‘These 7 epic adventures will make you want to travel to Peru right now!’
Peru has some of the world’s wildest and most varied landscapes, from the rugged snow-covered Andes mountains to the dense forest of the Amazon. Spread across these landscapes, the South American country’s wealth of outdoor activities will entice even the most seasoned of adventurers. Take your pick from trekking, river rafting, mountain biking, surfing and ice climbing amongst some of the planet’s most dramatic scenery.
‘Travel far enough, you meet yourself’
South America’s most famous hike – and one of the best treks in the world – is a 43-kilometre trail from the Sacred Valley up to the ruined hilltop settlement of Machu Picchu that was laid out by the Incas in the 15th century. The high-altitude trek – which is not for the feint of heart – has thousands of hikers each year who revel in the vistas of the snow-capped Andes mountains, misty cloud forests, majestic mountain passes that accompany them on their way to the final spectacle of breathtaking Machu Picchu.
The Amazon rainforest covers more than half of Peru, and is protected by the country’s largest park, Manu National Park. Spanning several ecological zones from the lowland forest to the Andean peaks, the park boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world, making it a must-visit for nature nuts. Manu is home to 15 000 species of plants (including up to 250 types of trees in the space of just 10 000 square metres), more than 1000 species of birds and one of the highest abundances of land vertebrates of any tropical forest on the continent. Jaguars are often spotted in the park, along with giant anteaters, short-eared dogs, Andean cats and black caimans as well as rare species such as the giant otter and the giant armadillo. There are a few adventurous ways to see the animals and experience the riotous life of the jungle: by catamaran, on foot on the walking trails, by canopy zip line and river rafting.
With 50 peaks above 4800 metres high, including Peru’s tallest mountain, Huascarán, the Cordillera Blanca is the country’s most dramatic mountain range. Forming part of the Andes, the Cordillera Blanca stretches for 200 kilometres, and is one of the best destinations in South America for trekking and mountaineering. The spectacular landscape of rugged snowcapped peaks, glittering glaciers, alpine lakes and gushing rivers is a haven for outdoors adventures, which range from ice climbing on Llaca Glacier, trekking on various routes (the classic and most popular is the five-day Santa Cruz – Llanganuco trek, which is considered one of the best alpine hikes in the world), climbing (there are climbs for both beginners and extremely experienced climbers on several peaks), mountain biking (for the fit, there’s a five-day circuit that covers a big chunk of the Cordillera Blanca) and horse riding on miles of beautiful trails.
In southern Peru, Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest river canyons (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US), a staggeringly beautiful place with a green valley dotted with 14 remote villages next to thousands of pre-Incan agricultural terraces carved into the mountains. The canyon is also home to the giant Andean condor, an extremely rare and symbolic bird that can be spotted from the Cruz del Condor lookout if you’re lucky. You can do hikes in the canyon, but the best way to experience it is on a multiday trek that descends into the canyon, breaking up the hike with overnight stays at family homestays in the villages on the way.
With 2400 kilometres of coastline, Peru offers up some fantastic surfing, with waves to suit everyone from beginners to super advanced surfers. Northern Peru is the best surf region: Mancora has the largest left hand point break in the world, meanwhile some 500 kilometres to the south, Chicama boasts the world’s longest left handed wave, and just 60 km further south, Huanchaco is known for its easy and consistent waves. Close to Lima in southern Peru, Punta Hermosa has every kind of wave for every kind of skill level, while La Herradura in Lima is a popular point break. Whatever kind of surf level you’re at or whether you head north or south, you’ll find plenty of waves to ride and lots of sunshine in Peru.
Peru has some fantastic canoeing and white water rafting with options available for both beginners and advanced adventurers. Cusco is one of South America’s best canoeing and rafting centres, with river grades ranging from mild to extremely challenging on the Urubamba and Apurimac rivers. For a truly epic Peruvian rafting adventure, you can do an 11-day journey down the Tambopata River in the Amazon rainforest, where you’ll get to tackle some serious white water rapids and camp in the wild, spotting some of the forest’s amazing animals such as jaguars and anacondas along the way.
Bordering Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is South America’s second largest lake, famous for its floating reed islands. Legend has it that the Uru people came from the Amazon and moved to Lake Titicaca in the pre-Columbian era, where they were oppressed by the locals and not able to get their own land. Their solution was to build mobile reed islands so they could remain safe from their hostile neighbours on land. Today the Uru people still live on these islands, where you can stay for the night in a cultural homestay with families who will give you an insight into their traditions and way of life.
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