Peru might not be world-renowned for its nightlife like its other South American neighbors are, but don’t be fooled. The nightlife in Peru is as spicy as its rocoto rellenos. Peruvians love to party, and the nights get pretty lively. After a bender that lasted nearly the entire month of November, I can confirm: Peru knows how to party.
These are the best cities to party in Peru. Of course, since this is a backpacker blog, there is a little bit of bias towards backpacker destinations. Like yes, I’m aware that I should probably have the lively coastal town of Chiclayo on here as opposed to Huacachina: Population Gringo. However, a lot of Peru’s biggest cities, and therefore, most lively party cities, are not exactly travel destinations. So yeah, keep that in mind.
I did not do much partying in Huaraz, but when I did, boy did it pop off. I spent most of my month in Huaraz trekking, whether it was a quick day trip like Laguna 69 or a monster expedition like the eight-day Cordillera Huayhuash trek. However, there’s only one way to celebrate a successful trek. With plenty of drinks and dancing through the tired legs.
Huaraz offered a variety of nightlife options, whether it was a chill night with a few drinks or dancing until 5 or 6 in the morning. There was always a variety of ways to start the night. You could start off by drinking at one of the many social trekking hostels, playing pool at the billiard hall, or enjoying the vibe at 13 Buhos. After that, the night can go anywhere. Karaoke bars line the street, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good jam sesh? After midnight, the only move is to get moving. El Tambo, Zona VIP, and Waraki are three of the most popular clubs in Huaraz, and each offers a fun time. El Tambo was my personal favorite, and I’d often find myself accidentally here until the sun came up.
As far as balance between adventure and partying goes, Huaraz nailed it.
Cajamarca was amazing for a number of reasons. I spent most of my time here exploring the wonders that I had never even heard of prior to my arrival here. Then, the weekend rolled around and my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a night out. It was my first night out in Peru and it did not disappoint. The cool thing about Cajamarca is that it is a very local spot. It isn’t on most international travelers’ radars so when you party, you are partying with locals and Peruvian tourists only.
If you want an authentic taste of Peruvian nightlife, Cajamarca is the place to be. In between exploring things like the Ventanillas de Otuzco or Cumbemayo, there’s no better way to pass the time than by partying until the late night or having a few casual Cusqueñas at the stunning plazas.
Huacachina may be small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in partying. Now I’ll be honest, this is a travel blog and this ranking is for travelers, backpackers, and the like. The locals will strongly disagree with this, considering that Huacachina is pretty much entirely a tourist town with nothing to do besides dune buggy and party. If you’re a backpacker, Huacachina offers a wild party.
Wild Rover has basically taken Huacachina by storm, and although I was a bit put off by the over-tourism that took hold of Huacachina since my last time there, what can you really do, hey? I partied a bit too hard there to the point that I don’t remember most of my first night in Huacachina. The bar owner saw me on the street the following day and proceeded to give me a physical recap of what I did that night. He gestured graphically that led me to assume that I was vomiting violently on the street at around 5 AM the night before. Huacachina, man.
This coastal city combines sunshine with cervezas, and that is really all you need in life. In between the mountain towns of Cajamarca and Huaraz, I decided to give myself a relaxing respite along the coast. Knowing that a grueling month of trekking lay ahead of me, I wanted to zen out a bit. I actually stayed in Huanchaco instead of Trujillo for most of my time here, but Trujillo had far and away the superior nightlife. Huanchaco was a bit of a quiet surf and yoga town, although I was told the nightlife picks up during the busy season.
As far as Trujillo goes, the party is pumping every night of the week. Just like most big Peruvian cities, the nightlife is very centrally located and with Trujillo being as popular among travelers as it is, you will get a good mix of nightlife options and crowds. Trujillo was one of my favorite stops in Peru, and despite Huanchaco being the preferred destination for backpackers, I actually enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the Trujillo colonial center more. It’s hard to get bored in Trujillo.
Arequipa was mostly meant to be a stop-through my first time around in Peru. I was headed up from La Paz to Lima and needed to break the journey up so I decided to stop in Arequipa despite knowing very little about it. It turned out to be some of my most fun nights out during that first South American backpacking trip. After several weeks in Bolivia, Arequipa was my first taste of proper nightlife in a long, long time.
Although I wasn’t planning on partying, I booked into what I didn’t realize at the time was one of South America’s most infamous party hostel chains. I got off my bus, checked in around 9 PM, dropped my bags off and immediately got pulled into the party. Arequipa has a variety of bars and nightclubs. It is one of the easiest cities to do some barhopping in, thanks to the proximity of all the bars to one another in the nightlife zone.
Oh, and the drunk food game here is stellar. Arequipa was where I had my first taste of the superhamburguesa, and it remains the best I’ve had to date. What is the superhamburguesa, you ask? Well, most big cities in Peru and Latin America have street food stalls lining the nightlife streets once the nightlife starts pumping. So before passing out every night, I used to get a burger on the way back. These aren’t just burgers. These get stacked with everything imaginable. Eggs? Yeah. Cheese? Duh. Potato sticks? Sure, why not. Pineapples? Ham? Whatever you can imagine, it will be on the superhamburguesa.
Cusco is home to a lot of hazy nights out. There is no shortage of places to party in Cusco, although you’ll likely find yourself at the same few nightclubs. For better or worse, I had a party routine in Cusco. That always ended up with me grabbing a falafel at 4 or 5 AM from the same guy, Rolando. Those are the best kinds of friendships, right? It happens every city that I go to. Me, the kebab guy, and a long, drunken conversation about life at an ungodly hour in the morning.
Cusco is unique in that it has a huge backpacker community, a huge expat community, and of course, the millions of locals that live in the city. And only one real nightlife district. That means people from all walks of life converge on the same dance floors to have a wild night out. Whether that’s at Changos, Mama Africa, or Mythology, you will have such an easy time making new friends from all over the world while in Cusco.
For backpackers, the party hostel scene is huge in Cusco. From Loki, Wild Rover, and Milhouse to the more laid-back but still fun spots like Kokopelli and Pariwana, there is something for every partiers’ taste.
Like Huacachina, Mancora’s party caters mostly to backpackers. Unlike Huacachina, there isn’t just one place to party. Mancora is filled with crazy party hostels lining the coast and each one of those is filled with people ready to party. It gets wild. Unfortunately, the party usually stays restricted to the hostels, at least for backpackers. You start and end your nights in the party hostel, which to me is kind of a bummer.
It definitely isn’t the most authentic place to experience Peruvian nightlife but hey, let yourself get sucked in and just have a good time. I personally forced myself to brush over Mancora since I had just accidentally spent weeks of nonstop partying in Ecuador’s infamous surf town of Montañita. However, most backpackers will tell you that the sunset and cerveza game in Montañita is among the strongest in Peru.
And it isn’t even close. With Lima being Peru’s capital and largest city, it offers the best and most diverse nightlife in the country. From cozy speakeasy style bars to megaclubs that rival the best in the world, Lima has no shortage of places to party. When I arrived in Lima after my month of trekking in Huaraz, I was ready to party. Or at least, I thought I was. Lima was a huge wake-up call after not experiencing much of a proper nightlife throughout the rest of my time in Peru. I was not ready.
There are a variety of different nightlife districts in Lima. Among travelers, the most popular ones will likely be Miraflores or Barranco. However, most locals will let you know that the best spots to party are a bit further off the tourist trail. I’ve met a lot of Limeñas since my last time in Lima, so now that I’ve got the local knowledge hookup, I’ll let you know how the local parties are.
If you’re only in town for a short while and don’t have any local recommendations, then Miraflores and Barranco will suffice. Just make sure to pregame beforehand, otherwise you might be breaking the bank. Fortunately, breaking the bank in Lima means something like paying $3-4 for a beer at the finest nightclubs.