Peru is a big country and when planning to visit, it may be difficult to decide what to do or where to go. You shouldn’t limit your trip to Cusco and Lima, I can assure you there is much more to see.
In this ultimate guide, I’ll tell you what are the best cities to visit in Peru and the best things to do in each of them.
On our trip around South America we spent 18 days exploring the Land of the Incas and I have a lot of useful information to share with you. Here we go!
Getting around Peru
As I mentioned before, Peru is big and it’s not cheap or easy to get a plane from one city to the other; therefore, we found this great company that combines transportation with local tours, Peru Hop. It isn’t the cheapest option, but for sure gives you good value for money and a big plus – safety. We started using Peru Hop in Lima and went all the way down to La Paz; yep, there’s also a Bolivia Hop and they have just started the business in Ecuador as well. If you use their services, in most of the cities you have a hotel pick up and drop off and many discounts for tours, restaurants and accommodation.
Tip: you’ll get an information booklet via email once you buy your tickets; check available discounts before booking accommodation.
If you would like a 10% discount for Ecuador Hop leave your email in the comments and I’ll happily send it over to you
Best things to do in Lima
You definitely don’t want to skip the capital of Peru and that’s definitely not what we want you to do, so we have put together a detailed article about it and the cool things you can do while visiting the city, however I’ll tell you the best things to do in Lima over here as well:
1. Walking tour
We booked our tour with the Incan Milky Way and it was a great experience; using local transportation and learning the history of the city is a great way to start exploring Lima.
2. Watch the sunset from Larcomar shopping mall
Larcomar is a sort of underground shopping mall in Miraflores neighborhood. It’s a really fancy place with a beautiful view towards the Pacific Ocean. It has a park at the top where you can relax and see a beautiful sunset.
3. John F. Kennedy park area for food
Miraflores is an up scale district of Lima, where most of hostels/hotels are located together with shops and restaurants. Around the Kennedy park area you will find a cool street full of nice places to eat, pick one and have a great Peruvian lunch/dinner.
Best things to do in Paracas
The advantage of using Peru Hop is that they have a route that goes exactly through the great cities you can visit in Peru, Paracas is one of them. A small coastal village close to a National Park, it’s a one night town that is still worth seeing.
1. National park tour
Getting the tour to the national park with Peru Hop is a great way to see the desert plus beautiful views along the way.
2. Mila beach
It’s the nicest beach in town, most of locals prefer to spend the day over there rather than the main beach in Paracas. It’s a crowed place as you can imagine, but great for a relaxing afternoon or early morning. You can either get a taxi or go with a tour.
3. Dinner at Miski
It’s not a restaurant with all the Peruvian dishes, in fact, it’s a pizza place that only opens for dinner, but the atmosphere over there is great and you may get some live music too. Discounts available via Peru Hop.
Best things to do in Huacachina
Huacachina is an oasis in the middle of the desert, a tiny village surrounded by sand. There’s not much to do here, but you can’t skip that!
1. Buggy tour + sandboarding
It’s an obligation to do the buggy tour, it’s adventurous, fun and you even get to sandboard. The tour with Peru Hop starts at 4pm and last for about 2 hours. Plenty of time for really cool pictures.
2. Mosquito rooftop bar
Mosquito bar is a nice restaurant with a rooftop where you can enjoy the view and the food. Make sure you put repellent on!
3. Paddle boat
As I said, there isn’t much to do around the village, but if you still need something else to do, hiring a paddle boat to go around the tiny oasis in town would be a great option.
With Peru Hop, you will also have the opportunity to do a quick stop at Nazca and check all the huge drawings in the ground and be wondering who actually did it. There’s nothing much around Nazca, so that’s why this is just a passing by stop.
Best things to do in Arequipa
Arequipa is one stop before the famous Cusco! Here you can start to feel the altitude and would be a great city to cope with it. There’s also few things you can do around Arequipa, check it out:
1. Walking tour
As you can see, we love walking tours. It’s truly the best way of knowing the city you are in and then decide where you want to spend more time. We’ve done this tour with Free Tour Downtown Arequipa.
2. Witches market
Apparently in South America it’s very common to have, sometimes even more than one, witches market; it’s not as scary as you would think and nowadays is more like a local market than anything else, however in Arequipa when walking around it, you can still see people telling somebody else fortune. Worth a visit!
3. Visit Mundo Alpaca
Mundo Alpaca is the most famous company to buy real alpaca clothing. It’s real and expensive, but besides shopping you can go around and see amazing textile exhibition done by locals for a competition, see and sometimes feed the alpacas and also watch how locals do the so detailed textile frames.
Tip: I know you probably want to eat something local and immerse in the amazing Peruvian culture, but there’s a pizza place in Arequipa called Da Giancarlo, the owner is around and make you feel so welcome; I won’t even start to tell you how delicious our pizza was. Go give it a try!
Bonus tip: We haven’t done it, but there’s also the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, if you are into hiking, check this tour in the agencies.
Best things to do in Cusco
1. Walking tour
the Incan Milk Way tour also happen in Cusco and it’s very informative, so make sure you book it online and get to know this Incan city better.
2. Visit the Incan Museum
If you love history and after the walking tour would like to know more about the Incas, the Museo Inka is a great way to start. It’s walking distance from the main square and cost only P/10.
3. View the city from Cristo Blanco
If you are looking for a viewpoint other than the famous Cusco Hotel, go to the Cristo Blanco, a statue of Jesus Christ on the top of the hill. You can either go walking which would take you around 40 minutes to 1 hour from the main square or just get a taxi for P/60 return.
4. Hike the rainbow mountain
Don’t miss it out, although most of the pictures online don’t show the true colors of the mountain, it’s still an amazing thing to see. The hike is a bit sharp due to the altitude – once you get to the top you will be higher than 5,000 meters above the sea level. They do offer horses ride in the beginning of the hike which I honestly do not recommend. I unfortunately had to do that in the last bit of the mountain and it broke my heart as the horses get as tired as we do. Go slow on your pace and be in peace with your conscious. We’ve done it with the agency recommended by Peru Hop, it was USD 30 including breakfast and lunch. They also have oxygen tank to help you out if needed. They were pretty professional which make our day a great experience.
I know you are looking for all the information to get to one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Machu Picchu is amazing and was definitely one of the highlights of our three months trip around South America. There are few things you need to be aware when visiting:
1. You don’t need to trek if you don’t want to.
2. You can do it on the budget.
3. Aguas Calientes is the base town of Machu Picchu, not Cusco.
4. From Aguas Calientes you still have to climb up, but it can also be done by bus.
5. It can be tricky to buy the right tickets.
Because of that, we have done an ultimate guide to visit Machu Picchu on the budget. All you need to know before heading to the most famous Incan ruins; how to buy your tickets, how to get to Aguas Calientes, how to make most of your day in Machu Picchu and more.
We hope you have got enough information to start planning your trip to Peru. If you have any question, please leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!