Imagine waking up after 4 days of hiking through the Andes and seeing the sunrise over the ruins of an ancient civilization. With mist rising up from the valley and the first trainload of tourists not arriving for hours, you’re likely to experience one of the magical moments that have made the Inca Trail one of the world’s most iconic hikes. It mixes jungles and mountains with historic mysteries, an adventure unlike any other. With the Inca Trail being so popular and permits being extremely limited, you’ll need to make a booking around 3 months in advance. Otherwise, there are several multi-day hiking routes in the region that some consider even better than the Inca Trail, like the Salcantay Route (5 to 8 days), Lares Route (3 to 5 days), Vilcabamba Traverse Route (7 to 13 days), and the Lodge Trek (7 to 11 days). For each of these routes, it’s easy to access Machu Picchu after, either by train or on foot.
Paracas is a desert peninsula that serves as the jumping off point for the Ballestas Islands – the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’ – where you can see sea lions and penguins in their natural environment. The best way to explore Paracas National Reserve in on a self-drive ATV tour, as there are dozens of viewpoints worth visiting over the park’s 827,450 acres. One of the highlights in Playa Roja, where red cliffs drop off dramatically, giving way to a deep blue ocean.
Huacachina is a classic desert oasis, where a small town dotted with palm trees surrounds a beautiful lagoon. All around the town are sand dunes that rise up like mountains. The favorite pastime there is scaling these dunes on foot or in a dune buggy, so that you can cruise down on a sandboard. Further into the desert, dune buggies defy gravity, jumping over sand ridges and making near vertical U-turns on steep slopes. It’s worth going on an organized tour just to experience the skill of the drivers. They’ll also ensure you see the best vistas the region has to offer.
If you’re keen on getting into the river in Peru, there’s no better place than the Urubamba River (a.k.a., the Vilcanota River) in the Sacred Valley. One section in particular – Ollantaytambo – is known for being both accessible and extraordinarily picturesque. Other popular sections include Chuquicahuana and Cusipata, with the latter being more gentle.
The northern coast of Peru is home to world-class waves, where beginners and experts alike will find kitesurfing a joy. Mancora is the capital of kitesurfing in this region, but the nearby town of Organos also offers great options for beginners.
The Inti Raymi Festival has been part of Peruvian culture since the Incan times, when 25,000 people would gather in Cusco for the celebration. Today’s festival is a reenactment of the ancient rituals, involving a procession from Cusco’s Temple of the Sun to its Plaza de Armas. Catching a view of the procession requires some advance planning, especially if you want to witness it from the comfort of a bar or restaurant, which often book out.
The Vendimia Wine Festival has been held in Peru since 1958. Its purpose is to celebrate the fertility of the Ica region for growing grapes for wine and pisco. During the festival, vineyards open their doors to visitors, who can taste the wine and learn how it is made. There are also fairs, parades, and cultural dances held throughout the week-long event.