In the summer of 2015, Berty called me at work and presented the best news ever. He had won a one-week trip to Peru! This trip was sponsored by Timex and Outside Magazine, and was arranged through an adventure company called OARS. It was an incredible journey filled with culture and adventure, but the cherry on top was spending it with the person I love most. If you don’t know already, it’s where Berty and I got engaged! We hope this article can inspire you to visit Peru, and plan your own adventure-filled week!
Having the trip of a lifetime, we wanted to share some experiences we especially loved. We are extremely grateful for the hospitality of everyone we met in Peru and also for the genuine friendships that we made there. Our itinerary was full of culture, adventure, and delicious food! We hope that you can keep these places in mind when you plan your own trip to Peru. *Also, as a heads up – this post contains affiliate links that help us keep this blog running! All opinions are totally our own!*
Here are 7 Adventures You Need to Take When You Visit Peru:
1. Explore the City of Cusco + Nearby Ruins
The city of Cusco sits at around 11,000 feet above sea level. We could feel the thinness in the air immediately after we left the airplane. It was a crazy experience feeling out of breath even just walking downhill! We had to pace ourselves the first 1-2 days in the city. To acclimate ourselves, we took slow walks around the town square, and drank lots of coca tea. I found this really useful blog post that give you tips of how to combat altitude sickness. Besides acclimating to the air, the city is filled with rich history around every corner. It’s teeming with culture; from the beautiful churches and catholic traditions from Spain to the delicious ceviche and guinea pig(!!), there is more to see of Cusco than we had time to explore.
Just outside of the city there are archeological sites that are worth the trip if you have a free day in Cusco. Must-sees include Sacsayhuaman and Pisac, but if you are willing to go further, Moray is worth the trip as well.
2. Zipline at Cola De Mono (Santa Teresa, Peru)
THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! Cola De Mono is the highest and the longest zip line in all of South America. Before the zip line course, we hiked for about 20 minutes up the mountain to reach our first line. It was a pretty strenuous hike, and we highly suggest taking water with you. We zip-lined on 6 separate cords, all of them crossing back and forth between a giant valley below. At its highest, you hover almost 500 feet above the ground, and some platforms are attached to the side of a rock wall with nothing underneath! The staff at Cola De Mono is extremely professional and we both felt very safe. It was a truly exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Additionally, make sure you check out the toilets there. The toilets face the huge valley, and without a wall on one side, you get a stunning view of Peru as you do your business.
3. Soak in the culture of Ollantaytambo and explore the Sun Temple Ruins
Berty and I loved this little town. Nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, this place is packed with rich, rich history. From the old stone paths that cover nearly every walkway to the bright textiles of the people, there is so much to see in Ollantaytambo. Our favorite adventure here was waking up before sunrise to visit the Sun Temple Ruins. If you make it at sunrise like us, you can see the sun peek out right at the top of the mountain. It was a surreal moment – I can definitely see why the ancient people picked that exact location! This one in my opinion is a must-see when you visit Peru.
There are tons of backpacking hostels, pubs, street food vendors, and markets to explore. If you want an all-out luxury retreat or a budget-friendly stay, there are options for all.
4. Whitewater Raft on the Urubamba River
This was an incredibly exciting day. First, we took a guided rafting tour of the Urubamba River on Class III rapids! This ride definitely got our adrenaline pumping. We went with an experienced staff who do these kinds of things for fun and we ended up laughing (and screaming) the whole time. After we rode down the river for ~1 hour, we pulled off to shore and drove to a delicious and rewarding lunch at a local restaurant, with Inca Cola of course! Until then, Berty and I had never been white water rafting and it was a fantastic first experience for both of us.
5. Drive over the Abra Malaga Pass
On our way out of Cusco and into Santa Teresa (and ultimately onward Machu Picchu), we made the drive over Abra Malaga Pass. At its very highest, the elevation is up to 14,500 feet!! While winding up the twisting roads, you get literal jaw-dropping views of the Andes Mountain range, specifically of Mt. Veronica and Salcantay Mountain.
Note* From Cusco, you have the option of catching a train straight to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), but we recommend taking this drive from Cusco to Machu Picchu instead. You can always take the train on your way back! While it’s a longer route than catching a train, the views you get are 100% worth your time.
6. Visit Local Farmers and Learn How To Make Homemade Hot Chocolate
Included with OARS trips are a home-stay visit with a local farmer at the edge of the Amazon jungle. While we wouldn’t necessarily put this under the “adventure” category, we wanted to include it on the list because of the impact it made on us. Seeing how real farmers use their land in Peru to produce plants (some I’d never even heard of!) and make a living was a really rich experience. Through this farm home-stay, Berty and I were able to appreciate the hard-working nature of Peruvians and experience as close to local life as we could. We also made homemade hot chocolate out of beans we roasted and crushed ourselves. It was hands-down the best I’ve tasted, and it was pure cocoa, no extra ingredients!
7. Machu Picchu (To Be Continued…)
Finally, this was the most adventurous of them all! Berty was most excited to visit Machu Picchu while in Peru, and for a good reason! Sitting at 8,000-10,000 feet above sea level, this place had adventure around every corner….
But Machu Picchu is obviously too huge of a topic to cover in a list like this. Stay tuned for a hyper-focused post on Machu Picchu, where to explore, and how to get the most out of your time here in this sacred site!! Until next time.
Thanks for reading!
If you were to visit Peru, which one of these activities appeals to you most? Comment below!
READ MORE ABOUT PERU + TRAVEL
Berty proposing at Machu Picchu! (Coming Soon)
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