Peru is an ultra-diverse and totally enthralling travel destination. The wild landscape has it all - the Amazon forest AND the glorious Andean mountains. Not only does Peru encapsulate all that natural wonders should be, but the culture and traditions of the country are distinctive and worth immersing yourself in. Trekking through this beautiful country will be one of the most inspiring and memorable experiences of your life, just make sure you check out some of these special places.
1. Cuzco (or Cusco, or Qosq’o)
Bursting with cultural heritage, Cuzco was the capital city of the Inca Empire and now the archaeological capital of the Americas. As the continent’s oldest inhabited city, there are many ornate Incan temples to admire with many villagers still wear traditional dress. To appease the picky tourists, some 21st century food choices have infiltrated the city (McDonalds); but not to worry, you’ll still be able to pet a Llama and feel connected to ancient times.
2. Machu Picchu
If you’re going or have been to Peru, most likely Machu Picchu has made it on your to-do list. This awe-inspiring archaeological mecca is one of the most well-known of its kind. The ‘Lost City of the Incas’ is a UNESCO World Heritage site and with polished dry-stone walls and various temples, it is still considered to be a sacred place. In the busy season from May until September, there are some 2,500 visitors daily however, despite the high volume of tourists, Machu Picchu still retains a sense of wonder and is a must-see for anyone visiting Peru.
The energetic capital was almost flattened by a 1970 earthquake and while views of crumbling buildings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, they most definitely give the city a lot of character. A world-famous place for backpackers, adventurers and wanderers alike, Huaraz is a good place to stock up before your trekking journey. The city boasts countless trip planning services, equipment rental shops, and amazing restaurants and bars for a bit of pre-expedition nourishment. Oh, and while you’re fueling up, be sure to look all around you at the absolutely spectacular views.
4. Lake Titicaca
Gaze longingly into the sparkling royal blue lake as you consider all of the wonders of the area. According to traditional Andean folklore, this is where the sun was born and at almost 4,000m above sea level, it is the most elevated body of water in the world. If you visit Lake Titicaca, you MUST see their top attraction, Islas Uros, the floating islands. The islands are made with interwoven totora reeds and the inhabitants are just as beautiful as the surrounding sights.
5. Amazon Basin
Within the most biodiverse rainforest in the world is this well-maintained and protected tract running through nine different countries. The strange and utterly seductive 1.7 billion acre area is home to diverse flora and fauna and indigenous communities that have never laid eyes on outside civilization. On a somewhat sad note, with the recent exploitation of the basin’s natural resources, this is a destination for responsible travelers who will view all of the beauty within allowed limits.
6. Sacred Valley
Here, the Andean countryside is dotted with elevated hamlets, unique villages, and trail and railway transportation to the infamous Machu Picchu. Like practically every other destination in Peru, the Sacred Valley was a former epicenter of Incan culture; in fact, Cuzco is located inside of the valley. Bountiful with sacred sites, magnificent terraces, and intricate architecture, a Sacred Valley tour is definitely worth arranging.
Rich in history and folkloric tradition, this city is located on the edge of Lake Titicaca. A common site for archaeologists, Puno was formerly a very sacred place for the Incas. Similarly, there are many ancient churches and religious monuments to be seen by the most culturally curious of travelers.
Considered by locals to be Lima La Gris (the Grey City) and Ciudad de los Reyes (City of Kings), Lima is a multifaceted and enchanting city. Set up high amongst crumbling cliffs, Lima is the one of the driest cities in the world. Dating back millennia, prior sophisticated civilizations have graced the city with edgy art, dignified museums, and world famous pottery while recent inhabitants have introduced gastronomic revolutions and many exciting nightclubs. History, culture, views of the surrounding Pacific Coast and food that is to die for — plan your trip now.
9. Northern Amazon
If you want to experience real Amazonian spirit, the northern Basin is where you need to go. The area is remote; settlements are scarcely scattered throughout the largely untouched landscape. Raw and wild, this is where travelers are amazed by the vibrant fauna and flora. Plan a trek through the rainforest or a river cruise on the Amazon and take in all the sights of the famous Peruvian jungle.
At one-tenth the size of Lima, this is surprisingly the second-largest city in Peru and just as rich in history, culture, and opportunities for travelers. Surrounded by THREE breathtaking volcanoes and previously shaken by multiple earthquakes, the city is filled with baroque buildings built from strong volcanic rock. Not only will you witness the extravagant cityscape, but a stop in Arequipa will leave you filled with both historical knowledge and delicious spicy food.
Traveling to Peru is an adventure of a life time. As you can see above, there’s many places that you should have on your bucket list before you leave. So are you going to visit any of these places when traveling through Peru?
Sara is a travel enthusiast who has travelled to many countries right around the world. She currently works for englandexplore.com and loves to write about her travels as she experiences them. She is currently working on her next travel