It should be considered a crime to visit Peru only for the infamous Machu Picchu. Although this world wonder is an incredible destination to appreciate whilst visiting South America we wanted to share some secret gems around Peru that will give you even more reason to spend time exploring this magical country.
Incredible landscapes, inviting locals, and affordability have helped propel Peru to a top traveler destination. If you’re unsure of what else to do with your time in Peru, these stunning spots will leave you with no more excuses to postpone your South American adventure.
This hidden gem is much less visited than any other on the list and has already been impacted largely by the little tourism that has reached it. Tourists are now banned from swimming in the cold turquoise river pools due to the water color changing from silt and dirt but you can certainly still appreciate the crazy powers of nature just by being close to the turquoise waters of Milpu in Ayacucho, Peru.
Rainbow MountainYou’ve probably seen this site frequent your Instagram feed since it was discovered only 5 years ago after climate change caused the ice on top of the colorful hill to melt away. Unfortunately, the Peruvian government is quite keen to mine this beautiful natural wonder for its many minerals so tourism might give this place a longer chance of survival.
An early departure from Cusco and a tough climb at an altitude of 5,200 meters will be well rewarded with a jaw dropping show of 7 colors striping through the mountain. Definitely an unmissable site for your Peru adventure.
This desert oasis is becoming a backpacker haven due to its laid back bars and party hostel reputation, and for good reason. This beautiful town was built between some of the biggest sand dunes in the world and has become the perfect destination for sand-boarding, dune buggies and other exhilarating sports.
If you are more into relaxing, many accommodation options have much needed swimming pools as a relief from the daytime heat, and an unbelievable view of the sunset from the dunes every night will put you in the right mood to enjoy plenty of pisco sours (typical Peruvian cocktail) and dance the night away.
Paracas is otherwise known as the ‘poor man's Galapagos’, this beautiful expanse of coastline only a few hours from Lima is ever growing in popularity due to its abundance of wildlife. Sea lions, penguins and many other animals grace the shores of the National Park and it’s islands which tourists can enjoy for a fraction of the price of the infamous Galapagos Islands.
Another way to explore the many beaches and coves is to rent a dune buggy from the small town center and head into the National Park to explore the alien landscape of Peru’s coast.
Many adventurous travelers visit South America for the Andes mountain range and Huaraz is a hikers paradise! With countless towering mountains surrounding the city of Huaraz the possibilities for climbs are endless. If you’re a newbie to high altitude hikes, you can start with the famous Laguna Paron which involves a relatively short but challenging 1 hour hike to the look-out point of this glorious turquoise lake. If you want to throw yourself into the deep end there are hikes up to 10 days long which visit over 7 lakes in the beautiful Andes region of Huaraz. For a true taste of the mountains, there is nowhere better than North Peru.
Many cities make the bucket list of Peru’s tourists but Arequipa is still relatively unknown. Nick-named the ‘white city’, as most of the beautiful buildings are made from white volcanic stone, many visitors miss out on the unreal views of the 3 towering volcanoes around Arequipa. You can spend your days enjoying the delicious coffee in many of the city's cafes or venture to the Sillar quarry and see where the magnificent white stone comes from. If you aren’t tired of climbing yet, you can even tackle an overnight hike up Misti Volcano and take in the views of sunrise in Peru’s Southern region.
Mostly just a stop-over on the way to Machu Picchu means that during mornings and evenings the ancient town of Ollantaytambo is left pretty abandoned. The stunning cobbled narrow streets are lined with local delicacies, chocolate shops and plenty of hostels and accommodation options. No-longer just known as a stop on the train journey to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo has some VERY impressive ancient ruins of its own. The ancient sun temple can be seen high above the town and the fortress is a crucial part of Peru’s sacred valley and Inca history. A definite must-see during your Peruvian adventure.
If these beautiful spots got your Wanderlust thirsty for a new adventure make sure to consider Peru as your next destination and get off the beaten path to make unforgettable and unique memories of your own in South America.
Charlotte Little is the author of The Petite Passenger, the sex, love and beauty site for travelers. This tiny woman is on a mission to share the good, bad and the ugly side of traveling as a female backpacker. Nothing is considered taboo on her travel blog and intimate topics are tackled through her adventures around the world. Keep up with her on Instagram @the.petite.passenger and on her website thepetitepassenger.com