Peru is probably one of South America’s most well-known destinations. And the mysterious settlement of Machu Picchu has adorned many a tourist postcard.
But while the country is certainly celebrated for the Inca Trail and its ancient archeological site. Peru has so much more to offer than crumbling ruins.
Take your time discovering these Peruvian delights. From pre-Columbian settlements to the modern and traditional cities of the Southern Peru Tourist Corridor.
Explore the museums of Lima. Soak in the hot springs of high-altitude Cusco. And fly over the astonishing Nazca lines. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Peru.
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is anyone’s Peruvian highlight. no matter what you’re visiting this South American country for. Tucked 2,430 meters high in the Andes.
This abandoned ancient Incan city seems to be eternally enshrouded in mist. In fact, it’s so well hidden that it remained undiscovered for centuries earning it the nickname ‘the Lost City of the Incas.’
The site was eventually discovered by an explorer, but even then, only by accident. In the years since its discovery. It’s become one of the most yearned-after bucket list spots in the world.
This means it doesn’t come without the crowds. So be sure to plan your trip well in advance. Some of the most popular ways to reach these crumbling Incan ruins are by trekking the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trail.
For those who prefer not to ascend on foot, there is an easier route by train.
Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city. Surrounded by volcanoes, including the El Misti. it’s known as the ‘White City’ because its buildings were crafted out of white volcanic rock called sillar from the neighboring mountains.
Unlike many of Peru’s other cities, Arequipa doesn’t have any Incan claims to fame at least. Not in the form of ancient settlements.
Its most famous Inca sight is the Mummy Juanita. Also known as the Lady of Ampato an astonishingly well-preserved frozen body of a young teenaged Incan girl who was sacrificed to the gods during the 1400s.
She can now be found in the Catholic University of Santa María’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries.
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3. Sacred Valley
Once the heartland of the Inca Empire. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a valley in the Andes, close to Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu.
The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities.
Located in Peru’s Southern Sierra, some of the most popular activities here are adventure-based – from trekking and rafting to rock climbing.
In contrast, the towns of Yucay and Urubamba are fast becoming a hub for spiritual relaxation and meditation. Whichever route you take, there’s plenty to discover along the way.
Located in the Southern Sierras. Colorful Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire. Today, it holds the title of the archaeological capital of the Americas.
It’s one of Peru’s most-visited destinations, and for good reason. It offers easy access to Machu Picchu and the incredible Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Built by the Spanish on the ruins of age-old Incan temples and palaces. The heart of the city is the main square, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and churches.
The colorful San Pedro Market is nearby with vendors selling Quechua handicrafts like alpaca textiles. painted pottery, ceramics and Peruvian dolls as well as fresh produce and drinks.
5. Inca Trail
Winding through the mountains, over passes, and above valleys with stunning views all the way. Peru’s Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world.
The hike takes around four days to complete and starts just outside of Cusco. The former capital of the Inca Empire, with the end-goal being the mythical Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas.
Using ancient stone paths and trails that the Incas themselves laid down all those centuries ago. The route meanders through diverse ecosystems and landscapes.
While some parts run next to stepped terraces, others pass by alpine tundra and cloud forest. With plunging valleys and towering mountains lying in the distance.
As the Inca civilization was centered around the highlands, you’ll also come across ancient ruins on the way.
6. Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s most popular tourist destinations. Spanning over 70 kilometers The world’s second-deepest canyon boasts some spectacular scenery with fascinating Andean culture and nature to discover.
While the sheer size and scale of the canyon are staggering, it is the diversity of the many landscapes that is Colca’s most impressive feature.
It encompasses everything from barren steppe and stepped terraces to steep-sided cliffs and rearing mountain peaks. Wherever you go.
The scenery is phenomenal, with breathtaking views of Andean condors swirling above the 3,140-metre deep canyon. Archaeological sites and ruins are dotted about the canyon.
While locals maintain their ancestral traditions in their small villages and towns.
Puno is a picturesque hillside port city that forms the natural gateway to Lake Titicaca and the 85-plus Uros Floating Islands boats depart from the dock every 40 minutes.
Set at an elevation of 3,800 meters, high-altitude Puno has a glorious view over the lakes and the island chain.
Because of its easy access to and from neighboring Bolivia and Chile. Puno is a popular tourist trap, yet it provides a more laidback alternative to the upmarket lake islands it overlooks.
For one, souvenirs at the lakeside market are far cheaper than you’ll find in Cusco or Lima. Its biggest attraction is as a departure point for the famous floating Uros islands with boats leaving every 40 min from the dock.
It is also a great place to get a feel for the Aymara and Quechua cultures. Some of the most popular things to do include a visit to a llama farm and an overnight stay with a local family.
As Peru’s capital and largest city. Lima is a sprawling metropolis of almost 9 million people. The city was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and offers a rich history as well as exceptional food. A great sense of culture.
You’ll find modern buildings contrasting with traditional and colonial architecture and orderly slums alongside raving nightclubs and bars.
Ruled by the Spanish for three centuries. Lima boasts intriguing Spanish-colonial churches, cloisters, and monasteries. A real treat for history buffs.
Because of its location close to the coast. Lima is a great foodie destination for seafood lovers. A Lima food tour is a great way to taste your way through the city’s authentic Peruvian delights like Ceviche. With a visit to some of the most authentic markets and restaurants in the city.
9. Nazca Desert
The puzzling Nazca lines that crisscross the valleys of Palpa and Nazca have put this part of Peru’s otherwise uninteresting desert on the map.
These enormous inscriptions of lines, animals. And other geometric patterns were carved into the sandy terrain by the Nazca people and are believed to have been part of a thousand-year-old holy road.
The dry, windless, stable climate of the Nazca Desert has helped keep the lines uncovered to the present day.
The best way to appreciate the magnitude of these geometric lines and shapes is from the air with a flight over the Nazca lines.
If you’re hesitant about flying (the costs aren’t cheap!) or you’d just prefer to see them up close. There’s an observation tower along the Panamerican highway where you can view three of the main figures.
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Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto region, which encompasses most of the northern reaches of the Peruvian Amazon. Interestingly, a town that was formed initially by a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Iquitos is now the largest city on earth without road access.
While Iquitos is a little tricky to get to you have to fly or boat in the rewards are totally worth it. Despite its remote location. There’s a mix of traditional and modern architecture: wooden huts built on riverside stilts contrast with the historic architecture of the central plaza.
Offering an unforgettable escape in the Amazon jungle that feels authentic. Visitors can browse the Belen floating market for everything from bananas to crocodile meat. If it’s souvenirs you’re after. The San Juan crafts market is a better bet.