Guest blogger Paul Jones lives in Peru and writes for Totally Latin America S.A, a specialized travel company that plans and operates Custom Peru Vacations.
Although most visitors to Peru will want to immerse themselves in pre-Columbian and Inca cultures, there are a few travelers out there who want to experience something more thrilling. If you are looking for adventure, excitement or even high adrenaline sports, Peru might surprise you by what's on offer. Here are my recommendations for the best five adventure activities in Peru.
Sand-Boarding in Huacachina
Five hours south of Peru's capital Lima, is the small and slightly dingy oasis town of Huacachina. Once the vacation spot of choice for Lima's elite, the town now resembles a run-down Victorian British seaside resort. But travelers to Huacachina don't come for the architecture; they come to experience the thrills of sand boarding down some of the world's largest sand dunes. The town is literally surrounded by hundreds of sand dunes, not too dissimilar to what you might imagine in the Sahara Desert. Sand boards can be rented for a few dollars per hour from just about all the hostels in town, and adrenaline junkies don't have to look hard for a slope to slide down. When you're done with sand boarding, kick-back and relax next to a pool in one of the Huacachina's cheap backpacker hostels. Cruz del Sur Busses operate daily schedules from Lima's Javier Prado bus terminal to Ica (five hours). From Ica you need to take a 10 minute taxi ride to Huacachina.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
It's difficult to describe just what an incredible feeling you have when hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It's not the hike so much, but the incredible scenery that you pass along the way. Imagine waking up each morning surrounded by beautiful prime cloud-forest and watching the mighty Andean Mountains come and go as the morning mist gentle rolls in and out. It's certainly better than sitting in a traffic jam—like most of us do each morning. Better still, en-route to Machu Picchu you will also pass by a handful of impressive Inca archaeological sites. My favorites are the citadel of Wintildeay Wayna (a mini Machu Picchu) and the military outpost of Runkurakay where the views are just incredible. Early bookings are essential as entrance to the Inca Trail is limited to just 500 people per day, including porters, guides and trekkers.
White Water Rafting in the Sacred Valley
Peru has quite a lot of mountains, and as you can imagine, where there are mountains there are also a lot of fast flowing rivers. Opportunities for white water rafting are everywhere, and one of the most popular places to get your adrenaline levels flowing is on the Urubamba River in Cusco's Sacred Valley. Rafting is available all year round, but the very best time to adorn your wetsuit is during the rainy season (Dec—Mar). During this time the rivers flow fast and high, and level four and five rapids are around every corner. Local travel agents located on Cusco's main Plaza de Armas will be able to set you up with an affordable and fun filled one or two day package.
Quad Biking in the Andes
One of the best ways to have a lot of fun and see some remote Andean Scenery is on a quad bike. A popular route starts from the district of San Sebastian 15 minutes from Cusco's colonial center. Rising quickly up into the surrounding mountains, the trail traverses beautiful open countryside and mountainous tracks visiting places where tourists rarely go. En-route you'll pass by local farmers tending their crops by hand, see remote communities and stop off at a few small unknown Inca ruins. Half day quad bike tours can be arranged for about $50 per person, but extended tours of several days to Manu National Park and even Machu Picchu are possible.
Surfing in Mancora
Unbeknown to most, Peru's is one of the world's best surfing destinations. On the Pacific coastline just south of the Peru and Ecuador border is Chicama, a mecca for international surfers. Chicama has the world's longest left-handed wave at 4km's long, and Mancora (close by) has the world's largest left-handed point-break. Moreover, surfing goes hand-in-hand with chowing down on great seafood, and some of the best restaurants are also to be found in the region. Increasingly becoming a popular destination for domestic tourism, the resorts of Mancora offer a growing amount of quality hotels and backpacker hostels. Loki Hotel (originally started in Cusco) offer affordable lodgings for just a few dollars per night.
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