9 unusual things to do in Peru that will blow your mind

Aug 17, 2016 • By • 248 Views

Everyone knows you can trek Machu Picchu, take a jungle adventure in the Amazon and tour the floating islands of Lake Titicaca in Peru.

But did you know you can visit 2000-year-old mummies in the desert?

How about sleep in a glass pod wedged into the side of a 1200-foot cliff, attend a festival to rebuild an ancient Incan rope bridge or walk on a mountain made of rainbows?

Peru has way more to offer than just Machu Picchu, llamas and famous hiking trails.

Here are nine unusual things you can do in this relentlessly fascinating South American country.

Get up close to desert mummies

Mummies with dreadlocks up to 10-feet long, detached heads and babies thought to have been sacrificed to the gods are some of the ghoulish sights you’ll see at the Chauchilla Cemetery.

The cemetery, about 280 miles south of Lima, holds the skeletal remains of an ancient people scattered in the sands of the Nazca Desert. The bodies lay in virtually the same (and sometimes disturbing) poses in which they were laid to rest up to 2000 years ago.

After being forgotten and lost under desert sands for many years, Chauchilla was rediscovered in the 1920s.

A photo posted by Paul Koudounaris (@hexenkult) on


Walk on rainbows

Until about a year ago, almost no one knew anything about it but it’s now one of the hottest tickets in Peru. Vinicunca, or the Rainbow Mountain, is about three hours south of Cusco and arguably one of the strangest and wildest landscapes you’ll ever see.

This set of colourful sandstone mountains hidden deep in the Andes wows in shades of red, orange, ochre, turquoise and blue - the result of mineral deposits within the rock.

You can trek to the mountain on a day trip or take your time with a hike of up to six days, which will also take you around Ausangate (the highest mountain in the Cusco region at 20,945 feet), through quaint villages, past herds of llamas and alpacas and via brilliant blue glacial lakes.


Sleep in the sky

If you’re scared of heights, you might want to look away but daredevils should read on. If you fancy spending a night literally sleeping in the sky check out Skylodge – a trio of transparent capsules wedged into the side of a 1200-foot mountain in the Sacred Valley not far from Cusco.

For around US$300 a night, the pods have four beds each and offer 300 degree views of the valley and your passing condor neighbours. There’s no roughing it here either – the pods are luxurious and measure 192 square feet, with plush beds, dining areas and bathrooms.

To sleep at Skylodge, you’ll need to climb 1300-feet of via ferrata or hike an intrepid trail through ziplines.

A video posted by Hedonistia (@hedonistiacom) on


Explore Incan salt pans

Built by the Incas and still being used today more than six centuries later, the Salineras de Maras salt pans are a fascinating and visually striking day trip from Cusco.

Over 2000 small salt wells make up a stunning patchwork of brown, red and white flats sprawled across a steep hillside in the Sacred Valley. The shallow pools filled with salt water eventually evaporate, leaving behind the crystallized salt which is then collected and sold in nearby shops and towns.

You can walk across the pans and catch traditionally dressed farmers still toiling in the fields when you visit.


Join in the construction of a rope bridge

If you’ve ever harboured any Indiana Jones rope bridge fantasies don’t miss Qeswachaka, a handwoven bridge hanging over a canyon’s rushing river around 60 miles from Cusco.

Built in the time of the Inca empire, the bridge spans 118-feet and hangs 220-feet above the Apurimac River and is now the only one left of its kind. Every June there is a rebuilding ceremony where around a thousand men and women from surrounding communities gather to reconstruct the bridge from a local grass called q'oya.

This ceremony ensures centuries-old traditions are kept alive, and in true Peruvian style, is marked by wild dancing and singing and plenty of eating and drinking.


Visit The Poor Man’s Galapagos

If the Galapagos Islands are out of your price range but you’re dying to catch a glimpse of an adorable sea lion, there is an alternative.

Dubbed ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’, the Ballestas Islands are an incredible place to see marine animals in their natural habitat. You can reach the islands from the beach town of Paracas via a boat tour which takes around two hours.

Next to the Amazon Rainforest, the Ballestas offer the best wildlife experience in Peru.

A photo posted by Jaxon Arkadieff (@jaxonark) on


Fly over the mysterious Nazca Lines

How were they made? What purpose did they serve? Were aliens involved? No one really knows, but these strange lines etched into the Nazca Desert are one of Peru’s most intriguing sights.

The mysterious Nazca Lines are a series of giant, ancient geoglyphs that range from simple lines to elaborate figures of people and animals like a hummingbird, spider and monkey ranging from 50 to 1200-feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building).

Scientists believe that most of the lines were made by the Nazca people who flourished from around A.D. 1 to 700. If you want to try to figure them out for yourself, the best way to do it is from the air. You can book plane tours of the Nazca Lines from Lima, Ica and Nazca.

A photo posted by Bob ChaKrit (@bob_chakrit) on


Climb a cliff to ancient sarcophagi

Set ominously into a cliffside and topped with human skulls, the vertical Sarcophagi of Carajia kept watch over the Utcubamba Valley in Peru’s Amazonas region for hundreds of years before researchers were able to climb up and investigate these giant, mysterious mummies.

Created some time in the 15th century by the Chachapoya civilization, the seven standing burial capsules (there used to be eight but one collapsed in a 1928 earthquake) are situated 700-feet above the valley floor.

While much of the Chachapoya culture was lost after being conquered by the Incas and simply through time, the sarcophagi survived largely intact because of their far-flung location.

Each of the figures stands eight feet tall and some still retain the skulls that were originally placed on top of the sarcophagi. You can take a guided tour of the site from Chachapoyas.


Hang out in a peculiar stone forest

If forests made of trees have become a bit ho hum, head on over to Huayllay National Sanctuary, known as the ‘Bosque de Rocas’ or ‘Stone Forest’ - famous for its peculiar and beautiful natural rock formations.

Located in the Bombon Plateau in the Pasco region in the center of Peru, the stone formations originated around 70 million years ago in the Cenozoic age, when it was a part of the seabed. 

The Huayllay Stone Forest features bizarre rock formations with some resembling human faces, elephants, towers, sphinxes, dinosaurs, warriors and more. You’ll also spot strange doorways and arches that defy the laws of gravity. 

A photo posted by @johamoments on

Are you planning to visit Peru or have you been to any of these unusual sites? Let us know in the comments section below. If you enjoyed reading this article, spread the love and use the share buttons!

About the Author

Roberta Mancuso Roberta Mancuso

An experienced writer of 15 years, Roberta has perpetually itchy feet and has been exploring the world for a decade. She has travelled to...