Few places in the world are as ripe with adventure as Peru. From its pristine beaches to untapped natural marvels, virtually the entire country is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
The excitement begins in the former capital to the ancient Incan empire: Cusco. Don’t miss the imposing Saksaywaman ruins (foreigners giggle over its sonic pronunciation of “sexy woman”), or ultra-sensory strolls through the public market; other requisite experiences include sunset from the boho San Blas district, and cocktails starring the national liquor at Museo del Pisco. After a few days adjusting to the altitude—Cusco caps 11,000 feet— you'll be ready to explore the nation's vast valleys and peaks.
Named for the river that flows alongside it, Urubamba graces the throne of the Sacred Valley. A walk through Maras, the mountainside salt mines—home to some 3,600 crystalline pools—is infinitely mesmerizing. Take a beautiful bike tour with Sacred Wheels, and shop Pisac’s vibrant markets. With awe-inspiring artifacts and art as eye candy, dining in the lavish Huayoccari Hacienda Restaurant, a former private estate with its own museum, is truly a singular experience.
Visiting the 12,500-foot-high Andean lake straddling the Bolivian border requires a short flight or 10-hour train ride to Puno. There, hop a boat to the floating reed islands of the Uros, a pre-Incan people who’ve subsisted almost solely off the lake for centuries. Check out the ruins of ancient funerary towers at Sillustani. Go native with an overnight stay on Amantani Island with a Quechua family, where you can try alpaca anticuchos skewers, hike, and don traditional garb for a lively community dance.
Hike the four-day trail or take the sky-lit Vistadome train—either way, the "lost Incan city" is magical in person, especially coupled with the stories your guide will share. Adventurers with stamina should buy an advance ticket that includes Huayna Picchu, a steep, terraced peak with the best views.