Of all the places to visit in Peru, the incredible Inca city of Machu Picchu has to be first on your list. An ancient settlement that managed to escape invasion from the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century, this awe-inspiring site retains its humbling glory despite being the most popular of the tourist attractions in Peru. To book an Inca trail trek to the citadel, make sure you do so well in advance – places fill up fast.
One of the world’s biggest mysteries, some believe extra terrestrials created the Nazca Lines. The more likely answer is that the Nazca tribe made the shallow tracks, which range from simple geometric formations to enormous depictions of lizards and fish, over a thousand year period from 500BC. Either way, one of the most famous places of interest in Peru does feel like something from another planet.
Thousands of travellers visit this vast canyon every year, and given its status as one of the world’s deepest it’s no surprise why. Another of the famous landmarks in Peru, The Colca Canyon epitomises its vigorous landscape, measuring in over 3250m at its inmost section, and is home to abundant wildlife. In particular, catching sight of the Andean condor is as much worth a visit as the canyon itself.
Balance out the depths of the Colca Canyons by taking in some height at Peru’s Cordillera Blanca (or White Range in English). This magnificent mountain range makes up the larger end of the Andes in the Ancash region and is a paradise for climbers and hikers. Better suited to those looking for an immersive experience over several days, you can take a mountaineering course or head up to the Laguna de Llanganuco to enjoy some seriously beautiful mountain lakes.
The traditional Peruvian village of Pisac is home to the haunting Incan Pisac Ruins - and a legendary Sunday market. Now one of the biggest attractions in Peru among travellers, it’s a great place to pick up a few traditional mementos and gifts before heading home.
Things to do in Peru
Peru hums with monuments, history and a culture so rich and colourful it’s impossible to take everything in in one go. Many Peru attractions are world-famous and need little introduction, but to help you keep things simple we’ve selected our favourites from a generous list of must-dos.
Fiesta Inti Raymi
One of the top 10 things to do in Peru, The Festival of the Sun is held every June in Sacsayhuaman to the north of Cusco and locals invite visitors to join them to celebrate the winter solstice while practising Incan traditions and rituals. Possibly the most famous of the festivals in Peru, it’s a magical insight into this fascinating culture.
As the name suggests, this is a weeklong succession of fiestas at the start of November, kicking off with Peru’s version of Day of the Dead. Processions and re-enactments of Puno’s occupation by the Spanish make for varied – and sometimes quite rowdy – celebrations.
‘The Festival of the Cross’ is celebrated throughout the country at the start of May, and features hundreds of crosses carried from village to village. Expect locals in eye-popping colours, fabulous firework displays and a country-wide knees up.
Each winter the Andean people hold a four-day pilgrimage in honour of their ancestors. It’s a wild affair that see dancers from the highlands troop down to the base of Sinkara Mountain. Grab a tent and join them at base camp.
This is one event to tick off your list, and sees the Peruvian capital celebrate their world-famous indigenous Paso horse. Expect racing, pageants and traditional Peruvian feasts.
For more information on The National Paso Horse Tournament, click here.
Top 5 Festivals in Peru
There are dozens of Peruvian festivals to choose from, with most emphasising the country’s pre-Colombian and Incan roots. Whatever the occasion, Peruvian festivals tend to be colourful and reflect the country’s welcoming spirit.
There’ll be plenty of things to do in Lima during your visit, but make sure you make time to visit Museo Larco for a condensed journey through Peru’s history. It is packed with artefacts from pre-Columbian days.
For more information on the the Larco Museum Lima, click here.
The Museum of Italia Art Lima
This museum does exactly what it says on the tin. Around 125 Italian artists’ work sits on display in this Lima museum as a tribute to the country’s generous Italian community.
For more information on the the Museum of Italian Art, click here.
More of a research centre that welcomes visitors, this is home to the Ice Maiden of Ampato – or Mummy Juanita – who was discovered preserved in ice in 1995. If you’re in the south around Arequipa, don’t miss a visit to one of the most fascinating museums in Peru.
For more information on the the Andean Sanctuaries, click here.
Conjunt Monumental de Belen
Head north to Cajamara to see one of the more remote Peru museums. Belen’s architecture is the main draw, particularly two old hospitals and an unusual colonial church. Within the buildings, archaeological exhibits offer a sharp insight into the region’s colonial history. For more information on the Conjunto Monumental de Belen, click here.
This stark modernist building was founded in 1924 in honour of the German researcher and archaeologist Hans Heinrich Brüning. A keen excavator, Brüning amassed hundreds of Peruvian artefacts during the late 19th century. Thousands of glimpses into Peru’s cultural evolution can be found here.
Top 5 Museums in Peru
The majority of its museums can be found in Lima, but Peru itself is pretty much one big heritage centre. You’ll find plenty of Incan ruins and enduring traditions village by village, but if it’s a gallery setting you’re looking for, we’ve picked out a few to get your started.
This exotic style of fusion cooking was born thanks to a wave of Chinese immigration in the late 19th century. ‘Chifa’ is a Peruvian term to describe Chinese cooking and is a popular food in Peru. We love Arroz Chaufa and Pato Cuarto Tiempos.
Best eaten at Madam Tusan, Av. Santa Cruz, Miraflores, Lima
These unassuming meat skewers aren’t dissimilar from your regular shish kebabs and are a well-loved food of Peru. They’re often served as starters, and while most places don’t discriminate over which meat they use to make them, the traditional recipe uses quality beef heart.
Best eaten at Grimanese Vargas Anticuchos, 466 Ca. Ignacio Merino, Lima
Think posh mashed potato made from a variety of yellow potato. Layers of mash, chicken, tuna, avocado and hard-boiled egg make this dish one of the classic Peru foods.
Best eaten at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Carretera Hiram Bingham KM 7.5, Machu Picchu, Cusco
This method of preparing fish – raw, ‘cooked’ in citrus juice - isn’t exclusive to South America. But with its long Pacific coastline, world-class seafood is everyone and means this is one of the finest foods in Peru.
Best eaten at Al Frio y Al Fuego, Avenida La Marina N 134-B, Iquitos
These sweet treats are usually served with a syrup dip and are similar to Mexican churros. The difference is that they’re made from pumpkin, chia or quinoa instead of flour making them a signature among the foods of Peru. Great for vegans.
Best eaten at Picarones Victoria, Jr 9 de Diciembre, #211, Ayachuco