After spending just about 2 months backpacking through Peru, Michelle and I have put together our list of our best things to do in Peru! It covers everything from high altitude hiking, to canyons, coffee, and our favorite places to stay!
The experiences, restaurants or hostels below are followed in parentheses by the city they are in. Clicking on the city will open up our Travel Guide to that city that will include additional experiences and tips to help you plan your next Peru adventure!
Biking the Paracas National Reserve (Paracas)
It’s often the experiences that you don’t expect or haven’t heard of before that end up being your favorites! Biking the Paracas National Reserve was this experience for us. You spend about a half a day biking through seemingly endless sand dunes before running into massive cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the many places in Peru that pictures just don’t do justice!
Laguna 69 Hike (Huaraz)
We had also never heard of Huaraz, Peru before we started our South America trip. Huaraz is home to many high altitude lakes and is good practice for preparing you for trekking 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 at the glacial blue Laguna 69. If you have time to see more than just Machu Picchu while in Peru, hiking in Huaraz is a must!
The Colca Canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) and can be found in southern Peru, just a bus ride away from 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 even spend time at an Oasis!
Explore the Pisac Ruins (Sacred Valley)
The Sacred Valley definitely makes the list of best things to do in Peru. Above the small town of Pisac in Peru’s Sacred Valley hides the Pisac ruins. The Pisac ruins are the most extensive set of Incan ruins that you can find near Cusco and you could easily spend a half-day exploring every corner of the site. We recommend a half day hike that take you up through the ruins and drops you off back into the center of town!
Although I found the natural Peruvian desert oasis town of Huacachina to be an over-developed tourist trap, spending an afternoon there to do a sand buggy tour is definitely worth it. It 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 it (either on your stomach or feet!). Plus the tour ends with watching the sunset over the dunes!
Visit the Amazon (Iquitos)
If spending 3+ days in the Amazon disconnected from the world completely 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 mutli-days Amazon wilderness excusions!
Ever heard of Machu Picchu before?? We know it’s less off the beaten path than Paracas or the Colca Canyon, but Machu Picchu should definitely be on every Peru itinerary. Although our experience on the 5 day / 4 night Salkantay trek was not as incredible as we hoped (you can see all our thoughts on it here), visiting Machu Picchu is a truly incredible experience! Our quick tips: Don’t hike Machu Picchu mountain and watch this NatGeo documentary before you go!
- Chocolate Making Classes (Arequipa)
- Qenqo and Sacsayhuaman Ruins (Cusco)
- Islas Ballestas – “Poor Man’s Galapogas” (Paracas)
Best Peru Experiences: Food
Zig Zag (Arequipa)
Although there are plenty of incredible restaurants in Lima, we chose to spoil ourselves at Zig Zag in Arequipa (also known as the culinary capital of Peru) and are glad we did! Our appetizers and wine were delicious, but the highlight was alpaca steak served on a hot rock (Spoiler alert: they give you a bib so one of the juices can pop from the hot rock onto your shirt!). It’s worth going just to eat a fancy meal with a bib!
Antica Osteria (Sacred Valley)
I know this is gong to sound crazy but we found some of the best pizza we’ve ever had in our lives in the tiny town of Pisac. The pizzas (especially the seasoned crust) was so flavorful and the tiramisu is a must. It was so good, we had dinner there 5 times! 5 times!
El Pan de la Chola (Lima)
Lima is the home of incredibly flavorful sandwiches. Although you can’t go wrong with the Peruvian chain La Lucha Sangucheria, our favorite sandwich shop is El Pan de la Chola in the northern part of Miraflores! The perfect combo for 2 people here is their burrata and any sandwich!
Seafood shacks near Kokopelli (Paracas)
When I think of Peruvian cuisine, my thoughts jump to one thing: 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 glad you did!
Best Peru Experiences: Coffee
Tostaduria Bisetti (Lima, Barranco neighborhood)
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 is roasts there own coffee. The layout of the inside and back patio is very nice making this a great place to get some work done!
La Panetteria (Lima, Barranco neighborhood)
Come here for the coffee, stay for the bread. The panetteria in Barranco has the coziest feel of any coffee shop we went to in Peru. Their bread and pastries make very good coffee even better. This is a great place to come for breakfast, though not that best place if you’re looking to get some work done as the spacing is relatively tight and the place is always packed with locals!
Puku Puku (Arequipa)
Puku Puku has the best view of any coffee shop in Peru. It boasts views of the majestic mountains and volcanoes that surround Arequipa. They also only serve Peruvian specialty coffee, making their patio a great place to spend a sunny afternoon in Arequipa!
Three Monkeys Coffee (Cusco)
Centrally located just a couple blocks off of Cusco’s main plaza, Three Monkey coffee stand serves up a great coffee. You can hang out and play cards in the interior 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, we found a couple that we think you can’t miss!
Although it was probably the most expensive dorm bed we had in Peru and there are other cheaper options in Paracas, we thought that the Kokopelli there lived up to the hype. It has a massive pool and a very social bar area and was pretty darn clean for a hostel that is pretty much on the beach!
Hatha Art Yoga Hostel (Sacred Valley)
The hostel competes with Panorama Hostel in Buenavista Colombia for best view from a hostel that we had on our trip! It’s worth splurging a little 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 about whether you’ve done any of the above experiences! Also, feel free to add any Peruvian experiences that you think people can’t miss in the comments below!
There you have it, our Best Things To Do in Peru! From us to you, happy adventuring!