It’s no secret that Peru’s mystical landscapes lure travelers who are fascinated by the majestic peaks of the Andes and the mystery of the great Amazon Rainforest. In Peru, thrilling encounters await in every region you step into. If you’re eager to experience this rich nation in the most action-packed ways possible, visiting a National Park or Reserve is a great way to partake in the many adventure-focused activities in the region – from mountaineering to caving, parasailing to sandboarding, and more. Learn more about the country’s best national parks and reserves for adventure travel to Peru:
1. Manu National Park
Manu National Park is notably considered to be the most biodiverse National Park in the world, and fortunately, it is also easily accessible to visitors looking to experience where the majestic Andes meet the tropical Amazonian jungle. Tourists can get to Manu National Park by car from Cusco city or by boat from Puerto Maldonado. A fantastic addition to your Peru itinerary, you can begin the trip in Cusco city and finish it in Puerto Maldonado. This way, you will have the whole experience: you will start driving through a well-preserved cloud forest and end up cruising a river in the middle of the rainforest.
Once you arrive at Manu National Park, there are a plethora of adventures that await you -kayak your way through Lake Salvador to see some monkeys, caiman, capybara, and river turtles, or hike to see the petroglyphs of Pusharo, mysterious ancient rock carvings located near the settlement. To see the jungle from a different perspective, take to the treetops in a canopy walk. In rainforests, much of the action takes place far above the ground, and a canopy walk gives visitors a deeper understanding of life in the trees. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure in Manu and the grade I and II rapids near Pilcopata offer a chance at a small adrenaline rush against the scenic backdrop of lush jungle. To fully experience the jungle, try glamping in Manu National Park, surrounded only by darkness and the sounds of the night.
2. Huascarán National Park
This park and its surroundings are full of snow peaks, hiking trails, and blue lagoons. Huascarán is located in the Ancash region (north of the Lima region). Kuoda recommends it just for more experienced mountaineers or hikers due to its high altitude (around 5,000 meters or 16,000 feet above sea level). Some of the best-known hikes and treks of Peru are inside or close to Huascarán National Parks, including the famous Santa Cruz trek. This four-day challenging trek offers the most amazing views of the Cordillera Blanca mountain peaks and lakes. The trek itself is around 4-6 hours per day but lends itself to stunning, once-in-a-lifetime views of the Western Andes. There are campsites on the trail where tourists can spend the night. The camp’s comfort will depend on the equipment you use.
If you don’t feel like doing a four-day trek, but you still want to enjoy Huascarán National Park trails, we recommend you try the Laguna 69 hike. This 3-hour trail gets to the lately famous Laguna 69, a beautiful turquoise lagoon surrounded by snowy peaks. This one-day hike will have you experience equally stunning views, with a quick return to the hotel, ready to relax in luxury, in no time.
3. Cerros de Amotape National Park
This national park together with the Tumbes National Reserve and The Angolo Hunting Ground is part of the Northeast Biosphere Reserve. Where the Andes meet the Pacific Ocean, these three areas protect tropical and dry forest ecosystems, which have been recognized by UNESCO for their rich biodiversity. Here, you will have the opportunity to swim in crystal clear waters and enjoy bathing in waterfalls. Canoeing and kayaking through the river is a popular activity for adventure lovers or those looking to get an up-front and center view of the 400 species of rare birds found in the park.
To get to this beautiful place, you must start the trip from Tumbes and take the Zorritos – Bocapán road. It is recommended to travel between April and October, during the dry season. Also from Tumbes, you can go to the reserved area through the towns of Matapalo and Cotrina. The Angolo Hunting Ground has areas for camping. To get there, it is recommended to leave from Sullana. It is also advisable to visit it in the dry season because access turns complicated in rainy weather.
4. Tambopata National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve is the most popular place for tourists wanting to visit Peru’s tropical rainforest. The reserve is a little easier to get to than Manu National Park, and spotting wildlife is guaranteed. Tambopata National Reserve is located in the Madre de Dios region in southern Peru. The most visited area inside the reserve is Sandoval Lake, which offers some of the most amazing sunsets on the Amazon. It is also a great place to spot animals such as monkeys, caimans, and the favorite one, the giant otter.
Zipline over the reserve for a glimpse of the extreme biodiversity of the canopy and the many habitats that can be found on and around one single colossal tree or glide across the mirror-like surface of Sandoval Lake in a wooden canoe, to spot hoatzins, herons, ospreys, and giant river otters. Experiencing the beauty, nature, and adventure of the Amazon is one of the best ways to experience adventure travel to Peru.
5. Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve
Not known by many foreigners, Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve is a Peruvian treasure. This National Park is located between the Lima and Junin region and protects the Cañete river basin. A six-hour drive from Lima, Nor Yauyos Cochas is the perfect place to go to see beautiful turquoise lagoons and magnificent cascading waterfalls.
Many communities live inside the reserve and offer boat trips in the lagoons, local food, or accommodations. In a small town called Laraos, they even prepare pachamanca for visitors in pre-Inca terraces.
Adventure lovers can explore the many caves of the reserves, as this area is home to the largest cave in South America, located with a vertical drop of 2,038 ft. The caves are also filled with extraordinary cave paintings that date back thousands of years. Not so much a cave enthusiast? Kayak or canoe through the reserve’s many mangroves and find untouched waterfalls or hike Huancaya, an easy-to-walk route surrounded by breathtaking nature that takes you over suspension bridges that tower over deep blue lakes and majestic canyons.
6. Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve is among the most visited National Parks in Peru. Its mars-alike landscapes and unique fauna make Paracas a must for any tourist visiting Peru. Apart from its nature, this enormous desert located in the Ica region safeguards an important piece of history since it was home to Paracas’ ancient culture.
Paracas has lots to offer for adventure enthusiasts, who will find the optimal weather conditions to kitesurf, windsurf or paraglide, giving you amazing views of the shore. Prefer to stay on land? ATV or off road through the canyons and sand dunes and cover large areas of the reserve whilst at the same time still enjoying being at one with the great outdoors. Sandboard experts and those looking to try their hand at the sport will also have the opportunity to glide down the majestic sand dunes of the California Desert, second in size only to Huacachina in Peru. The perfect place for adrenaline lovers – Paracas is a must-do for those looking for adventure travel to Peru.
Looking for more adventure destinations or want to see how one of these destinations fits into your dream trip to Peru? Get inspired and learn more about our many Peru itineraries which can be custom-designed to meet your needs and preferences. Learn more and when you’re ready, a travel designer at Kuoda is available to make your once-in-a-lifetime adventure trip to Peru, a reality!