A quick guide to the best things to do in Peru, brought to you by a professional traveler who has visit it twice.
While you were haulin’ bum to Machu Picchu, you missed some incredible Peruvian sites off the beaten path.
Don’t get me wrong, Machu Picchu is astonishing. People come from all around the world to experience the ancient Incan miracle. However, it is by far not the only wonder worth exploring in Peru.
Five years ago, I traveled to Peru with my mother. I was backpacking solo through South America, and my loving, concerned mother felt the need to hop on a plane and meet me in Peru because she wasn’t sure I’d be safe in the Amazon Jungle.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Ironically, the Amazon rainforest is a million times safer than the streets of L.A. or New York.” quote=”Ironically, the Amazon rainforest is a million times safer than the streets of L.A. or New York.”]
We had a remarkable time in the Amazon, Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. Another bucket list check. I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to scurry back to Peru when there are new, unknown places I haven’t seen.
Then it happened.
I realized that we did Peru wrong.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We missed some spectacular Peruvian sites because we were haulin’ bum to Machu Picchu. #Travel” quote=”We missed some spectacular Peruvian sites because we were haulin’ bum to Machu Picchu. #Travel”]
This time, traveling solo, I partnered with a local tour operator — Peruvian Sunrise, to get a comprehensive Peruvian experience.
Unlike big-brand companies that push and pull you around like cattle in crammed tour buses, a company like Peruvian Sunrise is just for you (and me). They do small, personalized corporate and private tours always tailored to hit both bucket list-checks and off-the beaten spots you won’t find in a listicle. They also work with your budget.
That’s what people don’t realize about my solo travel: I seek help.
Sure, sometimes I hop in cars with people I meet online, sometimes I am by myself, and sometimes I call for back up. Traveling solo or with just a couple friends doesn’t mean you always have to do it all on your own.
Working with a local company based both in Cusco and the States allowed me to truly maximize my Peruvian experience. I wasn’t going to screw it up twice.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The key to successful #SoloTravel: seek help” quote=”The key to successful #SoloTravel: seek help”]
Here are the five sites you missed when you were distracted by said UNSECO World Heritage Site. Thank you to my sponsor partner, Peruvian Sunrise for helping me get it right this time!
1. Mara Salt Mines, Peru
This mystical crystal haven was pursued by a spa operator, but the local farmers wouldn’t give it up. Bring along a Spanish translator and have a chat with the locals before it’s no longer all natural. Able to chat in Espanol myself, one of the farmers offered me a village made “chicha” (pictured in the cup above).
It’s beer. They’re literally mining salt while drinking beer.
Self-portrait @StephBeTravel: cliff over-looking Peru’s Maras Salt Mines.
2. Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru
Puerto Maldonado. Situated in the middle of nowhere, a place of trees, water, and culture is every excuse to get lost. My vehicle of transit: this charming little engine — vastly different from the luxury jungle lodge and fine cuisine that awaited me.
We did canopy walks, boat tours, nature treks with monkeys, and a whole lot of nothing but looking at the gorgeous sunrise and sunset. Wifi is only accessible for parts of the day, but you don’t need it when you’re relaxing in the lodge or connecting with the wildlife.
I also made a stop by a the zoo to capture this gem. Do you think this is how Britney Spears felt?
Did you see the behind the scenes on Snapchat Username: TravelBreak
3. Lake Sandoval, Amazon Rainforest, Peru
Once getting to Puerto Maldonado, I took a trip on the legendary Lake Sandoval. Enjoy day or night tours, find wild Cayman, and witness some of the wildest birds you didn’t even know existed.
Return to your luxury safe haven :) Repeat.
Self-portrait at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica – the perks of a luxury hotel with the many unknown amenities required for a stay in the jungle (yes, the beds are netted).
4. Moray, Inca Ruins – Maras/ Cusco, Peru
A genius agricultural experiment, this former irrigation system proves the Incas were wise before our understanding.
They also make for a great halo self-portrait. Just saying.
Road to Moray via @StephBeTravel (above, self-portrait Moray ruins).
Resting at Hotel Sol y Luna, Urumbama – Peru
Providing phenomenal food and unmatched artistry.
5. The Sacred Valley // Cusco, Peru
Yes, you like the markets and the church, but did you know about the glorious terrain of the Sacred Valley? I didn’t. I missed it round one, but this time around, my friends at Peruvian Sunrise took me around (see what I did there? okay, not that clever).
I then stayed at former convent in the heart of Cusco for a fine, international twist on Peru’s treasured Inca culture.
JW Marriott, El Convento — Cusco, Peru
This doesn’t mean you should skip Machu Picchu.
Yes, it lives up to the craze.
Check out the scale of these ridges!
My new Peruvian boyfriend. We met on Tinder.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru
An environmentally friendly luxury hotel reserve that’s welcomed hosts such as Pharrell — and more recently, meeeeee :)
The chic, smart luxury hotel “El Mapi” in Aguas Calientes, Peru. I stayed here with my mom the first time I visited Machu Picchu.
A big thank you.
It was an incredible experience to head back to Peru and properly photograph it. It’s always nice to get a second chance, but especially in a place like this! Peruvian-Sunrise is a smaller, private tour operator with offices in the U.S. and Cusco that have seven years of tour-operating experience, a lifetime of living local, and a heart for treating their guests like family. I met one of the founders in person.
We may have had a few Pisco Sours and caught one of the Peruvian-Sunrise team members rocking out to his band.
Thank you team Peruvian Sunrise for such an incredible experience, and for allowing me to tell your story.
You can also learn more about the best things to do in Peru with their board of tourism site.
Click here for Peru’s Board of Tourism website.
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My favorite place in Peru was the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Huayhuash near Huaraz. Next time I definitely want to explore Chachapoyas in addition to the places you mentioned. But you are absolutely right that there are many other great places in addition to Macchu Pichu.
We used Peru Best Tours in Peru when we traveled to Peru 2 years ago and had the same experiences as they included alot of the places in you have listed. They truly took care of us while our local pervian guides educated us and took us to local spots. The cost was 2/3s what local travel agencies here in the states quoted and we had personalized service. Your article makes me want to go again to see what we missed. The trip was great!
Thanks for the summary….will refer your tips and points for sure.
I m very glad that you shared a blog over Peru
We used Peru Best Tours in Peru when we traveled to Peru 6 years ago and had the same experiences thanks for the summary
Good to know that works too! I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.
Dean Stockwell once said “Going to Peru is, well, if you ever have an opportunity in your life to go there, you should do it because it is absolutely mind-boggling.”
Peru is one of the best places to see natural beauty especially Machu Pichu and Maras Salt mines.
Thank you so much for sharing such an important article with such amazing photos.
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Thank you for sharing
Thank you so much for sharing this memorable trip. Also please keep in mind, most of the drainage of their sanitary facility is undersize, So, don’t throw the toilet paper into the flash.
Wow! I never would’ve thought that Peru would be so interesting to me! I haven’t really considered or even checked out Peru as one of what would be in my bucket lists. Now that I’ve come and read this post, I am now very interested and excited that I already added it up to my top bucket lists to achieve! Thanks for sharing this, very entertaining and informative. The photos look amazing too!
I Loved to visit Peru in 2013! I hope to back onde day! Tks for share this post.
Thank you, great article helped me a lot, congratulations!
Peru is the most amazing country in South America! Thank you so much for sharing this trip. I want to visit Peru again soon and I will keep this information of wath to do!