Top things to do in Lima
What to do in Lima
No longer just a connecting point on your way to Cusco and Machu Picchu, the capital of Peru is well worth a day or two with fashionable neighborhoods, upscale boutique hotels and a burgeoning restaurant scene.
Lima has become one of the world’s leading restaurant destinations. As of 2018 Lima is home to three of San Pellegrino’s “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list: Central, Maido, Astrid y Gaston. If you can’t score a table at one of the high-end places there are endless options from markets and street food to small neighborhood joints a short walk from your hotel.
The Historic Centre of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can visit the Plaza de Armas, Lima’s Cathedral, Government and Archbishop palaces, San Francisco Church and Convent.
Tour the neighborhoods of Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro by bike or on foot.
- Larco Museum
- Gold Museum
- Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia
Hotels – the best of the neighborhoods
- Country Club Lima (San Isidro)
- Hotel B (Barranco)
- Belmond Miraflores Park (Miraflores)
A menu of our tours and excursions in Lima can be found here.
Read about our favorite restaurants in Lima here.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco - the capital of the Inca Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A half-day guided tour of the city and nearby ruins is the best way to orient yourself.
Visits in the city should include: Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church, Coricancha, the San Pedro Market, the San Blas neighborhood, the Cacao and Chocolate Museum.
On the outskirts of Cusco:
- Sacsayhuaman - an Inca citadel located on a hill overlooking Cusco.
- Puka-Pukara - ruins of an Inca military fortress located about 4 miles from Cusco.
- Qenqo - archaeological complex and one of the largest huacas in the region.
- Tambomachay - archaeological site located across the highway from Puka Pukara
Urubamba, the main city in the Sacred Valley, is about 60-90 minutes by car from Cusco.
To avoid problems with the altitude it is a good idea to stay first in Urubamba, around 1,700 feet lower than Cusco. After spending a few nights here, then a night or two lower still in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu your body should be ready for Cusco.
From Cusco and Urubamba there is enough to keep you busy for days. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
- Pisac Ruins and Market - located 20 miles from Cuzco. The main colorful market days are Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, although there is a smaller market daily.
- Awana Kancha, an exhibition center of textiles and small camelid farm, is located just off the road between Cusco and Pisac and makes a nice stop. You can visit with all four species here - llama, vicuña, alpaca and guanaco.
- Ollantaytambo - a town and archaeological site located about 12 miles from Urubamba. In the general vicinity you can explore quarries, storehouses and agricultural terraces.
- Chinchero - a small village off the main road between Cusco and Urubamba. Chinchero is Peru's weaving capital and home to the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles. There is a colorful Sunday Market and nearby Inca ruins.
- Moray and Maras - rhe salt mines at Maras consists of 3000 small pools and salt water springs that emerge from the hillside and are channelled along canals using the natural gradient. Moray, agricultural terraces in the form of a circular amphitheatre 150 meters in diameter, was a center for agricultural experiments.
- Willoc (or Huilloc) is a rural Quechua community and home to a group of families rich in human and cultural values. Most men earn their living as porters for the Inca Trail Trek and are known as "Huayruros". Women, also strong and resourceful, are outstanding weavers known for producing the highest quality textiles in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
- Day hikes - Huchuy Qosqo, Cachicata, Maras and Moray
- Mountain biking - Maras and Moray, Tipon to Piquillaqta
- Zipline and Via Ferrata
Exploring Lake Titicaca
The highest navigable lake in the world and home to Quechua and Aymara people whose traditional lifestyles are still intact.
On day trips from Puno you will visit one or more of the islands or peninsula communities located on Titicaca. Local homestays can be booked and are the most intimate of Titicaca experiences.
- Taquile Island
- The floating Islands of Uros
- Amantani Island
Arequipa & the Colca Canyon
One of the deepest canyons in the world
The Colca Canyon is located in the southern region of Arequipa in Peru and is known as one of the world’s deepest canyons at around 11,000 feet from at its deepest point, nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The valley also offers a wide range of ecological zones that are home to numerous exotic animal species including condors, vicuñas (a wild relative of the llama), giant hummingbirds, and flamingos. Human inhabitation dates back to about 6,000 years ago, during which time vast systems of agricultural terraces were formed. In the late 14th century, the Inca incorporated the valley into their empire. The population was concentrated into towns during the 16th century per request of the Spanish conquest. Most of the churches were built between 16th and 19th centuries.
Explorations of Colca Canyon will include the following:
- The National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca, where vicuñas and guanacos can be spotted.
- The observation points (miradors) of Cruz del Cóndor and Tapay are the sanctuaries of the condors.
- From the “Mirador de los Andes”, at 16,000 feet, visitors will be treated to spectacular views of the Ampato, Sabancaya and Hualca Hualca volcanoes.
- You will visit quaint colonial villages, view Mollepunku's rupestrian paintings and observe beautiful terraces built by the pre-Incas for agriculture.
- The town of Uyu Uyu is home to pre-Inca ruins.
- The towns of Yanque and Maca are home to colonial churches and the hanging tombs.
- Visit the town of Coporaque and enjoy the thermal baths in Chivay.
Trekking in Peru
Not just the Inca Trail
We know the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is on many a bucket list but bear in mind that Inca Trail trekking permits sell out months in advance and even if you do manage to obtain a permit you will likely be setting off along the trail en masse with 500 trekkers and staff.
There are plenty of other less-crowded Inca trails in Peru that lead to more remote Inca sites, such as Vilcabamba and Choquequirao.
Here is a list of our Peru treks, not the classic Inca Trail.
- Salkantay Trek
- Lares treks
- Moonstone to Machu Picchu
- Ausangate Trek - El Camino del Apu
- Vilcabamba Trek
The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
The 2nd largest portion of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil
Lodge or Cruise - what's best for you?
If you are traveling to Peru and want to visit the Amazon there is no need going to Brazil - the Peruvian Amazon offers one of the best opportunities to explore the rainforest. Peru contains the second largest portion of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil. Peruvian Amazonia makes up around 60% of the country and is one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas with the largest number of bird species and third largest number of mammals. Protected areas include the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the north, Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve in the south. Travelers can explore the Amazon of Peru based at jungle lodges or on river cruises.
The Northern Kingdoms - Before the Inca
The Incas weren't the only ones...
The areas around Trujillo and Chiclayo on the northern Pacific coast were home to the Chimú and Moche civilizations.
Chan Chan, the pre-Columbian adobe citadel and capital of the Chimu Empire, considered the largest of its kind.
The Moche sites of Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.
At Huaca Rajada, tour the lavish 1,700-year-old tomb of the Lord of Sipan, acknowledged as the "discovery of the century" because of the vast quantity and high value of the gold and silver treasures uncovered there.
The Tumbas Reales Museum of Sipan - the tomb, found in 1987, was the richest ever found in the western hemisphere and by 1990 was the richest series of tombs found anywhere in the world for a century. The 3-story pyramid tomb, like the museum, is an attraction in its own right. This museum conserves all the archaeological material found in Sipan. The exhibition also shows a reconstruction of the Lord of Sipan tomb with his values jewels of gold, silver, copper and some additional tombs of warriors. This museum is the result of years of effort of an archaeology team led by Walter Alva.
Tucume - a vast Lambayeque-period archeological complex, known as the "Valley of the Pyramids" (1000-1500 A.D.).