Best places to visit in Peru
With the lush Amazon rainforest and snow-capped Andes Mountains, legendary Inca Trail and fabled Lost City of Machu Picchu, stunning Lake Titicaca and more, it's hard to choose what to see and do in Peru. To help you make this tricky decision, we've listed some of the best places to visit.
Set deep in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the spectacular archaeological site of Machu Picchu is one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World'. Known as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, the local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until the American historian Hiram Bingham discovered the site in 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. The site was covered in thick vegetation until Bingham and his team cleared the growth. Located high above the Urubamba River, the citadel was once completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population and watered by natural springs. The ruins include palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation that will take your breath away. To experience the wonders of Machu Picchu you have the option to hike the spectacular Inca Trail or the Lares Trek, or enjoy a scenic train and bus ride from Cuzco.
Lake Titicaca is South America's largest lake and it's located in the highlands on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Andean's believe Titicaca to be the birthplace of the sun and the islands on the lake are considered sacred places by many. The isolation from the mainland means that traditional culture still prevails on Lake Titicaca's islands and the people speak the ancient Inca language of Quecha. Visiting these islands offers a glimpse of an almost extinct traditional Andean way of life which is truly fascinating. Popular islands to visit are Taquile and also Amantani, where group tours spend a night at a homestay, which is a unique opportunity to experience island life and meet the locals. The other islands which are not to be missed are the man-made Uros Islands, which are made of floating totora reeds. The original idea behind the islands was that the Uros Islanders could steer away from any threat. All of the buildings on these unique islands are made of reeds and even the boats.
The lush Amazon rainforest covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America and covers a large area of Peru. Puerto Maldonado offers easy access to Peru's Amazon rainforest with jungle lodges, exceptional wildlife and indigenous cultures all within reach, whilst in the north the isolated city of Iquitos provides access to magnificent virgin forest. Ideally it’s best to spend at least two nights in the Amazon to maximise wildlife spotting opportunities and fully appreciate this unique environment. Guided walks and canoe trips are the ideal way to explore the Amazon as the flora, fauna and culture of the region are introduced and explained. Staying in jungle eco lodges, at night you'll drift off to sleep to the soundtrack of distant cicadas, dove song and duetting frogs, and wake to the cacophony of howler monkeys, the humming of insects and chirping of birds.
The Nazca Lines
Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain south of Lima, the Nazca Lines are one of the most mystifying sights in all Latin America. Believed to have been etched into the desert floor between 500BC and 500AD, the Nazca Lines are amongst archaeology’s greatest enigmas due to their nature, size, and quantity. A mix of long lines and geometrical figures, the geoglyphs depict, amongst other things, a monkey, hummingbird, condor, and spider. No one really knows who made the lines or why they did so but theories abound from their purpose as a giant astronomical calendar to an extraterrestrial landing site. More recently theorists have presented the idea of the lines belonging to a water fertility cult that once ruled Peru’s southern desert. The mystery only makes the Nazca Lines more exciting to behold and they are best appreciated from the air where their striking vision comes into true form.
The Colca Valley
The stunning Colca Valley has been called many things - 'The Lost Valley of the Incas', 'The Valley of Wonders' and 'The Valley of Fire' amongst other names. The people of the Colca Valley are renowned for their colourful attire, from hats decorated with multi coloured ribbons to the intricate designs on their traditional clothing. Colca Valley's biggest drawcard is the spectacular Colca Canyon which is over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and home to the elusive Andean Condors. The view from Condor pass and the sight of these magnificent birds with their 10 foot wing-span is incredible. Another nearby attraction is La Calera which has the best hot springs in the country and is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.
Standing on the ruins of ancient Inca temples and palaces, the enchanting city of Cuzco is a captivating blend of traditional Andean culture, architectural wonders dating from the time of the Incas to the colonial era and a majestic setting in a highland valley. As well as being the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cuzco has a long list of attractions from the charming Plaza de Armas and imposing Cathedral to the masterful stonework ruins of the Koricancha Inca complex. The UNESCO-listed fortress of Sacsayhuaman commands an incredible view across Cuzco and is the most impressive of the historical sites dotted across the surrounding hills. It's very easy to while away several days wandering around Cuzco, aside from its historic sites, it's also a great place to shop for handicrafts, the nightlife is superb and it's got a great range of restaurants catering for all budgets.