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15 Peru Highlights – The BEST Things to do in Peru

Last updated : February 28th, 2020

Bailey stands at the Tres Laguns on the Huayhuash Trek Peru


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Out of the hundreds of amazing things to see and do in Peru I’ve narrowed it down to the top 15 Peru highlights. In this blog you’ll find a range of activities and attractions across Peru that are absolutely incredible!


Peru is a huge country offering visitors a ton of different things to see and do. In fact, to me it is the most diverse country in Latin America when it comes to unique experiences and activities. Unfortunately, this can make planning hard and narrowing down where to go in limited time difficult.

So, in this blog, I’ve narrowed it down to 15 Peru highlights which will help you decide on the best things to do in Peru for your trip!

1. Huayhuash Hike

Santa Rosa Pass for a panoramic view on the Huayhuash
Santa Rosa Pass for a panoramic view on the Huayhuash at 5100 meters

The Huayhush Hike in Peru is not only my absolute favorite hike in Peru but probably the best hike I’ve ever done! This 8-day trek was nothing sort of grueling but it was also absolutely breathtaking.

From the city of Huaraz, Peru we joined a guided hiking tour that took us to altitudes over 5,100 meters. Each night we camped in some of the most beautiful locations in Peru.

To this day, I think back to our days on the Huayhuash and think about doing it again. To me, it was not only one of the best things to do in Peru, but a life experience I will cherish forever.

If you like to hike and are up for the challenge, the Huayhuash hike is sure to be one of your Peru highlights too!

You can book the Huayhuash trek once you arrive in Huaraz, but in order secure a departure date and a quality tour you should consider booking online in advance.

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2. Machu Picchu

The views from Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain
The views of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain

No list of Peru highlights can be complete without Peru’s most famous attraction – Machu Picchu! As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is a bucket-list experience for most people.

Sure, Machu Picchu is touristy, but it is also so impressive! To me, it’s the most impressive ruin site I’ve ever seen. The stonework is perfection and so is the location.

If you want an extra special view of Machu Picchu then consider booking the hike up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain too! You can also do multi-day guided hikes to Machu Picchu like the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, or Jungle Trek.


3. Amazon Jungle from Puerto Maldonado

Macaw clay lick, Puerto Maldonado
Some Macaw’s at the Macaw clay lick, Puerto Maldonado

Visiting the Amazon is definitely one of the best things to do in Peru. However, what most people don’t know is that you don’t have to fly all the way to Iquitos to have a Peru Amazon experience. From Cusco, you can easily jump on an 8-hour bus to the city of Puerto Maldonado, Peru.

Puerto Maldonado is located on the edge of Peru close to both the Brazil and Bolivia borders. Here, you can go on a tour to the Amazon and even spend a couple of nights at a remote eco-lodge (like we did!)

We did a 3-day tour of the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado and saw so many animals! We also had some fun experience such as a night jungle walk, piranha fishing, and observing the world-famous Macaw Clay Click!

You can book the same 3-tour as us online in advance.


4. Hiking the Colca Canyon

A view of the Colca Canyon in Peru
A view from day two on the Colca Canyon Trek

Did you know the Colca Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon?! Yes, that’s right – it is definitely an impressive sight and well worthy of a spot on our Peru highlights list.

There are many different Colca Canyon tours you can choose from. You can visit the Colca Canyon on a day trip from the city of Arequipa, however, we opted for a 3-day guided hiking experience which was so much fun!

It wasn’t nearly as challenging as any of the other hiked I did in Peru and we also stayed in accommodation along the way (one place even had a pool!) So, while it was a hike, it felt more luxurious which I really enjoyed.

The views of the Colca Canyon are also very breathtaking. You’ll also see Condors which are the second largest bird in the world.


5. Swimming with Sea Turtles

sea turtle in mancora peru
Swimming with these guys is one of my Peru highlights!

Along the northern coast of Peru, there is a little-known attraction that is a lot of fun, and that’s swimming with the sea turtles! From the town of Mancora, you can jump on a boat and go for a swim with massive sea turtles!

If you’ve never swim next to sea turtles before then this should be on your list of things to do in Peru for sure. Just be sure to choose an ethical tour provider who doesn’t feed the turtles and won’t allow you to touch them.

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6. Hike to Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Rainbow Mountain is beautiful in real life (even though it is not quite as bright as the photos you may have seen on Instagram)

Hiking to Rainbow Mountain has recently become one of the most popular things to do in Cusco. It is a unique experience that can be accomplished on a cheap tour in just one day!

Although only a day trip, this hike is not for the faint-hearted as the altitude is a challenge. However, after spending a couple of days acclimatizing in Cusco you should go for it! As the view is totally worth it – such a unique experience in Peru!

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7. Buggy Ride through the Sanddunes

Bailey and I hang out of our dune buggy in Huaccahina
A dune buggy in Huaccahina is so much fun!

Peru really has it all – the ocean, mountains, Amazon, ruins, wildlife, and sand dunes that rival those you would see in the middle east. Of course, the best way to explore these sand dunes is on a buggy tour.

We spent a couple of nights in the town of Huacachina which is right in the middle of the sand dunes. From here you can jump on a buggy tour which is a wild ride. Honestly, it as such a thrill I was screaming the whole time and was laughing after the fact from the adrenaline.

On our sand dune buggy tour, we also had the opportunity to go sandboarding. While this was also fun, the actual buggy ride was my favorite part!

To go on a sand dune buggy ride for yourself, you can either book a hotel and stay in Huacachina or book a day trip from Lima!


8. Food Tour in Lima

Four samples of Perivion Food on our Lima food tour
We tried so many amazing dishes on our Lima Food tour!

Lima is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. Here, you can try some of the most unique and tasty dishes possible. However, if you don’t know which restaurants to go to or what to try, you might miss out. That’s why a food tour is the perfect experience in Peru!

We went on an amazing food tour in Lima! We tried so much food and even had fruity cocktails to go with everything. Honestly, the food is one of the best parts about Peru and going on a food tour really proved that.

A food tour in Lima is definitely one of the best tours in Lima and totally one of our Peru highlights!

You can book the exact same food tour that we did online in advance. It is a little pricier than most food tours in Lima, but it is gourmet and you will not be disappointed with the quality of the food, drinks, or tour overall!


9. Swimming with Sea Lions

sea lion photo bomb in the ocean near lima
Me, photo-bombed by a sea lion!

Swimming with the sea lions is another wildlife activity in Peru that many tourists have never heard of. Believe it or not, this is a tour you actually do from Lima!

After only a short drive along the coast and then a boat ride you’ll arrive at an island where thousands of sea lions hang out. You will not go on their island, but you can jump in the water and these curious animals will come to see you!

Swimming with the sea lions in Peru was so much fun and a highlight I’d recommend to anybody.

Book your swimming with the sea lions experience from Lima online in advance to secure your spot. This is totally a Peru highlight you don’t want to miss out on!

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10. Salkantay Trek

Bailey with views of the Salkantay Trek in the background
Day 3 of the Salkantay Trek!

Instead of just driving or taking the train to Machu Picchu, we hiked for four days on the Salkantay Trek! This hike is a great alternative to the Inca trail because it is cheaper and easier to book.

The Salkantay Trek actually goes along the same route as the Inca spiritual leaders too. It climbs to over 4,000 meters in elevation and offers spectacular mountain views.

Plus, after hiking for four days straight, finally making it Machu Picchu feels that much more rewarding and amazing!

You can read all about our experience hiking the Salkantay Trek on our Salkantay Trek review!


11. CUSCO!

Panoramic shot of Cusco, Peru
Panoramic shot of Cusco, Peru

Cusco is a city that every tourist will visit in Peru. It is the gateway to Machu Picchu as well as many other attractions such as the Sacred Valley and Rainbow Mountain.

However, what most people don’t know is that Cusco is a very interesting city in itself. From local markets to ruins to impressive viewpoints, there is actually a ton to do and see right in Cusco!

We spent over a week in Cusco just really getting to know the city and we loved every minute of it. If you also want to get to know Cusco, the best thing to do first is to join a free walking tour/ These tours will help you plan the rest of your visit in Cusco as well as answer any other questions you might have.

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12. Laguna 69

Bailey takes a photo at Laguna 69 in Peru
Laguna 69!

Laguna 69 is a gorgeous blue lake that is reached only by hiking on a day trip from Huaraz. This hike is so famous that many people come all the way to Huaraz strictly for it.

Although this hike only takes one day, it is still very challenging reaching altitudes over 5,000 meters above sea level. But, once you reach the lake, the views are totally worth it and the challenging hike makes the finish very rewarding.

Tours to Laguna 69 are very affordable and often include breakfast! It’s a hike that you’re sure to love – it’ll likely become one of your Peru highlights too!

Be sure to read our blog all about trekking in Peru as it has tons of helpful tips about preparing for hikes like Laguna 69 all around Peru!


13. Pisco Sours (and Pisco Tasting)

Drinking Pisco Sours on a pisco sour tour in Lima
Pisco Sours are the tastiest cocktail in Peru.

One of the best things to do in Peru is drinking Pisco Sours – and lots of them! Pisco Sours are a cocktail made from the local spirit called Pisco. It is a very strong alcohol that is clear, and while I don’t like the taste of Pisco straight, in a cocktail (like a Pisco Sour) it is delicious!

You will be able to buy Pisco Sours from bars all over the country but if you want the real authentic experience, you should go on a tour to the birthplace of Pisco.

In and around the town of Pisco you can try lots of different types of Pisco and visit the distilleries that make it. Since Pisco is made from grapes, most of these distilleries resemble wineries and often make variations of wine you can try too!

You can go on a day trip to try Pisco from Lima, or spend the night in Huacachina or Ica to go on a tour from there.

Alternatively, there are lots of Pisco tasting tours offered in Lima where you visit famous bars to try different types of drinks made with Pisco!


14. Paragliding in Lima

Paraglider lands in Miraflores, Lima
Paragliders in Miraflores, Peru.

One of the best activities in Miraflores, Peru (a neighborhood in Lima) is paragliding! Right from the cliff edge overlooking the ocean you can join an experienced instructor and go for a ride offering incredible views!

Paragliding rides go for about $80 USD but the price does vary depending on the season and how long of a ride you want. You don’t need to book in advance and can simply walk up to the take-off area along the Malecon and book there.


15. Exploring Arequipa

walking in arequipa
The beautiful “white” city of Arequipa!

Arequipa is another must-visit city in Peru. This city is often referred to as the “white city” because of all of the white historic building. Just walking around the streets is a great thing to do simply because of the architecture and white buildings contrasted with flowers everywhere.

The most common activity in Arequipa is a day trip to the Colca Canyon. However, going on a tour of the city is also very worthwhile. There are tons of really well-done museums around as well as trendy cafes to check out!

If you’re a hiker, there are a few challenging hiking and mountaineering tours around too!

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Before you go…

Daniel and I take a selfie on the Colca Canyon Trail
Daniel and I take a selfie on the Colca Canyon Trail

I hope this blog has helped inspire and plan your trip to Peru! We know that deciding on what to do and see in Peru can be difficult, but if you plan your route around the best Peru highlights then it should be much easier!

Of course, if you have any questions feel free to comment below and we will get back to you. Also, be sure to check out all of our Peru blogs. We’ve written heaps of useful guides about traveling Peru such as these below:

-Bailey

About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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