WHAT TO DO IN PERU

Top 10 Things To Do In This Enchanting Land

Peru offers a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and natural wonders. We’ve pulled together our favorite things to do while exploring this sacred land for anyone wishing to take a visit.

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We have been hosting our Yoga Teacher Training in the sacred valley of Peru for over 13 years, and this mesmerizing land holds the hearts of our team here at School Yoga Institute. Peru offers a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and natural wonders.

 

We’ve pulled together our favorite things to do while exploring this sacred land for anyone wishing to take a visit.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Explore Machu Picchu

When planning a trip to Peru, this is top on many visitor's lists, and rightly so! No visit to Peru is complete without paying a visit to the iconic ancient Inca Citadel. The former capital of the Inca Empire, Macchu Picchu, is 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco, almost 8,000 feet above sea level, offering breathtaking views across what is known as the sacred valley of Peru. The complexity of its architectural system matches the stunning setting of the citadel and gives an insight into the ancient culture that flourished here.

 

Entrance Fee

 

There are multiple sites and tours of different parts of the Citadel and surrounding areas; if you’re only visiting Macchu Picchu for the day, we recommend a full guided day tour.

  • Foreign tourists: from $50 to $65 USD.
  • Peruvian citizens: from $20 to $30 USD.

 

Opening Hours

  • The site is open from 6 am - 5:30 pm.

Due to the significant tourist interest in Machu Picchu, visitor numbers are regulated, and it is advisable to book tickets in advance. Tickets are also given designated time slots to avoid overcrowding.

 

Getting there

 

Historically, visitors to Macchu Picchu would hike what is known as the Inca Trail a 42-kilometer hike that stretches over multiple days. Nowadays, reaching the peak of this infamous structure is much more manageable with a train from Ollyanteambo, which takes you to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo), Machu Picchu’s closest town. From there, you can take a coach up to the site entrance or hike the final part of the Inca Trail, which will take you between 1 - 2 hours

 

Things to notE

 

The higher altitude of Machu Picchu can cause some visitors to experience symptoms of altitude sickness, so it is advisable to take precautions and acclimate gradually if you are traveling from lower elevations. Wear comfortable shoes, even if you aren’t planning on taking the hiking trail. There’s so much to see, so be sure you’ll be comfortable on your feet for a few hours!

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2. HIKE THE INCA TRAIL

Embark on a multi-day trek through the Andes to reach Machu Picchu, The trail is a popular and rewarding adventure that takes you through stunning landscapes and ancient archaeological sites on your way to Machu Picchu.

 

Duration

 

The classic Inca Trail hike usually takes about four days and three nights. The trail is approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) long. The trail starts in Cusco and finishes up in Macchu Picchu. There are also shorter versions available. The trail includes a series of archaeological sites, such as Wiñay Wayna and Intipata, before reaching the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu on the final day.

 

Permits

 

The Inca Trail requires a permit to hike, and the number of permits is limited to help preserve the trail. It's recommended to book your permit several months in advance, especially if you're planning to hike during the peak season (May to September). You can't hike the Inca Trail independently. You must go through a licensed tour operator who will arrange your permits, guide, meals, and camping equipment.

 

Costs

 

The highest fixed cost is the permit fee, which includes entrance to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. This fee varies depending on your nationality and the type of ticket (adult, student, child, etc.). In 2023, the cost for an adult foreigner was around $75 to $100 for the Inca Trail permit alone. Tour Packages include services like a guide, porters (if applicable), meals, camping equipment, transportation to and from the trailhead, and possibly entrance fees to other sites along the trail. An organized tour can help take the stress out of organizing a journey like this; you’ll likely join together as a group, so it can also be a great way to meet new and like-minded people. Alpaca Expeditions is Peru’s top-rated guide company running trips along the Inca Trail, we recommend joining one of their group excursions. Those searching for more adventure check out the 5-day trek from Salkantay to Macchu Picchu.

 

Things to note

 

The Inca Trail involves several moderate to challenging hiking days, including steep ascents and descents. It's important to be in good physical shape before attempting the hike. Cusco, the starting point for the Inca Trail, is at high altitude. We recommend arriving a few days before the hike to acclimatize and reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

 

Pack comfortable and moisture-wicking clothing, sturdy hiking boots, a good backpack, a rain jacket, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle. Most tour operators provide tents and sleeping mats but check in advance. You might need a sleeping bag suitable for the temperature.

 

During the hike, we advise following Leave No Trace principles - Respect the environment by packing out all your trash and minimizing your impact on the trail. Be prepared for varying weather conditions. Dress in layers to accommodate temperature changes and be ready for rain.

 

The Inca Trail offers breathtaking views and a chance to connect with history. Take your time, enjoy the journey, and respect the trail and its historical significance.

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3. DISCOVER THE AMAZON RAINFOREST

Venturing into the Peruvian Amazon for a fully immersive wildlife experience, jungle treks, and encounters with indigenous communities. Jouring into the Peruvian rainforest is an incredibly rewarding experience and worth considering if you have time during your travels in Peru!

 

Tours and Permits

 

Local tour guides who are familiar with the terrain, wildlife, and local customs will guide you through the rainforest. There are plenty of different options for tour activities depending on your travel style and budget, we have listed various tours. Take the time to consider and research what best suits you. Some areas may require permits to enter, especially if they are protected or managed by indigenous communities. Check ahead, as you may need to obtain the necessary permits.

 

There are different types of tours and ways of exploring the rainforest to suit whatever kind of adventurer you are:

  • Canopy Tours: Experience the rainforest from above on canopy walkways or ziplines for a unique perspective.
  • River Expeditions: Enjoy boat rides on rainforest rivers to access remote areas and spot aquatic wildlife.
  • Night Excursions: Participate in guided night tours to witness the rainforest's nocturnal creatures.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep your eyes and ears open for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals. Binoculars and a camera with a good zoom lens are handy.

Take a look at different tour options here.

 

Costs

 

The cost of a tour can vary widely depending on several factors, including the duration of the tour, the type of accommodations, activities included, the level of luxury, and the specific region you're visiting. Tours start from around $100 per person per day to $500 per person per day.

 

Prices can vary widely depending on the tour operator, the specific location within the rainforest, and the level of customization you're looking for. It's important to carefully review what is included in the tour package. Some tours may include all meals, transportation, guided activities, and even equipment like rain gear, while others might have additional costs for these items.

 

Things to note

 

Many areas of the Peruvian rainforest are home to indigenous communities. Take some time to learn about the customs and etiquette of the local communities you'll be interacting with, and always ask for permission before taking photographs.

 

We recommend light, breathable, long-sleeved clothing is recommended to protect against insects and the sun. Don't forget rain gear and a good pair of hiking boots. In many rainforest areas, tap water might not be safe to drink. Stick to bottled water or carry water purification methods like life straws, filters, or tablets. Be mindful to pack a basic first aid kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptics, and any personal medications. Mosquitoes and other insects can be numerous in the rainforest. Carry effective insect repellent to prevent bites and potential diseases.

 

Expect limited/no cell phone coverage and internet access in remote rainforest areas. Inform your loved ones about your travel plans and approximate return dates.

 

When exploring this diverse natural universe, we suggest honoring a Leave No Trace mentality to minimize your impact on the environment. Avoid littering, stay on designated trails, and follow eco-friendly practices.

 

Remember that the Peruvian rainforest is a unique and delicate ecosystem. Responsible travel ensures that you can enjoy the beauty of the environment while preserving it for future generations. Always prioritize safety, respect for local cultures, and environmental stewardship during your journey.

4. Delight in the rich cultural history of Cusco

The central hub of Cusco is a must-visit for anyone traveling in Peru, from vibrant local markets and shopping for souvenirs to the hub of the central square of Plaza de Armas, where you can visit the Cathedral and the Church of La Compañía.

 

Cusco is a cultural gem with many museums that are well worth a visit; these are some of the best ways to learn about Incan history and culture. The city also lies in the shadow of the Sacsayhuamán ruins, an Incan site with massive stone walls and stunning views that are absolutely a highlight. We also recommend paying a visit to Qorikancha. This Inca temple of the sun was once covered in gold. It's a fascinating mix of Inca and colonial architecture.

 

There is a wealth of interesting local crafts and workshops where you can learn about traditional crafts like pottery, weaving, and even chocolate-making. A visit to San Pedro market is a must and can be followed by an authentic Peruvian cooking class.

 

From Cusco, there are also many day trips you can take to nearby must-see sights such as the rainbow mountains of Vinicunca, or take a trip to Pisac and the sacred valley. From Cusco, there are many options for trips, and you can find many tour operators in Cusco offering a variety of ways to experience the city and surrounding areas.

 

Things to note

 

Cusco is situated at a high altitude, so take it easy when you first arrive to acclimatize to the thinner air. Drink plenty of water and avoid heavy physical activity for the first couple of days. e many traditional dishes including Patacones, Casados, corn tortillas, and guacamole with some modern twists.

5. Take a boat trip on Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia high in the Andes Mountains and is the world’s highest navigable body of water. Lake Titicaca is said to be the birthplace of the Incas, and so is home to numerous ruins. The waters of the lake are famously still and reflective; an awe-inspiring way to explore the lake is to take an island hopping tour to visit the floating Uros Islands and Taquile Island. You can also spend the evening in one of the local villages that surround the lake; this is a truly immersive experience.

6. EXPLORE THE SACRED VALLEY

While the sacred valley can be visited on a day trip from Cusco, we highly recommend an extended trip and staying a few nights there. There, you will discover traditional villages with extensive craft markets, explore Incan ruins, and hike through ancient trails to wonder at the inspiring natural landscapes. It’s worth spending some time marveling at the picturesque Sacred Valley. We love the city of Pisac, and from neighboring Ollantaytambo, you can make your way to Machu Picchu. There’s so much to see and do in Peru's sacred valley!

Nazca Lines in Peru

7. Fly over the Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are a series of giant ancient geoglyphs, or large-scale designs etched into the ground, located in the Nazca Desert of southern Peru. The Nazca culture created them between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The designs range from basic geometric shapes to detailed and lifelike representations of animals and other figures. Some of the most well-known geoglyphs include a hummingbird, a spider, a monkey, a condor, and various geometric patterns.

 

The purpose and meaning behind the Nazca Lines remain a mystery. Some theories suggest that they were created for religious or ceremonial purposes, potentially related to astronomy or water rituals. Others propose that they were used to mark underground water sources or to communicate with deities.

The Nazca Lines are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a remarkable archaeological wonder. To view the lines in their entirety, many visitors take guided flights over the Nazca Desert to gain a unique perspective of these ancient and mysterious geoglyphs. Flights typically last around 30 minutes and provide the best perspective to appreciate the intricate designs. Flights are offered by several tour companies in Nazca. There are a few lookout towers along the Pan-American Highway where you can see a few of the simpler lines. However, these do not offer the same level of detail and understanding as aerial tours.

8. Sandboard in Huacachina

Experience the only desert oasis and biggest dunes in South America at Huacachina. Take in this immense sight through a boat tour of the oasis before bugging up the dunes and boarding your way down. After an adrenaline-filled, you can settle yourself in the natural hot springs as you watch the sunset over the dunes. Staying the night in Huacachina might be worth considering, as the lack of light pollution allows for unique stargazing opportunities.

 

Visiting Hucacachina is an unforgettable experience and remains relatively unknown. Many tours operate with different types of tours; some include visiting Paracas and the Ballestas Islands, where you can see penguins and sea lions play.

 

Prices & times

 

Prices vary depending on the type of tour, operator, duration of the tours, and sites visited.

  • Sandboard & buggy excursions can cost between $15 - $30 USD per person.
  • Boat Rides on the Oasis are usually between $5 - $10 USD.
  • Accommodation, should you wish to stay in this gorgeous area, varies between basic lodgings at $10 - $30 USD per night and
    boutique lodges from $30 - $100 USD per night.
  • Multi-day tours offering a chance to visit multiple sights can vary anywhere from $100 per person to $500 depending on inclusions such as transportation, activities, and meals

 

Things to note

 

Huacachina is close to the city of Ica in southwestern Peru. It's about a 5 to 10-minute drive from Ica. You can reach Huacachina by taking a short bus or taxi. Buses from major cities like Lima also stop in Ica. Huacachina is situated in a desert region, so the climate is generally dry and warm. Be sure to take sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the intense sun.

 

If you're trying sandboarding, choose a tour operator with experienced guides and proper safety equipment.

9. Explore Arequipa Colca Valley & Canyon

Arequipa is the colonial-era capital of Peru’s Arequipa Region. Three volcanoes frame this historic center, It's filled with baroque buildings uniquely constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone. At the center of the city lies the Plaza de Armas, a stately main square that is home to the 17th-century neoclassical Basilica Cathedral, which houses a museum displaying religious objects and artwork. Visiting Arequipa is a great way to educate yourself on Peruvian history of this time.

 

From Arequipa, many travellers start take day trips to the Colca Valley, which is known for its patchwork of terraced fields, traditional villages, and home to relaxing hot springs. Spend your days exploring one of the world's deepest Canyons before watching the sun go down in this magnificent landscape home to Andean condors.

 

Tour options

 

Joining a guided tour is a popular way to visit the Colca Canyon. These tours often include transportation, accommodation, meals, and guided excursions. They are convenient for travelers who want a structured experience.

 

If you prefer more flexibility, you can travel independently. Take a bus to the town of Chivay in the Colca Valley and arrange accommodations and tours locally.

 

Tours cost

  • Basic guided group tours can start from around $30 to $50 USD per person for a one-day excursion. This might include transportation, a guide, and some basic meals.
  • Mid-range tours, offering more comfort and inclusions, might cost between $70 and $120 USD per person.
  • Premium and private tours with more luxurious accommodations, and additional amenities could cost anywhere from $150 USD or more per person.

 

Things to note

 

The Colca Canyon region is at a high altitude. Take it easy, stay hydrated, and allow time to acclimatize to avoid altitude sickness. Even though it's a desert region, temperatures can drop significantly, especially at night and in the early morning. Dress in layers to stay comfortable. The high altitude and intense sunlight can lead to sunburn.

 

Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The Colca Canyon offers incredible photo opportunities. Don't forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes. If you're interested in birdwatching, having binoculars can enhance your experience, especially when observing condors.

 

Some areas, especially for trekking, might require permits. Check in advance if any permits are needed for the activities you plan to do, for guided tours, these will likely be included. When visiting villages, respect the local customs and traditions. Ask for permission before taking photos of people. Help preserve the region's natural beauty by following Leave No Trace principles and respecting the environment.

 

Remember that conditions and travel options might change, so it's a good idea to check with reliable sources or local tourism offices for the most up-to-date information before your trip.

10. Establish a connection with yourself and take your Yoga Teacher Training with us!

We’ve been hosting Yoga Teacher Training in Peru for over 13 years at our beautiful home in Munay Sonqo, located in the Andes of South America in the village of Arin, near the town of Calca in Peru. Our retreat center here is nestled between the base of the sacred mountains of Pitisuray and Sawasiray, underneath a beautiful waterfall nestled in the sacred valley of the Incas.

 

The center has become our sanctuary with grounding temple spaces, beautifully maintained gardens, and nutritious garden-to-table cooking, all hosted by the warm and familiar staff. Munay Sonqo holds a special and sacred energy that continues to welcome us for our transformative Teacher Training courses.

 

You can read more about this incredible location here, or we’d love to talk to you about our upcoming Yoga Teacher Training opportunities in Peru. You can book a call with a member of our team here.

Have more questions about Things To Do in PERU or about our YTT? We're here to help!

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