Top 5 other things to do in Peru!
For many, a trip to Peru simply wouldn’t be complete without paying the world-famous Machu Picchu a visit. We certainly won’t argue with that, the spectacular Inca Citadel is truly a place of ancient historical grandeur and, despite the throngs of tourists (thought to be some 2,500 a day in peak season), the landscape still retains an air of magic and mystery. But, Peru is a land of adventure and intrigue in its own right and has so much more to offer.
Here are 5 other things to do in Peru once you’ve paid a visit to the awe-inspiring ancient city of Machu Picchu.
1. Spot condors at Colca Canyon
For ethereal Peruvian magic, Colca Canyon is a must-see. The world’s second deepest canyon, Colca measures twice the depth of the Grand Canyon and is easily as remarkable. An impressive 100km across, this Andean valley is perfect for adventurous hikers and makes a fantastic stop-off point between the beautiful white city of Arequipa and the breath-taking Lake Titicaca. The enchanting market town of Chivay is set in a picturesque patchwork of Pre-Inca agricultural terracing and manages to retain all of its remote Peruvian charm while acting as the perfect hub for tourists. To see something truly magical, start your trek early and head to the breath-taking Cruz del Condor. This is the most visited part of the Canyon and, with the river almost 1,500metres below you and the surrounding peaks rising another 3,400 metres above you, it’s the perfect place to appreciate the work of Mother Nature. An early morning visit allows you to view the majesty of the Condors at prey. These stunning birds nest in steep cliff faces around Cruz del Condor and there can be few other places on earth that offer the opportunity to see them at such close quarters.
2. Hike to Gocta Falls
Measuring an impressive 771 metres, this glorious waterfall wasn’t officially recognised until 2005 so you’ll be amongst the first tourists (relatively speaking) to trek to its summit. Ranked between the world’s third and 16th largest waterfall depending on which source you rely, Gocta Falls provides a perfectly well-maintained hike which is surrounded by the magnificent sights, sounds and smells of the cloud forest. And the reasonably priced Gocta Andes Lodge acts as the ideal base for those wishing to see the Falls. Expect striking wildlife (think hummingbirds, butterflies and the native, orange-plummaged bird known as the Cock of the Rock), beautiful views and perfectly refreshing Pisco Sours as you gaze on the Falls from the comfort of your homely hotel.
3. Visit Kuelap
If you’re looking for iconic, ancient history and breath-taking landscapes, the ruined citadel of Kuelap has it all. These pre-Inca ruins pre-date Machu Picchu and despite being far less well known, are every bit as impressive. Head to the summit via cable car and get ready for exceptional panoramas. With surprisingly few tourists, the site is built on a mountain-top that is 3,000 metres above sea level and experts estimate its construction began around 500AD. Perfectly preserved, the dramatic home of the Chachapoya people (or warriors of the clouds) will leave you awe-struck.
4. Trek to Rainbow Mountain
Vinicuna or Rainbow Mountain has become something of an Instagram sensation in recent years. This glorious mountain is naturally striped with a range of colours from deep maroon to vibrant lavender to shimmering gold. Beautifully picturesque, the ‘Mountain of 7 colours’ certainly makes for some spectacular social media snaps but that’s not all it has to offer. Visitors will travel along ancient pathways, past formidable glaciers, tranquil lakes, and bucolic scenes of grazing llamas. One of the world’s most incredible geological features, Rainbow Mountain can be seen in a day with an overnight stay in Cusco.
5. Travel by train between Cusco and Lake Titicaca
10 hours apart by train, you wouldn’t necessarily consider the Inca capital of Cusco and the ‘birthplace of the sun’ Lake Titicaca to exist as the same point on a list of ‘things to do in Peru’ but, thanks to the once-in-a-lifetime journey aboard the Peru Rails Titicaca train, they make the perfect pairing. Your journey will start in Cusco (a truly beautiful city which is the perfect base for exploring the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) before taking in Urcos and La Raya. The glorious 1920s Pullman-style train boasts an open-air observatory car from which guests can gaze upon towering mountains, crystal clear lakes and charming villages. Boasting afternoon tea, Pisco Sours making sessions, live traditional music and much more, this has to be one of the finest ways to travel. The 10-hour journey should provide you with ample opportunity to relax and recharge before you reach your final destination of Lake Titicaca. Straddling the vast borders of Bolivia and Peru, this shimmering masterpiece is the world’s highest navigable lake. From the azure blue, sparkling skies to the deep blue shimmering lake, the region is a mixture of crumbling cathedrals, unique floating reed islands and distinctive communities (who somehow manage to brave the night-time cold without so much as a shiver). This is truly unique experience that you’re likely to be talking about for years to come.
For enchanting vistas, once-in-a-lifetime treks and stunning Amazonian wildlife, Peru won’t be bettered. Come for the spectacle of Machu Picchu but stay for the myriad of other things to see and do.
Written by freelance writer Natasha James, after recently travelling to Peru with Rainbow Tours.
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