I often get asked what my favorite Latin American country is, and as much as I would like to answer that question I simply can’t. Like most people, each country brings its own amazing experiences and rewards. Although I can’t say Peru was my most favorite place in Latin America it certainly earned a top spot. Peru’s amazing landscape and huge differences in elevation make it one of the most diverse countries on the continent. One day you could visit the Amazon rain forest and the next tackle freezing temperatures and high altitudes in the Andes. I spent a total of 70 days in Peru and subsequently overstayed my visa. In that time I experienced so many amazing things so I decided to put together my Peru Highlights list!
#1 The Huayhuash Hike/Huaraz
I bet you thought that my number 1 Peru Highlight would be Machu Picchu, however this 8 day hike through the Cordillera Blanca simply stole the show! From the moment I stepped foot on the trail to the moment I dragged my sore body off of it, the views where simply stunning. The trail takes you through 9 mountain passes, almost all over 5000m above sea level. With an average camping elevation at 4300m and temperatures at night below -10 Celsius this hike isn’t for the faint-hearted. But for those who do strap on their hiking boots and head out will be rewarded with some of the most amazing views I have ever seen! While the Huayhuash hike is my highlight, I still recommend making the trip to the town of Huaraz even if this sounds a little daunting. The area offers other amazing (but shorter) hikes such as the Santa Cruz or Laguna 69 hike!
#2 Machu Picchu
Yes, Machu Picchu was always going to be near the top of my Peru Highlights list! Most people will complain about its ability to attract extremely large crowds – but it is for good reason. Machu Picchu showcases engineering far beyond its time. Its locality, precision, and size make it one of (if not the most) amazing Inca sites in the world. I was blown away by the construction feat that was accomplished so many years ago. If you want to see something even more amazing than the main ruins just head to the nearby Inca Bridge. The Inca Bridge that can be found via a small path at the back of the site. The rock path that leads to the bridge is built off of a sheer cliff without the use of bonding agents like cement. If you’re afraid of heights then this may not be for you!
#3 The amazon jungle in Puerto Maldonado
Peru offers many place to visit the Amazon Jungle and no matter where you visit from you’re bound to have an amazing experience. However, I would keep Puerto Maldonado in mind when you’re planning your trip. What made me love this place so much is its isolation. When visiting the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado it is necessary to take a long drive down muddy and sometimes treacherous roads. From there the only way to the lodges is by boat. With no cars around and very little people the animals really come out to play. Of course you still need a little luck on your side, but as far as chances go Puerto Maldonado gives you the best! On my trip we saw many animals including Large Caiman, beautiful birds and a quick glimpse at a Jaguar!
#4 Colca Canyon
Everybody has heard about the Grand Canyon but very few know that Peru boasts the deepest canyon in the world! The Colca Canyon is located a few hours’ drive from the city of Arequipa and offers some breathtaking hikes up, down, and through its large valley. It is home to a large number of Condors and you would have to be the unluckiest person in the world to not spot one – they are everywhere! Hikes in the Colca Canyon can be short or long depending on how many stops you make. I did a 3 day 2 night tour with a guide and loved it! I saw Condors, relaxed in hot springs, met local families and got some great views!
#5 Swimming with Sea Turtles in Mancora
When I headed to Mancora I had no idea that a large colony of about 300 turtles lived not far from the shores. There was no way I could pass up the opportunity to swim with them. The sea turtles found here are not small with some of them over 1m in length! While swimming with the turtles you are not allowed to touch them, however, they certainly won’t hesitate to get up and close with you! The large colony is further out to sea than where the tours take you, you will still get to see about 15 or so turtles.
#6 Rainbow Mountain
This is the last addition to my Peru Highlights blog but it’s not any less amazing because Rainbow Mountain is just that…a rainbow! The high mineral content of the soil make this high peak shine in 7 colors! Keep in mind that it is hard to get good weather and on my trip to the top it snowed. That being said, a visit to Rainbow Mountain is well worth the risk. The mountain was only discovered in 2015. Day tours are easy to find from Cusco and take you from Cusco’s 3400m to over 5000m. It is very common the get a little altitude sickness so come prepared!
No matter what you decide to add to your list when visiting Peru I guarantee you will leave with some great memories that will last a lifetime. Peru is a special place that is culturally rich and rewarding. This is only my Peru Highlights to get you started on planning your trip however there is much more the country offers. Enjoy!