THINGS TO IN PERU
A backpacker's guide
Peru is a country that ranks very highly on most backpacker’s bucket lists. Most people we have met have either been or are going to this magical place. But with so many things to do in Peru it seems that you could spend an eternity here and not even scratch the surface. Like most travellers, we seek to get off the beaten track and seek new adventures further afield. Whilst this is of course possible in Peru, the well-worn “Gringo Trail” of the south offers up some of the most amazing experiences Peru has up its sleeve.
Having just concluded a flying visit to Chile, arriving in Peru was like arriving on a completely different planet. Much like everyone else, we have been super excited to visit Peru for a long long time. Armed with our list of things to do in Peru, we were ready to get rolling.
Things to do in Peru #1 – Explore the city of Cusco
Cusco is like mecca for backpacker’s in South America. You will see almost as many gringos as locals. Surrounded by the Peruvian Andes, Cusco was once the capital of the Inca empire and the charming architecture and archaeological remains make this city so wonderfully photogenic.
You could easily spend a week or two here and not run out of new experiences. The Plaza De Armas is the beating heart of Cusco. Beautiful gothic like churches at either end, restaurants and cafes overlooking the fountain in the centre and more tour agencies than you can shake a stick at – This is where it all happens.
Beyond the plaza, you have the neighbourhoods of San Blas and Santa Ana which are well worth checking out. The later being the location of choice to party the night away Cusco style. Further afield lies the Sacred Valley and it’s archaeological sites which are well worth the day trip. If you don’t fancy paying for the tour you could always take a page out of Along Dusty Road’s book and follow their guide.
? Hostel recommendation ? – Wild Rovers.
Yes, it is a party hostel but, more importantly, it’s a well oiled machine. Big and clean with plenty of bathrooms with, get this, hot showers! The beds are like little pods with a shelf, light, plug sockets and a curtain for privacy. The perfect place to nurse your hangover after a night at their bar, which has a wide range of activities each day of the week. There is a very sociable atmosphere and its a great place to meet people. A bed in a 12 bed dorm costs only 35 PEN (£7.50)
Things to do in Peru #2 – Take the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
Lace up your hiking boots and load up on chocolate and trail mix because this one is tough. Get all the information you need on the Salkantay trek and Machu Picchu here.
Things to do in Peru #3 – Hoof it up to Rainbow Mountain
You know Rainbow Mountain. You’ve probably seen about 700,000 pictures of it on Instagram. So have we, but nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes #nofilter. Tours usually cost around 60 PEN (£13) and included transport to and from Cusco (3 hrs each way), breakfast and lunch. From where you get dropped off you need to pay a 10 PEN (£2.25) entrance fee before beginning your walk. It should take you the best part of 3 hours to reach the top. The ever increasing steepness and altitude can be pretty challenging.
Things to do in Peru #4 – Check out the Kondors at Colca Canyon
Famed as one of the deepest in the world, this river canyon is a popular place for a spot of hiking. Starting from nearby Arequipa (which is also worth staying in for a day or 2) there are many tour packages available starting at 70 PEN (£15) for a 2 day 1 night trip. Or you can just make your to the town of Chivay and do your own hike. Either way you’ll need to pay the 70 PEN (£15) national park entry fee.
? Hostel recommendation ? – Arequipay Backpackers Downtown
Super modern, close to the centre, friendly staff and an awesome hostel dog. Only 26 PEN (£5.75) for a bed in an 8 bed dorm.
Things to do in Peru #5 – Ballestas islands boat tour
Off the coast of Paracas is where you’ll find the Ballestas islands. Here you’ll see a wide range of birds as well as sea lions and penguins. No need to book in advance, just head down to the harbour from 8 a.m, buy a ticket for 46 PEN (£10) and get in line. The boat tour lasts about 2 hours and gets you up close and personal with sunbathing sea lions.
? Hostel recommendation ? – Paracas Backpackers House
Close to the beach and only 54 PEN (£12) for a private room.
Things to do in Peru #6 – Visit the ancient Nazca lines
The Nazca lines are shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows how, when or why they were formed. Some even believe extraterrestrial forces played a part in their appearance. Whatever their story, they are certainly a sight to behold. Many figures such as monkeys, birds and humans are depicted in the sand, some as tall as 1,200 ft.
Unless you have a spare 100 USD for a flight over the lines, you’ll have to make do with the viewing platform.
Things to do in Peru #7 – Hit the sands in Huacachina
Huacachina is famous for 2 reasons. Firstly, for being an oasis in the middle of the desert (which it technically isn’t anymore given that there is a city with a quarter million people a stones throw away). Secondly, for the sand dunes which are awesome. For only 25 PEN (£5.50) you can get taken out on a monstrous sand buggy which the driver will throw around the dunes in an ASBO worthy manner. At the top of some of the bigger dunes you’ll get given a board to slide down on.
To finish the day climb the dune closest to the town for a wonderful sunset. Watching the sun fall behind the dunes covered the oasis in an orange glow is pretty special.
? Hostel recommendation ? – Desert Nights
New and fresh with a great restaurant and a pool. Dorm beds from 20 PEN (£4.50)
Things to do in Peru #8 – Drink Pisco in Pisco
Pisco is a grape brandy made in Pisco and famous all over. You can take tours of the vineyards and see how its made. The town was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2007 and, to this day, has not fully recovered.
Things to do in Peru #9 – Hike to Laguna 69
Outside the city of Huaraz, some 4,600 metres above sea level, sits Laguna 69. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterfalls this turquoise green lagoon is stunningly beautiful. You can go as part of a tour, on your own, by taxi or bus. If you choose to hike, be warned it’s pretty tough in the altitude but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Things to do in Peru #10 – Wonder the ancient sites of Trujillo
Colombian city of Chan Chan. Covering 20 sq km Chan Chan is largest of it’s kind. A taxi from the centre should cost 10-12 PEN and entry tickets 10 PEN (£2.25) per person.
Huaca del Sol is located on the other side of the city. This brick temple has a fascinating history culminating in the looting of it’s gold artefacts by grave robbers in the early 1700’s. Admission is 15 PEN (£3.50) and includes a guided tour.
Things to do in Peru #11 – Sun, sea and surf in Mancora
On the face of things it would appear very little happens in Mancora. Days are whittled away soaking up the sun on the beautiful stretch of sand or riding the waves. But when the sun goes down this surf town seems to wake up and take on a whole new form. Bars and little clubs appear out of nowhere and the population seems to magically triple. Mancora offers great weather, a nice beach, fun nightlife and all-round good vibes.
? Hostel recommendation ? – The Point
Right on the beach with a pool, bar, restaurant and a fun-loving crowd. Dorms from 33 PEN (£7.25)