Top Things To Do In Peru
By Jemma Dicks
In my last blog I discussed the incredible food that Peru has to offer and shared a recipe for my favourite Peruvian dish. One of the best things about Peru is that it’s a destination for active travellers. This being the case, the need to keep your energy levels high makes for a great excuse to stuff your face as often as possible.
Let’s take a break from eating for just one minute. Finish your munching, lace up your hiking boots and whack out your map. Projects Abroad sends hundreds of people to volunteer in Peru every year and many choose to go travelling after their project. Besides Machu Picchu, very few have much in the way of ideas regarding where to go and what to do in Peru. I was lucky enough to spend 5 weeks travelling the country last year and have put together a list of my top recommendations for things to do in Peru based on my personal experience. Of course Machu Picchu was always going to feature on this list, but many will probably be new to you. I hope you find it useful.
1. Hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.
The 4 day hike along the Inca trail is tough there’s no denying it. It’s hard to decide which makes you doubt your sanity in choosing to do the trek more – the long, arduous climb to Dead Woman’s Pass on day 2, or the knee-crippling Gringo Killer staircase on day 3. The blisters, the altitude sickness, the occasional freezing cold nights are, however, all worth it for the end result – Machu Picchu. It has to be THE wonder of the world and certainly tops my list of things to do in Peru. So why choose the trek over the train? This would be because you pass numerous Incan ruins on the way, many of which are close to rivalling Machu Picchu in beauty.
Whether you choose to retrace the footsteps of the Inca’s and walk the famous trail or cheat and take the train, Machu Picchu should not be missed. Photographs simply do not do it justice.
2. The Amazon Rainforest
Teeming with wildlife, indigenous tribes, mesmerising flora and lots and lots of mosquitos! Hop in a canoe and explore the greatest rainforest on earth. Caiman, jaguar, sloth, capybara, anteaters, monkeys, and piranha – they are all here. The heat and humidity is oppressive, the noise of the jungle at night is deafening and wherever you look there is something moving. There really is nowhere else like it.
3. Cordillera Blanca
This staggeringly beautiful mountain range is home to Peru’s highest peak, Huascarán. Truly a trekker’s paradise, the Huascarán National Park that encompasses almost all of the Cordillera Blanca, has over 250 glaciers, more than 20 hot springs and some of the most stunning glacial lakes in the world.
4. Sandboard and Dune-buggy in Huacachina
Peru is not all Andes and Amazon. Towering sand dunes surround the picturesque oasis of Huachachina and they make for tremendous fun. Jump in a sand buggy and fly around the desert, only occasionally stopping to grab your board and zoom down the largest dune you can find.
5. Colca Canyon
With a depth of approx. 3400m the Colca canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world. It is truly spectacular at any time of year. I visited smack in the middle of the rainy season and, although it did occasionally chuck it down, the canyon looked all-the-more beautiful and lush for it. It is probably the best place in Peru, if not South America, to spot the incredible Andean condor. The site of these powerful birds soaring through the clouds really does take your breath away - as does the altitude!
6. Cusco Cathedral
Not being particularly religious or arty, I am not somebody who usually enjoys looking around churches or cathedrals, but I was blown away by the beauty of this one. You can hire an audio guide at the entrance or pay a local guide for a private tour. This is without doubt the most exquisite building I have ever stepped foot in. The Peruvian take on the last supper was particularly memorable, with roasted cuy (guinea pig) at the centre of the table!
7. Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa
Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, the Santa Catalina monastery takes up an entire block. The nuns lived inside the monastery walls, without electricity or running water and completely cut off from the outside world, until the 1970s when it was opened up to the public. You can quite easily spend several hours wandering its quaint and picturesque streets.
8. The Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a made up of a number of ancient land drawings, thought to have been created by the Nazcans between 800BC and 800AD. The designs range in complexity and include figures of monkeys, spiders, flowers, humans and birds. Although the designs are considered best viewed from the air, they can also be seen from the peaks of the surrounding foothills.
Next stop Bolivia!
Having traversed the Amazon, trekked the Inca Trail and marvelled at Machu Picchu, it’s time to say “hasta luego” to Peru. For the next stop on our gastronomic tour, we head to Bolivia, in my opinion one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
One of the easiest, cheapest and most scenic ways to cross from Peru into Bolivia is via Lake Titicaca. From Arequipa or Cusco you can catch a bus to Puno, a small town on the Peruvian side of the lake. If you have the time, it’s worth taking a boat out onto the lake to visit the floating islands, home to the Uros people.
From Puno you can jump on a bus to Copacabana on the Bolivian side. The bus will drop you at the Peruvian border where you will need to obtain your exit stamp from immigration. It’s approximately a 1 minute walk to the Bolivian immigration office, where you will need to get your entry stamp. The bus will be waiting for you here so when you’re done you can hop on board, head to Copacabana and prepare yourself to be blown away by Bolivia!
Check out my next blog where I’ll be recreating one of Bolivia’s tastiest dishes.
I hope you found this blog useful. I’d love to hear your feedback. Have you been to Peru? What was the highlight of your trip? Have you got some good tips for readers regarding things to do in Peru? Please leave your comments below.
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