10 Things To Do In Peru (That Aren’t Machu Picchu)

Whether you are a seasoned traveller or going on your very first adventure, Peru will not disappoint you. The South American country has everything: sights, sounds, tastes and astonishing cultural mysteries. Now, of course, everyone is going to tell you that you just have to visit Machu Picchu or your trip will have been for nought. And while watching the sunrise from this famous Inca citadel has been one of the travel highlights of my life, there is so much more to the country than this one tourist hotspot. With that, I present to you my list of top 10 things to do in Peru that are not Machu Picchu.

1. Spend a couple of nights in the desert oasis of Huacachina

Photo credit: robertluna3 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Photo credit: robertluna3

Four hours south of Lima lies the beautiful desert oasis town Huacachina. Surrounding a small green lagoon is a tiny town sitting in the shadows of massive sand dunes. Stay a couple nights and go out exploring the vast sand dunes by dune buggy during the day. Did someone say sandboarding?

2. Munch on some Anticucho in Lima

Photo credit: Carly & Art via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Carly & Art

Anticucho or as it’s known in English, cow hearts, is the most amazing meat I have ever eaten. I must admit I was a little hesitant about this one, but when I tried my first bite I was in love and had to go back for seconds. Anticucho is street meat at its finest and can be found all around Lima served on skewers. Don’t let the sound of it scare you away from trying this amazing Peruvian delicacy.

3. Hike to Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain)

A view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
A view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru.

Definitely, one of the best-kept secrets on this list, climbing Vinicunca Mountain is one of the hardest climbs in Peru (long treks and high altitude) but also one of the most rewarding. Vinicunca Mountain (or Rainbow Mountain) is a beautiful, multi-coloured mountain situated southeast of Cusco and stands at 16,500 feet above sea-level. Trust me when I say it won’t just be the scenery that takes your breath away…so tread carefully.

4. Eat Cuy (Guinea Pig) in Cusco

Photo credit: Rinaldo W. via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Photo credit: Rinaldo W.

While they may be furry little friends to some people around the world, guinea pigs have actually been eaten in Peru for over 5000 years. Traditionally, they were reserved for ceremonial meals by indigenous people who lived in the Andean highlands, but since the 1960s they have become a regular part of the Peruvian diet. Guinea pigs can be served roasted, broiled or fried but are not to be consumed by faint-hearted Westerners —  though they are surprisingly delicious.

5. Visit the Peruvian Amazon

Photo credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking
Photo credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking

Less popular than its Brazilian counterpart but not to be overlooked, the Peruvian Amazon is home to countless long and powerful rivers, diverse wildlife and flower species.  You can get to this jungle from Puerto Maldonado, a city reachable by flights leaving daily from Cusco and Lima. The Amazon rainforest equates for 50% of Peru’s landmass and as an added bonus, tours on the Peru side are significantly less expensive than across the border in Brazil.  

6. Get deep in the Colca Canyon

Photo credit: Tydence via VisualHunt.com / CC BY
Photo credit: Tydence

Visit one of the deepest and most spectacular canyons in the world, the Colca Canyon. Reachable from Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is Peru’s third most-visited attraction. You can easily spend a few days hiking and exploring these epic landscapes. Fun fact: the canyon is actually twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.

7. Float around on Lake Titicaca

Photo credit: Watana
Photo credit: Watana

You absolutely need to visit South America’s largest lake, Lake Titicaca, which sits high in the Andes and is bordered by Peru and Bolivia. You can see the hand-made floating islands built of reeds, where 2000 native Uru people still live today. There is even the option to stay overnight in a traditional reed hut on Isla Khantati.

8. Catch a wave in Mancora

Photo credit: AlCortés via VisualHunt / CC BY
Photo credit: AlCortés

Mancora is Peru’s premier surf destination and is located on the beautiful Pacific Coast. When you think of Peru you might not think of sandy beaches and rolling waves, but think again. Whether you’re looking to catch a wave, or party on the beach all night long, Mancora has it all. In fact, Mancora is often compared to Thailand’s beach party island Koh Phangan (before tourists started showing up in droves), so now is the perfect time to go!

9. Fly over the mysterious Nazca Lines

Photo credit: Bluelemur via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Bluelemur

Take a baffling flight over the UNESCO World Heritage Nazca Lines in the south of Peru. There are over a thousand lines, designs, and drawings carved into the Earth at 10 – 30 cm deep. The designs were made by the Nazca people between 500 B.C and A.D 500 and have been remarkably preserved due to lack of wind and rain in the region. Fun fact: The lines were not discovered until commercial flights started flying over the area in the 1920’s.

10. Drink Pisco Sours everywhere

Photo credit: Cathrine Lindbolm Gunasekara
Photo credit: Cathrine Lindbolm Gunasekara

Blame it on the altitude, the 3 pisco sours, or both, but this South American speciality, made with Pisco, sours, and sweeteners really packs a punch. Readily available everywhere, this drink is perfect for the beginning, middle and end of your trip to Peru!

Only have time for 7 of the 10? Take your pick by watching our travel guide:

Did I miss something? Think you have an even better-hidden secret of Peru? Tell me in the comments!

Originally from Vancouver, Alex is an adventure travel aficionado based in Toronto and working with the amazing TourRadar North America Team. He is a lover of challenges and new experiences and passionate about travel's ability to change perspectives.

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