Peru, the third largest country in South America, is rich in history, culture, beauty, and adventure. It is made up of a variety of landscapes, from mountains and beaches to deserts and rainforests. So whether you’re exploring the ancient ruins of the Incas or wandering through the Amazon, there’s endless activities for a traveler. In this blog, we’re sharing the 10 best things to do in Peru.
You have likely heard of the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu; It's undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Peru. Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River, the majestic Inca City is one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city anywhere in the world.
Built in the fifteenth century, Machu Picchu was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards. It wasn’t until Hiram Bingham came across Machu Picchu in 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world. Bingham believed at the time that it was the lost city of the Incas - first documented by Spanish soldiers in the 1500s - but historians have since believed that the real lost city of the Incas was at Espíritu Pampa.
From Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, a bus takes you up to Machu Picchu, along a winding switchback road. As of January 2020, new admission rules are in place for Machu Picchu: You must enter the park at a designated time, tour with a guide, and follow a set route.
If you have time when visiting Peru, consider arriving at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. This four-day hike is one the best things to do in Peru and is a bucket-list experience for many travelers. The trail passes more than 30 Inca ruins and traverses through spectacular scenery. Be warned though, this trail is difficult due to the elevation gain of two high passes.
The Inca Trail hike must be done with an agency. If you’re looking for a great local guide, be sure to check out our Inca Trail Trip. We personally vet our guides to give you the best experience possible.
When you think of Peru, lush rainforest probably comes to mind. But there are sand dunes too! Huacachina is a small town on the coast of Peru, situated around a lagoon surrounded by huge sand dunes - some of which reach 1,000 meters in height. People come here to try out the sport of sandboarding, or ride in dune buggies.
One of the things most people don’t know about Huacachina is that it is only ten minutes from a wine and pisco region. The alcohol called Pisco is the main ingredient in Peru’s signature drink, a Pisco Sour. A short day tour from Huacachina will not only teach you how Pisco is made, but allow you to sample different types of it as well!
Stretching across 4.6 million square miles in South America, the Amazon Rainforest basin is home to one of the world’s largest and most biodiverse populations of flora and fauna. Visiting the jungle is definitely one of the best things to do in Peru! Amazon River cruises are the main way to explore this incredible and remote region, with numerous operators offering cruises to suit a wide range of budgets. Naturalist guides will help you spot pink dolphins, monkeys, crocodiles, scarlet macaws, and more.
Be sure to check out our Peru Amazon Highlights Trip, where you’ll get to explore the best the Amazon has to offer while based out of a jungle lodge.
One of life’s great mysteries is the Nazca Lines: huge, intricate drawings etched on to the barren landscape of Peru’s coastal desert around 400km south of Lima. Although it is not known exactly who, how, or why these lines were created, it’s believed that the Nazca people created the lines and that they predate the Incas by as much as 2,000 years.
Taking a flight tour over the lines will allow you to see 70 different plant and animal drawings as well as hundreds of lines and other geometrical shapes. If you’re into art history or archeology, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Peru!
Also known as the Mountain of Seven Colors, as well as Vinicunca in Quechua, Rainbow Mountain is an incredible sight! The minerals and sediments in the rock and soil have created a multi-colored landscape, and it's an easy day trip from Cusco. Just be prepared for the elevation: Rainbow Mountain sits at a whopping 15,000 ft above sea level.
If you feel the Inca Trail isn’t for you, consider the Ausangate Trek which leads you up to the famous Rainbow Mountain!
No trip to Peru is complete without sampling the local cuisine! Food tours make for the perfect combo of sightseeing in Lima and trying all sorts of classic Peruvian dishes. You’ll get to sample dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, causa, craft beer, and various Peruvian desserts like picarones or churros. This is a great way to acclimate yourself to Peru!
Sitting at 3,820 meters above sea level along the border of Peru and Bolivia is Lake Titicaca. The lake is most famous for its man-made islands constructed from totora reeds, and providing floating homes for the local Uros Indians. A boat trip to the islands and surrounding villages is the best way to appreciate the lake. What you’ll see on these islands is dedicated to tourism - so keep this in mind - but you’ll get to experience a glimpse into traditional Peruvian culture.
For an additional adventure, consider catching the Titicaca train over the Andean altiplano between Cusco and Lake Titicaca. You’ll get to see beautiful landscapes, llama-dotted plains, and valleys with adobe villages.
Hiking in Huaraz is easily one of the best things to do in Peru because the landscapes are larger than life! If you love outdoor adventuring, gorgeous mountain scenery, and camping under the stars, then Huaraz is the destination for you. The Cordillera Blanca is touted as the mountaineering capital of Peru, but there are plenty of accessible day hikes as well, like the Laguna 69 and Pastoruri Glacier.
To immerse yourself in the Cordillera range, consider our Cordillera Huayhuash Trek, where you’ll experience breathtaking scenery at every turn.
For anyone who loves animals, nature, boat rides, or a couple of days to slow down during their Peru vacation, definitely consider the Ballestas Islands. They are home to an extraordinary wildlife event, where the endangered Humboldt penguins live alongside dolphins, sea lions, and pelicans.
Consider taking a morning tour for smoother sailing and a better chance of seeing more wildlife, which are more active during the first part of the day.
There you have it: the 10 best things to do in Peru! Peru is an incredible country to visit. You can explore all of our Peru trips here. Happy adventuring!
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