Few of the world’s countries can offer anything remotely as varied, rugged and stunningly beautiful as Peru when it comes to ecotourism, trekking, mountain biking and river rafting. Apart from possessing extensive areas of wilderness, Peru has the highest tropical mountain range in the world, plus the Amazon rainforest and a long Pacific coastline, all offering different opportunities for outdoor activities and adventure.
Trekking and climbing
The most popular areas for trekking and climbing are: north and south of Cusco; the Colca Canyon; and the Cordillera Blanca. But there are many other equally biodiverse and culturally rich trekking routes in other departamentos: Cajamarca and Chachapoyas both possess challenging but rewarding mountain trekking, and the desert coast, too, has exceptional and unique eco-niches that are most easily explored from Lima, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Nasca, Pisco, Ica and Arequipa, where there is some tourism infrastructure to support visits.
The main tours, treks and climbs have been listed throughout the Guide in their appropriate geographical context. Chapter Six, which includes Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca, contains further information on climbing, mountaineering and trekking in the Andes, or Andinismo, as it’s long been known. The Cusco and Arequipa chapters also contain extensive listings of tour and trek operators as well as camping and climbing equipment rental.
Canoeing and whitewater rafting
Peru is hard to beat for canoeing and whitewater rafting. The rivers around Cusco and the Colca Canyon, as well as Huaraz and, nearer to Lima, at Lunahuana, can be exciting and demanding, though there are always sections ideal for beginners. Cusco is one of the top rafting and canoeing centres in South America (see Activities around Cusco), with easy access to a whole range of river grades, from 2 to 5 on the Río Urubamba (shifting up grades in the rainy season) to the most dangerous whitewater on the Río Apurimac (level 6). On the Río Vilcanota, some 90km south of Cusco, at Chukikahuana, there’s a 5km section of river that, between December and April, offers constant level-5 rapids. One of the most amazing trips from Cusco goes right down into the Amazon Basin. It should be noted that these rivers can be very wild and the best canoeing spots are often very remote, so you should only attempt river running with reputable companies and knowledgeable local guides.
The main companies operating in this field are listed in the relevant chapters. Trips range from half-day trips to several days of river adventure, sometimes encompassing both mountain and jungle terrain. Transport, food and accommodation are generally included in the price where relevant; but the costs also depend on levels of service and whether overnight accommodation required.
In Peru, cycling is a major national sport, as well as one of the most ubiquitous forms of transport available to all classes in towns and rural areas virtually everywhere. Consequently, there are bike shops and bicycle-repair workshops in all major cities and larger towns. Perhaps more importantly, a number of tour companies offer guided cycling tours which can be an excellent way to see the best of Peru. Huaraz and Cusco are both popular destinations for bikers. For further information check the relevant chapter sections or contact the Federación Peruana de Ciclismo, Estadio Nacional, Lima Centro (Mon–Fri 9am–1pm & 2–5pm; 01 4336646, fedepeci.org).
People have been surfing the waves off the coast of Peru for thousands of years and the traditional caballitos de totora (cigar-shaped ocean-going reed rafts) from the Huanchaco and Chiclayo beach areas of Peru are still used by fishermen who ride the surf daily. Every year around twelve thousand surfers come to Peru whose best beaches – Chicama, Cabo Blanco, Punta Rocas – rival those of Hawaii and Brazil. Good websites to find out more about the scene include: perusurfguides.com, peruecosurf.com and
Diving and fishing
For information on diving and fishing contact the Federación Peruana de Caza Submarina y Actividades Acuaticas, Estadio Nacional, Lima Centro (01 4336626,
[email protected]). The private company Aquasport, Av Conquistadores 645, San Isidro, Lima (01 2211548), is worth contacting.
Everything you need to know before you set off.
Travel offers; book through Rough Guides
Planning your trip to Peru
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
24 breaks for bookworms
1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
20 pictures of Peru that will put the country on your bucket list
Peru is has long been a favourite destination on the South America backpacker trail, but there's more to tempt you here than the oft-photographed llamas and …05 Aug 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America
South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article