Peru is a country brimming with unmissable sights. From the sublime beauty of Machu Picchu, the ancient relic left behind by one of the world’s most formidable civilizations, to the twisting turns of the Amazon River – whose beguiling forest holds all manner of creatures and cultures.
However, there is a distinct difference between visiting the most popular sites in Peru and truly experiencing them. Unraveling rich forgotten history, connecting authentically with indigenous Peruvians, and witnessing wildlife unobtrusively are all ways to reach the essence of a place, rather than simply scratching the surface.
To us, that difference can be likened to tasting freshly plucked fruit versus apples packaged by a supermarket. One is the raw unfiltered truth, and the other is a diluted experience, doctored for mass consumption. And at Aracari, we trade only in truth.
Our Top 10 Most Unique Experiences in Peru
For more than two decades we have sculpted itineraries with some of the most unique experiences in Peru. Leaning on our unrivaled connections in the region, we enjoy privileged access to Peru’s pioneers, found everywhere from Lima’s most acclaimed kitchens to sleepy fishing villages on Peru’s pacific coastline.
Across the length and breadth of this magnificent country then, our little black book contains everyone from mastermind chefs to agricultural innovators, from visionary weavers to world-leading Amazonian naturalists.
So, what does that mean for you, the Aracari community? It means that when you choose a luxury Peru vacation with Aracari, you are opting for the ungoogleable. An unfiltered and fundamental voyage into the soul of Peru, pivoting away from the touristic, journeying to the very heart of this complex country with itineraries woven together with rare access afforded only to Aracari.
Our experiences celebrate the champions of Peru. People who operate away from the crowds and yet trust Aracari to bring our discerning clients into their private spaces to discover, learn and grow through the power of travel. From a craft beer brewery deep in the Sacred Valley to scallop farming with locals in Paracas Bay, to the hidden gems of Cusco found tucked away from the crowds to a rainforest wonder on the Eastern slopes of the Andes, this exclusive insider guide is your porthole.
For the first time in our history, we are imparting a handpicked selection of experiences that are quintessentially Aracari, showing how with our one-of-a-kind connections, we can craft a bespoke, luxury Peru vacation you won’t find anywhere else.
1. Explore the remote Eastern Slopes of the Andes from an intimate rainforest lodge
A luxury vacation to Peru offers a chance to see some spectacular wildlife, and nowhere is that truer than in the protected conservation area of Cordillera Escalera. One of the most biodiverse regions in the country, the mountainous jungle of San Martin is also home to one of the best Amazon lodges in Peru.
Set back in dense rainforest, it comprises several sustainably-sound wooden lodges, each connected by paved walkways made from local stone. Yet the harmony between property and place extends far further than just fixtures and fittings. This sustainable sanctuary has the cloud forest and its inhabitants at the center of all operations.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable aspects though is the experiences offered here. Incredibly varied and ranging from a full day or just a few hours, guests can choose from rainforest hikes, where wildlife sightings include the elusive jaguar, to community-based activities such as paper workshops whereby the parchment is made from tree trunks.
Personal favorites of Aracari founder, Marisol, during her visit in 2022 included learning of the breeding of ‘ramiches’ – the rare miniature stingless bee that is indigenous to this ecosystem; visiting a real cacao plantation and making chocolate; exploring the medicinal garden where guests can witness how medicinal sap is extracted from the ‘Sangre de Grado’ tree. And the marvelous paper-making workshop, where parchment is made from the pulp of banana tree trunks and paper discarded from local offices; a unique activity that also provides a caring environment for its majorly female employees, who can bring their children along to study remotely.
And if Marisol were pushed on picking her ultimate highlight? Climbing the waterfalls of Progreso:
“I loved all the activities but the one I found most exhilarating was climbing to the waterfalls of Progreso, a nearby cataract which we accessed by a short moto-taxi ride from the Lodge.”
One of the Bosque Guardian guides accompanied us, along with a charming local who led the way. The Cataracts had four different waterfalls with lagoons in between each, and we climbed to the very top among dense vegetation of epiphytes, bromeliads, and vines, before descending to swim in one of the lagoons with the water cascading onto us. I absolutely loved this experience: it was wild and invigorating.”
2. Capture the beauty of Cusco with professional photographer and artist
A longtime friend of Aracari, Adriana Peralta is a freelance photographer, with experience spanning prestigious publications such as NGO Guaman Poma de Ayala and La República newspaper. As well as heading up the photographic projects of the independent publishing house, Ceques Editores, which specializes in photojournalism and documentary work, Adriana also sells her photography privately too, some of which you can find showcased on Aracari Shop.
During one of the most unique experiences in Peru, available exclusively to our guests, you’ll learn how to capture the beauty of Cusco in a single image as Adriana leads you through the ancient, cobbled streets during an unforgettable afternoon.
Beginning in the Plaza de Armas, you’ll move through some of the city’s most marvelous landmarks. Adriana will help you to spot places that distill the essence of Cusco, reflecting its historical past and the unique identity of those who live here today.
As you move through the charming alleyways, Adriana will pause regularly to explain more about the principles that underpin great photography. Expanding on how the contrasting light – unique to this city – creates breathtaking photographs even on a smartphone, making for the perfect keepsake of your time in this special city.
3. The Ancascocha Trek: The Undiscovered Inca Trail Alternative
The Ancascocha trek is found along the same mountainous route as the Inca Trail high in the Andes, yet very few venture along its path, preferring to take the well-trodden path instead.
Without doubt one of the most unique experiences in Peru, spend four days in the majestic Southern Andes hiking the challenging Ancascocha trail. Named in the Top 20 Hikes by National Geographic – this magnificent route passes through turquoise lagoons and snow-capped peaks, extraordinary wildlife, archaeological relics of the enigmatic Inca Empire, as well as indigenous Andean communities.
The start of this difficult yet magnificent trail is found in the community of Qamicancha, located on the picturesque shores of Silke River (a tributary of the Urubamba River), this is where you will be introduced to the local muleteers and their mules, responsible for the logistics whilst hiking the Southern Andes.
Over the next few days, you’ll reach a maximum altitude of 4650 mt / 15255 ft above sea level, walking up to 14 km / 8.7 miles per day. Testament to why Ancascocha is one of the best treks in South America, you will witness some of the continent’s most breathtaking scenery. The trail itself joins parts of the Inca Trail along the route, and you’ll cross paths with fascinating ruins, including the archaeological site of Paucarcancha – a small Inca citadel and administrative control center.
Trekking in the Andes with Aracrai is a unique experience, offering appropriate luxury in some of the continent’s most remote landscapes. Drawing on our decades of experience, we offer discerning travelers authentic treks away from the crowds, with top-notch equipment, first-class guiding, and uncompromised safety standards.
4. The potato pioneer of Huatata: one of Peru’s most unique foodie experiences
An unmissable foodie experience high in the Andes, spend a few hours in the company of a man putting Peruvian potatoes on the map. A man whose meticulous and inventive farming methods have produced over 380 varieties of native potatoes and put them on menus of Lima’s most renowned culinary institutions: Central and Maido.
A fourth-generation farmer, he improves each variety of potato with by imitating bees with manual cross-pollination. During one of the most unique experiences in Peru, you’ll learn how this delicate process involves removing the pollen from one potato flower and sprinkling it onto a flower of another variety.
This inventiveness achieves tubers with bright, intensified colors such as blue, purple, and red while enhancing the nutritional properties, textures, and flavors too. Such agricultural prowess caught the eye of Virgilio Martinez, the renowned Peruvian chef of Central fame – who sought out this unrivaled knowledge of potatoes and tubers.
During one of the most unique foodie experiences in Peru, you’ll sample the different types of freshly harvested potatoes cooked in a ‘huatia’, which is a traditional way of cooking in the Andes using the heat of the earth in an underground oven. Before discovering (and sampling!) the latest invention: a wine made from the ocas and mashuas tubers: including red, white, and sparkling wine which are all sold in Lima’s award-winning restaurants.
5. Becoming a Cusqueño Artist: Traditional Guilding and Painting in Cusco
Spend a morning or afternoon in the heart of Cusco, learning about Cusquenian art from a professional Peruvian artist belonging to the local art collective Totemiq – a group of artists inspired by Peruvian nature and cultural richness.
One of the most unique experiences in Peru, this artistic workshop is held at Florencia y Fortunata Café – a charming and welcoming space in Cusco that is also a cultural center focusing on women’s achievements since it is the birthplace and home of Cusco´s first female lawyer.
You’ll first hear the story of Cusquenian art and syncretism, as well as about Andean culture before your guide will present the history of the Torito de Pucará – or bull of Pucara – a characteristic ceramic piece of art from the Pucara district of Peru. Initially used in marking ceremonies and for the procreation of livestock, protection, happiness, and fertility in married life, this ceramic piece has become a symbol of the southern Peruvian Andean identity.
Receiving your very own Torito de Pucará and working materials inside a beautiful little box, you’ll begin using sheets of bronze, copper, and aluminum to decorate your own little bull using both traditional and contemporary techniques. Once finished, you will have created your very own Cusquenian art, which you can now carry with you as a guardian of the Peruvian Andes.
6. Taste your way through the flavors of Lima during our Urban Eats experience.
Famed for its status as one of the best culinary destinations in the world, Peru’s distinctive cuisine is shaped by its diverse geography, long history, and rich cultural makeup. And during one of the most unique experiences in Peru – you’ll be introduced to many of the nation’s colorful dishes.
On the morning of your experience, our Friend in the City will collect you from your Lima hotel. These astute guides are Lima locals who share our passion for introducing travelers to authentic and meaningful experiences during their time in Peru. Together, you’ll journey take the short work to Mendiburu Market, located in the beautiful district of Miraflores.
Spend an hour exploring many of the traditional stands showcasing Peruvian produce and delicacies, before moving on to reach a venue that has been around since 1973. Sampling delicious juices made from Peru’s richest and most exotic fruits: passion fruit, lucuma, camu camu, and golden berry, you’ll learn how these fruits make for some of the key components in typical Peruvian gastronomy. And how Peru’s extraordinary geography provides the perfect conditions for them to grow – indeed, 84 of the 104 world ecosystems can be found in Peru.
For lunch, it’ll be a place popular among locals for its to-go Peruvian classics. It’s a must-see, and on your visit, you can sample cold dishes such as Ceviche seafood dishes, or classic Peruvian appetizers such as the delicious Causa Limeña – made from Peruvian yellow potatoes, peppers, and tuna. Then for dessert, there is no better choice than a cafeteria, and pastry house with personality, technique, and a lot of heart. Each day, at least 10 different coffee varieties are on offer, as well as freshly prepared pastries – of which ‘the alfajor’ is our favorite!
Truly deserving of a place on our ten most unique experiences in Peru, Urban Eats is the most authentic and experiential way to eat your way through Peru’s tasty capital.
7. Unseen Cusco: Explore the fascinating sites that most visitors overlook
Explore the culture, art, and architecture of this historic city – peeking into some of the city’s intimate museums, convents, and archaeological sites tucked away from the crowds – accompanied by a specialist guide.
As in every city, there are famous sights and there are those hidden gems only known to connoisseurs or astute visitors who have more time and want to cover the less obvious. During one of the most unique experiences in Peru, you’ll visit exactly those kinds of sites – accompanied by one of Aracari’s subject Specialists. These people aren’t simply guides, but rather leading researchers and professors in their subject area.
Spanning from the Museo De Arte Precolombino (MAP) to the Museo De Arte Religioso (Religious Art Museum) to the Casa Concha (Machu Picchu Museum), to the Museo de Santa Catalina (Museum of Monastic Life), this experience includes the option to visit the interior of two of these intimate museums, or instead to stop by only the exterior of each – since all are housed in exquisite and significant buildings.
To us, what makes this specialist walking tour one of the most unique experiences in Peru is that it includes many buildings away from the tourist trail, now used for modern services, yet holding a fascinating past. For example, one of the best-preserved palaces in the entire city, which currently serves as a bank. Inside, there is a very small museum dedicated to the building’s origins, as well as a permanent exhibition of Martin Chambi photographs. As an Indigenous descendant, Chambi devoted his decades-long career to photographing the lives and surroundings of the Peruvian people of the Southern Andes during the early 20th century.
8. A Day on Paracas Bay: Scallops, wildlife, and more
Undoubtedly one of the most unique experiences in Peru, spend an unforgettable day on the ocean with a wonderful Paracas local – hunting scallops and spotting wildlife, before enjoying a delicious fresh seafood lunch.
Journey to Paracas Reserve where you’ll meet our local partner and his family at his small camp. Taking a seat on the verandah, you’ll enjoy the tranquil view of the beautiful reserve as he explains more about the bird and marine life, as well as telling you his story along with fascinating facts about the Reserve’s history and geography.
Boarding the boat to explore the bay. the first stop will be a scallop farm found right in the middle. Dropping the net, our local guide will collect some scallops for you to taste, adding lemon and salt to the freshly plucked shellfish. Whilst you tuck into the scallops and sip on local white wine, bubbly, or water, the speedboat will cruise for about 20 minutes, when it’s not uncommon to see dolphins swimming nearby the boat.
You’ll then reach the edge of the Bay where the ‘Candelabro’ – or candlestick – becomes visible. The candlestick is a magnificent ancient carving etched into the desert that was created by ancient Peruvians – similar to the origins of the Nasca lines. Here you will briefly stop for a swim at ‘Playa Pirata’, meaning pirate beach, and there’s a possibility of some close encounters with Humboldt penguins and sea lions.
By the time you return to the bay, it will be close to noon. Back on the shore, you’ll swim, relax on the verandah or use the paddle boards or kayaks to explore the wonderful peaceful bay at your own rhythm, before enjoying a freshly prepared scallop paella.
9. One of Peru’s Most Unique Experiences: Sample the Craft Beer of the Andes
In an impressive location surrounded by very high mountains at the north end of the Sacred Valley, you’ll find a locally owned, brewery producing a variety of artisanal beers and selling them throughout Peru and South America, if only you know where to look.
During one of the most unique experiences in Peru, you’ll enjoy a visit to this award-winning brewery and hear how high-quality ingredients and glacial spring water from over 13,000 ft. above sea level, produce some of the finest craft beer with a Peruvian twist whilst bringing employment to the region too.
The brewmasters will tell you about the unique techniques used on-site, before inviting you into the tapas bar and tasting room where you will be provided with samples of the six beers that are on tap. Sitting at the bar, try each one as an explanation is provided about the beer’s style, ingredients, and history, while you enjoy some delicious local nibbles.
What makes this experience especially unique is that while you enjoy your beer samples in the tasting room, you’ll able to view the brewhouse space through a window. During the daytime, the brewmasters will be in action, providing a great opportunity to discuss the brewing techniques, the innovative methods, and some of the unique challenges and opportunities of working in an emerging market in a rural location.
10. Journey to the Heart of the Andes: Hiking, Archaeology, and Conservation
Spend an unforgettable day journeying deep into the breathtaking landscapes of the Andes, spotting archeological relics along with modern conservation efforts, as you hike alongside an organization dedicated to preserving the native forests of this majestic mountain range.
The journey begins at Pumamarca, an awe-inspiring Pre-Inca and Inca archaeological site perched on a ridge overlooking the stunning Patakancha Valley. The main site dates to 1300 but the oldest buildings are over 2000 years old! The site requires a bit of climbing, but the panoramic views are well worth the effort.
An easy to moderate climb will then take in the beauty of a little-visited waterfall and a native forest of Qeuña, Unca, and its chachacomo trees. You’ll hear how these magnificent trees, once abundant in the Andes, have become increasingly rare due to deforestation resulting from habitation, intense agriculture, and slash-and-burn farming practices.
Since you’ll be accompanied by a representative from the conservation project – you’ll have the opportunity to directly participate in a native-tree reforestation project, helping to restore the natural balance of the environment, and hearing how the importance of preserving these trees and their unique ecosystems.
Choose a luxury Peru vacation with Aracari in 2023
Our ultimate guide to the most unique experiences in Peru is of course only the beginning. We hope that the scope and diversity showcased within it highlight the unrivaled uniqueness of a luxury Peru tour handpicked and curated by Aracari. But as ever, we are led by you too.
Aracari’s dedicated Travel Designers are equipped with all the specialist knowledge and contacts to weave a bespoke itinerary, tailored completely to your taste. Whether you choose to visit Peru as a single-destination trip or build a tailormade vacation around multiple destinations – we’d be delighted to connect you to your own private South American voyage.