What are some of the most exhilarating, breathtaking, adrenaline-filled adventure activities you can think of? You’re probably imagining climbing mountains, exploring rainforests by zipline or canopy bridges, boarding down sand dunes, or touring ancient ruins of civilizations past. Guess what? All of these experiences and more await you in Peru. Bonus: they come with beautiful landscapes, exotic wildlife, and some really cool folklore. Take in the Sacred Valley’s mountains, the Amazon jungle, Huacachina desert oasis, and Machu Picchu when you embark on adventure travel in Peru, the ancient Incan capital.
Peru’s array of ecosystems generate a plethora of adventure travel options throughout the country. Whether you prefer to spend time near water, mountains, desert, or forest, Peru has got you covered (in more than just bug spray and sunscreen).
Cusco and the Sacred Valley are some of the top places to travel in Peru for those seeking adventure. Cusco is more than just a mecca for vegetarians, hippies, backpackers, language-learners, and craft-lovers; it boasts hidden treasures (such as the Temple of the Moon, shhh) and hiking paths that lead all the way to Argentina. Not far away is Machu Picchu, one of the new seven Wonders of the World. Here as well are thousands of miles of ancient Inca trails to hike on, where you can go hopping between icy glaciers and tropical rain forests in a single day. Don’t forget about all of the other incredible, and less touristic, ruins around the Valle Sagrada, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Urubamba, too.
Peru’s capital city, Lima, is perches on the Pacific Ocean, making it an excellent destination for surf trips, paragliding, and skydiving, as well as a great jumping-off point to other destinations in the country. Visit Miraflores, a trendy neighborhood that boasts great ceviche, a typical seafood dish of the region, or check out Barranco for some traditionally-painted houses and street performances.
If you’re yearning for a remote destination surrounded by unique wildlife, check out Iquitos in the Amazon jungle. Motorcars outnumber any other type of vehicle here and riding in one can be an adventure in itself!
Top your adventure off in Puno by seeing the largest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. Don’t forget to take a deep breath because it has a surface elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 feet). If you feel that your dizziness and lightheaded feelings are caused by something other than the natural splendor in front of you, sip on some muña or coca tea, which is the locals’ magical cure for altitude sickness.
Adventure Travel Programs in Peru
Adventure travel programs in Peru can be anywhere on the spectrum, from extreme to more relaxed. However, almost all adventure programs in Peru have inclusions that will help you personally develop or give back to the community. Keep an eye out for Spanish language immersion, volunteer, and conservation extras when researching programs.
For travelers who enjoy trekking and have a flair for archaeology, adventure program opportunities in Peru are numerous. Ruins and trails built by the Incans are all over the country. If you choose to take the very comfortable Inca Rail train or similar scenic train ride, you’ll have the chance to see some incredible sights while rolling through the country. For more experienced hikers, check out the Cordillera Blanca, which has high peaks and incredible glaciers daring alpinists to summit. Want some extreme adventure? Try paragliding along the coast!
If you haven’t yet heard the dinosaur-like sound of a howler monkey, try a rainforest tour or rafting in the Amazonian jungle. You’ll have the chance to feed piranhas, see primates and tropical birds of all shapes and sizes, and even eat termites if you dare (they’re minty!). Ziplines, rainforest canopy walks, and conservation projects are plentiful out here. Some adventure programs in Peru offer homestays with local tribes; it is an absolute must if you’d like a cultural adventure!
If you’re not as excited about climbing the Andean mountains on your own two feet, you may prefer to see the sites with an equine friend. Luckily, there are many programs to see the countryside, ruins, and seaside on horseback. It’s tough to say nay to that opportunity!
It is recommended to travel during May through October, the dry and high touristic season in Peru. For those planning on hiking the Inca Trail, it is closed in February for conservation work. Most everything else is open and available year-round and there are still plenty of nice days for outdoor adventures in the low season.
Costs & Affordability
Peru offers just about all the adventures you could dream of, and it is one of the most affordable destinations in the Americas. Think about it this way: if a month of adventures in Peru costs less than one month of your rent at home, why shouldn’t you go?
Peruvians live simply and their cost of living reflects that. A standard three course lunch will cost $5 to $8, a liter of water or a city bus ride are less than $1, and a night at a three-star bed and breakfast will be around $25. All-inclusive adventure programs in Peru start at about $1500, and are priced depending on the scope of your adventure. For example, a guided rafting tour with equipment is going to cost more than a trek where you carry your own supplies.
Adventure travel programs in Peru are typically all-inclusive, with the exception of airfare and meals. This means that your in-country transportation, accommodation, cultural activities, 24/7 emergency support, and health insurance will be covered. If you happen to stay in a homestay, you’ll have meals covered as well.
If you want to start your adventure to Peru soon and your current job and savings aren’t enough to get you there (putting even $50 apart a month adds up!), consider looking at some student discount cards like ISIC. You can also fundraise upcoming trips through a crowdfunding website, such as FundMyTravel.
Accommodation & Visas
Regardless of your chosen adventure in Peru, you’ll be very close to some incredible natural scenery. Choose to rough it through the nights like true adventurers or opt for a lap of luxury. Either way, postcard views are the same.
If you’re trekking, be prepared to fall asleep listening to howler monkeys in the rainforest or crashes of ocean waves near the sea. Accommodation on mobile trips revolve around camping (you may need to bring your own tent/sleeping bag), without hot showers or any hope of WiFi signal. Most adventure travel programs in Peru that include camping will come with a donkey train that can carry your tent and food, so you won’t be quiet as bogged down when reaching mountain summits.
For shorter trips with a stable base accommodation, housing options vary greatly. They can range from shared rooms in hostels to very well-equipped lodges or hotels. If you’re particular about where you sleep, it’s a good idea to do some research and ask specific questions prior to signing up. As mentioned previously, some adventure programs in Peru offer homestay options, which is an adventure all on its own. Practice your Spanish, take a peek beyond the colorful quechua quilts covering doorways, and indulge in some home cooking.
Most short-term adventure travel in Peru does not require a visa, but it is advised to visit GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information. Your program advisor will also always be there to help with specific questions, so don’t forget to use them.
Benefits & Challenges
Food and drinks are delicious, but be careful about contamination. Most foreigners who visit Peru have tales of street food gone wrong, and it can be debilitating enough to take you out of the adventure game for a few days. Wash your hands and food with clean, potable water, and, although it is tempting, avoid street food if your stomach isn’t made of steel.
Pack for your adventure. You’ll need layers for extreme climates, from deserts to glaciers.Bring medications, bug repellant, and water purification tools. They are more affordable in your home country and you may be in a very remote area, so plan ahead!
The artisan markets are top destinations for tourists and it’s hard for anyone to leave the country empty-handed. Browse these markets and don’t be afraid to barter, respectfully. Many Peruvians struggle to make a living wage and selling their crafts is their key to survival. Enjoy and praise them for their creations!
There’s a lot more than just the national trinity of Puma, Condor, and Snake in Peru; there’s adventure behind every corner, waiting to be discovered. Pachamama is calling, ready for you to choose your adventure program so it can greet you with open arms.