Peru is the kind of a bucket list destination that guarantees amazing photos and a very adventurous journey in South America! Highlights such as Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon with its Andean condors, Cuzco, Arequipa and the Nazca lines should not be missed during your roundtrip in Peru. But also discover desert oasis Huacachina, the amazing Rainbow Mountain, rare animals on the Ballestas islands, hikers paradise Huaraz, the breathtaking Amazon jungle and the hidden surfing town of Máncora. There are loads places to visit and things to do in Peru.
We explored the most beautiful places in Peru and would like to share all of our Peru tips here! With the nicest hotels and hostels in Peru, best tours and highlights and the ultimate Peru travel route! We give you all the travel information you need before visiting Peru.
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is the highlight of Peru and is on many Travel Bucket Lists. Follow in the footsteps of the Incas and visit this magical ancient Inca city high up in the Andes of Peru. Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and spectacular ruins in the world. Machu Picchu has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983. It is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World and receives more than one million visitors a year. Machu Picchu can be reached via spectacular treks such as the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, the Inca Jungle Tour and the Lares Trek. But also by train or even by minivan (with a long walk at the end). You can also climb Huayna Picchu on site; the highest mountain peak of 2720 meters with amazing views of Machu Picchu.
The best Machu Picchu Tours::
Best hotels Machu Picchu:
If you want to stay close to Machu Picchu during your tour in Peru, you will spend the night at the foot of the mountain in Aguas Calientes.
Hostel / budget hotel: Mama Simona Hostel or Ecopackers Machu Picchu Hostel
Mid-range hotel: Hotel La Cabaña Machu Picchu or Inti Punku El Tambo Hotel
Luxury hotel: Hatun Inti Boutique Machu Picchu or Casa del Sol Machu Picchu
2. Huacachina (Ica)
Do you know those kind of films in which someone walks through a desert for days and suddenly encounters an oasis? A large lake and lush palm trees amidst the red sand? That is Huacachina in Peru: an incredibly beautiful oasis like you’ve never seen before. We could hardly believe our eyes!
Huacachina is near the city of Ica, but if you have a choice; rather stay in picturesque Huacachina. The small village between the sand dunes has a handful of restaurants, hotels, hostels and shops. On the lake you can pedal boat or go boating. But the real adventure lies in the sand dunes: make a Sand Buggy Ride through the dunes around Huacachina and go sandboarding! (Can be combined in 1 tour). An unforgettable adrenaline rush and an experience not to be missed during your tour in Peru.
The best Huacachina Tour:
Sand Buggy Ride through the sand dunes of Huacachina and sandboarding is an absolute must! Book here.
Best hotels in Huacachina:
The nearby city of Ica also has hotels and hostels, but Huacachina is much more fun and very special to stay in.
Hostel / budget hotel: Banana’s Adventure Hostel (with private rooms, dorms/sleeping rooms and swimming pool) and Rochabus (private rooms & swimming pool)
Mid-range hotel: Hostal Curasi (private rooms & swimming pool)
A little more luxurious: Hotel El Huacachinero (private rooms & swimming pool)
Super cool experience: Desert Nights Ecocamp: sleep in a Luxury safari tent in the desert of Huacachina – with swimming pool!
3. Lake Titicaca & Puno
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and at the same time the highest navigable lake in the world. Lake Titicaca is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia and can therefore be visited from both Puno (Peru) and Copacabana (Bolivia). We recommend to do both if you have that possibility. From Puno you will visit the floating Uros islands, where the Peruvians built their houses on large floating reed rafts. Isla Taquile and Isla Amanti in Lake Titicaca are also worth a visit. Puno itself is a small town with plenty of hotels and restaurants to spend a few days.
The best Lake Titicaca Tours:
* Day trip to Uros and the Taquile Islands from Puno
* 2-day tour to the Uros, Amantani and Taquile Islands including a stay with a host family (homestay)
* Half day trip to Sillustani (pre-Inca cemetery and burial towers) from Puno
Best hotels Puno and Lake Titicaca:
Hostel / budget hotel: Cozy Hostel (with private rooms and dormitories)
Mid-range hotel: Hotel Hacienda Puno
Luxury hotel: Mirador del Titicaca
Great experience: Sleep in a floating hotel on the Uros Islands in the Uros Titicaca Lodge or the Uros Samaraña Uta Lodge or the Uros Waliski Lodge
There is also a cool Luxury floating hotel: Titicaca Lodge Peru
4. Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is the ultimate place to spot Andes condors. The gorge is twice as deep as the American Grand Canyon; from the edge you can see, 1200 meters below you, the Rio Colca River flow. The rock face on the other side of the viewing platform is even 3200 meters high. Along the cliff runs a path up. Here you can do a spectacular climb if you like walking. But the canyon is also accessible by road. During many tours to the Colca Canyon, which depart from Arequipa (see tip 8), you make stops along the way in picturesque villages in the Colca Valley and at spectacular viewpoints. But the real highlight remains the Colca Canyon itself with Cruz del Condor, the place from which you can often see the protected Andes condor. The enormous animals have a wingspan of 2.70 to 3.20 meters. We have spotted more than ten Andes condors during our visit and guarantee you that it is spectacular!
The best Colca Canyon Tours:
* Colca Canyon in 1 day from Arequipa (day tour) luxury tour or budget tour
* 2-Day Backpacker Colca Canyon Trek from Arequipa (also possible as a 3-day trek)
* 2-Day Group Tour to Colca Canyon from Arequipa
* All Colca Canyon Tours can be viewed here
Best hotels in Colca Canyon:
A multi-day tour to the Colca Canyon is always booked with a departure from Arequipa. The stay at the Colca Canyon or on the road is included in the tour. Would you like to book a day trip to the Colca Canyon or a hotel/hostel before or after the Colca Canyon tour? Take a look at tip 8 for our hotel tips in Arequipa.
5. Ballestas Islands & Paracas National Reserve
‘Galapagos Islands for the poor’ is how the Ballestas Islands (Islas Ballestas) are also called. Here, just like on the Galapagos, you will find a unique ecosystem full of special animals that you can see during a boat trip which will only cost you a few euro or dollars. Good deal, isn’t it?
Thousands of sea lions, penguins, pelicans, dolphins and special bird species inhabit this archipelago off the coast of Peru. During the boat trip you will also pass Candelabra Paracas, a large sand drawing in the dunes of Paracas. The drawing is just as mysterious as the Nazca lines.
The Islas Ballestas are part of the Paracas National Reserve. From the town of Paracas you can combine a tour to the islands with a visit to the national park. An incredibly beautiful coastline with huge sand dunes, dramatic rock formations and a large flamingo colony await you here.
Godsend: A day tour to both highlights is already available for 70 dollar. Don’t miss it!
The best Islas Ballestas & Paracas Tours:
* Combine Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve in a day tour from Paracas (we did this tour, highly recommended!).
(This day tour is also possible with departure from the port of San Martin)
* Islas Ballastas tour from Paracas
* Paracas National Reserve Private tour
Best hotels in Paracas:
Hostel / budget hotel: Kokopelli Backpackers Hostel Paracas (with private rooms, dormitories and swimming pool)
Mid-range hotel: Los Frayles Hotel (with private rooms and dormitories) or Paracas 360 Eco Hostel (dormitories and private rooms, with swimming pool)
Luxury hotel: Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort or La Hacienda Bahia Paracas both Luxury with swimming pool
6. Rainbow Mountain
The trendy attraction in Peru is without a doubt Rainbow Mountain! This mountain is famous for its natural, rainbow-like colors that are created by sedimentation of minerals. The 5200 meter high Rainbow Mountain with its turquoise, red, orange and yellow stripes is one of the most photogenic places during your tour in Peru. Right behind the top of the mountain is the equally beautiful Red Valley. Rainbow Mountain can be visited as a day tour from Cuzco. The walk to the top is tough and it can get quite cold, but for most travelers it’s easy to do. Try to plan your tour on a clear day, when the rainbow colors are at their best.
The best Rainbow Mountain Tours:
* 1 day trek to Rainbow Mountain
* 1 day trek to Rainbow Mountain – cheapest option
Hotels Rainbow Mountain:
It is recommended to go to Rainbow Mountain as a day trip from Cuzco. You can also make a multiple day trekking to Rainbow Mountain, the hotel will be arranged for you. Look for hostels and hotels in Cuzco below at tip 7.
Cuzco is the place where your journey to ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ or Machu Picchu (tip 1) starts. Also tours to the Sacred Valley (tip 9) and Rainbow Mountain (tip 6) start in Cuzco. It goes without saying that Cuzco occurs in every tour in Peru. But the city itself is so nice that you have to stay here for several nights. Explore the beautiful historic buildings and squares, with a mix of Spanish colonial architecture and remains from the Inca culture. Go shopping at the local markets and buy beautiful alpaca wool sweaters or colorful souvenirs on Mercado San Pedro. Discover Cuzco’s excellent restaurants and nightlife. Go wild water rafting, ziplining or bungee jumping. And of course book your tours to Peru’s most beautiful sights from here. Cuzco is certainly worth a longer stay.
The best Cuzco Tours:
* Cuzco evening city walk with guide and Pisco Sour tasting
* Wild water rafting and zip-lining from Cuzco
* Sacred Valley day tour from Cuzco
* Discover the Sacred Valley sites of Moray and the salt basins of Maras with a tour including entrance fees or a bike ride
(For tours from Cuzco: look at tip 1 for tours to Machu Picchu, tip 6 for Rainbow Mountain and tip 9 for Sacred Valley)
Best hotels in Cuzco:
Hostel / budget hotel: Pariwana Hostel Cusco (with dormitories and private rooms)
Mid-range horel: Tika Wasi Casa Boutique
Luxury hotel: Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel or Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel
‘The white city’ is the nickname of the beautiful Arequipa, because of the many white houses you will find here. Arequipa is the base for a visit to the Colca Canyon to spot condors (see tip 4) but the city itself has much to offer. Visit the beautiful Santa Catalina monastery, one of the largest monasteries in the world where nuns have lived for hundreds of years. View Arequipa and the Misty volcano from the Mirador de Yanahuara viewpoint. Explore the local San Camilo market and have a typical Peruvian Pisco Sour cocktail on a rooftop terrace at Plaza de Armas. We also did a great chocolate workshop at Chaqchao, where you can also eat delicious cakes!
The best Arequipa Tours:
* Arequipa City Tour including St. Catherine Monastery
* Peruvian Chocolate Workshop at Chaqchao Chocolate Factory & Café
(For Colca Canyon Tours from Arequipa: look at tip 4!).
Best hotels in Arequipa:
Hostel / budget hotel: Wild Rover Hostel (party hostel with dormitories, swimming pool & bar) or Flying Dog Hostel (quieter hostel with private rooms, dorms, swimming pool & bar)
Mid-range hotel: Casa de Avila (colonial mansion) or Villa Sillar or Casa Arequipa
Luxury hotel: Libertador Arequipa Hotel (with swimming pool) or La Plaza Arequipa Hotel Boutique or Katari Hotel at Plaza de Armas
9. Sacred Valley of the Inca’s
The ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’ is located in the Peruvian Andes and was once the epicenter of the Inca empire. Many Inca and pre-Inca sites can be found throughout the valley. The two most important locations in Sacred Valley are the ruins of Pisac and the archaeological site in Ollantaytambo, with its famous terraces. Moray and Maras are also popular. The area is further adorned by huge mountain tops, remote villages and free-roaming llamas and alpacas. Sacred Valley is easiest to visit from the place Urubamba, which is located exactly between Pisac and Ollantaytambo. A day tour from Cuzco is also an option. Many visitors also choose to visit Sacred Valley just before their visit to Machu Picchu (see tip 1). From Ollantaytambo you can easily take the train to Aguas Calientes, the city at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Hotels Sacred Valley/Urubamba:
You can visit Sacred Valley with a tour from Cuzco or from Urubamba (a 1.5-hour drive from Cuzco). Look for hotels in Cuzco at tip 7. Urubamba is close to Sacred Valley.
Hostel / budget hotel: Flying Dog Hostel Urubama (dormitories and private rooms)
Mid-range hotel: Hospedaje La Florida or Sonesta Posada del Inca Yucay (sleeping in a former monastery)
Luxury hotel: Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado (with swimming pool & spa) or Tambo del Inka (with swimming pool & spa) or Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel (with swimming pool & spa)
The best Sacred Valley tours:
* Discover the most beautiful places in and around Sacred Valley – private day tour from Cuzco
* Discover Sacred Valley, Pisac and Ollantaytambo – group day tour from Cuzco
* Cycle tour through Sacred Valley to Moray and the salt mine of Maras – from Ollantaytambo
* 2-day Tour: Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu by train – from Cuzco
Peru is full of mysterious places, with all those Inca ruins and pre-Inca sites. Nazca certainly belongs in that list of mysterious sights in Peru. Between 200 BC and 900 AD Nazca was the domain of the Nazca Indians. They have left behind the impressive Nazca lines: drawings of animals and labyrinths up to 250 meters long, which are only clearly visible from the sky. How the Nazca Indians have been able to ‘draw’ these figures so clearly in the rocky and sandy soil in an area of up to 500 square kilometers is a mystery. It is impressive. There is a lookout tower at Nazca from which you can see a piece of the lines (geoglyphs). But by far you have the best view from a small airplane that circles above the Nazca lines for 30 minutes.
Best Nazca Tour:
* 30-minute flight above the Nazca lines!
Best hotels in Nazca:
Hostel / budget hotel: Nazca Travel One (private rooms) or Nanasqa Hostel en Nazca (private rooms and dormitories)
Mid-range hotel: La Maison de Lydia (with swimming pool) or Casa Andina Nazca (also with swimming pool)
Luxury hotel: Hotel Alegria (best hotel in the center of Nazca, with swimming pool)
Peru’s capital, Lima, does not appeal to every traveler. Nevertheless, chances are that you will visit Lima at the start or end of your vacation to Peru. It is a shame not to explore Lima. We have discovered very beautiful places! Our tips for sightseeing in Lima: discover the city with a guide during a Free Walking Tour or bike tour and discover the historic Plaza Mayor with its imposing Cathedral of Lima, Municipal Palace and Palace of the Union. Also the church Basilica y Convento de San Francisco with its mysterious catacombs (which you can enter!) Is special. You should not miss the Miraflores and artistic Barranco districts. You can also do excellent surfing, paragliden and fun foodie tours in Lima. Fancy a Dutch stroopwafel or poffertjes? That is possible at Holandulce Cafe. In short; Lima is a really nice city if you know where to go, so go out with a guide!
The best Lima Tours:
* Bike tour Lima: discover the nice neighborhoods of Barranco and Miraflores by bike
* Make a nice Free Walking Tour in Lima (you only pay a tip to the guide). We had a very good experiences with FWT Lima.
* Foodie tour in the trendy Barranco neighborhood
* Surf lessons in Lima
* Paragliding in Lima
Best hotels in Lima:
Barranco and Miraflores are the nicest neighborhoods to spend the night in Lima.
Hostel / budget hotel: Loki Hostel (dormitories and private rooms) or Froguesthouse (private rooms)
Mid-range: Mariel Hotel Boutique or The Lot Boutique Hotel or Casa de Leeuw (with Dutch hostess Fenny)
Luxury hotel: Anantara Lima
12. Amazon rainforest in Peru
A visit to the Amazon makes your trip to Peru of course extra special. Cruise through the jungle on the mysterious river. Spot caimans, jaguars, pink dolphins, monkeys and capybara’s. Meet hidden Indian tribes. And sleep in a cool jungle lodge. An unforgettable experience of course! But the big question: can the Amazon be combined with a tour through Peru? That depends: if you have sufficient travel time in Peru and travel in the dry season (May to October) then you should not miss a great tour through the Amazon. Choose from one of the following places to visit the Peruvian Amazon:
- Manu National Park – Southern Amazon of Peru: Peru’s largest nature reserve.
– How do you get there? Book a tour from Cuzco, in 8 hours you are in Manu National Park.
- Tambopata National Reserve – Southern Amazon of Peru: is known for the many jaguars.
– How do you get there? Fly from Cuzco to Puerto Maldenado, from here make your Amazon jungle tour to Tambopata National Reserve.
- Iquitos – Northern Amazon of Peru: for a true Amazon experience deep in the jungle. Book a nice tour from Iquitos.
– How do you get there? Iquitos can only be reached by boat from Pucallpa (Peru), Yurimaguas (Peru) or Coca (Ecuador), or by plane from Lima (by far the fastest!). You can also travel further from Iquitos to Tabatinga (Brazil) or Leticia (Colombia).
13. Huaraz & Huascarán National Park
Huaraz is a paradise for hikers, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies. You come here for Huascarán National Park; the scene of beautiful valleys, snowy mountain peaks, glaciers and many pristine lakes. The main highlights at Huaraz are the magical blue Lake 69, Laguna Ahuac, Laguna Uruscocha, Laguna Rajucolta, Lagunas Radian and Mullaca, Laguna Queshque and the Llanganuco lakes. Also popular is the Santa Cruz Trek in Huascarán National Park. In 3 or 4 days you can see the most beautiful of the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. The Santa Cruz Trek is seen as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world and is a cheaper alternative to trekking in Torres del Paine.
The best Huaraz Tours:
* Day trip with trekking to glacier lake Lake 69 from Huaraz (ends in the evening in Huaraz)
* Private day tour to the Llanganuco lakes from Huaraz
* Santa Cruz Trek and other multi-day treks to the lakes and glaciers around Huaraz
Best hotels in Huaraz:
Hostel / budget hotel: Hostel Akilpo (private rooms and dormitories)
Mid-range hotel: Churup Guest House or Hotel & Bungalows Villa Valencia
Luxury hotel: Hotel el Patio de Monterrey or San Sebastian Hotel Boutique
14. Trujillo and Chan-Chan
Trujillo is a colorful colonial city in the north of Peru. The “City of Eternal Spring” has a colonial historic center with beautifully restored colonial houses. Plaza de Armas, with its striking cathedral and many statues, is a good example of this. But you don’t come to Trujillo just for that. The real sight is located 5 kilometers outside the city center: here are the ancient ruins of Chan-Chan. Chan-Chan is the former capital of the Chimú empire and the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America. About 30,000 people lived in this ancient imperial capital until it was conquered by the Incas in the 15th century. The ruins of Chan-Chan are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The best Trujilo Tours:
* Trujillo City Sightseeing Tour and Archaeological museum
* Trujillo Combi Tour to archaeological sites: Temple of the Dragon, Chan Chan and Huanchaco
* Archaeological day tour from Trujillo: Chan Chan, Huanchaco, Sun and Moon Temples en Dragon Temple
Best hotels in Trujillo:
Hostel / budget hotel: Ugarte Street
Mid-range hotel: Hotel Colonial or Victoria’s Suite Hotel
Luxury hotel: Hotel Libertador Trujillo (with swimming pool) or Casa Andina Premium Trujillo (with swimming pool)
Máncora is located on the north coast and is a small town with the best sandy beach in Peru. Máncora beach stretches for several kilometers along the Pacific Ocean. The city is crossed by the Pan-American Highway and is a real seaside resort with restaurants, cafes, clubs and a vibrant nightlife. The perfect waves and the warm sea water make Máncora a popular surfing destination almost all year long. In addition to wave surfers, kite surfers also find good spots. The “windy” season runs from April to December, the most constant wind is in August, September and October. You can also spot whales between July and October. Máncora is right under Ecuador, so a great stop for backpackers and multi-country travelers when you are ready for a beach break. This makes Máncora the perfect town for your holiday in Peru.
The best Máncora Tours:
* Book a surf lesson or rent a surf board and enjoy the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
* Go whale watching (July-October).
* Take a mud bath in the hills of Máncora.
* Take a horseback ride on the pristine beaches of Máncora.
Best hotels in Máncora:
Hostel / budget hotel: Loki del Mar (right at the beach with swimming pool – private rooms and dormitories)
Mid-range hotel: Las Olas (right at the beach)
Luxury hotel: Dco Suites Lounge & Spa (right at the beach with swimming pool) or Sunset Mancora (also right at the beach with swimming pool)
Best time to travel to Peru
The best time to travel to Peru depends on the part of Peru that you like to visit. Peru has different climates because of the varied landscape. April to November is the dry season along the coast of Peru and therefore is the best period for this area. The best time to travel to Machu Picchu and the Andes is June to September.
Expand your tour to Peru
Do you also want to visit tips 12 to 15 (Amazon, Huaraz, Trujillo and Máncora)? The best way to do this is:
* Amazon: tip 12 explains how you can easily get to the three different parts of the Peruvian Amazon.
* Huaraz: fly from Lima to Huaraz from around 120 euros, or take the bus from Lima: 8 hours of travel for around 25 euros (Luxury bus).
* Trujillo: you can fly from Lima to Trujillo, but also a bus trip of 8 to 10 hours is a good option. Trujillo is on the Panamerican Highway and is easily accessible.
* Máncora: the nearest airport is in Tumbes, a 2.5-hour drive from Máncora. But if you are traveling through to Ecuador (a 2-hour drive from Máncora) or are you just traveling into Peru, then it is best to travel by bus. Máncora is also on the Panamerican Highway and is easily accessible by bus from Lima (8 pm) or from Trujillo (9 am).