My Peru Bucket List
I went on a six month trip around South America, and one of the countries that I visited was Peru. Before I went, I researched places to go and things to see and created a Peru Bucket List. I didn’t end up making it to everywhere on this list but I thought I’d share the whole thing for anybody else planning a similar holiday! For further details of what I ended up seeing and doing in Peru, check out my travel diary.
A note on our Peru itinerary: We ended up travelling Peru with a company called Peru Hop, a hop on hop off bus company that stopped at most of the sites I have mentioned below. It was an easy way to travel between places with less stress!
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, and is a city rich in history and culture. It has a gorgeous central plaza, and there are a number of museums and churches to visit. It’s definitely worth basing yourself here for at least a week, because there are so many things to see, both in the city and on day trip excursions. Just outside the city is Sacsayhuamán, an incredible Incan site. It’s worth buying a tourist pass which gives you access to multiple attractions, including many of the ones which you’ll visit on day tours.
Cusco is a short drive away from the Sacred Valley and can act as a base for Sacred Valley tours. Pisac and Ollantaytambo both have beautiful Incan sites, and you can also visit the Maras Salt Mines, and the Moray Incan terraces.
Machu Picchu is the highlight of the Sacred Valley region. You can travel to the town of Agua Calientes and either walk or get a bus to the site, or you can book onto a multi-day hike along the Inca Trail to get there. The Inca Trail can sell out months in advance so it’s worth booking up as soon as you can.
From Cusco you can also go on a tour to the bizarre and beautiful Rainbow Mountain, a multi-coloured landscape that’s almost other-worldly.
Arequipa is a large city in southern Peru and is a popular destination for tourists, keen to see both the beautiful city, and the nearby Colca Canyon. The city itself has an impressive plaza, a beautiful church and a colonial convent, Convento de Santa Catalina.
Outside the city, you can take a day trip or book onto a multi-day trek of the Colca Canyon. This is the second deepest canyon in the world, and is home to gorgeous views, terraced fields, and Andean Condors – a huge bird with a 3 metre wingspan.
You could also book onto a guided hike up one of the neighbouring volcanoes, El Misti and Chachani, although be prepared for reaching impressive altitudes!
Huacachina is a unique town that has grown up around a desert oasis in southern Peru, close to the city of Ica. The town is tiny and is surrounded by tall sand dunes. You can take a sand-buggy tour into the dunes and try out sandboarding, or you can stay around the oasis and hire a pedalo on the lake. Huacachina is a good stop on the way from Arequipa to Lima.
The famous and mysterious Nazca lines are a couple of hours from Huacachina. Unless you want to take an aerial tour, the lines are easily seen as a pit-stop between Arequipa and Huacachina and don’t need an overnight stay of their own.
Paracas is a relatively average beach destination in southern Peru with one big selling point – Las Islas Ballestas. Known as the ‘poor man’s Galápagos’, these islands are home to sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies and cormorants. The island day trip is a good option if the Galápagos is beyond your budget!
Paracas also has a National Reserve that lends itself to striking rocky landscapes and contrasting colours by the sea. We ended up visiting Paracas mainly because it was on the Peru Hop tourist trail from Cusco to Lima, and while it was nice I wouldn’t say it was worth going out of your way for.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
The town of Puno isn’t wonderfully exciting, but it’s definitely worth visiting due to the incredible floating islands of the Uru community on Lake Titicaca. Built from reeds and tethered to the floor of Lake Titicaca by ropes, the floating islands provide an amazing insight into the lives of people from another culture.
If you’re travelling from Peru to Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is a good crossing point – you can stop in Puno on the Peruvian side, and Copacabana on the Bolivian side.
Huaraz and Laguna 69Huaraz is known as the hiking capital of Peru, and for good reason. It lies next to the Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range which forms part of the Andes. One of the most famous day hikes in this area is to the beautiful Laguna 69. There are numerous lakes, glaciers and gorgeous views on offer in this part of the world, so it’s worth the 8 hour bus trip from Lima!
Lima is the capital of Peru, and so chances are you’ll pass through it on your way in or out of the country. Lima is huge and is divided into different districts. Miraflores is probably one of the most touristy of these, with a large shopping centre and a clifftop walk with views down over the Pacific Ocean. There’s even a park in the centre of Miraflores that is famous for being home to multiple stray cats! Within the city you can also visit Huaca Pucclana. Surrounded on all sides by modern buildings (see the photo above), this historical site was built between 200-700 AD and is definitely worth seeing if you have time.
While the beaches aren’t super beautiful, Lima has a number of surf schools to make the most of the waves. You can also paraglide from the cliffs for some beautiful views of the city.
The Amazon Jungle
There are three main entry points to the Peruvian Amazon, Manu, Tambopata, and Iquitos. Iquitos is only accessible by air, however it is the only place in Peru where you can visit the Amazon river (as opposed to a tributary) and see pink river dolphins. Tambopata and Manu can both be reached by road from Cusco, alternatively you can fly to Puerto Maldonado for the Tambopata National Reserve. All three entry points to the Amazon offer amazing biodiversity and wildlife watching opportunities.
What do you think? Have I missed anywhere? Let me know in the comments below! Also this is my first foray into blog writing, so please let me know how I’m doing. 🙂