What to See and Do in Peru: Our Selection

December 15, 2022

Peru's rich history, cultural integrity, and diverse landscapes make it one of the world's most alluring destinations. Andean Experience has a presence across the country, living and sharing in the country's magic. Within its borders that stretch along the Pacific coast, reach far into the Amazon jungle, and soar to the peaks of the Andes, you can discover Peru's wealth of culture, where adventure meets antiquity.

In broad terms, Peru boasts some of the most unique and iconic travel opportunities on earth. These unique experiences combined with the people make it particularly enthralling for Andean Experience, and why our incredible home never ceases to amaze us.

The Andes provide whispers of ancient cultures between the colorful valleys and peaks that wind down through the country's center. Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination that receives over 500,000 visitors annually and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To the east, the Amazon unfolds into the mystical enchantment of an entirely new world that holds one of South America's greatest treasures: its rainforest. Nearly sixty percent of the country is part of the Amazon rainforest, which accounts for more than a tenth of the entire rainforest.

With Atemporal, CIRQA, and Titilaka comprising a circuit throughout the country, every itinerary caters to the adventurous, the sophisticated, and those in search of the true essence of Peru. Here is our list of what to see and do for the Peruvian trip of a lifetime.



Giant andean condor

Nestled high in the Andes and surrounded by volcanoes and the Altiplano, Arequipa has a distinguished reputation for food, culture, and recreation. As the second largest city in Peru, it is no stranger to orthodox leisure for nuanced and form-fitting experiences. Notable for its picanteria-style dining that brings the community together, authentic Peruvian cuisine is hard to miss in the White City. Boasting some of the country's most iconic gastronomy provides a foodie's paradise, where tours to some of the world's best restaurants highlight any trip. Whether you enjoy rocoto relleno, estofado de res, adobo, or any number of traditional potato dishes, Peru's flavors and traditions are inextricably woven to perfection for a fulfilling treat.

The proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Altiplano makes it ideal for visitors to experience fresh, customary Arequipan cuisine at world-renowned restaurants, such as CIRQA, located in a former monastery. This immaculate Parador is more than just Arequipa's best restaurant; it is an ideal place for an itinerary to be built around your needs. From the moment you arrive at this relais and chateaux property, CIRQA can mold a trip to your specific requests from start to finish.

Under the skyline of volcanoes Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu, the Plaza de Armas is home to the Basilica Cathedral and, like much of the architecture in the city, is made of stunning white sillar. The volcanic rock aesthetics have garnered Arequipa the nickname "The White City," proving that its ancient character is ingrained in its construction. Thanks to the religious architecture, the Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often punctuated with pristine courtyards and gardens. Travelers searching for a city steeped in centuries of culture can spend weeks diving into the brilliant history of Arequipa.

One of the area's most prominent and awe-inspiring adventures is Colca Canyon. Cut by the Colca River, the unbelievable depths of the canyon run to roughly 3,400 meters at its most profound – almost twice that of the Grand Canyon. Its placement in the Andes makes it much more striking, making it one of Peru's most popular attractions. Activities here are endless; try ziplining across the pass or take a dip in one of the hot springs. Since it is just a few hours from Arequipa to Chivay and other regional destinations, visiting this geographical gem is an easy trip for a day or two. Hike, birdwatch, and take in an extraordinary place found nowhere else on earth.


Cusco city

Also known as the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley is an iconic Peruvian destination just north of Cusco. It is home to Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan ruin perched in the Andes, and has played a role for civilizations throughout history who have come to call this area home. The tall peaks on either side of the Urubamba River Valley are a mountaineer's paradise, with ample hills to hike and a lifetime of expeditions. Archaeologists, too, have plenty to explore, learning about the terraced farming practices of the Incas and their way of life.

Great museums offer pre-Columbian works for a deep dive into the arts and culture. Mercado de Ttio is a well-stocked authentic market in Cusco, while Xapiri Ground supports local artisans. You can even peruse the San Blas Barrio of Cusco, of course, under the watchful eye of Cristo Blanco - the eight-meter-tall white statue of Christ next to the Incan ruins of the Sacsayhuaman fortress.

As the trek to Machu Picchu is no secret, anyone who wants to take a unique route to the ruins has a few options. Guided tours can take you along the Inca Trail, a more common route with varying levels so that you can select a personable experience tailored to you. You can reach the Sun Gate with an expedited trip or hike for a few days through ancient sites like Llactapata. The Salkantay Trek is a more ambitious - albeit all-encompassing - adventure, taking you from glaciers and the high jungle to the ruins. The week-long excursion may be too intense for the average journeyman, but it is an option for the uber-adventurous who want to prove their mettle.

Though it is well-known for Machu Picchu, Cusco is a cultural hub of its own accord. It was once the Incan capital and features historical architecture from centuries of civilization. Some pre-Columbian buildings remain standing today, and the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Volcanic rock plays an essential role in the city structures, as do frescos in religious buildings that span centuries. This city is a must-see for its serenity and historical significance.


Amazon Iquitos house

A testament to the boundless world of Peru, the Amazon Rainforest is an attractive and not oft-traveled option for adventure. Southwest of Iquitos and possibly the most sought-after destination for Amazon travelers is the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a collection of more than two million hectares of protected land. Shaped by the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers (which meet to form the Amazon River to the northeast), the reserve is home to spider monkeys, tapirs, and pumas. This area is known as the Jungle of Mirrors because of the reflective black waters. Equally vast and stunningly beautiful, the Pacaya Samiria is the heart of the jungle within reach of well-equipped lodges.

The mighty Amazon River is home to so much life, and choosing an activity to see this up close is a must. Cruise the river in style on a boat like the Aria Amazon, where you can peep the bustling life along the water with fine dining and open-air jacuzzis. The biodiversity is epic; fruiting plants highlight the flora, including cacao and acai, while pink river dolphins swim next to anacondas. Take in the wilds around you while enjoying the comforts of an all-inclusive ship. There are several boat tours, cruises, and sailing tours to uncover new parts of Peru at your own speed. Enjoy a single night on a luxury houseboat or spend four days heading up and down the river. Eco-friendly stays are also available to discover the nearby jungle.

The city of Iquitos will impress you with its location, biodiversity, and heritage that can only exist in the Amazon. Set on the Itaya River, a tributary of the Amazon River, the city experienced a massive period of growth during the 19th-century rubber boom, bringing European influence to the vast indigenous culture. Many visitors come to gaze at the mansions set against the lush rainforest.

Iquitos is easily navigable by foot, so observing the Baroque and Rococo architecture in Loreto and beyond is a fun way to take in the city. What makes this enchanting Amazonian city incredibly unique are the rivers. Accommodating lodges along the shores and rivers make visits to the surrounding Amazon accessible and comfortable.


Puerto Maldonado papagayos

At the southern end of Peru and east of Cusco lies Puerto Maldonado, where the Andes slide into the Amazon. Remarkable plant life, including old-growth rainforest, is just a stone's throw away, and excursions to see macaws, otters, caimans, and other wildlife are as comfortable as they are fascinating. Kayaking, ziplining and paddling down the Madre de Dios River provide some thrills for those seeking them, but sustained activities go hand in hand with cultural integration. Eco-lodges offer the chance to experience the Amazon in an intimate way, serving as transit stops in or out of the rainforest.

The biodiverse Tambopata National Reserve is close to the city, perfect for exploring Peru's rarities near the Bolivian border. Known for the macaws, it is also home to South American and Amazonian wildlife like sloths and capybaras. The winding rivers and peaceful lakes – like Lake Sandoval – have numerous vantage points to see the incredible creatures. Animals often congregate at "mineral licks," making it an easy target for birdwatchers to see them. If you want to stick around a bit longer, camping is allowed in certain designated areas to become even more in touch with the jungle.

Any travelers who want to avoid crowds and see a different side of Peru should consider Puerto Maldonado. It has a similar history to Iquitos with regard to the rubber boom, but fewer come to the southern side of the Peruvian Amazon. Its relatively easy access from Cusco is also a plus for adding it to your itinerary and can supplement an invaluable experience with biodiversity only found in Peru.


Lake Titicaca

Not only is Lake Titicaca enormous – South America's largest lake – but it is also high, sitting in the Andes at over 3,800 meters. It is a primary feature of the Altiplano and its cultures, many of whom still reside on the lake and continue to live their way of life. The Uro-Aymara, the Taquileños, and others have called islands on the lake home for centuries. Traveling to see daily life on the totora-made Uros Islands allows you to see the Uros crafting beautiful and complex craftwork with the reeds, inserting them into nearly all aspects of their culture. Handcrafts are often given as gifts, used in courtship, and are the life-giving force endemic to society. On the island of Taquile, you can hike and discover ancient Inca ceremonial sites and farming terraces. Exclusive tours to these islands are an excellent option for culture seekers.

The cities and villages around Lake Titicaca are few and far between, with Puno as a major travel hub. Many visitors make the trek from Arequipa to experience the solitude that comes with a peaceful and relaxing stay on its shores. There are campgrounds to become closer to nature and stay in the great outdoors. Some places like Titilaka allow guests reserved opportunities to see the lake, such as staying on a private peninsula with unrivaled views, lake access, and personal meetings with local people. Birdwatching is also popular, with abundant avian life that stops around the lake.

Beyond the waters, you can find great trails near Puno and Lampa. The latter is a village known as the Pink City, replete with gardens, panoramas of the Altiplano, and the immaculate white dome of the Church of Santiago Apostol. To the west and southwest of Lake Titicaca, the pre-Incan cemetery of Sillustani is a riveting glance through Peruvian history. Tombs known as Chullpas are 12 meters tall and are a wonderful reminder of the civilizations that previously lived at Lake Titicaca. For more active adventures, kayaking, skiing, and ATV tours are generally available for further exploration of the lake.


Paracas beach

Each of its many different landscapes is Peru's greatest asset, and Ica offers the opportunity to experience many of them. The city has parks and museums, including the Regional Museum of Ica, where you can discover Incan artifacts and pieces from other civilizations. The sprawling desert that stretches beyond Ica is mesmerizing. One that visitors can enjoy with a glass of wine from several tranquil wineries.

Perhaps Ica's most appealing attraction is the oasis of Huacachina. Peruvians and tourists are all drawn to the southwest of central Ica for the village in the desert. The oasis springs from the sand, surrounded by palm trees in the middle of the dunes. Exploring can be done by walking around the picturesque streets, riding over the desert in dune buggies, or even sandboarding. Catching a sunset over the oasis is a great way to see one of the most exciting allures of southern Peru.

Not to be outdone, Paracas's relaxing ocean vibes and enchanting wildlife will take your breath away. To the northwest of Ica and along the coast, this beachy region includes the Playa Roja and the Ballestas Islands, home to sea lions and Humboldt penguins. Another area that consists of the amalgamation of numerous natural settings, the desert, and ocean, meets on some of the most beautiful beaches in Peru. Across the bay, the colossal Candelabro de Paracas geoglyph captivates visitors with the mystery of its creation and prehistoric origin.


Whale Watching Mancora

The beaches of Peru, a collection of sandy stretches that span roughly 1,000 kilometers along the Pacific Ocean, are a sight to behold, especially in the north. Engrossing views, perfect weather, and never-ending relaxation and adventure. Surfers flock to Mancora to hit the swells and experience the nightlife of this hip and chic town.

Those searching for fish and other marine life – both in the wild and the cuisine – can find what they are looking for here. Arguably one of Peru's top beaches, its location near the equator provides warmer ocean waters and a pleasant climate year-round. Whether on a family vacation or an ambitious trek, Mancoral has refined restaurants that offer fresh fare at a high level. After a day of whale watching, kayaking, or lying on the beach, few places are better suited for a sunset meal.

Adventurers who want a more compelling and compassionate connection to Peru can visit wildlife preserves along the coast, such as swimming with the sea turtles at Playa El Ñuro. In essence, it is just a beach, but it offers a clean way to interact with animals, which is excellent for all ages.


Cirqa, Titilaka, Atemporal hotel spaces

With roughly half a million square miles to explore, Peru possesses enough natural beauty and cultural wonder to necessitate multiple adventures. The wide variety of terrain can present challenges in planning, but Andean Experience has all the tools to plan, guide, and execute your trip. With lodging taken care of, we will arrange the perfect experience tailored to you; let us know where you want to go, and we will take care of the rest.

In the Andes, the green season occurs from November to March, so opportunities abound in the dry season (April to October) to make the most of your trip. You can count on fantastic weather all year long along the coast, with a hotter December and January. Of course, the rain will inevitably fall in the rainforest, but the climate is consistent and comfortable enough to plan a meaningful trek.

Flying to Lima is the most efficient and reasonable way to enter the country. From there, flying to Cusco, Iquitos, Piura, and Arequipa is easy. Luxury trains - like the Belmond Andean Explorer - provide full routes to see Cusco, Arequipa, and Lake Titicaca. A private car will take you where you need to be in style and comfort, allowing you more time to explore and experience Peru.

Staying at Atemporal, a former mansion turned casa in Lima, is a great way to kick off your adventure. The service is trained and eager to help you acclimate to Peru and discover the city. From the moment you arrive, you are met by world-class staff who will provide everything you need, including a concierge, house service professionals, and a chef. With planning coordination and worry-free guidance, Atemporal makes your arrangements for you, so all you need to do is enjoy.

One of the best ways to experience southern Peru and the Altiplano is through a circuit from Arequipa to Puno and Lake Titicaca. The best all-around destination in the former is CIRQA, a ParadorParador of white volcanic stone in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Arequipa's historic center. Housing is one of the best places to eat in the city; it sets the bar for style and hospitality and makes it Arequipa's premiere place to stay. The Parador graciously makes travel comfortable, seamless, and pleasurable. From here you can take city tours, half-day tours, and even full-day tours. Plan rafting or hiking activities, visit Colca Canyon and document your unforgettable trip to the salt flats with the help of a dedicated and knowledgeable team that calls southern Peru home.

Should you choose to organize an excursion to Titilaka, set on a private peninsula with exclusive access to the shores of Lake Titicaca, the Altiplano is the best place for rejuvenation and discovery. Centered around tranquility and ambiance, this award-winning getaway lodge has full-service accommodations. Catering to the needs and desires of their guests, you can birdwatch, pick out constellations under the open sky, or design a unique expedition to Lampa or Sillustani.

You are also offered the rare opportunity to personally meet a local artisan of the Uro-Aymara. The four acres of land and two private beaches are shared only with the Aymara, and the cultural exchange is particularly invaluable. Of course, relaxing in a private room with sunrise and sunset views enhances the experience; the comfort and style of Titilaka are as rewarding as its commitment to the surrounding communities.

The majesty of Peru sets it apart from the rest of the world, and seeing every bit of it first-hand is genuinely electric. Few places on earth offer the bounty of the jungle, fine sand beaches that stretch into eternity, and mountains that disguise civilizations in the sky. Peru is an authentic piece of magic that will enchant you every step of the way. The adventurous and the leisurely will both find solace in the ample opportunities across this beautiful country. Let Andean Experience help coordinate the perfect trip – to the Altiplano, the Amazon, or the beach – and make Peru your next favorite destination.


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