After spending 2 months in Peru, we’ve finally put together a list of our favorite things to do in Peru! This post covers everything high and low — from high altitude trekking, to descending down into one of the world’s deepest canyons, to coffee shops, restaurants, and our favorite places to stay! If you’re planning to go to Peru or just looking for some travel inspiration, reading this post is sure to get you excited about visiting this lovely country!
Each recommendation below is followed by a link to our Travel Guide, which will include additional experiences and tips to help you plan your trip! Happy adventuring!
Best Peru Experiences: Activities
Biking the Paracas National Reserve
It’s often that which you don’t expect (or have no expectations for) that ends up being your favorite, Biking the Paracas National Reserve was this experience for us. You can take a bus tour, or spend about half a day biking through the seemingly endless sand dunes that remarkably convert into massive cliffs dropping off into the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the many places in Peru where pictures don’t do justice! While the bike ride isn’t for the faint of heart, it is absolutely worth it. (Go early to avoid the afternoon winds!)
Laguna 69 Hike
We had never heard of Huaraz before starting our South America trip. Huaraz is home to stunning high altitude hikes that is good training for any sport or activity (including to prepare you for your trek to Machu Picchu). Our favorite experience in Huaraz was a day hike to Laguna 69, deep in Huascaran National Park. The 5-6 hour hike takes you through grassy plains, crashing waterfalls and steep mountains before your arrival to the turquoise glacier-fed waters of Laguna 69. If you have time for more than Machu Picchu while in Peru, this is a must!
Colca Canyon Trek
The Colca Canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world – TWICE as deep as the Grand Canyon! It is in southern Peru, a bus ride away from the picturesque white-washed colonial town of Arequipa. The 3 day / 2 night trek to the bottom of the canyon is an incredible, grueling (incredibly grueling?) experience, but worth every step. You’ll be surrounded by insane views, meet new friends, and spend time at an oasis!
Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the area around Machu Picchu, definitely made our list. If you only have time to visit one town in the Sacred Valley (outside of Machu Picchu), the small town of Pisac is where you should go. The Pisac ruins are the most extensive set of Incan ruins that you can find near Cusco, and you could easily spend a day exploring every nook and cranny. We recommend a half day hike that take you up through the ruins and drops you off back into the center of town!
Sandboarding the Dunes of Huacachina
While we found the desert oasis town of Huacachina to be an overwhelming tourist trap, spending an afternoon there to do a sand buggy & sandboarding tour is definitely worth it. The sand buggy ride feels like you’re on a rollercoaster! During the tour, the buggy will stop at the top of a large dune, and you’ll get to try sandboarding down (either on your stomach or feet!). Plus, the tour ends with watching the sunset over the dunes!
Visit the Amazon
If spending 3+ days in the Amazon completely disconnected from the world is your thing, than Iquitos is a great place to go. Although the town itself is underwhelming, it is a launchpad to many eco-hostels and multi-day Amazon excursions!
Visiting Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is probably THE reason why you’re going to Peru. Before booking your trip, read our thoughts in our travel guide. Visiting Machu Picchu can and should be a truly incredible experience, but you must prepare to make it so! Our quick tips: Don’t over-commit. If you’re trekking TO Machu Picchu, refrain from tacking on Machu Picchu mountain, lest you’ll be too exhausted to actually explore the ruins! And watch this NatGeo documentary before you go!!
- Chocolate Making Class in Arequipa
- Qenqo and Sacsayhuaman Ruins in Cusco
- Islas Ballestas (a.k.a. “Poor Man’s Galapagos”) in Paracas
Best Peru Experiences: Food
Alpaca Steak at Zig Zag in Arequipa
Arequipa really knows how to compete with Lima for culinary capital of Peru! Peru has many different regional cuisines, and Arequipa is a wonderful place to experiment some of the variety. We spoiled ourselves at Zig Zag (arguably the best restaurant in Arequipa), and are so glad we did! Our appetizers and wine were delicious, but the highlight was the alpaca steak served on a hot rock. (Spoiler alert: you get a bib!)
Pizza at Antica Osteria in Pisac
I know this is going to sound crazy, but we found some of the best pizza we’ve ever had in the tiny town of Pisac, in Peru’s Sacred Valley. The pizzas (and THE CRUST!) were so flavorful and the tiramisu is a must. It was so good, we had dinner there five times! FIVE TIMES!
Sandwiches in Lima
Lima is home to incredibly flavorful food. Period! Aside from ceviche (which we found better elsewhere), you’ll find that Limeños LOVE their sandwiches. La Lucha Sangucheria is a Peruvian chain found in Lima (and now in Arequipa!) that has great sandwiches, but our favorite shop is El Pan de la Chola in the northern part of Miraflores. The perfect combo for 2 people here is their burrata plate and any sandwich!
Ceviche from the shack in Paracas
Peru is synonymous with ceviche. The best ceviche and seafood in general we found to be in Paracas. Skip the overpriced Restaurant Paracas and grab a seafood menu del dia at any of the line of shacks next to the Kokopelli hostel. You’ll be so glad you did!
Best Peru Experiences: Coffee
Tostaduria Bisetti in Barranco, Lima
The best flat white that I had in Peru was at Tostaduria Bisetti in Barranco. Probably in large part due to the fact that Tostaduria Bisetti roasts there own coffee. The space, both inside and out, is very nice, making this a great place to get some work done!
La Panetteria in Barranco, Lima
Come for the coffee, stay for the bread. This bakery in Barranco was the coziest! Their bread and pastries make good coffee even better. It’s a great place to come for breakfast, though not the best to stay for a while since it’s relatively tight and seemingly always packed with locals!
Puku Puku in Arequipa
With views of the majestic mountains and volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, Puku Puku has the best view of any coffee shop we found in Peru. They also only serve Peruvian specialty coffee, making their patio a great place to spend a sunny afternoon in Arequipa!
Three Monkeys Coffee in Cusco
Centrally located, just a couple of blocks off of Cusco’s main plaza, the Three Monkeys coffee stand serves a great coffee. You can hang out and play cards in the inner courtyard or grab one to go and head off to a walking tour!
Best Peru Experiences: Hostels
Overall, we were underwhelmed by the hostels we stayed at in Peru. Maybe we just picked the wrong ones, but we just never found hostels that we loved like we found in Colombia. Nevertheless, here are a couple we think you can’t miss!
Kokopelli in Paracas
Although it was probably the most expensive dorm bed we paid for in Peru, and there are other cheaper options in Paracas, we think Kokopelli lives up to the hype. It has a massive pool and a very social bar area and was pretty darn clean for a hostel. And it is pretty much on the beach!
Hatha Art Yoga Hostel in Pisac
This hostel competes with Panorama Hostel in Buenavista, Colombia for the best view from a hostel that we have had on our trip! It’s worth splurging for a private room with a balcony that faces the Pisac ruins! Whether you do yoga or not (I didn’t!), it is the perfect place to relax for a few days after a month straight of trekking through Peru!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the experiences we recommended! Missing anything? Feel free to comment with your favorite Peruvian experiences below!
There you have it, our Best Things To Do in Peru! From us to you, happy adventuring!