Things to Do in Peru
Peru’s reality is that there is much more to do than visiting the World Wonder, Machu Picchu. The activities and tourist attractions in Peru are endless – whether you like to explore, eat, drink, dance, boat, or hike, there’s a Peru tour for you. Consider Lima for its exquisite culinary, Lake Titicaca for a boating adventure, the Inca Trail (as well as plenty others) for hiking, and Cusco for city sightseeing. Follow along as we discover the best things to do in Peru.
I’ve traveled extensively throughout Peru, and one thing I’ve learned is that Peru is a country of contrasts! You can sandboard the deserts one day and the next day you can find yourself in the Amazon. This diversity makes Peru an all-year-round destination with plenty of things to do for every traveler!
Peru Travel Expert
Best Things to Do Peru:
1. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
First on our list of things to do in Peru is hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Peru is internationally-known for its hiking opportunities, in particular, the very popular Inca Trail. Part of the Inca Trail’s appeal is the idea that the very route was used by Peru’s indigenous ancestors. As the pilgrimage route to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail attracts not only nature and hiking enthusiasts but history buffs and enthusiasts who are after some of South America’s most significant masterpieces. There are many more incredible trekking trails in Peru beyond Machu Picchu, such as Rainbow Mountain, Machu Picchu Mountain, Cordillera Blanca Mountain, and the Lares Trek.
2. Sandboard in Huacachina, a Desert Oasis
Huacachina is commonly referred to as the desert oasis of Peru. Centered around a lagoon believed to have natural healing properties, Huacachina’s shaded roads, and cozy establishments are perfect for relaxation. Additionally, located in the Ica Desert five hours outside of Lima, Huacachina is a popular destination for dune buggies and sandboarding. Surrounded by extraordinary mountains of sand, the landscape is perfect for riding adventures on the dunes and is impressive to behold.
3. Experience a Foodie’s Dream – A Culinary Tour in Lima
With world-class restaurants such as Amaz, Central, and Mil, it’s easy to understand how Peru has been placed on the map as one of the top international culinary capitals. Lima’s food scene hosts an exciting assortment of old and new cuisine. Peruvian flavors are influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, West African, and even Amazonian regional styles.
4. Taste the Salt of Maras – a Salt Mine Dating Back to Inca Times
Maras, Peru, situated between Cusco and the Sacred Valley, is an incredibly interesting place, both historically and visually. The Salt Mines of Maras are made up of thousands of individual salt ponds, which date back to Incan times. On a day tour of the Sacred Valley, observe the local families tending to the Salt Mines which are fueled by an ancient spring. Then taste test the delicious variations of salt produced by the local harvesters. Not far from Maras are the ruins of Moray. After sampling some salt, visit the beautiful circle-shaped ruins of Moray.
5. Sail Lake Titicaca, the World’s Highest Navigable Lake
Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, situated in the Andes mountains at 3,800 meters above sea level. Named the birthplace of the Inca Empire, the Lake is host to some of South America’s most prominent ruins and remains an important site to indigenous tribes. Today, the deep-blue waters of the lake are coveted for cruise exploration. Visitors can observe the remarkable natural beauty of the mountainous area, as well as the daily lives of its residents.
6. Sleep in a Condor’s Nest in the Sacred Valley
Located in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco, Peru, the exclusive Skylodge Adventure Suites offers you the chance to sleep within a completely transparent hanging bedroom, that allows you to appreciate the impressive view of this magic and mystic valley.
7. Relax on a Train Ride from Cusco to Puno
Explore Peru by train on an award-winning route through the Peruvian Andes. On the Perurail Titicaca Train, travelers can see the beautiful landscapes that makeup Peru as they travel from Cusco to Puno. There will be plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities and enjoying the many towns/cities on the journey. Upon arrival to the shores of the mystic Lake Titicaca, enjoy the deep blue waters and learning about the floating islands of Uros.
8. Take a Day Trip to Rainbow Mountain
Getting to Rainbow Mountain is an adventure in Peru. Begin your excursion driving to the trailhead of the hike, passing a few traditional villages and amazing views of the Andes on the way. Upon arrival at the trailhead, enjoy a lovely breakfast with fresh ingredients. After breakfast, the hike will begin from Chillca at 3700m/12139 ft elevation. From here it will be a 2-hour uphill hike to reach the famous Rainbow Mountains. While it is a difficult trail, at high elevation, the views are well worth the journey.
9. Bike Ride to Unusual Inca Ruins atop a High Peruvian Plateau
For those looking for an adventure, biking to Maras and Moray, Peru is the perfect activity for you. Travel from the town of Chequereq with an impressive landscape of Andean lakes, snow-capped mountains, and agricultural fields and small villages. Then follow the trails to the Moray ruins, impressive salt flats of Maras, and finish with a sightseeing tour of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley.
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Things to See in Peru
From the amazing landscapes and adorable animals to ancient ruins and impressive architecture, Peru is a sight to behold. Admire the pink dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon, pet the llamas and alpacas in Chinchero and Ollantaytambo, enjoy beautiful views outside the train windows to Aguas Calientes, and marvel at natural wonders like Machu Picchu.
1. Pink River Dolphins, Butterflies & Parrot Clay Licks
Though the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest has similar animals to the Brazilian Amazon or Ecuadorian Amazon, Puerto Maldonado hosts the Tambopata National Park and Research Center. There is plenty of research being conducted there. There are a number of Parrot Clay Licks and the Peruvian Amazon has some of the highest diversity of bird and butterfly species. You can also spot the Pink River Dolphins on a river safari.
2. Local Peruvian Artisans Weave Masterpieces
One of the best things to see in Peru is a local artisan weaving a colorful masterpiece. For an exceptional weaving experience, travel to the small town of Chinchero, resting at 12,000 feet, not far from Cusco. It is in this town where some of the best Alpaca blankets and clothing are produced. Watch as a local woman in traditional clothing explains and demonstrates how the natural dye is applied to the alpaca fur and then carefully woven into a fantastic garment or cozy blanket.
3. Condors Soaring High in Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon already boasts an impressive natural landscape. However, the soaring Andean condors make it even more unique. The Andean condor is a national symbol of Peru and plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the Andean regions. Watch as they fly above you on the natural trekking trails of the Colca Canyon.
4. The Spanish Influence on Ancient Incan Ruins
Peru’s landscapes are dotted with impressive ancient ruins. When in Peru, you really can’t miss these carefully created structures and the architectural influence of the Spanish conquerors. Make sure to visit the mysterious Machu Picchu, Kuelap, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, Moray, and plenty of other fascinating ruins.
5. The World’s Cutest Animals (Llamas & Alpacas)
In Cusco and other cities of Peru, there’s no shortage of llamas and alpacas roaming. While they may spit, these animals are some of the most friendly creatures, just waiting to meet new people. Have fun feeding and petting them. If you’re lucky, you might even score a selfie!
6. The Sacred Valley
Nestled between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is a beautiful area of small towns, Inca ruins and traditional communities. Famous sights include the salt pans at Maras, the Inca ruins at Maras and Ollantaytambo as well as the towns of Pisac and Chinchero. A stay of a few nights here is highly recommended – there are plenty of things to do in the Sacred Valley. Go hiking in the Sacred Valley, mountain bike or explore at a more leisurely pace. It is a good place to visit at the start of a tour of the Peruvian Andes to help adjust to the altitude as it is at a relatively modest altitude in comparison to Cusco.
7. Watch How the Traditional Cocktail, Pisco Sour, is Made
One of the best parts of visiting a new place is learning how to make some of the local delicacies. In Peru, the traditional cocktail is the Pisco Sour. On a culinary tour, watch as an experienced bartender carefully mixes the ingredients (lemon juice, simple syrup, pisco, and egg white) into a refreshing drink. Then, of course, have fun sampling the excellent flavor!
8. Ancient Ruins – Sacsayhuaman & Qorikancha
Sacsayhuaman is an Incan citadel a short distance outside Cusco and overlooks the city below. Impressive walls can be seen, made out of massive stone blocks that fit together perfectly. Inti Raymi is celebrated here. Qorikancha – The Golden Temple is another important Inca ruin in Cusco. It was much damaged by the Spanish conquistadors and forms a large part of the foundations of the Santo Domingo convent. Both these sights can be easily visited on a half-day tour of Cusco.
9. The Nazca Lines
Nazca Lines flights are the best way to see these mysterious etchings in the desert. The giant geoglyphs over 300 meters in length are thought to have been created as early as 500 BC. The Nazca Lines depict animals and geometric shapes. The meaning and purpose of the lines is not entirely clear with various theories existing. Visit the Nazca Lines and decide for yourself! A trip here can easily be combined with the Ballestas Islands or the sand dunes at Ica.
Festivals & Events
Inti Raymi: The Inti Raymi festival in Peru is an Incan celebration of the Sun God – the most important Inca God. It takes place on the winter solstice in June each year. In Peru, the main celebration takes place in Cusco and ends at Sacsayhuaman – the Inca fortress just outside Cusco. This is a great excuse to visit Peru in June and combine it with a visit to Machu Picchu. You can expect colorful celebrations, pan pipes, and drums. Grandstand seating can be booked at Sacsayhuaman. During Inca times many animals were sacrificed during the ceremonies. Today, one unlucky llama is still sacrificed.
Semana Santa: Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter and is an important time throughout South America including Peru. There are religious celebrations throughout Peru but some of the largest and most interesting areas in the Andean city of Ayacucho. There are parties, fireworks and folk dancing as well as solemn processions.
Vendimia Festival: While not as famous as in some larger wine-producing countries, Peru has a Vendimia Festival in celebration of the grape harvest. It takes place in Ica in March each year and can be combined with a visit to the Nazca Lines. The two-day Ica Vendimia Festival includes parades and grape crushing. The grapes are used to produce wine and pisco – Peru’s famous brandy.
Food & Drink in Peru
Peruvian cuisine is popularly regarded as the best in all of South America. With influences from Europe, Asia, and West Africa, as well as their own indigenous communities, including the Incas, it is no wonder Peru’s cuisine has dominated South America and the international community. Popular dishes make use of Peru’s natural abundant resources, including their seafood, corn, 3,000 varieties of potato and quinoa, and even delicacies like the guinea pig. Sampling the country’s national drink, the Pisco Sour, and dishes like ceviche and Lomo Saltado are a must in Peru.
Is Peru Safe?
Yes, Peru is a safe country. However, as in any destination, it is advised to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions where you can. Throughout South America, pickpocketing and petty theft are common. We recommend using a money belt and avoid wearing flashy clothing to prevent being a victim of petty crime. Also, leave valuables at home or in your hotel room safe.
Cusco and smaller towns throughout the country are popular with tourists and safe. In larger cities, like Lima, certain neighborhoods are best avoided like Los Olivos, Comas, Vitarte, and El Agustino. However, our tours do not visit these neighborhoods, as they are located far from tourist areas. Additionally, all our tours include professional tour guides, and we will arrange all transportation, transfers, hotels, and tours that we know personally and recommend highly. Learn more about travel Safety in Peru.
Best Time to Visit Peru
In South America, the seasons are reversed from those in the northern hemisphere. The best time to visit Peru is the winter (June – August), as this is when sites like Machu Picchu, the Amazon, and the Andes are most accessible. The weather is dry, warm, and clear. During this time, prices will spike and everything from tours, flights, and accommodation will be in high demand. For those that opt for the summer season (December – February), sites will still be open, with far fewer crowds and better pricing. Summers on the coast, including in Lima, are known to have spectacular weather, perfect for the beach or walking the quaint streets. However, certain activities may be closed at this time or be more difficult to access with the heavy rain levels, like Andean trekking trails and Machu Picchu.
What is Peru Known for?
Once the home of the powerful Inca Empire, Peru is dotted with historically significant sights and continues to be excavated for ruins by archaeologists. The top of every tourist’s to-do list in Peru is the new world wonder Machu Picchu. Beyond significant ruins, Peru is famous for its impressive hikes and unique flora and fauna. With natural wonders like Vinivcuna, also known as Rainbow Mountain, Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in South America, and the Peruvian Amazon, there are endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Additionally, the country is praised for its cuisine, with Lima named the culinary capital of South America.
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