Peru is an amazing country and one of the best to start traveling with! Located in the center of South America’s west coast, it’s a great mix of beach and desert. I loved it, and I think anyone who goes will love it, too! This Peru bucket list is compiled from my own experiences and those of other travel bloggers!
Peru Bucket List for ALL Travelers:
UNESCO Machu Picchu
- What’s a visit to Peru without Machu Picchu? Standing at the entrance was one of the first times I truly felt a sense of awe at the grand majesty of the site! It’s incredible!
- All around Cusco, the city that is the gateway to Machu Picchu, are parts of the Sacred Valley. They’re a series of sites that represent ancient Inca culture. Sacsayhuaman is a tiny bit of a walk from Cusco, and you can see a giant Jesus statue on one side and a viewpoint over the city on the other.
Salinas de Maras – Maras Salt Mines
- One of the places that I wasn’t able to visit, the Maras Salt Mines are also near Cusco! They’re a series of huge salt flats that are covered in salt, which makes the area look like white sand.
- A highly-underrated area, you have to go through the small city of Ica to get here. Relax on the sandy beaches near the shore during the day, and go on a dune buggy tour – including sunset watching, sandboarding, and free drinks at the end!
UNESCO Nazca Lines
- These are a series of mysterious lines in the sands of the Sechura Desert. They’ve existed for centuries, and don’t get washed or blown away because the area has no rain and no winds. They’re most curious because they are drawn in many different shapes in the sand – including the most well-known hand, tree, and condor – but no researchers have definitely figured out their meaning! Most people take a 30-minute helicopter ride to fly over the main structures.
- Lake Titicaca, one of the highest-altitude lakes in the world, is home to several unique islands! Uros is a series of small, completely man-made islands, and Taquile is a natural one with people that have a really special style of dress that have been named a UNESCO cultural tradition! The waters are incredibly pure and clear, but you can’t swim in them.
- Colca is one of the deepest Canyons in the world! It has the point that is said to be the start of the Amazon River, and a point from which you can watch condors flying overhead. You can also find huge plains with llamas everywhere! All around the city of Arequipa, you can find trekking tours that will bring you into it for 1-3 days.
- Another place that I wasn’t able to go, Rainbow Mountain is a majestic formation that truly looks like a rainbow. The colors are incredible!
The Amazon Rainforest
- If you haven’t seen it before, Northern Peru is largely rainforest! The Amazon is the largest in the world, and you can see a jaw-droppingly wide array of wildlife.
[Recommended Read: Hits and Misses of Three Weeks in Peru]
Peru Bucket List for Leisure Travelers:
UNESCO Historic Center of Lima
- Lima is full of modern shopping malls, parks, museums, and other stops, but the Historic Center really showcases Lima history! It has a stunning cathedral on one side that makes it look like you’re in a fairy tale.
UNESCO Historic Center of Cusco
- The center of Cusco’s center is a large, elegant fountain and plenty of spots to sit down and rest. Visit the several churches around the area and buy some coca candy!
UNESCO Historic Center of Arequipa
- Arequipa’s Historic Center feels much smaller than Lima’s or Cusco’s but you never know when there’s going to be a festival or parade! When I was there, there were a series of portraits made entirely of flowers on the ground!
Chocolate Museums (ChocoMuseo)
- These are AMAZING. Located in just about every single city/larger town you’ll go to, the Chocolate Museums show you exactly how chocolate is made and offer you plenty of samples! You can buy souvenirs as common as chocolate bars to those as different as chocolate tea, chocolate butter (a little like Nutella, but without the hazelnut), chocolate jam (honestly unexplainable), chocolate nibs, notebooks, and rum! If you have a free morning or afternoon, they also offer chocolate-making classes.
- Another member of the Sacred Valley area near Cusco. I visited Ollantaytambo as a precursor to Machu Picchu. The great thing is that you can also take the train directly from here to Machu Picchu, saving you some precious time in the morning before the rest of the tourists arrive.
Vineyards of Ica
- If you want to taste the Peru/Chile special, pisco, you have to visit a vineyard! I got a private tour of one in Ica, along with lots of pisco tasting. Pisco can be made into creams, sours, and mixed with other flavors, so try them all!
- The desert is where the skies are clearest, so visit the planetarium if you have some time at night! They have a telescope that can show you any constellation in the sky, and what you can see differs in the Southern Hemisphere than the Northern.
Nazca Cantollac Aqueducts and Los Paradones
- Nazca is actually worthy of a whole day trip – since the Lines will take a maximum of about an hour. If you have a car or a tour, make sure you see these really unique aqueducts and ruins that kept ancient people hydrated during severe droughts! They’re almost completely isolated, so you’ll be able to take as many pictures without other people as you want!
Ballestas Islands and Humboldt penguins
- Take a day trip from Lima or Ica to visit these islands off the Peruvian coast! The Humboldt penguins are endangered, so you’ll definitely have a worthwhile trip seeing them in the wild.
[Recommended Read: Everything You Need to Know About Peru]
Even if you’re not a foodie, eat these (Food in Peru Bucket List!):
- Ceviche is a Peruvian classic of fish (usually fresh and raw) with lime/lemon juice and flavored with peppers (usually chili). If you try it, do it in a coastal town (like Lima) so you get the freshest choices!
- In Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno, the altitude is very high. Coca, a type of plant, is said to help with altitude sickness. Though I’m not sure this is true, the candy is a nice way to add some sweetness to your day.
- The best kind is the kind you brew with coca leaves directly! Coca tea doesn’t have a very strong taste, so it was perfect for the colder mornings.
Causa: My Favorite Peru Bucket List food!
- One of the dishes that I really liked, causa is a fancier-looking dish. It’s basically layers of different foods, including mashed potatoes, chicken salad, and avocado. Yum!
- Pisco is an alcohol native to Peru and Chile. I’m not a huge drinker, so it wasn’t on my Peru bucket list, but I tried some and enjoyed it still! It reminds me a little of vodka, but is usually served as a sour or cream, which changes the taste!
- Inca Cola is a hit or miss with most people. It’s a carbonated soda similar to Sprite, but with less citrus taste and more straight-up sugary taste. It’s a local favorite, but you may prefer a traditional coke or sprite.
- In cities like Cusco, the market will have a special smoothie section. Watch the ladies use fresh fruits to make delicious smoothies right in front of you! They’re delicious and come in tens of combinations.
[Recommended Read: Nine Things to Know Before Getting to Peru]
Did I miss any items on this Peru bucket list? Leave your suggestions below!
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