There are tons of things to do in Peru! With 30 of 32 of the world’s climates, Peru contains beaches, mountains, desert dunes, and the Amazon rainforest. Whether Machu Picchu has been on the bucket list for years or Rainbow Mountain has recently piqued your curiosity, Peru can satisfy any type of traveler’s sense of wanderlust.
Make your trip one for the books and the gram with our Top 20 Things to do in Peru.
1. Take the Perfect Picture at Machu Picchu
The most famous of Peruvian landmarks, bringing in over 1.5 million visitors per year, the best thing to do in Peru is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu. And, of course, you’ll want to take an awesome photo of the World Wonder!
Machu Picchu is located in the geographical area called a “cloud forest” making this sacred Incan site a mystical destination to visit any time of the year. The best time to visit Machu Picchu tends to be during the dry season between April/May – September/October. However, even if you’re planning on traveling to Peru during the rainy season, don’t let a little rain get in the way of taking the perfect picture at Machu Picchu!
- Pick up some hats or Peruvian textiles in Cusco from the San Pedro Market. Alpaca sweaters, poncho, or blankets are great to add some color to your photo.
- Perspective photos make for great keepsakes. You can stamp your passport ahead of time with the Machu Picchu stamp near the exit to add in your photo of the real ruins. Or you can bring along a Polaroid camera, like an Instax-mini, that will develop instantly and include that in your photo.
- Or make it a romantic one to remember by taking the perfect proposal photo!
Tip: Ask your guide to help you take the perfect photo, more often than not they’re also great behind a camera!
2. Hike The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
While there are several ways to get there, most commonly being by train and bus, one of the best ways to see Machu Picchu is by hiking the Inca Trail. Get your first views of Machu Picchu by walking the same pathway used by the ancient Inca over 500 years ago! This is a rewarding hike for athletes, history lovers, as well as those wanting to experience their first views of Machu Picchu at sunrise. Keep in mind that permits for the 4-Day Inca Trail can sell out quickly, so make sure to plan your Peru trip well in advance if you have specific dates in mind for your hike.
There’s also the shorter 2-Day version of the Inca Trail that involves no overnight camping if that’s not your style! It’s a great option for anyone who wants to include some adventure activities to their Peru trip without wanting to overdo it.
When planning your trip to Peru keep in mind that the Inca Trail is closed every February for maintenance. Even if you’re planning a trip to Peru in February, there are many alternative hiking options available for you to enjoy.
3. Do a Food Tour in Lima.
If you’re in Lima at the beginning of your trip, taking a food tour will help you get better acquainted with the local menu and let you know what’s best to order throughout the rest of your trip!
With Exquisito or Lima Gourmet, you’ll try dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, causa, craft beer, and various Peruvian desserts like picarones or churros. All the while, you’ll explore the city’s hidden gems, as you go from one famous Peruvian landmark to the next and learn about what you see along the way.
4. Go to the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest ranks high on our list of things to do to pack all the punch into your Machu Picchu trip. If you’re a nature lover, you can find adventure, relaxation, or resort-style comfort in the Peruvian Amazon. To get there, take a short flight to either Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos. These are the two main hubs for Amazon tourism in Peru.
You can sleep in a treehouse, fish for piranhas, discover a new species, or take a luxury cruise down the Amazon River for a chance to see a rare pink dolphin! No matter how you choose to experience it, be sure to snag a window seat on the flight because the view from above is one that’s going to take your breath away!
5. Walk on Water at Lake Titicaca
With its unforgettable sunsets and vibrant textiles, you have to check out Lake Titicaca when visiting South America! Sharing its border with Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. But what makes this place so special? Lake Titicaca is home to the Floating Islands of Uros and Taquile. Handwoven from reeds growing naturally in the lake, these islands make magic seem a little bit more real. Experience Peruvian culture and the surreal feeling of taking your first step onto these reed islands by adding this incredible destination onto your Peru adventure.
Tip: Bring along some extra soles for a totora reed boat ride or to pick up some handmade souvenirs sold by local artisans.
6. Fly Over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines (sometimes spelled Nasca) are massive scale images drawn into the desert sands preserved for hundreds of years by the dry climate. Today their purpose remains a mystery. Take an overflight to view these wonders from above! Why is this one of the best things to do in Peru? Drones from National Geographic recently discovered more than 50 new Nazca lines making these 1,000-year-old drawings relevant archeological finds today.
If you’re into art history, archeology, Ancient Aliens, or simply love seeing a country from above, we think a flight over the Nazca Lines is worth your time!
Tip: Make sure to take some anti-nausea medicine beforehand. While the motion on the plane ensures everyone gets the perfect pictures, it tends to make some feel queasy.
7. Get on the Rooftop of Arequipa’s Cathedral
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring because of its great weather most days of the year. If you like exploring new cities, trying new food, and seeing volcanoes then head here on your Peru trip! For an incredibly special, off the beaten path experience, head up to the rooftop of Arequipa’s Cathedral for some stunning panoramic views.
Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm tip-based tours offer you parts of Arequipa’s Cathedral unseen on traditional city tours. You’ll visit the small museum with many beautiful treasures not allowed to be photographed. Then make your way upwards to view the exquisite Belgian Pipe Organ installed in 1854 from above. You’ll head up to the rooftop of the Cathedral for a spectacular view of the city and surrounding volcanoes.
Arequipa boasts many of its own traditional foods, including queso helado, which is a type of handmade ice cream. In the Plaza de Armas, outside the main cathedral, you’ll find several vendors selling the handmade treat to reward yourself after your climb to the top!
8. ATV at an Incan Experimental Farm
The Sacred Valley is perfectly positioned halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu, making it a convenient visit on your way to the World Wonder. Nestled between the terraced Andean mountains with the Urubamba River running through the middle, it is the perfect landscape for ATVing.
After a safety briefing, take off on a 4×4 ATV through the hillsides to visit the archeological site of Moray. Believed to be used as a way to test the effects of altitude on plant growth, this picturesque Incan site is worth your attention. You’ll also head to the Maras Salt Mines and take lots of great photos along the way.
ATVing is a recommended adventure activity to do when acclimating to the altitude, as it’s mostly a seated activity and won’t leave you short of breath.
9. Drink & Learn How to Make a Pisco Sour
Peru is known for its popular alcohol Pisco. It was developed in the 16th Century by Spanish settlers in South America. Nowadays no Peru trip would be complete without at least a taste of its namesake sour!
To make a Pisco Sour, just combine Pisco with lime, egg whites, and simple syrup. You can also mix in some delicious Peruvian flavors such as passionfruit to take the traditional cocktail to a whole new level!
Most cooking classes teach you how to make this classic drink. Another option is to head to Museo del Pisco for samples and lessons or do a Pisco tasting tour in the place where it all began: Pisco, Peru!
10. Explore Cusco with the Cusco Tourist Ticket
The Boleto Turistico or Tourist Ticket is a ticket bundle giving you entry to museums, ruins, and sites all around Cusco proper. Spend your time acclimating to the high altitude of Cusco City (11,150 ft above sea level) with some easy exploration at places like Sacsayhuaman, the Museum of Contemporary Art, or head to Qosqo de Arte Nativo to see some folkloric dances, Peruvian textiles, and traditional Peruvian art.
Opt for the Full Ticket if you have 2 or more days in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. It is valid for 10 days and gives you access to 16 different sites.
11. Hike in Huaraz
Huaraz is easily one of the best places to visit in Peru because the landscapes are larger than life! It’s a long 8-hour bus ride from Lima, but worth it! Why? Since it’s more difficult to get to, you’ll get an off the beaten path Peru experience with fewer tourists along the insanely beautiful trails.
While it’s easy to join in on group hiking tours with a local agency anywhere near the Main Plaza or Plaza de Armas, we recommend opting for a more private experience if you’re more comfortable hiking at your own pace. Located 4.3 miles from downtown Huaraz, Lazy Dog Inn is a sustainable property that offers home-cooked meals from produce grown on the property, a warm fireplace, and a dry sauna. It also has a large collection of maps and resources for you to do all the hiking you could ever want. You can do remote, roundtrip hikes directly from the lodge to minimize your ecological footprint while traveling.
Laguna 69 and Pastoruri Glacier are popular Full Day hikes that can be done from Huaraz but tend to have lots of other visitors than some of the other surrounding hikes.
12. Hike to Rainbow Mountain
Also known as the Mountain of Seven Colors, as well as Vinicunca in Quecha, Rainbow Mountain sits at a whopping 15,000 ft above sea level but is still an awesome thing to do on your Peru trip.
Once covered by snow and unknown to the population until 2015, this geographical wonder now attracts about a third of the number of visitors as Machu Picchu. And it’s no surprise why! The minerals and sediments in the rock and soil have created a multi-colored landscape that makes for incredible photos. Be prepared for the high altitudes you’ll reach and the changing weather patterns when doing this trek.
Tip: Hike to Rainbow Mountain on your last full day in Cusco instead of at the beginning of your trip. It’ll give you more time to acclimate beforehand.
13. See the Huacachina Oasis
The Huacachina Oasis is an adventure-seekers paradise. Surrounded by 100-foot desert dunes, you’ll not only admire the desert landscapes contrasted beside the lush green oasis, but also have an opportunity to sandboard and/or ride the dunes on dune buggies if adventure calls!
We recommend that you opt for the afternoon tour for this one because the sunset over the undulating desert landscape is spectacular.
The distance between Huacachina and Lima is only 170 miles, or a 5-hour bus ride, making it the perfect quick side-trip from Lima.
Tip: Make sure to book all adventure activities with a reputable provider!
14. Spot a Sealion on the Ballestas Islands
Paracas and the Ballestas Islands are considered to be one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Home to 216 species of birds, 16 types of mammals—including the easily spotted sealion—and almost 200 species of fish! For anyone who loves animals and nature, boat rides, or a couple of days to slow down during their Peru vacation, we think checking out the Islas Ballestas is a must-do for your Peru trip!
Tip: Opt for a morning tour of the Islas Ballestas for a smoother boat ride and a greater chance of animal activity in the mornings.
15. Eat at one of the worlds Top Rated Restaurants
Lima is famous for its food and of all the things to do in Peru, eating is #1! Lima boasts about being on the list of the World’s Best Restaurants with Michelin-star restaurants, like Central and Maido.
One of the best things to do while traveling is to get the most bang for your converted buck, and Peru is perfect for that! While the bill on these meals will still be more than your daily meal budget throughout the rest of your trip, compared to a similar dining experience in New York, Paris, or London, you’ll be receiving a gourmet experience for a fraction of the cost.
Check off eating at a Michelin rated restaurant from your bucket list because it is absolutely something you can do on your Peru vacation!
Tip: Reserve online (with your credit card) well in advance as reservations tend to fill up several months in advance!
16. Spend Extra Time at Machu Picchu
Even if you’re not huge on hiking, we recommend you switch your Machu Picchu general entrance ticket to a hiking permit instead. Why? A hiking permit will give you extra time at Machu Picchu to either hike up Huayna Picchu Mountain, Machu Picchu Mountain, or explore the lesser-seen parts of the ruins, like the Inca Bridge or the Sun Gate.
If you’re traveling during the rainy season, more time could also mean a chance for cloudy skies to pass. The citadel is often covered by clouds in the morning and will clear up in the afternoon.
Tip: Book in advance because hiking permits are limited.
17. Enjoy Dinner at an Ancient Pyramid
Dotted throughout the modern city of Lima are immense huacas, or pre-Incan temples. If you’re looking for things to do in Miraflores, Huaca Pucllana can be visited by any curious wanderer every day except on Tuesdays. However, we recommend that you opt for a later tour and stay for dinner. Be sure to request a seat out on the terrace, because this historical landmark in Lima is illuminated at night making for an incredible backdrop to your meal.
18. Visit the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco
There are numerous famous landmarks to visit in Lima and countless unique things to do in this city but we think checking out the spooky Catacombs of San Francisco is a great way to make this a trip you’ll never forget!
The Basilica and Convent of San Francisco is recognized, alongside many other buildings in the downtown historic centre of Lima, as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located just one block away from the Plaza Mayor in Lima, this baroque-style church also contains a monastery, one of the world’s most enchanting libraries, and the underground catacombs with artfully displayed human bones.
For those easily spooked, duck out early and head to the nearby Churros San Francisco for some of the best churros of your life!
19. Swim with Sea Turtles in Mancora
With 1,500 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that Peru makes it on the list of the best beaches in South America. Mancora, Peru is the go-to place for beach lovers because it draws in surfers, those looking for relaxation, and those looking for new and unique travel experiences like swimming with sea turtles!
Looking for things to do besides surfing? Daily tours will take you out to El Ñuro where you will have a chance to swim with these friendly creatures for about 30 minutes! While you will be advised not to touch the turtles, be warned that they are not shy and tend to come close.
Bring along some extra soles because guides in the water can take photos of you interacting with the sea turtles for a small additional charge.
20. Feed a Baby Alpaca or Llama
A Peru trip wouldn’t be complete without seeing a llama and alpaca but for a truly unforgettable Peru experience, you should get up close and personal with these super adorable creatures!
Add a stop at The Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary to your trip to the Pisac ruins to feed the friendly resident llamas and learn about the conservation efforts for well-known Peruvian animals like the puma and condor.
Many hotel properties in the Sacred Valley such as Casa Andina Premium Sacred Valley and the Belmond Rio Sagrado have on-site llamas with scheduled feeding times for babies. For few soles in Cusco you can take a photo with an alpaca led by women wearing traditional Andean outfits.
With such a wide variety of places to see and things to do in Peru, checking off Machu Picchu from your bucket list can be as fun, adventurous, or relaxing as you want!
Ready to check these 20 things to do in Peru off of your list? Book your visit to Peru today and customize your trip with one of our travel experts.
Originally from Canada, Michelle is a wanderer who has made Peru her home since 2018. In search of the best Red Velvet cupcake, she has been eating and travelling her way through Peru and South America ever since. Obsessed with glaciers, mountains, and french fries Peru has become her home away from home.