Peru’s fascinating history, excellent cuisine, hiking opportunities and tourism infrastructure make it one of the best countries to visit on your first time in Latin America. But what should you do when you get there? Here are 10 classic things to do when you visit. All of them can be easily be fitted into a three week holiday.
Discover the capital
While many people skip the capital, those who decide to stay find a cosmopolitan city full of world-class museums, buzzy eateries and excellent nightlife. Wander through the city admiring the striking architecture, people watching from the central plazas and popping into vibrant cafes. By night, the streets are filled with the sounds of Andean and Afro-Latin music. It makes for an excellent introduction to the country. We recommend you stay in the Miraflores (literally translates to ‘Look at the flowers’) district.
Watch condors in Colca Canyon
An absolute must for wildlife enthusiasts and birders. Head down to Colca Canyon, an impressive canyon which is considerably deeper than the Grand Canyon in the US. If you arrive early, you can observe the huge Amazon condors as they glide on thermals above and below you. They circle overhead surprisingly near.
Fly over the Nazca Lines
These ancient shapes and markings that have been etched into the desert by an ancient civilisation. The best way to see them is from a small plane. Journeys usually take around 45 minutes and circle the markings from above allowing a perfect aerial view. If you prefer not to fly, some can be seen from a platform, but unsurprisingly, the view is not as good.
Amble through Santa Catalina
The colourful Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa was only opened to the public in the 1970s, revealing a community sealed away from the world for almost 400 years. It’s an excellent place to while away an afternoon. Nearby, you can also meet Juanita, the well-preserved Inca Ice-Maiden.
Canoe through the Amazon
Most people think of Brazil when thinking of the Amazon. However, a large chunk of the rainforest sits within Peru. Pristine rainforest inhabited by howler monkeys, sloths, macaws and caiman await. Take a short flight to the steamy port town of Puerto Maldonado and board canoes to head down to one of the many rustic lodges. From here, it’s possible to take walks along the trails, canoe the rivers and scale the canopy towers in such of some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife.
Eat, eat, eat
Peru has now be recognized as having some of the world’s finest cuisine. It is certainly the most varied within Latin America. When you are by the coast try ceviche, a wonderfully fresh and zingy dish of fresh white fish marinated in citrus juices and chilli. Unsurprisingly, the highlands produce more hearty fare. The brave can try cuy, roasted guinea pig, but there are plenty of other stews and roasted meats for the more squeamish.
Hike the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu
Many visit Peru solely to hike the famous Inca Trail. Walk in the footsteps of the Incas along the trail that starts near Cuzco and finishes at Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The journey takes around 4 days and although challenging, is made possible by the porters who carry your larger things up the steep climb, make camp and cook food. Always ensure that the tour operator you book through has a porter policy and there has been some abuse in the past.
Ride the Andean Explorer train to Puno
The best way to get from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca is via the Andean Explorer. The train is operated by Belmond (originally the Orient Express) so is luxurious. The ten-hour journey travels through high Andean countryside. During the journey, travellers can enjoy a three course meal and classic 1920s décor and Pullman carriages. There is also an observation carriage which is clad with glass giving the best possible views. Arrive in Puno, the nearest city to the lake.
Take a boat trip over Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It will literally take your breath away at over 2 miles above sea level. A hotel near the shores of the lake makes a good base from which to explore. Jump in a boat and head out to the unique floating reed islands of Uros. Here people live and work on what feels like a huge waterbed. The rock island of Taquile is a great place for hiking and is inhabited by a community very different from those on the mainland.
Explore Chan Chan in Trujillo
If time permits, a visit to the archaeological ruins of Chan Chan are well worth the visit north. These ancient remains of the ancient capital of Chumus is vast, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. A unique insight into life 1,000 year ago.