Oh, Peru. I remember the days when I would tell people I was from Peru only to have them look back at me confused. They’d ask, “did you mean Puerto Rico? Or where is that in Mexico?” How times have changed since Machu Picchu was added to the Seven New Wonders of the World list. I remember voting for it to be added. And I’m glad that it did. But now it seems that’s all anyone wants to visit. Not going to say anyone shouldn’t because it is amazing and gives me this sense of calm I have yet to fully experience elsewhere. But Peru is so much more than Cusco and Machu Picchu. So as a Peruvian American who has visited over 25 times in my lifetime, let me tell you some off the beaten path places you should see in Peru.
These are places I have personally visited but by no means are they the only off the beaten path places you should visit in Peru. I’m hoping that it’s a list to get you started when doing research on this beautiful country. Even though I wasn’t born in Peru, you’ll notice I have a lot of Peruvian pride. You’ll see this in the posts I write and content I create. So let’s get started!
Peru: Off the Beaten Path Places
As mentioned, Machu Picchu is the main reason people have Peru on their bucket list. So what if I told you there’s a similar site with 1/10th of the people and a mere fraction of the price? That place is called Choquequirao. This archaeological complex is thought to be one of the last Quechua resistance locations when the Spanish invaded.
So if it has such a history, why is it overlooked? There are two reasons for this. The first being that most of it is still under overgrown greenery so much of it is still unable to be viewed or walked around. The second is because the only way to get there for the time being is by hiking. Meaning you’ll have to have at least 3 days minimum in the area to get to the ruins, explore them, and then head back to town to go to your next destination. Most people don’t have the time to do this or the stamina because the trail is not for beginners.
The next on our list is Huaraz. This city of Peru has been getting a lot more popular over the years especially amongst hikers and adventure seekers. There’s so many glacier topped mountains and adventure spots to partake in here.
When living in Peru back in 2016 I actually took a weekend trip here with an adventure tour company. I had visited years before when I was 10 and my main memory of that trip was running around and then getting soroche (altitude sickness). I wanted to change my thoughts of this place and so off I went. Included in my tour was hiking to Laguna 69 (I highly recommend it), puenting (like bungee jumping but from a bridge), and rappelling next to a waterfall.
There’s these experiences and many more to have in this region. Definitely recommend going and don’t forget to prepare for the high altitude because it is no joke.
This town is located in the northern region of Peru. It’s more popular with Peruvian domestic travelers than international ones which is why it has made this list. Staying in Chachapoyas is the perfect place to get to the surrounding areas. You can check out the
- Gocta waterfalls (one of the tallest in the world)
- Kuelap Fortress (built by the Chachapoyas ~600 years before Machu Picchu)
- Museo de Leymebamba (community run museum with over 200 mummies)
- Karajia (tombs built into the side of a cliff)
- Caverna Quiocta (underground cave that’s barely been altered with any additions)
- Revash (similar to Mesa Verde in Colorado with dwellings built into the mountain)
This area has so much history to explore that it is worth the visit for sure. Currently Kuelap is only able to be visited from the outside, but don’t let this deter you. I ended up deciding not to visit Kuelap as the pictures didn’t show much, but there were so many other things to see that it wasn’t an issue.
This small town tends to be overshadowed by Huacachina which is a 5 minute taxi ride away. But it is worth a visit especially for wine and spirit lovers. There’s so many wineries and bodegas to check out. Make sure to visit Tacama which is one of the oldest wineries in Peru.
If nature is more your thing than you’ll need to make a day trip to Canyon de Los Perdidos. You can also fly above the Nazca lines in a small plane. Make sure to bring your motion sickness medicine if you tend to be affected by that. Closer to the ocean is a red sand beach that when I visited back in 2017 was completely empty.
Not too far either is the Paracas National Reserve. By many it’s called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” as it’s completely doable in a day and much cheaper than a trip to the Ecuadorian islands. You have to head here really early in the morning because by the afternoon the wind and waves aren’t favorable and could be pretty dangerous. Bring layers because the morning will be chilly but as the day goes on and you get back on land it’ll be a lot warmer. Prepare to see a variety of marine life in their natural habitat.
A small lakeside town a couple hours from Tarapoto, el Sauce is the perfect place to disconnect and unwind. My first visit ever to this region was almost two years ago and it has grown! If you saw it though you’d think it looks small, cause it does. So now imagine it even smaller. There is not loads to do aside from some lake activities but you’ll really get to experience slow travel by staying here for a bit. It’s also quite the journey from Tarapoto which is an experience within itself. The road leading here is not paved so expect to be in for a bumpy ride.
These lagoons are a perfect addition to your itinerary if you’re planning to visit Ayacucho. Depending on when you visit, these little pools are brightly turquoise blue without the filter. I went right around the time when rainy season was coming to an end so unfortunately the pools were not their usually blue color.
Near the parking lot was a vendor who sold really fresh fish. If you like eating fish then I recommend getting this dish, it comes with rice and a salad. The cost back then was 10 solos, about $3, so it may have increased a bit since then.
This small city is located in the rainforest of Peru. Most people opt for Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado which are beautiful but so is this smaller gem. There are so many things to do here including but not limited to waterfalls, caves, hiking, botanical gardens. The mountain region that you can get a better view from the lookout point is said to look like Sleeping Beauty. Will you see her lying there?
In Lima Province lies this little town on top of a mountain. Surrounding it is the Bosque del amor (forest of love) and a stream that at one point has these mini waterfalls that make for calming background music. To observe them up close, take the Cotosqui War hike which will take you to the foot of the falls to fully enjoy the colors and landscape. The center of this town has the most beautiful mountain backdrop and from the other side you overlook the river. You can also enjoy many look out points at over 4,000 meters. A few to keep in mind for your trip are el mirador de San Cristóbal and Canta Gallo.
All of these destinations are just a glimmer of what you can expect to see in Peru. These are destinations I have visited and I will be including more. There is so much more than just this though if you’re willing to look beyond the must dos.
Which of these will be making it to your Peru itinerary? Or what other type of off the beaten path places would you like to know about in Peru?
I know that budgeting for a trip can be stressful especially with ever rising flight prices. I’ve written a post on How To Find Cheap Flights that includes the websites and apps I personally use.
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Viaja more y live más,