- Exploring the Catacombs of San Francisco (Lima): Beneath this colonial church and convent in the center of Lima, an estimated 25,000 bodies were interred until a main cemetery was built. There’s no creepier or fascinating experience in Peru than wandering through this maze of eerily arranged human bones.
- Eating ceviche (Lima): A staple of Peruvian coastal cuisine, ceviche has taken the world by storm. A tantalizing dish of raw fish and shellfish marinated in lime juice and hot chili peppers, it’s wonderfully refreshing and spicy. It’s traditional for lunch, and best at a seaside cevichería.
- Hopping on an Andean train: The train route to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo is a thrilling journey through the sacred Urubamba Valley, filled with anticipation, while the train south to Lake Titicaca is full of transfixing highland scenery, also with a giant payoff at the end.
- Marveling at Machu Picchu: Cradled by the Andes and swathed in clouds, the ruins of the legendary “lost city of the Incas” are one of the world’s most spectacular sites. Despite its enormous popularity, the site remains a thrilling experience, especially at sunrise, when rays of light creep over the mountaintops.
- Self-medicating with mate de coca: Coca-leaf tea, a legal local beverage and centuries-old tradition, gives you a break when dealing with the high altitude of the Andes—which can make your head spin and your body reel. Rural highlanders chew coca leaves, as the Incas did, but you can get nearly the same relief from coca tea.
- Soaking up the sun on the southern beaches (Side Trips from Lima): Some call the playas of Asia Peru’s version of the Hamptons. During summer weekends, the city’s wealthy make the 100km (62-mile) drive south from Lima to swim in beaches far superior to the capital. An entire satellite city appears with many of the same restaurants, shops, and nightspots as in the capital.
- Staring at the stars (Sacred Valley): On a clear night, it’s not hard to perceive the Incas’ worship of the natural world, in which the moon was a deity. If your visit coincides with a full moon in that gargantuan sky and you identify the Southern Cross, you’ll be talking about it back home for months.
- Worshiping the sun at Inti Raymi (Cusco): One of the continent’s most spectacular pageants, the Festival of the Sun celebrates the winter solstice, honoring the Inca sun god with colorful Andean parades, music, and dance. The event envelops Cusco and transforms the Sacsayhuamán ruins overlooking the city into a majestic stage.
- Searching for penguins and boobies: Spend a morning on a boat or yacht sailing to the Islas Ballestas near Paracas or the Islas Palomino near Callao, groups of tiny islets that are like a mini-Galapagos. Short excursions put you face to face with sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and Peruvian boobies, as well as other colonies of rare seabirds.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.