The Best Off-the-Beaten Track Trips from Lima

The oasis just outside of Ica, Peru
The oasis just outside of Ica, Peru | © jdbenthien / Pixabay
Brandon Dupre

After spending some time in Lima, you’re bound to get tired of the traffic and want to go exploring. Fortunately, you won’t have to go too far from Peru’s capital to find some of the most interesting destinations in Peru. Just jump on a bus with a bag for the weekend, and enjoy! Here is a guide to the best off-the-beaten-path trips outside of Lima.

1. Marcahuasi

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Ruins

You don’t have to travel too far outside of Lima – just a handful of hours – before you reach the Andes and the inscrutable stone formations at Markawasi. The stone forest is known for its mysterious stone faces and images, and gained international fame with the show Ancient Aliens, on which it made a brief appearance. The explanations for the rock formations, some of which look like human heads and entire animals, range from the plausible (erosion) to the more out-there (aliens). Venture into the Andes and come up with your own theory after experiencing the unique beauty and wonder of Markawasi.

2. Lunahuaná

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Ruins

White-water rafting
© skeeze / Pixabay
Lunahuaná has quickly become a haven for outdoor junkies in Peru. It doesn’t get the attention that Huaraz or Arequipa gets, but that makes it all the better. In one day, if you had boundless energy, you could mountain bike, river run, zip-line, see ruins, and then finish the day off with some wine and pisco tasting. It has everything you could want in one small town. Now’s a good time to visit, before it becomes just another spot along the Peruvian Gringo Trail.

3. Cerro Azul

Natural Feature

Cerro Azul is a little, forgotten beach town about two hours from Lima. Always overlooked or skipped for other, more popular spots along the Gringo Trail, you’re likely to be the only visitor walking around this town. It is popular with people from the capital looking for a sunny beach day, but more and more Limeños are now electing to stay closer to their city, going to Punta Hermosa or the Asia beaches instead. If you’re a surfer, it’s good to know that the town also has a really nice left point break that is never too crowded. If you’re looking for a Peruvian beach without the ridiculous crowds, Cerro Azul makes for a perfect quiet beach getaway.

4. Palomino Islands

Natural Feature

Some of the sea lions that youll see in the Palomino Islands
© Capri23auto / Pixabay

The Palomino Islands are an interesting day trip for the entire family. You’ll have a chance to ride out of Lima’s Callao port, which has a history of pirate attacks, to the islands of Palomino, where you’ll get a chance to swim with sea lions. You’ll see all sorts of other marine life, too, as well as plenty of birds. It makes for a great day trip, and you don’t even have to leave Lima.

5. Huacachina

Natural Feature

Large dune buggies climbing the dunes
© Clotina / Pixabay

A short mototaxi ride outside of Ica, you’ll find a little oasis surrounded by giant sand dunes. It is a remarkable scene, with people snowboarding down the giant faces of the dunes as tank-like dune buggies growl in the distance, whipping up and down the mountains of sand. It isn’t exactly an unknown place, but be sure not to miss it. It is one of Peru’s most unique landscapes, which is saying a lot in Peru.

6. Caral Ruins

Archaeological site, Ruins

Caral is one of Peru’s most important ruins, but because of its remote location (about three hours north of Lima), it doesn’t get many visitors. Remarkable ruins date back 4,000 and even 5,000 years and are among the oldest ruins in South America. The site is well maintained and is a great example of early architecture.

7. Surf Trip

Natural Feature

If you’re looking to score some good waves, head just south of Lima for a fun weekend surf trip. You can begin by hitting Herradura, just past Chorrillos, and then stay in Punta Hermosa to catch of Peru’s best waves.

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