Peru is one of the most famous and popular countries in South America. Most people flock here to hike the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu and let everything else take a back seat. Their loss is your gain as you’ll be able to explore this incredible country with few crowds (though backpackers do explore it.) Come explore the jungles, see the Amazon, head to Lake Titicaca, or to the beaches. Learn about local culture, try the coca tea, and practice your Spanish. Peru is awesome (and it is very inexpensive). Stay awhile.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Peru
1. Explore Machu Picchu
2. Check out Lima
3. Fly over the Nasca Lines
4. Relax at Lake Titicaca
5. Hike the Colca Canyon
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Hike the Inca Trail
Getting to Machu Picchu is best via the famed Inca Trail. This multi-day hike allows you to see the mountains, jungles, and follow the route of the Incas. Book in advance, as it fills up months ahead of time during peak season. Entry to the trail costs 170 PEN.
2. Visit the Islas Flotantes de los Uros
The Floating Islands of the Uros may sound like an Indiana Jones title but it is actually the name of the group of handmade islands in Lake Titicaca. The Islands are home to the indigenous Uros people who have built their own houses, islands and boats from the tortora reeds which grow along the banks of the lake. This is an extremely touristy site, and is a bit exploited as such, so it’s not for everyone.
3. Surf at Máncora Beach
Seafood, watersports, horse riding and relaxation are the order of the day at this popular beach resort. Máncora is one of the finest beaches in South America and its year-round sunshine and huge waves also makes it Peru’s surfing Mecca. Prices here can be expensive December to March so it’s best to book in advance.
4. Step back through time at Batán Grande
Batán Grande is an archaeological site comprised of 50 pyramids and tombs, which are thought to date back to between 100-1000 AD. This site was once the Sicán capital and has had its fair share of impressive pre-Columbian artifacts recovered over the years – for example, a gold Tumi weighing almost seven pounds which was recovered from one of the royal tombs.
5. Discover Cuzco
This colonial city is a major tourist destination and sits on Inca-built stone foundations not far from Peru’s major attraction of Machu Picchu. The area is popular with trail walkers, history lovers, and party-goers who come to enjoy the city’s many colorful festivals. Cuzco is the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas and an essential part of your trip to Peru.
6. Get Your Amazon Fix in Iquitos
Accessible only by boat or plane, jungle-locked Iquitos is the largest city within the Peruvian rainforest. The city sits at the mouth of the Amazon and so is the perfect destination for fans of eco-tourism. The nearby Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is Peru’s largest Reverse and at two million hectares, it is home to a huge range of nearly 1000 birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.
7. Sandboard in Huacachina
This little town is a desert oasis and a welcome relief after hiking through Machu Picchu. It’s very affordable for travelers looking to relax and are running out of funds. Hostels offer great deals for sandboarding and sandbuggies around the dunes that surround this idyllic town. Sandboarding costs about 40 PEN and you don´t have to book in advance. There is also a lagoon surrounded by palm trees here too. You can rent a rowboat to go around. A half hour trip costs 5 PEN per person.
8. See penguins in Paracas
Paracas is in the south of Peru, and is sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” for its impressive wildlife: thousands of birds, as well as large sea lion and penguin populations live along the water. You can visit the Paracas National Reserve via an organized boat tour. Be sure to go early (around 8 am). A full day organized tour of Paracas includes a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas and a bus trip around the national reserve in the afternoon. It cost about 50 PEN.
9. Walk through the White City
Arequipa is a beautiful city with a historical centre that was constructed primarily from volcanic ash from the nearby volcanoes. Come to visit the gorgeous Santa Catalina Monastery, see a frozen Inca mummy, or just to take in the city’s architecture over a glass of wine in the main square.
10. Hike in Huaraz
Not to be confused with Juarez in Mexico, Peru’s Huaraz is a great (and perfectly safe) destination for adventure-seekers. The mountains here are stunning, and there are fantastic multi-day trek options for those looking for some outdoor activity.
11. Go to El Parque de las Aguas
This park in downtown Lima has a beautiful water fountain and is open from 3-10:30 pm, Tuesday-Sunday. There’s an amazing light show at night too! It costs 4 PEN to get into. You’ll find a lot of events hosted here and it’s a popular place with dog owners.
12. Visit Chachapoyas
This region lies in the Andean mountains and is home to the Chachapoya civilization that lived there between 500 and 1432. Today, you can visit Kuelap, the fortified city at known as “The Machu Picchu of the North”. Be sure to also visit Gocta, a beautiful waterfall that is one of the highest in the world. You can get there by taking a tour from Chachapoyas.
13. Visit Trujillo
Head to Trujillo, the second oldest Spanish city in Peru. While here, visit the archaeological site of Chan Chan, the world’s biggest adobe city ever built. It was built by the Chimu civilization that live before the Incas from 850 and 1534. Be sure to also visit Huanchaco, a small fishing town directly on the beach.