10 Incredible must see destinations in Peru + itinerary

10 Incredible must see destinations in Peru + itinerary

Peru is a remarkable country, filled with breathtaking scenery, friendly people and tasty food. I loved every town and every hike in Peru and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Of all the countries I’ve visited in Latin America, I found Peruvians to be the nicest people. They are always happy to help you. I also felt very safe in Peru, so if you are worried about travelling South America, it’s an excellent place to start. This blog will give you 10 must see destinations with a couple of cheeky tips.

As a little FYI, internal flights around Peru are not as cheap as places like Colombia. Their bus system is elite though. It’s super safe, affordable and easy to get around. Many people use Peru Hop but I’m not a big fan as they’re more expensive, make way too many stops and are always trying to sell you some crap tour. I love Cruz Del Sur Buses. They’re spacious, have 180 degree flat seats, aircon and you can book direct through their website or BusBud.

Okay onto the fun destinations. This is in no particular order of favourites. I’m starting from the northern tip of Peru and working my way down so you can use this as a rough itinerary!

1. Mancora

Mancora is a cute little beach town that is hot and sunny, unlike many parts of Peru. The days can be between 27-30 degrees, shocking! The parties there are insane and the beaches are pretty. I didn’t make it to this part of Peru but many fellow travellers did and they all loved it. There isn’t much to do in Mancora except chill, party, tan and swim but they sound fab to me. You can get cheap flights between Lima and this fun beach town too (the closest airport to Mancora is Talara).

2. Huaraz

Huaraz isn’t totally amazing as a town, but the lakes and mountains accessible from there are truly spectacular. People generally stay a week and do one day treks or longer eight to ten day treks, like the Huayhuash mountain ranges or the Santa Cruz trek. I only did one day hikes but they were seriously stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I much preferred the hiking in Huaraz to Cusco. My favourite hikes were Laguna Parón and Laguna Churup below. Definitely go here to see them!


3. Lima

Many travellers don’t like Lima, but I absolutely adore it. It is a grey city, but outside of that, I have zero complaints about Lima. There is so much to do, an abundance of awesome food, nice parks, friendly people and cheap markets. They also house many Michelin Star restaurants! Obviously, it doesn’t have the appeal of hiking and seeing gorgeous mountains like other places in Peru, but that’s not what ya go here for. Stay in the Miraflores or Barranco areas, visit Parque Kennedy (the cat park), go to the ocean, buy some cheap clothes, have a wild night out and eat loads of tasty food instead. You can also get some cheap surf lessons as the waves in Lima are consistent. One of my favourite hostels there is Waikiki Hostel. The workers and bar tenders are super cool and they have a nice rooftop.

4. Paracas

Paracas is a quaint little beach town. It’s home to a large national reserve, where the desert meets the sea. You can visit the park by bike, dune buggy or scooter. There is also a boat tour where you can see dolphins and penguins (I didn’t do it as I’ve seen them before but all the Europeans were stoked about it haha). There isn’t a whole heap to do other than this, so you could just spend one night there or do a day trip from Huacachina.


5. Huacachina (and Ica)

Huacachina is half an hour’s drive from the town of Ica. It’s a cool little oasis surrounded by desert and large sand dunes. You can go sandboarding, dune buggy riding, drive quad bikes and have a hell of a time, I loved it there! If you want to party, the Wild Rover is a sick place to stay. A less common thing to do is a wine and pisco tasting tour from Ica and I would definitely recommend this! Peru’s wine region is up and coming and now is a good time to get around it.

*Itinerary note – If you’re going to La Paz in Bolivia, you can go from Huacachina to Cusco and then to Arequipa as that would make the most sense. If you’re only doing Peru, it’d be better to do Cusco last and fly out from there.

6. Arequipa City

Arequipa is one of my favourite cities in the world and my favourite place in Peru, I went for three nights and stayed 10 (turns out I have a bad habit of getting trapped places). The streets are lined with elegant colonial buildings, there are volcanoes in the distance, it’s far more chill than Cusco and the food is cheap and tasty. Arequipa also has loads of cute rooftop bars and cafes and fab restaurants. Make sure you catch a sunset from Waya lookout bar and stay at Arequipay Backpackers, one of the best social hostels in Peru!


7. Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world at 3400m that you visit from Arequipa. To understand its sheer size, make sure you hike it and stay overnight in the canyon. The day trip calls for a 3am wake up and eight hours on a bus, where you only see it from the top. The overnight hike will take you to some toasty hot springs and the stars are magnificent from inside the canyon, I would do this hike again just for them. My recommendation is to do the three day hike. I did the two day hike and the first day was seven hours hiking downhill and about three hours up. It was doable, but it would’ve been better to split this across three days and spend more time chillin’ in the canyon.


8. Cusco

Cusco is one of the largest tourist spots in Peru as it’s where all the major hikes leave from, like Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu. Aside from the obvious hikes, the San Pedro markets are awesome, the hospitality is bustling and a night out at Chango’s nightclub is a guaranteed good time! It’s a definite must do. There’s also some fun non hiking things to do. Visit the amazing animal sanctuary called Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, where you can see Andean bears, condors, deer, llamas and alpacas! There’s a cool cat cafe and some excellent cooking classes. If you want to learn how to make local dishes like lomo saltado or ceviche, I can’t recommend Cusco Gastronomic Tours enough.

A little side note on Cusco, it has no chill. The streets are always full of people hassling you trying to sell things and by the end of my nearly two weeks there, I couldn’t wait to get out. Be prepped for this!


9. Pisac, Sacred Valley

Pisac is a vibrant hippy town in the Sacred Valley surrounded by ancient ruins, rivers, lakes and easy hikes. It’s such a special place to spend a few nights relaxing, taking in nature and wandering around the cute streets and markets. There is a brilliant hostel there called Wolf Totem Guesthouse. The handcrafted hostel has a fire pit, nice wine, incredible views and double dorm room beds. The owner can be a bit much, but it is 100% worth staying there. Pisac is also a popular place to do Ayahuasca or San Pedro and is cheaper and more authentic than in Cusco. If you want to buy some special chocolate mushrooms or edibles, you can pick them up from Cultura Viviente (not that I condone taking anything illegal).


10. Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is the town closest to Machu Picchu. Many people see the spectacular wonder of the world from Cusco, but I think Aguas Calientes is a cute town, worthy or staying a night or two either side of seeing Machu Picchu. It has a streaming river through the middle of the main centre, incredible views and nice food. Aguas Calientes means hot water in English and there are some hot springs near by to have a little dip in. It’s a nice way to finish off seeing Machu Picchu!


I hope this helps you enjoy all this fantastic country has to offer! If I’ve missed anywhere, hit me up.

Yours in hiking and mountains,

Helena x

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