Unforgettable things to do in Peru
From hiking Machu Picchu to flying over the Nazca Lines, make the most of your trip with these must-do experiences.
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Also known as the Land of the Incas, Peru is most famous for being the home of Machu Picchu.
But more tricks are hidden up this country's sleeve than the abandoned city in the mountains. There are Lima's churches, museums and the Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Caral – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
Here are a few ideas to fill up that itinerary.
Our top activity for each major city in Peru
- What to do in Cuzco: Visit Machu Picchu. Cuzco is the gateway to the ancient hidden city. To do it right, we recommend going on a multi-day trek.
- What to do in Lima: Visit the Marco Museum. You can book a guided tour to make the most of your time.
- What to do in Pisco: Check out the Nazca Lines. The optimal way to see these ancient carvings is from the air.
- What to do in Trujillo: Take in the ancient sites of the Temple of the Dragon, Chan Chan and Huanchaco. They can all be seen on a single day trip to save time.
- What to do in Mancora: Set your sites on the ocean and go whale watching in this coastal city.
- What to do in Arequipa: The city itself offers a myriad of cathedrals and monasteries to visit however Arequipa is often used as the doorway to the Colca Canyon with numerous day tours departing the city.
- What to do in Sacred Valley. On top of exploring the immense landscape, you can stay overnight in one of the most incredible accommodations in the world; The Skylodge Adventure Suites which hang right over the canyon.
- What to do in Callao. Take a cruise to the Guanera Islands and keep your eyes peeled for wild sea lions. Many cruises also offer supervised swims with the seals.
The ultimate bucket list of things to do in Peru
1. Hike Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu crowns a mountain peak in the Andes. At 2,430 metres above sea level, this 15th-century citadel is often wreathed by clouds.
Visiting the site is becoming more and more difficult due to preservation and protection plans, so it’s best to book a guided tour as far in advance as you can.
Options include a day tour from Cusco that incorporates a scenic train drive, or multi-day treks to the site that will take you up to Dead Woman’s Pass where you can stop to sleep in tents beneath the stars as you ascend the ruins.
2. Step back in time through Peru's museums
Peru’s history book spills into volume after volume. There’s a lot to know about this country’s past and one of the best places to start delving into the timeline is at Museo Larco in Lima.
Built over a 7th-century pyramid, the museum offers an overview of 3,000 years of history.
Make the most of your time inside on a guided tour.
If you get bitten with the museum bug while you’re here, there are other museums to explore in Lima such as Museo de Arte de Lima, the Spanish Inquisition-themed San Inquisición Museo and Museo Santuarios Andinos, which houses a frozen mummy called Juanita at its centre.
3. Soar over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are etched into the landscape of the Nazca Desert like huge ancient works of graffiti. No one’s quite sure why the massive motifs of monkeys, hummingbirds, condors, spiders and other animals were carved into the desert floor.
Some say they were made as signs to the gods, others suggest aliens were behind them.
The best way to form your own opinion is to fly over the lines in a light aircraft to experience the true enigma of the unexplained.
4. Oggle Colca Canyon
The walls of Colca Canyon careen down into the earth for 4,160 metres, making it one of the deepest canyons on the planet. It’s not just the vertigo-inducing size of this place that makes it worth a visit, though.
The canyon is also one of the best places to see an Andean condor. These hang glider-sized birds soar through the air above the canyon throughout the day.
5. Explore the Amazon
The python-like Amazon river cuts its way through the northern tip of Peru, on its way from Ecuador to Brazil.
Its banks are lined with mangroves and tangled jungle where an Ark’s worth of wildlife can be spotted, from howler monkeys to tapirs. Meanwhile, its waters are crowded with the likes of pink dolphins and piranhas.
To make the most of your experience here it’s best to stay overnight in an Amazon cabin and spend at least a couple of days exploring.
6. Discover Lake Titicaca
There’s an unreal quality to Lake Titicaca as the world’s highest navigable lake – it sits so close to the clouds it practically kisses them.
Adding to the lake’s grand height are the floating islands made of reeds that the Indigenous Uru people inhabit.
The Uru use the same reeds to construct their boats, their homes and their furniture. It all resembles something from a children’s storybook!
The best way to see it all is on a boat tour, which you can complete in just over half a day
7. Roam around The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley near Cuzco was once the playground of the Incas, and as a result it’s peppered with archeological sites. Day tours are available that will offer an insight into Inca customs and history.
Alongside the old, sits the very new. Suspended 400 metres above the valley floors, are a series of Skylodge Adventure Suites – glass pods that you can climb and zipline to so you can indulge in an aerial lunch or a stay overnight.
8. Go off the beaten track to Moray
Laid out in concentric circles, Moray is another site left behind by the Incas. There’s something Roman about this place, though. It’s got the look of a great Roman amphitheatre, a little like Peru’s version of the Colosseum.
However, you wouldn’t have found gladiators here. Archaeologists think it was more likely to have been used as an agricultural laboratory.
Find out more about this theory and the rest of the site’s history on a guided tour.
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