Picchu, Peru. Mountain of Huayna Picchu rising above Incan ruins of Machu Picchu - Sacred Valley.
Machu Picchu at sunset when the sunlight makes everything golden-warm. Sunset at Machu Picchu, Peru. Mountain of Huayna Picchu rising above Incan ruins of Machu Picchu – Sacred Valley.

Machu Picchu, one of the most revered tourist attractions in the world, is like a dream come true for most travelers. This ancient city is one of the highlights of Peruvian history and it is that one Inca city that was never discovered by the Spaniards. What makes this destination even more spectacular was that it remained hidden from the world until explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in the year 1911. Machu Picchu draws millions of tourists each year and is known to be the most popular attraction of South America. The best way of exploring the Lost City of the Incas is by traversing the invigorating Inca Trail which lets you follow the exact footsteps of Hiram Bingham, the man who discovered Machu Picchu. Catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu, built in a typical Inca style, with beautiful, polished dry-stone walls of quarried granite stone.

Insider Tip – Just 2500 visitors are allowed to enter the city of Machu Picchu on a given day. Make sure that you book your Machu Picchu tours well in advance while visiting Peru.

Walking Tour of Historic Center in Lima

Lima municipal building city hall on Plaza de Armas of Lima. It is located in the Historic Centre of Lima.
Lima municipal building city hall on Plaza de Armas of Lima. It is located in the Historic Centre of Lima.

One of the best ways to explore the historic beauty of Lima is through a walking tour. Most of the major attractions are located quite close to each other, and you can explore things like the Central Market, a museum, ancient buildings, historic churches and breathtaking squares in the same tour. A tour of the historic center usually takes up half your day, and you can also make use of knowledgeable guides who offer insights into the history and introduce you to some of the local folklore. Other highlights of the tour include sampling the local beverage, Chicha de Jora, and visiting the very first bar of Lima. And don’t forget to explore Park of the Wall, a place that lets you enjoy views of the colorful Rimac district houses and uncover exotic stories about old-world pirates.

Qorikancha

Spanish Colonial cloister courtyard Inca temple of the sun (Koricancha / Qorikancha) Cusco Peru South America
Spanish Colonial cloister courtyard Inca temple of the sun (Koricancha / Qorikancha) Cusco Peru South America

If there is time to visit just one historical site while in Cusco, make sure that you visit this outstanding Inca ruin, which actually forms the base of the colonial era convent Santo Domingo. Qorikancha was believed to be the richest temple of the Inca Empire that was literally overflowing with gold. The walls were covered with approximately 700 gold colored sheets and life-like silver and gold replicas of corn, altars, the sun, babies and llamas were also present. Sadly, the Spanish took away all the gold, but the exquisite stonework is still there for all to see.

Insider Tip – Very few attractions in Cusco manage to portray the cultural exchange between Spanish and Inca architectural styles better than Qorikancha. The stonework on display in this historical site is bound to leave you mesmerized.

Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands

Lake Titicaca, Uros Floating Islands, Puno, Peru
Lake Titicaca, Uros Floating Islands, Puno, Peru

Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, needs no introduction. Although its altitude of 3,810 meters is more than enough to make it famous the world over, it goes one up on its visitors by offering them a fascinating collection of floating islands that are steeped with Inca history. The biggest attraction at the lake is the island of Uros, an artificial island created by a tribe that predates the Incas. The lake itself is considered to be one of the most tranquil and picturesque destinations in the country and certainly warrants a visit.

Insider Tip – The perfect way to visit Lake Titicaca is to take a bus ride from Cusco to Puno. There is no need for prior reservations as day trips to the floating islands are easy to book.

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines Hummingbird as viewed from a plane Nazca Peru
Image by: demerzel21/bigstocl.com

If you don’t believe in aliens or the fact that aliens had once visited the human race, all you have to do is go and see the Nazca lines. These bizarre lines might just make you change your mind about the existence of aliens. Nazca Lines are a set of archeological drawings that were created ages ago and are still known to be a source of mystery. These lines consist of several designs including those of lizards, birds, spiders, geometric shapes, etc. What makes them so unique is that the designs are so huge that it is impossible to see them from land. You need to board a plane and get an aerial view of the designs to actually understand those beautiful, yet mysterious shapes. So the biggest question that hits you is why the lines were created! That too in an era when flying wasn’t even considered conceivable.

Huacachina

The oasis between the dunes of Huacachina in the coastal desert of Peru
Image by: kovgabor79/bigstock.com

Huacachina is located at a distance of 4.5 hours to the south of Lima, close to the city of Ica. This desert village is relatively small, but its humongous sand dunes offer the best sandboarding experience in Peru. Huacachina has become very popular among adventure lovers, adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers with sandboarding and high-speed dune buggy rides being the best things to do.

Insider Tip – Try using an old snowboard that has proper boots and bindings. These snowboards should be available in most hotels. Avoiding this seemingly meaningless tip means that you’ll end up with a heavy wooden plan which often offers very poor control.

Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is the best trekking destination in Peru. Located in the Andes region of Arequipa, it is full of breathtaking scenery. The canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is believed to be the ultimate travel experience that Peru has to offer. Arequipa, one of the friendliest cities in Peru, proves to be the perfect base for exploring the canyons and ensures that you’re steps away from cosmopolitan delights. Even if hiking isn’t your scene, you can always visit the canyon to check out the spectacular beauty or lay eyes on the extremely rare Andean Condor, a humongous bird known to have the largest wingspan (amongst land birds) in the world.

Lima City Tour Express

An express tour of Lima lets you understand the Inca culture and showcases some of the most famous architectural jewels in the city. It takes you to places such as the Cathedral, Miguel Grau Square, Italian Art Museum, San Martin Square, Love Park, Covent of San Francisco and its catacombs, Huaca Pucllana and the Main Square. The excursion also offers panoramic views from the open-air second level of your buses and lets you discover the city in an extremely special way. Don’t forget to visit the Sacristy, which hosts an admirable collection of glazed times that belong to 16th century Seville.

Mancora

There are a number of beaches that attract beach bums to Peru, but none come close to the fascinating experience that Mancora has to offer. Mancora is a surfer town located in northern Peru that provides an ideal destination for a break from all the history and culture that dominated your trip. It features world class surf breaks, boasts of a super relaxed aura, attracts hippie crowds and provides accommodation options for all types of travelers. The presence of a vast array of water activities, seafood restaurants and street markets makes the town even more attractive.

Parque Nacional Manu

Parque Nacional Manu is a national park that offers a fascinating array of rainforest and cloud forest habitats. The park is one of the most protected parks in the world and has also been declared as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the main reasons why the park has been successful in preserving its untouched beauty is the fact that it is extremely remote, which makes it very difficult for people to access the park. This means that the park hasn’t been damaged by hunters, rubber tappers, etc. The best time to visit the park is between the months of June to November. Some of the animals that you come across in Parque Nacional Manu include squirrels, brocket deers, pacas, kinkajous, armadillos, caiman and river turtles.

Insider Tip – It is illegal for you to enter the park without a licensed guide. Cuzco is the perfect place to find a tour operator to get you inside Parque Nacional Manu. It would also be wise to remember travelers often end up getting delayed by a day or two in returning from the park. Make sure that you don’t book your return tickets for the next day.

Larco Museum

The Larco Museum is considered to be a must-see attraction while in Lima. This private collection boasts of a fascinating display of pre-Inca gold, pottery and silver headdresses that have been excavated from archaeological sites from all over Peru. The museum itself is known to be a wonder – it has been beautifully designed with bougainvillea vines of different colors. Some of the biggest highlights of the museum include the 45000 ceremonial pitchers on the 1st floor and precious metal jewelry exhibits that depict close to 4000 years of pre-Columbian history.

Interesting Fact – The star exhibit of the museum is its 2nd century erotic pottery exhibit, which features erotic displays in every conceivable position. According to travelers, this exhibit is the Latin version of Kama Sutra.

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