Peru is an astonishingly diverse, natural paradise. The country’s three geographic regions create a layered landscape consisting of magnificent coastline beaches, mountainous highlands that are impossibly high and dense, mysterious jungle, thought to contain exotic plant and animal species, and as-yet-undiscovered medicinal cure-alls. Adventures in the wild and near-wild abound, from the Amazon River Basin up to Huascaran, Peru’s highest mountain peak. It would take years to enjoy all of Peru’s outdoor adventures, but here are a few that are not to be missed.
Stroll the Rainforest Canopy Walkway
This sturdily suspended, 1/3-mile walkway hangs 115 feet above the deep primary rainforest in the CONAPAC Biological Reserve. It is open to guests of the Explorana Lodges and scientists at the ACTS Field Station. Offering an unparalleled view of the Amazon’s rich vegetation and animal life, and a glimpse into the region’s unstudied terrain, the Canopy Walkway also provides a once-in-a-lifetime birding experience. Treks over the Walkway are always accompanied by trained guides. Not for athletes only, a stroll over the walkway requires little more than comfortable shoes.
Explore Colca Canyon
At almost double the depth of the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon parts the high Andes Mountain range for over 62 miles. The Canyon is home to the majestic Andean Condor, whose nests dot the steep cliff sides of the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, one of the most visited spots in the Canyon. Colca Canyon is also home to isolated villages and settlements, particularly along the north side of the Colca River, which is reachable only by rough road. Populated by indigenous, pre-Incan descendants, the villages are worth the trip and earmarked by paradox. Ornate church architecture and interesting structures display the area’s 16th Century colonization by Spain, while the locals typically sport the easily-identifiable garb of two ancient, linguistically divergent groups: the Cabanas and the Collaguas. Other must-see spots include the La Calera Hot Springs, situated on the Canyon’s shallow end. You can relax for hours in the Spring’s gentle waters, arrange to zip-line above them or visit the agricultural terraces erected by pre-Conquest native societies and tenderly maintained today.
Trek the Inca Trail
Large swaths of the Inca Trail can be traversed in small bits, but the 26-mile trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu is not for the faint of heart. Hiked over the course of four days, the Trail passes through Inca ruins of intricately carved paving stones and tunnels, magnificent mountain landscapes, astonishingly green, subtropical jungle and the Cloud Forests of Peru, a tropical forest wilderness enshrouded in dense, mesmerizing fog at the canopy level. The trek ends at Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of Peru’s most tantalizing tourist attractions.
Mountain Bike Through the Andes
An 18,600-mile latticework of criss-crossing trails were built by the ancient Incas across their entire empire, as part of a sophisticated and advanced transportation system. Many of these trails are perfect for mountain biking adventures today. Mountain bike treks often encompass many days and take travelers through unknown terrain and culturally diverse areas. Guided tours are available that can take you from Cusco to the Amazon, or down the Olleros Trail, a scenic and challenging, 11,500-foot descent from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Shop the Pisac Market
Open every day but hitting its apex on Sundays, the Pisac Market offers up an eclectic combination of antiques, alpaca wool, fresh produce and meat as well as a myriad variety of local goods and handcrafted items from all over the country including ceramics, beads and woven clothing and hats. Located in the Sacred Valley, the village itself is picturesque and enjoyable to stroll through but make sure you get to the market early for the best pickings.