Six adventurous ways to crank up the adrenaline on the Gringo Trail in Peru (and something famous you should probably give a miss)

When we’re at home, we can be pretty lazy. Weekend lie ins; bacon sandwiches in bed; chat shows and wine on a Friday night. You’re more likely to find us in the pub than bungee jumping.

But our last week in Peru was such an adrenaline fuelled, adventure junkie’s paradise, we couldn’t help but nosedive head first in to the many weird, wonderful and in the most part amazingly affordable activities on offer.

Here’s what we did and why you should do them, too.

Zip lining in the Sacred Valley / £63pp

Cusco is so much more than Machu Picchu, so on our last day we were looking for an outdoor adventure. We were going to book a horseback riding trip, but Chris declared our equine friends ‘weird’, and the $50 price tag excessive.

Instead we plumped for something far more energetic.

In the middle of the Sacred Valley is Natura Vive, which shot to worldwide viral internet fame a few years ago when it opened three pod-style hotel rooms clamped to the side of the valley.

Guests must use a 300m high network of metal hand and foot rails known as Via Ferrata to get to their room, and zipwire their way back down in the morning.  But you don’t have to spend $300 a night to get the same buzz of climbing in this awesome valley.

For 265 soles / £63, we spent 90 minutes scaling the rockface (safely attached to carabinas at all times but exciting nonetheless!), and then another 90 taking six ziplines back to the valley floor. We loved it, especially the unbeatable views of this incredible landscape.

How to book: We did it easily on their website

White water rafting near Arequipa / £16pp

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Less than 20 minutes outside the beautiful city of Arequipa on the Rio Chili are some of the best white water routes in Peru.

Our guide Roberto was so pumped up throughout our 90 minute jaunt down through the canyon, high-fiving our paddles as we negotiated a difficult section or even jumping in to dislodge us from a pesky rock.

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It was fast and furious from start to finish, but we’re glad we didn’t end up in the drink like some of the kayakers in front of us!

It was also unbelievably cheap; at least half what you’d pay in Europe. The views of the beautiful El Misti volcano weren’t bad either.

How to book: In any travel agent in town or through the Cusipata website

Dune buggying and Sand Boarding in Huacachina / £9-11pp

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Peru’s south coast is astonishingly dry, and Huacachina is a curious oasis in the middle of a vast swathe of desert just outside the large town of Ica, 4 hours south of Lima.

Each day, at least a dozen dune buggies zoom off in to the distance at speeds that guarantee squeals and yelps from those on board.

It felt like being on a giant rollercoaster with no tracks; whizzing up to a peak in the dunes and then darting back down again at speed. It was a pure adrenaline rush.

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James ready and raring to go careering down a sand dude

The buggies also come equipped with sandboards. Snowboarders can try going down on foot, but most novices stick to their stomachs and hurtle down the steep dunes face first at speeds of what must have been 30mph or more.

With legs akimbo on either side for balance, it was a less than dignified descent, but again pure unadulterated joy.

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A glorious sunset overlooking the vast dunes topped it off, and the 2 hour tour cost just £11. Steal!

How to book: through your hostel or from anywhere in Huacachina. Get there from Ica – Taxi 7 soles.

Spotting seals on the Poor Man’s Galapagos / £8pp

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The Galapagos’ reputation precedes it, much like Machu Picchu, with price tags to match.

Thankfully this two hour tour of the Islas Ballestas was far more appealing to our wallets!

The smell of guano (that’s bird poo to you and I) is at times overpowering, but the sight of thousands of pelicans and Peruvian Boobies (snigger) perched to the rocks was pretty awesome.

They were trumped though but the abundant local sealion population, lounging on rock faces, bobbing under the water looking for fish or congregating en masse on the pebble beaches.

We even saw dolphins feeding near the pier, but sadly just two penguins looking for company. It’s stoked up our desire to go to the Galapagos even more though!

Tip: sit on the left side of your boat, it’s where most of the best views lean towards!

How to book: from anywhere in Paracas (don’t pay more than 30 soles!)

Quad Biking on the Paracas National Reserve 70 soles/2 hours

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You’ll be finished with the Islas Ballestas tour by 10am, so this is the perfect adrenaline-fuelled afternoon activity to accompany the more sedate morning boat ride.

The reserve is a giant peninsular and looks quite Martian – very sandy, rocky and sparse. Quad biking here feels like you’re in another world, until you see a bus load of other tourists!

The highlight is Playa Roja, where the sandy landscape literally cuts off in to a red-sand beach.

It’s also near to where one of our quad bikes broke down! The quality of the vehicles looked pretty poor from everywhere we inquired (bald tyres, worn brakes etc) so make sure you check yours before you head off.

How to book: from several operators in Paracas.

Paragliding in Lima / 240 soles, 60$USD for 10 mins

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Full disclosure: we didn’t actually go paragliding, but our friends Sandra & Michael did, and said it was well worth it.

The gliders take off from the cliff edge in Miraflores, with views right along the Pacific coast and the giant metropolis behind it.

Bookings are highly weather dependent (wind direction especially, no one wants to crash into craggy rocks!) and we were told the 10 minutes is over in a flash, but a similar experience will cost you a lot more in the USA or Europe.

And one thing you might want to miss…

Nazca Lines flight / $70USD + 30 soles airport fees

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This airborne view of one of South America’s most popular tourist draws was supposed to be a highlight of our trip. All we got was nausea and the sense that the Nazca Lines were a bit overrated.

For 80USD including fees you take a 30 minute flight above these intriguing petroglyphs, but the guide merely shouted out the names of each shape as we flew past with little explanation, inciting sickness as the pilot dipped and dived to get views from both sides.

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Little or no explanation was given as to their significance, or how and why they might have appeared (although we had done some research online).

After eight or nine figure of eights we couldn’t concentrate any more, and just wanted to get back on solid ground. And in any case the symbols weren’t always easy to spot, let alone take photographs of. The lowlight was our pilot taking a selfie during the flight, causing the plane to dip!

We went out of our way to visit Nazca and see the lines from above, but came away feeling underwhelmed. And we usually love this kind of stuff! Most people we met said it was overrated as well.

How to book: from any operator in Nazca.

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