Machu Picchu seen from a distance

22 Things You Must Do in Peru

User Avatar Author: José Ayerve
1 year ago - February 27, 2023

Reading time: 16 mins

If you’re considering or preparing to visit Peru, consider this set of recommendations to weave into your itinerary. Here is our list of Peru’s 22 things you must do. After all, Peru is a magical country with incredibly diverse landscapes, cultures, topography, Wildlife, and people. Get to know some things to do in Peru.  

1) Visit Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Peru! It is such a popular place that it does help to know how to tour Machu Picchu.

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is the site of a 15th-century citadel created by the Inca Empire. It sits within the extensive Andes Mountains at nearly 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). This “Lost City of the Incas” is one of the World’s new Seven Wonders. Though the inhabitants of Machu Picchu are believed to have thrived in this sacred and mystical place for much of the 15th century and part of the 16th century, it was mysteriously abandoned in the mid-1500s, which coincided with the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. It would not be rediscovered until 1911 by the explorer Hiram Bingham. Today, it is one of the most popular visitor sites in the Southern Hemisphere and a natural wonder and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How do I get to Machu Picchu?

If you plan to travel to Machu Picchu, the most popular, efficient, and enjoyable way to get there is to travel by train from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley or from Cusco. The ride is about 1:45-3:00 respectively. The train brings you to the town of Machu Picchu, which is officially called Aguas Calientes. Buses depart conveniently, and the ride to the ruins takes about 20 minutes.

What should I know before I go?

You’ll want to purchase your tickets to enter the site well in advance. We recommend you figure out this step as soon as you know you want to travel to Peru. There are a couple of options for which part of Machu Picchu to visit; you can read a blog about this and everything you need to know before visiting Machu Picchu.

While visiting Machu Picchu, you should know you can climb Huayna Picchu Mountain. Many visitors challenge themselves with this exhilarating climb up Huayna Picchu Mountain—it’s worth it for the breathtaking views of Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu landscape

Machu Picchu landscape

2) Explore the Sacred Valley.

Located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley (also known as Urubamba River Valley) is a rather long and flat valley with varied topography on either side. Steep slopes reveal magnificent Inca ruins nestled along lush green hillsides. Life here revolves around the river as it is relatively fertile soil.

The stunning natural wonder of Sacred Valley is enjoyed via plenty of adventure activities, such as biking, rafting, horseback riding, and ziplining.

What to see in the Sacred Valley

Where to stay in the Sacred Valley

There is plenty of exciting places to stay when visiting Sacred Valley. One can go the adventurous route and stay at the popular mountainside capsules of SkyLodge, where you hike up one side of a steep mountain, stay in suspended capsules with amazing views of the valley below, and, following your stay, zipline your way back down. (It’s not for the faint of heart or those scared of heights.) Or, you can stay at one of many elegant haciendas in any number of the delightful villages along the river valley. Other accommodations include geodesic domes and plenty of eco-friendly glamping experiences.

Sacred Valley Artisans

Sacred Valley Artisans

3) Learn about local cultures in Chinchero.

A visit to Chinchero is equal parts an immersive cultural experience and a fascinating exploration of Inca ruins! You’ll want to explore Chinchero’s incredible stone walls and terraces built by the Inca. Afterward, explore traditional weaving techniques with locals as they teach you firsthand about their culture!

Village in Chincheros, Cusco

Village in Chincheros, Cusco

4) Tour colonial Cusco.

Take a tour through Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire. Here, archeological ruins and Spanish colonial-era architecture vie for your attention. Things to do in Cusco, Peru, each has its irresistible appeal, and with so much of it to see, you’ll be spirited away by the intricate details and design on display. All the while, take in this famed city’s scenic views and rich history.

Shop at local handicraft markets and immerse yourself in local culture. Handicraft Market is a great spot to find all sorts of fine handmade crafts and traditional souvenirs.

Cityscape of Cusco, Peru

Cityscape of Cusco, Peru

5) Go rafting in Cusco.

Some things to do in Cusco, Peru, are taking a break from exploring ancient Inca sites and enjoying the adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting down one of Peru’s many rivers! For avid adventure-seekers, many day-trip activities like these include transportation and meals. They tend to feature class III and IV rapids, like those on the Oropesa River. Often, these adventures are combined with another activity, such as ziplining.

6) Trek to Choquequirao.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, consider heading to Choquequirao! The name translates to “Cradle of God,” and it is easily as impressive a destination as Machu Picchu. The entire site features various unique areas believed to have been designated for certain rituals and ceremonies. This is the place where many Incas sought refuge against the invading Spanish colonizers.

This ancient site lies deep within a mountain valley. To visit, one must prepare for a 4- or 5-day trek with camping along the way, though you’ll be well rewarded with incredible views and a rare, hard-earned experience!

Choquequirao skyview

Choquequirao skyview

7) Sleep in a luxury treehouse in the Amazon rainforest.

Want to experience complete seclusion? Then head out into Peru’s Amazon rainforest and spend two or three nights at a luxury treehouse, where part of the experience is the incredible accommodation! Imagine waking up in a beautiful treehouse, 35 to 75 feet (10.7 to 22.9 meters) above the jungle floor. Now, picture yourself enjoying the superb cuisine on offer. Add to this guided tour of a lush region with amazing and unique Wildlife, plus all the amenities you could need, and you have the makings of an unforgettable Amazon rainforest adventure!

8) Explore the mighty Amazon aboard a river cruise.

Peru has such a diversity of climates, terrain, and ecosystems. The Andes region often gets the most attention; you can also find tourist attractions. Nonetheless, the Amazon region of Peru is a fascinating and worthwhile place to discover on your travels to Peru. Consider hopping aboard an Amazon River cruise, where you can spend quality time exploring the rich biodiversity and incredible Wildlife of one of the most important places on the planet!

Sandoval Lake in Tambopata, Peru

Sandoval Lake in Tambopata, Peru

9) Visit Tambopata National Reserve.

You’ll find Tambopata National Reserve in the Amazon region in Southeastern Peru. This incredible natural park is home to some of the most colorful and beautiful birds you’ll ever see, including scarlet macaws, blue-and-yellow macaws, and several species of parrots. Mammals that inhabit Tambopata National Reserve include the puma, jaguar, ocelot, giant otter, capybara, tapir, and brown-throated sloth. This destination should be on every nature lover’s list!

Macaws in Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

Macaws in Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

10) Go birding in Puno.

The city of Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, home to some incredible birdlife — perfect if you are an avid wildlife photographer or a birder looking for a truly unique experience! Be sure to visit during spring when migratory birds take over this part of Peru before heading elsewhere!

Things to keep in mind…

Lake Titicaca is a spectacular place with many things to do in Peru. However, it is about 12,507 feet (3,812 meters) above sea level, so it’s worth visiting after acclimating to the higher elevations of Peru’s Andes. Consider visiting Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu first. After spending a few days there, you can see the beautiful city of Cusco and then fly or take a train to Puno.

The climate around Lake Titicaca is chilly but sunny. So, dress warmly, pack some sunblock, and get ready to see amazing birds. Here’s a list of several species that have been observed there.

11) Relax on the islands of Lake Titicaca.

You haven’t experienced tranquility until you have stepped onto one of Lake Titicaca’s islands, where time stands still, and all there is to do is relax and take it all inincluding spectacular sunsets that are worth every effort to get there!

There are several islands within Lake Titicaca. Some are, of course, the famous floating islands of the Uros Tribe. These islands are thatched together with totora reeds. This is the same raw material used for their colorful and oft-photographed watercraft. Visiting Puno and a trip to the city’s bay make exploring easy and exciting to know these natural wonders.

It would be best if you also took a boat or ferry out to Taquile Island, which, until 1970, was a prison colony. It has since been returned to the Taquile people, who are experts in knitted textiles. Their craft is exclusively performed by the male population, which begins learning it at 8.

The Amantani Islands are another fabulous destination. This is one of those places where if you want to stay overnight, you can arrange a homestay with some of the local families. It is a worthwhile experience, as the Amantani Islands host ancient ruins that predate the Inca, an important reminder that Lake Titicaca is home to some of South America’s oldest relics of human civilization.

Floating islands of the Uros in Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating islands of the Uros in Lake Titicaca, Peru

12) Hike through Colca Canyon.

If, for whatever reason, you weren’t able to spot an Andean condor from your birding expedition in Puno, you can always visit Colca Canyon—one of South America’s deepest canyons—with miles upon miles of trails and plenty of jaw-dropping scenery throughout! This destination is renowned for being one of the Earth’s most impressive canyons. It is also known as the “realm of the condor .”Looking for some exciting and advanced-level hikes with spectacular views?

Colca Canyon landscape, Peru

Colca Canyon landscape, Peru

13) Go mountain hiking around Huaraz.

Huaraz is surrounded by mountains, lakes, and spectacular views, making it perfect for cyclists searching for an unforgettable adventure and an exciting challenge; it offers some outdoor recreation activities. No matter your level, there are plenty of options to explore the region via any number of personalized guided tours.

14) Try beach-hopping along the Pacific Coast.

Peru’s stunning and extensive Pacific shoreline offers majestic views, remarkable sunsets, white sands, amber desert cliffs, marine wildlife sanctuaries, and so much more! Some of South America’s best surfing spots, like Lobitos, are in Peru. And, if you’re looking for some recommendations (some may be off the beaten path), check out this helpful list of the 10 best beaches in Peru.

Sunset over Trujillo Beach, Peru

Sunset over Trujillo Beach, Peru

15) Go whale watching in Mancora.

One of the beaches on the above-referenced list is Mancora. You can enjoy paddling along the shores, watching for dolphins, or even kitesurfing! However, if you travel there between mid-July and late October, chances are you can fit in some quality whale watching. This is also possible at nearby Punta Sal and Órganos Beach.

16) Journey into the Paracas National Reserve.

If you’re thinking about things to do in Peru, do you immediately think desert, islands, and ocean? Well, why not? You can expect to experience these three essential things in Peru’s Paracas National Reserve. Located about 160 miles (259 kilometers) south of Lima, the reserve spans over 1,293 square miles (3,350 square kilometers) and extends over peninsulas, shorelines, sprawling deserts and dunes, and the islands of Sangayan and Independencia.

Another notable feature at the Paracas National Reserve is the famous Paracas Candelabra, a prehistoric geoglyph that can be viewed by air or afar. The origin of this impressive etching is still a mystery, though it is believed to be well over two thousand years old. It is carved into petrified sand and stretches about 600 feet (183 meters) from end to end, and it can be viewed from above or from afar aboard a boat.

The Paracas National Reserve is also known for its vibrant Wildlife, with over 400 species of flora and fauna. The Paracas Marine Reserve is also home to sea lion colonies, dolphins, penguins, whales, and the Peruvian booby, to name but a few.

This may be your spot if you are searching for breathtaking panoramas, secluded beaches, and tranquility!

Coast and cliffs in Paracas, Peru

Coast and cliffs in Paracas, Peru

17) Visit Islas Ballestas

Take advantage of your visit to the Paracas National Reserve and make your way to Islas Ballestas! This archipelago holds incredible scientific value for Peru, just as the Galapagos Islands do for Ecuador. Visiting Islas Ballestas is one of the best things to do in Peru.

When visiting Islas Ballestas, you’ll see some unique wildlife, including the Humboldt penguin and red-billed Inca tern. Other impressive birds include cormorants, pelicans, and albatrosses. (Boat tours are widely available from the dock in Paracas.)

Ballestas Islands in Paracas, Peru

Ballestas Islands in Paracas, Peru

18) Check out Huacachina Oasis, explore the desert, and experience the sunset in Ica.

Not far from Paracas, amid a similar desert terrain, lies the city of Ica. One can enjoy many desert exploration activities from here, such as dune buggy and horseback rides. The surrounding sandy plains make for a stunning setting, particularly at sundown, while marvels like the Huacachina Oasis impress with views from beyond the hilly dunes and out to the Pacific Ocean.

Couple admiring the stars in Huacachina, Peru

Couple admiring the stars in Huacachina, Peru

19) Take a gastronomic tour of Lima.

To visit Peru is to experience some of the World’s most delicious food, especially for lovers of fresh seafood! Many South Americans consider Lima one of the continent’s most important gastronomic destinations. And, when you’re looking for things to do in Lima, Peru, get your palate ready to try some fantastic dishes! 

The amalgamation of influences that join to create something unique makes Peruvian cuisine so incredibly delicious and unique. It is part of cultural experiences. The combination of Asian, Spanish, and indigenous culinary traditions makes for a mighty tasty meal, and the wealth of fresh local ingredients is felt in every bite! Dishes feature animal protein such as fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and eggs paired with potatoes, grains, beans, and corn. Most meals are served with freshly made hot sauce or ají.

One of the top things to do in Lima, Peru, when enjoying a meal, try a delicious Pisco sour (should you want a tasty alcoholic beverage). 

Peruvian gastronomy, Ceviche

Peruvian gastronomy, Ceviche

20) Explore Lima’s attractive and bustling neighborhoods

Meander along Lima’s winding streets and appreciate the city’s vibrant culture and atmosphere. Check out the variety of neighborhoods, such as Barranco, which is known for its artistic and creative energy, plus a bustling nightlife; Miraflores, which overlooks the ocean and is ideal for shopping and fine dining; Cercado de Lima, for historical sites; and San Isidro, known for its beautiful public parks. There, of course, are plenty more experiences to discover!

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Lima

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Lima

21) Sample Peruvian cuisine in Arequipa.

In the South of Peru, taste the delicious flavors of traditional dishes prepared via wood fire, focusing on peppers, meat, cheese, eggs, olives, herbs, fava beans, shrimp, and nuts, to name but a few of the incredible ingredients on offer. Here, stews are an important feature, made with fresh ingredients combined with duck, lamb, pork, or beef. Peru’s gastronomic bar is set high thanks to the fantastic food you’ll sample in beautiful Arequipa.

And, with any meal, we recommend you sample the nájar, a unique digestif that pairs well with most animal-protein-based dishes.

Vineyards in Arequipa, Peru

Vineyards in Arequipa, Peru

22) Hike to Gocta Waterfalls and visit the fortress at Kuelap

Did you know that Peru hosts some of the tallest waterfalls on Earth? The Gocta Waterfalls are off the beaten path. To visit this incredible destination, you’ll first need to travel to the remote town of Chachapoyas. From there, you can take a guided tour that includes visiting the pre-Inca fortress of Kuelap, another remarkable archeological site with impressive stone-based architecture.

Kuelap fortress, Peru

Kuelap fortress, Peru

Bonus: Visit pre-Inca ruins in Trujillo and Chiclayo.

Learn more things to do in Peru; if you want to explore even more fascinating archeological sites, check out the pre-Inca ruins in Trujillo and Chiclayo. There, you’ll learn about the Moche and Chimu cultures and explore the remains of the mud-brick Chan Chan citadel and the Tomb of the Lord of Sipan, a significant figure of the Mochica culture. You can read more about it here.


<strong>Peru & Ecuador</strong>
After immersing yourself in the rich history of the Inca ruins and enjoying Peru’s exquisite gastronomy, culture, and traditions, it’s time to set out on a new adventure in Ecuador! Visit the stunning capital city of Quito and its beautiful Old Town; stay at Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel. Then, explore the amazing rainforest of the Andean Chocó and stay at the world-famous Mashpi Lodge.

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