What else can you do in Peru?
Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, the Nazca Lines, the Sacred Trail—we get it, Peru, you have a lot of stuff to do. We figure there are plenty of resources for travelers when it comes to the most popular sites and activities in your beautiful land, but what about the slightly weird, slightly less trodden, and slightly harder-to-find attractions? The pickings get a little slim. What follows isn’t the most obscure list in the world, but it’s a starter for travelers looking for some sightseeing alternatives in different parts of the country.
It may not be for everybody, but the Museo Taurino —located adjacent to Plaza de Acho, Lima’s bullring— is a vivid (albeit sometimes cluttered) survey of the history of bullfighting. The hours vary to the point of erratic, and it’s not in the best of neighborhoods, so best to check with a concierge or tour guide for hours and best practices for a visit.
At first the Larco Museum’s above-ground fare of ceramics, textiles, and precious metal artifacts may seem innocuous enough, but when visitors come upon the room devoted to erotic archeological pieces, it’s easy enough to realize maybe you shouldn’t bring the kids. Visitors are allowed in all the museum’s storerooms, all of which are interesting, but this particular room is the real doozy, stocked as it is with a variety of ceramic pieces featuring graphic representations of all sorts of, um… adult activities. You might need a pisco sour or two afterwards to gather yourself.
Peru is home to a robust variety of wildlife, including a bevy of the feathered kind, and the folks at Manu Expeditions know their stuff when it comes to the creatures of the air. A boutique birding outfitter, Manu Expeditions has been running guided birding trips catered to all levels of birders since 1983 and offers excursions to four different areas of Peru (as well as other parts of South America). http://www.birding-in-peru.com/
It’s been called a “necropolis,” and while the collection of mummified, pre-colonial bodies at the site of Chauchilla Cemetery may not qualify as a full city’s worth, it certainly is more than you’ll probably ever see together at one time. It may contain some, shall we say, exotic sights (mummies curled up in the fetal position; mummies with long hair), but it’s also one of the most fascinating sites in Peru.
It would be tough to pull off with kids, but if you can swing it, a visit to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is truly a wild adventure. The reserve is the largest protected area in the entire Amazon Rainforest, making it a hotbed of wildlife, some of it quite rare. The list of rare beasts includes the red macaw, the giant otter and the pink dolphin, one of the few freshwater dolphins in the world.
Getting there isn’t easy –the reserve is about 114 miles from Iquitos, and requires driving plus a three-hour boat ride at the least, plus a permit from INRENA and fees. A good amount of research is needed before you go, but it’s worth it.
No site in Cusco embodies the cultural mesh of ancient Inca civilizations and conquering Spaniards than Qorikancha. The site began as an Incan temple/compound, with 700 gold-plated walls. Let’s repeat that: Seven. Hundred. Gold-plated. Walls. When the Spanish conquistadores took control of the place in the 1600s, they looted the joint, stripping all of its golden adornments and leaving only the masonry (itself a marvel, with earthquake-proof trapezoidal doorways and a dramatic, curved retaining wall). The Spaniards built their own colonial church and convent atop the stalwart ruins, and the hybrid building still stands today, along with a ton of history. The gold may be gone, but the labyrinthine interior, stunning stonework, and historical details tend to blow visitors away.
A big day hiking, birding, or looking at mummies should be followed by some pampering, right? Samara Spa offers a variety of massages, scrubs, and body wraps, plus a Jacuzzi and eucalyptus-scented steam room. The most worn out of you might try one of their specialty packages, like the Inca Trail Relief or the Jet Lag Recovery.