Peru is a country full of mystery and worthwhile places to visit. It is easy to get lost in the many destinations, with one likely to be even more beautiful than the next. To help you get a clearer overview and idea of where you could visit and what you can do in Peru, we created this list of top 10 destinations you should visit. Peru has much more to offer than what will appear on this list, but since your time is most likely limited, it is a great place to start.
By far the most popular destination of Peru, this ancient Incan city is hidden deep in the Andes mountains near the city of Cusco. This ‘’lost city’’ is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
The Incas, the people who built Machu Picchu, had the greatest pre-Colombian empire of the world! The city was built around 1450 and organized in a smart way and included farming terraces with their own irrigation systems, temples, towers, and tunnels.
There are multiple ways to get to Machu Picchu. The most popular options include:
● The classic Inca trail
This is South-Americans’ favorite trek and belongs to one of world’s best trekking trails. This four-day trek takes you along paved Inca pathways, through beautiful scenery and interesting Inca sites. The trail is open throughout the whole year, except for February. During this month, maintenance is performed and the path can recover, so that it will retain its beauty. The classic Inca trail is something every nature-lover and hiker should have on their bucket list.
● The Inca Jungle Tour
This four-day trek is perfect for the adventurous traveler. You will alternate hiking with extreme activities such as zip-lining through the air at the Santa Teresa canyons, white-water rafting, and downhill mountain biking. This experience shows you the best of the Andes mountains and the jungle, from different perspectives, and ultimately takes you to the astonishing Machu Picchu.
● By Train
For those who do not like to hike, there are 2-day or 1-day trains that take you to the base of the mountain where Machu Picchu is located. Here you take a shuttle bus that will take you to the city. Although less adventurous, it is a great way to explore Machu Picchu in a short period of time.
The Nazca lines are enormous ancient geoglyphs that can be found spread out over around 80 km in the Nazca Desert in the south of Peru. The lines form a variety of animals such as hummingbirds, llamas, monkeys or flower- and tree-like shapes.
It is believed that the lines were created between 500 BC and 500 AD, but because of the dry and windless climate of the environment, the lines are naturally preserved extremely well. It is still unknown why the Nazca lines were made; researchers think it might be related to religion or astronomy.
While the Nazca lines can be seen from high mountains, the best way to see them is without a doubt from the air. In a small airplane, you will fly over these incredible creations and have the opportunity to take some unforgettable pictures.
Cusco (or Cuzco) was the capital of the Incan Empire. The city is famous for its well-preserved historical architecture. Wandering through this UNESCO World Heritage city gives the same impression as walking in a gigantic museum. The old, lovely colonial buildings highlight the city’s rich history. Cusco is one of the most touristic places in Peru and is often a starting point to different destinations such as Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley.
At the heart of the city is the Plaza de Armas, a big square surrounded by many restaurants, churches and cafes. Outside of the city there stands an enormous citadel named Sacsayhuaman. This citadel is made of gigantic boulders and is a typical Inca site.
The Huacachina Oasis
Huacachina is a small but charming town in the middle of the desert. It is the only desert oasis in the whole of South America. The village is unbelievably photogenic, and a variety of adventurous activities can be done here.
Most famous is perhaps sandboarding. This unique sport allows you to soar down the yellow sand dunes on a snowboard-like board. This fun and exciting sport along with the sights of the desert are a recipe for lasting memories.
Sand Buggy: both for the adventurous ones and the ones who just want a relaxed tour and enjoy the beautiful dunes on a more relaxed pace. Depending on your ideal trip, you will race up and down the sandy hills or explore the desert at a more moderate pace. At the end of the day you will witness a golden sunset.
Those who wish to relax can lie under the palm trees of the Oasis or rent a small rowboat and explore the lagoon by themselves.
Also known as ‘’the white city,’’ Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city, and a true gem for those with interest in hiking, ancient civilizations, hot springs, birds, mountains, and adventure sports. This city full of attractive architecture is surrounded by three volcanoes. It is the perfect place to start a volcano climb, mountain biking tour or try to cook a Peruvian dish by yourself.
Its name is derived from the many colonial buildings that were crafted from white sillar stone, giving the city an authentic look.
The Rainbow Mountain
The Vinicunca Mountain, better known as the Rainbow Mountain, is, as the name suggests, a colourful mountain about 3.5 hours from Cusco. While it has only been discovered fairly recently, it has become a true tourist attraction.
A challenging hike takes you to about 5000m, where the bright, multi-coloured sediment layers of this millions of years old mountain will reward you.
This 8300 square-kilometre lake is one of South America’s biggest lakes. It crosses the border with Bolivia, where around 40% of the lake is located. From this lake a variety of attractions can be visited.
The Uros Islands are the most popular. These floating islands are made of totora reeds. The Uros people use the reeds for almost everything in their lives: from building homes to boats and crafts, and even food.
Peru’s capital city has a well-preserved colonial centre and is home to many Pre-Colombian museums and art. It’s main square ‘’plaza Mayor’’ is well-known for its yellow buildings and beautiful churches. In addition to the beaches, different valleys, natural reserves, the vibrant nightlife, and the exquisite cuisine give Peru’s capital an authentic personality and make tourism in Lima a unique experience in the country.
The Sacred Valley is a green valley lying about just 15 km north of the city of Cusco. This place was used by the Inca people due to the highly prized site containing rich agricultural lands.
Inca ruins are now dotted throughout the valley and the land has a very Peruvian feel thanks to the many authentic villages and towns that populate the region.
The valley’s history and culture make it one of the most favourite places in Peru. Travelers stay here as a great place to acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco as the Sacred Valley is lower down and gives tourists the time they need for their bodies to adjust.
Iquitos is also known as the capital of the Peruvian Amazon. It’s a very special city, as it’s the largest city in the world that is not accessible by roads or railway tracks. The only way to reach this city is by boat or plane. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Peru and used as a starting point to visit the Amazon. The most common way to get around is by ”motocarro” (also known as tuk-tuk in some countries), a motorcycle with a cabin behind it.