Peru, located in South America, is a must stop for those wanting 5 formidable experiences all in the same country.
From deserts to ancient ruins in mystical mountains, or again floating islands and deep canyons, Peru will have you tick off so many bucket list moments.
I was blessed to have visited this beautiful country which I rate as one of my best trips to date.
Here are 5 amazing things you should do in Peru to create lasting memories:
- Sandboarding & riding the dunes in Huacachina
Huacachina is an extraordinary natural oasis. Yes, a small community of people living in the middle of a desert with beautiful dunes and infinite opportunities to enjoy this unique landscape.
It is a popular stop for those who have a sense of adventure or simply enjoy trying something different so make the most of it. Whilst there, take a desert tour on the buggies and make the sand dunes your roller coaster. A seasoned driver will take you to the desert and literally race up and down the sand dunes which I can assure you is an incredible amount of fun! After that you will stop in the middle of the desert and get the chance to sandboard down the dunes, which once again is an extremely fun activity even if you are a total beginner like me!
After all the frolics in the sun, be sure to stop for a mini photoshoot with the oasis in the distance, reminding you how awesome this location is. For a full immersion, spend the night there to experience life by an oasis.
- Colca Canyon in Arequipa
Here you’ll be on set of the perfect scene for a national geographic feauture. Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons of the world where youâ€™ll see eagles in their natural habitat, villages nestled in the mountains and beautiful valleys.
You can either book a bus tour or stop at incredible viewpoints to see the canyon and its wildlife, and if youâ€™re hard-core, you can trek it. And yes, I did the 2 day trek! Though, in my humble opinion, you do need a decent level of fitness to do this – your girl was struggling a little! And to keep a long story short, I was advised to go back up on a mule for day twoâ€¦ That aside it was an emotionally charged yet beautiful experience. Youâ€™ll also get the chance to stop by hot springs and relax in the beautiful surroundings.
- The floating islands in Puno
You may have heard of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world but have you heard of the floating islands? In search for safety, a group of indigenous people decided to set base on the lake, building their own artificial islands out of reed. And incredibly, a little community started to form and today you can go to Lake Titicaca and see these for yourself. Admittedly, the first few youâ€™ll see are said to be quite touristy as the â€˜islandersâ€™ show off their handmade embroideries and knick-knacks for people to buy. However, you canâ€™t help but be amazed at the sight of people living in reed huts on one of the largest lakes in the world – it is certainly an alternative way of life.
- The Salkantay Trek in Cusco
We will soon discuss the jewel of Peru, Machu Picchu, but those planning a trip to Cusco often choose to complete a trek to get an atmospheric take on the sacred valleys of Cusco. This gives you the chance to see more incredible ruins and what life in the Andes mountains is like.
Personally, I did the Salkantay trek and would highly recommend it – expect to see amazing rivers, Peruvians who have made the mountains their home and youâ€™ll also get the chance to sleep under the stars, once again, having an experience of a lifetime.
- The incredible ruins of Machu Picchu
Now we reach the crescendo, the piece the resistance, the chef dâ€™oeuvre, the mystical Machu Picchu.
If you’ve not heard of Machu Picchu yet then donâ€™t worry, I gotcha. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO site and one of the ‘modern’ wonders of the world.
Imagine going up an extremely steep mountain range, far up beyond the trees and high into the skies â€“ where there is nothing left but wild vegetation to then discover the ruins of a whole town and ancient civilisation hidden in the heavens. Et voila â€“ there is Machu Picchu in all its glistening beauty.
Whilst it was built centuries ago, the skill and ingenuity it would have taken to build homes and temples, aligned with movements of the sun which includes natural stone-based cooling and heating systems, sun dials and impressive architectural feats is nothing short of a miracle.
Wow, I want to back! â€¦have I convinced you to go yet?
So â€“ onto the practical bit. Here are some musts before heading out there:
- Make the most of your time in Peru by flying into Lima and traveling around Peru towards Cusco. This will give you the chance to visit all the places I mentioned
- If visiting Machu Pichu, give yourself time to adapt to the altitude. Chances are, your body will not be used to the altitude so you will need to allow 3 days or more at a lower altitude before heading there or you could suffer from altitude sickness
- If you do plan on doing the trek, do so with a tour group you trust as it will be around 3 days long and will include camping outdoors so make sure you are in good hands!
- If you are from Europe or the US, no visas are required â€“ yay!
- YOU MUST ABSOLUTELY TRY THE FOOD â€“ I had no idea of what to expect from the food out there and wrongly assumed it would be the refried beans and rice. My oh My â€“ was I wrong?! The food there was absolutely incredible, from Ceviche, to Llomo saltado, sweet potato crisps or quinoa pancakes. To be honest, Iâ€™m yet to find a Peruvian restaurant in Europe that does their food justice as it is truly amazing!
- Where to stay? It very much depends on what route you take, I mainly stuck to hostel which were affordable with a combination of hotels in Cusco and Arequipa