Peru is a country full of mystery and incredible places to visit. When you begin to plan your trip to Peru, it is easy to get lost in the many different destinations on offer, so Gulliver Expeditions wanted to spend a little time reflecting on our experience in Peru to provide readers with a list of the top 10 places to visit in Peru. We hope this guide helps you get a clearer idea of what you can (and should) visit when you come to Peru. Peru has much more to offer than this top 10, but since your time is most likely limited, this list is a great place to start. And if you have any questions for us after reading this article, please feel free to get in touch.
For anyone planning a trip to Peru who would prefer to avoid hiking, 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 to the ancient city. Although less adventurous, it is a great way to explore Machu Picchu in a short timeframe.
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, as well as flowers and trees.
It is expected 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 there might be a religious element and that the formation relates to early astronomy in some way.
While the Nazca lines can be seen from high mountains, the best way to see them is, without a doubt, from the air. With a small airplane, you will fly over these incredible creations and you will have the opportunity to take some unforgettable pictures.
Cusco (or Cuzco) was the capital of the Inca Empire. The city is famous for its well-preserved historical architecture. Wandering through this UNESCO World Heritage city gives the same impression as walking through 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 you’ll find an enormous citadel named Sacsayhuaman. This citadel is made of gigantic boulders in the traditional Incan style.
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.
The most famous thing to do in Huacachina is perhaps sandboarding. This unique sport allows you to soar down the yellow sand-dunes on a board that looks much like a snowboard. This fun and exciting sport, along with the sights of the desert, are a recipe for lifelong memories.
Sand-buggies are also a great fun activity if you’re interested in Huacachina – both for adventurous travellers and for travellers that just want a relaxed tour and to enjoy the beautiful dunes at a more relaxed pace. Depending on what you choose, you will race up and down the sandy hills or explore the desert at a more moderate pace. Whichever option you choose, you will witness a golden sunset unlike anything else on the planet.
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.
Arequipa, also known as ‘’the white city’’ is Peru’s second largest city, and a true gem for those with interest in hiking in Peru. You’ll find ancient civilizations, hot springs, birds of paradise, mountains, and adventure sports. This city is full of attractive architecture and it’s surrounded by three volcanoes. It is the perfect place to start a volcano climb, a mountain biking tour, or to try to cook a Peruvian dish by yourself.
The Vinicunca Mountain, better known as the Rainbow Mountain, is a colourful mountain about 3.5 hours from Cusco. While it has only been discovered fairly recently, it has become an extremely popular destination for people on Peru adventure tours.
A challenging hike takes you to about 5000m, where you’ll find the bright, multi-coloured sediment layers of this ancient mountain.
This 8,300 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-Columbian museums and art galleries. Its main square ‘’Plaza Mayor’’ is well-known for its yellow buildings and beautiful churches. Along with the beaches, valleys, nature reserves, nightlife, and cuisine, Peru’s capital has an authentic personality that you simply can’t miss on your visit to Peru.
The Sacred Valley is located close to Cusco and Machu Picchu. The region is home to many colonial towns and idyllic villages. There are numerous markets and trekking routes along Inca sites. The ruins of Moray for example is an incredible sight on its own and there is so much more to see in the valley.
Iquitos is also known as the capital of the Peruvian Amazon; it is a very special city because it is 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. Iquitos is one of the most popular destinations in Peru and it is 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.
We hope this top-10 destinations in Peru guide will help a few readers plan their next big hiking trip in Peru. If you need a little more inspiration, check out our blog and our expansive list of Peru tours. Start planning your dream trip to Peru with a little help from the team at Gulliver Expeditions
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Gulliver Expeditions is a tour operator that offers unique Ecuador and Peru tours. Specialized in adventure travel such as climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding. We offer both pre-planned packages as well as tailor-made tours that can include the Amazon rainforest, once-in-a-lifetime Galapagos cruises and expeditions to Machu Picchu.