These days you have many choices when it comes to travel, and Peru is often near the top of the list for a number of special reasons. Whether you wish to relax, explore, learn, actively participate, or indulge in local foods, you can’t go wrong choosing this South American country as your next vacation destination.
What sets Peru apart from other travel spots is its various landscapes, history and culture, colorful markets, and friendly people. Alternate between exploring ancient archeological ruins with trying regional dishes in a modern restaurant in the capital city of Lima. Get up close to the amazing animals in the jungle, or use your binoculars to identify amazing birdlife in a canyon.
To help you plan the perfect travel itinerary, here is a list of nine of the best things to do in Peru.
To fully experience a place, you need to immerse yourself in its surroundings and gain a grasp of its history, arts, and culture. One of the top places in Peru to do this is the charming colonial city of Cusco. Previously the capital of the Incan Empire, its uniqueness continues to this day, and one of the best things to do Peru for couples, honeymooners or families.
Explore different historical sites around the city, or choose the ones you’re most interested in. Wander down the narrow alleys and head into the artisan quarter in the San Blas neighborhood. Roam through the various boutiques and galleries here and enjoy a quick lunch or snack at the San Blas market before continuing on.
You’ll also want to enjoy views of the city from the Sacsayhuaman, a 15th-century citadel built by the Incas on the northern side of the city. Weave your way between baby llamas and women in colorful dress as you make your way there. You can also take many tours from Cusco, including to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the Amazon.
Perhaps the most famous of the attractions in Peru, Machu Picchu is definitely worth a visit. Get lost in the mystery surrounding its Incan origins, revel at the ingenious architecture and many-layered history, and bask in the beauty that surrounds it. If possible, schedule the first tour of the day. This will require you arrive early but will provide a sunrise view of the ruins like no other.
Due to the larger number of tourists today visiting this remarkable archeological site, restrictions now apply as a way to protect and preserve the site long-term. You’ll need to purchase a ticket before arriving, designating an entry time and date. If traveling on your own, you’ll also need to hire a guide either in Cusco or once you arrive at Machu Picchu.
Head slightly south of Lima to the Nazca desert. Here you will learn about the mysterious Nazca Lines. Large intricate drawings lay spread throughout this barren terrain, revealing figures known as the Spider, the Monkey, the Condor, and many others. With over 70 different ones, of both animals and plants, you too will be swept up in the debate over how they got here and who created them.
The catch here is that you can’t actually see the full drawings from land but will need to fly high and look down at them. Before arriving, charter a helicopter to take you on a full tour. You can also join other tours or chance finding an opening on one once you arrive.
Located near the city of Arequipa is Colca Canyon, the deepest of its kind found anywhere in the world. Twice as deep as the western United States’ Grand Canyon, it provides a unique natural phenomenon in Peru. Bring your binoculars because you will want to view the incredible Condors that reside here.
As the largest bird in the world, the Andean Condor is often elusive to travelers anywhere else. Here in Colca Canyon, however, they return to the same cliffs daily and provide you with the best chance to catch a glimpse. Challenge yourself to identify the difference between the males and the females. The males have distinctive white markings to help with this. Afterward, soak in the hot springs nearby.
Just a short flight from Cusco will put you in Puerto Maldonado, often referred to as a gateway to the Amazon. From here, you can take boat tours or make your way to a jungle lodge to immerse yourself in these biodiverse surroundings.
Visit the Reserva Nacional Tambopata, a 740,000-acre reserve, and get the chance to view unique wildlife, including any number of endangered species. Caimans, turtles, capybaras, parrots, macaws, and various other wildlife live here, and seeing them in their natural habitats affords a view unlike any other.
To show the importance of this region of Peru, consider that another location, the Manu National Park, contains over 200 species of mammal and somewhere around 1,000 species of bird. See how many you can spot, or determine what it is you want to see, such as the wild parrots.
Venture into the Sacred Valley to tour the many sites around Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and Pisac, and stay for the Sunday Market. The surrounding indigenous Quechua communities make their way down to Pisac on this day to sell produce and handicrafts. You’ll be amazed by the colorful clothing the women wear and undoubtedly take several photos.
At the market, you will find stalls catering specifically to tourists, but these items are uniquely crafted and a fun way to experience the culture. Choose between the various weavings, Andean instruments, jewelry, ceramics, and many others. Also, seek out the less touristy items such as colorful powders for watercoloring and alpaca clothing.
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake found in South America and also the highest located on the planet. Although seeing this spectacular natural site is a treat in itself, you can also add to it by visiting the islands out on the lake.
The man-made Uros Floating Islands are special in that they’re constructed out of the local totora reeds. Not only is the base of the islands made from these floating reeds, so are the houses and boats used by the Uros Indians. Here you can discover the ways of the indigenous people and their culture. You’ll also enjoy sights of wildlife along the way.
For a truly cultural experience, sample the regional dishes and wines in the capital city of Lima. Lima is a mix between the modern and ancient Peru and a wonderful way to experience what the country has to offer.
Choose between traditional regional dishes in the historic city center and new creations found in fine restaurants in the wealthy suburb of Miraflores.
Peru is quickly becoming a destination for those looking for new and exciting cuisine to try, and another reason to add Peru to your list of must-visit South American countries.
Plan your travel to Peru to coincide with the colorful Inti Raymi Festival. This nine-day festival dates back to the time of the Incas and is a dedication to the Sun King Inti Raymi. For over 500 years, Peruvians have celebrated with the aim of asking for a good harvest.
Each day has its own activities, and the festival ends with a spectacular culminating celebration on June 24th. This final celebration takes place at the ancient ruins of Sacsayhuaman in Cusco. Enjoy the colorful costumes of the locals, a prestigious parade of dignitaries, and various feasts.
Peru has so much to offer, and finding the activities to make the most of your visit is essential. Add any or all of these nine best things to do in Peru, and you’re sure to have an experience of a lifetime.
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