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12 Best Things to Do in Peru for First Time Visitors

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12 Best Things to Do in Peru for First Time Visitors

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Embark on an unforgettable adventure to Peru! Our guide is brimming with the most captivating things to do in this South American gem, from exploring the ancient wonders of Machu Picchu to the vibrant wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest. Get ready for a journey filled with rich culture, stunning landscapes, and unique experiences in this enchanting country!

If you’re wondering what to do in Peru, you’re in for a treat! This vibrant country stole my heart with its stunning landscapes and rich history. From the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu to the bustling streets of Lima, there’s an adventure around every corner.

As a travel enthusiast, I recommend diving into the diverse experiences Peru offers. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins, savoring local flavors, or marveling at natural wonders, every moment here is a story waiting to be told.

Pack your bags and join me on this journey through Peru, where every step is a discovery and every sight a memory in the making, embracing the enchanting South American charm. Get ready to explore the best places in Peru and create your own unforgettable tales!

The top places to visit in Peru for first time visitors right now

Best Places to Visit in Peru

Ready to explore the wonders of Peru? From the majestic heights of Machu Picchu to the serene waters of Lake Titicaca, there’s an abundance of fun things to do in Peru.

Whether you’re trekking through the vibrant Amazon Rainforest or savoring the culinary delights in Lima, every moment is an adventure. Dive into our guide for the best experiences in Peru – each one unforgettable!

1. Explore Machu Picchu

When you think of places to visit in Peru, Machu Picchu undoubtedly springs to mind. And for good reason! This ancient Incan citadel, nestled high in the Andes, is a sight to behold. I remember my first glimpse of the ruins, shrouded in morning mist – it was nothing short of magical.

Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an experience I highly recommend. It’s a journey through diverse landscapes, each with its own unique beauty. Imagine walking through lush cloud forests and rugged mountain passes, each step bringing you closer to this archaeological wonder.

Arriving at Machu Picchu at sunrise is a must-do. Watching the sun spill its first light over the stone structures is a moment you’ll never forget.

For those seeking a different perspective, climb Huayna Picchu. The view from the top is breathtaking, offering a panoramic vista of Machu Picchu and the surrounding valleys. Remember, it’s more than a visit – it’s a chance to walk in the footsteps of the Incas.

Before you leave, take a moment to just be. Sit and soak in the tranquil atmosphere of this mystical place. Machu Picchu is a journey back in time, a place where the past and present merge in harmony.

Exploring Machu Picchu is one of the best things to do in Peru for first time visitors.
Chautauqua Park offers activities for everyone and serves as a gateway to the stunning Flatirons.

2. Discover Cusco’s Historic Center

One of my top recommendations for fun places to visit in Peru is the historic center of Cusco. This city, once the capital of the Incan Empire, is a living museum that beautifully marries Incan and Spanish colonial architecture.

Strolling through the cobblestone streets of Cusco, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The Plaza de Armas, with its stunning cathedrals and vibrant atmosphere, is a must-see. I was mesmerized by the intricate details of the Cusco Cathedral, a masterpiece of colonial art.

Qorikancha, or the Temple of the Sun, is another highlight. Here, Incan and Spanish architectural styles merge, showcasing Peru’s rich cultural heritage. The temple’s history is as fascinating as its structure.

For a taste of local life, head to San Pedro Market. It’s the perfect spot to try local foods and pick up handmade souvenirs. The market is a feast for the senses and a great place to interact with locals.

In the evening, the streets of Cusco come alive with music and street performers. It’s a great opportunity to experience the city’s modern-day culture and hospitality.

Explore Cusco's historic center, where Incan and Spanish colonial architecture beautifully blend in this former capital of the Incan Empire.
Explore Cusco’s historic center, where Incan and Spanish colonial architecture beautifully blend in this former capital of the Incan Empire.

3. Wander the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is a highlight for anyone wondering where to go in Peru. It’s a landscape filled with Incan history and breathtaking scenery. Start your journey in Pisac, known for its vibrant market. Here, you can find unique crafts and mingle with locals. Don’t miss the Pisac ruins above the town, offering a stunning view and a glimpse into ancient Incan life.

Next, head to Ollantaytambo. This town is like stepping back into Incan times. The fortress ruins are incredibly impressive and tell stories of a past civilization. Climbing to the top, the panoramic views of the valley are unforgettable. It’s a perfect mix of a little adventure and a lot of history.

A visit to the Maras Salt Mines is a must. The sight of countless salt pools, shimmering in the sun, is unique. Learning about the traditional methods of salt harvesting used for centuries adds a layer of appreciation to this picturesque spot.

Finally, make time to simply enjoy the valley’s natural beauty. Whether it’s a leisurely walk or a picnic by the Urubamba River, the valley’s serene atmosphere is a refreshing break from the hustle of travel. It’s a place where history, culture, and nature come together beautifully.

Sacred Valley is filled with Incan history and breathtaking scenery.
Sacred Valley is filled with Incan history and breathtaking scenery.

4. Visit Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is a gem among Peru’s most beautiful places, offering a blend of breathtaking scenery and rich cultural experiences. It’s a gateway to unique traditions and stunning natural beauty.

Visiting the Uros Islands is a highlight. These floating reed islands are incredible. I recommend a boat tour to see how the Uros people have lived on these self-made islands for centuries. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a resilient culture.

Taquile Island is another must-visit. Famous for its handwoven textiles, the island offers more than just crafts. The tranquility here is palpable. Take a walk along its terraced hills and enjoy the peaceful views of the vast lake.

For a taste of local life, try the freshly caught trout. Trust me, it’s delicious and a staple of the region. Dining by the lakeside, with the serene waters as your backdrop, is an experience you won’t forget.

Ending your day watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca is magical. The way the light plays on the water is mesmerizing. It’s moments like these that make Lake Titicaca one of the coolest places to go in Peru.

Lake Titicaca, a gem among Peru's beautiful places, combines breathtaking scenery with rich cultural experiences.
Lake Titicaca, a gem among Peru’s beautiful places, combines breathtaking scenery with rich cultural experiences.

5. Witness Condors at Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon, one of the best places to go in Peru, isn’t just deep – it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! This place is a paradise for nature lovers and a must-visit for its breathtaking views and wildlife.

First up, the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. Here, you can witness Andean condors soaring gracefully in the sky. It’s a sight to behold, especially in the early morning. Believe me, seeing these majestic birds in flight against the backdrop of the canyon is unforgettable.

Hiking in Colca Canyon is a treat. The trails offer stunning views and lead you through traditional villages. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and the natural beauty of the area. Remember to take it slow – the altitude can be challenging.

Don’t miss the hot springs in Chivay. After a day of hiking, soaking in these natural thermal baths is bliss. It’s incredibly relaxing and a great way to mingle with locals and fellow travelers.

Colca Canyon is also about the small moments. Watching the sunset paint the canyon walls in hues of gold and pink, or stargazing in the clear night sky, makes this place more than just a destination. It’s an experience that connects you with nature in a profound way.

Colca Canyon, one of the best places to go in Peru, is not just deep but twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
Colca Canyon, one of the best places to go in Peru, is not just deep but twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

6. View the Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are one of the best places in Peru to visit that you just can’t miss. These enormous geoglyphs, etched into the desert, are a fascinating mystery. From above, they form incredible designs of animals, shapes, and lines.

A flight over the Nazca Lines is the best way to see them. As you soar above these ancient designs, you’ll be amazed at their size and precision. I recommend booking a morning flight for clearer views and less turbulence.

If flying isn’t your thing, the viewing towers offer a good alternative. While you won’t see all the figures, it’s still an impressive experience. The towers give you a glimpse of how vast and intricate these designs are.

Visiting the nearby Nazca Lines Interpretation Center is a must. It provides valuable insights into the theories behind these mysterious drawings. You’ll leave with a deeper appreciation of this ancient wonder.

Exploring the Nazca Lines is a unique experience that leaves you pondering the ingenuity of past civilizations. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Peru that I recommend to all visiting this beautiful country.

The Nazca Lines features enormous geoglyphs etched into the desert.
The Nazca Lines features enormous geoglyphs etched into the desert.

7. Venture into the Amazon Rainforest

Without a doubt, one of the most unique things to do in Peru is venture into the Amazon Rainforest. This vast jungle is teeming with life and offers an unforgettable experience.

Start your journey in Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, gateways to the Peruvian Amazon. From here, you can embark on guided tours or river cruises. These excursions are fantastic for spotting wildlife like monkeys, parrots, and even caimans.

A night walk in the jungle is a must. It’s a whole different world after dark. The sounds of the rainforest at night are mesmerizing. With a good guide, you’ll safely discover the nocturnal creatures that call this place home. Hands down, it’s one of the best things to do in Peru at night.

Visiting an indigenous community is a profound experience. It’s an opportunity to learn about their way of life and their deep connection with the forest. I recommend it for a deeper understanding of the Amazon’s cultural significance.

The Amazon Rainforest isn’t just a destination. It’s a living, breathing world of its own. Whether you’re cruising down the Amazon River or trekking through the lush jungle, you’re in for an experience that’s both exhilarating and enlightening.

The Amazon Rainforest is a vast jungle teeming with life that promises an unforgettable experience.
The Amazon Rainforest is a vast jungle teeming with life that promises an unforgettable experience.

8. Admire Arequipa’s White City

Arequipa, known as the White City, is a stunning display of colonial architecture and natural wonders. It’s one of the best places to see in Peru that perfectly combines history with scenic beauty.

The city’s heart is its Plaza de Armas, surrounded by white volcanic stone buildings that gleam in the sun. The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, dominating the plaza, is a must-visit. Its interior is as impressive as its façade, with an exquisite collection of religious art.

Strolling through Arequipa, you’ll find charming streets lined with colonial-era buildings. My advice? Take a guided walking tour. It’s the best way to uncover the city’s hidden gems and hear the stories behind these historic walls.

Don’t miss the Santa Catalina Monastery. This sprawling complex is a city within a city, with colorful alleys and peaceful courtyards. It’s a photographer’s dream and a serene escape from the bustling city streets.

The surrounding volcanoes, like Misti, offer incredible hiking opportunities. For a taste of local flavors, try the traditional dish Rocoto Relleno. Arequipa’s blend of architectural beauty, rich history, and natural surroundings make it a unique and engaging stop on your Peru vacation.

Arequipa, known as the White City, showcases stunning colonial architecture and natural wonders.
Arequipa, known as the White City, showcases stunning colonial architecture and natural wonders.

9. See Wildlife at the Ballestas Islands

Dubbed the ‘Mini-Galapagos’, the Ballestas Islands are a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. Just off Peru’s coast, these islands are teeming with an incredible variety of marine life. It’s a fun place to visit in Peru for anyone who loves nature and adventure.

A boat tour is the way to go. As you zip across the waves, keep an eye out for the famous Candelabra geoglyph etched into the coastal hillside. Once at the islands, you’ll be greeted by colonies of noisy sea lions, lounging on the rocks.

Birdwatchers, you’re in for a treat! The islands are home to thousands of birds, including Peruvian boobies and Humboldt penguins. The sight of these birds in their natural habitat is truly a spectacle. Don’t forget your camera!

The waters around the Ballestas Islands are just as lively. If you’re lucky, you might spot dolphins playfully swimming alongside your boat. It’s moments like these that make the trip unforgettable.

Visiting the Ballestas Islands offers an immersion into a bustling ecosystem. The diversity of life here is a reminder of nature’s wonders. It’s a must-do for anyone looking to add a touch of wild beauty to their Peru adventure.

Explore the 'Mini-Galapagos' at the Ballestas Islands, located off Peru's coast, a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts.
Explore the ‘Mini-Galapagos’ at the Ballestas Islands, located off Peru’s coast, a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts.

10. Taste Lima’s Culinary Scene

One of the best places to taste authentic Peruvian cuisine is Lima. Boasting a wide range of street food and unique restaurants, this city offers an array of tastes that capture the essence of Peru. Exploring the diverse food scene in Lima is a highlight for anyone visiting Peru.

Begin your food adventure in Miraflores. This lively district is a treasure trove of restaurants serving a variety of dishes, from traditional Peruvian favorites to modern fusion creations. Be sure to try ceviche, Lima’s signature seafood dish, known for its freshness and zesty flavors.

Venture into Barranco, known for its artistic vibe and cozy dining spots. The neighborhood’s colorful streets are dotted with quaint cafes and trendy eateries, perfect for an evening of exploration and indulgence.

Participating in a cooking class is a great way to dive deeper into the local food culture. It’s an opportunity to learn about the ingredients and techniques that make Peruvian cuisine unique, and you get to savor your own culinary creations. It’s one of the best Peru things to do that I recommend to everyone in Lima.

Lima offers a journey through diverse flavors and dining experiences. From bustling street food stalls to elegant dining establishments, every meal is an exploration of Peru’s varied gastronomic landscape. It’s a haven for anyone who appreciates great food and lively dining atmospheres. This capital city of Peru is also considered one of the top places to live and visit in South America.

Explore Lima's diverse food scene for an authentic taste of Peruvian cuisine through its street food and unique restaurants.
Explore Lima’s diverse food scene for an authentic taste of Peruvian cuisine through its street food and unique restaurants.

11. Sandboard in Huacachina

Huacachina, a desert oasis nestled among towering sand dunes, is a thrill-seeker’s paradise. This hidden gem in Peru offers one of the most fun things to do: sandboarding and dune buggy rides!

The dunes around Huacachina are perfect for sandboarding. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced boarder, sliding down these massive dunes is an adrenaline rush. I recommend starting with smaller dunes before tackling the bigger ones.

Dune buggy tours are a must-do. These high-speed rides over the dunes are exhilarating. Hold on tight as you zip up and down the sandy slopes. The tours often include stops for sandboarding, making for a perfect combo of excitement.

After the day’s adventures, relax by the oasis. The contrast of the tranquil lagoon against the vast desert is a sight to behold. Enjoy a refreshing drink at one of the local bars or cafes, and watch the sunset over the dunes.

Huacachina is a unique destination that combines natural beauty with thrilling activities. For those looking for places to go in Peru that offer a mix of relaxation and adventure, Huacachina is a must-visit. Believe me, the memories of racing down those dunes will stay with you long after your visit!

Huacachina, a desert oasis nestled among towering sand dunes, is a thrill-seeker's paradise.
Huacachina, a desert oasis nestled among towering sand dunes, is a thrill-seeker’s paradise.

12. Trek the Salkantay or Inca Trail

Last on our list, but certainly not least, is the unforgettable experience of trekking the Salkantay or Inca Trail. For outdoor enthusiasts, this is one of the best things to do in Peru – a true hiker’s dream.

The Salkantay Trek is a stunning alternative to the classic Inca Trail. It takes you through diverse landscapes, from misty cloud forests to rugged highlands. The views of the Salkantay Mountain are awe-inspiring. I recommend this trek for those who enjoy a challenge and less crowded paths.

The Inca Trail, on the other hand, is a journey through history. As you walk this ancient path, you’ll pass by Incan ruins and lush scenery, all leading up to the majestic Machu Picchu. It’s a magical experience, walking the same steps as the Incas did centuries ago.

Whichever trail you choose, be prepared for a physical challenge. These treks are demanding but incredibly rewarding. Make sure to book in advance, especially for the Inca Trail, as permits are limited and sell out quickly.

Ending your Peru adventure on one of these trails is perfect. The combination of natural beauty, physical exertion, and historical significance makes for an unforgettable experience. It’s a fitting finale to a journey filled with fun activities in Peru.

Trekking the Salkantay or Inca Trail is an unforgettable experience and a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts.
Trekking the Salkantay or Inca Trail is an unforgettable experience and a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Peru:

If you’re looking for more content on the top things to do in Peru, read on. Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your vacation in Peru.

What is the number #1 attraction in Peru?

The number one attraction in Peru is undoubtedly Machu Picchu. This ancient Incan city is not just a UNESCO World Heritage site but also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Its breathtaking location in the Andes and the mystery surrounding its history make it a must-visit.

What is the most beautiful part of Peru?

Beauty is subjective, but many, including myself, are captivated by the Sacred Valley. This Latin American gem, with its picturesque landscapes, traditional villages, and ancient ruins, embodies the heart of Incan culture. The blend of natural beauty and historical richness is truly stunning.

Vibrant landscape of Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, Peru, showcasing stunning multicolored layers of sedimentary rock.
Vibrant landscape of Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, Peru, showcasing stunning multicolored layers of sedimentary rock.

How many days do I need when visiting Peru?

To truly experience Peru, I recommend at least 10 to 14 days. This allows you to explore diverse areas like Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and possibly the Amazon or Lake Titicaca. Peru is vast and varied, so more time lets you immerse yourself deeper.

Is Peru expensive for a vacation?

Flying to Peru can be quite affordable compared to other destinations. Costs vary depending on your travel style. Budget travelers can get by on around $30-50 per day, while mid-range travelers might spend $50-100. Dining, accommodation, and tours have a wide range of options to fit various budgets.

Do you have to be fit to do Machu Picchu?

Fitness helps, but you don’t need to be an athlete to visit Machu Picchu. There are multiple ways to reach it, from a challenging trek to a comfortable train ride and bus combo. If you plan to hike the Inca Trail or similar treks, moderate fitness is recommended.

How long is the walk to Machu Picchu?

The classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu is about 26 miles (42 kilometers) and typically takes four days. There are shorter treks like the two-day Inca Trail. For those not hiking, it’s just a short bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

The top things to do in Peru for first time visitors
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