Tell anyone you’re going to Peru and the first thing they’re likely to ask is “what trek are you doing?”.
The South American country is famous for the ancient ‘lost’ Inca citadel of Machu Picchu – the site that thousands of travellers descend on every year, via the Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or Choquequirao Trail (or they take the bus up – hey, no judgements).
Trekking on one of Peru’s many mountain trails is no easy feat. You’re at a high altitude, walking for hours on end up, down and around mountain paths, the sun’s hot and the nights are cold. But it’s an unmissable experience if you’re into the great outdoors.
If trekking’s not your bag, you prefer a day walk over a multi-day hike, or you want to up the exercise ante on your Inca adventure, there are so many other active adventures to be had in Peru.
Here are seven of our favourite things to do in Peru that’ll make that pisco sour at the end of the day extremely well deserved.
1. River raft down the Urubamba River
Snaking through Peru from the Amazon, the Urubamba River is one of the best spots in the country for a day of rafting. The stretch of river in the Sacred Valley provides a good combination of stunning scenery and gasp-inducing rapids. After being kitted out in the necessary safety gear, give your legs a break as you row, row, row your boat (not-so) gently down the stream.
2. Canoe on Lake Titicaca
Watching the sun rise in Peru is a pretty magical experience, but seeing it from the bow of a boat, floating across Lake Titicaca, takes it to the next level. You’ll learn about the spiritual significance of the lake – it’s said that the Inca god Viracocha rose from the lake and created the world – and visit floating islands that are made entirely out of totora reeds. These islands are constantly rejuvenating as layers of reeds are laid on the ground almost daily, while the reeds underwater rot and disintegrate.
3. Zip-line in the Sacred Valley
Hiking in Peru takes you to many great heights, but zip-lining gives you a very different perspective. First, channel your inner Spiderman and scale the side of a mountain – via a via ferrata. This type of climbing originated in Europe, and consists of chains, ladders and cables set deep into the rock (don’t worry, you’re tied to a steel cable!). And when you get to the top? Get strapped into a zip-line and fly your way to the bottom.
You’ve probably seen Peru’s Rainbow Mountain on your Instagram feed; swathes of red, ochre and white earth striping up the mountain, giving it the look of a giant slumbering tiger. Rainbow Mountain is also really busy. Jostling for space with a hundred or so other trekkers isn’t a great way to start the day… enter Palcoyo. It’s in the same mountain range, so has the same beautiful painted mountains, but sees far less crowds. Climbing here requires less uphill hiking too, so all you need to do is enjoy the epic views.
5. Cruise through the Amazon
Keep your eyes open for toucans, tarantulas and Paddington Bear as you make your way through deepest darkest Peru and into the Amazon. There’s an amazing amount of diversity here – Peru has more bird species than anywhere in the world, and almost 300 different mammal species. Canoeing or walking through the forest is the best way to see the wildlife. If you stay very quiet, you might be lucky enough to spot a spectacled bear (one of Paddington’s relatives), colourful macaws, pink river dolphins and the elusive jaguar.
6. Cycle around Lima
One of the best ways to explore a new city is by bicycle – it’s even better when you’re cruising around a city as beautiful as Lima, Peru’s capital. Cycle past public art installations, through bohemian neighbourhoods, along the coast (a great place for spotting paragliders), and to the beautiful, cliff-top Lover’s Park (although the PDAs here are a little OTT). Cycling is an awesome adrenaline boost, especially in the sunshine and sea air.
7. Explore Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is high – really high – so it’s a good idea to stock up on coca leaves before heading up to Patapampa via private vehicle. The leaves are believed to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness, which you may feel on the highest point of your adventure – around 4800 m (15,748 ft) above sea level. When you get back to Chivay, it’s worth popping into the La Calera hot springs for a relaxing soak.
Get active in Peru on one of these small group adventures with Intrepid now.