Where to go in Peru - 5 Peru Holiday Highlights

Where to go in Peru – 5 Peruvian Priorities

Published by

If anyone mentions Peru to you as a holiday destination, we’d hazard a guess that the iconic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu come to mind before anything else. Yes, Machu Picchu deserves every little bit of hype it gets, but a Peru holiday is so much more. 

Picture this. You’re looking down through your airplane window at the most colourful patchwork quilt of a landscape you’ve ever seen. That’s Peru. And this isn’t just an empty landscape either — there are hundreds of ancient ruins strewn throughout the country, from ancient civilizations past and thousands of miles of coastline, to the majestic Andean mountains lining the horizon.

Our Dawn has walked the streets of Cusco, taken in the rewarding and iconic sight of Machu Picchu and explored so much of this amazing country. Below she shares some of her Peru highlights and 5 places you can’t miss…

Traveller walking through the cobbled streets of Incan Cusco, Peru

1. Cusco

Stroll down the beautiful cobbled streets of Cusco, set beautifully against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains in the distance. The capital of the Incan Empire has countless history to uncover, beautiful colonial architecture and opportunities for adventure around every corner. 

✓ Take a horse riding adventure around Cusco’s ruins
✓ Venture into the surrounding hills by mountain bike to explore the ancient historic site of Sacsayhuaman
✓ Learn to cook local dishes from local people on this Cusco cookery course.

Peru’s Inti Raymi Festival – the Incan Festival of the Sun God

Dawn’s Top Tip for Cusco

“Aim to be in Cuzco over June 24th for the Inti Raymi Festival – it’s so special. This Festival of the Sun is the most important Incan celebration marking the return of the sun (Inti) during the winter solstice. There are costumes, dancing and reenactments of ancient rituals – Peruvian experiences don’t get much more authentic than this.” 

2. Meet the locals in Peru’s Sacred Valley

You’ll pass through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu. But, if that’s all you see of it, you’re doing your Peru holiday a disservice. More than 63 miles long and jam-packed with Incan Ruins, authentic local encounters and ancient civilisations to explore, this is a must for your Peru holiday.

✓ Tick off the bucket list with a day hike to Machu Picchu.
✓ Take a mountain bike tour to the working Incan salt pans of Maras and the Moray ruins.
✓ Try your hand at white water rafting through the ancient valley.

Dawn’s Sacred Valley Top Tip

“Don’t miss Pisac! Famous for its agricultural terraces, and impressive craft market with vibrant market stalls filling the main square every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. It’s a great spot to see locals peddling their colourful wares or to pick up handmade souvenirs to take home!”

3. Lima

Lima, the City of Kings, is perched on the Pacific coastline of Peru. Peru’s capital is packed with history stretching back through ancient civilisations, colonial architecture and countless museums  – but it’s definitely one for the foodies, too. Home to some of the best restaurants in South America, you’ll eat well here.

✓ Sample some of the best on this ‘Gourmet Lima’ food tour.
✓ Explore the city by night, lit up by their incredible fountain show.
✓ Learn all about South American history at the Larco Museum.

Dawn’s Top Tip for Lima

“Wander along the Malecon and explore the artistic and bohemian neighbourhood of Barranco, too. There are plenty of lovely oceanfront bars to grab a drink at there. Don’t leave before you’ve taken a walk across the ‘Puente de los Suspiros’ bridge and enjoyed all the street art!”

4. Lake Titicaca

Factor a few days at Lake Titicaca into your Peru itinerary if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Nestled in the Andes Mountains, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world – and being so high, means the weather can be quite unpredictable! Its altitude also brings a rich biodiversity to the lake – it’s home to more than 450 species of bird, several different species of fish and plenty of insects! 

✓ The 10 hour luxury train ride from Cusco to Lake Titicaca – one of the most beautiful train journeys in all of South America.
✓ Venture out onto the lake to visit the Uros floating reed islands, visit some of the islanders traditional homes and learn about this unique way of life.

Dawn’s Top Titicaca Tip

“Visit the Uros Islands and Taquile. When on the floating Uros islands, you’ll meet and interact with the indigenous Indian and experience first-hand how they live day to day! Head on to Taquile island and take in the simply beautiful view of all of Lake Titicaca, just magical!”

5. And, of course, Machu Picchu

Of course, we couldn’t write a list of Peru holiday highlights without including this. One of the most famous archaeological sites on earth, and one of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu needs no introduction. Built around 1450 but only discovered in 1911, it has since become one of the most famous treks in the world and the top things to do in South America. 

A visit to Machu Picchu feels a bit like stepping back in time. Once you’ve laced on your hiking boots, adapted to the altitude and taken on the hike (unless you choose to take the train of course!), you’ll find yourself winding through lush, green cloud forests with endless views of snow-capped peaks along the way.

When you make it to the viewpoint, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve uncovered a hidden world. Wander through the ancient terraces and take in the atmosphere as you ponder endlessly how the Incan people were able to construct such a magnificent city, without the use of modern tools and equipment. 

Dawn’s Top Tip for Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the most incredible places in Peru, but you can make it even better. Get up early on your second day and hike Huayna Picchu as this lesser-known piste offers amazing view back down onto Machu Picchu. A head for heights is essential but the views from the top are breathtaking.”

Peru holiday ideas we love

Quick Escape to Machu Picchu

Didn’t think a quick trip to Peru was possible? Think again. With plenty of direct flights from the UK weekly, this 9 day adventure to experience one of the Wonders of the World is more than doable.

Classic Peru

Archaeological highlights and cultural treasures are interspersed with cosmopolitan and colonial cities, the serene waters of Lake Titicaca and spectacular landscapes on this 16-day Peru holiday. Of course, with the iconic site of Machu Picchu thrown in, too.