Situated in the heart of South America, Peru is one of the most amazing countries on the planet. Thanks to its natural wonders, landscapes, rich history and local dishes, Peru has been attracting visitors from all over the word for some time. The country isn't just blessed with biodiversity, unique history, and adventurous activities to experience, it also has a rich, living culture that seamlessly intermingles the past, the present and future. From trekking to Machu Picchu to learning weaving techniques of the pre-Incas, here are some of the top Peru attractions.
In Lima, you will be gifted with impressive, colonial architecture and a fascinating look at the country's history in the Historic Centre. Wander around The Plaza de Armas, a UNESCO World Heritage site, marvel at the Baroque-style San Francisco Monastery, and stroll through the courtyard and catacombs of the Santo Domingo convent.
You can see a massive collection of pre-Colombian ceramics at the Museo Larco in Lima. There is a separate adults-only section for its erotic pottery gallery, as well as pieces of fine art work On a guided tour you can learn about Ai Apaec, a Mochica hero as well as other historical figures throughout the capital’s history
Between 500 BC and 500 AD, the Nazca Lines, were created by the Nazca culture. This group of geoglyphs were formed by removing top layers of rock to reveal lighter-colored sand underneath. The designs depict plants, animals, and geometric shapes and researchers are still unsure why the lines were created. Due to the fact they make up an area of roughly 25 km square, these geoglyphs are viewed best from above on a fly over in a tiny plane.
Less than four hours south of Lima is the nature reserve of Paracas, a desert oasis that is unlike any other destination. You can kayak with flamingo´s or take a boat ride to the Ballestas Islands, which are home to thousands of species such as penguins, sea lions, and pelicans. The nearby sand dunes in Huacachina are perfect for the adrenalin junkie where you can ride a 4-wheel drive, or if you're feeling extra adventurous, you can even zip down the desert's dune on a sand board.
Located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Chinchero has a high population of indigenous Quechua people. The so – called birthplace of the rainbow, offers Inca ruins, a lively Sunday market, and workshop held by women weavers who wash and dye wool with natural extracts to create colorful textiles. Purchase a Cusco Tourist Ticket for entrance into sites, ruins, plazas, and churches in Chinchero and other sights throughout the Sacred Valley.
Maras Salt Mines consist of thousands of individual salt pools that date back to Inca times. To this day, people in the community extract the salt from them. The color varies from pond to pond, depending on where the salt is in the production process. Although tourists are no longer allowed to walk directly through the salt mines due to contamination, you can still view the salt pans from above. Afterwards, you can peruse the shops for wooden pan flutes, tchotchkes, or salt harvested directly from the mines. Just a little further down the track is the magnificent Moray, located on a high plateau, the site is home to a fascinating circular Inca site. Thought to be an experimental agricultural site of the Incas, there are several terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is over 30m deep and has stone steps that take you to the bottom of Moray.
On the streets of Urubamba, vendors sell tiny quail eggs from small carts and women serve ears of giant corn with cheese. You’ll see skewered barbecued guinea pig, an Andean delicacy throughout the Sacred valley and Urubamba is no exception. There’s a daily indoor market in Urubamba that is worth a visit as women in typical dress offer meat, spices, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and hundreds of varieties of potatoes from their posts.
AwanaKancha is a living museum in the Sacred Valley, to get an in-depth understanding of the differences between llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas. You can even feed these adorable creatures stalks of long grass at the centre for an interactive, cameloid experience.
This cultural project also has a number of workshops, including weaving demonstrations and an introduction to the Quechua language.
This massive fortress of Sacsayhuamán is an architectural marvel, proving that the Incans were not just skilled at constructing finely-cut polygonal blocks into the natural landscape, they were excellent at precision masonry. It’s hard to imagine that the only tools used to carve these 100-ton stones were likely other stones and basic, hand-made tools. From the top of Sacsayhuamán there are incredible, sweeping views over the city of Cusco.
Cusco is located at over 3400m elevation and where you can witness the Plaza de Armas, several coffee shops, eateries, and bars. The centre-point is the cathedral, a Baroque cathedral with lavish altars, The Museo Inka, housed in a colonial mansion; and The Qorikancha, sun temple from the Inca Empire. Head to San Blas, one of the city's bohemian neighborhoods, full of art shops, restaurants, galleries and handicrafts along its cobblestone streets.
Machu Picchu of course is the top Peru attraction in the area. This UNESCO World Heritage Site can be found on a mountain ridge high above the Sacred Valley and is believed to have been constructed for the Inca emperor in the mid-1400s. The Spanish did not know its location when they arrived which means it is in an excellent state of preservation.
If you're looking for a family-friendly hike, take the trail to the "Sun Gate". This archaeological site called the Inti Punku is located at the final section of the Inca Trail at what was once the main entrance into Machu Picchu. The sun passes through the gate each year on the summer solstice.
Most day visitors depart Machu Picchu before the site closes, so if you visit toward the end of the day, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and a better experience. The other alternative is to hike the 4-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu and arrive at the incredible site as the Incas once did.
Partly a temple, Ollantaytambo was one of the few fortresses where the Incas won in a fight against the Spanish conquistadors. Ollantaytambo is en route to the popular four-day Inca Trail hike, and the train station to Machu Picchu and is the perfect stop off for tourists.
Vinicunca or rainbow mountain or The Mountain of Seven Colors, earned its nickname after the ice cap that used to cover it melted and mixed with minerals in the soil. You will need to be fit and be acclimatized, though, as you have to hike 10kms at altitude to reach the top of this mountain in the Ausangate Mountain range. If it's overcast, you may not be able to see a contrast in the colors as the heavily photoshopped images around Cusco suggest and the rainy season could mean a snow covered instead of rainbow colored peak on arrival.
For rich biodiversity, bird watching, jungle tours, and boat trips, visit Peru’s Amazon Rainforest, which makes up 60 % of the country. Visit the Tambopata National Reserve, home to vibrant wildlife, lush landscapes, and diverse plant life. Or, book a river cruise in Iquitos to see a beautiful and protected pink dolphins.
High in the Andes, on the border of Bolivia and Peru, sits Lake Titicaca. The highest navigable lake in the world, home to more than 530 aquatic species.
Visit the Uros Islands to see floating islands made out of totora reeds, or head to the Island of the Sun to see the Fountain of Youth. Alternatively, a homestay on Amantani Island will give you the opportunity to try traditional food and experience local culture.