There are a lot of amazing things to do in Peru besides trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Albeit, you must visit the magnificent Inca ruins, it’s one of the first things you must do in Peru! But after that, check out the rest of the country. It has some pretty amazing sites you probably haven’t even heard of.
We’ve been lucky to visit Peru several times. It takes time to see it all, but we’re here to help you decide what are the best things to see in Peru. If you have a couple of weeks there are a few things that we think you should not miss. To help you plan your trip, here are our favorite ideas for what to do in Peru.
Things to do in Peru, South America
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1. Machu Picchu
Chances are Machu Picchu is at the top of your list of things to see in Peru. And with good reason, the Inca ruins of this amazing city is of the most famous attractions in Peru. We then went to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning for sunrise. I was taken aback as I walked in the dark and came across a llama in my path. It turns out there are llamas scattered all over the ancient ruins. Machu Picchu is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Pichhu is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
It is the setting of the Lost City of the Incas that is truly out of this world. To understand how the Incan Empire built this city clinging to the side of a mountain, with terraces falling into the valley is incomprehensible. Machu Picchu was introduced to the western world by Hiram Bingham as the Lost City of the Incas in 1911.
2. Hike the Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is one of the most famous and iconic treks in the world. To hike the Inca Trail is at the top of many people’s bucket lists. It is one of Peru’s top tourist attractions calling visitors from around the world to hike this ancient route. The classic Machu Picchu trek takes only 3 days to get to the Inca Ruins but that is a lot of work. You’ll be trekking for nearly 7 hours each day so we suggest booking a longer tour.
If you want to hike the Inca Trail, Read all abou tour tips for the Machu Picchu Hike: All You Need To Know To Be Prepared
3. Hike Rainbow Mountain
The hike to and from Rainbow Mountain is of the best things to do in all of Peru. It is a day-long trek at over 14,000 feet, tracing a dirt path between looming peaks of green and startling red rock. It’s a gorgeous route, passing local villages built from stone and glittering mountain streams to a rainbow coloured mountain scene that you will never forget.
Cusco is a beautiful colonial town that is the jumping-off point for trekking to Machu Picchu. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco is also a city that is a must visit in its own right. Located at a high altitude of 3300 meters above sea level it takes some getting used to once your flight lands. Take it easy and enjoy plenty of cocoa tea.
Don’t miss seeing the Plaza de Armas where you can explore the cathedral of Santo Domingo and the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus. Cusco even has its own Christ the Redeemer and you must check out the Twelve Angled Stone. A stone with twelve angles was the part of an Inca palace.
- 5 Authentic Cusco Restaurants Where you Can Eat Like a Local
- Top Three Little Known Hiking Day Trips in Cusco, Peru
6. Sacred Valley
If you can’t trek to Machu Picchu, a good option is to see the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo is an impressive Inca City that you will have the chance to explore. Surrounded by the Andes, we also walked along its agricultural terraces among the Andes mountains.
Huacachina, Peru is a village built around a natural lake in the middle of the desert called the Oasis of America. It is an incredibly beautiful location and a must-add to your list of things to do in Peru. Hotels, restaurants, and guesthouses line the lake that is surrounded by massive dunes. It’s a great place to chill out for a while.
8. Dune Hiking
Before visiting Peru, I didn’t even know Peru had a desert. Let alone a giant desert occupying 188,700 square km. It is one of the most stunning deserts I have ever seen and riding its slopes was a blast. There was nothing better than hiking to the top of a dune watch the sun go down.
We love snowboarding so naturally, when we visited some of the highest sand dunes in the world we had to try sandboarding. We weren’t as good at it as snowboarding. It is a little harder to carve out edges, but once we got the hang of it, it was a thrill.
10. Dune Buggy Tour
If you are wondering what to do in Peru to get the heart pounding, this it is! I was literally terrified on our dune buggy tour as the dunes here are so high I thought we might flip! It was the most heart-pounding, thrilling rides we’ve ever taken.
11. Pisco Wine Tour
Did you know that Peru has good wine? We hired a driver for a day from Huacachina to explore the nearby vineyards. The owners are welcoming and friendly and let you taste a lot of wine. While you are at it, be sure to taste the local spirit of Pisco! Pisco Sours are delicious and are Peru’s national drink.
12. Isla Ballestas
It’s Peru’s version of the Galapagos Islands. Near the town of Pisco, you can catch a boat out to the islands to see sea lions and penguins frolic around in their natural habitat. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen. I could spend hours watching wildlife.
13. Nazca Lines
Wondering what to see in Peru that will blow your mind? The Nazca Lines are the coolest thing you can see in Peru. These ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert cannot be explained. The Nazca Lines are believed to have originated 500BC by the Nazca culture. It’s a wonder of the world and one of Peru’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. How could primitive human beings create intricate designs in the desert reaching 370 meters (1,200 feet) long? And how have they lasted for 2500 years through erosion, rain winds, and time? You’ve got to see them for yourself.
14. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is located at the Bolivian border and it’s the highest navigable lake in the world located at 3,812 meters (12,300 feet) in the Andes. A trip to Lake Titicaca is a place where you can delve into the culture of Peru and see the famous floating houses of Lake Titicaca.
The Uros people live on floating islands made out of reeds creating entire communities living on the lake. New reeds are constantly added to the top as old rotting reeds float away. The Uros Floating islands are the main tourist attractions of Lake Titicaca. Tourists can visit the islands to get a glimpse of traditional life.
15. Hike Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is a popular destination famed for the condors that soar through the air. There are two and five-day options to hike into Colca Canyon. Located in the south of the country Colca Canyon it is twice as deep as the grand canyon. If you are exploring the Arequipa and Huacachina region, this is a great trip as it’s only 5 hours away!
16. Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco in Lima
Explore Lima’s old city and marvel at the colonial architecture of Plaza Mayor. The historic centre of Lima is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and must not be missed when looking for things to do in Peru. Take a stroll through the old streets to see its many sights. One of our favourite things to do was to witness the Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco and the Cathedral of Lima. We felt like these were are much darker and eerier than the Paris catacombs. You can book a tour of the Catacombs with Get Your Guide
17. Visit the Cathedral of Lima
The Basilica Cathedral of Lima is usually the first top in city Lima located in Plaza Mayor of downtown Lima, Peru. Inside you can see conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s tomb, but just taking in the beauty and serenity of inside is worth a visit.
18. Paraglide Miraflores in Lima
If you are looking for one of the more adventurous things to do in Peru with a little adrenaline attached, this is for you. It’s one of the easiest places in the world to go paragliding. Just walk down to the cliffs of Miraflores and ask the guys to take you paragliding over the city.
- Getting Around Lima – make sure you use the official taxis of the city and always agree on the fee before getting in. Look for the yellow official taxis with a fixed sign on the roof. Uber has also opened up in Lima,
- We stayed at the Swiss Hotel in Lima and it was an excellent base. We usually stay in Miraflores. It’s safe, easy to walk around and there are many things to see. Check TripAdvisor for hotels
While in Lima be sure to take a food tour to learn of the cuisine of Peru, (I recommend the Ceviche) and be sure to stroll through Mira Flores.
If you want to see a good highlight of Lima, this 4-Hour Walking Tour of Lima’s Historic City Centre – There is a lot of history in Lima’s city centre and the best way to see it all is on a walking tour
19. Trek the Huayhuash Circuit
This challenging 10 – 13 day hike will take you deep into the Peruvian Andes, where you’ll find massive mountains, glaciers, mirror lakes, and local culture. It is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Peru and you can guarantee that your friends haven’t done this route.
As Miguel of TravelSauro says, “it a good alternative to the beaten Santa Cruz trek in the Cordillera Blanca range with fewer hikers.” You’ll have the chance to visit villages, buy cheese from the locals and enjoy awesome scenery, which you’ll have almost to yourself! But if you do want to do the Cordillera Blanca Trek, it is not far from the Huayhuash Circuit.
20. Take an Amazon River Cruise
We joined International Expeditions on the luxurious riverboat where we went deep into the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. This once-in-a-lifetime journey takes you along the longest river in the world to spy pink dolphins, three toes sloths, howler monkeys and visited local villages. The Amazon is one of the great places to visit in Peru.
It’s worth spending a day or two exploring Iquitos before your trip along the Amazon River. Iquitos is the largest city in the world that is not accessible by road. You can only get there by plane or boat. The Amazon is one of the greatest attractions in Peru and if you go there, be sure to add a cruise to your list.
- Read all about our Peruvian Amazon experience here: What to expect on an Amazon River Cruise
21. Try the Local Cuisine
When visiting Peru, you must try some of the local cuisines. The national drink is the Pisco Sour. It’s a refreshing lime drink that packs a punch. If you are daring you may try some barbecued guinea pig or the local delicacy of alpaca. Ica, is the wine region where you can sample some of Peru’s vintages and in the Andes you’ll see some very interesting foods such Cuy (guinea pig) but when you are near the coast, be sure to sample, Ceviche (raw fish salad).
When to Visit Peru
Peru is located on the West Coast of South America spanning from the Pacific Ocean through the Andes Mountains to the Amazon basin. It is bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile giving Peru a very vast landscape and climate range.
Usually, the best time to visit Peru is during the months of May to September as it is a good time for all areas.
- Peru’s summer is from December to March. This is the warmest time to visit, but it is also the rainy season.
- High season for visiting Peru is during its winter months May – September
- This is when it is warmest and driest.
- The best time for the weather to visit Machu Picchu is from April to November. But crowds are big and you will have to book in advance.
Peru is also a large country with very different climates.
- The Amazon Rainforest is hot and humid. From May to September it is very humid with temperatures above 30 degrees. It is very rainy from Oct – April.
- The desert in Huacachina is dry and hot and can be visited any time of the year as it doesn’t change much.
- The Andes can get very cold and the coast can have varied temperatures and climate.
- From December to March it is rainy and colder but you can still trek it if you want to experience fewer crowds.
So there you have it, our top suggestions for things to do in Peru. Do you have any additions? We’d love to hear and check them out the next time we go!
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Planning resources for your next Peru Vacation
- Rainbow Mountain: What To Expect When Hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru
- Iquitos: Things to do in Iquitos, Peru – A Gateway to the Amazon
- Cusco: Top Three Little Known Hiking Day Trips in Cusco, Peru
- Machu Picchu: How To Plan A Trip To Machu Picchu
- Amazon Cruise: What to Expect on an Amazon River Cruise – Life on the River
- Amazon River: 10 Reasons to Visit the Amazon River
- Facts About Peru: Fun Facts About Peru You Never Knew
- Paracas: Paracas Peru – Adventures In The California Desert
- Food: 5 Authentic Cusco Restaurants Where You Can Eat Like A Local