Tranquility in Peru
Peru is a dream destination for both adventure and wellness. It makes sense: outdoor activity and relaxation go hand in hand. Peru's north coastline is as inviting for sunbathing as it is for surfing and sandboarding. The world-famous Sacred Valley, gateway to the Inca Trail and to Machu Picchu, is full of excellent spas and retreats practicing ancient healing techniques. Even the jungle has begun to cater to luxury travelers: in the Peruvian Amazon, you can board a beautiful riverboat and float down the river on a boutique cruise.
Kick back on a balmy sandy beach in a forgotten north coast fishing village like Pimentel. Take a solar bath and honor Mother Earth in the healing environs of Willka T'ika in the Sacred Valley. Soak in natural thermal springs with stunning mountain backdrops in the Andes. Wildlife-watch from a boat on the Amazon without forgoing any creature comforts. Take your pick from a range of calming activities: here are Peru's very best ways to pamper yourself.
Bask on Forgotten Beaches on the North Coast
Peru's north coast is a popular surf destination. Upscale Máncora is extremely popular with travelers; scattered along the nearby shores, you'll find several smaller beach communities.
To the south, Pimentel, close to Chiclayo, is much easier to access than Máncora, and it has only a fraction of the crowds. With a beautiful pier, waterfront promenade, and miles of sandy beach around town, this is perhaps the most inviting seaside retreat in this part of Peru. It's not a surf spot, but it's a great location for swimming, sunbathing, and watching traditional reed-built fishing boats (used since Pre-Inca times) come and go.
Colán, 100 miles south of Máncora, feels even more removed from the modern world. Wealthy Peruvians come to this colonial town's sandy beach in summer (November to March). The rest of the year, Colán remains a forgotten beach paradise.
Interested in the north coast? Consider this 14-day trip through the historic cities and places of interest in the region.
Soak in Natural Thermal Waters in the Andes
An important part of any trek to Machu Picchu is a dip in the thermal baths at Aguas Calientes. But the hot springs at the Baños Termales de Cocalmayo, near Santa Teresa and the Machu Picchu turn-off, are even better: they're a series of pristine thermal pools with superb views of the surrounding mountains.
For even more remote bathing, head 100 miles southeast of Cusco, passing the town of Sicuani, to Aguas Calientes de Marangani. Five naturally piping-hot pools—frequented almost exclusively by locals—await, and the springs are flanked by striking altiplano (high Andean plain) scenery.
Experience Incan Healing Techniques in the Sacred Valley
For centuries before the Spanish arrived, the Inca and Pre-Inca peoples of Peru recognized the need for wellness. Their time-honored techniques survive in the Peruvian Andes to this day, and you can experience them yourself at one of several spectacular retreats.
One great option is the spiritual getaway of Willka T'ika, near Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, where travelers can reconnect with nature according to traditional Incan practices. This tranquil eco-lodge is set on a mountainside amid seven gardens designed around the seven chakras. Willka T'ika offers coca leaf readings and treatments, Pachamama ceremonies conducted by people from the Q'ero region of the Andes, yoga and meditation courses, and solar baths in stone tubs beneath the clear, starry Andean night skies.
Unwind in an All-Inclusive Tree House Resort
The Treehouse Lodge, at the confluence of the Yarapa and Cumaceba rivers in the northern Peruvian Amazon, close to Iquitos, offers well-appointed accommodation in the rainforest canopy. Though the exteriors look rustic, the interiors of these ten exquisitely designed treehouses—perched in treetops overlooking flooded forest—are modern and have private bathrooms. Views out over the private 345-acre reserve are memorable, to say the least: you might spot macaws, monkeys, sloths and other animals while you're lying in bed.
The Treehouse Lodge is just one of many unique accommodations in Peru. Read more about the possibilities here.
Cruise in Style Along Jungle Waterways
Booking a berth on one of the luxury cruises running downriver from Iquitos (to the borders of Colombia and Brazil) is the best option for getting an Amazon experience full of first-class comfort. Several companies ply this route. Operating vessels with air-conditioned suites and floor-to-ceiling windows, plus upper decks with sun loungers and Jacuzzis, Aqua Expeditions run some of the best cruises. A variety of wildlife can be glimpsed either from the main boat, which sits several levels above the water, or from smaller motorized boats which venture up the tributaries where animals and birds are easier to observe.
Check out this round-up of the best river trips on the Amazon for more travel inspiration.