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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. Rich and varied Peruvian 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. Don't blame us if your hands are itching to book your next tour to Peru after reading this article!
- Sofia Vieira
- From England
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 amid the Amazon jungle. The sound of howler monkeys, the eerie chilly feeling, the peaceful surroundings, and the sound of raindrops hitting your thatched roof takes you into another era and lets you enjoy the little beauties of Mother Nature at their scintillating best.
Good to know: 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.
Insider's Tips: Take insect repellent containing no less than 15% DEET. Nothing else will deter Amazon mosquitos! — by Katy Shorthouse from Aspiring Adventures
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 in 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.
Peru is a haven for trekkers who want the ultimate trekking experience with nature, and the country boasts some of the best treks in the world with varying degrees of difficulty. If you are unable to trek the classic Inca Trail then do read our guide on the 10 best treks in Peru that include the Lares trek, Salkantay trek, Santa Cruz trek, and Huayhuash Trek.
Good to know: Peru's Government has recently limited the number of visitors to Machu Pichu for safety regulations. Make sure that you book your Machu Picchu tours well in advance while visiting Peru.
Insider's Tips: There are 2 separate Inca Trail permits — 4 Day Hike and 2 Day Hike, permit availability for each hike is separate and can only be acquired through a licensed tour operator. Permits for the 4-Day Inca Trail trek typically sell out months in advance. Travelers planning to hike in April, May or June should book their hikes with a licensed tour operator by 1 October a year before. Permits for 2 Day Inca Trail rarely sell out but are subject to sell out. If permits are available, last-minute bookings may be possible with at least 1 week's notice. The permits do not include hikes to Huayna Picchu (Machu Picchu Mountain). It's necessary to buy another full-price entry ticket to Machu Picchu that includes this hike. — by Jacquie Whitt from Adios Adventure Travel
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 on 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 in 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. These are just a few, find out what the top 10 things to do in Lima are.
Insider's Tips: Do not miss the changing of the guard parade at the Government Palace located on the main square of Lima. It happens on the moon, every day of the week, and obviously, it is free! — by Solène Duvanel from Terra Peru
If there is time to visit Cusco's historical site, 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.
Good to know: 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, 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 of the Lake Titicaca tour 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.
Good to know: 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.
Insider's Tips: The best months to visit are April, May, September, and October, to avoid the coldest temperatures and the rainy season. Do bring some warm layers as the nights are freezing cold year-round. Be amazed by the endless starry skies during a night on an island, and be sure to drink hot cups of coca tea to counter the effects of the high altitude. — by Clare Frizell from Bamba Experience
The origins of the Nazca Lines are shrouded in mystery. If you don't believe us then all you have to do is go and see the Nazca lines. Nazca Lines are a set of archeological drawings that were created ages ago and are still known to be an enigma. 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.
Insider's Tips: If you want to flight over Nazca Lines, but you lack of time or the road from Lima to Nazca seems too long to you, you have the option of flying from Pisco Airport. You will save 4 hours of travel time and you will enjoy an amazing 90 minutes flight over Nazca Lines! — by Solène Duvanel from Terra Peru
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. A trip to Huacachina has gained popularity among adventure lovers, adrenaline junkies, and thrill-seekers with sandboarding and high-speed dune buggy ride being the best things to do.
Good to know: 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.
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 believed to be 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.
For more information, please check out our complete guide on the Colca Canyon trek.
Insider's Tips: For a really unique experience, choose a trek inside the canyon to really appreciate the immensity of the world's second deepest canyon. Invest in a good pair of hiking boots, and set off on your exploration between March and June - when the rainy season has ended and the trails are in peak condition. — by Clare Frizell from Bamba Experience
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 bus 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.
Insider's Tips: Lima is renowned for being one of the world’s best dining destinations. You can make the most of your stay by dining in The Central and The Maido, two of the World’s 10 Best Restaurants located in the Miraflores district. — by Solène Duvanel from Terra Peru
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 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 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. Check out these awesome things to do in Manu National Park.
Good to know: It is illegal for you to enter the park without a licensed guide. Cusco 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. Take a look at some of the best tour operators in Peru, some of whom are based in Cusco.
Steeped in culture, history, and natural beauty, the Sacred Valley tour is a must on any visit to Peru. Once considered to be the center of the Inca Empire, you can expect to see many ancient ruins in the valley, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Chinchero. As you explore these vestiges of the past and the colonial villages of the area, you will be awestruck by its stunning natural beauty consisting of mountains, valleys, and salt pans.
Feeling adventurous? Whitewater rafting, mountain biking, paragliding, and ziplining are popular activities in the area. Plus, you even have the chance to try the ancient practice of weaving that has been passed down through the generations in the village of Chincheros.
Good to know: If you plan to stay the night in the Sacred Valley, make sure to check out the exclusive Skylodge Adventure Suites. If you are afraid of heights, you may want to give this place a pass because you will be sleeping in a transparent capsule suspended on the side of a mountain. Imagine the views!
For those looking for a way out of the touristy areas of Peru, Cordillera Blanca is an outdoor paradise full of stunning vistas, pristine natural areas, and thrilling activities. Whether you are seeking a quiet, off-the-beaten-track place to relax in the fresh mountain air or the ultimate adrenaline-pumping adventure, you will find it here.
With hundreds of mountain peaks, glaciers, and lakes, Cordillera Blanca is a great destination to enjoy multi-day trekking, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and horseback riding. Some notable attractions include Laguna 69, Llanganuco Lake, Pastoruri Glacier, the ruins at Chavin de Huantar, and the Punta Olimpica Pass. Keep an eye out for the peculiar Puya Raimondii plants that are native to the area.
Good to know: After a long day of exploring this stunning mountainous area, there is no better way to end it than with a relaxing soak. You will find natural thermal baths in Monterrey. A fantastic hotel called Real Banos Termales Monterrey is nearby, and if you are spending the night there, you can enjoy these hot springs for free along with the beautiful waterfalls located behind the hotel.
Eating in locally-owned restaurants instead of chain eateries allows you to sample local cuisine and supports local businesses as well. You will definitely hear about ceviche, Peru's national dish, while in the country. Although there are many tasty variations of this dish, it always consists of fresh, marinated fish.
Peruvian cuisine, heavily influenced by the ancient Incas, comes with a touch of Spanish, Italian, German, and Japanese influences. Papas a la huancaina, causa, and cuy are some of the local favorites to try. Astrid y Gaston in Lima, Pachapapa in Cusco, and Panchita in Miraflores are some of the top restaurants in Peru where you can enjoy local specialties. Do not forget to complement your meal with a glass of pisco, Peru’s national drink.
Good to know: Peruvian cuisine varies slightly depending on whether you are visiting its coastal area, Amazon, or the Andes. So make sure to try the local food everywhere you go.
You must have heard of rainbows in the sky, but have you ever heard of a rainbow mountain? Well, there is one in Peru. Rainbow Mountain is a spectacular natural attraction located 60 miles from Cusco. The mountain is known for vibrant blue, purple, red, and golden stripes running down its surface and is one of the world’s most incredible geological attractions.
Cusco is an important part of this attraction, as it is the starting point for those heading for the mountain. There are many ways to reach the top of the mountain: you can either hike a five-mile trail or go on horseback. Biking is not for the faint of heart this option is available as well.
Good to know: While not as widely available as other daytime trips around Cusco, there are a few tour companies that offer excursions to Rainbow Mountain starting very early in the morning. Leaving at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning allows you to reach the site before large crowds arrive later in the day.
The Larco Museum is considered to be a must-see attraction while in Lima. This private collection boasts a fascinating display of pre-Inca gold, pottery, and silver headdresses that have been excavated from archaeological sites 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 the Kama Sutra.