Beyond the Incan Trail: What Are the Most Impressive Highlights of Traveling in Peru?
Peru is one of the most popular destinations in South America, and it’s not hard to see why. The country has something for everyone, from incredible food to epic historical sites. But the most popular destination in Peru has to be the ruins of Machu Picchu. The main problem with that particular location is the fact that it is overrun with tourists. Sure, the trail that leads to the archeological marvel is wonderful and filled with incredible stories, but it’s hard to see anything with bodies swarming around armed with selfie sticks. If you absolutely must go to Machu Picchu, try to go there during the off-season. The hiking trail will otherwise be far too crowded and therefore slightly dangerous.
But not to worry, there are many other fascinating places that are much easier to visit and slightly further off the beaten track. If you plan on traveling to Peru, plan for at least two weeks and focus your energies on the south of the country. The north just isn’t as exciting and doesn’t have nearly as much to offer.
Don’t try to focus your trip on Lima. The overcrowded capital city doesn’t have much to offer and is a little dangerous. If you’re going to spend time in cities, head over to Cusco and spend at least three days puttering around the ancient streets. Cusco used to be the capital of the Incan empire but is now best known for its archeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. The Santo Domingo convent was built on top of the Incan Temple of the Sun, so it still has some remains of Inca stonework. The Plaza de Armas is the main square in the old city and is dotted with arcades, Incan wall ruins, and carved wooden balconies.
The dune at Huacuachina is a top place to go sandboarding or buggy riding. An old little oasis near Ica, this laid-back attraction is a haven for backpackers looking for an alternative way to spend a pleasant afternoon. Going for a buggy ride at sunset is a magical experience that feels like a wander through Tatooine. Coined “The Everest of the Desert,” Cerro Blanco, placed in the Nazca Valley, is considered one of the world’s tallest sand dunes. Many tours are available, but the best is through the Huacuachina dunes themselves. For $65 per person, it is money very well spent.
Another option is to go hiking through the Amazon rainforest. Like Brazil, Peru is lush with trees and jungles that are nothing short of thrilling to trek through. It’s best to hire a guide as it is very easy to get lost in your wanderlust. The Peruvian Amazon covers 60 percent of the country and contains amazing biodiversity. The best places to go are Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado, but you’ll need to fly into them because there are no road connections. Puerto Maldonado Tours offers a huge variety of packages depending on your needs. A three-day tour is recommended to ensure that you have the time to acclimate to the jungle air.
Finally, if you’re interested in water sports, the Chili River near Arequipa is excellent for rafting. Many rafting agencies operate from the city, and the rapids are quite a memorable experience. They go up to class 4, which means they’re crazy fast and just one level below the extreme.” Select from a full or half-day tour of the Chili River because it is located only 25 minutes from the center of Arequipa. A tour bus will collect you from the center, and you will be driven right to the river.