Peru is at the very top of many a traveler’s list of places to go, and with good reason. An intoxicating combination of colonial and indigenous influences, of awe-inspiring alpine terrain and lush tropical jungle, the country is built on the bones of the ancient Incan Empire. Volunteers on our IVHQ Peru - Cusco Program will find plenty of things to do in their spare time, but we’ve listed some suggestions here. For more travel ideas for your Peruvian adventure, take a look at our Lima Travel and Tours page, and as always, see our local staff for some really great advice!
In and Around Cusco
Cusco is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a rich heritage and plenty to offer foreign guests. Visit La Catedral, the stunning 16th Century Cathedral which is also home to a fantastic collection of colonial art. The Cusco Planetarium is a great way to learn about the Incan belief system and worldview, as are the ruins of Qorikancha, conveniently located in the center of Cusco. The Cristo Blanco monument offers brilliant views of the city and a great photo-op. For our foodie volunteers, a visit to the Choco Museo is a must: try a chocolate making workshop, or just stop by for some fondue or a cup of hot chocolate!
Machu Picchu alone would make Peru well worth a visit. Thought to be built some time in the 1400s, the city was later abandoned and lay forgotten by the outside world until 1911. This is a site of huge cultural and religious significance to the Incan people, and the mystery of the ruins coupled with the breathtaking mountain scenery will leave you spellbound. It’s a 4.15 hour train ride from Cusco, or for the more adventurous among our volunteers, a 4 day hike along the Inca Trail. Be sure to book your hike, train ride and entrance ticket to the city well in advance, as this is a very popular tourist destination.
Moray, Maras And Salinas
The Incan ruins at Moray are unusual and fascinating. Consisting of many different levels of concentric circles forming a kind of terraced amphitheater, it is theorized that the ruins were a testing ground used by ancient Incans to determine the best conditions for growing crops. Take a bus from Cusco heading towards Urubamba, and ask to be let off at the Moray/Maras turn off. From there, either walk or taxi the 4km to Maras, spend some time exploring the village, then cycle, walk or taxi a further 9km to the ruins. From Maras village, you can also cycle, walk or taxi 6km to the ancient Saltpans at Salinas, a spectacular site where Incans once harvested salt in thousands of terraced pools.
The Peruvian Amazon
You could be forgiven for thinking that Peru was all high peaks and great plains, but one of the best protected tracts of the Amazon forest is located here. Make your way to Peurto Maldonado, and from there to a jungle lodge, or take a riverboat trip down the Rio Tambopata. The incredible biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is a true marvel, and if you’re really lucky, you might spot some of the rainforest’s elusive wildlife, such as uakari monkeys, tapirs and jaguars.
South America’s largest lake is a gorgeous splash of sapphire blue located at the juncture of the Andean plains and the mountains and, according to Andean legend, was the birthplace of the sun. The gritty and cheerful town of Puno is a good base for lakeside adventures, and has a pretty decent nightlife scene as an added bonus. For volunteers with an unquenchable thirst for Incan ruins, there are plenty of these scattered across the shores and tiny islands of Lake Titicaca. For something a little bit different, try a visit to Islas Uros, the floating islands built entirely from totora reeds by the Uros people. If you’re organized, you could even dip into the Bolivian side of the lake for a visit to the very pretty Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.
Huacachina is a tiny, picturesque oasis town in the desert area of Ica province. It’s possible to get an overnight bus all the way from Cusco to Huacachina with a bus company like Peru Hop or Cruz del Sur, which will take up to 22 hours. Alternatively, fly in to Lima and take a 5 hour bus from there out to the oasis. It’s not an easy trip, but when you get there, it’s all sandboarding, dune buggy rides, and cocktails at sunset. Definitely a must see!