Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.
The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.
In Peru, you can trek, raft, cycle, climb and hike, or simply relax in one of many luxury hotels.
There is something for everyone in Peru, from the climber to adventurous families to an archaelogical enthusiast.
Ideas for Peru holidays
A quick look at Peru and you can dream of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or one of a myriad of exciting hikes through the Andes, with a huge variety of levels and lengths of treks available.
Adrenaline seekers will love rafting and biking around Peru’s geographical beauty and anyone with even the slightest interest in wildlife must visit the Amazon rainforest to behold the animals that live in this dense and vast forest.
The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.
Whether you want a relaxing cultural experience, an adrenaline-packed adventure or a combination of both – contact us and we will help you plan the perfect trip.
Below, we outline some of the top places to go and things to do in Peru.
Main plaza, Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, perches dramatically on a ridge-top 400 metres above the Urubamba gorge. The extensive site, where temples and palaces predominate, is set amid an awesome landscape of forested mountains.
When it was rediscovered early last century and cleared of forest, it was found to be very well preserved. It has since presented archaeologists with many unanswered questions regarding the role it played in Inca times.
Trekkers at Machu Picchu, The Inca Trail
Inca Trail and other treks
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the world’s great four day treks. It traverses an amazing variety of natural environments, taking in many spectacular archaeological sites.
The Lares Valley, the Huchuy Qosqo and the Salkantay offer alternative routes to Machu Picchu should the much sought-after Inca Trail permits have sold out.
Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Huayhuash
The Cordillera Blanca in Peru’s central-northern Andes offers awesome scenery, and some of the best trekking and climbing in the Andes. The Blanca boasts dozens of peaks over 6,000 metres, including Huascaran (6,768m), and features the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers.
The nearby Huayhuash range contains a dazzling array of snow peaks including seven summits above 6,000 metres.
Its highest, Yerupaja (6,634m), is Peru’s second highest. The great Huayhuash Circuit trek circles the whole range, offering a succession of stunning panoramas.
Choquequirao trek, Peru
Whether surrounded by breathtaking snow peaks or hiking through upland tropical forest, the Cusco region offers some of the most varied trekking anywhere.
The stunning Vilcabamba range to the north of Cusco is criss-crossed by Inca paths linking together enigmatic ruins and offering great trekking options.
Machu Picchu is the best-known of Peru’s remote Inca citadels, but there are also trekking routes to the impressive Choquequirao ruins, which are nicknamed the “new” Machu Picchu.
To the south the Vilacanota range is dominated by towering snow peaks and boasts the largest tropical glacier on earth. Its centre-piece is Ausangate (6,384m), and the area supports traditional llama-herding communities.
Trekking here takes you away from the crowds and our fantastic Ausangate lodge-based option offers comfort for those who prefer a bed to a thermarest.
Tambomachay Inca site, Cusco
Inca and pre-Inca sites
A whole host of archaeological sites dot the Peruvian landscape. The mysterious lost cities of the pre-Inca Chachapoya civilization nestle in the remote cloud forests of Peru’s extreme north, while the north coast boasts dozens of Mochica pyramids, among them the dazzling burial site of the Lord of Sipan.
The remote temple of Chavin de Huantar in the north-central Andes, was a pan-Andean cult centre 3,000 years ago and the Nazca city of Cahuachi, in the southern deserts, was the capital of the civilization responsible for the enigmatic Nazca Lines 1,500 years ago.
The hundreds of Inca sites found in the southern Andes are among Peru’s finest archaeological legacies. There are many well-preserved sites in and around the Sacred Valley near Cusco, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo, while the Titicaca area boasts many fine ancient structures, including the burial towers of Sillustani.
Pisac market in the Sacred Valley
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco is the archaeological and cultural capital of South America. The one-time centre of the vast Inca Empire is a bustling highland city with bags of character. Its whitewashed streets and plazas feature a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial stonework. At night, Cusco offers the continent’s best Andean folk music scene.
Outside the city, there are many outstanding examples of sacred Inca architecture, including the monumental temple-fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which is made up of massive, precisely interlocking stones.
Some 30 kilometres from Cusco lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a must-see for its spectacular setting, archaeological sites and markets. Pisac hosts a very good craft market and boasts a nearby mountain-top citadel. The Inca town of Ollantaytambo and Indian market of Chincheros are unique and fascinating.
Uros reed boats, Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca (3,838m) is like a vast ocean set in the middle of the Andes. It is the largest lake in South America and, at 180 kilometers long, is also the world’s highest navigable lake. Its islands and shores support many Indian communities, including that of the unique and beautiful Taquile Island.
Three hours by boat from Puno, Taquile – only 4km x 1km – supports a population of 2,000. What makes this island so interesting are its unique customs, far removed from our own and distinct from the rest of Peru. The island is known for the sophistication of its weaving, practised from a young age by both men and women.
Alternatively, you can stay with the villagers of Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca for a unique insight into the life of these islanders who subsist from traditional Andean agriculture, growing potatoes and corn, and from fishing and weaving.
Their island community offers visitors a friendly welcome and warm hospitality and by staying the night you will have time to explore the island and climb one of the island’s two peaks to marvel at the sunset over the world’s highest navigable lake.
Miraflores market, Lima
Lima, Peru’s capital, is by far its biggest city and most likely to be your first stopover as most international flights land here.
It was founded in 1535 and, as the seat of the Viceroy of Spanish South America, enjoyed a monopoly on trade with Spain. Today’s Lima offers a mixed bag, the chic districts of Miraflores and San Isidro and bohemian and fun Barranco are contrasting with the shanty areas which occupy the city’s outlying desert hills.
The pleasant colonial centre, set around the old Plaza de Armas, boasts many fine churches and mansions.
Lima has some excellent archaeological museums, a first rate seafood cuisine and, in the summer months of December to March, good nearby beaches.
Family holiday, the Amazon
The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
Peru boasts in its Amazonian region a vast swathe of world-class tropical wilderness with several rainforest and cloud forest reserves which are home to an immense diversity of wildlife.
Accessible by road, air and river from Lima, Iquitos or Cusco, the Amazon jungle is just a hop away from the highlands and coast. Yet it offers a unique, exhilarating and unforgettable experience, whether you choose to base yourself at a comfortable lodge or enjoy a more demanding camping trip.
In Peru’s southeast lies one of the world’s most extensive tracts of tropical reserve. An extraordinary region comprising the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene and Manu National Parks, it boasts the greatest animal and plant diversity anywhere in the world, including 1,300 bird species, 200 mammal species and 15,000 species of flowering plants.
In the north lies access to the Amazon from Iquitos, where the mighty Amazon is already several kilometers wide in places.
Fishermen with Totora reed boats, Huanchaco
Peru’s coast and beaches
As you’d expect from a country with 3,000 kilometres of coastline, Peru has a good choice of beaches.
The main beach season here runs from December to March, but if you are visiting outside this period, the northern coast is a good bet. With a year-round warm climate, the beaches of the Piura and Tumbes regions, such as Mancora and Punta Sal, can be used well into the winter months. The less developed southern coast offers some lovely isolated coves, among them Puerto Inca.
Peru is one of the world’s top surfing nations, and some excellent surfing can be found at the beaches south of Lima (wet suit essential in winter), and all the way up to the Ecuadorean border.
Some of the best waves in South America are found along Peru’s north coast.
Cusco, Spanish classes
Learn Spanish in Peru
Why learn Spanish in Peru? Because Peruvian language schools offer excellent value for money and because Peruvian Spanish is spoken clearly and thus relatively easy to learn.
The language school which Andean Trails works with has two centres in the Cusco area, one in Cusco itself and the other in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Cusco school is located in a charming colonial building close to the Plaza de Armas, while the other centre is in Urubamba, a small town in the peaceful Sacred Valley.
The schools are small, friendly and relaxed, with professional teachers who are always ready to help. Spanish lessons are available at any level, with the flexibility to combine tuition in both centres and divide classes – 2 hours each of grammar work and conversation per day – into morning and afternoon sessions.
Your studies can also be combined with any number of extra-curricular activities, including trekking, rafting and mountain biking.
Family mountain biking
Mountain Biking in Peru
The Andes and upper Amazon offer some exhilarating mountain biking. We have day trips, extended single track options, longer distance rides through remote mountain ranges and a four-day trip from the Cusco highlands to the steamy Manu National Park.
That’s before we start to look at the north of Peru and a full-on, eight-day expedition in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca through the heart of one of the most stunning mountain environments in the Americas. Most routes combine dirt roads and tracks with occasional off-road sectors, and serious off-road routes are also available.
Rafting in Peru
Rafting trips can take you into otherwise inaccessible environments. You might spend three adrenaline-pumping days shooting class IV to V rapids on the Rio Apurimac, or take a longer trip encompassing various ecological zones; our Tambopata trip combines, over nine days, class IV white water with serene paddling through virgin Amazon rainforest.
There are a host of day options too, in and around Cusco, a great way to prepare for or relax after a trek to Machu Picchu.
Expert rafters will love Cotohuasi – a real expedition of non-stop class 4 & 5 rapids in a truly unbelievable canyon complete with unexplored Inca cities, giant waterfalls and fresh shrimp too.
The Nazca Lines, Paracas and the Ballestas Islands
The Paracas coastal reserve and Ballestas islands liejust a few hours south of Lima by road and are home to a quintessential range of coastal fauna. A rugged desert peninsula, Paracas boasts huge resident communities of flamingos and skimmers, as well as archaeological vestiges of the Paracas culture.
The Ballestas islands, reached by speedboat, are home to colonies of sealions, seabirds and Humboldt penguins. Nazca, a small town set in the parched desert of central-southern Peru, is known for the intriguing Nazca culture, and in particular for the mysterious Nazca Lines; huge geometric designs, trapezoids and straight lines many kilometres long, which were etched into the desert by the ancient Nazca people.
Theories regarding their purpose range from an astrological calendar to water fertility symbols and sacred paths to extraterrestrial landing sites.
Main square, Chivay
Arequipa and The Colca Canyon
Arequipa (2,325m) is an attractive city full of colonial character and boasting a year-round spring climate. Situated in the volcanic southern highlands of Peru, it commands impressive views of three nearby volcanoes, including El Misti (5,821m) and Chachani (6,075m).
Its many colonial building were constructed using a light-coloured pumice; worthy of special note is the incredible Santa Catalina Convent.
Arequipa is the ideal base for a trip to the Colca Canyon. Here you can admire the awesome Andean Condor (wingspan of over three metres) and wonderful Canyon landscapes.
During the drive there, rare vicuña are commonly spotted. Condors are seen at a point where the canyon is well over a thousand metres deep from rim to river. In the morning, condors can be seen rising majestically on the day’s first thermals.
Ancient terraces line the valleys sides leading down to the deepest canyon in the world and the small villages here maintain their centuries old traditions.
If you stay an extra night at the luxurious Colca Lodge, you can relax in its fully-equipped spa or just take in the scenery from one of the natural hot spring pools down by the riverside, looking at the mountains, listening to the river roar by and trying to spot a condor soaring above you.
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The highlight of our holiday was the amazing trek and being in such a remote location surrounded by the most majestic, beautiful mountains. It was absolutely awesome.
Accommodation: It was great in Lima and comfortable in Huaraz with a fantastic rooftop breakfast!
Food: The food on the trek was excellent - we are vegetarian and the cook (Estaban) provided us with delicious, creative and beautiful food throughout and plenty of it. He was like a magician, conjuring up the loveliest food whilst camping in a remote setting.
Guide: Our trek guide (Yunmer) was great. He was extremely informative, had a great sense of humour and was really enthusiastic. He helped carry Jane's water and bag at times - not that we asked him to. He insisted! I have recently had my collarbone plated and he was keen to relieve me of the burden of carrying anything to heavy.
Trek staff: Our donkey / horse driver (Gusman) was brilliant, hard working and quietly helped around camp, setting up, taking down and moving us from one home to the next. The trekking team as a whole were exceptional, really supportive and kind and worked really well together.
Overall organisation was excellent. We felt we were in good hands and looked after well both before and after the trek.
Acclimatising: Acclimatisation walk around Huaraz with Rodolfo was a perfect start to the holiday. Rodolfo is extremely reliable, efficient, well informed and a lovely person. It was great to gain a little insight into the people and culture of the region.
The acclimatisation walk to Laguna Churup with David was another fantastic day. David has been living in the mountains for many years and shared some of his experience and knowledge with us as we surveyed the landscape of peaks, glaciers and lakes.
Benefitting local communities: The local people benefit from the presence of tourists as we provide them an income. Visiting tourists encourages everyone to look after and help maintain this pristine environment- those in the remote communities and also our own trekking team. Visiting tourists also need to respect this. The local people were very grateful that we visited them and also very grateful to Andean trails for their support. They encouraged us to return or send other friends and family. We had some great interactions with our little team and a lot of fun. Sharing our time with these lovely, charming people was very special and we felt that they benefitted as well as us.
Overall: We would strongly recommend anyone who loves nature, being outside and has a sense of adventure to do it.
It is a very special, magical place. Having seen people undertaking the trek unsupported, we felt that having a supported trek was perfect for us as we could really enjoy just being there.
Jane & Greg Windsor, Aus, Sep 2019
» Cordillera Huayhuash Trek, Circuit Walk
We had an absolutely amazing trip and everything was perfect.
Highlights – there were loads of highlights. We loved Quito – especially the morning we went up the Teleferico. We could see for miles over the city to snow capped Volcanos beyond. Our Equador guide and driver were brilliant – Miguel and Memo. They went out or their way to make sure we saw as much as possible – we wouldn’t have seen or learned as much without them. We saw humming bird, toucans, tangers and a fantastic bird of prey sanctuary that wasn’t on the original schedule.
The Galapagos Islands were amazing. Again we saw so much and the guides were brilliant. They were so enthusiastic about their islands, the animals and conservation.
Accommodation etc – the hotels were all excellent. We loved the quirkyness of the hotel in Quito. The staff were very helpful and friendly. The Septimo Paraiso eco lodge in the cloud forest and the Hacienda Las Palmeras near Otavalo were great – the food at Las Palmeras was really excellent. The airport hotel was spotless and friendly but the set meal of Spaghetti bolognese wasn’t great to be honest. We ate in some lovely restaurants and the guides picked some lovely places to stop for food.
Sol y Mar on Santa Cruz was lovely too.
We loved Hotel Albemarle on Isabela. It was a perfect place to spend 5 nights. The rooms were comfy, clean with lovely balconies and views. There were some really good local restaurants, especially Coco surf, recommended by Tania, our Isabela guide.
The company that did our trip to Los Tuneles were fantastic. The guide was so enthusiastic and determined that we would see loads of wildlife. He took loads of photos with his gopro then downloaded them all for us for free when we got back. The lunch on the boat that day was chicken and rice which all three of my kids said was the best lunch they’d had all holiday. It might have been because they were all cold and knackered – they even took the hot sweet tea on offer.
I hope we benefitted the local communities. We enjoyed our trips to the coffee plantation and the chocolate factory and certainly brought plenty of chocolate and coffee back with us. I would like to think that the money we spent goes in someway to help conservation efforts and to keep the cloud forests and the Galapagos Islands as special and unique as they clearly are.
We picked Andean trails because you are based in Scotland and seemed to understand out requirements and came up with a perfect sounding itinary. Flying from Galsgow via Amsterdam worked well and for us was definitely the quickest and easiest way to get there.
Everything worked out perfectly. We had a totally brilliant time. I think it is all still sinking in...
L. Keany, UK, Aug 2019
» 4-day Ecuador Family Holiday
South America Travel Special - mailchi.mp/cad4bbf7fc36/south-…
1st November, 2019 3:14 pm
The Patagonia National Park in the Chilean region of Aysen was formed in 2018 and is the combination of the Lago Jeinimeni National Reserve, Lago Cochrane/Tamango Reserve and the Parque Patagonia also known as Patagonia Park in the Chacabuco Valley. The latter was created by Conservacion Patagonica, a nonprofit incorporated in California whose mission was to protect Patagonia’s wildlands and ecosystems. The National Park covers an area of over 300,000 hectares. Doug and Kris Tompkins Conservationists Douglas Tompkins, the founder of The North Face and Esprit, and Kristine Tompkins first visited the Chacabuco Valley in 1995 and …
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