Best things to do in Peru

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 21.09.2023

Trekking through the awe-inspiring Andes to the world-famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is the main draw for most travellers to Peru. However, truth be told, this is only a fraction of the treasures that lie within one of South America’s most diverse countries. If you are looking for inspiration or just to get a feel of the country, here is our guide to the best things to do in Peru.


1. Visit Machu Picchu — one of the best things to do in Peru

With ancient temples and palaces nestling among hundreds of terraces, these famous Inca ruins are awe-inspiring. Machu Picchu is one of the greatest of all South American tourist attractions.

The site’s mysterious origins are central to its enduring appeal, but even without knowing too much about its history or archaeology, it’s quite possible to enjoy a visit to Machu Picchu. Enter the site before dawn, then sit and wait for sunrise. The first rays of the sun spill over the surrounding peaks to illuminate the well-preserved stone buildings, paths and terraces.

For a full experience, take the Inca trail to hike Machu Picchu. It is by far the best-known and most popular trekking trail to the site. For many, this hike is one of the main tourist attractions of Peru.

Landscape of Machu Picchu Remains at Peru © tsuchi/Shutterstock

Take the Inca trail to Machu Picchu — one of the best things to do in Peru © tsuchi/Shutterstock

2. Discover the walls of Kuelap

The ruined citadel of Kuelap is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the Andes mountains. Near the towns of Maria and Tingo, these ancient settlements were originally built by the Chachapoyas culture in 500 AD. Situated on top of a mountain, this ruin is one of the most impressive in South America and is one of the best things to do in Peru.


Ancient traditional villages of Kuelap © Ludmila Ruzickova/Shutterstock

3. Summit to the breathtaking Lagunas de Llanganuco

At 3850m above sea level, the Lagunas de Llanganuco are the result of thousands of years of Huascarán’s meltwater. Located in Parque Nacional Huascarán, the Lagunas de Llanganuco are two stunning, deep-blue lakes. These lakes are surrounded by Peru's highest and most dramatic peaks.


Visiting Lagunas de Llanganuco is one of the best things to do in Peru © Peto Laszlo/Shutterstock

4. Visit the sand dunes of Huacachina

According to the myth, the lagoon at Huacachina was created when a princess stripped off her clothes to bathe. As she looked into a mirror and saw that a male hunter was watching her, she dropped the mirror, which then became the lagoon.

This desert oasis offers spectacular scenery. This healing lagoon is ringed by palm trees and hidden among massive sand dunes. It draws sand boarders and dune-buggy riders from all over the world.

    Where to stay near the sand dunes of Huacachina:

  • For a bit of luxury: Hotel Las Dunas. This beautiful hotel is located in the middle of the desert near Lima and is great jumping off point for sand dunes adventure.
  • For a true outdoor experience: Ecocamp Huacachina. This eco-lodge is a short walk from the Huacachina Lake and the Ica bus terminal.
Young woman posing with the sandboard, Oasis of Huacachina, Atacama Desert, Peru © Pavel Svoboda Photography/Shutterstock

Sand dunes of Huacachina © Pavel Svoboda Photography/Shutterstock


5. Relax at Uros islands

When visiting Peru, you’ll probably want to spend time at the world’s highest navigable lake, Lago Titicaca. The surrounding area is renowned for its folk dances and Andean music.


Visit and stay on one of the islands, or on the mainland, to experience life in a very traditional Andean household. Or get to know its main town and port – Puno, a high, quite an austere city with a cold climate and incredibly rarefied air.

One of Lake Titicaca’s many treasures, the man-and-woman-made floating villages (known as the floating islands) on the Uros islands have existed in the lake since Inca times.

Ready to immerse yourself in the ancient history of South America? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and Uyuni trip will take you through many of the fascinating ruins of Peru and Bolivia. Our trips are crafted by local travel experts and are completely customisable.


Uros Islands - the floating islands of Peru © Rafal Cichawa/Shutterstock

6. Take a few days to explore Trujillo

Though it doesn’t attract the hype of Lima or Cusco, Peru’s third city Trujillo charms with its colonial architecture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Recognized for its lavish colonial architecture and colourful old mansions.

Lively and cosmopolitan, it’s small enough to get to know in a couple of days and is renowned for its friendly citizens. Known as the City of the Eternal Spring, its climate is ideal – warm and dry without the fog you get around Lima or the intense heat of the northern deserts.


Have a pisco sour in Trujillo © Christian Vinces/Shutterstock

7. See the wildlife of Ballestas Islands

Often called the Peruvian Galapagos, the Ballestas Islands located off the coast of Pisco are teeming with bird and marine life.

Within a morning’s boat ride from the town of Pisco, these guano islands with their much-photographed rock arches are home to an impressive range of seabirds and mammalian marine life. Expect to find here vast seabird colonies as well as sea lions, dolphins, penguins and sharks – and boat trips.

Are you planning a solo trip? Don't miss our guide to the best places to travel to alone.


Take a day trip to the Ballestas Islands - one of the best things to do in Peru © Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

8. Try ceviche — one of the best things to do in Peru

In much of the Peruvian coast, seafood is a speciality. The Humboldt Current keeps the Pacific Ocean off Peru extremely rich in plankton and other microscopic life forms, which attract a wide variety of fish.

Ceviche — Peru’s national dish — is a refreshing treat. It is a mix of fresh fish soaked in lime juice and chillies. This classic Peruvian seafood dish has been eaten by locals for over two thousand years.

Want to make your own ceviche at home? See our list of the six Peruvian recipes you need to try.


Tasting Peruvian food - one of the best things to do in Peru © Christian Vinces/Shutterstock

9. Take a walk through Rainforest canopy walkways

The Peruvian Amazon can be viewed at its best from the longest tree-top canopy walkway. Reaching 35m above ground, the long and famous Amazon Explorama Field Station is one of the best things to do in Peru. For many, this offers a completely unique way to experience the amazon rainforest.


Book with one of many tour companies to experience the rainforest © Christian Vinces/Shutterstock

10. Find the unique sea life of Reserva Nacional de Paracas

Just a few hours out of Lima, Reserva Nacional de Paracas is a coastal wildlife haven, boasting some fantastic beaches alongside archaeological sites. Home to some of the world’s richest seas (a couple of thousand square kilometres of the ocean is included within the reserve’s borders).

You'll find here an abundance of marine plankton that nourishes a vast array of fish and various marine species, including octopus, squid, whale, shark, dolphin, bass, plaice and marlin.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Our tailor-made service allows you to travel without planning and booking. Our Peru for Nature Lovers trip takes you through many of the diverse ecosystems that Peru has to offer. All tailor-made trips can be modified together with your local expert and then booked for a stress-free holiday. 

Photo of the Paracas National Reserve in Paracas, Peru ©  Michael L. Demmons/Shutterstock

Sand dunes and beach at Reserva Nacional de Paracas© Michael L. Demmons/Shutterstock

11. Hike in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range

The glacial scenery of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range is among the finest and most accessible on the planet. The Cordillera Blanca extends its icy chain of summits for 140 to 160km north of Huaraz.

Of the many mountain lakes in the Cordillera Blanca, Lake Parón, above Caraz, is renowned as the most beautiful. Yungay and Caraz in particular are both popular bases for trekkers.

  • For a small-owned boutique stay: Cuesta Serena Boutique Hotel. Beautiful sweeping views of nearby glaciers and fresh and organic food.
  • For a homey stay: Copacabana Lodge. This comfortable lodge offers in-room balconies with mountain views and on site restaurant.
Hiking in Peru, Cordillera Blanca © Pavel Svoboda Photography/Shutterstock

Hiking in Peru, Cordillera Blanca © Pavel Svoboda Photography/Shutterstock

12. Visit Arequipa — "The White City"

Situated at the foot of an occasionally snow-tufted volcano – El Misti (5821m) – and close to four other prominent volcanoes, Arequipa has long been famous for having one of the most beautiful settings and pleasant climates of all Peru’s cities.

This city is endowed with some of the country’s finest colonial churches and mansions. Many of which were constructed from white and pinkish-white volcanic sillar, cut from the surrounding mountains – the reason, some say, why the city is dubbed “The White City”.

Find your perfect accommodation in Arequipa.

Arequipa Church with the Misti Volcano Behind on sunset, Arequipa in Peru © JorgeAndres/Shutterstock

Don't miss Arequipa when visiting Peru © JorgeAndres/Shutterstock

13. Visit the small town of Ayacucho

Bustling streets, passionate religious processions and unique artesanía make the Andean city Ayacucho a standout. Ayacucho is one of Central Cierra's most traditional towns. You'll find here the cultural jewels of the Andes, replete with colonial churches and some of Peru’s finest artisan crafts. A visit to Ayacucho is one of the best things to do in Peru.

Find your dream accommodation in Ayacucho on any budget.


Ayacucho — one of the best things to do in Peru © Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

14. See the ancient ruins of Sacsayhuaman

The walled complex of a lost city is now ancient ruins. The name Sacsayhuaman is of disputed origin, with different groups holding that it means either “satiated falcon”, “speckled head” or “city of stone”. The zigzag megalithic defensive walls of the Incan Sacsayhuaman are home to the annual Inti Raymi Festival of the Sun.

Ready to see all the ancient sites this south American country has to offer? Don't miss our guide to the top ancient sites in Peru.


The ancient ruins of Sacsayhuaman — one of the best things to do in Peru © SL-Photography/Shutterstock

15. Visit Chavín de Huantar in the Peruvian Andes

This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most important ancient temple sites in the Andes mountains. Dating back over 2500 years, the large temple of Chavin de Huantar has many striking stone carvings and gargoyles, both externally and within its subterranean chambers.

This area is associated with the Chavín cult and is a three- to four-hour journey from Huaraz, ( only 30km southeast of Huari).

Looking for inspiration for your trip to Peru? See our pictures of Peru as an inspirational stopping-off point.

Chavin de Huantar temple complex, Ancash Province, Peru © Mark Green/Shutterstock

Chavin de Huantar temple complex, Ancash Province, Peru © Mark Green/Shutterstock

16. Go surfing in Mancora

Once just an attractive roadside fishing port, Mancora is now the most fashionable beach in Peru, attracting an international surf crowd. It’s a highly welcome and enjoyable stopover when travelling along the north coast.

Well served by public transport and spread out along the Panamericana as it lies parallel to a beautiful sandy beach. Visit here for the gorgeous beaches and buzzing nightlife.

A silhouetted surfing airing on a wave breaking on a beach in Puerto Rico © James Parascandola/Shutterstock

Best place to surf on your trip to Peru © Shutterstock

17. Visit the ancient Valley of the Pyramids

Over twenty adobe pyramids built by a pre-Inca civilization surround a sacred mountain at Túcume in the northern deserts. Covering more than two hundred hectares, Túcume was occupied initially by the Sicán culture, which began building here around 1100 AD.

At Túcume’s peak, it was probably a focus of annual pilgrimage for a large section of the coastal population. Today the ruins are abandoned since the 16th century. The surrounding villages offer a place to eat. A visit to this ancient site is one of the best things to do in Peru.

High view of the pyramids of Tucume in Lambayeque - PERU © Carlos Sala Photography/Shutterstock

The pyramids of Tucume in Lambayeque - Peru, South America © Carlos Sala Photography/Shutterstock

18. See the Nazca Lines

The world-famous Nazca Lines, including stylized geometric and animal figures, were etched, seemingly impossibly, into a massive desert pampa. Take a helicopter tour to get the full impact of the intricate symbols of the Nazca lines, etched into the deserts of southern Peru.

If you plan to visit the Lines by air or on foot, you’ll have to spend at least one night at the stopping point of Nazca. Though we recommend more time to really do the area justice.

The fascinating etchings of the Nasca Lines

The mysterious Nazca Lines made by the ancient Nazca culture © Shutterstock

19. Explore the depths Colca Canyon

Twice the size of the Grand Canyon, the enormous Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, is also one of the best places to visit in Peru.

In places, the canyon’s sides are so steep that it is impossible to see the valley bottom, while the higher edges of Colca are punctuated with some of the finest examples of pre-Inca terracing in Peru, attributed in the main to the Huari cultural era. After Machu Picchu, the Cañón del Colca is Peru’s most visited attraction.

Find accommodations near Colca Canyon.

20 geological wonders of the world: Colca Canyon, Peru.

Colca Canyon, much larger than the Grand Canyon © Shutterstock

20. Find handmade goods at Pisac Market

Andean markets serve as true community hubs – not to mention excellent places to sample local goods and produce – and Pisac’s thriving morning market is one of the best.

The thriving market is held in and around the town’s main square, where you can buy hand-painted ceramic beads and pick up the occasional bargain. There are a number of excellent artesanía stands open daily, selling all manner of goods from baby alpaca blankets to jumpers. A perfect stop on a trip to Peru.

  • For somewhere close by: Pisac Inn. Directly located near Piscac's city centre this inn offers comfortable rooms and included breakfast.
  • For a room with a view: Pisac Inca Guest House. This brightly coloured hotel offers rooms with beautiful mountain views and is located close to the Pisca bus station.
  • Or browse other accommodations in Pisac.
Peruvian family walking in local market ©  Julieta Gonzalez Checchin/Shutterstock

Take a walking tour of the Pisac Market © Julieta Gonzalez Checchin/Shutterstock

21. See the astonishing Rainbow Mountains

Located in the Andes Mountains, visiting Vinicunca (aka Rainbow Mountains) is one of the best things to do in Peru. These mountains have fabulous multi-coloured striations that have only recently been revealed to the world thanks to melting glaciers.

You'll find here an interestingly colourful geographical site. But be warned, these mountains are quite high, and it is best to book a tour with a tour company when visiting.

Rainbow mountains or Vinicunca Montana de Siete Colores, Peru © Shutterstock

Rainbow mountains or Vinicunca Montana de Siete Colores, Peru © Shutterstock

22. See the Sacred Valley of the Incas

El Valle Segrado (Sacred Valley), or Vilcamayo to the Incas, about 30km northwest of Cusco, traces its winding, astonishingly beautiful course from here down towards Urubamba. This area is packed with beautiful remains of the Inca empire.

Dreaming of exploring the Sacred Valley and the rest of Peru? Our tailor-made trip service allows you to go on the trip of your dreams without the planning or hassle. Our Wonders of Peru and Bolivia trip takes you through the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lima, and beyond. Our trips are completely customisable and are crafted by local craft experts.

Spectacular Sacred Valley Incas Peru, Beautiful valley Urubamba surrounded majestic Andes mountains in Peru © Shutterstock

Spectacular Sacred Valley Incas in Peru © Shutterstock

This list could truly go on. There are countless fantastic things to do in Peru. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out The Rough Guide to Peru. Learn more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in Peru.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Peru without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 21.09.2023

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