Peru is a truly unforgettable country to travel around, and one I think everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.
Here you’ll find crumbling ruins, friendly locals and authentic cultures worth getting to know.
You’ll also find many impressive landscapes that range from arid deserts and beautiful Pacific beaches, to sprawling canyons as well as the electrifying sounds of the Amazon Jungle.
All of this, plus the country's variety of wildlife and delicious cuisine among other things make it one of the very best places to travel through!
In this guide we’re going to explore the absolute best things to do in Peru.
As well as looking at how to do each activity, I’ll also include other important tips such as the best time to do it, as well as any other useful recommendations.
Kicking off our list we have the most epic, yet still very much untrodden lands of the Amazon Jungle.
The most biodiverse area on Earth, here you can get lost in the sounds of the selva whilst looking out for rare animals and birds along the way.
From watching Paddington Bear as a kid to replaying many National Geographic documentaries, it was a highlight for me and for many others! And who knows, it may just be the place for you too.
Honestly, if you're wondering what do do in Peru then definitely take a trip to the wild side...
Covering over half the country, the Amazon Jungle is truly massive.
As a result, there’s going to be many towns and cities that are perfect as a launching pad into this lost world.
Puerto Maldonado, which is located in the Madre de Dios region, is another popular option for those in nearby Cusco.
Other places I recommend heading to the jungle from include Tarapoto, Pucallpa and Yurimaguas, with the latter being rather off the beaten path.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is that The Amazon is one of the most difficult areas on the continent for predicting the weather!
One thing you can be sure of though is that it’s going to rain, so make sure you pack properly when heading to Peru. WeatherSpark is great place to start if you want an idea of the climate in these regions.
May until September is the dry season, and is often the most popular. Not only will you have less rain, but you’ll also be rewarded with more wildlife as the river banks get wider (giving you a better chance of spotting Jaguars).
The rainy season is better for exploring the rivers by boat, where you can see rare fishes, crocodiles as well as many pirañas.
Whenever you choose to visit, just make sure you pack a pair of comfortable travel shoes!
Those who are after a good adrenaline fix will love Peru.
This country is full of epic terrains offering a whole range of adventure sports. However it’s Sandboarding that ranks as one of the all-time bests.
There’s nothing quite like lying on a plank of wood and heading face-first down a giant dune, and I have to say after doing this twice, I’ll for sure be coming back for a third!
Given Peru has many arid areas, it gives us plenty of opportunities to find large sand dunes which are just begging to be shredded.
Whilst you could literally grab anything you can find and head out there yourselves, I recommend going with an organised tour.
This is because they know the best (and safest) areas, as well as providing a legit expert along with solid equipment.
This sandboarding tour in Huacachina is a perfect option, where you’ll also have a sand buggy ride included in the experience.
Most who head to Peru tend to focus more on the legacy of the Incas.
However, given the country’s strong colonial ties with Spain, this South American nation is also full of beautiful architecture such as its cathedrals and plazas.
Whilst you’ll most likely see these by accident on your wanders around town, you’ll also want to do some exploring into specific sites, as there’s normally some otherwise hidden gems that you’ll want to see!
The Spanish first arrived into Peru in 1526, and then began colonising the nation for several hundred years until the early 19th Century.
Previous to this, the nation was ruled by the Incas, and despite destruction of many important sites, there’s still many dotted around modern-day Peru (we’ll look at these later in this article).
Whilst there were many ramifications of this new ruling, this period also changed the way that cities looked and the types of architecture introduced.
Most major cities in Peru have notable historic centres which are worth exploring.
The Plaza de Armas is the main square, and in my opinion is always the best go-to to start with.
Arequipa is home to one of the most picturesque, with its white volcanic facades, whilst Cusco is revered for its beautiful cathedrals, buildings and courtyards.
The best way to see these top sites is with a walking tour, such as this one in Arequipa.
Other must-visits for colonial architecture in Peru include the cities of Ayacucho, Cajamarca and Trujillo.
Peru’s arid south is home to numerous volcanoes, with Arequipa being the most popular destination for those looking to hike these beasts.
And if you’re in the mood for some volcanic landscapes, there’s no better place!
This city is surrounded by three large volcanoes, all of which are hikeable; El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu. El Misti is still active, whilst the other two are now extinct.
The most preferred of the three is El Misti, given it can be hiked within a day (for those short on time).
Having said this, it’s better to go for the 2-day hike to allow your body to better adjust to the higher altitudes.
Chachani is by far the most difficult, as well as being the tallest at an altitude of 6057m.
Most tend to skip Pichu Pichu, however it’s a good alternative for those looking for a more gentle hike and altitude (it peaks at 5664m - and trust me - although it seems small, the difference will be felt when hiking!).
If you're looking for adventurous things to do in Peru then any of these volcanoes are a great option!
Given these are high altitude hikes, good preparation will be the key difference between a failed attempt and a successful summit.
When arriving in Arequipa, it’s a good idea to wait at least two days for your body to adjust to the higher altitude (the city sits at an altitude of 2335m).
You’ll also want to stock up on Coca Leaves as well as Soroche Pills, with both helping to prevent altitude sickness and ease any otherwise unwanted symptoms.
Here's some more information about hiking volcanoes in Arequipa, Peru.
Many head to Lima solely as a way of getting into Peru, and then quickly dispersing out into the other more popular cities and towns.
This is a mistake though, given there’s some parts of Lima such as Miraflores which are full of awesome things to do.
And with its rolling hills above the Costa Verde, one of my top recommendations (and a usual activity I do) is to go for a bike ride along the top!
You can easily do it both ways depending on your own preference.
Going with a bike tour like this one is more fun, as you’ll be in a large group, as well as having a knowledge guide who can teach you things along the way.
You can also pick up bikes whenever you want using CityBike, with stations all over Miraflores.
Whichever way you choose, exploring the city on a bicycle is one of the best things to do in Lima, Peru!
Lima is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, which means the city has its own unique micro-climate.
Thankfully for us, this means it literally never rains! So you can head year-round for bike riding, although the summer months (from November until February) tend to be the warmest, and therefore preferred by most.
You can check the annual weather of Lima here on WeatherSpark.
A big part of travelling is getting acquainted with the local grub, and Peru is no stranger to local delicacies.
Given the country’s varying topography (for example its jungle and mountains), what we have now is a large variety of mouth-watering dishes.
Whilst I can certainly vouch for it, don’t just take my word - it’s often ranked by food experts as one of the most upcoming, top cuisines on the planet.
The most popular dishes to try here are Ceviche and Lomo Saltado, both of which can be found in pretty much all restaurants around the country.
Since Ceviche is fish-based, you’ll want to try this along the coast.
Other great dishes include Papa Rellena and Papa a la Huancaina, as well as some tasty desserts like Queso Helado (an ice-cream native to Arequipa).
Of course you can find authentic dishes in all types of venues, however your best bet will be heading to local restaurants.
They usually serve up the Menu Ejecutivo, which consists of a starter and main, with drinks included (all for a cheap price too).
In Lima, I recommend heading to the local restaurants along Calle los Pinos, which is right next to Parque Kennedy in Miraflores (you may bump into me there if you’re lucky).
Other great cities for traditional cuisine include Cusco, Arequipa and Huancayo.
If you ask anyone what comes to mind when they think of Peru, I can bet my left arm (and leg) that stargazing wouldn’t make their top 10.
Whilst cities like Lima are impossible for night-time viewing, there are some areas around the country which make for some truly amazing stargazing conditions.
Here you’ll be able to see constellations that are unique only to the Southern Hemisphere.
Of course the best places are going to be away from the cities and towns, in the more remote areas of Peru.
Marcahuasi is a fantastic location, and is also the easiest to reach (you can get here from Lima within a few hours).
The Andes is one of the best overall regions, where you’ll have plenty of opportunities when hiking around Cusco or Huaraz.
This goes without saying, but when stargazing you’re going to need to get into the more remote areas of the country.
Not only can this be difficult by yourself, however you’ll also need to camp out where it can get pretty cold.
By going with a reputable tour like this one, you’ll have everything sorted for you, as well as guides bringing top of the range cameras and telescopes for optimum night-time viewing.
When researching where to head in Peru, one of the main stops you’ll most likely have already seen is Paracas.
This coastal town lies just a few hours south of Lima, and is the next stop on the southern loop around Peru.
Whilst somewhat sleepy, the main draw here is the Ballestas Islands.
Home to numerous birds, seals and penguins, you can easily get to know these awesome islands from Paracas. Not only that, but you'll get to see the ancient geoglyph of Candelabro.
The Ballestas Islands are undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Peru so what are you waiting for?
You’ll firstly need to get to Paracas from Lima.
There are numerous buses departing daily, which take around 3 hours. You can compare providers and times here at RedBus.
Once in Paracas, you can then join a tour at the harbour which leaves for the islands.
Alternatively, you can head on an organised tour, where all logistics will be handled for you.
Whilst you can see a rich variety of fauna year-round, the best time to visit is between January and March.
Not only is it a warmer time to come, it’s also the breeding season, so you’ll see much larger groups of these different species.
Regardless when you head there, you’ll be guaranteed to spot the endless waves of birds flying between islands, which for me has been one of the most memorable moments I’ve had in Peru.
With its long Pacific coast stretching as much as 1500 miles, Peru is home to many awesome beaches and sleepy towns.
For those who love surfing, then you’re in luck, since this country is home to some of the best waves on the continent.
Even if you’re a beginner (and can brave the cooler waters), then you’ll easily be able to find lessons in either Lima or Trujillo.
For the absolute best waves, then the winter season as usual will be your best bet, which runs from May until October.
For those who want more pleasant and warmer conditions, then you’ll want to head between December and February.
Nearby Chiclayo is another popular option, whilst Piura (further north towards Ecuador) has warmer waters which of course is more attractive.
Lima also has a big surf scene, with the ever-consistent waves that pass along the Costa Verde.
If you’re a beginner, then we recommend getting surfing lessons with a reputable company!
This region is without a doubt one of the most popular to visit in Peru.
And given it was once the beating heart of the Inca Empire, it’s filled with everything from mysterious ruins to charming, mountainous towns.
With so much on offer, the Sacred Valley is a must see in Peru!
There’s a reason why many who come to Cusco end up staying longer than planned (or never leave!).
That’s because there’s an almost infinite amount of things to see and do in this spectacular region.
Those up for a trek will want to head to Ausangate National Park and Vinicunca (also known as Rainbow Mountain) as well as taking on the legendary Inca Trail. And this is still just scratching the surface!
The Sacred Valley region is pretty expansive, so you’ll be spending quite a bit of time on buses regardless of which option you choose.
For the closer destinations like Pisac and Ollantaytambo, it’s very easy to come and go independently.
However if you’re rushed for time, or want everything handled for you, then consider this Sacred Valley day tour where you’ll visit all of the very best sites in a day.
The ultimate Peruvian destination, there’s nothing quite like your first time arriving at Machu Picchu.
I say this, because over the years I’ve met many travellers who often keep coming back multiple times to this legendary fortress!
In fact, it's one of the best (and most magnificent) historical places in the world.
So, it's no surprise to learn that it's been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are various ways of getting here!
The most popular is by taking colectivos from Cusco to the start of the hidroeléctrica (railway track). From here you can walk along the track for a few hours, or take the train to reach the town of Aguas Calientes.
The other way is by completing the epic multi-day treks of either the Inca Trail, or the Salkantay Trek. These will also take you to Aguas Calientes, and from there you can walk up to Machu Picchu in 1/2 hours (or take the bus).
First off, remember that Machu Picchu has a warmer climate than Cusco, which can otherwise be somewhat chilly.
March until May is a perfect time, as the rains have passed and also as there’s less crowds.
As well as this, the mountains will now be covered in a beautiful mossy green thanks to the late rainy season.
July until October is another great time, however it will be much more packed.
Most travellers don’t make it this far north in Peru, and they’re missing out big time.
Having visited all corners of this country, Chachapoyas is by far my favourite destination, and the one I recommend the most.
The waterfalls here are the highlight, with Gocta being the most popular for a visit. Yumbilla is more of an adventure (and is the 5th tallest in the world at a height of 895m!).
Whichever you decide to pick, you’ll be out for the entire day since they’re somewhat far from Chachapoyas.
For those looking for more hiking and stunning views throughout, you’ll want to head to Gocta. The hike takes around 2 hours, and in-between dense jungle you’ll find narrow clearings to see this breathtaking waterfall.
We recommend this day tour, where you’ll have an expert guide included who can teach you all about the endemic plants and animals you’ll see along the way.
Yumbilla is much more off the beaten path, and is for those who are up for a true adventure. As well as there being no other tourists on the path, you’ll see some incredible nature and jungle along the way too.
Firstly, you’ll want to leave very early (around 6:00am).
This is because lightning storms and rainy weather frequently occur around 2/3pm, and this will give you ample time before to complete the treks.
It’s good to get an idea of the weather in Chachapoyas before you head there.
You’ll also want to bring waterproof clothing with you, since these powerful waterfalls will spray you even from a good distance!
These impressive geoglyphs really are something that has to be seen to be believed.
With lines measuring over 180m in length permanently etched into the desert, here you’ll be able to view many awesome symbols such as a monkey, eagle and spider.
Today scientists still haven’t been able to conclude why exactly they were made in the first place, however this doesn’t stop us from hopping on a short (1 hour flight) to see these beauties overhead.
There are many reputable companies that make the aerial trip daily, and sometimes it can be popular, hence why pre-booking is vital.
Unfortunately there have been accidents with pilots from unlisted companies taking passengers for a spin, so you’ll want to head with a trusted tour company.
Also, keep in mind that the prices for these tours are relatively expensive. Although 100% worth it in my eyes, it may not be a suitable activity for those looking to travel cheaply!
Given these lines are close to the small city of Nazca, you’ll first need to head here.
Nazca is along the classic backpacking loop in southern Peru, however it's often skipped by travellers. It’s located between Ica and Arequipa, and as well as seeing the Nazca Lines, it’s a good way to break up travel times.
The bus from Ica takes around 3 hours, whilst from Arequipa it’s roughly 10 hours.
When it comes to ancient civilisations and tribes in Latin America, the Incas were perhaps one of the most impressive and influential of their era.
From the early 15th Century, they made giant steps forward in terms of Peru’s development, which can be seen in their ruins as well as their agricultural and stonemasonry advancements.
It’s not just the Incas though, since there were many powerful groups before them such as the Chimú and Chavin cultures.
Here's a more in-depth guide of Peru’s ancient history!
The best way of course to learn about these civilisations is through museums, and Peru has some really notable ones dotted throughout the country.
In no particular order, let’s start looking at where you can learn more about Peru’s incredible past.
There’s no better way of resting tired legs than by crashing out on a beach.
And given Peru is full of long, demanding hikes, a tropical beach may just be what the doctor ordered!
Whilst the coast runs the entire length of the country, the best beaches are located north in the region of Piura (where they have a much more tropical feel, opposed to a desert one).
The very best beach towns are Máncora and Punta Sal (both in Piura).
Here you’ll find white sand beaches and hot sun year-round, making it a great escape from the cooler winter climates further south.
Whilst the beach in Máncora itself isn’t the most pretty, it’s a perfect place to base yourself with its thriving backpacker scene (along with good restaurants and nightlife).
From this beach town, you can easily visit nearby Las Pocitas with its expansive beach, as well as to Vichayito too.
Here's some more information on the best beaches in Peru!
Since all of the best beaches are located in the northernmost parts of the country, this is where you’ll need to head for some good beach time.
The biggest hub here is the city of Piura, which you can easily fly to from Lima. You can compare the best flights between the two on Skyscanner.
You can also take the bus from the capital, however it’s a long 18 hour ride.
The other way to get to Piura is when coming south from Ecuador, which is right across the border!
Having already discussed Huaraz and its fantastic treks, one that was missed out was Pastoruri, as I believe it deserves its own section.
One of the last big glaciers left in South America, it’s located at a somewhat uncomfortable altitude of 5250m - making the experience even more of a rewarding one once you make it up.
Honestly, hiking to this epic glacier is one of the more unique things to do in Peru and shouldn't be missed.
Whilst before you could make the trip independently, now it’s impossible as public buses no longer serve the route (of course you can still drive if you have your own wheels).
Going with an organised tour is the best way when heading to Pastoruri.
We recommend this glacier day tour, which includes a hearty lunch as well as a chance to buy some much needed Coca Leaves before the ascent (trust me, you’ll want to stock up here).
Here's some more information about the Pastoruri Glacier hike if you're interested...
Another awesome glacier to visit in Peru is Quelccaya, which is located in the mountains near Cusco.
This giant ice cap is known to be the largest tropical glacier in the world, and that description alone will probably have you searching out of curiosity…
Whether at the end of your trip or just starting out, there’s nothing quite like the experience of heading into a South American market.
Peru’s mercados can be quite an assault on the senses, however with a bit of bravery, you’ll open the doors to a whole array of attractive trinkets and unorthodox goods.
Most cities have one or two decent markets, so rest assured you’ll be in good hands pretty much wherever you are.
One of my favourites though has to be this Ollantaytambo Market, which is located just outside of the main archaeological site.
The San Blas district in Cusco also has a wide variety of vendors selling many different types of goods, whilst the Inka Market in Lima has a tonne of stalls with pretty much everything you can think of.
Although you wouldn’t think it, when you actually get to the markets you can often be so overwhelmed that you don’t actually know what to buy!
Here’s a solid checklist of authentic Peruvian goods that would make for great souvenirs (as well as useful items too):
You’ve probably already seen those epic mountain landscapes when researching into Peru, and most likely they were shot in the Cordillera Blanca mountain region.
These unforgettable, snow-capped sceneries are just a short drive from the city of Huaraz, in the middle of Peru.
This doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to reach though, mind!
High altitudes will be a given here, and some peaks will require multi-day treks such as the unforgettable Santa Cruz trek.
There are many stunning treks to take from Huaraz, but below I’ll cover some of the very best.
Located in the middle of the Andes, you’d think it would be a nightmare to reach.
However the bus from Lima only takes 6 hours, making it a very accessible destination from the capital (and if 6 sounds a lot then trust me - after a while in Peru you’ll be grateful for this).
Many bus companies make the route daily, which you can compare on RedBus.
Most travellers heading to Peru make it a point to stop here along their route - and for good reason too.
The Colca Canyon is easily accessible from the picturesque city of Arequipa, and is the second deepest canyon on earth.
It’s also the best place to spot the elusive Andean Condor, which measuring up to 3 metres in width, is among the world’s largest birds.
Now, there are plenty of amazing things to see in Peru but this place will take your breath away!
It’s possible to see Condors any time of the year, although the end of the wet season (between March and April) is the overall best viewing time.
Having said that, I went in August and still caught 4 or 5 of these beauties in the same video frame!
The morning and late afternoon are when they are most active.
It’s best to head with a reputable tour company like this one, where they’ll take you to the mirador around these times for the best chance of spotting them.
The Colca Canyon is also home to some epic sceneries and hiking paths, with many travellers spending multiple days twisting and turning through its rocky landscapes.
Heading with an organised tour (like the one we mentioned above) is the best way to experience the Colca Canyon, where you’ll visit sacred villages such as that of Chivay.
There's no denying that Peru is one of the best backpacking destinations in the world!
However, whilst you’ll be scrambling to fit in all of these amazing experiences, it’s also important to wind down and enjoy yourself too.
This is the advantage of staying in hostels, since there’s usually a good party scene (especially in the bigger ones in major tourist destinations).
As well as these, Peru is home to some fantastic nightlife, with a whole range of music tastes that range from contemporary and reggaetón to the authentic bars where you can dance Cumbia and Salsa.
Roughly translating to “Lookout Point”, these miradores in Peru give the best panoramic views over each city and town.
Given much of the country is located within awesome landscapes, you’ll also have some surreal backgrounds of snow-capped peaks, desert, beaches or even jungle.
If you're wondering what to see in Peru then make sure you include some of these viewpoints on your itinerary!
Of course there are many awesome ones to visit in this country, but here I’ll list some of my favourites that I recommend you to head up to.
Given these are lookout points, you’re going to need to put some effort into reaching them!
Many Peruvian cities (such as Puno, Cusco and Ayacucho) are located at relatively high altitude, so be sure to take your time hiking up, and also bring lots of water.
Also be sure to wear lots of sunscreen. Even though the temperatures may be cold, it’s a fatal mistake to go without lathering up (since the sun is much more intense in these parts).
One of the most iconic sights you can visit in South America (let alone just Peru); Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.
Whilst it straddles both Peru and Bolivia, the majority of it lies on Peruvian territory.
The main hub here is Puno which sits on the lake’s edge, and is the perfect jumping off point to visit the very best sights.
Within Puno, there’s little to see and do aside from the Plaza Mayor and Museo Carlos Dreyer.
However from this city you can easily access the nearby floating Uros Islands.
Made entirely out of Totora Reed, here you can ride on a dragon boat, whilst being warmly welcomed by the indigenous locals that live here full-time.
Another popular trip is to Taquile Island, where you can stay overnight to visit its infamous arc, as well as have a more rural and community-feel experience.
With this combined day tour, you’ll see both of these incredible sites with ease from Puno.
One thing’s for sure - the nights are going to be cold here.
Given its high altitude (3827m), average temperatures will hover between 6-10°C throughout the year, sometimes dropping as low as a bitter -4°C!
For those who need more heat, then October until December is the warmest time for a visit.
The sun in the daytime can get pretty intense though - so make sure you wear sunscreen or you’ll get burnt just as I did…
Of all the things you can’t miss when heading to Peru, this has to be among the highest on the list.
Peru has a deep history filled with many different civilisations, from the early days of Caral to the formidable Incas.
Today, we can find some of their best works all over the country, from large adobe pyramids along its coast to temples hidden within the remote Andes mountains.
As someone who always vouches for going independently (you’re on your own time, you won’t feel rushed etc), this is one time I recommend going with a tour. We recommend this day tour of Kuelap from Chachapoyas, which includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel.
Tour guides in Peru have been very knowledgeable during my travels here, and you’ll learn more in 10 minutes with them than you will in an hour alone.
As previously mentioned, Peruvian cuisine is on the up, so much so that many Peruvian restaurants are popping up all over the world.
Within Lima, there are some world-renowned restaurants that are really worth the try if you’ve got the funds. Central is the best in my opinion, which is located in Barranco.
Whilst their menu is certainly not cheap, you will however have some outstanding food as well as a memorable experience too.
In Central, you get both a vibrant and experimental menu.
Head chef Virgilio Martínez has designed a 12 dish course, where you’ll try foods based on all altitudes of Peru!
From seafood and mountain staples to exotic jungle ingredients, here you’ll try it all. They also have a creative menu, as well as a larger 14 dish option too.
Given much of Peru is still developing, you’ll find the majority of these cutting-edge restaurants in the cosmopolitan capital of Lima.
Last but certainly not least, one of the top things to do in Peru is to get off the grid (which is by far one of my favourites).
Whilst the usual backpacking trails will be very memorable (especially the south heading through Ica, Arequipa and Cusco), it’s these off the beaten path experiences that will stick with you for a lifetime.
Luckily, you'll find plenty of non touristy things to do in Peru...
Firstly (this goes without saying, but you’d be surprised), there’s going to be virtually no English spoken in these remote regions. Here's a useful article for seeing the varying languages that are spoken around Peru.
Try and pick up some Spanish before you go, since locals can give you solid advice on their own city or town.
Secondly, please lower your comfort expectations when getting off the beaten path in Peru.
Even though we’re most definitely not in the west, some still complain about accommodation conditions and lack of comfort. We’re in Peru, not Prague my friends!
And that’s all for this guide to the very best things to do in Peru.
From trekking through the Amazon to exploring ancient temples, Peru is perfect for those looking for adventure.
Even on your rest days there are many awesome things to be experienced, whether that’s feasting on tasty foods or exploring museums and pretty historic centres.
In this guide I’ve covered a variety of bucket list Peru activities!
As well as this, I’ve given my top tips for each activity so that you’ll have the best experience possible.
If you're travelling around the country, here are some other Peru travel guides that you may find helpful: