Traveling to Peru will take you to one of the great centers of ancient civilization. The Pacific coast was already home to the thriving Norte Chico civilization by 3,000 BC. Many other civilizations such as the Moche, Chavin, Chimú, and Nazca would follow, leaving behind fascinating ruins and artifacts.
Peru is home to the renowned ancient ruins built by the Incas, who were known for their worship of the sun. The Incas rose to power in the 15th century and established the biggest empire in pre-Columbian America.
Even if you are not a history enthusiast, you can still have a great time traveling to Peru. Other popular tourist attractions in Peru are some great natural wonders. Traveling through the country, you’ll come across the Andes Mountain range which spans the entire length of the country and reaches an impressive height of almost 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). It separates the arid coastal strip from the lush Amazon rainforest providing a diverse range of things to do in Peru and the opportunity for some fun travel experiences.
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to explore ancient sites. It is considered one of the most stunning and remarkable sites globally, making it the top tourist attraction in Peru. Nestled in the Urubamba Valley, the “Lost City of the Incas” is a hidden gem that can only be seen from within. It is completely self-contained, encompassed by lush agricultural terraces, and nourished by natural springs.
Machu Picchu, a site that was previously only known to locals. It was rediscovered in 1911 by historian Hiram and is now a popular travel destination.
Dating back to the 15th century, the site was abandoned during the Spanish conquest a century later. It was only rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
Machu Picchu is famous for its well-preserved stone buildings, exquisite craftsmanship, and awe-inspiring architectural and technical accomplishments.
It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and now attracts thousands of visitors each year. If you want to visit, make your reservation as long in advance as possible. To get the most out of your trip, hire a qualified guide.
2. Lima’s Historic Center
Lima’s Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was created in the 1500s, and although many of the original buildings have been demolished, it still has tremendous historical importance and is a lovely spot to roam about.
Lima’s main plaza, Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor), in the city’s historic quarter, is one of the most delightful locations to visit. The bulk of the buildings were rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1746. The cathedral on the east side and the Government Palace (Palacio del Gobierno) on the north side are the highlights of the Plaza de Armas. The Archbishop’s Palace and the Casa del Oidor are well worth seeing.
Jiron de la Union, a pedestrian street leading off the plaza, is lined with stores, restaurants, and the old Iglesia de La Merced.
Cusco, often spelled Cuzco, is situated in southeastern Peru and rests at an elevation of approximately 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level. The city serves as the gateway to the world-famous Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Cusco’s historical significance as the heart of the Inca Empire has bestowed it with a wealth of architectural marvels and a vibrant cultural tapestry that continues to captivate visitors.
While traveling, you have the opportunity to visit sites such as the 17th-century Cusco Cathedral and the lively Plaza de Armas where various events and festivals take place.
To truly immerse oneself in the vibrant culture of Cusco, it is essential to experience the local festivals and customs. Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, held annually in June, celebrates the Inca solstice and is a grand display of traditional music, dance, and colorful costumes. The Corpus Christi festival, marked by lively processions and ornate religious rituals, is another highlight for visitors.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cusco: Best Areas & Hotels
Barranco, a picturesque hillside district located south of Central Lima and Miraflores. This is a delightful destination that provides convenient access to downtown Lima. The destination boasts narrow streets adorned with colorful colonial architecture and scenic ocean views from the hillsides, providing a serene atmosphere compared to the bustling city.
The region has been a favorite among artists and poets, providing it with a Bohemian ambiance. This is a wonderful destination to explore during your travels, especially in the afternoon. You can also indulge in a delicious meal, especially during sunset, at one of the restaurants that offer a stunning view of the ocean. The Puente de Los Suspiros is the main tourist attraction in Barranco, aside from its charming atmosphere.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Barranco: Best Areas & Hotels
5. Nazca Lines
Explore the Nazca Desert in southern Peru and discover the fascinating Nazca Lines, a collection of ancient geoglyphs. The drawings are located in various places and showcase different shapes and figures such as animals, plants, and geometric designs.
The Nazca culture created lines, potentially for religious or astronomical reasons. The region was inhabited from 200 BC to 700 AD.
The designs are best viewed from a bird’s eye view, as their size cannot be fully appreciated from the ground.
Travelers to the Nazca Lines can arrange for an aerial tour to observe the patterns from a unique perspective. Traveling allows individuals to witness the complete lines and fully admire the immense size and stunning beauty of the drawings.
Huacachina is a must-visit travel destination for those who love adventure, as it is a small desert oasis surrounded by stunning dunes.
Nestled in the Ica region of southern Peru, lies a picturesque lake enveloped by verdant flora.
Sandboarding is one of the main activities to do while traveling to Huacachina. It is a thrilling activity that involves sliding down steep sand dunes on a board like a snowboard. Sandboarding tours are a popular activity for travelers of all ages, and many local companies provide guided tours.
Apart from sandboarding, tourists can also opt for dune buggy tours that offer a picturesque ride through the nearby desert. During the travel, you will have the opportunity to visit some of the highest dunes in the region as part of the tour. Thus, providing an opportunity to witness stunning vistas of the nearby terrain.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Huacachina: Best Areas & Hotels
7. Lake Titicaca
Nestled between Peru and Bolivia lies Lake Titicaca, a stunning body of water that happens to be the world’s highest navigable waterway. Peru is a great travel destination that boasts the impressive Uros Islands, which are a must-see attraction.
Explore one of the largest lakes in South America on your next travel adventure. This destination in Peru holds historical importance as it is considered to be the origin of the Incas. That’s why there is a diverse range of ruins to explore here.
Mancora is a perfect travel destination for those seeking a relaxing beach vacation with crystal clear waters and a charming town atmosphere.
Piura region is a must-visit destination for travelers and surf enthusiasts. It is renowned for being one of the top surfing spots in Peru, attracting a large number of tourists every year.
Travelers to Mancora can experience the pleasant sunshine, refreshing sea winds, and stunning landscapes. Travelers can also sunbathe, swim, snorkel, beach comb, or go for a long walk.
Apart from its sandy shores, Mancora is recognized for its lively nightlife. The place offers a variety of bars, restaurants, and clubs that become lively at night. Mancora offers a variety of activities for travelers, including a chance to unwind on the beach or explore the nightlife scene.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mancora: Best Areas & Hotels
In addition to being a hamlet, Ollantaytambo is known for being a historic Inca temple and fortress. It is situated at the most northern point of the Sacred Valley. After Cuzco fell into Spanish hands, the Incas fled to this location as a last resort. Beneath the remnants lies the ancient village of Ollantaytambo.
The town is well-known because it is the starting place for the trip to Machu Picchu. The travel destination features terraced hillsides, plazas, and several monumental structures in the form of ruins. Two of the most significant travel destinations are the Temple of the Sun and the Baths of the Princess.
You should go to Ollantaytambo if you are interested in the history and culture of the Andes Mountains and the Inca Empire. Ollantaytambo is in the Urubamba Valley. Visitors have the option of exploring the ruins on their own or going on a tour led by a knowledgeable local guide.
10. Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is a well-known trekking route that leads to Machu Picchu, the legendary Incan fortress. It is 42 kilometers (26 miles) long and typically requires four days to finish.
The journey takes you through various picturesque terrains, such as the Andean peaks, cloud forests, and valleys. Traveling to high-altitude destinations with steep inclines can be quite challenging and requires physical exertion. This travel experience is recommended for individuals who are in good physical condition.
To visit the site, travelers must book a tour with a licensed operator as the trail is not open to the public. Permits are limited to maintain the site’s preservation, so it is important to plan in advance and secure a spot.
The ideal time for embarking on a multi-day hike is between May and September. Travelers should be prepared for chilly evenings during their hike.
Before embarking on the journey, it is worthwhile to spend a few days exploring Cusco. Acclimatizing to the high altitude is crucial before embarking on the trek.
11. Colca Canyon
After visiting Colca Canyon in southern Peru, travelers may reconsider their opinion on the depth of the U.S. Grand Canyon. Colca Canyon offers a breathtaking travel experience as it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, measuring 4,160 meters. Despite having fewer steep walls than the Grand Canyon, the canyon’s beauty is unparalleled.
One of the main draws of this destination is the opportunity to see the magnificent Andean condors, in addition to the breathtaking scenery. You can observe the condors up close as they soar on the ascending thermals during your travels.
Travelers can embark on a picturesque journey along the Colca Canyon road, where they can marvel at the stunning vistas of the nearby mountains and the canyon’s natural beauty. There are also several hiking routes to discover. Some of them will take you to remote and magnificent hot springs.
12. Paracas National Reserve
The Paracas National Reserve is one of the most significant wildlife reserves in the nation.
It encompasses the majority of the Paracas Peninsula and the Ballestas Islands, as well as desert and coastal regions.
The reserve, which is located on the southern coast near Pisco, is home to various rare and endangered animal species, including the Humboldt penguin, Peruvian booby, and South American sea lion. It is also a popular breeding place for numerous migratory bird species, notably the American flamingo.
Visitors to the Paracas National Reserve may enjoy guided excursions of the Ballestas Islands in addition to birding and animal observation.
There are also trips that will take you out to the desert to explore the dunes and view the famed Paracas Candelabra.