It wouldn’t feel right to travel here without experiencing the best thing to do in Peru. Fifty miles northwest of the city of Cusco lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. This special experience is an unforgettable must-see on any adventurer’s bucket list. If you’re an avid hiker, the famous Inca Trail ends as you cross the threshold of the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, an incredibly worthwhile reward after such an intense journey. But if hiking’s not your thing and you’d rather have a chill vacation, it’s easy to hop on a train from Aguas Calientes to travel there.
Be sure to bring your passport! Once you make it to Machu Picchu, there’s a spot you can easily miss to get a novelty passport stamp to commemorate your trip. It’s recommended to stay in a hotel in Cusco a couple days prior to seeing Machu Picchu, as this will help you acclimate to the high altitude. Once there, you may spot herds of alpaca grazing about and can wander through the winding ancient Incan citadel to your heart’s content, or take a private tour. If Machu Picchu isn’t anywhere on your Peru Top 10 list, it should be!
This iconic festival has taken place annually for 500 years on the winter solstice (June 24th) and is the most important date in Cusco, which was actually the capital city of Peru before Lima. It involves an all-day celebration of the Sun God Inti and Mother Earth, who is called Pachamama. Today, the festival involves sacred rituals and a re-enactment of Inti Raymi in traditional attire with processions of dancers and music. Explore this Cultural Gems In Peru!
The festival begins at The Temple of the Sun (Corikancha). A royal entourage then continues through the Plaza de Armas for the second part of the festival. Sacsayhuaman is the final stop where thousands of spectators gather to see the last part of the re-enactment. As far as culturally-rich activities go, this has to be one of Tripio’s top things to do in Peru. Be sure to book your ticket well in advance so you can add it to your Custom Itinerary in the Tripio app.
You can’t miss this bright yellow baroque cathedral, named after St. Francis in 1674, which is famous for its eerie catacombs that contain the remains of over 70,000 people. You can tour the on-site museum and learn about the monastery’s library of 25,000 antique texts as well as take the stairs leading underground to the catacombs. Explore the gardens outside for a peaceful end to your visit. It’s a unique way to get a dose of the church’s rich history and a little chill up your spine at the same time.
Step inside the 18th century mansion that is the Rafael Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum and you’ll be surrounded by countless pre-Columbian historic treasures. Its expansive artifact collections takes you through over 5,000 years of captivating art to give you a taste of Peru’s fascinating past. It houses sections of relics related to textiles, ceramics, music, ritual ceremonies, gold and silver jewelry, and features picturesque gardens to walk through that engulf the building in color. This provides an educational experience for travelers who enjoy cultural immersion and learning the deep history that showcases some of the best ancient art that Peru has to offer.
Something you may not expect to find in this museum is something the Larco Museum is quite famous for — its large gallery of erotic pottery (huaco). You can find this gallery separated from the other exhibits for obvious reasons. The bizarre nature of this display is exactly what draws so many visitors to this gallery, intrigued by what the indigenous peoples of the Americas created and the “why” behind it.
5. Cultural Gems In Peru – Lake Titicaca Homestay with Local Family
This is an intimate, one-of-a-kind cultural adventure in southern Peru that lets you stay with a local family in their Amantani Island home overlooking Lake Titicaca. You’ll travel by boat that will make its first stop at the Uros Floating Islands, where you’ll get to meet the locals, tour their houses made of reeds, and learn more about their lifestyle. You can find this homestay experience in the Tripio app, packed with various styles of activities for all types of travelers.
On your next stop, you’ll have lunch with a local, and be taken on a guided hike to see pre-Incan ruins. The hike ends at a beautiful overlook point where you’ll watch the sunset over the lake before heading back and having dinner with your designated family. You have the option to attend a party where you can wear traditional attire and learn dances from the locals. After staying the night, you’ll take another boat to hike around Taquile Island and have a tasty lunch before ending your homestay experience and heading back to Puno. If all this sounds like the perfect way to have a deeper cultural connection while you’re here, add it to your Top 10 Peru activities. It deserves a spot without a doubt!
Tripio is all about authentic travel experiences, so shopping at the market should absolutely be on your Peru travel itinerary! It’s one of the best ways to try local produce native to the area such as fruits, veggies, chocolate, hearty soup, juice, and even fresh ceviche. The vendor’s vibrant colors make it an eye-catching experience as you stroll up and down its aisles at your leisure. You can find a lot of unique textiles, clothing, and fabrics here to bring home as a souvenir. One could easily spend hours here browsing all the goodies offered and finding new, delicious things to try at every corner.
7. Cultural Gems In Peru – Discover the Incan Salt Mines of Maras
Tucked in the Sacred Valley about an hour from Cusco, you can visit the sprawling salt mines of Maras. There are over 3,000 pools here that are filled with saltwater by a series of underground canals. You can walk around the pools on designated paths. Several hundred local families own this location and extract the salt that is left in the pools using special techniques after the sun evaporates the water. The area is quite beautiful and an interesting place to learn about, making this the perfect half-day trip to add to your Peru itinerary in the Tripio app. There’s even a gift shop where you can purchase some of their harvested salt and other souvenirs.
If your vacation has left you tired of being on planes, see if you can make an exception for this curious flight. Take to the skies on a small aircraft flying over the country’s southern desert. Seeing the mysterious Nazca Lines is usually on many traveler’s Top 10 list of best things to do in Peru. It’s a fairly short flight packed with some baffling history. You’ll glide over these enormous ancient geoglyphs for about 30 minutes, and your pilots will show you all twelve line designs like the condor, monkey, astronaut, spider, and hummingbird. You have the option to view them from ground level, as some of them can be spotted from the surrounding foothills, but where’s the adventure in that?
If your vacation lands you in Peru’s bustling capital city of Lima, the Central Plaza is a must-see. It features some of the oldest and most impressive historical architecture in the country that dates back to the 16th century. You can check out the multiple museums, cathedrals, and colonial buildings on your own or sign up for a free guided tour of the area. Be sure to stop by the Presidential Palace, where you can watch the ceremonial changing of the guard that takes place everyday at around 11:45 AM. There’s so much to see here in historic Lima, so staying for a few days is highly recommended! If easy sightseeing is your jam, add Lima’s main plaza to your Custom Top 10.
10. Cultural Gems In Peru – Explore the Incan Ruins of Sacsaywaman
Perched on a scenic hill overlooking the city of Cusco is the former Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman. You can book a tour here to learn about its history more fully or go the self-guided route to wander at your own pace. You can take a taxi to the ruins or walk 30 minutes directly there from the Plaza de Armas on a designated path that takes you past the iconic Cristo Blanco statue. So you’ll actually be seeing two cultural sites in one go! This is an easy adventure for your Tripio Custom Itinerary if you’re looking for ways to acclimate to the altitude.
-Rachael Grow, Tripio Guru