Peru, the third largest country in South America, was home to the Inca Empire, one of the largest and most advanced ancient civilizations in the Americas, and was colonized by the Spanish in the 16th-century. Peru is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, home to ancient ruins, Spanish era architecture and rich culture and tradition. From the depths of the Amazon rainforest to the beautiful Pacific coastline and Andes mountains, Peru awaits its visitors with a plethora of experiences.
Peru’s capital Lima is one of the world’s driest capital cities and is a large bustling metropolis. Lima offers excellent dining options and is a great place to sample the country’s cuisine. It also boasts of a lively nightlife and great surfing beaches like Punta Roquitas and Playa Waikiki. Plaza de Armas is where you can admire the city’s Spanish era architecture reflected in the Palacio de Gobierno, Cathedral of Lima and Archbishop’s Palace of Lima. Other highlights of the capital include the Larco Museum and Museo de la Nación where you can learn more about the country.
Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most recognised landmarks and the main reason why Peru is prominent on the traveller’s map. Every year, millions of people visit this stunning 15th-century Incan citadel, nestled high up in the Andes mountains. The citadel contains the ruins of over a hundred structures including the Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana ritual stone, bathhouses, residences, warehouses, ceremonial halls and others. A unique and unbelievable feature is that all these structures were built of stones that were cut to fit perfectly without the use of mortar!
On the country’s southern coast, in the Nazca desert lies one of the planet’s biggest unsolved mysteries – the Nazca Lines. After the Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines are the most popular attraction in Peru. This UNESCO World Heritage Site spans over 1000 sq km and contains over 300 different figures and over 800 different lines of geoglyphs that are believed to predate even the Incas. You can view the lines from the observation tower or take a short 20-minute flight that covers the major designs. No one knows why these geometric designs were made or who made them, and this will surely be one of the most baffling experiences you’ve ever had.
The historic city of Cuzco located in the Urubamba Valley of the Peruvian Andes was once the capital of the glorious Inca civilization. The massive ancient Inca site of Sacsayhuaman, known for the bloody battle between the Incas and the Spanish and its amazing stonework is the most important Inca ruin in the city. The Church of Santo Domingo which was built over an Incan temple, the Cusco Cathedral, baroque churches of La Compania and La Merced are Cuzco’s popular Spanish era highlights. Museo Inka, Cusco Planetarium, Machu Picchu Museum and Pre-Columbian Art Museum are the best places to learn more about the history and culture of the city. Also, make sure to visit the colourful shopping neighbourhoods of San Blas and San Pedro and the Plaza de Armas to experience the city’s excellent cuisine and nightlife.
Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city, ringed by three volcanoes and popular for its baroque buildings constructed from white volcanic stone. The Plaza de Armas, Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, Santa Catalina Monastery, Museo Santuarios Andinos and hiking the El Misti volcano are the city’s highlights. Just over 100 km from the city lies the Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons. It is a popular trekking destination with scenic vistas that will take you through the canyon’s green valleys, traditional villages and rivers.
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake and one of South America’s largest. It is located in the Andes mountains and spreads across the borders of Peru and Bolivia. The lake is over a million years old and the Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the Sun. The lake contains small islands that house Incan ruins and is surrounded by the Titicaca Natural Reserve, which is popular for waterbirds and a giant frog species. You can visit its lake beaches, colourful traditional villages and experience the unique mountain lifestyle of the natives.
The Cordillera Blanca is the Peruvian part of the Andes mountain range and means ‘white range’ in Spanish. Most of the range lies within the Huascarán National Park, and it is named after the Huascarán Peak, Peru’s highest point. Numerous hiking and trekking trails will take you through its breathtaking snow-capped peaks and scenic glacial lakes. Some of the most popular routes include the Santa Cruz and Mt Pisco treks and trails leading to impressive turquoise lakes like Laguna 69, Parón, Llanganuco and Churup. The remoteness of the mountains and the pristine natural scenery that unfolds in your way create a sensational experience.
This national park spreads over southeastern Peru and encompasses the Amazon Basin, Andean highlands, virgin jungles and cloud forests. Due to this diverse topography, the park is home to over 4000 species of flora and hundreds of wildlife species including the jaguar, puma, giant armadillo, green anaconda, caimans and over a thousand bird species. The park has a beautiful canopy walk, camping sites, viewpoints and hiking trails for its visitors.
The ancient walled town of Kuelap is located in northern Peru. It belonged to the Chachapoyas (Warriors of the Clouds), a pre-Incan culture from the 6th-century. you can reach here through a drive or a cable car from Nuevo Tingo village. It is one of the most well preserved and magnificent stone ruins of the New World and contains over 400 circular houses, numerous temples, towers, underground chambers and burial sites.
The Ballestas Islands are located off the port city of Pisco in Peru’s southern coast. The two-hour boat journey to these islands will present you with the country’s best wildlife-watching opportunities. You can easily spot sea lions, blue-footed boobies, cormorants, Humboldt penguins and hundreds of other birds. El Candelabro, a mysterious 181-metre tall geoglyph believed to be over 2000 years old, is another popular attraction in this region.
Huacachina is a beautiful village around an oasis, located in southwestern Peru. Hidden among the vast desert sands, you will find the emerald waters of the tiny oasis surrounded by palm trees, bars, restaurants and accommodations. In Huacachina, you can swim or paddle board in the waters or get on a dune buggy or sandboard in the sands. A visit here will make you feel cut off from the world and offer a great relaxing retreat.
The city of Ayacucho is known for Spanish era architecture, wooden folk handicrafts and ancient ruins of the Wari civilization. The popular attractions of this colourful city include the Ayacucho Cathedral, Templo de San Cristobal and the Plaza de Armas.
Peru’s astounding history and heritage, stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes, remarkable culture and tradition, makes it a truly magical destination in South America, that presents you with memories for a lifetime.
Machu Picchu is the most popular archaeological site on the continent.