Nine ways to get close to nature in Peru

written by Emma Sparks September 22, 2022
Traveller walking towards an eco lodge in the Amazon rainforest, Peru

It’s OK to admit you want to visit Peru for the cute camelids. No drama llama. Alpaca the bags.

But – now that the bad puns are out of the way – it’s worth pointing out that there is so much more to see when it comes to wildlife and nature in Peru. This South American beauty is actually one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. Throw in a smattering of charismatic cities, rich indigenous cultures and ancient ruins galore, and it’s easy to see why so many travellers put Peru at the top of their bucket list (llama lover or not).

From the Andes to the Amazon and everything in between, here are some of our favourite ways to experience the best Pachamama (Mother Earth) has to offer in Peru.

Immerse yourself in the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest will soothe your soul, while presenting a stark reminder of the need to protect our planet. On Intrepid’s Premium Peru trip, you’ll cruise along the Tambopata river – on the lookout for capybaras, caimans, macaws and more – and wake to a chorus of birdsong after spending the night at an eco lodge owned by the local Ese Eja community.

Skip the crowds and hike Palcoyo, the lesser-known ‘Rainbow Mountain’

Peru’s ‘Rainbow Mountain’ was an instant hit with travellers when its blanket of snow melted in 2015 – most likely due to climate change – revealing the peak’s colourful streaks. Today, summiting kaleidoscopic Vinicunca is on many a travel wish list, but the increasing crowds might give you the ‘ick’. On our Peru Encompassed trip, opt instead for an excursion to Palcoyo, where the hiking trails are a little easier on the legs and you get three kaleidoscopic peaks for the price of one – each with the same astounding stripes, just none of the crowds.

A traveller and Uru woman smile at eachother infront of a reed hut on the Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru.

Experience a unique way of life on Lake Titicaca

Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and one of the highest in the world, at around 3,810m above sea level. No visit is complete without a trip to the Uros Islands – 120 purpose-made islets crafted from the roots and reeds of the totora plant. The indigenous Uros families that live here also use the ubiquitous reeds to build their homes and boats, make medicine and even brush their teeth. Back on firmer land, on trips such as Sacred Land of the Incas, you’ll stay overnight on the lake shore with a local family.

Explore desert dunes and a real-life oasis in Huacachina

No, it’s not a mirage. There really is an oasis on the edge of the Ica desert – and this tiny town has become a traveller hub, thanks to its towering dunes, blazing sunsets and sparkling lagoon. Adrenaline junkies on our Peru Encompassed trip can surf down the sandy slopes or carve some shapes on a dune buggy tour, while others will be happy with the desertscape scenery, best viewed from the ever-shifting dune tops. 

A group of travellers pose on a trek, a green valley and mountains behind them.

Trek or train to Machu Picchu for epic views and Inca history

Think Peru, think Machu Picchu? You’re not alone. The world heritage-listed Inca ruins are the country’s most coveted attraction – and the impressive archaeology and accompanying mythology are only enhanced by the glory of the surrounding jungled peaks. Tackle the lofty Inca Trail or lesser-known Quarry Trail, or simply take in the scenery from the comfort of a train – however you get there, prepare to be gobsmacked.

Discover Ballestas Islands – Peru’s answer to the Galapagos

Peru is known for its high-altitude hikes, remote Inca ruins and incredible jungles – but its coastline is just as enchanting. When you cast off from the coast of Paracas to explore the Ballestas Islands by boat on the Premium Peru with Ica Valley trip, you’ll see what we mean. Dramatic natural stone arches and soaring cliffs are circled by seabirds in their thousands, and seals and sea lions sunbathe on craggy outcrops. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few Humboldt penguins or a pod of migrating whales.

Close up of an alpaca in Peru.

Introduce the kids to camelids at an alpaca farm near Cusco

Indigenous communities in Peru have long used the soft fibres from the country’s native camelids – domesticated alpacas and llamas and wild vicuñas and guanacos – to create their colourful textiles. While you’ll likely spot plenty of these doe-eyed creatures on your Peruvian travels, it’s worth stopping by Awanacancha, a living museum near Cusco that preserves and celebrates Andean culture and gives guests a chance to meet a herd of long-lashed, toothy floofs. It’s kid-friendly too – time for a Peru Family Holiday?

An indigenous farmer works the land in Peru. Image courtesy of Colin Yen.
An indigenous farmer works the land in Peru. Image courtesy of Colin Yen.

Wake up and smell the coffee and cacao on a farmstay near Ollantaytambo

Peru’s contemporary food scene has earned global acclaim in recent years – but its earthy flavours and cherished ‘superfoods’ have been nourishing the locals for centuries. You’ll get the chance to learn more about two of South America’s most famous beans (coffee and cacao) on our Peru Real Food Adventure, and chow down on a plant-based feast at a rural farmstay.

A view down into Colca Canyon, Peru.

Spot the mighty Andean condor in Colca Canyon

Peru isn’t short of mind-blowing panoramas, but Colca Canyon is up there with the best. Twice as deep as the USA’s Grand Canyon, it has much to offer the adventurous traveller – from rafting and trekking to thermal hot springs. Numerous vantage points offer the chance to see ancient terraces farmed since pre-Inca times. If you’re lucky, you might spot a formidable Andean condor soaring on thermal winds on our Peru Encompassed trip.

Keen to experience it all for yourself? Browse our Peru trips and get booking.

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