Things to do in Peru

Must-see Peru sights

Peru is spectacular. From glorious one-of-a-kind scenery, to wonderful nature and exciting cities, Peru is an unforgettable destination.

  1. Visit the magnificent Machu Picchu
  2. Head to the glorious Nazca Lines
  3. Explore the wonderful Colca Canyon
  4. Discover the fascinating Lake Titicaca
  5. Wander around the Southern Amazon
  6. Visit fantastic Lima

The varying regions of Peru make it hard to generalize the country, but one thing for sure is that Peru offers a unique opportunity to experience an incredibly wide range of spectacular scenery, a wealth of heritage and a vibrant living culture.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Visit the magnificent Machu Picchu

The most dramatic and enchanting of the Inca citadels lies suspended on an extravagantly terraced saddle between two prominent peaks. Machu Picchu is one of the greatest of all South American tourist attractions, set against a vast, scenic backdrop of forested mountains that spike up from the deep valleys of the Urubamba and its tributaries. With many legends and theories surrounding the position of Machu Picchu (meaning “ancient mountain”), most archeologists agree that the sacred geography of the site helped the Inca Pachacutec decide where to build it. Its intactness owes much to the fact that it was never discovered by the Spaniards, and the atmosphere, as you wander around, drinking it all in, is second to none. This is hands down one of the best things to do in Peru.

Best for: Incredible South American tourist spots

While you’re there: It’s recommended to visit Machu Picchu in the morning.

2. Head to the glorious Nazca Lines

One of the great mysteries of South America, the Nazca Lines are a series of animal figures and geometric shapes, none the repeated and some up to 200m in length, drawn across some 500 square kilometres of the bleak, stony Pampa de San José. Each one, even such sophisticated motifs as a spider monkey or a hummingbird, is executed in a single continuous line, most created by clearing away the brush and hard stones of the plain to reveal the fine dust beneath. Theories abound as to what their purpose was - from landing strips for alien spaceships to some kind of agricultural calendar, aligned with the constellations above, to help regulate the planting and harvesting of crops. Perhaps at the same time some of the straight lines served as ancient sacred paths connecting huacas, or power spots. Regardless of why they were made, seeing the Lines are among the strangest and most unforgettable things to do in Peru.

Best for: An unforgettable Peru attraction

Further afield: Another must-see spot is Sacred Valley, a valley in the Andes of Peru.

3. Explore the wonderful Colca Canyon

The sharp terraces of the Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest at more than 4km from cliff edge to river bottom, are still home to Andean villages that have maintained much of their traditional way of life, despite the canyon’s growth into Peru’s second most popular tourist attraction (after Machu Picchu). The Colca Canyon is the most popular viewing point - the canyon is around 1600m deep here - from where you can almost guarantee seeing condors circling up from the depths against breathtaking scenery (best spotted 7-9am; in May, June and July sightings are best 9-11am).

Best for: Incredible scenery

Further afield: Visit the Rainbow Mountain affords incredible views of multicoloured minerals which look like vibrant stripes.

4. Discover the fascinating Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is another fantastic place to see incredible Peruvian settings. A huge lake between Bolivia and Peru, it’s home to the Incan ruins too. Scattered all around Lake Titicaca you’ll find chullpas, gargantuan stone towers up to 10m in height in which the ancient Kolla people, who dominated the region before the Incas, buried their dead.

Best for: Stunning views

While you’re there: The liveliest time to visit is during the week-long Carnaval, complete with parades, music and water fights.

5. Wander around the Southern Amazon

Part of the Peruvian Amazon basin - a large, forested region with a searingly hot and humid climate, punctuated with sudden cold spells (friajes) between June and August - the southern Amazon regions of Peru have only been systematically explored since the 1950s and were largely unknown to Europeans until the twentieth century, when rubber began to leave Peru through Bolivia and Brazil, eastwards along the rivers. Cusco is the best base for trips into the jungles of the southern selva, with road access to the frontier town of Puerto Maldonado, itself a good base for budget travellers. The nearby forests of the Madre de Dios region are rich in flora and fauna, especially in the Manu National Park, though the Tambopata National Park is more readily accessible to budget travellers.

Best for: Memorable nature scenery

Further afield: Huascarán National Park is another fantastic spot in Peru.

6. Visit fantastic Lima

What to do in Peru? Head to the capital of course! Lima is very much a city of neighbourhoods, and it’s worth visiting several before making up your mind about this huge capital. You can’t beat Central Lima for sights or architecture, while the up-and-coming neighbourhood Pueblo Libre to the southwest has some excellent museums loaded with pre-Hispanic artefacts such as the Larco Museum. Coast-hugging Miraflores and neighbouring San Isidro are certainly the most modern and commercial areas of the city and you’ll find many designer stores, gourmet restaurants and sophisticated lounge bars here, as well as some of the best nightlife and tourist attractions such as the Olive Grove Forest. Arty and colourful Barranco feels like a sleepy seaside town by day, and is fantastic for escaping the chaos of central Lima, but at night comes alive and is packed with bars and clubs such as Huaringas Bar. Lima’s main square, known as the Plaza Mayor, is definitely worth a visit. Searching for Lima holidays? We recommend staying at Hotel Anthony’s.

Best for: Fantastic Peruvian city

While you’re there: If you’re looking for more outdoor spaces, head to the Park of the Reserve. It’s home to fountains and a light show.

Find your perfect destination