Peru is rapidly becoming one of the most talked-about holiday destinations in the world, and even people who are usually less adventurous travellers are starting to think about a trip to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or an adventure in the Amazon jungle. It’s great that these destinations are reaching out to a broader travelling public, but it does mean that if you hanker for some adventure on your Peru holidays then you may need to look a little further afield than the major sights. Here are five ideas to do just that!
Get greedy in Lima
It might seem a bit odd to suggest that the capital of Peru is off the beaten track, but if you travel just a short way outside the Miraflores area where most tourists stay on their Peru holidays, and also outside the historic centre which most people visit, you can find a whole new side of life. The food scene in Peru has been causing a huge buzz, and many people are now visiting Peru purely for the food, but instead of eating in the upscale Miraflores restaurants (great though many of them are), try heading to some of the neighbourhood places in districts like Chorillos and Surco. You won’t get the hype but you’ll get some amazing food in a much more relaxed atmosphere, and a good bit cheaper too… Another tip would be to check out Lima’s fantastic Chinatown. Few tourists make it here, but you’ll find some of the best Chinese food in the world, and all just a short taxi-ride from your hotel.
Try a different Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the world’s outstanding high-altitude treks, and takes you through some fantastic mountain and sub-tropical scenery before you finally arrive at the lost Inca City. The downside is that it’s become so popular that strict limits have now been introduced on the number of people allowed to trek the Inca Trail, with no more than 500 a day permitted on the trail. Permits must be applied for in advance, and at especially busy times of the year for Peru holidays, such as July and August, permits sell out months in advance. What is much less well-known is that there are several alternative treks which supply all the adventure, but without the need for a special permit. Probably the best of these is the fantastic Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, which takes you a little higher into the Andes, with even more spectacular scenery – many people actually rate it even more highly than the ‘classic’ Inca Trail.
“One Inca City! There’s only one…”
Of course, despite the impression you might get, Machu Picchu isn’t the only lost Inca city you could visit on your Peru holidays. Just a few miles away as the crow flies, for example, is the equally-impressive site of Choquequirao. With the same sort of stunning backdrop, and the same classic Inca architecture, Choquequirao is the equal of Machu Picchu itself, but because you have to trek for a couple of days to get here, most people never see it. Their loss could be your gain…
Holidays in the North of Peru
And of course, the Incas were certainly not the only important culture to have arisen in Peru. In the north of Peru you can visit some incredible sites that are totally different to what you’ll see in Cusco and Machu Picchu. In Trujillo, for example, you can visit the enormous adobe pyramids built by the Moche culture hundreds of years before Machu Picchu, and just outside Chachapoyas you can visit the huge pre-Inca mountain-top city of Kuelap, which is somewhere everyone should try and see on their holidays in Peru – you can’t help comparing it to Machu Picchu in terms of location, size and quality, but it’s also totally different. Even better, you can usually have it completely to yourself!
Relax at a desert Oasis
Usually when people are looking for some relaxation time, perhaps at the end of their Peru holidays, they head for one of Peru’s excellent beaches – perhaps Paracas in the south, or Mancora in the north. However, if you’re looking for something different, then think about spending some time at Peru’s genuine palm-tree lined desert oasis of Huacachina. The lagoon itself is surrounded by 1000-feet high sand dunes (perfect for sandboarding, by the way) but also boasts some really nice hotels with lovely pools so you can just enjoy the year-round sunshine, maybe with the odd dune-buggy ride thrown in for good measure.
Dan Clarke works for Real Peru Holidays – the UK specialists in tailormade holidays in Peru, from trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and exploring ancient cultures, to just kicking back in a hammock in Huacachina!