Ultimate Travel Guide to Peru: Planning The Perfect Trip

Machu Picchu

Welcome to Peru, a country that proudly boasts stunning beaches and majestic mountains rivaling the Swiss Alps. This land, steeped in ancient civilizations and bursting with vibrant cultures, invites you on a journey of discovery. From the awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu to the lively, colorful streets of Lima, Peru presents an array of diverse experiences for every kind of traveler. In this travel guide, we’ll guide you through Peru’s must-visit destinations, cultural highlights, and culinary delights, showcasing the enchantment of this remarkable South American gem.

Before diving in, let’s review some essential insights for every trip:

  • Currency: The Peruvian Sol (PEN) is the official currency.
  • Language: Spanish is predominantly spoken, with Quechua and Aymara also prevalent.
  • Climate: Peru’s diverse geography results in varied climates. Coastal areas are arid, the Andes are cooler and rainy, and the Amazon basin features a tropical climate.
  • Cultural Richness: Peru is a melting pot of indigenous and Spanish influences, evident in its music, dance, and culinary delights.

Things to Do In Peru

1. Lima – The Capital City of Peru

Begin your Peruvian adventure in Lima, the vibrant capital city. Immerse yourself in the rich history of its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adorned with stunning colonial architecture. A visit to the Larco Museum is a must, where you’ll uncover the fascinating history of ancient Peru. Don’t forget to explore lively districts like Miraflores and Barranco to experience the authentic local lifestyle.

Tours worth trying: Colonial City Tour with Catacombs Visit, and Miraflores: Bohemian Barranco Guided Bike Tour.

El Salto del Fraile, Lima

2. Amazon Rainforest – A Paradise for Nature Lovers

As you plan your next destination in Peru, whether heading south or north, I highly recommend not missing the Amazon Rainforest in the north, arguably the most beautiful and intriguing part of Peru. Immerse yourself in its incredible biodiversity and embark on a jungle adventure. Take a boat ride along the Amazon River, spot exotic wildlife, and learn about medicinal plants used by indigenous communities. Staying in a jungle lodge allows you to experience the magic of the rainforest at night, adding a unique dimension to your adventure.

To access the Amazon Rainforest, flying to Iquitos is a convenient option. From there, you can take tours to explore the Amazon, such as the ‘3-Day Amazon Jungle Adventure Trip‘ and a ‘Guided Boat Tour of the Amazon River & Native Community‘ (commission earned).

3. Mancora

Another attraction in the north of Peru is the beach of Mancaora and its surroundings. This beach is renowned for its warm swimming conditions, perfect surfing waves, and relaxed, hippie atmosphere. Mancora’s inviting warm waters provide a delightful escape from the colder currents found elsewhere, making it an ideal spot for both avid swimmers and casual bathers. For surf enthusiasts, the waves cater to all levels of expertise, offering a prime surfing destination. The laid-back, free-spirited vibe of Mancora captures the essence of coastal living, ensuring a tranquil and rejuvenating experience.

Mancora Beach

A highlight of this region is the opportunity to visit nearby Uros, Ñuro, and Organos, where swimming alongside turtles offers a unique and intimate encounter with nature. Mancora is more than just a beach getaway; it’s a vibrant, immersive journey into the heart of northern Peru’s coastal culture.

Uros, Ñuro, and Organos

4. Huaraz

From Huaraz, embark on some of the most breathtaking hiking experiences of your life, where the stunning beauty of Lake 69 and Paron Lake awaits. Nestled in the Cordillera Blanca mountains, these hiking trails offer not just a journey through picturesque landscapes, but also an opportunity to be truly awestruck by the natural splendor. As you traverse this region, the mesmerizing vistas of crystal-clear waters set against rugged mountain backdrops are sure to leave you spellbound.

Laguna 69

You can explore these wonders through the following tours: ‘Full Day Trekking to Lagoon 69 in the Cordillera Blanca‘ and ‘The Best Trekking and Hiking Trails in Parón‘.

5. Paracas and Ballestas Islands

Visit the Paracas National Reserve and embark on a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands, often dubbed the ‘Galapagos of Peru,’ known for their rich marine life. For exploring Paracas, consider tours like ‘Paracas: Ballestas Islands Morning Boat Tour.‘ If you’re starting from Lima and looking to combine other attractions, options such as ‘From Lima: Full-Day Paracas and Huacachina Bus Tour’ or ‘From Lima: Nazca Lines Flight, Paracas, and Huacachina‘ offer comprehensive experiences that include Huacachina or the Nazca Lines.

6. Ica and Huacachina

If you enjoy sandboarding or similar sports, you can’t miss the opportunity to discover Huacachina, a stunning oasis amidst dunes. This location offers thrilling sandboarding and dune buggy adventures, and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your adventure through Peru.

The tours you should check: ‘Ica: Sandboarding and Buggy in Huacachina Oasis’, and ‘Wine and Pisco Vineyards Tour‘.


7. Nazca

You’ll be captivated by the mysterious Nazca Lines, and ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert landscape. To fully appreciate these enigmatic creations, the best approach is undoubtedly an aerial view. However, you can also explore on your own and find the best viewpoints by asking locals for guidance. Viewing the Nazca Lines from the air offers a unique perspective, allowing you to marvel at their immense scale and ponder their mysterious origins. This experience is more than just sightseeing; it’s a journey into the heart of one of history’s most intriguing mysteries.

Tours: Scenic Flight Over the Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

8. Arequipa

Another essential stop on your journey to Cuzco is the colonial charm of Arequipa, known as the ‘White City.’ Famous for its buildings made of sillar, a white volcanic stone, Arequipa offers a glimpse into Peru’s rich history. A visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery is particularly recommended for a journey back in time. For adventure seekers, a trip to the Colca Canyon is a must. Marvel at the soaring condors and soak in the natural hot springs.

Consider these tours to enhance your experience: ‘Guided Tour of Arequipa and the Santa Catalina Monastery‘ and ‘2-Day Colca Canyon Tour with Transfer to Puno.’

9. Puno and Lake Titicaca

In Puno, embark on a journey to Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Visit the unique Uros Islands, where the indigenous Uros people live on islands made entirely of floating reeds. Also, explore Taquile Island, celebrated for its traditional textile artistry and breathtaking views. These visits offer a deep immersion into the local culture, providing insights into the ancient traditions of the Andean people.

For a comprehensive experience, consider these tours: ‘Uros Islands and Taquile Island Full Day Tour‘ and ‘Lake Titicaca 2-Day Tour to Uros, Amantani, and Taquile.’

Uro Islands

10. Cusco – Gateway to Machu Picchu and Other Wonders in Peru

Cusco is an essential stop on any journey to Peru, not only as the gateway to Machu Picchu and other wonders but also for its captivating beauty, historical significance, and rich cultural tapestry. This city is enchanted with its unique blend of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture, evident in its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When in Cusco, immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere and don’t miss the chance to explore the surrounding marvels. Key tours to consider include the iconic Machu Picchu, the stunning Rainbow Mountain, and the historically rich Sacred Valley. Each of these destinations offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of this extraordinary region.

Tour: Cuzco City Tour and Archaeological Centers

Machu Picchu

A visit to Peru isn’t complete without experiencing the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu, an emblem of ancient Incan civilization. This majestic citadel, perched high in the Andes, can be reached by a scenic train ride, offering comfort and breathtaking views. For the more adventurous hiking enthusiasts, embarking on a trek from the hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes adds an exhilarating dimension to the journey. This route immerses you in the stunning natural beauty of the Peruvian landscape, making the arrival at Machu Picchu even more rewarding.

Tours: ‘Day Group Tour of Machu Picchu‘ by Train, or ‘Machu Picchu 2-day Budget Tour‘ by Van.

Rainbow Mountain

Hike to Vinicunca, popularly known as Rainbow Mountain, renowned for its breathtaking multi-colored mineral deposits. Before embarking on this trail, it’s important to assess your physical condition, as the hike can be challenging. Many people experience difficulties due to the high altitude. However, those who make the journey are rewarded with spectacular views, making the effort truly worthwhile.

Tour: Rainbow Mountain Day Trip and Red Valley (Optional)

Rainbow Mountain

Sacred Valley

Located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is a must-visit destination for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Explore the picturesque towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, where you can discover Inca ruins and vibrant local markets. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike to the stunning Maras Salt Mines and the ancient agricultural terraces of Moray.

Tour: Sacred Valley: Chinchero, Maras, Moray, Ollantaytambo, Pisaq

Accommodations in Peru

Peru provides a variety of accommodation options, from luxury hotels in Lima and Cusco to quaint guesthouses in the Sacred Valley and eco-lodges in the Amazon. During my extended trip through Peru, I opted to stay in hostels to save money. I highly recommend using the platform Hostelworld, where you can find popular and secure lodging options. It’s an excellent way to meet new friends and stay within budget.

Cuisine and Dining

Peruvian cuisine is a fusion of indigenous, Spanish, African, and Asian flavors. Must-try dishes include ceviche, lomo saltado, and aji de gallina. Peru is also known for its Pisco Sour, a traditional alcoholic beverage.

Nightlife Activities in Peru

Peru’s nightlife is a vibrant tapestry of experiences, particularly in cities like Lima and Cusco. In Lima, the districts of Miraflores and Barranco are renowned for their lively bars and clubs where you can enjoy traditional folk dances and live music, along with a mix of Latin and international beats. Cusco’s Plaza de Armas and the nearby San Blas neighborhood offer a variety of entertainment options, from cozy cafes with live Andean music to bustling nightclubs where you can dance the night away. These areas are perfect for experiencing the energetic pulse of Peru’s nightlife.

Some places you may consider explore:

In Lima:

  1. Barranco Beer Company in Barranco – A popular spot for craft beer enthusiasts and live music.
  2. Ayahuasca Restobar in Barranco – Known for its unique ambiance and excellent cocktails.
  3. La Noche in Barranco – Offers a great mix of live performances, from folk to rock and jazz.

In Cusco:

  1. Mama Africa in Plaza de Armas – A lively club playing a mix of Latin and international music, perfect for dancing.
  2. Ukukus near Plaza de Armas – A local favorite for live Andean music and cultural performances.
  3. Paddy’s Irish Pub in Plaza de Armas – Claimed to be the highest Irish-owned pub in the world, it’s a great spot for a relaxed night out.

Best Time to Visit Peru

The best time to visit depends on your destination. For coastal regions and Lima, December to March is ideal. For Andean regions and Machu Picchu, May to September is the dry season and the best time for hiking.

Tips and Hacks For Visiting

  • Altitude Sickness: When visiting high-altitude areas like Cusco, acclimatize slowly.
  • Transportation: Domestic flights are efficient for covering long distances. For budget travel, consider comfortable long-distance buses.
  • Maximize your trip efficiency with a mobile travel itinerary template. Streamline your planning, track expenses, and organize your journey with ease. Proven to enhance travel experiences, these templates are essential for a smooth, budget-friendly adventure. Access them here for a seamless travel experience.
  • If you need help with packing and wish to avoid unnecessary purchases, explore my Amazon Lists for inspiration (commissions earned). You’re not obligated to buy, but you may find some helpful ideas: Travel Essentials, and What You Often Forget to Pack but Always Need


Peru is a country that will captivate your senses and leave you with unforgettable memories. From the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to the vibrant streets of Lima, this diverse and culturally rich destination has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or foodie, Peru will exceed your expectations. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in this enchanting land.

Don’t forget to check my other travel tips here or travel guides. Happy journeys!

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