The 12 Most Popular Cities in Peru

The following list highlights the 12 most popular cities in Peru in terms of foreign visitors. These are the cities that receive the highest number of international tourists, according to figures from the Base de Datos Turísticos del Perú (BADATUR).

These cities are not necessarily the biggest cities in Peru. Paracas, for example, is a long way from being one of the major cities in Peru in terms of population, but the nearby Islas Ballestas and Paracas National Reserve make it a popular destination despite its small size.

Few foreign visitors fall in love with the Peruvian capital, but nearly all of them pass through it -- a whopping 90 percent, in fact. Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport receives the bulk of all incoming international flights, while overland travelers are likely to pass through the capital at some point. But the City of Kings is far more than a just a transport hub. Those who choose to stick around find plenty of things to do in Lima , home to some of the nation’s best restaurants, museums, parks and colonial architecture. According to the MasterCard 2014 Global Destination Cities Index , Lima was the most visited city in Latin America by foreign arrivals in 2014, and the twentieth most visited city in the world.

Cusco is Peru’s prime tourist destination, with at least 80 percent of all foreign tourists heading there during their stay. Cusco itself has plenty to offer, bursting as it is with history and tradition. Two words, however, explain the almost hypnotic attraction that the former Inca capital has over foreign visitors: Machu Picchu . The Inca citadel received 1.17 million visitors in 2013, of which 804,000 were foreigners (Peru itself received 3.16 million foreign tourists in 2013).

In terms of population, Puno only just sneaks onto the list of Peru’s 20 biggest cities. But Puno has two attributes that keep the tourists coming. The city is known as the “Folkloric Capital of Peru” thanks to its rich traditions and frequent festivals, with annual festivities drawing big crowds from across Peru and beyond. The city also sits on the banks of a rather large, very high, and incredibly popular lake. Lake Titicaca is a mystical, romantic and altogether stunning body of water between Peru and Bolivia, and one certainly worthy of a place on the bucket list.

TripSavvy / Maria Ligaya

Arequipa -- Peru’s second largest city -- is another permanent fixture on the classic Peruvian gringo trail . The city itself is brimming with colonial, republican and religious architecture, much of which was built using the distinctive white or pink volcanic ashlar stone of the region. Notable buildings surround Arequipa’s plaza de armas, while the vast Santa Catalina Monastery provides another architectural, historical and cultural highlight within the city. The surrounding area, meanwhile, is home to El Misti, a volcano that looms over the city as a constant reminder of the region’s tectonic past. Further afield is Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and one of Peru’s most visited attractions.

Ica is a nice enough place, but the city isn’t typically the main reason for staying in this part of Southern Peru. Ica serves as a base for trips to the surrounding dunes for buggy rides and sandboarding, most famously at the Huacachina oasis. The surrounding area is also part of the pisco route, with some of Peru’s finest pisco distilleries nestled in the region’s river valleys. Fans of history and archaeology -- as well as fans of questionable pseudoscience -- will find plenty of museums in Ica, some of which are home to the area’s infamous elongated skulls. But the main draws in the Ica region are the Nazca Lines, for which Ica also serves as a base (along with the city of Nazca, of course, which isn’t the most inspiring of places).

The small port town of Paracas is big on tourism thanks to the nearby Paracas National Reserve and the Islas Ballestas. As well as being a paradise for nature lovers, Paracas has also turned itself into a major beach resort, with Paracas Bay now home to a range of luxurious hotels.

Ah, the great outdoors! For trekkers, climbers and general outdoor adventurers, few places in Peru have more pull than Huaraz and its surrounding area. Huascarán National Park is one of the most popular protected natural areas of Peru -- and home to the highest mountain in Peru -- while further glaciers and mountains in the Cordillera Blanca attract hikers, climbers, and snowboarders from across the globe. Huaraz also serves as a base for trips to numerous archaeological sites in the Ancash region, including Chavín de Huántar.

The city of Trujillo is blessed with a wealth of attractions including colonial architecture, an elegant plaza de armas, numerous museums, great cuisine and some fascinating Moche archaeological sites in the surrounding area. Trujillo doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of safety and criminal activities, but most tourists won’t see many signs of that, especially within the historic city center. Trujillo is the third largest city in Peru and certainly a prime destination for anyone heading north of Lima.

Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado is all about the surrounding rain forest. The city itself is a little rough around the edges, but it’s an important base for exploring the nearby Manú National Park, Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. These protected areas attract birdwatchers and wildlife spotters from around the world. To cater for these often upscale tourists, a number of eco-lodges have dotted up outside Puerto Maldonado and within the reserves -- a happy swing towards environmentally-conscious tourism and away from the logging and gold dredging that has seen the area stripped and abused over the last 50 or so years.

Chiclayo is the second largest city in Northern Peru after Trujillo and an important destination along the Pan-American Highway north of Lima. The city center isn’t as chic as that of neighboring Trujillo, but the food is good, the people are friendly and the surrounding area is home to a number of interesting archaeological sites, most notably the Moche tomb of Sipán. Chiclayo is also a popular base for exploring the excellent museums located within the wider Lambayeque department .

The highland city of Cajamarca is one of the most historically important settlements in Peru. It was here that Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish conquistadors held the Inca Atahualpa captive, famously agreeing to ransom him for a room filled with gold and twice over with silver (the room remains a popular tourist attraction today, although it’s doubtful that this was the actual gold room). Cajamarca became an important Spanish colonial settlement, a fact reflected in the local architecture, especially the construction of the city’s churches and cathedral.

Known for being the largest city in the world not reachable by road, Iquitos overcomes its geographical isolation by use of river travel and a very handy airport. The city is understandably an important destination and starting point for river cruises of both the luxurious and laborious varieties. Jungle lodges, rainforest excursions, wildlife spotting, unique culture and mystic tourism (think shamans and ayahuasca) have helped to make tourism one of the city’s principal industries, all of which are helped by Iquitos’ location on the banks of the Amazon River .

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  • The 10 Most Visited Cities In Peru And Their Attractions

Lima, the largest city in Peru.

Dramatic volcanoes and canyons, high-altitude lakes, unique Andean cultures, historic cities, beautiful beaches, and extreme adventure sports, Peru has it all. This western South American country is also one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world and has habitats ranging from Pacific coastal regions to lofty Andean peaks to dense Amazonian rainforests to vast stretches of arid desert. Many of the Peruvian cities are also steeped in history while others serve as gateways to major Peruvian attractions. According to a report by Observatorio Turístico del Peru published in New Peruvian, the popularity of Peruvian cities have been estimated based on the tourist arrivals to these cities from the United States. The percentages provided in the table provided below mention visitors from the US but also reflect trends from other nations.

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Lima, the Peruvian capital city , is the country’s most visited city. Lima’s rich history, architecture, and culture act as tourist magnets drawing people from all corners of the globe. At its peak, Lima was the main hub of politics in South America. Today, the historic center of Lima with its many churches, mansions, and monasteries remind one of the bygone eras. Museums hosting great works of art are also part of the city’s major attractions. Lima also serves as the gateway to other Peruvian tourist destinations involving beaches, natural reserves, outdoor adventure sports facilities, and more. The exquisite cuisine and lively nightlife of Lima are also popular among tourists. The city’s popularity in the country’s tourist map is evident by the fact that 91% of the visitors to Peru from the US arrived in Lima.

peru tourist city

Located in southeastern Peru, Cusco is one of the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It was the Inca Empire’s historic capital from the 13th until the 16th century. In 1938, UNESCO designated Cusco a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although several major earthquakes struck the city, its Inca stonework architecture survived. Cusco also serves as a gateway to the Machu Picchu which is considered to be one of the world’s most popular bucket-list destination.

peru tourist city

The southeastern Peruvian city of Puno is located on Lake Titicaca’s shores. It is a picturesque city with Lake Titicaca and the Uros Floating Islands as the biggest attractions. Puno is also located near the Peru-Bolivia border that makes it one of the regular stops for tourists traveling on the South American tourist trail. Those visiting the city can also experience its unique Andean culture while enjoying modern facilities too. 25% of all American tourists traveling to Peru visit Puno making it the third most popular Peruvian city.

5. Arequipa

peru tourist city

Peru’s second most populous city is also one of its most visited destinations. The historic center of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known for its baroque buildings made of white volcanic rocks. Arequipa also offers excellent traditional cuisines. Surrounded by three major volcanoes, the city also offers dramatic landscapes like the Colca Canyon. Rafting and trekking are enjoyed by the more adventurous tourists visiting the city.

peru tourist city

The city of Ica is located in southern Peru. It is known for its excellent museum and has the finest winery in the country. The Nazca Desert surrounding Ica is noted for its dunes and Nazca Lines (very large geoglyphs created between 500 BC and 500 AD). Thus, 14% of all American tourists to Peru make sure they visit Ica to explore the city and its surroundings.

3. Trujillo

peru tourist city

A coastal city in northwestern Peru, Trujillo is a treasure trove of numerous attractions. The prehistoric Moche and Chimu cultures thrived in the region. The judiciary of modern Peru was born here. The city also served as the country’s capital on two occasions. Trujillo is often deemed the "Capital of Culture of Peru”. Numerous events of national and international interest and cultural festivals like the National Marinera Festival and International Book Festival are held in the city. The temples of the Sun and Moon and the Chan Chan are two renowned archeological sites of pre-Columbian monuments located in the city.

peru tourist city

The small port town of Paracas is a top tourist hub as its port acts a jumping port for tours to the Paracas National Reservation and Islas Ballestas. A visit to the former offers tourists an excellent opportunity to learn about the unique Paracas culture as well as observe the endemic birds of Paracas. Thus, 6% of all American tourists to Peru visit this Peruvian city.

peru tourist city

The Huaraz city of Peru is located along the River Santa in the middle of the Callejon de Huaylas Valley. Tourists to the city can experience excellent outdoor adventures like trekking, skiing, rafting, biking, climbing, and more. The Huarascán National Park near the city offers fantastic sceneries. Ruins of ancient civilizations can also be visited here.

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18 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Peru

Written by Lana Law Updated Oct 14, 2022

Peru is a country of history, culture, beauty, and adventure, with a full spectrum of possibilities for travelers. The ancient Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the highlights of any trip to South America, but there is much more to discover throughout Peru.

You can take a boat trip on the highest navigable lake in the world, look out over one of the deepest canyons in the world, try your luck sandboarding in the dunes, hike in the Andes, or fish for piranha in the Amazon . Other attractions and things to do in Peru include exploring the mysteries of the Nazca lines, walking through ancient ruins in the Sacred Valley , or experiencing modern Peru while wandering the streets of Lima.

The diversity of the landscape, the people, and the experiences here make Peru one of the most unique destinations on the continent. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions in Peru.

1. Machu Picchu

2. the inca trail, 3. cusco's architectural treasures, 4. lake titicaca, 5. colca canyon (cañon del colca), 6. nazca lines, 7. the sacred valley, 8. ollantaytambo, 9. arequipa's historical city center, 10. puerto maldonado and the amazon, 11. lima's historic center, 12. ica and the sand dunes at huacachina, 13. pisco and the ballestas islands (islas ballestas), 14. sillustani, 15. barranco, 16. cordillera blanca, 17. saqsaywaman, 18. salcantay.

Machu Picchu

Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River, the majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city anywhere in the world. Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the spectacular backdrop of steep, lush, and often cloud-shrouded mountains.

Standing near the caretaker's hut, looking out over Machu Picchu, the jungle-covered mountains, and the river far below, you can imagine why the Incas chose this place to build their city.

Hiram Bingham came across Machu Picchu in 1911 and believed until his death that it was the "Lost City of the Incas," first documented by Spanish soldiers in the 1500s. However, historians believe the real lost city of the Incas was at Espíritu Pampa, a ruin Bingham knew of but discounted as being insignificant.

The journey is also part of the experience of visiting Machu Picchu, whether it's by hiking the Inca Trail or seeing the route by train. In either case, it's impossible not to be inspired by the scenery. Trains leave from Cusco , Ollantaytambo , or Urubamba to Aguas Calientes .

From Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, a bus takes you up to Machu Picchu, about a 20-minute drive along a harrowing switchback road. It is possible to walk up this road to the site, but this is a long, uphill climb and not recommended.

The admission rules are that you must tour with a guide, you must follow a set tour route. You also have to enter the park at a designated time. Be aware that many websites say they sell tickets, but be sure to go to the official site .

The high season is June to August, but the two months on either side of this also see decent weather and can be a good time to visit with fewer crowds.

Read More: Best World Heritage Sites

The Inca Trail

The famous Inca Trail is a four-day hike, which terminates at Machu Picchu , and is regarded by many as the highlight of their trip to Peru. This scenic trail is often more demanding than what many people are expecting, but it's also rewarding and one of the most popular things to do in Peru.

A couple of different starting points for the Inca Trail exist, but the traditional four-day hike begins at km 82 of the Cusco - Aguas Calientes rail line. From this point, the trail passes more than 30 Inca ruins and traverses through spectacular scenery. The most difficult portion of the trail is the second day of the hike, with a climb of 1,200 meters in elevation gain and two high passes.

The hike must be done with an agency, and reservations should be booked well in advance, particularly in the high season of June to August.

Some agencies offer a shorter version of the hike , which entails either the last two days or just the last day of the hike. There are campgrounds at intervals along the trail and one at the base of Machu Picchu.

Depending on the type of tour, hikers can either carry their own backpack or have it transported for them. The daily number of hikers and porters on the trail is strictly enforced.

Cusco's Architectural Treasures

Walking through the streets of Cusco is like wandering through a museum, with history built upon history in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inca ruins have been used in the foundations of many of the lovely old colonial buildings lining the narrow roads, showcasing the city's long history.

The main square, Plaza de Armas , in the city center is home to the Cathedral and La Compania , two equally impressive structures. The square is also a great place to start a walking tour, grab a meal, or people watch during the day.

And while there are countless buildings and museums worth visiting, the church of Santo Domingo, resting on the ruins of the Inca site of Coricancha, is one of Cusco's must-see attractions.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cusco

Isla Amantani

The sparkling blue water of Lake Titicaca is surrounded by rolling hills and traditional small villages. The lake area is a mix of beautiful scenery and culture that sets it apart from other regions of the country. Sitting at 3,820 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca is known for being the highest navigable lake in the world.

A boat trip to the islands and surrounding villages is the best way to appreciate the lake. One of the main tourist attractions is the Uros Floating Islands (Islas Flotantes), which sustain small communities of Uros Indians. These are man-made islands constructed of reeds that have sustained a traditional way of life since the time of the Incas.

What you'll see on tours to these islands is designed for tourism, but it does offer a glimpse into a traditional way of life. The floating islands are only one very small part of Lake Titicaca's attraction, with the real charm lying in the small villages in the hills along the shores of Titicaca and on the main islands of Isla Taquile and Isla Amantani .

The main gateway to Lake Titicaca is the city of Puno , where you'll find hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies. There are trains and buses to Puno and flights in and out of the nearby city of Juliaca.

Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca)

Although it was once thought to be the deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca), twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is the second deepest after nearby Cotahuasi Canyon . The canyon reaches a depth of 3,400 meters and is the result of a seismic fault between two volcanoes. At the base far below is a winding river.

The Colca Canyon area has been inhabited for thousands of years and was home to the Collagua, Cabana, and eventually the Inca peoples. Stone terracing along the canyon walls dates to AD 800 and is still in use today.

The canyon is about a four-hour drive from Arequipa . Day trips to the canyon are available from Arequipa but two or more days are recommended considering the driving time involved in accessing the canyon. Besides gazing out at the canyon, there are also hot springs, churches, villages, and Inca ruins to explore. Condors are also a big attraction in Colca Canyon as they soar past the cliff walls.

Nazca Lines

The mysterious Nazca lines are an unusual sight that will leave you with a sense of awe. These huge images on the desert floor were relatively undiscovered until planes flying over the area in the 1920s saw the lines from the air and realized they formed distinct patterns and images.

Until that time there was some recognition of the hillside drawings near Nazca and Paracas, which can be seen from ground level. However, the huge drawings on the flat desert floor are so large that it requires an aerial view to be appreciated.

From the air, it is possible to see 70 different plant and animal drawings as well as hundreds of lines and other geometrical shapes. Some of these lines stretch as long as 10 kilometers, and they are spread over hundreds of square kilometers. Most notable among the figures are a lizard measuring 180 meters long, a condor with a 130-meter wingspan, and several others that include a monkey, hummingbird, killer whale, and spider.

Although it is not known exactly who created the lines or how and why, theories hold that the lines were the product of the Paracas and Nazca cultures sometime between 900 BC and AD 600. Why they were created is the subject of much debate. Some of the theories put forward suggest the lines were a type of astronomical calendar for agriculture, an alien landing pad, a running track, walkways joining ceremonial sites, or part of a water cult.

The lines were created by removing the dark surface layer of stones and piling them at the sides of the lines, creating a contrast between the dark stones and the exposed lighter soil below. Flights can be booked in advance or on a walk-in, first-come first-serve basis.

Approximately four kilometers outside of Nazca are the Cantalloc Aqueducts . Built around AD 300 to 600, the aqueducts were designed to provide a year-round water source for the area. They conduct water from the mountain springs down to Nazca by means of underground canals. Some of the Cantalloc Aqueducts are still used by farmers in the area.

Also of interest in the area is the Cemetery of Chauchilla, which contains Nazca remains and mummies.

The Sacred Valley

Less than an hour's drive north of Cusco is the beautiful Sacred Valley and the towns of Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo. This fertile valley has many Inca ruins worth exploring but is also a peaceful area to spend some time wandering through markets or soaking up local culture.

Among the highlights in the valley are the Pisac Ruins and the Sunday Market in Pisac (smaller market days are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Here, you'll find an amazing selection of local handicrafts.

A little out of the way but worth the trip is the town of Moray with circular terracing used as an agricultural testing area by the Incas. You've probably seen photos of the perfectly circular terraces on social media sites and other tourist sites.

Researchers feel that this innovative style of farming was the Inca's version of a greenhouse. Different levels and different areas had warmer or cooler temperatures along with more or less sun. Moray is located near the small village of Maras and is at a gasp-inducing elevation of 11,500 feet.

While visiting Moray, be sure to stop in and see the salt mines at Salinas . These fascinating mines have been in use since the time of the Incas. The Salinas mines produce a sought-after pink color salt along with traditional white salt.

The intricate set up of the salt mines is the main attraction here. The high-saline-content water emerges from a spring at the top of the mine and is routed through a complex set of canals through square evaporation ponds.

An ideal place to snap a photo is from the top of the salt ponds, where you'll have the white salt ponds juxtaposed against the backdrop of the green valley in the distance.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Sacred Valley, Peru


The ruins and fortress at the beautiful little town of Ollantaytambo should be on your list of places to see when visiting the Sacred Valley. The town is very walkable and fun to explore. Like Pisac, it's home to an excellent assortment of vendors selling handmade handicrafts.

It's a photogenic spot with two imposing Inca ruins towering over the village. Take a bit of time to wander up the hill and explore the ruins. Highlights include the impressive Wall of the Six Monoliths and the Bath of the Princess. Nearby are the Terraces of Pumatillis and the Pinkuylluna, an ancient storehouse.

Arequipa's Historical City Center

Arequipa, at more than 2,300 meters, is often regarded as Peru's most beautiful city. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the city center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arequipa's main claim to fame is the old architecture constructed of sillar stone, a volcanic rock that radiates a bright color in the sunlight. Most of the colonial buildings in the historic city center are made from this stone, giving rise to its nickname of the "white city."

Arequipa is also often a stopping-off point for those looking to visit the Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca), which is about a four hour's drive from the city.

Amazon River at Puerto Maldonado

Just a half hour flight from Cusco, Puerto Maldonado is a key jumping-off point for tours of the Amazon . This is a completely different experience than what you will find in other parts of Peru, with hot humid jungle and a chance to see all kinds of unique wildlife. Caimans, capybara, monkeys, parrots, turtles, and piranhas are what you can expect to find in this part of the country.

The Reserva Nacional Tambopata and the Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene are the two main attractions, and they are well serviced by a number of jungle lodges. The Reserva Nacional Tambopata jungle lodges are approximately a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene is across the river from the Parque Nacional Madidi in Bolivia and takes about four hours to reach by boat. Tours typically range from a couple of days to week-long adventures.

Lima's Historic Center

Lima's Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded in the 1500s and, although many of the original structures were destroyed, it still holds significant historical value and is a beautiful place to wander around.

One of the most pleasant places to visit in Lima is the main square, Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor), in the heart of the city's historic district. A majority of the structures were rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1746. The highlights around the Plaza de Armas are the cathedral on the east side and Government Palace (Palacio del Gobierno) on the north side. Also of interest are the Archbishop's Palace and the Casa del Oidor .

Leading off the square is the pedestrian street, Jiron de la Union , with shops, restaurants, and the historic Iglesia de La Merced .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lima

Ica and the Sand Dunes at Huacachina

For the sporting type looking to try something a little different, the oasis resort of Huacachina on the outskirts of Ica has just the answer. This picture-perfect, palm-fringed resort town just west of Ica is situated around a lagoon surrounded by huge sand dunes, some of which reach 1,000 meters in height.

People come here to try out the sport of sandboarding. Similar to snowboarding, sandboarding involves surfing down the sand dunes on specially made sand-boards, which can be rented in the area. For the less coordinated, renting dune buggies is another great way to get out and enjoy the landscape.

Ica is slightly higher than the ocean and consequently is not affected by the usual coastal mist like other towns along this stretch. The town has a year-round sunny and dry climate, making it a good place to visit at any time.

Penguins in the Ballestas Islands

The main reason to come to Pisco, about 200 kilometers south of Lima, is to see the nearby Islas Ballestas and the Reserva Nacional de Paracas on the Paracas Peninsula . Almost directly west of Pisco, the Islas Ballestas, sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Galapagos ," are home to hundreds of thousands of birds, large colonies of sea lions, pelicans, penguins, and dolphins.

Boat tours from Paracas and Pisco, which visit the islands daily, leave in the morning. The full tour takes you past the "Candelabra," a hillside geoglyph seen from the coast, and then spends a considerable amount of time boating around the islands watching for wildlife. This tour is generally a half-day trip, returning around noon.

The Paracas Peninsula , jutting out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Pisco, is home to the Reserva Nacional Paracas and the largest section of protected coastline in Peru. The shoreline of the Paracas Peninsula supports a huge variety of wildlife, with approximately 200 species of seabirds, two types of sea lions, a rare type of otter, and the endangered Humboldt penguins.


Sillustani, outside the city of Puno and not far from Lake Titicaca , is the site of some of the area's most impressive funerary towers (chullpas). Standing as high as 12 meters, these structures were built by the Colla people around AD 600 to bury their nobility. Entire families, along with food and personal possessions, were buried in these cylinders.

Most of the towers are set in a scenic area along the bank of Lake Umayo, just walk up a hill from the parking lot to the plateau above. The towers stand at the far end of the field with the lake behind. Below the parking lot is a small marshy lake where locals can be seen poling along in their boats, harvesting reeds.


The quaint hillside district of Barranco, just south of Central Lima and Miraflores, is a charming area within easy commuting distance of downtown Lima. With unassuming colorful colonial architecture lining the narrow streets and hillside ocean views, the area offers a much more relaxed pace than the city.

The area has long been popular with artists and poets, giving it a Bohemian feel. This is a great place to wander in the afternoon or enjoy a meal, particularly at sunset, at one of the restaurants overlooking the ocean. Besides the atmosphere, the one main tourist attraction in Barranco is the Puente de Los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) .

Cordillera Blanca

A stunning area of mountains and valleys, the Cordillera Blanca draws mountain climbers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. The Cordillera Blanca is home to Peru's highest peak, Huascaran. Also located in the same area of the Andes are sixteen other mountains over 6,000 meters in height.

Getting here takes a bit of work, and you need to be well prepared if you are planning an excursion into the heart of this region. The weather is extremely changeable; it can be snowing one minute and then blazing hot the next.

Some of the most notable treks include the Santa Cruz, the Alpamayo, and the Rurec Shaqsha. The best time to visit is from April through to October.


If you are staying in Cusco, an afternoon or day trip to nearby Saqsaywaman is definitely in order. This site with its towering monoliths of rock is located high above the city at a gasp-inducing altitude of 3,701 meters (12,142 feet).

The site is notable for the massive blocks that have been intricately fitted together without the use of mortar. It's due to this incredible feat of engineering that the fortress walls have been able to survive devastating earthquakes that have destroyed parts of nearby Cusco.

Humantay Lake on the trek to Salcantay Mountain

The spectacular mountain peak known as Salcantay is fast becoming a "go-to" hiking destination in Peru. Towering above the surrounding landscapes, the 20,574-foot-high peak is jaw-droppingly beautiful but fortunately not overrun with visitors.

The easiest way to see Salcantay is hike the Salcantay Trail – a 37-mile (60-kilometer) trek that ends at Machu Picchu. Along the way, you'll ascend to 15,190 feet (4,630 meters) above sea level at your highest point, an elevation sure to take your breath away. Don't despair, you can soothe all your sore muscles in the hot springs in Cocalmayo along the way.

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The 10 Best Tourist Cities in Peru

Cusco, Peru

Here is our selection of the top 10 cities in Peru. We will give a summary of each city and mention some tours or link to some travel bloggers to give you their own opinions of each place.

Peru’s main tourist destination and worthy of its popularity, the Cusco region was the birthplace of the Inca Empire. The city became the administrative and political hub for an empire that spanned the western side of the continent. The Inca Empire stretched from Chile and into Colombia until its ultimate defeat at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors in 1572.

After the Inca defeat, Cusco became a Spanish colonial city with the Spaniards building their intricately styled buildings on the ruins of the conquered Incan structures. This means when you walk the famous streets, you will see the Incan stonework underneath the colonial brickwork. This creates a very unique effect and adds to the incredible history of this UNESCO World Heritage Listed city.

The Inca Trail Discovery

The Inca Trail Discovery

Because of the mix of both Incan and Spanish heritage, the mix can be found throughout the area in traditions, cuisine, architecture, and festivities. There are a lot of fantastic architectural examples to see in Cusco, such as the Cusco Cathedral, Church of the Society of Jesus, and the many different mansions, but it’s the surroundings that are really of interest. Surrounding this great city are many different examples of Incan architecture, which dot the Sacred Valley.

Machu Picchu - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

From Cusco, you can enjoy visits to the incredible site of Machu Picchu. This is the main reason many visitors flock to the city, but Cusco is also home to many more of Peru’s Top Tourist Attractions . Some others include the Cradle of Gold, the Ollantaytambo ruins, the mysterious structures of Moray, and Sacsayhuaman. Cusco is also a base for the famed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu where you can experience many fascinating structures and beautiful scenery. You can choose a few different options for the route, but the most popular are the Short Inca Trail, Classic Inca Trail, and the more relaxed Inca Trail Discovery. Worthy of its place as the most visited city, there are some fantastic things to do around Cusco .

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The Manu BioTrip

Currently, cannot help you book this experience. However, you can visit the tour operator's website for more information.

Not only a great base for excellent cultural history, Cusco is also one of the best places to experience the cloud forest of the Andes. The cloud forests rank as some of the world’s most biologically diverse places and is especially well known for an incredible richness of birds. This is also the home of Peru’s national species, a bright red bird called the cock of the rock. This bird and many other animals, including woolly monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and hummingbirds can be seen from the highly regarded Cock of the Rock Lodge.

Lima - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

The capital city and entry point for the vast majority of Peru’s international visitors, Lima holds its own as a city worthy of an attraction in its own right. Lima presents visitors with many fantastic things to see and do over a few days before or after their journey to Machu Picchu or the Amazon Rainforest.

Lima is full of fantastic restaurants, great cafes, some excellent malls, boutique shops, city parks, museums, colonial architecture, and even some Inca ruins within the city boundaries.

Lima was founded by the Spanish and has become the largest city in the country. There are some nice districts and areas to spend your time, such as Miraflores, which is home to great restaurants, some colonial architecture, Kennedy Park and different malls. To give a quick summary, one of the most popular high-end malls is located in Miraflores by the coast and named Larcomar, which is also a great place to find great restaurants and cafes. A great tourist attraction in the city, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Historic Centre of Lima is home to many colonial buildings, including the Monastery of San Francisco. For a relaxed and coastal district of Lima, you can also visit Barranco, which offers ocean views, great restaurants, and relaxed cafes.

In addition to the architecture, restaurants, cafes, and shops, Lima has many different city parks and is known as the garden city. The Kennedy park helps with navigation in Miraflores, which is one of the favorite places for visitors and offers one of the safest and tourist friendly parts of the city. Around Kennedy Park you can find some excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops. Other favorite parks include Friendship Park and the Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit), which has some great fountains and a light show at night.

There are many different museums in Lima that display artifacts of the Inca and other civilizations. Two of the most recommended are the Museum of the Central Reserve Bank for its range of gold artifacts and ceramics, and the Larco Museum with its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including preserved mummies of ancient cultures.

Another of the favorite attractions to see in Lima located in the Historic Centre of Lima is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Monastery of San Francisco. Built in 1774, this is a fantastic example of colonial Spanish architecture and you can marvel at the building from the square or venture inside. Tours of the monastery are frequently run to see the church, monastery, and the library where you can learn about its fascinating history and construction. To finish the tour, you will venture under the monastery and into the catacombs where around 75,000 people were laid to rest with many of their bones above ground.

Some travel bloggers who visited Lima are Sean & Jen from and Julie from .

Manatee Rescue Center - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

The largest city in the world unconnected by road, Iquitos is located in north Peru and features on the list as the gateway for the northern Amazon River and Rainforest. Iquitos was first founded as a Jesuit mission and then grew to a city during the rubber boom of 1879 to 1912. Due to the rise of the bicycle and car, rubber was sourced from the Amazonian rubber tree ( Hevea brasiliensis ) and this booming industry helped Iquitos and a few other Amazonian cities achieve great wealth.

There are some fantastic things to do in Iquitos , especially visiting the surrounding Amazon Rainforest. Because of the Rubber Boom and the wealth it generated, the city is dotted with fantastic architectural examples from the bygone age. Enjoy walking the city streets to see elaborately decorated buildings, which were once the mansions of wealthy rubber barons who owned the plantations containing the trees.

Some of the buildings worth seeing of historical importance include the Iron House near the Plaza de Armas, which was sent to the Amazon by a rubber baron after he saw it at a Paris exhibition. Adding a little extra significance, the building was reportedly designed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel. Other buildings from this time include the Amazonian cultural museum near the river and the supermarket on Prospero with its beautifully tiled design.

There are many things to do in Iquitos to enjoy your visit here, such as visiting the butterfly house, enjoying fantastic restaurants, having a drink on the boulevard looking over the river, and visiting the manatee rescue center. However, the real reason to visit Iquitos is to experience the Amazon Rainforest, which is the world’s largest container of animals and plants.

The Amazon Rainforest from Iquitos

There are some fantastic protected areas near Iquitos with the most significant being the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo is a great place to enjoy a tour from the highly regarded and award-winning Tahuayo Lodge , while the flooded and gigantic Pacaya Samiria is best visited on an Amazon River cruise . On both types of tour, you will enjoy guided tours around the Amazon to find many different animals and plants, while being treated to exceptional service.

Titi Monkey, Tahuayo Lodge - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is about 150 km from Iquitos city and protects 420,000 hectares (1,038,000 acres) of flooded and non-flooded tropical forest. The reserve contains an incredible amount of wildlife, including 600 bird species, such as paradise tanagers, horned screamers, macaws, several different kingfishers, plum throated cotingas, many different herons, and oropendolas. The reserve is also home to a wide diversity of mammals, including two species of sloth, tamandua anteaters, capybara, jaguar, and coatis.

From the Tahuayo Lodge , which is the only lodge providing access to the reserve, you can enjoy visiting two different jungle lodges of the main Tahuayo Lodge and ARC , which is positioned in more pristine tropical forest. Enjoy the 1000 acre primate research grid behind the ARC, visiting Frog Belly to see different poison dart frogs, and the longest canopy zipline system in the Amazon Rainforest.

Tahuayo Lodge

The Tahuayo Lodge

From the Tahuayo Lodge, you will explore the Amazon Rainforest’s wildlife-rich Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve with a private guide on a

The impressive Pacaya Samiria National Reserve protects over two million hectares of Amazon Rainforest and a very high amount of rainforest wildlife, including jaguar, tapir, black caiman, puma, and a diversity of colorful birds, such as toucans, macaws, different parrots, and the much loved cotingas and tanagers.

peru tourist city

The Delfin II

The Delfin II Luxury Amazon Cruise begins near Iquitos from the small town of Nauta. You will be transported in

There are a few different cruises into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and one of our favorite recommendations is the luxurious Delfin II Amazon Cruise to enjoy gourmet food, fine wine, very comfortable suites, and of course tours of the incredible Pacaya Samiria. On boat tours off the main vessel, you will explore the reserve to find several different primates, colorful birds, and fascinating reptiles, such as anaconda, caiman, and caiman lizards.

Delfin I Suite

The Delfin I

Offering an on-board experience second to none, the Delfin I Luxury Cruise begins in Iquitos, north Peru, and takes you

Arequipa - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

Arequipa is a beautiful city and what it lacks in Inca ruins, it makes up for in colonial architecture and scenery. Backed by three impressive volcanoes, the city displays some fantastic architecture from a blend of European and native styles.

This is the second largest city in Peru and was once the Peruvian capital. With its many significant buildings, fantastic architecture, great restaurants, and museums, the city rivals Cusco and Lima for great Peruvian cities. Arequipa’s historic center is definitely worth a visit and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The buildings have a unique style and many were crafted from local white volcanic sillar rock. One of the most notable buildings to see is the large cathedral named the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa. This is one of the most fascinating and unusual cathedrals in the country.

The Plaza de Armas in Arequipa is regarded as one of the finest in Peru and is guarded by the impressive cathedral, which was founded in 1612. Around the plaza you can find different restaurants, cafes, and hotels, which add to the charm of this fantastic area to visit.

The people of Arequipa are very proud of their gastronomy and Arequipa has introduced many different dishes to the national menu. You can find some fantastic restaurants in the city and you should try some of the city’s originals, such as rocoto relleno and ocopa .

The volcanoes that back the city are named Misti, Chachani and PichuPichu and create some fantastic city scenery with Arequipa being worth a visit for that fact alone.

Although the city is worth a visit in its own right, you can also enjoy some fantastic tours from Arequipa to see Colca Canyon. This is one of the world’s deepest canyons and is an impressive sight to behold. You are likely to see some of the impressive Andean condors flying high over the canyon, which add to the spectacle.

Chan Chan - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

One of Peru’s most famous cities, Trujillo is a coastal city and is positioned on the Moche River. Trujillo was once the location of the Moche and Chimu cultures that left some fascinating ruins after their defeat at the hands of the Inca. Trujillo is just north of Lima and positioned in a green valley, which is surrounded by an arid desert at the foot of the Andes.

From Trujillo, you can enjoy visits to two major archaeological sites of Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the temples of the Sun and Moon.

The city is comparatively small compared to Lima and Arequipa and you can get to know it after only a few days. Trujillo itself is home to some fantastic colonial architecture, including several ornately styled colonial churches.

The city offers some beautiful architecture and Spanish styled streets with many colonial houses. The streets look as they were hundreds of years ago and it’s easy to imagine the time of the conquistadors.

The city of Trujillo has an interesting history and was founded after Francisco Pizarro visited nearby Chan Chan on his second visit to Peru. Chan chan was an important Chimu city, which was later conquered by the Inca. Trujillo was founded in the same valley in 1534 as a Spanish colony before the foundation of Lima. The city was later attacked by the Inca but survived and grew and became a major Spanish port.

As mentioned, Trujillo offers a number of excursions close to the city. You can visit Chan Chan, which is the largest adobe city on Earth and the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. This is one of Peru’s top tourist attractions and contains many different large adobe buildings. At its height, Chan Chan housed around 50, 000 people of the Chimú culture and the gold of the Chimú was famous, which was looted by the Spanish when discovered. You can visit the site from Trujillo and walk the streets to explore the largest remnant of the Chimú culture imagining its fascinating history.

Sipan - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

One of the country’s major cities, Chiclayo sits near the coast in the country’s north and is Peru’s fourth largest city after Lima, Arequipa, and Trujillo. Initially, the city of Chiclayo was founded by Spanish missionaries as a rural community in the 16th century. The city’s position between the coast, the rainforest, and the Andes led to its growth as a commercial hub, which has prospered until today.

Not only is Chiclayo positioned in a fantastic location between all the environments, but the valley itself is very fertile and produces different crops, but mainly rice, sugarcane and cotton. There are some excellent foods from Chiclayo that separate its gastronomy a little from other Peruvian cities.

As another unique feature, Chiclayo is known for its shamans or brujos. This means the markets are fulls of oddities and potions to satisfy the curious traveler.

Chiclayo has some fantastic colonial architecture to see and because of it’s position the climate is warm and fresh. And because it’s near the coast, Chiclayo is nationally famous for its seafood. You can enjoy the fresh food in many different restaurants and cafes located near the Plaza de Armas, which is the main square.

Although the vast majority of tourists to Peru visit the southern part of the country for the impressive sites around Cusco, there are some interesting archaeology in the north as well.

For things to do, surrounding Chiclayo are different archaeological sites of the Chimú and Moche cultures and the city itself is known for its lively nature.

Fantastic archaeological attractions close to Chiclayo include one of the main archaeological attractions in Peru’s north, the tomb at Sipan, which was featured in National Geographic and is one of the most significant recent archaeological discoveries. You also have Túcume, which is another archaeological site and a complex of 26 pyramids inhabited first by the Sican culture then the Chimú and finally the Inca.

Chiclayo and the surrounding region are then home to some fantastic museums that introduce the region’s ancient cultures and the surrounding archaeological sites. One of the favorite museums is the Sican National Museum, which displays many gold artefacts from the sican culture.

The nearby town of Lambayeque then has the Bruning National Archaeological Museum, which also contains different artefacts from the various cultures. The town also houses the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum, which is the region’s main museum and the building itself is shaped like an ancient pyramid.

Cajamarca - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

One of Peru’s most historically famous cities, this was where the final defeat of the Inca Empire took place. This is also an important city in the northern Andes and sits in the valley of the Mashcon River. The surrounding region is very fertile and Cajamarca and the Cajamarca Valley are famous in Peru for quality dairy products.

Cajamarca is a great place to enjoy the Peruvian countryside with its fertile valley. The architectural wonder and surrounding scenery of the city is second only to Cusco. The tourist attractions include different archaeological sites, fantastic colonial and religious architecture, wonderful scenery, and hot springs. The historical significance is shadowed by the Battle of Cajamarca with the capture and execution of the Incan emperor Atahualpa.

The Andean city is dotted with fantastically designed Spanish mansions and churches, but its history stretches back to before the Inca with the Caxamarca civilization and later the Incas. Adding even more historical significance, this was a stop over for the Incan emperor on the route between Cusco and Quito.

For admiring the Spanish architecture, great places to see in the city include the Plaza de Armas, cathedral, and the Church of San Francisco. There are some archaeological sites near the city to see remnants of Tiahuanaco, Chavín, and Caxamarca civilizations and different Incan ruins, such as Cumbemayo and the Incan baths. You can still enjoy the thermal baths, which make a great place to relax looking at the fantastic scenery.

Perhaps the most historically significant building is the Cuarto del Rescate, which is where the Inca Emperor Atahualpa was kept after capture and was finally executed. The building marks the site where the Inca civilization came to its final end.

Ica & Huacachina

Huacachina - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

Located in southern Peru, Ica has been inhabited by indigenous cultures for thousands of years, but was claimed as a Spanish city in 1563 after the defeat of the Inca.

The main reason tourists visit Ica is to experience the enormous sand dunes near the city where you can enjoy sand boarding and ride around in sand buggies. The oasis near the dunes also offers a great place to relax or to experience fantastic night life.

Much of the Peruvian wine and pisco is produced in this region and its the wineries that draw many of the national visitors. Many visitors come to Ica just to have fun on the sand dunes or see the wineries, but the city itself has some different attractions. You can enjoy visiting the museum to see different artifacts from the region’s various ancient cultures and civilizations, including the Inca, Paracas, Nasca, and Ica.

The sand dunes and oasis of Huacachina is then the relaxation place of choice for Ica residents and adventure seeking tourists. It’s the preferred idea for tourists to book accommodation in Huacachina and then visit Ica for the museum, architecture, and wineries as it’s hard to turn down an idyllic desert oasis

Huacachina is just 5 km west of Ica and offers its own great hotels, restaurants and cafes. You can relax with its undulating sandy scenery or you can enjoy sandboarding and buggy rides across the mountain-like dunes.

The sand buggy rides are an adrenaline fueled activity where you ascend the dunes and accelerate down the sands giving a feel like being on a rollercoaster, as the dunes can reach 30 feet high.

About an hour from Ica and Huacachina, you can also visit the Paracas National Reserve, which protects tropical desert, coastline, and ocean. This is the location of the mysterious Paracas culture and you can find a museum near the park to learn more about the history. Archaeologists have also found evidence of human habitation in this area from 6500 BC.

Just off the coast of the reserve is the Ballestas Islands, which is where you can see different birds and sea lions on cruises from the mainland.

Some travel bloggers who visited Huacachina are Norbert from and Audrey from .

Cordillera Blanca - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

Huaraz is mostly known my mountain climbers and hikers as this is one of the most famous parts of the Peruvian Andes. The scenery is dominated by the Andes mountains and includes Huáscarán, which is the highest mountain in Peru.

In addition to the incredible mountain scenery, the region is also known for its many beautiful lakes and hot pools. The mountain range is part of the Cordillera Blanca and is the largest and highest range in the tropics. The range stretches from the coast and into the Amazon Rainforest. Deep ravines, dominating mountains, and snowy peaks create a truly breathtaking scenery. The area is often dotted with Andean condors flying high in the sky and is mostly protected within the Huascaran National Park.

The main tourist destination in the region, Huaraz is positioned in the Callejon de Huaylas Valley and is near the Santa River. This is a great place for adventure seekers and is Peru’s main place for winter sports.

There are many different operators in the city and the streets buzz with adventure seekers and mountain climbers over the high season either returning from or planning their expedition. There are many good restaurants, bars, and cafes to relax in while in the city.

Lake Titicaca - Best Tourist Cities in Peru

Positioned at the lake edge, Puno is the gateway to the famous Lake Titicaca. The city is then backed by a fantastic mountain range of the Andes. There are some fantastic points in the city for beautiful views of the lake and mountains.

Titicaca is the world’s highest large lake and has been very important in Peruvian history. Peruvian mythology depicts the Inca Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo rising from the lake before their journey to Cusco to found the Inca Empire.

Lake Titicaca is fascinating for its nature and culture. The famous cultural attraction here is the Uros culture who live on floating artificial islands made from reeds. They have kept their traditions and you can visit the islands from Puno.

The city is a mix of both Andean and Spanish construction and Puno has a few historically fascinating colonial buildings, such as the Saint Dominic in Chucuito, which was the first church of the region.

From Puno, you can enjoy different cruises on Lake Titicaca to enjoy the scenery and to learn more about this remarkable lake. Many of the animals and plants of the lake are well adapted for the high altitude and the limited oxygen. There are about 500 different species living in Lake Titicaca with the most famous being the now rare giant Titicaca water frog, which has saggy flaps of skin for absorbing the water’s limited oxygen.

Ash - Author & Travel Advisor

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The 28 Most Beautiful Places in Peru

By Megan Spurrell

The 28 Most Beautiful Places in Peru

For many, the shining star of Peru is Machu Picchu —that iconic green peak, towering over ancient ruins is hard to forget. But look a little further—like, 30-minutes-in-any direction further—and you'll find natural beauty, biodiversity, colonial architecture, and pristine archaeological sites throughout the country that are just as remarkable as the iconic Incan ruins. In fact, the only thing these destinations are lacking is press. Here are 28 places, from the otherworldly Amazon rainforest to the red sand beaches of Paracas, that will make you want to pack your bags and canvass the whole of Peru.

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Tucked in Peru's Huascarán National Park, the picturesque Lake 69 is one of the country's most compelling natural wonders: the aquamarine pool glistens beneath the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, reflecting the dramatic silhouettes above. To see the vivid blue IRL, grab your hiking boots and head to the nearby town of Huaraz ( LC Peru operates the 75-minute flight from Lima). Local tour companies run day trips, though it's also easy to explore the trails on your own.

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Just a few hours south of Lima by car, Huacachina is an unexpected oasis in the Ica desert. This weekend getaway from the big city looks as though it slid off the giant sand dunes surrounding it—a central pond, smattering of palms, and tiny homes pool together to create the tiny town with a population of 100. Rent a sand board or hop on a dune buggy and rumble around the nearby peaks and valleys; for full bragging rights, make sure to summit Cerro Blanco—it's one of the tallest sand dunes in the world.

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Colca Canyon

Ask any serious hiker where to go in Peru, and they'll tell you: Machu Picchu is nice, but the Colca Canyon reigns supreme at the top of their bucket lists. Colca Canyon is located in the south of the country (the city of Arequipa serves as its launching pad), and the dramatic crevice is a whopping two miles deep at points. For those keeping tabs, that's double the depth of the Grand Canyon. It's also home to the giant Andean condor, which are often seen gliding through its valleys.

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Vinicunca is something of a social media urban legend: not too far from Machu Picchu, you'll find this series of rainbow-colored mountains, with travelers fighting for the same view. It's a manageable day trip from Cusco (you can rent a car or book a tour last minute), and a moderately easy climb once you've acclimated to the altitude. Hurry though—word is out, and tourism to the area is quickly picking up.

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Arequipa may be second in size to Lima, but it makes up for the difference in character. This colonial-era city is set right in the Andes between three towering volcanoes, with resplendent architecture made of white volcanic sillar stone. The result? A cityscape unlike any other in Peru. Head to the central Cathedral of Arequipa for some serious architectural eye candy, and make sure to stop in a local picanteria along the way—Arequipa is also known as the culinary capital of the country, with regional dishes as distinctive as its buildings (don't miss the rocoto relleno stuffed peppers).

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Perched on Lima's dramatic cliffs, the colorful neighborhood of Barranco boasts sweeping views of the Pacific—and some of the city's most beautiful architecture. Its quiet streets are lined with pristine late 19th-century homes, many of which were originally built as summer houses for the country's well-to-do, but now serve as landing spots for the city's (successful) artists. Some have also been converted into chic boutique hotels, such as the new Villa Barranco .

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On the Northern coast of Peru lies Chan Chan, a 20-square-kilometer sprawl of adobe ruins that were once the largest city in the Americas. Today, they are still the largest pre-Colombian ruins in the world, and tourists are welcome to admire the impressive construction. They're reachable via the city of Trujillo, a quick 75-minute flight from Lima.

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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu needs no introduction: This Wonder of the World attracts over a million tourists per year, and has become so popular the government recently had to introduce restrictions on the number on entrances allowed per day. The ruins, daintily perched atop the flattened peak of a mountain in the Andes, deliver in archaeological and natural beauty. For a view few people receive, grab a ticket to hike Huayna Picchu, the peak behind the ruins, and take it in from a second perspective.

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Salkantay Pass

There are a handful of ways to get to Machu Picchu, but the Salkantay Trek is notorious for being the most arduous of them all—and, as it tends to happen, the most rewarding. This journey can take anywhere from four to seven days to complete, and includes about eight hours of walking a day, steep climbs, river crossings, and, if you travel with a luxury outfitter like Mountain Lodges of Peru , comfy stays along the trail that make it manageable. The reward is the breathtaking views—especially those of Salkantay, the highest peak of the Vilcabamba mountain range, which looms over the trail.

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Historic Center of Lima

Lima isn't usually winning beauty pageants—even Peruvians will moan about the notoriously grey city, which spends half the year beneath overcast skies. But to its credit, Lima also has precious bursts of colorful, colonial architecture, especially in the downtown historic center. Head to the stately Plaza Mayor and the streets branching off of it: You'll find rows of Baroque, pastel-colored buildings, adorned with dramatic wooden balconies.

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The "next Machu Picchu" trope can be applied to countless archaeological sites throughout Peru—but if there's one location that is most deserving of the moniker, it's Choquequirao. These Incan ruins closely resemble those of Machu Picchu, both in construction and their dramatic placement atop a truncated mountain, yet they delightfully lack the hordes of tourists—for now, that is. These ruins, several hours from the city of Cusco, can only be reached by foot (via a multi-day trek through the jungle), though that may change with the installation of a cable car in the next few years.

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Pastoruri Glacier

In the picturesque Cordillera Blanca mountain range, the Pastoruri is one of the few remaining glaciers found in South America's tropical region. The bowl-shaped cirque glacier is currently over three square miles in size, but is rapidly shrinking due to global warming. As local glaciologists work to prevent further reduction, tourists continue to travel from throughout Peru and abroad to witness the glowing mass of ice.

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Nazca Lines

A few hours south of Lima, a series of ancient geoglyphs stretch across the red sand of the Ica desert. And when we say stretch, we mean stretch —hundreds of massive designs span around 20-30 miles of sand. The geometric and zoomorphic etchings, created between 500 BCE and 500 CE, were likely drawn by the Nazca people, but the "how" and "why" of their origin story is largely unanswered. The best way to appreciate the lines is by taking a small prop plane tour overhead.

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Huascaran National Park

A moody contrast to the lush setting of Machu Picchu, the jagged, snow-capped peaks of Huascarán National Park are easily among Peru's most beautiful sites. Just outside the city of Huaraz, the park is home to most of the Cordillera Blanca (the self-proclaimed highest tropical mountain range in the world), in addition to several glaciers, countless turquoise lakes, and impressive biodiversity—pumas, spectacled bears, and vicunas all walk these hills.

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The Andean city of Cusco has long been a jewel in the crown: it oozes colonial charm, from its smooth cobblestone roads to the Baroque architecture of its churches. The city center—a bustling hub of textile markets, preserved Incan ruins, and whitewashed stone homes topped with red-tile roofs—is hugged by rolling hills that lead to attractions like Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

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Huancaya is a blink-and-you-could-miss-it district in the highlands outside Lima—and most travelers do miss it. But if you're up for the windy, 5-hour drive from Lima, you'll find a cascading network of lakes and rivers without a tourist in sight. Work with a local travel specialist to arrange a day or two of trekking alongside the emerald waters, then come home and let your photos earn you the street cred you deserve.

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Cañon de los Perdidos

If you've spent even a minute on Instagram, you're familiar with the red rock waves of Arizona's Antelope Canyon . In southern Peru, you'll find a similar feat of nature: the Cañon de los Perdidos. Trek through the striated stone, carved smooth by a flowing river, just a couple hours from Lima (pair this day trip with a visit to Huacachina).

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Sure, the town of Ollantaytambo has been blessed with the same natural beauty as the rest of the Sacred Valley—but look closely at the towering Pinkuylluna mountain that forms its backdrop, and you'll see the real magnum opus: the Pinkuylluna ruins. Clinging to the rock face is a series of stone terraces, supposedly used as shophouses by the Inca in the 15th century. Those willing to make the hair-raising climb up will be rewarded with a bird's eye view of the valley below.

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The otherworldly Amazon rainforest stretches over two million square miles—and nine countries—and is home to unparalleled biodiversity and more than 400 indigenous tribes. Snaking through it is the Amazon River, the largest in the world, which winds its way through Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, with the latter holding claim to a major portion of the waterway (including the source of it all, Río Mantaro). The rainforest is most commonly accessed through the cities of Iquitos (a two-hour flight from Lima), Pucallpa, or Puerto Maldonado (a few hours' drive from Cusco), with most visitors using them as jumping off points for river cruises or a stays in eco-lodges , like Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica .

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Amongst the many peaks of Peru's Cordillera Blanca in the Huascarán National Park, the whittled-sharp pike of Alpamayo is impossible to miss. The 19,511-foot-tall mountain is often blanketed in snow, and has attracted ice climbers from all over the world for decades.

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The ancient salt mines of Maras are a favorite destination for photographers—and it's easy to see why. The geometric pools fill a narrow cleft of Cusco's Sacred Valley, terracing the green hillsides with an array of stark white to light caramel-colored waters. The salt ponds are an easy day trip from the city of Cusco, and often paired with a visit to the nearby archaeological site of Moray.

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On the north coast of Peru, surf culture meets pre-Colombian history on the beaches of Huanchaco. Said to be the place where surfing was invented some 2,000 years ago , the long, calm shores of the Pacific are still decorated with the striking silhouettes of traditional reed "surfboards" (or, as they're called here, caballitos de totora ).

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Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Use the Amazonian city of Iquitos as your launch pad: hop on a large river boat, then a smaller canoe, and you'll find yourself paddling a nearly-untouched part of the Amazon in the remote Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. It's the second largest protected part of the Amazon, with remarkable wildlife that calls it home: the pink dolphin, Amazonian manatee, red-faced spider monkey, jaguar, and more than 500 species of birds can be found here.

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Paracas Natural Reserve

When walking the streets of Lima, you may hear enterprising tour vendors mention the "poor man's Galapagos"—a place where, allegedly, you can see everything from Humboldt penguins to Orcas and Chilean flamingos, in turquoise waters and on red sand beaches. Believe it or not, it's all true: the Paracas National Reserve, a couple hours drive from Lima in the region of Ica, is exactly the jaw-dropping display of diverse wildlife and gorgeous landscape the vendors describe. Hire a boat to take you into the reserve for the day (or jump on one of the many group boat tours), and return to the mainland just in time for an incredible seafood and one of the area's famous sunsets ( Hotel Paracas will have you covered on both fronts).

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Cordillera Huayhuash

Like the nearby Cordillera Blanca, the Cordillera Huayhaush of northern Peru is a dramatic mountain range boasting snowy peaks, with bucket list treks for hikers and turquoise pools at their bases. Huayhuash, though, has remained relatively less-visited, so it's easy to spend days on the hiking circuit with few others around. In fact, there are hardly any local residents either, save for a few small hamlets, and the treasured visit by a vicuña (a relative of the llama), or an Andean condor overhead.

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As Machu Picchu crowds swell, the ruins of Kuelap in Northern Peru have become the beloved alternative by those in the know . Settled high in the lush Amazon, this ancient walled city built by the Chachapoyas culture overlooks the Utcubamba Valley and remains impressively well-preserved—there are remains of more then 400 hut-like structures, an estimated 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu.

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Uros Floating Islands

Stretching across the border of Bolivia and Peru is the world's highest navigable body of water and "the birthplace of the Incas"— Lake Titicaca . Its tranquil waters seem infinite, their end seamlessly blending into the open sky above, with the occasional soft yellow of reed boats and a few tiny islands interrupting the palette. One such interruption is the Uros Floating Islands, an ancient settlement built entirely of totora reeds found on the shores of the lake. The indigenous Uros people call it home, living as they have for generations.

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Gocta Falls

High in the Amazonian province of Chachapoyas (near the ruins of Kuelap), the 2,530-foot tall Gocta Falls makes a dramatic free-leap off the face of a towering mountain, much like the Angel Falls in Venezuela . Though the falls are in clear view of a neighboring village and have been known about in Peru for many years, they only gained international publicity in the early 2000's when a German expedition encountered them: local lore had it that any villager to reveal their location would unleash a curse on the entire town, leaving the denizens mum about this natural wonder until someone else uncovered them.

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Here are the top 5 places to visit in Peru

Let’s get to it: Peru is the place to be.

Peru is a destination that begs to be explored. In this vast and storied land, ancient, colonial, and modern traditions meld together for an unforgettable cultural experience. No matter the type of traveler—history buff, adventurer, or foodie—Peru offers a myriad of activities to satisfy every appetite. It’s no surprise that its ancient sites, beautiful topography, and diverse ecosystem attract visitors from all over the world, making it one of the most popular destinations in South America.

Known as the City of the Kings, Lima is Peru’s capital city and a symbol of its Spanish colonial history, industry, and independence.

First-time visitors should check out the local museums and get a taste for Peru’s depth of history. Museo Larco has an ancient collection of pre-Columbian exhibits of Peru’s indigenous people, where guests can also enjoy beautiful gardens and an on-site restaurant .

There’s no better way to enjoy the coastal views of Lima than in the lush neighborhood of Miraflores . Stroll through Parque del Amor , which offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, or head to the ancient clay pyramid of Huaca Pucllana for a dose of history. You can visit during the day or at night when lights make it a sight to behold. If you need to get some shopping in, the Larcomar is the place.

If you have some extra time and money, consider a food tour while in Lima. The Lima Gourmet Company offers morning and evening tours for about $130. Looking for something cheaper? Haku Tours offers a wide variety of group outings not just limited to food. It’s also a perfect way to meet fellow travelers.

Lima may hold the title as the official capital of Peru, but Cusco is the original seat of power for the Inca empire. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, it is apparent why it deserves that title.

Cusco is a beautiful city. From its Inca and 16th century colonial architecture, to its narrow, winding streets, the city has a romantic vibe with a distinct European feel. While there are many places to stay , Inkaterra La Casona is a standout. The 16 th century manor house was restored into a 11 suite boutique hotel situated in the historic Plaza de las Nazarenas. Cozy features, traditional Incan and Spanish décor, and a central open courtyard make for an unforgettable stay.

Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas, is perhaps the city’s most iconic site and a prime spot for a leisurely stroll and people-watching. The square is also surrounded by many eclectic shops and restaurants. The awe-inspiring Cusco Cathedral sits on periphery of the square and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archeological relics, artifacts, and colonial works of art are displayed within.

After a long day of touring the city stop at the Museo del Pisco , which offers cocktail classes and flight tastings of pisco, a distinctly Peruvian aperitif. Sit back and enjoy the scenery.

If you have the time, there is an all-day excursion from Cusco to the famous Rainbow Mountain (also known as Vinicuna). The elevation is high, so you need to take that into consideration for the hike. It is definitely worth the trip as the site is stunning!

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley , also known as Urubamba Valley, is a prime destination for exploring Inca ruins and enjoying outdoor activities. You can easily make day trips to this region from Cusco or Machu Picchu, but consider staying a night or two at Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba to explore the region. The hacienda-style hotel is nestled in the center of the Sacred Valley and includes multiple excursions with your stay. Guests can choose from several hikes that vary in activity level, and tour the on-site ecological farm that supports the farm-to-table cuisine served at the hotel.

You can book adventure tours for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and rafting with agencies throughout the region. KB Tambo Tours are well priced and can accommodate various activity levels.

There are several breathtaking locations to explore in the Sacred Valley before making your journey to Machu Picchu. The Salinas de Maras is a network of nearly 3,000 salt pans that are filled by an underground spring. The terraced ponds are a beautiful sight and worth the trip. Just 3 miles away is the ancient site of Moray. The deep, bowl-like impressions in the Earth (about 100 feet) are believed to have served as an Incan agricultural laboratory. Your last stop should be the town of Ollantaytambo , home to an Incan fortress with large stone terraces built into the hillside. It is also a common starting point for the Inca Trail , a hiking route to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

This seminal destination is probably what drives most people to visit Peru. Considered one of the new 7 Wonders of the World (alongside heavy hitters such as the Great Wall of China and the Roman Colosseum) Machu Picchu doesn’t disappoint.

One of the most memorable ways to get to Machu Picchu is via the Inca Rail , which departs from Cusco or Ollantaytambo. The rail journey transports passengers through the spectacular views of the Sacred Valley’s countryside. Besides, who doesn’t love a majestic train ride?

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To visit Machu Picchu you need to buy your ticket in advance of your trip . To help regulate the amount of people who visit the site each day, there are a limited number of tickets available. You can purchase them online at the Ministerio de Cultura ’s webpage. The ticket purchasing site is only available in Spanish, so follow this guide .

The weather here can be temperamental—sunny and warm one moment and gray and raining the next. Be sure to dress in layers, pack light, and bring waterproof jackets and gear. Enjoy the view and the few native llamas and alpacas that call Machu Picchu their home!

A great place to stay is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel , which is situated in the cloud forests at the base of the Incan citadel. This natural wonderland is home to over 200 bird species unique to the region and over 300 species of orchid that grow among the winding stone pathways to the guest rooms.

The Peruvian Amazon covers about 60% of the country and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Get ready to get up close and personal with wildlife and creepy crawlers! Fun fact: the notorious anaconda calls these lands its home.

One of the easiest ways to get to the Amazon is by plane from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado—a quick, 50-minute flight. Book your stay at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción , an eco-friendly National Geographic Unique Lodge that offers an impressive array of tours.

One standout experience offered to guests is a visit to Lake Sandoval, home to river otters, caimans, and howler monkeys­—to name a few. Other not-to-miss adventures are the guided night walk through the Amazon jungle (you’ll be seeing a potential variety of creepy to cute; tarantulas to kinkajous), the twilight river excursion, and the not-for-the-faint-of-heart canopy walk. Caity Garvey and Jess Mandia are producers with the National Geographic Travel digital team. You can follow them and their travels on Twitter: @caitygarvs and Instagram: @caitygarvs and @jessmandia .

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17 Best Places to Visit in Peru

Last updated on November 3, 2023 by Kay Pierce - 3 Comments

Peru is probably one of South America’s most well-known destinations, and the mysterious settlement of Machu Picchu has adorned many a tourist postcard. But while the country is certainly celebrated for the Inca Trail and its ancient archeological site, Peru has so much more to offer than crumbling ruins.

Take your time discovering these Peruvian delights, from pre-Columbian settlements to the modern and traditional cities of the Southern Peru Tourist Corridor.

Explore the museums of Lima, soak in the hot springs of high-altitude Cusco, and fly over the astonishing Nazca lines. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Peru:

Map of Places to Visit in Peru

Map of Places to Visit in Peru

In this post, we'll cover:

17. Chachapoyas


Set in a scenic yet secluded spot far from the Peruvian coast, Chachapoyas lies high amid the mountains and is the capital of Amazonas . While the city doesn’t have all that much going for it, it acts as a gateway to the stunning natural landscapes and archaeological sites that surround it.

Founded by the Spanish in 1538, the small city is home to a couple of interesting monuments and colonial buildings, with plenty of restaurants, hotels, and tour operators found around its main plaza. From here, you can arrange to visit incredible sights such as the distinctive sarcophagi of Karajia or the ancient stone city of Kuelap – the largest pre-Inca ruins in South America.

There’s no shortage of natural beauty nearby, with mountains, valleys and forests home to a diverse range of fauna and flora, including countless species of brightly colored birds. Sparkling waterfalls also abound: Gocta Cataracts is the pick of the bunch at over 700 meter in height. With so many superb landscapes to explore, hiking and trekking are popular and can be arranged in Chachapoyas.

16. Paracas National Reserve

Paracas National Reserve

Famed for its dramatic scenery, wealth of archaeological sites, and beautiful beaches and wildlife, Paracas National Reserve lies along Peru’s southern coastline, some 250 kilometers south of Lima . Encompassed within its confines are marine and coastal desert ecosystems as well as a couple of arid, rocky islands.

While fierce ocean waves pulverize its jagged, crumbling cliffs and deserted isles, its small coves and bays are home to shallow, warm waters perfect for swimming. Its sheltered beaches are also lovely for relaxing on, while sailing and windsurfing are popular pastimes.

In addition, many people take boat trips out to the Ballestas Islands to gaze in awe at its spectacular rock formations and the multitude of seabirds, seals, and sea lions living there.

When visiting Paracas National Reserve, most visitors stay in the small town of the same name that lies on the Paracas Peninsula . Here you can find lots of restaurants, bars and hotels as well as tour operators who can take you to see some of the ancient archaeological sites that dot the reserve.

15. Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Lying just outside the city of Trujillo in northwest Peru, Chan Chan is one of the most impressive and extensive archaeological sites in the country. The largest pre-Columbian city discovered so far, it is set at the mouth of the Moche Valley in a desolate and arid spot, not far from the Pacific Ocean.

Once the capital of the Chimu Empire , Chan Chan rose to prominence around AD 850 when palaces, plazas, and temples sprung up. While many of these are now severely eroded as the city was entirely made out of adobe, many fine features, carvings, and friezes remain.

Among the endless sprawl, you can find ten royal compounds, home to ceremonial halls, burial chambers, and palaces. These were the residences of the kings of Chimu, who were buried in their complex when they died. The only one open to visitors and partially restored is the Palacio Nik An , which boasts lovely geometric designs, marine motifs, and awe-inspiring architecture.

14. Huascaran National Park

Huascaran National Park

Set high in the Andes in the Central Sierra region of Peru, the enormous Huascaran National Park encompasses almost the entire Cordillera Blanca. The world’s highest tropical mountain range is home to lofty peaks and arresting scenery, while countless species of fauna and flora can be found within its confines.

Established in 1975, the park sprawls over a vast area and includes a number of mighty mountains. Huascaran – after which the park is named – is Peru’s highest peak at 6,768 meters. Remarkably, more than 600 glistening glaciers are dotted about the upper reaches of the range, and countless alpine lakes and roaring rivers can be found down below.

The Cordillera Blanca ‘s sweeping valleys, high plateaus, and steep slopes are home to all kinds of fauna and flora, while ancient archaeological sites are also scattered about. Due to the wonderful scenery and diverse landscapes, the park is a marvelous place to go trekking, mountain climbing and skiing.

Wildlife watching is also popular; catching a glimpse of the elusive puma or endangered spectacled bear is an unforgettable experience.

13. Huacachina


Lying just outside the city of Ica in the southwest of Peru, Huacachina is a popular place to visit thanks to its surreal location surrounded by dunes. Emerging out of the desert like a mirage, the small settlement is clustered around a secluded oasis , with gently waving palm trees and nothing but sand stretching as far as the eye can see.

Huacachina’s sandy surroundings lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of fun outdoor activities, with sandboarding , quad biking, and dune buggy rides popular pastimes. Clambering to the top of the sifting dunes is also a must for the spectacular views, and sunsets are particularly memorable.

Relaxing around the oasis and taking in the stunning scenery is a lovely way to pass the time, and swimming offers a welcome respite from the searing heat. As it is geared towards tourists, Huacachina has plenty of restaurants, bars, and hotels to choose from, with a few kiosks and shops dotted here and there.

Besides its ample adventure opportunities, you can also visit the bodegas and wineries in Ica if you want to sample some delicious local produce.

12. Mancora


As one of the most hip and happening summer beach destinations on the Costanera Norte along the northern Peruvian coast, you simply have to add Mancora to your bucket list. This slice of glorious sandy coastline stretches for kilometers along one of the sunniest parts of Peru – something that hasn’t been missed by the tourism industry.

You’ll find everything from backpackers to swanky beach resorts dotting the sands here.

Apart from the beaches that are worth more than their fair share of relaxation, Mancora has a bustling main street filled with vibrant beach bars , seafood restaurants, and an excellent nightlife scene that livens up after the sun goes down.

That being said, most of the activity here revolves around inactivity; lazy beach days are the order of the day. Those looking for something more active can go surfing in the warm waters, take a seaside stroll from South Beach to Organos or spot seasonal dolphins and whales frolicking in the waves at the main beach. If you somehow grow tired of Mancora’s beach activities, explore further afield – swim with turtles in El Nuro or soak in the hot springs of Poza de Barro.

11. Trujillo


Nestled within a lush valley eight hours north of Lima, Trujillo is celebrated for its photogenic colonial center filled with colorful Spanish mansions , quaint churches, and friendly locals.

Not far from the Pacific Coast, this relatively large city was founded in the 1500s close to the abandoned Chan Chan ruins , one of the largest pre-Incan empires of ancient Peru. Within its impressive once-walled ruins, this Chimor mud city is the largest adobe city in the Americas and boasts a series of religious temples, burial grounds, and royal residences.

But that’s not the only history worth exploring in Trujillo. Visit the 19th-century National University of Trujillo – one of the largest of its kind in South America – that features the world’s longest mosaic. Appreciate the incredible murals of Huaca de la Luna (the Temple of the Moon) that unfortunately showcases human sacrifice.

If you’re looking to relax after your days of exploring, you can’t go wrong with the beaches of resort town Huanchaco – don’t forget your sun cream!

10. Nazca Desert

Nazca Desert

The puzzling Nazca lines that crisscross the valleys of Palpa and Nazca have put this part of Peru’s otherwise uninteresting desert on the map. These enormous inscriptions of lines, animals, and other geometric patterns were carved into the sandy terrain by the Nazca people and are believed to have been part of a thousand-year-old holy road.

The dry, windless, stable climate of the Nazca Desert has helped keep the lines uncovered to the present day.

The best way to appreciate the magnitude of these geometric lines and shapes is from the air with a flight over the Nazca lines. If you’re hesitant about flying (the costs aren’t cheap!) or you’d just prefer to see them up close, there’s an observation tower along the Panamerican highway where you can view three of the main figures.

Other Nazca sites worth viewing within the desert are the ancient aqueducts known as the Nazca channels. These underground channels are what allow the cotton, potatoes, and fruit plantations in the desert to thrive in this otherwise inhabitable location.


Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto region, which encompasses most of the northern reaches of the Peruvian Amazon . Interestingly, a town that was formed initially by a tribe of hunter-gatherers, Iquitos is now the largest city on earth without road access.

While Iquitos is a little tricky to get to – you have to fly or boat in – the rewards are totally worth it. Despite its remote location, there’s a mix of traditional and modern architecture: wooden huts built on riverside stilts contrast with the historic architecture of the central plaza.

Offering an unforgettable escape in the Amazon jungle that feels authentic, visitors can browse the Belen floating market for everything from bananas to crocodile meat. If it’s souvenirs you’re after, the San Juan crafts market is a better bet.

The isolation of Iquitos is in its favor; the surrounding jungle offers some of the best wildlife watching opportunities in the country. It’s the main base for boat trips along the Amazon River to spot monkeys, alligators, and the notorious anacondas. Visiting the nearby Pacaya Samiria National Reserve near Lagunas is one of the best places for spotting some unusual Amazonian wildlife.


Puno is a picturesque hillside port city that forms the natural gateway to Lake Titicaca and the 85-plus Uros Floating Islands – boats depart from the dock every 40 minutes. Set at an elevation of 3,800 meters, high-altitude Puno has a glorious view over the lakes and the island chain.

Because of its easy access to and from neighboring Bolivia and Chile , Puno is a popular tourist trap, yet it provides a more laidback alternative to the upmarket lake islands it overlooks. For one, souvenirs at the lakeside market are far cheaper than you’ll find in Cusco or Lima!

Its biggest attraction is as a departure point for the famous floating Uros islands with boats leaving every 40 min from the dock. It is also a great place to get a feel for the Aymara and Quechua cultures.

Some of the most popular things to do include a visit to a llama farm and an overnight stay with a local family. Most of the people who live in Puno are Andean , so there’s an interesting mix of modern and Andean traditions, and you’ll still find many women in colorful traditional dress.


As Peru’s capital and largest city, Lima is a sprawling metropolis of almost 9 million people. The city was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and offers a rich history as well as exceptional food, a great sense of culture.

You’ll find modern hotels contrasting with traditional and colonial architecture and orderly slums alongside raving nightclubs and bars. Ruled by the Spanish for three centuries, Lima boasts intriguing Spanish-colonial churches , cloisters, and monasteries – a real treat for history buffs.

See also: Where to Stay in Lima

Because of its location close to the coast, Lima is a great foodie destination for seafood lovers. A Lima food tour is a great way to taste your way through the city’s authentic Peruvian delights like Ceviche, with a visit to some of the most authentic markets and restaurants in the city.

Whether you’re taking a stroll through the historic heart of Lima Centro and its craft markets or exploring the more tourist-friendly green suburb of Miraflores , which overflows with antique shops and bars, you’re in for something special in Lima.

6. Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Located in the mountainous Southern Sierra region, Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s most popular tourist destinations. Spanning over 70 kilometers, the world’s second-deepest canyon boasts some spectacular scenery with fascinating Andean culture and nature to discover.

While the sheer size and scale of the canyon are staggering, it is the diversity of the many landscapes that is Colca’s most impressive feature; it encompasses everything from barren steppe and stepped terraces to steep-sided cliffs and rearing mountain peaks. Wherever you go, the scenery is phenomenal, with breathtaking views of Andean condors swirling above the 3,140-metre deep canyon.

Archaeological sites and ruins are dotted about the canyon, while locals maintain their ancestral traditions in their small villages and towns. Many people who visit Colca Canyon start in Chivay before trekking along the scenic rim, past precipitous ravines and death-defying drops, basking in the astonishing scenery and landscapes as they go.

5. Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

Once the heartland of the Inca Empire , The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a valley in the Andes, close to Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu . The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities.

Located in Peru’s Southern Sierra, some of the most popular activities here are adventure-based – from trekking and rafting to rock climbing. In contrast, the towns of Yucay and Urubamba are fast becoming a hub for spiritual relaxation and meditation.

Whichever route you take, there’s plenty to discover along the way. There are gorgeous colonial towns, remote villages, colorful markets, and fascinating Incan sites such as the citadels of Pisac, Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo tucked along this mysterious route.

Take your time exploring the terraced hills above Pisac , making it down in time to browse the village’s famous artisanal market. Check out Choquequirao , some blissfully uncrowded ruins that are deemed to be giving Machu Picchu a run for its money.

4. Inca Trail

Inca Trail

Winding through the mountains, over passes, and above valleys with stunning views all the way, Peru’s Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world. The hike takes around four days to complete and starts just outside of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire , with the end-goal being the mythical Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas.

Using ancient stone paths and trails that the Incas themselves laid down all those centuries ago, the route meanders through diverse ecosystems and landscapes. While some parts run next to stepped terraces, others pass by alpine tundra and cloud forest, with plunging valleys and towering mountains lying in the distance.

As the Inca civilization was centered around the highlands, you’ll also come across ancient ruins on the way.

Due to the Inca Trail’s incredible popularity, visitors now need to book with a tour operator and can choose between several different routes , which vary in distance and elevation. Hiking the historic trail in the footsteps of the Incas is an unforgettable experience and makes arriving at the majestic Machu Picchu all the more special.

3. Arequipa


Located 2,380 meters above sea level, Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city. Surrounded by volcanoes, including the El Misti , it’s known as the ‘ White City ’ because its buildings were crafted out of white volcanic rock called sillar from the neighboring mountains.

Unlike many of Peru’s other cities, Arequipa doesn’t have any Incan claims to fame – at least, not in the form of ancient settlements. Its most famous Inca sight is the Mummy Juanita, also known as the Lady of Ampato – an astonishingly well-preserved frozen body of a young teenaged Incan girl who was sacrificed to the gods during the 1400s. She can now be found in the Catholic University of Santa María’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries.

Examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the center of the city. Among the most significant of these is the Santa Catalina Convent , which is often described as a city within a city because of its charming streets, colorful buildings and flowers. Beautiful bridges like the Puente Bolognesi also offer historic value as well as scenic views. The city’s main square, the Plaza de Armas , is a common starting point for many tourists with its shops, restaurants and old churches.

Arequipa is the natural jumping-off point for visiting the multicolored Colca Canyon , one of the top tourist attractions in Peru. Dropping to a depth of 3,270 meters, the canyon is one of the deepest of its kind in the world.


Located in the Southern Sierras, colorful Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire. Today, it holds the title of the archaeological capital of the Americas. It’s one of Peru’s most-visited destinations, and for good reason: it offers easy access to Machu Picchu and the incredible Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Built by the Spanish on the ruins of age-old Incan temples and palaces, The heart of the city is the main square, the Plaza de Armas , which is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and churches. The colorful San Pedro Market is nearby with vendors selling Quechua handicrafts like alpaca textiles, painted pottery, ceramics and Peruvian dolls as well as fresh produce and drinks.

Just outside the city limits is an important Inca site known as Sacsayhuaman , an enormous walled complex constructed of large limestone boulders. The site is an ancient engineering marvel because of its accurate alignment with annual solstices and its ability to withstand earthquakes.

The city is brimming with culture – it’s the center of Quechua culture in the Andes – and its mountains are etched with trekking routes and hot springs. Strolling the city streets with its colonial architecture, craft markets, museums, boutique hotels and art galleries has a timeless feel to it.

Because of its high-altitude location 3,400 meters above sea level, altitude sickness is a risk in Cusco, so make sure you allow time to acclimatize before making your way here.

1. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is anyone’s Peruvian highlight, no matter what you’re visiting this South American country for. Tucked 2,430 meters high in the Andes, this abandoned ancient Incan city seems to be eternally enshrouded in mist. In fact, it’s so well hidden that it remained undiscovered for centuries – earning it the nickname ‘ the Lost City of the Incas .’

The site was eventually discovered by an explorer, but even then, only by accident. In the years since its discovery, it’s become one of the most yearned-after bucket list spots in the world. This means it doesn’t come without the crowds, so be sure to plan your trip well in advance.

Some of the most popular ways to reach these crumbling Incan ruins are by trekking the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trail. For those who prefer not to ascend on foot, there is an easier route by train.

However you reach the site, you’ve got plenty to do when you arrive. Explore well-preserved buildings that include houses, temples, fountains and baths in addition to agricultural terraces and evidence of an irrigation system. You can also admire the surrounding views from the Sun Gate , the gateway to Machu Picchu from the famous Inca Trail, and climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain for a bird’s eye view over the enchanting valleys.

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September 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm

There are a lot of interesting and amazing places to visit here in Peru. For me, the best one is Machu Picchu because of the last experience that I had there. Even though every city has its own beauty, I’d rather go to Machu Picchu again. For example, if you enjoy beaches and hot weather, you will like being in Mancora. Any place that you visit in Peru will be an unforgettable experience.

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April 3, 2016 at 8:48 am

As a Peruvian (now living in CA), I’d recommend trying to get out of the tourist filled areas. While Machu Pichu and Colca Canyon are indeed beautiful. Culture is very much alive were ever you go. Perhaps make friends with a family who are direct descendants of the incas, still eat their foods, wear their clothes, speak their language, etc. You’ll be surprised how much is there that has not been ‘touristified’ simply wandering the streets of Cusco, I have seen rocks with no less than 20 different sides, sculpted to interlock perfectly with their neighbors. No doubt crafted by the hands of an Inca. Just beware, if you choose this route, be prepared to eat whole fish, Guinea pigs, and a crap ton of quinoa.

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February 20, 2016 at 11:52 pm

My family and I have spent 14 days in Peru with travel agency known as Papriqua. This has been the most memorable vacation for us ever. We had a well informed guide , a walking library, and I must say ,that guy had all the answers The weather was fantastic, the food was great, the people there, were friendly, accomodations were satisfying and the sites were absolutely fantastic. I believe we will go back to explore the Amazon , Iquitos , Trujillo and to visit that area { Lord of Sipan}

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11 Top-Rated Peru Tourist Attractions To Visit

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When it comes to discovering the history, culture, and natural features of South America, one country in particular offers all three and so much more. Located on the west coast of the continent, the country of Peru provides you with a wide diversity of landscapes to explore, cultural influences to experience, and activities to keep you busy or allow you to sit back and relax.

The biodiversity of Peru is astounding, featuring Amazon rainforests, Andean highlands, and coastal beaches. Famous and not-so-famous archeological sites span the country, including the stunning Machu Picchu , and provide unique opportunities to go outside your own comfort zone and explore some of the top tourist attractions in South America .

When you’re ready to start planning your itinerary, consider adding these 11 top-rated Peru tourist attractions.

View Of The Cathedral And Lima Main Square

View Of The Cathedral And Lima Main Square

1. Historic District of Lima

Spend time exploring the historic district of Peru’s capital city of Lima . Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site , the historic center is a beautiful and intriguing site to wander as you learn about its many secrets. Admire architectural wonders, cozy plazas, and astonishing interior design.  Founded in the 1500s, the city has gone through natural disasters which have affected the buildings, but, fortunately, many of these have been restored or rebuilt. Tour the inside of the cathedral, with its vaulted ceiling, baroque furnishings, and checkerboard flooring. Other sites not to miss include the Casa del Oidor, Archbishop’s Palace, and the Government Palace.

Machu Picchu

2. Machu Picchu

Perhaps the most popular of the Peru attractions to visit is Machu Picchu. Listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world , Machu Picchu is known as the Incas’ ancient ceremonial center. Located high up above the Urubamba River, the complex set of ruins provides a dramatic setting against the lush mountain sides. Getting here will take time and planning, starting with a train ride from Cusco, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo to the small village of Aguas Calientes . From there, you will take a bus up to the ruins. You may also want to consider a one to four-day hike on the Inca Trail , which leads you into Machu Picchu for a rare experience.

Panoramic View Of Cusco Main Square

Panoramic View Of Cusco Main Square

3. Historic City Center of Cusco

Enjoy another UNESCO World Heritage Site in the historical city of Cusco . The quaint city center provides the feel of a village, with the Plaza de Armas main square as the gathering place for restaurants , shops, and tours . Admire the colonial buildings, whose foundations are built from ancient Inca ruins. Walk along narrow roads, and explore impressive buildings, including the Cathedral , La Compania, and church of Santo Domingo.

Salta Mines In Maras, Sacred Valley - Peru

Salta Mines In Maras, Sacred Valley – Peru

4. The Sacred Valley

Explore the Inca ruins found in this fertile valley and spend time in colorful towns and markets along the way. The Incas revered the location of the valley for its unique climate and geography, including its fertile soils for growing what they needed. Located in the Peruvian Andean highlands, the Sacred Valley includes such Peru must see sights as the Pisac Ruins and its Sunday Market, the fortress at Ollantaytambo , and salt mines in Maras .

The Floating Islands Of Uros On Lake Titicaca

The Floating Islands Of Uros On Lake Titicaca

5. Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca , the world’s highest navigable lake, is one of the top Peru attractions you’ll want to visit. If heading there on a sunny day, you’ll see sparkling blue water surrounded by the greenery of rolling hills. Small traditional villages dot the shoreline for a glimpse at true Peruvian culture. Climb aboard one of the boat tours for views of the various islands on the lake, including the Uros Floating Islands, a set of man-made islands constructed out of the local totora reeds. Other islands to visit include Isla Amantani and Isla Taquile.

Basilica Cathedral At Plaza De Armas Arequipa - Peru

Basilica Cathedral At Plaza De Armas Arequipa – Peru

6. The White City (Arequipa)

Visit what is often considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in all of South America. Arequipa sits amid snow-capped mountains and provides a cozy locale to stay for a day or two. Its historic center received the designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. Throughout, you will find architecture constructed out of a volcanic rock called sillar stone. Sillar Stone radiates its color when in direct sunlight and, as a result, gives rise to the city’s nickname of the “white city” of Peru.

Tourists At The Cruz Del Condor Viewpoint, Colca Canyon - Peru

Tourists At The Cruz Del Condor Viewpoint, Colca Canyon – Peru

7. Cañon del Colca

Prepare yourself for an overwhelming sight as you near the Cañon del Colca, or Colca Canyon. Twice the overall depth of the Grand Canyon, this canyon descends down to 3,400 meters to a winding river at its base. Admire the stone terracing among the canyon walls, dating back to AD 800. You can also enjoy exploring the surrounding areas, which include hot springs, villages, and Inca ruins. Bring your binoculars and camera as this is one of the best places to catch a sight of Andean condors and the giant hummingbird.

Nazca Lines, The Monkey

Nazca Lines, The Monkey

8. Nazca Lines

South of the capital city of Lima, you’ll find the Nazca desert. What is famous here is the mysterious Nazca Lines . Throughout the desert, these lines and drawings are visible only from the air and include the Monkey, the Spider, the Condor, the Dog, the Hummingbird, the Small Lizard, and the Astronaut. In all, there are some 70 animal and plant drawings in the desert, along with geometrical shapes and various lines. Thought to be created somewhere between 900 BC and AD 600, debate continues as to their origin and reason for creation. Book your tour flight before arriving, or try your luck with one of the first-come, first-serve offerings.

Group Of 3 Species Of Macaws Flying From The Clay

Group Of 3 Species Of Macaws Flying From The Clay

9. Reserva Nacional Tambopata (Amazon)

Experience the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest at the Reserva Nacional Tambopata near Puerto Maldonado , a short flight from Cusco. Situated in one of the more biodiverse areas of Peru, the reserve covers over 740,000 acres and is home to endangered species as well as native communities. Here you will glimpse monkeys, caimans, capybara, turtles, parrots, and various other wildlife. One way to experience the reserve is to stay in a jungle lodge for a few days or longer and immerse yourself in its surroundings.

Beautiful Decorative Designs On The Stone Walls In The Ruins Of Kuelap

Beautiful Decorative Designs On The Stone Walls In The Ruins Of Kuelap

10. Kuélap Stone Fortress in Chachapoyas

Enter into the cloud forest region of Peru by way of the city of Chachapoyas. Long before the Incas, distinctive cultures lived and thrived here and left behind the unique site of Kuélap . This imposing stone fortress features 20-meter-high walls and is an impressive structure to admire and explore. Less visited by crowds of tourists than many other top Peru sights, the fortress offers space to explore without the need to rush.

Paragliding In Miraflores, Lima - Peru

Paragliding In Miraflores, Lima – Peru

11. Miraflores District of Lima

When looking for a break from exploring ancient ruins, rainforests, and various natural attractions, enjoy a few days in the Miraflores District of Lima. Consisting of upscale accommodations, shopping, and world-class restaurants, here you’ll see how modern-day Peruvians live. You can also roam through the Amano Pre-Columbian Textile Museum or the Ricardo Palma Museum located in the writer’s former home. For an additional treat, take in a show at The Centro Cultural PUCP, an art-house cinema and theater in the nearby district of San Isidro.

There you have it, the top 11 Peru attractions to visit on your next trip to South America. Whether you wish to enjoy the incredible natural sites, immerse yourself in the culture of Peru, or explore ancient and mysterious archeological sites, a trip to this South American country and its must-see attractions will remain one of your favorite vacations ever.

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Home » Travel Guides » Peru » 15 Best Places to Visit in Peru

15 Best Places to Visit in Peru

One of the most coveted destinations in all of South America comes complete with breathtaking fortresses built by the Incas, soaring cloud forests, the snow-topped Andes, the dusty Atacama and the misty Amazon rainforest alike.

No wonder there’s a veritable wealth of must-see spots between its borders. Let’s explore the best places to visit in Peru:

1. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

The great fortress in the clouds, the masterpiece of the Incas, the Andean citadel to rival all others, Machu Picchu rarely fails to draw a gasp.

It sits perched a whopping 2,400 meters up on the spikey ridges above the winding Urubamba River; the jewel of the iconic Sacred Valley and reachable only by foot.

Various treks weave their way up to the UNESCO heritage wonder from below, passing rustic Peruvian mountain towns and offering up breathtaking vistas of the Andes as they go.

Then the prize itself emerges: a glorious conglomeration of terraced houses and temples, crumbling altarpieces and animist sculpture, draped dramatically between the cloud forests and oozing pre-Columbian history from every one of its cracked and weathered pores.

Not even the conquistadores made it here!


Butting up to the Pacific rollers in lines of condominiums and lurching high-rises, Lima sprawls out over the Peruvian coastal plain in a patchwork of the new and the old.

It’s a place where the elegant remnants of a colonial past rub shoulders with ancient ruins; where 500-year-old relics pepper the museum rooms close to bustling food courts bursting with South American ceviche and Pisco sours to knock your socks off.

Of course, there’s a throbbing nightlife scene worthy of its 10 million people; erupting between the streets of Miraflores and Barranco every night of the week.

And that’s not even mentioning the beaches that line the coast to the north and south of the city, awash with surfers at Cabo Blanco, sunbathers at Vichayito and cocktail sippers at Los Pocitas. Nice.

3. Chan Chan

Chan Chan

The ancient gateway to the arid desert lands of the Moche Valley is now one of the most fascinating pre-Columbian dig sites in all of Peru (and that’s saying something!). It’s thought that the sprawling ruins of the city that can now be seen here, popping up like a cardboard cut-out almost organically from the beige dunes and ridges of the desert, were raised in the middle of the 9th century AD. Chan Chan was once the epicentre of the powerful Chimor Empire until the conquistadores established nearby power bases in Trujillo in the 1500s, and today the remains of monolith defence walls, countless temples and court rooms, and elaborate irrigation systems can all be seen.

4. Huacachina


Just a short dune ride (preferably by 4X4) from the city of Ica, little Huacachina rises like a tropical gem from amidst the shifting sands.

An oasis town par excellence, this tiny settlement hugs its own small pop-up lake and comes dotted with lanky date palms which sway and wobble in the dry, dry breezes.

Given its fantastic location on the rolling ochre-beige ridges of the Ica wilds, the town has become a regular favourite on the Peruvian travel trail, and now boasts a clutch of top-quality backpacker guesthouses, boutique hotels and even a surprising nightlife scene that’s fuelled by Pisco sours.

By day, be sure to try your hand at sandboarding!


Everyone from intrepid mountaineers to casual hikers to view seekers flock to the high-perched town of Huaraz, which comes shrouded on all sides by the chiselled and precipitous peaks of the great Cordillera Blanca (many of which rise to a whopping 6,000 meters above sea level!). Earthquakes have long been the nemesis in this metamorphic corner of Peru, which means the town here has been built and rebuilt countless times.

Still, it’s not really about the urban side of things.

Not with the mint-white massifs of the Huascaran National Park beckoning to the east, complete with curious blooms of titanka plants, prehistoric cave art, dinosaur footprints and the craggy tops of Tawllirahu alike.

6. Trujillo


Trujillo is the largest city in Peru’s Moche Valley.

Once trodden by the Spanish conquistadores, it still oozes a colonial charm from each of its marble plazas and technicolour churches.

The clip clop of paso horses and the mellifluous sounds of Spanish chatter twist and turn around the palm-spattered Plaza de Armas at the metro’s heart, while Rococo elegance abounds on the Cathedral’s faces and the desert peaks of Moche rise to a bulwark on the horizon.

It’s a truly beautiful place to while away some time in the north, and offers unrivalled access to the bucket-list attractions of Chan Chan and the Huaca del Sol just to the south.

7. Tingo Maria

Tingo Maria

Tingo Maria sits nestled deep in the Andean ridges, blooming in a thousand shades of green thanks to the wet and fertile climate of the Amazonia side of the mountains.

Once considered virtually inaccessible, the spot soon became one of Peru’s prime commercial coffee growing centers, and the streets still enjoy the aromas of freshly-brewed beans and the energy of weekly farmer’s markets to boot.

However, Tingo Maria is perhaps better known – at least to the gringo tourists who now flock here out of Lima – as the gateway to the jungle.

The Tingo Maria National Park beckons just on the peripheries, home to the tunnels of the Owl Cave and the soaring summit of Pumarinri alike.


Laid-back and relaxed as it runs along the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a real treat.

With its cascading barrios of breeze-block buildings and dust-caked streets, it may not look the part.

But Puno’s draws are on the water, not on the land.

Boat trips are hugely popular, taking travelers out to see the likes of Amantani, with its earthy Quechua farmers and crumbling pre-Columbian temples, or Uros, and its iconic reed villages.

Trips across to Bolivia and the Isla del Sol are also possible (this is the world’s highest navigable body of water after all!), while Puno itself offers up a great range of budget guesthouses and hotels to choose from.

9. Tarapoto


Fringed by swathes of montane jungle and blooming with its own resident population of palm trees, the so-called ‘City of Palms’ is a great place to sample real, raw Peruvian life right on the edge of the Andes.

Eateries tout platters of local highland foods, spice-doused chicken and rice dishes, and refreshing sugarcane juices all along the central streets, while night time parties erupt in Morales and travel groups depart to swim in the roaring waterfalls at Ahuashiyacu and Huacamaillo.

Outdoors adventures are never too far away, with the tropical reaches of the Amazon and its many rivers and jungle-clad valleys beckoning just to the east.


Cascading its way down the mountain ridges of the Southern Sierra in a dash of pretty Spanish-style bungalows with terracotta roofs, Tarma is one of the lesser known stop-offs in the Junin Region.

Despite lurking just a little from the tracks of the Inca Trail, the town only draws a humble crowd of visitors each year.

Those who do come can enjoy chacta-packed teas in the cafes, wonder at the colours during the Festival of Flowers in September and unravel more than 500 years of history to boot (Tarma was one of the first hill stations in this section of the Andes to be established by the conquistadores). Hiking is also popular, with treks around the foothills and mountain lakes here weaving in and out of the Andes and the Amazon alike.

11. Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado

Straddling the waterways of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios Rivers as they join to form one of the tributaries to the mighty Amazon in the east, Puerto Maldonado is Peru’s jungle city par excellence.

Once only accessible by boat, the town has recently joined the country’s ever-expanding road network and now booms with hikers and wildlife seekers during its high-season.

They come to spy out the multi-coloured macaws and old -rowth rainforests that the enticing trio of the Tambopata National Reserve, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park offer to the north-west and south-east alike.

If you do head to those wilds, expect everything from cultural encounters with Peruvian tribes to giant otters and spectacled bears!

12. Arequipa

Arequipa, Peru

Peru’s onetime capital and second most populous metropolis, 850,000-strong Arequipa is the buzzing metro hub of the country’s southern reaches.

It can be found spread out over the highlands of the Huayco Uchumayo, set in the shadow of three mighty volcanos: brooding Misti, the snow-mantled massifs of Pikchu Pikchu, soaring, 6,000-meter-high Chachani.

The town bears one glorious UNESCO core of old-style mansions and Spanish colonial churches, all fused with the traditions of Peruvian building to create the unique architectural look now hailed as Escuela Arequipena.

To see this first hand, check out the 16th-century Santa Catalina Monastery, the neoclassical Basilica Cathedral, or the almost Petra-esque Church of the Jesuits.

13. Urubamba


Situated between the green slopes and cloud forests of the much-visited Sacred Valley of the Incas, Urubamba is the gateway to some of Peru’s most bucket-list sights.

In the town, the streets are thronged with everything from classy hotels to earthy guesthouses, gringos and walkers fresh from the Incan Trail flitting between the bars and Plaza de Armas on rumbling auto rickshaws.

It’s one of the top bases for exploring the various ancient sites that adorn the ridges here, whether that means scaling to the heights of Machu Picchu, hitting the agricultural terraces of Tipon, seeking the mysterious ruins of Choquequirao, or enjoying ecotourism in the cultural attraction of Chichubamba.


The onetime epicentre of Incan power in the Americas is now a thriving tourist hub, touting everything from glorious Spanish churches to the crumbling remnants of the city’s former pre-Columbian masters.

With century upon century of Peruvian past concealed beneath the town’s throbbing streets, it’s easy to see why so many travelers make their way here.

Just check out the whitewashed cottages of Barrio de San Blas, awash with Incan treasures below their floors, or the glowing Plaza de Armas, where Andalusian arcades rise and fall beneath the baroque majesty of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin.

And when it’s time to leave the city, Peru’s most iconic backcountry awaits: the cloud forests and Incan treasures of the Sacred Valley!

Nazca Lines

Nazca is best known as the jumping off point for seeing the famous Nazca Lines: centuries-old petroglyphs and markings carved out of the rolling pampas on the edge of the Chilean Atacama.

The air is dry and dusty in the town, and most of the city is pleasant and walkable.

Tour operators here will clamber over one another to offer travelers flights out over the mysterious UNESCO site in the desert, while trips to Cahuachi and Paredones, and the prehistoric cave systems and walking trails of the Palpa Valley, are also fine options for any looking to combine adventure and history in one.

15 Best Places to Visit in Peru:

  • Machu Picchu
  • Tingo Maria
  • Puerto Maldonado

Global Grasshopper – travel inspiration for the road less travelled

Top 25 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Peru

South America has long been a backpacker’s paradise and Peru has seen a rise from a hidden gem to a must-see travel destination over recent years.

With an eclectic mix of history and nature and some truly jaw-dropping sights, it is a country that offers something for everyone, from my time spent travelling around in this incredible country, here is my choice for the best and most beautiful places to visit in Peru…

1. Cusco – one of the best places to visit in Peru

Beautiful Cusco city in Peru

While the city is mainly used as the gateway to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it has plenty to offer. Cusco is actually at a higher altitude than Machu Picchu and is used to get acclimatized to the thinner air. The cobbled streets pave the way towards a place rich in history.

You should hike or bus your way up to the Cristo Blanco for a stunning view of the city, explore the interesting markets, and chill out in the beautiful Plaza de Armas.

All this before you take a tour for a look at some awesome Inca ruins like Sacsayhuaman, Choquequirao and Pisac. Cusco is not to be underestimated or overlooked.

2. Rainbow Mountain – listed by National Geographic in the top 100 places to visit before you die

Rainbow Mountain Peru

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, Winikunka, or Montaña de Colores, the latter meaning Colorful Mountain, is an iconic and spectacular attraction located in the Andes Range on the road to Apu Ausangate.

It derives its name from its 7 distinctly colorful layers that are present due to the weathering mineralogical composition.

This mountain used to be covered by glacier caps until recently (due to global warming). Now, its vibrantly striped slopes are visibly exposed and have been listed by National Geographic in the top 100 places to visit before you die.

Beautiful Rainbow Mountain and the Andes by 4k drone…

3. Machu Picchu – the most famous and most beautiful places and activities in Peru

Machu Picchu Peru

It might be a cliché, but there is a reason why clichés exist. Yes, thinking about Peru is synonymous with Machu Picchu but that’s because it’s truly incredible.

Whether you take the train from Cusco or push yourself with the Inca Trail, the view when you get there is breathtaking.

Arrive early morning and, on a good day, you can see the sunrise from the sun gate while you should try to take the opportunity to climb Huanya Picchu as well.

4. Lake Titicaca – a stunning lake to explore in Peru and one of the top attractions in the country

Lake Titicaca South America

The train journey that you can take from Cusco to Puno is a 10-hour trip through rural Peru to the banks of Lake Titicaca that is considered one of the world’s great train journeys.

Undoubtedly a beautiful journey, but back at Lake Titicaca and this is your chance to see a fascinating and mystical lake, the largest in South America. Recent discoveries on the Bolivian side show that there is plenty of mystery left here yet.

5. Manu National Park – a must-see attraction to explore in Peru

Manu National Park

The massive 1.5 million-hectare Manu National Park is a world-famous epicenter of biodiversity. A meeting point for the Tropical Andes and the Amazon Basin in Southwestern Peru, the national park has unique natural vegetation that grows in tiers from 150m up to 4200m above sea level.

The flora ranges from diverse Andean grasslands to mountain cloud forests and pristine rainforest, and plant diversity runs in thousands. The lower tropical forest is home to an astronomical array of fauna.

There are over 1000 vertebrate species, including at least 200 species of mammals and more than 800 species of birds. Among the mammals are the Giant Otter, 13 primates species, and 8 felids, including Jaguar, Puma, and the endangered Andean Mountain Cat. 

Manu National Park also has unparalleled variety in terms of altitude, microclimate, soils, and other ecological conditions. This vast, isolated and still roadless region has been spared from most human impacts, maintaining its original, natural state.

6. Salinas de Maras – a stunning and unique natural attraction to explore in Peru

Salinas de Maras

The famous Salineras de Maras is a beautiful place located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near the town of Maras. This spectacular landscape is made up of more than 3 thousand small pools carved into the mountainside.

These pools are fed by an underground hypersaline spring that originated 110 million years ago during the formation of the Andes Mountains.

The high salinity makes this water saltier than seawater but also offers incredible natural therapeutic salts rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, and silicon.

The salt wells and crystal formations create a breathtaking contrast of colours that make this location truly picturesque and a must-visit.

7. Oasis of Huacachina, Atacama Desert – a beautiful hidden gem to visit in Peru

Atacama Desert Oasis

Tucked between sand dunes in the world’s driest desert lies a geological marvel, a flourishing fertile lagoon enveloped by tall palm trees. 

Around the oasis sprung the town of Huacachina and attracted tourists to take advantage of the oasis’ supposed healing properties.

This magical destination is beaming with tourism and activities. The only desert oasis in South America, Oasis of Huacachina, offers extraordinary adventures and extreme sports. Like sandboarding, dune buggy rides, flight rides over the Nazca Lines, and more!

8. The Andes Mountains – one of the best things to do in Peru

The Andes Mountains Peru

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and boasts some of the highest peaks, the world’s highest volcano, ruins of ancient civilizations, and the source of a malaria treatment.

Created over 50 million years ago, when the South American and Pacific tectonic plates collided, it is a collection of numerous mountain chains that were joined together in what is called orographic knots.

Over 9000km long the Andes span along the western coast of South America through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In the southern and northern tips of the continent, they tumble into the sea forming scattered Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao. 

The Peruvian Andes hold the largest gold mine in the world, Yanacocha, and are known for their impressive biodiversity in climatic zones and countless species of mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, and amphibians.

Activities along the Andes include climbing to hiking, white water rafting, cycling, skiing, stargazing, and more.

9. Lima, National Capital – a wonderful city to explore in Peru

Lima Street Peru

Shrouded in history, and sprawling with metropolitan life, Lima, the capital of Peru, has an incomparable chaotic charm.

Due to its huge size, Lima accounts for one-fourth of the total population of Peru.

Converging cultures and trends by its people, Lima is filled with Spanish-influenced architecture and colonial-era riches, stately museums, baroque churches, chic art galleries, and a buzzing nightlife.

Lima is rightly hailed as the gastronomic capital of Latin America because of the culinary genius of its incredible gourmet eateries and establishments.

10. Tambopata National Reserve – an amazing thing to do for nature lovers

Wildlife in Peru

A crowning jewel of the Amazon Rainforest and a must-visit spot for nature lovers, the Tambopata National Reserve in Southeastern Peru is thriving with history, ecology, and diversity.

The vast habitat comprises lowland Amazon rainforest, riverine forest, oxbow lakes, and three rivers. The numerous species of butterflies, birds, mammals, other animals, and trees make this reserve one of the most diverse places on Earth!

Further, the Reserve and the surrounding area has been home to indigenous Ese Eja People and has preserved its cultural richness.

11. Lost City Kuelap – a unique ancient city that was rediscovered in 1843

Kuelap - best places to visit in Peru

Located in northern Peru on the slopes of the Andes, the ancient city of Kuelap contains some of the most amazing architectural structures in the world.

Built between the 6th and 16th centuries in the Chachapoyas civilization, the fortress lies on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley and remains over 10,000 ft above sea level.

You take a picturesque cable car/gondola ride to the site. With its majestic monument and historic culture, Kuelap is popularly known as the Machu Picchu of the north and is quickly becoming just as popular!

12. Arequipa – one of the most beautiful cities to explore in Peru filled with amazing historical attractions

Beautiful Arequipa Peru

Known as the White City thanks to its unique architecture, Arequipa is the second biggest city in Peru.

Characterised by a skyline dominated by imposing volcanoes, the eternal spring means that any time of the year is perfect for visiting the city.

The charming destination boasts buildings mainly made from volcanic rock and the Historic Centre has been a World Heritage Site for more than a decade. Arequipa’s Basilica Cathedral is an iconic sight and it is a great start before heading out to the Colca Canyon.

13. Floating House at Iquitos – a hidden gem to visit in Peru

Iquitos Floating House

The Barrio of Belen is situated in the outskirts of the largest market in Iquitos. This area is one of the poorest and most chaotic in Iquitos. The area has a flight of stairs that open into a busy market that sells things, mostly fruits like bananas at cheaper prices.

In the dry season, you can walk through the smelly streets and look into apartments and businesses but in the monsoon, the first stories will be submerged in water.

You can witness people going around and selling products by boat from the second story up.

To see the rest of the barrio, take a boat taxi around the river to find floating houses tied to poles during the wet season and houses on stilts during the dry season. While not the most glamorous the Floating Houses are definitely an interesting and intriguing site to see.

14. Lake 69, Huascaran, Huaraz – a stunning natural mountain lake which is one of the best destinations in Peru

Lake 69 Peru

A truly exemplary hike, Laguna 69 offers one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. This site is truly extraordinary not only because of the beauty of the lake but also the scenic hike that leads to it.

Lake 69 sits at the feet of a gigantic glacier, Pisco Peak at an elevation of 15,000 ft. Located in Huaraz, the hiking and trekking capital of Peru, this high-altitude one-day hike is not steep but the altitude makes Laguna 69 a slightly challenging hike.

15. Sacred Valley – a wonderful beauty spot and a must-see place in Peru

Inca Circular Terraces

The Sacred Valley, or El Valle Sagrado, as it is locally known, lies in Río Urubamba Valley at the mountain foothills north of the town of Cuzco. This ancient valley is a hidden gem full of marvel and wonder.

This secluded pocket in the Andes thrives with scattered towns, traditional villages, bustling markets, and significant ruins, namely the famous Inca citadels of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero.

Besides the incredible culture, the valley offers a multitude of Adrenaline activities like rock climbing, trekking, and rafting.

16. Colca Canyon – a famous Peruvian landmark to explore

Colca Canyon Peru

Colca Canyon in southern Peru is recognised as one of the world’s deepest canyons. With River Colca running east to west and its slopes on both sides steep and rocky, the canyon displays stunning waterfalls formed along the slopes.

With no road at the bottom of the canyon, the views are more mesmerizing than ever!

The landscape is made up of a green valley spotted with terraced agriculture from remote villages. The canyon is popularly visited as a trekking site and the river is known for rafting. 

From vibrant culture to extreme sports there is something for everyone and, of course, the Cruz del Condor viewpoint is the pinnacle where you can get a great appreciation for the grandeur of this astounding place alongside the chance to witness the majestic Andean Condors.

17. Ancient Inca Circular Terraces at Moray – one of the famous Inca ruins near Cusco and a must-visit attraction

Sacred Valley - places to vist

Based in the Sacred Valley, this ancient site is unlike any other. These Inca ruins look like a Roman amphitheatre but are, in fact, an agricultural research laboratory.

Though the precise use of these marvelous circular terraces is unknown, some believe these ruins were used to experiment on different crops at various temperatures.

Irrespective of their purpose, these terraces are truly a wonder to witness.

18. Huascarán National Park – a Peruvian beauty spot filled with famous mountains and scenery

Huascaran National Park

The amazing Huascarán National Park is situated in an idyllic setting, surrounded by glaciers and their rivers, studded with turquoise lakes, filled with a vast diversity of plants and animals, and housing 33 historic archaeological sites.

This 13,000 sq mile of heaven on Earth includes the world’s highest tropical mountain range and the Puya Raimondi plant that grows up to 12 meters in height.

Besides the cloud-scrapping mountains, the high-altitude plants, the tropical glaciers, and Elysian water bodies, the national park is renowned for its exotic wildlife like the spectacled bears, giant hummingbirds, South American camels, and mountain cats.

Its unbelievable terrain and well-balanced ecosystem makes it a national park like no other.

You can also find guided tours for boating, hiking, climbing, camping, and other activities.

19. Piura – a perfect for a great low-key beach vacation in Peru

Piura - places to visit in Peru

All the way up the Northern Coastline you find beautiful beaches for relaxation. The adventurous nature of a trip around Peru makes the beaches at Mancora, Punta Sal or Tumbes well worth a visit for a wind-down.

Not convinced? Well, Ernest Hemingway stayed at the fishing village of Cabo Blanco for over a month whilst filming for ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and if it was good enough for him then you can bet it is worth a visit.

20. Chachapoyas – an incredible historic attraction to visit and explore in Peru

Chachapoyas Peru

Located in Peru’s misty selva alta, the high jungle, the Chachapoyas landscape combines the harsh, jagged edges of the mountains with the lush, verdant jungle.

This isolated region receives few visitors, probably due to the fact that it takes two full days of overland travel to get there.

But if you do go, you’ll be able to see world-class sites like the Pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, perched on top of a jungle-covered mountain, or take a hike to Gocta Cataracts, one of the tallest free-standing waterfalls in the world.

21. The Amazon – an incredible landmark filled with unique wildlife that draws tourists from all over the world

Amazon Peru

Going to the jungle is one of the most memorable experiences you could ever wish to have.

From peaceful evenings looking at stars, listening to bullfrogs and searching for alligators to eventful days trekking through the rainforest, meeting tribes and listening to howler monkeys the usual three or four-day trips are filled with excitement.

It is worth classing the Amazon as a whole for this because while most people head to Iquitos before going, Puerto Maldonado is widely believed to be more aesthetically pleasing from a city perspective.

Travellers also sometimes opt to volunteer in the programs are organized in this extraordinary country and Maximo Nivel offers projects both in and outside of the city centre. This gives volunteers the opportunity to serve in both urban and rural communities.

22. Oxapampa – a unique and interesting tourist attraction

Oxapampa Peru

A German village in the middle of the Selva Alta in Peru is bound to be an interesting destination. It was the middle of the 1800s when poor living conditions in Central Europe when 10,000 colonists came to virgin lands.

Many people travel there for the festival Selvamonos but while being just seven hours away on Google Maps, the bus ride from Lima is a 15-hour slog.

However, when you get there, the food is great, the people welcoming and the surrounding areas with waterfalls and the beautiful green countryside are perfect for camping and hiking.

23. Huacachina – a fun thing to do here is go sandboarding! 

Huacachina Peru

Ever been sandboarding? If not, then make your first time in Peru. Huacachina can probably be best described as a novelty, the blue-green laguna and a backdrop of huge sand dunes is a beautiful site. It is the definition of a tourist town and is worth a visit.

Take a dune buggy ride up and down the dunes before getting out to sandboard from top to bottom. It’s an awful lot of fun but getting back up is an effort!

It is an easy trip from Lima to the closest big city of Ica and from here you can get to Nazca and Paracas which are other popular destinations.

24. Río Abiseo National Park – a jewel in the Peru tourism crown! 

Rio Abiseo National Park

The Rio Abiseo National Park is one of Peru’s 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the most remote, placed between two rivers on the Eastern slopes of the tropical Andes in North-Central Peru.

Located within the park are 30 culturally rich pre-Columbian archaeological sites spanning eight millennia of human history and dating back to 6000 BC. There are also 7 climate zones and a whole world of wildlife.

The park is known for its vast range of approximately1000 known plant species, 13 of which are endemic, and most importantly the rediscovery of the thought-to-be-extinct Yellow-Tailed Wooly Monkey.

25. Paracas National Reserve – one of the most astonishing places to visit in Peru

Paracas National Reserve-Peru

Located in the region of Ica in Peru’s South Coast, this beautiful reserve is home to an extensive species of wildlife including dolphins and sea lions that consists of a desert and a marine ecosystem.

This place is heavily protected as its main aim is to maintain conservation and sustainable use. Furthermore, there are still remains of the Paracas heritage in the area which needs to be preserved.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the reserve is to have a boat trip where you can visit the archipelago Ballestas Islands which will last two and a half hours.

You can also try the open-air tented picnics where you can have a romantic dinner and witness one of the most romantic sunsets on earth!

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g8 l Global Grasshopper – travel inspiration for the road less travelled

Michael Cowley – writer and photographer

Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always had an affinity for adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued seeking out new places and cultures. In his spare time he explores everywhere from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, trying all kinds of street food, playing carrom with random strangers, and fine wine – he knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Goa, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations. Find Michael on Instagram or Twitter .

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0 thoughts on “Top 13 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Zanzibar”

Interesting article! Peru has several beautiful places to visit such as Machu Picchu, but this destination is not the only one in the country. There are others with different landscapes such as the Manu National Reserve and Kuelap.

what a superb country im sure gonna visit these places one day…

Pictures say more than words…beautiful!

Those are just the tip of the iceberg, what about the Nazcs lines, Paracas bay, Chan Chan in Trujillo, Sipan in Lambayeque, Tarapoto lagoons, and hey! the capital city pf Lima, where you can spend several days just tasting the best food in the world!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! What about the Nazca lines, the Paracas bay, Chan Chan in Trujillo, Señor de Sipan in Lambayeque, beautiful Tarapoto, and hey… the capital city of Lima! where you can spend several days just tasting the best food in the world!

so cute guys! I´m enjoy that more people love my Peru, come come all are welcome! XD

sorry my english is bad.

Loved Peru and would like to see more of it. Especially liked Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. Would like to spend more time in order to be able to stand the altitude first though.

Every single one of them looks spectacular! Peru moved up on my must visit countries definitely!

Thanks for your comment, let us know if you do make it! 🙂

It’s been a dream of mine to visit, yes I would like to try the Inca Trail but would also love to explore the rest of the country, it looks pretty incredible!

This is Lovely. Machu Pichu looks so scenic and serene. Oh I wish I will get to visit this place one day!

Oh love the top photo, very cute. Would so love to visit Peru one day, the rest of the country looks beautiful!

Machu Pichu goes first on my bucket list, that’s obvious but after reading this post I am also adding the Amazon!!! 😀

Looks beautiful doesn’t it, it’s now on our list too! 🙂

I love Peru! The time I visited it was way too short a trip, but got to see quite a lot. Hope to make a trek out there and do some serious hiking one day!

I’l go with the cliche, I would think you cannot visit Peru and not visit the Machu Picchu.

Is it possible to get a llama and transport it to my country :)? I have always been fascinated by those animals.

I always wanted to go to Peru but now I want to go even more!!!!

is that a llama gang?

Ha ha yes I think so, love that photo 🙂

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Land of the Incas and home to the magnificent Lost City of Machu Picchu , discover a country rich in culture and history. From hiking the Andean highlands to meeting locals on the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca , a Peru vacation offers a myriad of activities to satisfy every appetite. Try ayahuasca with a shaman in the Amazon , step back in time at Lima's incredible museums, squeeze in a trek to the vibrant Rainbow Mountain, or pair your Peru tour with the Galapagos Islands for the perfect South American adventure.

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  • Hike through the legendary Inca trail, across beautiful Andean mountain passes, past dozens of mysterious Inca relics and through dense cloud forests.
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  • Stay in a remote eco lodge and plunge into the heart of the Amazon rainforest at the Tambopata National Reserve.
  • View the fascinating Nazca Lines, a series of ancient, mysterious geoglyphs engraved in the desert.
  • Relax in the refreshing oasis of Huacachina or indulge in some exciting sand-boarding and sand-buggying in the surrounding desert landscape.
  • Watch giant Condors fly over the Colca Valley near Arequipa and go river rafting amidst stunning scenery in the Colca Canyon.
  • The Inca Trail leading up to Machu Picchu is closed for maintenance during the month of February.
  • May to September offers clear weather and is the peak tourist season.
  • The Peruvian coast is best experienced between December and February.Avoid referring to the natives as ‘indio or indios’.
  • For a different take on Peru’s heritage, try a culinary tour.
  • Popular souvenirs include Alpaca wool sweaters, llama rugs and silver jewelry.
  • There is a ‘no food or beverage policy’ at Machu Picchu but there are restaurants outside the entrance in case you’re hungry.
  • Avoid touching stray dogs even if they appear friendly.

Peru Trip Reviews

"We had a magical and wonderful trip in Peru. There were such seamless transitions from various cities and sites. The crew was also very helpful and kind."
"The tour was absolute perfection! The hotels (Hostel Porta in Lima and Amaru 1 in Cusco) exceeded our expectations considering the reasobale cost. The tour guides were awesome and the transportation was efficient and comfortable. The hike to Machu Picchu were just wonderful. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who wants to visit Peru."
"The tour was an amazing way to discover Peru and had a true culinary experience. It was great to combine culture and cuisine and enjoy such a beautiful country. The food in Cusco was sumptuous and Machu Picchu was definitely a wonder to be seen."

Peru Destinations

  • Andes Mountains (924)
  • Machu Picchu (622)
  • Rainbow Mountain (23)
  • Colca Canyon (20)
  • Inca Jungle Trail (16)
  • Peruvian Altiplano (5)
  • Amazonian Basin (245)
  • Peruvian Amazon (57)
  • Amazon (23)
  • Inca Trail (155)
  • Amazon Rainforest (123)
  • Tambopata (56)
  • Peruvian Coast (39)
  • Iquitos (34)
  • Amazonas (14)
  • Huaraz (14)

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Peru Tours starting in

  • Starting in Cusco (459)
  • Starting in Lima (345)
  • Starting in Iquitos (33)
  • Starting in Puerto Maldonado (33)
  • Starting in Huaraz (21)
  • Starting in Arequipa (12)
  • Starting in Rio de Janeiro (9)
  • Starting in Chachapoyas (5)
  • Starting in Santiago (5)
  • Peru Travel Guide | All You Need ...
  • 10 Best Peru Trekking Companies (...
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International Versions

  • Deutsch: Peru Rundreisen
  • Nederlands: Peru Rondreizen

THE 10 BEST Peru City Tours

City tours in peru.

  • Sightseeing Tours
  • Historical & Heritage Tours
  • Cultural Tours
  • Free cancellation
  • Up to 1 hour
  • 1 to 4 hours
  • 4 hours to 1 day
  • Likely to Sell Out
  • Special Offers
  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

peru tourist city

1. Lima Half-Day City Walking Tour: Pick-up & Drop Off Small Group

peru tourist city

2. Cusco City Tour Four Ruins Half-Day Tour

peru tourist city

3. Lima Gourmet Food Tour: Evening Experience

peru tourist city

4. Lima Gourmet Food Tour: Daytime Experience

peru tourist city

5. City Tour - Panoramic Bus (departure from Larcomar)

peru tourist city

6. 8-Hours Tour in Arequipa Laguna de Salinas with Pick-up

peru tourist city

7. City Tour of Lima from the Airport

peru tourist city

8. Lima City & Catacombs Walking Tour

peru tourist city

9. Half-Day Lima City Sightseeing, Cathedral & Santo Domingo Convent

peru tourist city

10. Bus Hop on - Hop off in Miraflores

peru tourist city

11. Private Full-Day Best of Lima Tour

peru tourist city

12. City Tour in the city of Cusco 1/2 Day

peru tourist city

13. Cusco City Private Tour

peru tourist city

14. Morning: Uros Floating Islands Tour from Puno

peru tourist city

15. Fantastic Lima: City Tour + Magic Water Show + Local Dinner

peru tourist city

16. 1 Day Tour to Paracas, Ica, Huacachina by buggy and sandboarding

peru tourist city

17. Highlights & Hidden Gems With Locals: Best of Cusco Private Tour

peru tourist city

18. Open Bus Cusco City Tour

peru tourist city

19. City Tour Cusco

peru tourist city

20. Half Day Tour of the Sillar Route in Arequipa

peru tourist city

21. The Original Highlights of Lima - Private Half Day Tour

peru tourist city

22. Full Day Tour to Colca Canyon from Arequipa

peru tourist city

23. Market Food Experience, 9 Peruvian Snacks

peru tourist city

24. Lima Private Walking Tour

peru tourist city

25. Food & Art: Lima Colors and Flavors Walking Tour

peru tourist city

26. Transfer Cusco Airport to Hotel in Cusco (Round trip)

peru tourist city

27. Cusco City Sightseeing & Sacsayhuaman Archeological Park Tour

peru tourist city

28. Half-Day City Tour of Cusco Including Tambomachay

peru tourist city

29. Iquitos City Tour

peru tourist city

30. Private Lima Night Tour Including Magic Water Circuit

What travelers are saying.

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Read Your Way Through Lima

Lima is a city of contrasts and contradictions — gray and tropical, dense and isolated. Augusto Higa Oshiro, one of its writers, recommended books and authors that have captured its complexity.

By Augusto Higa Oshiro and translated by Jennifer Shyue

Higa Oshiro died in April 2023, shortly before his masterpiece, the novella “The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu,” was published in English by Archipelago Books.

The illustration shows a street scene in Lima, Peru, in which a section of town with several bookstores is featured. In the foreground is a woman reading a book.

When I was born, in 1946, Lima was home to 640,000 people. Now, as I’m about to turn 77 in the year 2023, Lima is a city of 10 million. The population has grown more than 15-fold. In some ways, you could say that I’ve survived alongside the city. I’ve gotten to know all 43 of its districts and municipalities, and I can say with true pride that I’ve suffered but also delighted in this gray, sleepy city. As Herman Melville describes it, in “Moby Dick”:

Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her cathedral-toppling earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the tearlessness of arid skies that never rain; nor the sight of her wide field of leaning spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop (like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her suburban avenues of house-walls lying over upon each other, as a tossed pack of cards; it is not these things alone which make tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe.

Picture a sandy desert that stretches along the Pacific Ocean. This squalid coastline is bisected by a river, the Rimac. In the middle of the oasis created there is a metropolis — uncertain, cheerful, oh so civilized, somewhat isolated from the world. The luscious tropical flora belies the fact that it doesn’t rain here: The proximity to the sea means that the humid air brings forth new buds and shoots all year round.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their many facets and complexities, Lima and Peru have been depicted and imagined in myriad ways since the city’s official founding by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, and the ensuing five centuries has seen numerous visions, histories and interpretations. I myself have approached Lima from different points of view: I’ve written stories about young people in the margins, in the working-class neighborhoods of Lima, and also, as the son of Japanese parents who settled in Peru, I’ve set Limeñan nikkeis to fiction.

What should I read before I pack my bags?

A number of authors offer valuable insights into Peru’s, and Lima’s, complex past. Let’s start with Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539—1616). He was the son of a Spanish captain and a palla — a member of Incan royalty — making him mestizo. He’s considered the first Peruvian, spiritually speaking. His “ Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru ,” about the origins of the Incas, the kings of Peru, and their ways of worship, laws and governance in times of peace and war, was first published in Lisbon in 1609. It was very successful — and is still available now. Today, we know that de la Vega’s vision of the Incas was idealized.

Another essential author in Peruvian letters is Ricardo Palma (1833—1919). His “ Peruvian Traditions ” consists of four volumes of crónicas, or accounts, of the Incas, the Conquista, the period of the viceroyalty, the struggle for independence and the republican era, all told from his vantage point in Lima. Palma is lighthearted, ironic, amusing and anticlerical by nature, and in his writing he makes fun of the sumptuous interiorities of viceroys and courtesans.

To complement Palma, perhaps we could take a look at the watercolors of Pancho Fierro (ca. 1810—1879). He painted hundreds of images that show the customs and characters of 19th century Lima, including artisans, merchants, soldiers and water vendors with their donkeys. Palma owned many of his works, which are now at the Pinacoteca Municipal Ignacio Merino .

Moving now into the 20th century, César Vallejo (1892—1938) and his poetry are essential. The founder of modernist poetry in Peru, Vallejo made Indigenous displacement and sorrow universal with his peculiar, eternal language in “ Human Poems .”

Which stories provide a glimpse into modern Lima’s complexity?

The rural Indigenista wave led by Ciro Alegría and José María Arguedas between the 1930s and 1950s was followed by the rise of an urban, fundamentally Limeñan narrative that has made its way into the city’s many corners. It has branched into many works and lineages — not just in literature but also in sociological and historical writing, painting, architecture and culture in general.

From this contradictory world, our 2010 Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa (1936—) is a standout. I will limit myself to discussing his novel “ Conversation in the Cathedral ,” because it centers on a serious problem of governance: the Latin American dictatorship. Through two volumes and more than 100 characters, Vargas Llosa contemplates the sinister military men who have held power in this country.

I would be remiss not to mention the great Julio Ramón Ribeyro (1929—1994). His stories — many of which were translated into English by Katherine Silver for the 2019 collection “ The Word of the Speechless ” — focus on the Limeñan middle class and their particular notes of mediocrity, neglect and loneliness. Ribeyro is synonymous with individual and family frustration in the era of the urban oligarchy, which he commits to the page with undeniable objectivity.

Other great Peruvian novels include “ A World for Julius ,” in which Alfredo Bryce Echenique (1939—) depicts the Limeñan oligarchy with his distinctive sense of humor and irony. Julius is a child of the aristocracy who prefers the company of servants, lackeys and the working-class members of his neighborhood in Miraflores.

I will also add a novel by Santiago Roncagliolo (1975—), “ Red April ,” which explores the final years of a bloody period in Peruvian history, when the Shining Path guerrillas and a government characterized by hunger and corruption clashed in a terrible war, during which murders and disappearances were our daily bread.

Finally, we have Daniel Alarcón (1977—), whose books “ Lost City Radio ” and “ War by Candlelight ” also take on a country convulsed by the war against the Shining Path.

What literary landmarks and bookstores should I visit?

The literary icons perhaps most easily found in Lima’s cultural orbit are Ricardo Palma, César Vallejo, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Mario Vargas Llosa, José María Arguedas and Alfredo Bryce Echenique. They are everywhere: These authors’ complete works circulate in the big bookstores in the Miraflores neighborhood and in central Lima. Plazas and streets carry their names; in some cases, busts and monuments have been erected in their honor. Even the currency bears images of Palma, Vallejo and Arguedas.

There’s also a permanent used (and pirated) books market on Jirón Amazonas, and a plethora of museums dedicated to pre-Incan cultures as well as the colonial and republican eras.

Augusto Higa Oshiro’s Lima Reading List

“Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru,” Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, translated by Harold V. Livermore

“Peruvian Traditions,” Ricardo Palma, translated by Helen Lane

“Human Poems,” César Vallejo, translated by Clayton Eshleman

“Conversation in the Cathedral,” Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Gregory Rabassa

“The Word of the Speechless,” Julio Ramón Ribeyro, translated by Katherine Silver

“A World for Julius,” Alfredo Bryce Echenique, translated by Dick Gerdes

“Red April,” Santiago Roncagliolo, translated by Edith Grossman

“Lost City Radio” and “War by Candlelight,” Daniel Alarcón

Augusto Higa Oshiro’s “ The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu ,” published in May 2023 by Archipelago Books, was translated by Jennifer Shyue. He died in Lima in April 2023.

Let Books Take You to Your Next Destination

We asked renowned writers from around the world to compile literary guides to the places close to their hearts..

Missoula: Debra Magpie Earling, a novelist and short story writer, recommends some of her favorite Montana storytellers, books and literary haunts .

Seoul: Han Kang, who grew up in the capital of South Korea, recommends reading that draws from the various eras  that have defined her hometown.

Appalachia:  The author Barbara Kingsolver guides readers through a literary landscape  “as bracing and complex as a tumbling mountain creek.”

Hanoi: The Vietnamese capital has been devastated and reborn time and time again. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai guides readers through the literature that has played a part in that renewal .

Salvador: The writer Itamar Vieira Junior says that to feel the intensity of life on the streets of the Brazilian city, a reader must start with Jorge Amado .

Kerala : The author Abraham Verghese offers a guide to the literature  of this strip of coastal territory at India’s southern tip.


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