25 Epic Things to Do in Peru for an Adventurous & Immersive Vacation
Last Updated on July 30, 2023.
Best Things to Do in Peru in 2023
Peru is a treasure trove of adventure and culture that’s begging to be explored, making it an unmissable stop for intrepid #Winetravelers seeking the best things to do in Peru. Wine enthusiasts, for instance, will find solace in the vineyards of Ica, where they can sample exquisite Peruvian wine, or delight in a Pisco tasting, experiencing the rich depth of local flavors. But Peru’s intoxicating experience doesn’t end with its libations. The culinary scene in Lima, hailed as the gastronomic capital of South America, is an epicurean journey in itself. Here, foodies can explore a stunning palette of Peruvian cuisine, from delectable ceviche to melt-in-your-mouth lomo saltado.
Yet, the diverse wonders of Peru extend far beyond the culinary and wine experiences. Ancient history and natural splendor greet travelers at every turn. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of trekking to Machu Picchu or walking through the cobblestone streets of historic Cusco, where every corner tells a tale of a civilization lost in time. From the lush expanses of the Amazon Rainforest ripe for exploration to the mesmerizing flyover of the enigmatic Nazca Lines, Peru is a country of contrast and mystery. Whether you’re marveling at the White City of Arequipa, exploring the Uros Floating Islands, or witnessing the majestic flight of condors in Colca Canyon, every day in Peru is an adventure waiting to happen. Read on to discover our suggestions for how to have a truly epic experience when visiting Peru.
- Best Things to Do in Peru in 2023
- Try Peruvian Wine in Ica
- Trek to Machu Picchu
- Sample Peruvian Cuisine in Lima
- Amazon Rainforest Exploration
- Walk Through History in Cusco
- Sacred Valley Exploration
- RECOMMENDED: Paint & Drink Wine in the Sacred Valley
- Fly Over the Nazca Lines
- Sandboarding and Dune Buggy Rides in Huacachina
- Visit the White City of Arequipa
- Witness the Condors Soar in Colca Canyon
- Explore the Uros Floating Islands
- Delight in a Pisco Tasting
- Explore the Pisac Market
- Sail to Taquile Island
- Visit the Sillustani Ruins
- Adventure on the Cotahuasi Canyon
- Hike the Gocta Waterfall
- Visit Caral "The Oldest City in the Americas"
- Discover the Chachapoyas Ruins
- Visit the Paracas National Reserve
- Experience the Ballestas Islands
- Cycle in the Sacred Valley
- Visit the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
- Surf in Mancora
- Go Bird Watching in the Cloud Forest
- Visit the Tucume Pyramids
- Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Peru
Try Peruvian Wine in Ica
While Peru is internationally recognized for its Pisco, a unique grape-based spirit, the country’s wine production is an equally compelling aspect of its rich culinary heritage. A visit to the Ica region, located near Peru’s southern coast, gives way to an exceptional world of Peruvian viticulture. This fertile area, enriched by the Ica River, offers a warm climate and sandy soil, making it a prime location for grape cultivation.
Among the varieties grown, the region primarily produces reds such as Tannat and Petit Verdot, as well as whites including Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines of Ica mirror the bold flavors and diversity of Peruvian cuisine, often displaying a harmonious balance of fruit and spice. Consider taking a guided wine and Pisco tasting tour to some of Ica’s most iconic wineries with Buganvilla Tours. Another fun option is to incorporate a sandboarding and dune buggy experience with wine and Pisco tasting in nearby Huacachina.
Trek to Machu Picchu
Hiking to Machu Picchu is an experience of a lifetime. The most popular route is the classic Inca Trail, a 4-day trek that winds through the spectacular landscapes of the Sacred Valley, revealing a stunning array of Incan ruins along the way. For a less crowded but equally impressive alternative, consider the Salkantay or Lares treks, where you traverse high Andean passes, remote indigenous villages, and lush cloud forests. Arriving at the Sun Gate to witness the sunrise over Machu Picchu is the crowning moment of this incredible journey. Be sure to book your permit in advance as numbers are limited and tend to sell out quickly, or book a private guided hike.
Sample Peruvian Cuisine in Lima
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is often recognized as the vibrant heart of the country’s culinary revolution. With a remarkable food culture that blends tradition and innovation, Lima has earned an esteemed place on the global gastronomy map.
This city is home to internationally acclaimed restaurants such as Central (recently rated the world’s best) and Maido, both celebrated for their groundbreaking approaches to Peruvian cuisine. Here, world-class chefs skillfully reinvent classic dishes, infusing familiar ingredients with new creativity. You’ll also encounter local favorites such as ceviche, lomo saltado, a tantalizing stir-fry, and causa, a layered potato dish. Gourmet guided food tours are an ideal way to explore the city from a local’s perspective.
The city’s street food scene is equally noteworthy, with vendors offering a mouthwatering variety of local delicacies. Anticuchos, or grilled beef hearts, are a flavorful must-try, while the sweet picarones offer a delightful finish to a street food tour. Yet the culinary adventure doesn’t stop at food stalls or upscale eateries. The heart of Peru’s gastronomic culture also beats in its local markets, where the vibrant colors and enticing aromas of fresh produce create a sensory experience like no other.
Amazon Rainforest Exploration
Peru’s Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. From Iquitos, you can embark on a multi-day expedition into the heart of the rainforest, where you’ll encounter a dazzling array of wildlife including monkeys, macaws, and perhaps even a jaguar. Sleeping in an all-inclusive jungle treehouse lodge is a unique experience – the symphony of jungle sounds at night is unforgettable.
If you find yourself closer to the Andes, Puerto Maldonado is the gateway to the Tambopata National Reserve, where you can kayak on serene oxbow lakes, visit a macaw clay lick, and hike through towering bamboo forests.
One highly-recommend way we suggest discovering Peru’s Amazon is by scheduling a 4-day journey on the grand Aria ship, cruising the majestic Amazon River in unrivaled luxury. This comprehensive package presents an intimate encounter with the Amazon’s vibrant wildlife, bringing you face-to-face with captivating creatures like howler monkeys, colorful macaws, and exotic pink dolphins. You’ll also step into the world of indigenous communities, gaining insight into their unique traditions.
Your journey on this upscale river yacht guarantees premium comfort throughout your adventure. This extraordinary cruise takes care of every detail to provide a seamless experience. It includes round-trip airport transfers, three nights’ accommodation aboard the ship, the services of a knowledgeable guide, as well as all meals and activities. It’s an unmatched opportunity to delve deep into the Amazon’s wonders, all while enveloped in the lap of luxury. Truly a bucket-list river cruise for the discerning adventurer.
Walk Through History in Cusco
Cusco is an open-air museum, its streets lined with Incan walls, colonial churches, and vibrant markets. Start in the Plaza de Armas, a beautiful square dominated by the ornate cathedral. Visit the Qoricancha, once the richest temple in the Incan Empire. Don’t miss the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, home to artists’ studios and craft workshops. From Cusco, it’s a short trip to the Sacsayhuamán ruins, a massive Incan fortress overlooking the city.
Sacred Valley Exploration
The Sacred Valley, cradled between Cusco and Machu Picchu, is a treasure trove of Incan history and culture. In Pisac, you can explore an extensive Incan complex with stunning terraces and a hilltop citadel. The traditional market in the town square is a great place to buy handwoven textiles and silver jewelry. In Ollantaytambo, a town that retains its original Incan street plan, you can visit a huge fortress and temple complex. The terraced fields in Moray and the nearby salt pans of Maras are also well worth a visit.
Fly Over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines, a series of ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert sands, are one of Peru’s greatest mysteries. The best way to see these impressive designs, which include a hummingbird, a monkey, and a spider, is from the air. Flights depart from the small town of Nazca and typically last about 30 minutes. While the purpose of these lines remains a mystery, they are a testament to the ingenuity of ancient Peruvian cultures. Take a look at Nazca lines flights here for an unforgettable experience.
Sandboarding and Dune Buggy Rides in Huacachina
Images courtesy Greig Santos-Buch.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, Huacachina, a tiny oasis nestled amidst towering sand dunes, is the place to try sandboarding. After some practice runs on the smaller dunes, you can take on the ‘big dune’ for the ultimate thrill. The sand is surprisingly smooth, making for a fun descent. As the day winds down, jump in a dune buggy for a roller-coaster ride across the dunes, culminating with a breathtaking view of the sunset. There a number of affordable tours you can schedule in advance, or you can easily find a local operator in Haucachina. Be prepared to get bombarded by offers upon your arrival.
Visit the White City of Arequipa
Arequipa, known as the White City due to its gleaming buildings made from sillar, a volcanic rock, is one of Peru’s most beautiful cities. Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery, a city within a city, with its vibrant blue and orange walls and tranquil courtyards. The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, a colossal structure on the Plaza de Armas, is also worth a visit. Arequipa is also a gateway for trekking in the Colca Canyon.
Witness the Condors Soar in Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, but it’s best known for its most majestic resident – the Andean condor. From the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, you can see these giant birds glide on the thermal currents, often coming so close you can hear the wind in their wings. The canyon itself is also a sight to behold, with its terraced fields and traditional villages.
Explore the Uros Floating Islands
On Lake Titicaca, the Uros people live on islands made entirely of totora reeds. These islands are buoyant and can be moved or even split in two if a dispute arises. During a visit to the Uros Islands, you can step aboard a traditional reed boat, enter the thatched-roof huts, and learn about the Uros’ unique way of life.
Delight in a Pisco Tasting
Pisco, a grape brandy, is Peru’s national drink, and a pisco tasting is a must during your visit. In the Ica region, you can visit a pisco bodega to learn about the production process, from the harvesting of the grapes to the distillation of the liquor. We actually recommend staying in Ica at Hotel Viñas Queirolo, where you can taste Pisco and wine on the property, go for bike rides around the vineyards and hang by the beautiful pool and restaurant.
Explore the Pisac Market
Peru’s rich cultural heritage is on full display at the vibrant Pisac Market. Located in the heart of the Sacred Valley, the market offers a wide array of handmade crafts, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry. Each Sunday, you can also experience the traditional ‘barter market,’ where locals come to exchange goods in a practice dating back to Incan times.
Sail to Taquile Island
Set sail to Taquile Island, a picturesque spot in the middle of Lake Titicaca known for its distinctive textile art. The islanders maintain strong Incan traditions and the peaceful, car-free island offers breathtaking views of the lake. The islanders also offer homestays for those interested in experiencing their unique way of life.
Visit the Sillustani Ruins
Head to the Sillustani Ruins, located near Puno, for a glimpse into the culture of the ancient Colla people. The site is known for its Chullpas, large circular burial towers, which dot the landscape, offering an evocative reminder of Peru’s rich past.
Adventure on the Cotahuasi Canyon
For those seeking ultimate adventure, consider a trip to Cotahuasi Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons. The area is a paradise for trekking, white-water rafting, and even spotting Andean condors in their natural habitat.
Hike the Gocta Waterfall
Embark on a hike or horseback ride to the Gocta Waterfall, one of the tallest in the world. Located in the Chachapoyas region, the trek offers stunning views of the falls and the surrounding cloud forest.
Visit Caral “The Oldest City in the Americas”
For the history buffs and culture vultures among the #Winetravelers, a visit to Caral is an absolute must. Dubbed as the “Oldest City in the Americas”, Caral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers a unique glimpse into an ancient civilization, dating back to nearly 5,000 years. This sprawling archaeological site, nestled in the Supe Valley, allows visitors to step back in time, amidst the remnants of the Sacred City of Caral-Supe, a cradle of civilization that predates the Inca Empire. From intricately designed pyramids and plazas to residential areas, this complex is a testament to a sophisticated society, offering an enriching journey into the roots of Andean culture.
Walking through Caral is like reading the pages of a living history book. Each structure, each stone has a story to tell – tales of social organization, architectural prowess, and an intricate understanding of nature. Stand in awe of the massive amphitheater-like sunken circular plazas or witness the Great Pyramid, the most striking of the many pyramids scattered around the site, standing testament to the architectural brilliance of the ancient Caral civilization. With its quiet, untouched aura, Caral promises not just a sightseeing tour, but an immersive experience into the depth of prehistoric Peru.
Discover the Chachapoyas Ruins
The Chachapoyas region is home to the incredible ruins of Kuelap, often referred to as the ‘Machu Picchu of the North.’ This ancient fortress city includes hundreds of circular stone houses and commanding views of the surrounding landscape.
Visit the Paracas National Reserve
The Paracas National Reserve, located along the Pacific coast, is home to a variety of wildlife, including sea lions, flamingos, and dolphins. Its stunning desert-meets-sea landscape is perfect for photography, and guided day trips are offered to the area.
Experience the Ballestas Islands
Often referred to as ‘Peru’s Galapagos,’ the Ballestas Islands are home to a plethora of wildlife, including penguins, sea lions, and countless species of birds. Boat tours from Paracas offer close encounters with these animals in their natural habitat.
Cycle in the Sacred Valley
Cycling in the Sacred Valley offers a different perspective of its impressive landscapes. Pedal along ancient Inca trails, through traditional villages and past agricultural terraces, stopping to visit Inca ruins along the way.
Visit the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
Located near Trujillo, the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone is the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This ancient city of the Chimu culture is an astonishing feat of engineering and architecture. Tours of the site are offered from Trujillo.
Surf in Mancora
Mancora is Peru’s premier beach town, known for its fantastic surf, sunny weather, and lively nightlife. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’ll find waves to suit your skills.
Go Bird Watching in the Cloud Forest
Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and its cloud forests are a bird-watcher’s paradise. Keep an eye out for the Andean cock-of-the-rock, Peru’s national bird, and many species of colorful hummingbirds.
Visit the Tucume Pyramids
Head to the Lambayeque Valley to see the Tucume Pyramids, an archaeological complex of 26 adobe pyramids built by the Sicán culture. A visit to the site museum provides context for the ruins. You can also arrange for a private driver for a hassle-free day trip.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Peru
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Peru activities, what to do in Peru: South America travel guides & itineraries
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