Peru is a spectacular destination located next to the Pacific Ocean bordered by Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and Ecuador. Peru is appealing for so many reasons, this is one of the most naturally diverse nations in the world with ancient ruins, beaches, mountains and the Amazon. Visiting Peru will be the experience of a lifetime.
Find inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Peru.
Get information, tips, itineraries and inspiration for visiting Peru.
Peru was at the heart of one of the most extensive empires the world has ever seen - the Incas - and even earlier it was the setting for some of mankind’s earliest experiments with irrigation, large-scale agriculture and urbanization. Anyone visiting the vertiginous kingdom will come away awed by a sense of historical vertigo - and a living connection to that history - that simply has to be experienced to be believed.
Peru was in fact the setting for one of human kind’s earliest founding civilizations, dating back as far as anything in Europe, Africa or Asia. Pyramid-like structures and similarly grand architecture was developed long before the Pyramids of Egypt and the supposed cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia were established. The ancient civilization of Northern Peru remains an elusive chapter in global history not least because so much of what counts as ‘history’ has been restricted to the European perspective. It is on that basis that the story of the Americas generally is seen in terms of Aztecs (in Central America) and Incas (South America). But those two great empires were in truth merely the contemporary societies that the Spanish encountered when they first set foot on the continent in the 16th century. The story of South American civilization - and Peru in particular - goes way back beyond the admittedly sensational story of European colonization.
Recent archaeological work by the Andean Centre for archaeological research, CIARA, has found that the Caral ‘empire’ across the northern territory of present day Peru was a continuous civilization spanning 1,200 years and dating from a point approximately 4,500 years ago. From a western perspective, a striking feature of the archaeological finds from the Caral is the complete absence of any military remains. There is no evidence whatsoever of any form of organised combat. It seems the very nature of civilization in this - one of the oldest collective settlements in mankind’s history - was considerably more peaceful than has been the case anywhere else ever since. What the secret of that peaceful way of life was remains a mystery. Clearly, there is much that we could learn from Peru’s ancient inhabitants.
Wrapped around by clouds and shrouded in myths, local legends and a rich history that we may even occasionally catch a glimpse of, Peru is truly unique. It represents a timeless landscape that is the stuff that living dreams - and living history - are made of. And finally, most obviously, and so most easily overlooked, there are Peru’s mountains. So easily rendered as the mere backdrop to other activities, the mountains themselves are a mecca for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts generally.
Peru is built for tourists and there are lots of opportunities for you to explore this amazing country. Although Peru is a small country there is certainly a lot to see and do, thousands of people visit every year and it is easy to see why. With peaks exceeding 5000m, coastal deserts, rain-forests, ancient sites and unqiue destinations, Peru appeals for so many reasons.
The main tourist hot spots of Peru include Machu Picchu and the Sacred Trail which are undeniably spectacular but there is much to see and experience away from those often overburdened World Heritage Sites. The sites of Tucume, El Brujo, Sacsayhuaman, Tambo Machay, and Puca Pucara are all spectacular in their different ways. For example, Tucume is at the heart of the Lambayeque Valley which runs alongside Peru’s Northern shoreline. The area is rich in historical relics - the valley is home to over 250 ancient pyramids as well as an intricate network of ancient waterways - many of them as yet unexcavated. The Inca site of Moray and the pre-Incan remains at Chan Chan and Pachacamac are also, in their different ways, every bit as compelling. Whether you are backpacking through Peru or traveling in luxury, there is no shortage of spectacular sites in Peru.
There are so many cultural highlights, you could visit the desert, explore the Amazon rainforest or seek our history and archictecture in cities and rural areas. Destinations you might want to add to a visit list, these include the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Urubamba Valley not to mention the vibrant cities of Cusco and Lima. A lot of travelers find Peru to be their favorite country in South America and with so many things to do it is easy to see why. The lush forests and rolling hills could just as easily be a fairytale land as they could be the backdrop to a Jane Austen novel. What could possibly be better than kayaking together down a glistening river, flanked by snow-capped mountains, or hiking up a hill to find that perfect spot to throw down a picnic blanket and watch the sunset?
When travelling in Peru these are some of the top things you might want to do:
Peru will definitely appeal if you are keen to explore South America, this is a very easy destination to visit as no visas are needed before arriving for most passport holders. There are a lot of different programs and experiences available all year round and you can expect lots of culture, history, tradition, a diverse culture, a great mix of international travellers. Peru has some of the best tourists sights in the world, must visit destinations include Lake Titicaca, the ancient city of Cusco, Sacred Valley and the Misti Volcano. You could also go and see the Nazca Lines or climb the ancient route to Machu Picchu - we list gap year programs for students, career breakers and also a range of adventure trips to ignite your wanderlust.
As a backpacker you can stick to the well troden 'gringo trail' or head off the beaten track. This country might not strike you as a beach destination but you can relax on stunning beaches which are some of the best in South America where you can just relax or even learn to surf. For some pursuits, you may need to undergo prior training, or at least practice and acclimatise with your chosen activity. For example, for a climbing adventure to see Machu Picchu, it's best if your first ever attempt is on a practice wall with an instructor, rather than out in the wild. Other ventures can also be done in Peru, such as windsurfing, often require you to have reached a certain qualification before you are able to hire equipment from any outlets.
View our South America budget travel guide.