Machu Picchu and beyond! 13 of the best things to do in Peru

Whether you’re exploring the ancient cities of the Inca Empire, having a wild time in the Amazon, or simply swigging pisco sours on a crowd-free beach, these are the best things to do in Peru…

1. Visit mighty Machu Picchu

It’s the bucket list topper, the star attraction of South America – so isn’t it time you saw the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu for yourself? Built in the 15th century by the Incas, and then abandoned when their civilisation fell, this mountain-top citadel was only rediscovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham. It remains a mysterious, magical spot – one of the world’s few ‘must-sees’ that truly live up to the hype.

2. Take the train to Aguas Calientes

If you don’t fancy the challenging high-altitude hike up to Machu Picchu, take the train instead. There are a few options that will take you from Ollantaytambo (near Cusco) to Aguas Calientes (close to Machu Picchu), but the most luxurious train is the Hiram Bingham – operated by world-renowned five-star train company Belmond – which is why we’ve included it on our fabulous Machu Picchu holiday for 2019.

The journey is one of the most beautiful in the world: the train descends along the edge of the Urubamba River until it reaches the cloud forest. On board the Hiram Bingham train, a gourmet brunch and pisco sour cocktails are accompanied by live Peruvian music and dancing on-board, before your transfer by private coach to Machu Picchu.

3. Cruise Lake Titicaca

On the border between Peru and Bolivia, high in the Andes mountains, Lake Titicaca is a remarkable spot – a vast, glassy expanse of water surrounded by snow-capped peaks. It’s rich in wildlife, and dotted with islands where people live in traditional houses made from reeds – just as they have done for centuries.

4. Lose yourself in Lima

Lima, the capital of Peru, is one of South America’s biggest cities – and its magnificent colonial architecture is bustling with cosmopolitan life. It’s a beautiful city with centuries-old architecture and galleries stuffed with incredible pre-Colombian art, alongside trendy cafes, fantastic restaurants, and a wild Pacific Ocean beach.

Want to see Peru for yourself? On our exclusive Peru holiday you’ll visit Machu Picchu, take the five-star Belmond train, explore Lake Titicaca, make perfect pisco sours in Cusco – and much more! See the details

5. Taste Peru’s trendy national dish

Peruvians have been feasting on ceviche for years – long before it became a trendy delicacy served in restaurants all over the world. The medley of sea bass, which is ‘cooked’ as it marinades in lemon juice and chilli, is even more delectable when served in sunny Peru – with fresh onions and roasted corn kernels for a tasty crunch.

6. Sip a perfect pisco sour

A shaken concoction of lime juice, egg white, sugar syrup, Angostura bitters and Peruvian pisco (a local white brandy), pisco sours are Peru’s national drink – served all over the country. You will quickly become an aficionado!

7. Have an Amazon adventure

The Amazon rainforest covers roughly 60% of Peru – a wonderful expanse of tangled wilderness, tranquil waterways and colourful wildlife, best enjoyed on boat trips or mini hikes with a guide. It’s a huge area, so choose a remote jungle lodge (preferably one with good eco-friendly credentials) for unforgettable forest adventures. By night, you’ll be lulled to sleep by the hoots and howls of the forest.

Want to see Peru for yourself? On our exclusive Peru holiday you’ll visit Machu Picchu, take the five-star Belmond train, explore Lake Titicaca, make perfect pisco sours in Cusco – and much more! See the details

7. Shop for hand-made treasures

Peru is a treasure trove of beautiful handicrafts. Treat yourself to necklaces laden with semi-precious stones, colourful cloths with dazzling Inca-inspired motifs, and soft alpaca wool scarves (like a pashmina, only warmer) – all hand-made and utterly gorgeous.

You’ll find craft markets in all of the main towns and cities, as well as popular sights such as Lake Titicaca and Aguas Calientes. Haggling is expected, but prices are generally great value even if you don’t like to haggle. As you might expect, shopping is one of our favourite things to do in Peru…

8. Discover colonial Cusco

There’s a side of Cusco to entice everyone. History buffs will love Sacsayhuamán, Cusco’s ancient Incan citadel; arty types should head to San Blas for galleries and independent boutiques; and people watchers should make a beeline for busy Plaza de Armas, which has been Cusco’s main square since Inca times.

Want to cram it all in? It’s worth splashing out on a Boleto Turistico pass for access to 16 of Cusco’s main historic sites – such as Cusco cathedral, the Religious Art Museum, and the Church of San Blas.

9. Explore the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is more than just a spectacular landscape: it’s a lush, fertile area where farms and villages thrive; it’s rich in archaeological interest and crumbling Inca ruins; and it’s the gateway for trips to Machu Picchu – a magnificent introduction to Peru’s natural wow-factor.

The Urubamba River is the heart of this enchanting valley, stretching from Pisac to Ollantaytambo.

Want to see Peru for yourself? On our exclusive Peru holiday you’ll visit Machu Picchu, take the five-star Belmond train, explore Lake Titicaca, make perfect pisco sours in Cusco – and much more! See the details

10. Meet the local people

One of the biggest delights of visiting Peru is the warmth of the welcome wherever you venture. While the country is packed with unforgettable sights, one of the best things to do in Peru is simply to chat to the people who call this country home. Their culture is vibrant and varied, inspired by ancient traditions and forward-thinking attitudes – with a rich heritage of music and dance.

11. Hike the Colca Canyon

If you’re up for the challenge, Peru’s Colca Canyon is ripe for adventure. It’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and home to the mighty Andean condor – a rare bird of prey with the largest wingspan of any land bird on earth: 3.2 metres.

Colca is a magnificent hiking destination, though easily reached on road trips too. Just don’t miss the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, which is the best place to watch the birds soar on the early morning thermals – swirling and diving through the canyon, an amazing aerial display like no other. If you love wildlife, this is one of the best things to do in Peru.

12. Hit the beach

What kind of beach lover are you? If serene sun-drenched sands are your style, try blissful Punta Sal in the north. Or for a more up-beat vibe, head to Mancora (in the north-west) or Miraflores (in Lima) – both have restaurants and beach cafes aplenty. Like ’em wild? Surfers from all over the world flock to Huanchaco for its huge waves and natural drama – an amazing sight, whether you’re a surfer or not.

13. Fly over the Nazca Lines

Nobody really knows how – or why – the Nazca Lines were created. These huge drawings (up to 370 metres long) are etched into the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru, and feature jaguars, monkeys, birds and human figures, as well as simple lines and geometric shapes. It’s thought that they were created by the Nazca people between 500BC and 500 AD, to appease and entertain their deities, but other theorists say that they have mathematical and astronomical meanings.

Make up your own mind on a flight over the lines: they’re best appreciated from the air, in a plane or helicopter.

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