A quick guide to the best things to do in Peru, brought to you by a professional traveler who has visit it twice.
While you were haulin’ bum to Machu Picchu, you missed some incredible Peruvian sites off the beaten path.
Don’t get me wrong, Machu Picchu is astonishing. People come from all around the world to experience the ancient Incan miracle. However, it is by far not the only wonder worth exploring in Peru.
Five years ago, I traveled to Peru with my mother. I was backpacking solo through South America, and my loving, concerned mother felt the need to hop on a plane and meet me in Peru because she wasn’t sure I’d be safe in the Amazon Jungle.
We had a remarkable time in the Amazon, Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. Another bucket list check. I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to scurry back to Peru when there are new, unknown places I haven’t seen.
Then it happened.
I realized that we did Peru wrong.
This time, traveling solo, I partnered with a local tour operator — Peruvian Sunrise, to get a comprehensive Peruvian experience.
Unlike big-brand companies that push and pull you around like cattle in crammed tour buses, a company like Peruvian Sunrise is just for you (and me). They do small, personalized corporate and private tours always tailored to hit both bucket list-checks and off-the beaten spots you won’t find in a listicle. They also work with your budget.
That’s what people don’t realize about my solo travel: I seek help.
Sure, sometimes I hop in cars with people I meet online, sometimes I am by myself, and sometimes I call for back up. Traveling solo or with just a couple friends doesn’t mean you always have to do it all on your own.
Working with a local company based both in Cusco and the States allowed me to truly maximize my Peruvian experience. I wasn’t going to screw it up twice.
Here are the five sites you missed when you were distracted by said UNSECO World Heritage Site. Thank you to my sponsor partner, Peruvian Sunrise for helping me get it right this time!
1. Mara Salt Mines, Peru
This mystical crystal haven was pursued by a spa operator, but the local farmers wouldn’t give it up. Bring along a Spanish translator and have a chat with the locals before it’s no longer all natural. Able to chat in Espanol myself, one of the farmers offered me a village made “chicha” (pictured in the cup above).
It’s beer. They’re literally mining salt while drinking beer.
Self-portrait @StephBeTravel: cliff over-looking Peru’s Maras Salt Mines.
2. Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru
Puerto Maldonado. Situated in the middle of nowhere, a place of trees, water, and culture is every excuse to get lost. My vehicle of transit: this charming little engine — vastly different from the luxury jungle lodge and fine cuisine that awaited me.
We did canopy walks, boat tours, nature treks with monkeys, and a whole lot of nothing but looking at the gorgeous sunrise and sunset. Wifi is only accessible for parts of the day, but you don’t need it when you’re relaxing in the lodge or connecting with the wildlife.
I also made a stop by a the zoo to capture this gem. Do you think this is how Britney Spears felt?
Did you see the behind the scenes on Snapchat Username: TravelBreak
3. Lake Sandoval, Amazon Rainforest, Peru
Once getting to Puerto Maldonado, I took a trip on the legendary Lake Sandoval. Enjoy day or night tours, find wild Cayman, and witness some of the wildest birds you didn’t even know existed.
Return to your luxury safe haven 🙂 Repeat.
Self-portrait at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica – the perks of a luxury hotel with the many unknown amenities required for a stay in the jungle (yes, the beds are netted).
4. Moray, Inca Ruins – Maras/ Cusco, Peru
A genius agricultural experiment, this former irrigation system proves the Incas were wise before our understanding.
They also make for a great halo self-portrait. Just saying.
Road to Moray via @StephBeTravel (above, self-portrait Moray ruins).
Resting at Hotel Sol y Luna, Urumbama – Peru
Providing phenomenal food and unmatched artistry.
5. The Sacred Valley // Cusco, Peru
Yes, you like the markets and the church, but did you know about the glorious terrain of the Sacred Valley? I didn’t. I missed it round one, but this time around, my friends at Peruvian Sunrise took me around (see what I did there? okay, not that clever).
I then stayed at former convent in the heart of Cusco for a fine, international twist on Peru’s treasured Inca culture.
JW Marriott, El Convento — Cusco, Peru
This doesn’t mean you should skip Machu Picchu.
Yes, it lives up to the craze.
Check out the scale of these ridges!
My new Peruvian boyfriend. We met on Tinder.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru
An environmentally friendly luxury hotel reserve that’s welcomed hosts such as Pharrell — and more recently, meeeeee 🙂
The chic, smart luxury hotel “El Mapi” in Aguas Calientes, Peru. I stayed here with my mom the first time I visited Machu Picchu.
A big thank you.
It was an incredible experience to head back to Peru and properly photograph it. It’s always nice to get a second chance, but especially in a place like this! Peruvian-Sunrise is a smaller, private tour operator with offices in the U.S. and Cusco that have seven years of tour-operating experience, a lifetime of living local, and a heart for treating their guests like family. I met one of the founders in person.
We may have had a few Pisco Sours and caught one of the Peruvian-Sunrise team members rocking out to his band.
Thank you team Peruvian Sunrise for such an incredible experience, and for allowing me to tell your story.
You can also learn more about the best things to do in Peru with their board of tourism site.
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