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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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 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
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.
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) .
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.
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.
More on Peru
The 28 Most Beautiful Places in Peru
By Megan Spurrell
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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 ).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The World Is Huge. Don't Miss Any Of It
10 of the best things to do in Peru to join the adventure
Nov 18, 2022 • 6 min read
From hiking the Inca Trail to surfing on the north coast, here are the best experiences in Peru © Cavan Images / Getty Images
Peru may be known as a cradle of ancient civilizations, but its topography also makes it a wonderland of adventure.
The icy mountain peaks of the Andes draw trekkers and climbers, the untamed desert coast is lapped by excellent waves for surfers, and for explorer types, there’s the Amazon – a vast mass of wetlands and rainforest brimming with monkeys, macaws and slinky, rare felines.
Gear up – Peru is a wild ride! Plan your trip with this guide to the country's very best experiences.
1. Hike the Inca Trail
A winding footpath climbs from the depths of the Urubamba Valley , through vaporous cloud forests, alongside the ruins of ancient way stations. For the Incas, this roadway was the main entry point to the exquisite estate of Machu Picchu . For the thousands of travelers who hike the trail every year, it is a pilgrimage – a rugged four-day trek through sumptuous scenery, and the final stop is the most spectacular archaeological site in Peru.
Planning Tip: If planning to go during high season (June–September) be sure to purchase your entry ticket to the Inca citadel online and in advance, as waiting to do so in person can run the risk of tickets being sold out.
2. Spend a night on an island in Lake Titicaca
According to Andean belief, Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the sun. Lay your eyes on the sapphire-colored waters of South America’s largest lake and it’s hard not to feel a certain magic. Spending the night on one of the floating islands is the best way to experience this place, with its small rural settlements where life is lived according to the rhythm of the seasons. The best part? Sunset surrounded by the lake’s gleaming waters.
3. Kayak through the Amazon rainforest
The Amazon Basin is known for its intense biodiversity and riotous rainforest wilderness. Parque Nacional Manu protects one of its wildest, most remote corners. Located at the watershed of the Rio Manu, one of the many tributaries that eventually leads to the Amazon River, this wet web of rivers is a feast for wildlife spotting – from tapirs to ocelots to flocks of brilliant, cackling macaws.
Planning Tip: Keep in mind that high water season (December–May) means there will be more possibilities to navigate through small tributaries by kayak, whereas low water season (June–November) is ideal for trekking through the rainforest.
4. Trek the Andes
The Cordillera Blanca , a majestic mountain range at the heart of Peru, can make the most devoted couch potato want to strap on a pack and go. A network of craggy peaks covered in dollops of gleaming white snow draw dedicated high-altitude trekkers who wind through alpine lakes and diminutive Andean villages. If the altitude doesn’t take your breath away, the vistas certainly will.
Planning Tip: From Lima , take an eight-hour bus ride to mountain town Huaraz where you’ll want to spend a night or two in order to adjust to the elevation. Here you’ll find plenty of guides offering treks around the Cordillera Blanca of all lengths and levels of difficulty. Whether it’s the Laguna 69 day hike starting out in Cebollapampa, the popular four-day Santa Cruz trek or the grueling week-long Alpamayo Base Camp trek (both starting out in Vaqueria), all of the options are scenic adventures.
5. Look for wildlife on Islas Ballestas
Off the Paracas Peninsula , on the country’s southern coast, the small rocky outcroppings known as the Islas Ballestas don’t look like much from a distance. But hop in a boat and you’ll see an array of wildlife: honking sea lions, preening Humboldt penguins and colonies of Peruvian boobies. The islands are known as the "poor person’s Galápagos " for good reason. On your way back to shore – surely to lunch on ceviche or parihuela (a seafood soup) – ponder the mysterious El Candelabro geoglyph whose origins and meaning are still unknown.
6. Descend into the majestic Cañón Del Colca
The Cañón Del Colca , four hours outside of Arequipa , is a wonderland of Andean panoramas: a deep canyon studded with idyllic villages and mountainsides carved by ancient terraces. Oh, and did we mention the condors that soar on the wind currents? From Chivay, visitors can explore the canyon on short day hikes or even trek to its floor (some 1219m/4000ft down from the trailhead) and back up again before nightfall, however it’s recommended to soak in the scenery (and perhaps the hot springs) over the course of a few days.
Planning Tip: There’s one thing no traveler should miss while here: the local delicacy known as chupe de camarones , a spicy shrimp bisque.
7. Go surfing along the north coast
Peru’s lengthy coastline – more than 3000km (1864 miles) long – offers a veritable buffet of experiences for the surfing set, with big swells and uncrowded breaks. For the best curls, wave riders head north up the coast from Lima to the languid settlements of Huanchaco and Chicama, both of which lie just outside of Trujillo (an hour flight or eight-hour bus ride from Lima).
Planning Tip: For guaranteed sun, take it further north to Máncora , where surf, seafood and the slow life go perfectly together.
8. Visit the mysterious ruins of Kuélap
The Andes are dotted with the remnants of ancient cities. Kuélap ranks among the most magnificent: a walled citadel built by the Chachapoyas people on the crest of a mountain in the northern Peruvian cloud forest. The views of the Utcubamba Valley are staggering, the ruins are unusual, and the journey here through timeless rural settlements is unforgettable.
Planning Tip: There are three options to get to the top of Kuélap: by car (a two-hour drive from Chachapoyas), by foot (a six-hour trek round trip, beginning in Tingo Viejo), or a 20-minute cable car ride.
9. Board down the giant sand dunes of Huacachina
Huacachina , a tiny oasis in the southern Peruvian desert, offers one of the country’s more unusual adrenaline rushes: the opportunity to motor to the top of a dune the size of a small building, strap on a board, then fly down the face of a towering wall of sand. Not up for boarding? Take on the dunes in a buggy instead. Sitting at any of the bars or restaurants that line the lagoon may be your chance to hear of mermaids, Inca princesses and forlorn lovers. It’s all in the good fun of the local legend concerning the origin of Huacachina.
10. Soar over the ancient Nazca Lines
One of the earth’s greatest mysteries sits quietly on the arid Peruvian coast. The Nazca Lines consist of more than 70 ancient glyphs of animals and other shapes that are so big they can only be seen from the air. No one knows their purpose. For an incredible out-of-body experience, soar in a light-aircraft over these pre-Columbian pictograms in the early morning hours.
This article was first published June 2019 and updated November 2022
Buy the Peru travel guide
Lonely Planet’s Peru is our most comprehensive guide that covers all the country has to offer. Ideal for travelers that are visiting for an extended time and want to tailor their own trip. Explore ancient Inca citadel Machu Picchu, hike the Cordillera Blanca and trek through Parque Nacional Manu – all with your trusted travel companion.
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Peru Travel Guide
While Machu Picchu and all-things-Inca deservedly make South America’s third largest country a bucket-list staple, there are a world of Peruvian experiences beyond the ancient that are worth discovering. Surf the sun-splashed Pacific beaches; tour historic Spanish colonial towns; soar via zipline through the canopy of the world’s largest rain forest, the Amazon, covering nearly half of the country; and trek into the highlands of the cloud-topped Andes, the second highest mountain range in the world. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
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25 Top Tourist Attractions in Peru
Last updated on November 3, 2023 by Spencer Leasca - 5 Comments
Peru is one of the great centers of ancient civilization. The Norte Chico civilization already flourished along the Pacific coast as early as 3,000 BC. Many other civilizations such as the Moche, Chavin, Chimú and Nazca would follow, leaving behind fascinating ruins and artifacts.
The most famous ancient ruins in Peru were built by the sun-worshiping Incas who emerged in the 15th century and would form the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.
You do not need to be a history buff to enjoy Peru however. Other popular tourist attractions in Peru are some great natural wonders. The Andes run the full length of the country, rising to almost 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). It separates the arid coastal strip from the lush Amazon rainforest providing a diverse range of things to do in Peru and the opportunity for some fun travel experiences.
In this post, we'll cover:
25. Inca Pisac
Spread out on the mountains above the bustling colonial village of Pisac are several impressive Inca ruins known as Inca Pisac. The ruins include a military citadel, religious temples, and individual dwellings, and overlooks the Sacred Valley.
It is thought that Inca Písac defended the southern entrance to the valley and controlled a route which connected the Inca Empire with the border of the rain forest.
Once considered a principal center of the Inca Empire, the site also contains agricultural terraces that cling to the sides of the mountain.
If you plan to visit Pisac, you would be well advised to go in the morning, as the site gets very crowded in the afternoon.
24. Plaza de Armas in Lima
The Plaza de Armas is where the city of Lima was born. Also known as the Plaza Mayor, it is the heart of the city, located in its historic district, with streets radiating out in a grid. The location was picked by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535.
The square is flanked by some of Lima’s most important buildings. They include the Cathedral of Lima, the Government Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral and the Government Palace are open to visitors, while the square is a popular tourist destination.
Plaza de Armas is also the site of many important events and ceremonies, including military parades, political rallies, and Independence Day celebrations.
At any given time, the square is a hub of activity. Numerous street performers, vendors, and residents congregate throughout the day and into the evening.
See also: Where to Stay in Lima
Moray is an ancient Inca ruin located in the Cusco region of Peru. It consists of several large circular terraces carved into the earth.
The terraces descend into the ground, with each having its microclimate. Remarkably, the temperature difference between the top and bottom of the site can vary as much as 15°C.
The exact purpose of Moray is not known. However, as the Incas were skilled farmers, it could have been used for agricultural experimentation and to study the effects of different climates on crops.
Visitors to Moray can explore the terraces and the circular depressions, which are still partially intact. The site is not far from the town of Maras and is easily reachable by taxi or bike.
Kuelap combines ancient ruins with a cloud forest and the Amazon River.
An imposing fortress surrounded by towering stone walls, it was built by the Chachapoyans, also known as the Cloud People. They were a pre-Columbian civilization that existed in the region before the arrival of the Incas.
The ruin contains hundreds of buildings, including circular homes, tombs, and ceremonial structures, all made with massive stone blocks.
Situated on a mountaintop, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can explore the massive walls and the stone buildings up close, some of which still contain intricate carvings and detailed paintings.
To get to the ruins, you can drive from the nearby city of Chachapoyas. After visiting them, you can also explore nearby waterfalls and hot springs.
21. Cordillera Blanca
The Cordillera Blanca is a unique and beautiful region located in the Ancash region of Peru. One of the highest tropical mountain ranges in the world, it is home to jaw-dropping landscapes of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, turquoise lakes, and lush vegetation.
The Cordillera Blanca is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The region offers many things to do like hiking, trekking, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
One of the most popular destinations in the range includes Huascarán National Park, which houses the highest peak in Peru. The Laguna 69 is also an exquisite turquoise lake set within a glacial valley that many people visit.
If you come to the Cordillera Blanca, you should prepare for the high altitude. The range rises to over 6,000 meters in some places!
Built by the Incas, Sacsayhuaman is an ancient walled complex near Cusco. It is one of the most impressive examples of Inca military architecture still standing in Peru.
The site consists of a series of massive stone walls. Built using giant stone blocks, they fit together so precisely you cannot insert a knife between them.
Some of the stones weigh over 100 tons, and it is a mystery how the Incas were able to transport and place them.
Sacsayhuaman was a fortress and played a crucial role as a line of defense for Cusco. But its exact purpose is still not understood.
Visitors to Sacsayhuaman can explore the massive stone walls and walk along the terraces. They also offer stunning views of Cusco and the surrounding landscape.
If you are interested in the pre-Columbian cultures of South America, then you should pay a visit to Sipán.
An archaeological site in the Lambayeque region of Peru, it served as the capital of the Moche culture. A pre-Columbian civilization that lived in the area between 100 and 700 AD.
The site was discovered in 1987 and is considered one of the richest archaeological discoveries in recent times.
It consists of a series of pyramids and other structures, as well as a large number of burials. These burials contained the remains of Moche rulers and their families and gold, silver, food and textiles. The Lord of Sipan, who reigned around 100 AD, has been called the King Tut of the Americas because of the richness of his tomb.
Visitors to Sipán can tour the site to see the tombs. They can also visit the fascinating museum that exhibits the region’s history.
18. Salinas de Maras
The Salinas de Maras are a series of salt ponds along the slopes of Qaqawiñay mountain in the Urumbamba Valley.
A unique and beautiful sight, it features thousands of shallow pools that stretch out across the hillside, surrounded by the lush green mountains of the Andes. The salt pans are believed to have been developed in pre-Inca times and today are still actively hand-harvested by local families during the dry season, May through November.
Visitors to Salinas can walk along the terraces and see the salt production process first-hand. They can even try the salt themselves.
The site is at a high altitude so it is worth preparing yourself for the thin air and the potential for altitude sickness, should you wish to visit it.
17. Manu National Park
This vast national park in the Amazon Basin is one of the best places in South America to see a stunning variety of tropical wildlife. Manu National Park also contains a varied range of ecosystems. These include cloud forests, high-Andean grassland, and lowland tropical rainforest.
It is located in the Peruvian Amazon and is known for its rich avian biodiversity. Over 1,000 species of birds have been recorded in the park, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and ornithologists. Some notable bird species include Harpy Eagle, Marvelous Spatuletail, and Andean Cock-of-the-rock.
Visitors to Manu National Park can experience the incredible beauty and diversity of the Amazon Basin. They can also visit indigenous communities and learn about their traditional way of life. Those who want to stay overnight can choose from several lodges and camping options.
Remote, spectacular, and still not entirely cleared, Choquequirau is the sister city of Machu Picchu.
The site covers a large area and includes many well-preserved structures. These include plazas, terraces, agricultural fields, and ceremonial buildings. It also possesses an intricate network of roads and paths that connected Choquequirao to other parts of the Inca Empire.
Nestled on a high plateau overlooking the Apurimac River, the site also showcases stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Visitors to Choquequirao can hike to the site from the nearby town of Cachora. This journey takes several days and requires a good level of physical fitness. The trail is not as well-trodden as the one to Machu Picchu, so visitors will likely have the site to themselves when they eventually reach it. Tours leave Cusco on demand and pretty much daily during tourist season.
15. Pisac Market
The Pisac Market is a colourful and bustling market located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Held every day, it is one of the region’s largest and most famous markets. Vendors sell a wide range of goods, including handmade textiles, pottery, jewellery, and other souvenirs. Some stalls sell fresh produce and meats, while others offer ready-to-eat meals like ceviche.
Many of the goods sold are handmade and distinctive to the area. Browsing the market is one of the most popular things to do in Peru and you can find some fantastic souvenirs here.
Visitors should be aware that haggling is commonplace at the Pisac Market, so be prepared to negotiate on prices.
14. Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve is one of the country’s most important wildlife reserves.
Incorporating desert and coastal areas, it includes most of the Paracas Peninsula and the Ballestas Islands. Located on the southern coast near Pisco, the reserve is home to several threatened and endangered wildlife species, like the Humboldt penguin, the Peruvian booby, and the South American sea lion. It is also a prime nesting site for several breeds of migratory birds, including the American flamingo.
As well as birding and wildlife watching, visitors to Paracas National Reserve can enjoy guided tours of the Ballestas Islands.
There are also several tours available that take you out to the desert to explore the dunes and see the famous Paracas Candelabra.
Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca temple and fortress as well as a village located at the northwestern end of the Sacred Valley. This is where the Incas retreated after the Spanish took Cuzco. Below the ruins is the old town of Ollantaytambo.
The town is notable for its its strategic location as a starting point for the Machu Picchu trek. The ruins include terraced hillsides, plazas, and several monumental structures. Two of the most significant of them are the Temple of the Sun and the Baths of the Princess.
If you are interested in the history and culture of the Andes Mountains and the Inca Empire, you should pay a visit to Ollantaytambo. Visitors can explore the ruins individually or via a tour with an expert local guide.
12. Miraflores District
Miraflores is one of Lima’s most affluent and modern neighborhoods .
Located on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, it offers stunning views of the sea and the surrounding city. Making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. This Pacific Ocean beach also is popular with surfers and paragliders.
The district is known for its attractive parks, including the Parque Kennedy, which serves as a hub of cultural and social activities. Miraflores is also home to several museums and cultural centres and has a vibrant nightlife scene. With plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants offering international and local cuisine.
For those who want to go shopping, you will find a variety of shopping centres and boutiques in the area. Between them, they offer everything from high-end designer labels to local artisanal crafts.
11. Chan Chan
The vast adobe city of Chan Chan in the Moche Valley of northern Peru was once the largest city in pre-Columbian America. It is estimated that around 60,000 people lived in the city.
The city was built by the Chimu around 850 AD and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in 1470 AD. Although Chan Chan must have been a dazzling sight at the time, devastating floods and heavy rainfall have severely eroded the mud walls of the city. Today the most impressive aspect of the site is its sheer size.
The ruins are composed of ten distinct walled citadels, or ‘palaces’. Each of these was the residence of a different Chimu ruler.
The palaces feature intricate mud-brick designs, including ornate friezes, sculptures, and carvings. All tell the story of the Chimu people and their fascinating way of life.
Surrounded by impressive dunes, Huacachina is a small desert oasis that is a popular destination for adventure-seekers.
Located in the Ica region of southern Peru, it is home to a small, scenic lake surrounded by lush vegetation. One of the main things to do in Huacachina is sandboarding. A practice involving riding down the steep dunes on a board similar to a snowboard. It is a popular activity for visitors of all ages, and several local companies offer guided sandboarding tours.
In addition to sandboarding, visitors can also go on dune buggy tours, which take them on a scenic tour of the surrounding desert. The tours typically include stops at some of the tallest dunes in the area. Therefore, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Máncora is a quaint beach town known for its idyllic stretch of sand and clear blue waters. Located in the Piura region, it is a popular destination for tourists and surfers, who view it as one of the best surfing spots in Peru.
Visitors to Máncora can enjoy the warm sun, cool ocean breezes, and beautiful scenery. They can also sunbathe, swim, snorkel, beach comb, or go for a long walk.
In addition to its beaches, Máncora is also known for its vibrant nightlife. It boasts numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs that come alive after dark. Whether you are after a relaxing day at the beach or a night out on the town, Máncora has something to offer everyone.
8. Iquitos & the Amazon
Iquitos is a city located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. It is the largest city in the world that is not reachable by road and is only accessible by river or air.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and is home to hundreds of plant and animal species. According to some, the Peruvian Amazon jungle is a better adventure holiday destination than its Brazilian counterpart around Manaus, with basically the same wildlife but less spoiled and better value.
Visitors to Iquitos and the Amazon can explore this incredible ecosystem through various activities. One of the main attractions in the Amazon is the river cruises, which offer tourists a chance to see the rainforest from a unique perspective.
Visitors to the Amazon can also participate in jungle hikes, which take them into the heart of the rainforest.
7. Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs in south Peru’s Nazca Desert. They are large drawings that depict various shapes and figures, including animals, plants, and geometric designs.
The lines were created, possibly for religious or astronomical purposes, by members of the Nazca culture. They inhabited the region from 200 BC to 700 AD.
Best seen from the air, the lines of the designs are too large to be fully appreciated from the ground. Visitors to the Nazca Lines can book a flight tour over them to get a bird’s eye view of the designs. It enables them to see the lines in their entirety and to fully appreciate the sheer scale and incredible beauty of the drawings.
6. Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa
Founded in 1579, The Santa Catalina Monastery is a historic convent residing in Arequipa .
The convent is known for its well-preserved colonial-era architecture. It includes, most strikingly, its traditional Andean-style courtyards, bright yellow walls, and red-tiled roofs.
Within its interior, the convent is also known for its intricate design, such as frescoes, sculptures, and beautiful colonial-era furnishings.
In recent years, the Santa Catalina Monastery has become one of the top tourist attractions in Arequipa. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn about its history, beautiful architecture and art.
They can also immerse themselves in the tranquil atmosphere of its beautiful gardens. When you want a break from the fast pace of the city, this convent is an excellent place to come.
5. Uros Islands
The Uros Islands are an intriguing group of floating islands upon Lake Titicaca.
These islands are home to the Uros people, who have lived there for centuries. They have built their homes and boats out of totora reeds, which grow in abundance in the lake.
Tourists to the Uros Islands can take a boat tour from Puno, the nearest city, to see the islands. There they can learn about the Uros people and their way of life. Visitors can also interact with the locals, learn about their traditional customs, and purchase handmade crafts.
In addition to its cultural significance, the Uros Islands also offer stunning views of Lake Titicaca and the surrounding Andes Mountains.
4. Plaza de Armas of Cusco
The Plaza de Armas has always been the heart of Cusco , from the time of the Inca Empire when the square was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata, to modern day.
The plaza is carefully landscaped with plenty of benches and walls for sitting, making it a popular outdoor lunch destination. Surrounded by the Cathedral of Cusco, the Palace of the Inca Rulers, and the Church of La Merced, the square has a rich history.
It has served as a gathering place for the residents of Cusco for centuries. In the past, it held prominent religious and military events, including ceremonies and parades.
Today, the Plaza de Armas of Cusco is a popular tourist attraction and a hub of activity in the city. Visitors can stroll around the square, admire its historic architecture, and enjoy the lively atmosphere. It is also a great place to people-watch and sample the local cuisine from one of its many outdoor cafes and restaurants.
3. Colca Canyon
Travelers who think the U.S. Grand Canyon is deep are likely to change their minds after visiting Colca Canyon in southern Peru. At 4,160 meters (13,650 feet), Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, though the canyon’s walls are less steep.
The big attraction here, in addition to the awesome sights, are the Andean condors. The condors can be seen at fairly close range as they float on the rising thermals.
Visitors to the Colca Canyon can take a scenic drive along the canyon road, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the canyon itself. There are also several hiking trails to explore. Some of which take you to isolated and beautiful hot springs.
2. Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is an iconic hiking trail that leads to Machu Picchu, the famous Incan citadel. It is approximately 42 km (26 miles) long and takes around four days to complete.
The trail passes through different scenic landscapes, including Andean mountain ranges, cloud forests, and valleys. It is a strenuous trek due to its high altitude and steep inclines and not an easy thing to do. So, it should only be attempted by people in good physical condition.
The trail is only accessible by a licensed tour operator, and only a limited number of permits are issued daily to preserve the site.
May to September are the best months to make the multi-day hike. Hikers should be prepared for cold nights on the trail.
Before attempting the trail, it is worth spending a few days in Cusco. Doing so will help you adjust to the high altitude before starting the trek.
1. Machu Picchu
One of the most beautiful and impressive ancient sites in the world, Machu Picchu is the indisputable #1 among the top tourist attractions in Peru. The “Lost City of the Incas” is invisible from the Urubamba Valley below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs.
Although known locally, Machu Picchu was largely unknown to the outside world before being rediscovered in 1911 by historian Hiram.
Dating back to the 15th century, the site was abandoned during the Spanish conquest a century later. It was only rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
Machu Picchu is known for its well-preserved stone structures, intricate stonework, and impressive architectural and engineering feats.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and is now visited by thousands of tourists annually. If you intend to go there, you should book as far in advance of your visit as possible. It is also worth hiring a certified guide to maximize your experience.
Map of Tourist Attractions in Peru
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11 Best Places to Stay in Peru
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Machu Picchu: The Lost City of the Incas
October 10, 2023 at 9:35 am
I loved the list, It helped me look forward to planning my next vacation!!
May 30, 2017 at 3:21 pm
Great information. Just want to point out that visiting Machu Picchu from July 2017, will be different. 2 new time schedules for entering, the first from 6 am to 12 pm & the second one from 12 pm to 5:30 pm. To keep in mind.
August 18, 2014 at 2:06 am
Great list you have shared with us here. Peru is one of the great and affordable centers of ancient civilization. You can add some unique destinations in your post such as Lima, Tambopata, Paracas, Nazca Lines, and Trujillo that are very famous in the whole world.
April 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm
The Nazca Lines are very cool.
July 29, 2012 at 7:17 am
Great list… I would add the Cordillera Blanca with sixteen 6000m peaks its great place for climbing and trekking.
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The 16 Best Places to Visit in Peru in 2023
Oh, Peru. With Lima and Cusco as top tourist attractions for visitors, and the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu displayed high on bucket-lists around the world, Peru has long been a destination of choice for trekkers and adventure enthusiasts. I have put together this handy guide on the 16 Best Places to Visit in Peru, just so you don’t miss out on something important during your once-in-a-lifetime visit to the ancient home of the Inca. From the dust-billowing pampas where the Nazca Lines whittle through the dirt to the wind-howling summits of the mighty Andes and the shimmering beaches of Mancora in the north, there’s all sorts to get through in this stunning part of the world.
My Experience in Peru
Peru is a country that never fails to inspire me. It was the Sacred Valley that first grabbed my imagination, when I came to hike the legendary Inca Trail. From the moment I stepped onto the crooked path by the side of the roaring Urubamba River, I knew it was going to be an adventure I’d never forget. A couple of cloud forests and wind-blown Andean passes later, I was emerging into the legendary mountain citadel of Machu Picchu. Talk about finishing on a high!
But I’ve returned to Peru countless times since that trip, magnetized by the allure of the Andes, the Amazon, and the enthralling pre-Columbian history. There are too many highlights to list here, but the snow-covered heights of the Salkantay route and the mosquito-buzzing rainforests of the Peruvian Amazon have to be standouts. So, too, do the enigmatic cities of Cusco and Arequipa, where mystical Incan temples sprout between elegant conquistador forts. You won’t regret coming. I certainly didn’t. Dive into my list of the 16 Best Places to Visit in Peru:
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu surely needs no introduction. It’s the most iconic landmark in Peru and arguably the most extraordinary archeological site in South America. Perched a whopping 7,972 feet (2,429 meters) up in the Andes above the gushing Urubamba River, it’s the end point of the famed Inca Trail (more on that later). Machu Picchu is believed to be over 500 years old . Within its cascading terraces of stone walls amid the cloud forests and the peaks, you can find the mysterious Temple of the Sun, and Incan homesteads woven together by staircases and roads. Talk about a place you’ll never forget!
2. Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is up there with the Mount Kilimanjaro and the Everest Base Camp treks. It’s unquestionably one of the most legendary trekking routes on the planet and is one of Peru’s top tourist attractions. But it’s nothing new. In fact, it has been there since at least the 15th century , when it was believed to be the main route of pilgrimage to the soaring city in the clouds that is Machu Picchu. Today, trekkers of all stripes come to conquer what’s known as the Classic Inca Trail , which weaves through Peru’s famous Sacred Valley for 26 miles (42 kilometers) past enthralling ruins and relics. This well-trodden path is a top adventure and usually takes four or five days to complete from start to finish.
It’s hard not to be wowed by the sheer presence of Cusco. The one time capital of the Incan Empire, it’s a veritable layer cake of history. On top, there are the elaborate cathedrals built by the Spanish conquistadors, glowing a tinge of pink over the bustling Plaza de Armas. Occasionally, the likes of Coricancha – a mighty temple dedicated to the Incan sun god, Inti – will rise through the buildings, while the whole area is surrounded by ancient ruins and agricultural terraces that were built centuries ago. Not only is this one of the undisputed top places to visit in Peru, but it’s also close by to the starting points of the Classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu and the Salkantay Trail routes.
A cocktail of modern grit and pre-Columbian culture, Lima is one of the most enthralling places in Peru. It’s also one of the first spots that many travelers will encounter after they step off their flight in Peru. The top tourist attraction and go-to district is Centro Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses the daffodil-colored Convento de San Francisco and many of the finest museums in the country. Others prefer salt-washed Miraflores, where chic condos gaze over the Pacific coast and surfers rip up the waves. Nearly 10 million people live and work and play in Lima, so expect a hit of real Peruvian energy and pizzazz here.
5. Nazca Lina
A few hours down the coast from Lima visitors will find the Nazca Lines. Etched into the dusty earth on the southern plains of Peru, the Nazca Lines remain one of the great wonders of the continent. Known as geoglyphs, the lines take the form of great anthropomorphic representations or elaborate geometric designs, some of which measure a mighty 1,200+ feet (3,658 meters) across. It’s thought that they were forged by the mysterious Nazca peoples, who lived in this part of South America before the Incans from 100 BC to around 700 AD. There are two main ways for visitors to appreciate the full majesty of the Nazca Lines: Clamber up one of the local observation towers or take a flyover.
6. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America. It skirts the edge of the Andes as it ranges across from the far southern edge of Peru into neighboring Bolivia. They call it the highest navigable lake on planet Earth because it has an altitudinous surface elevation of over 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) up. The setting is rather amazing, with the serrated, snow-capped Bolivian Andes scarring the horizon and the shimmering lake waters glowing in the foreground. Perhaps more than anything, it is known for its traditional floating islands, which are actually reed rafts forged by the pre-Columbian Uru people who’ve lived here for millennia. This top tourist attraction can be reached in a few hours by car from Cusco.
7. Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is a modern settlement nestled in a valley just minutes away from Machu Picchu. It didn’t even exist before the 20 th century, but the coming of the railroad and the rediscovery of the famous city in the clouds helped development to surge. By the late 1900s, the town also known as Machupicchu Pueblo was a hub of life, with people flocking in the footsteps of the Inca. Today, it’s a key stopover on the traditional Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu, but is also famed for its natural hot springs – they’re the best place for visitors to soothe their muscles after multi-day treks through the Andes Mountains. To learn more about one of the best places to visit in Peru, Aguas Calientes’ on the Inca Trail, check out the Complete Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2021 .
Looking more like something out of the Arabian Desert than a resort town of southern Peru, Huacachina is engulfed in a sea of shifting sand dunes that rise to hundreds of feet (dozens of meters). The whole place is anchored on a natural desert spring lake that’s said to have been left behind by a mythical native princess. True or not, it’s an amazing spot to visit, gurgling amid the sand hills and cantinas. These days, visiting urbanites come from cosmopolitan Lima to kick back and relax in the classy hotels. Or they come to crank up the adrenaline with high-octane 4X4 buggy rides and sand-boarding sessions.
Puno has all the moxie of a real smuggler’s city on the edge of Bolivia. It’s also known as one of Peru’s top craft and culture capitals. Each year, it hosts the wild and carnivalesque processions of the Festival of Virgen de la Candelaria, when up to 30,000 masked revelers take over the streets, making it one of the best places to visit in Peru. When the festival isn’t on, Puno features as the gateway to the amazing Uru islands of Lake Titicaca. Up above town are the terraces of the Kuntur Wasi Viewpoint, one of the best places in Peru to take in big Puno bay and the distant mountains in Bolivia to the east.
Interested in more festivals? Check out our packages for the Virgen Del Carmen Festival in Paucartambo .
10. Colca Canyon
Move over, Grand Canyon, because Peru’s Colca Canyon is almost twice as deep as the United States mightiest gorge. It rends the southern Peruvian Andes in two, with sheer-cut stone sides that soar to a vertigo-inducing 10,730 feet (3,270 meters) at some points. The best way to explore all that is on the multi-day Colca Canyon Trek, which includes the likes of the Mirador Cruz del Condor lookout point (watch out for the New World vultures circling overhead) and wild swimming spots along the Rio Colca. Colca Canyon is more generally famed for its Quechua-speaking farming settlements and traditional villages.
Dominated by the cloud-haloed outline of El Misti volcano, Arequipa might not seem like the second-largest city in the country. It’s actually just a fraction of the size of Lima, and the wild peaks of the Salinas and Aguada Blanca seem so close you could reach out and touch them. Well…you can’t quite do that, but those visiting can launch technical trekking expeditions to the monstrous summit of Chachani at 19,872 (6,057 meters) feet if you’d like. Alternatively, stick to the city center, where cobbled streets and white-hued cathedrals converge on fountain-babbling plazas and traditional Peruvian marketplaces.
Peru’s coastline stretches more than 1,500 miles (457 meters) up the side of the South American Pacific. Most people would agree that there’s no part of it that’s prettier than the Mancora District. Just 70 miles (113 kilometers) shy of the Ecuadorean border , the climate here takes a turn for the balmy and the tropical. The desertscapes of the south drop away and palm trees begin to thread the bays. Basically, it’s one of the undisputed top places to visit in Peru for sand, sun, and ocean. Mancora town itself is a lazy, salt-washed conglomeration of surf shacks and smoothie stalls – AKA chilling central. Visitors can hit the waves there or just recover after the trials of the Classic Inca Trail.
For a country where the mountains always seem close, Huaraz seems to draw the summits yet cl oser than ever. Located North of Lima, the backdrop here is the alabaster white broadside of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. That daggers through the heart of the Huascarán National Park to mark the very highest point in the country – the glaciated pinnacle of Huarascán at 22,205 feet (6,768 meters). That’s best left to the pro climbers, but there’s endless trekking to be done in the region, including to the turquoise mountain lakes of Laguna Paron and the eye-watering Laguna 69.
14. Puerto Maldonado
Puerto Maldonado is hailed as the gateway to the Amazon jungles of the Madre de Dios department in south Peru. It’s a place where the rainforest is palpable; where the cries of black-capped squirrel monkeys and scarlet macaws echo from the great Tambopata National Reserve, which begins a mere seven miles (11 meters) out of town. There are now countless eco lodges that offer real immersion in the lush wildernesses here. We especially love the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, a boutique nature hotel with its very own bird-watching swing bridges and thatched bungalows on the edge of the snaking Tambopata River.
Despite being home to nearly 400,000 people, the self-proclaimed Capital of the Peruvian Amazon still has no direct road link to the outside world. The only way in is to ride that mighty waterway, the Amazon River, or to hop on a flight from Lima. Remoteness is part of the charm here, though. The main activity is intrepid boat trips, Heart of Darkness-esque, that whisk you away to the cacophonous rainforests in the company of caimans and Amazonian manatees. There are no fewer than seven protected reserves in the vicinity, but it’s the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve that reigns supreme as the largest of its kind in the whole of Peru. Returning back to the city, you’ve got charming riverside lodges and floating markets in the Belén area to look forward to.
Desert meets ocean in grand style in Paracas. Scythes of cinnamon sand fringe the shores, while cliffs cascade down from crumpled desert peaks to frothing swells and azure bays filled with sea lions. The town is primarily known as the gateway to the pelican-stalked Ballestas Islands, which you’ll visit on day tours to encounter dolphins and penguins and more. It’s also a favored jump-off point to the aforementioned ancient wonders of Nazca, specifically the lines. El Chaco is the main part of town. Small and compact, it’s an uber-chilled stretch of hostels and cantinas that fronts a boat-bobbing port.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on the 16 Best Places to Visit in Peru. We know that there are even so many more extraordinary places to visit in this country. In fact, I wrote about Rainbow Mountain in Peru in an earlier blog post. We hope you get to visit Peru soon.
If you are interested to learn more about how we can take you to these extraordinary places, email us at [email protected] or click here.
I look forward to seeing you in Peru!
Jeff Bonaldi Founder & CEO The Explorer’s Passage
About Jeff Bonaldi
Jeff Bonaldi is the Founder and CEO of The Explorer’s Passage, a premier adventure travel company. His mission is to provide travelers with the opportunity to transform their lives and the planet through the power of adventure.
Learn more about Jeff’s story and his company HERE .
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The Best Activities and Attractions in The "City of Kings"
Positive first impressions are hard to come by in the midst of Lima's coastal fog , honking buses and a general air of big city chaos. If you reserve judgment for a day or two, however, you might find yourself falling for the so-called "City of Kings," with its incredibly history and culture and world-class gastronomic traditions.
Stand in Lima's Historic Heart in the Plaza de Armas
TripSavvy / Chris VR
The Plaza de Armas, also known as the Plaza Mayor, sits at the heart of Lima's historic center, one of the few remaining parts of the city that still gives a sense of the city’s colonial past. Acknowledged for its historical and cultural significance by being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1988, this is the spot where Francisco Pizarro founded the city in 1535. A colonial fountain serves as the square's centerpiece, while some of Lima's most important buildings surround the historic plaza.
Photograph the City’s Most Significant Colonial Sights
TripSavvy / Chris VR
Arm yourself with a camera and take a trip to the Palacio de Gobierno, official home to Peru's President, on the northern side of the square where, at noon, you can watch the changing of the palace guard. To the southeast lies the Catedral de Lima, the final resting place of Pizarro himself and built on the plot of Lima’s first church. Further photo opportunities include the Archbishop's Palace and the Municipal Palace (Lima's City Hall), both of which are adorned with ornately carved, and magnificently preserved, wooden balconies.
Marvel at the San Francisco Monastery
Lima is home to many fine religious buildings, but the San Francisco Monastery (Basílica y Convento de San Francisco) is one of the best. Providing an oasis of calm in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, its rooms showcase beautifully preserved Baroque architecture, gilded altars, and works of religious art. Don't miss the monastery's library with its massive religious texts and Harry Potter-like ambiance.
Giggle at Pre-Colombian X-Rated Ceramics
Easily containing the most comprehensive array of pre-Colombian ceramics, Museo Larco has become known for one particular part of its collection: the Erotic Gallery. This room has left more than a few tourists blushing due to its display of ceramics depicting unabashedly X-rated scenes.
For the more serious historians, the museum has an exceptional range of family-friendly pottery, spanning cultures as diverse as the Chimú, Nazca, Wari, and Moche, as well as being home to the greatest of museum crowd-pleasers: mummies.
Get to Grips with Ancient Peruvian History
Ibrhaut/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
While the grandest and most significant of Peru’s many pre-Colombia monuments are found beyond the limits of the capital, Lima has a host of museums to whet your appetite for learning about the country’s ancient cultures.
The oldest of all Peruvian museums is the mammoth-sized Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropología, e Historia del Perú , covering every Peruvian culture you’ve ever heard of (and many you haven’t). You’ll find artifacts here that include the crossed hands temple from Kotosh and the seven-foot-high carved monolith, the Raimondi Stele from Chavín de Huántar.
Have Your Fill of Modern and Historic Peruvian Art
Ironshot/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
There are plenty of excellent art museums in Lima , with the most famous being the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), located on the northern edge of the Parque de la Exposición and hosting objects covering 3,000 years of history, including a superb collection of religious paintings from the Cusqueña School.
Further south in Barranco, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima (MAC Lima) is a good place to sink your teeth into modern and contemporary art. Look out for evening events ( En Lima has a list of what’s happening in Lima’s museums) where you can sometimes meet the artists. Don’t miss the nearby MATE Museo Mario Testino , where spacious rooms are filled with the work of the acclaimed photographer, who rose to fame with his portraits of her Royal Highness, Princess Diana.
Tour the Ancient Adobe-Brick Huaca Pucllana
You don't have to leave Lima to begin your exploration of Peru's historic sites. Built by the Lima culture sometime between 300 and 700 AD and constructed from millions of adobe bricks, the Huaca Pucllana is a giant pyramid located in Miraflores. After taking a tour of the ruins (don’t forget your sunscreen—the sun can be fierce), head to the site's restaurant, Restaurant Huaca Pucllana, for some outstanding (but expensive) regional dishes.
Sample the Finest Peruvian Dish
Thomas S. / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Nothing quite says Peruvian cuisine like a plate of practically straight-from-the-sea ceviche, and a visit to one of the capital's top cevicherias should be high on your list of things to do in Lima. A mix of fish, red onions, chili peppers and sweet potato marinated in lemon, you can indulge in this simple yet delicious dish in practically any of the city’s restaurants, but for guaranteed quality, seek out Punto Azul, which is known for its delicate flavors, freshness of its ingredients and accessible price (expect to pay around 32 soles).
In a league (and price-bracket) of its own, La Mar, owned by acclaimed chef Gastón Acurio, is pricey but lives up to the hype, with the northern Peruvian delicacy ceviche de conchas negras (black shell ceviche) and even vegetarian ceviches on the menu. For a truly authentic experience, eat lunch at Chez Wong, a restaurant that counted Anthony Bourdain as a fan.
Explore Peru’s Trendiest Neighborhood
Miraflores is one of Lima's most upscale districts, chock full of fancy bars, stylish restaurants, and trendy discotecas . Parque Kennedy is the central point of the neighborhood and perfect for a spot of people watching – or cat admiring. It's home to a population of convivial cats, most of which were abandoned and now cared for by a local NGO, so don’t be surprised if you make more than a few new friends here.
Heading towards the coastal cliffs is where you’ll find El Malecón, the city's seafront strip with the picturesque Parque del Amor (Love Park) containing modern sculptures, colorful mosaics and amorous couples relaxing on its grassy lawns. Stroll along El Malecón for spectacular sea views or hire a bicycle or a pair of rollerblades to cruise along the coastal cycle paths.
Soar Through the Skies on a Tandem Paragliding Flight
TripSavvy / Chris VR
If you chance to look up on your trip to Lima, it’s more than likely that you’ll spot a paraglider or two catching the thermals in the air. The hotspot for paragliding in Lima is Parque Raimondi, along the Miraflores stretch of El Malecón, where highly skilled paragliding instructors can take you for a 10-minute tandem glide. Whatever way you end up hitting the skies, pick a day that’s not too overcast, and you can expect views of the coast southwards towards Barranco, as well as far out to sea.
Catch a Light and Water Show in Parque de la Reserva
Lima's Parque de la Reserva (Park of the Reserve) dates back to the late 1920s, but in 2007, the Municipality of Lima completed the construction of El Circuito Mágico del Agua , the "Magic Water Circuit." Thirteen fountains, some of which are interactive, provide plenty of entertainment, especially at night with the illuminated shows. Kids will love it, but be prepared to get wet; take a plastic bag or two to keep your cash and camera dry.
Shop for Souvenirs and Quench Your Thirst in Bohemian Barranco
Head south along the coast from Miraflores, and you'll end up in the small district of Barranco. This is Lima's bohemian quarter, a place for poets, artists, and the city’s alternative crowd. A daytime stroll will take you past stylish cafes and a wealth of fairs selling handmade, and often fair-trade, food and crafts, most of which are made by local designers or come from around the country. Don't miss El Puente de Los Suspiros (The Bridge of Sighs), a quaint wooden bridge located at the top of the stone steps that wind down to the beaches below Barranco.
But it’s at night that Barranco’s true colors can be seen. Pop into the chic Barranco Beer Company, a craft brewery with a gorgeous rooftop terrace or the slightly dingier, but a genuinely Barranco experience, Bodega Piselli, which dates back to 1915.
Poke Around the City’s Historic Mansions
Many of Lima's once-grand colonial mansions have fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Others, however, have been lovingly preserved, complete with the furnishings and personal effects of their original owners. Most are open to the public by appointment only or through tour agencies, but history buffs (and interior designers) will find the extra pre-planning worthwhile.
Those not to miss include Casa di Aliaga, a block north of the Plaza de Armas, which was the former residence of Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of Francisco Pizarro’s and his family, and now the oldest colonial mansion in Lima, and one of the oldest in all the Americas. One block northwest lies Casa de Oquendo, a 19th-century mansion complete with watchtower, while just south of the plaza, you’ll find Palacio Torre Tagle, an 18th-century mansion with finely carved wooden balconies that’s now home to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Admire the Cityscape From Cerro San Cristóbal
One of Lima's most prominent landmarks, the hill of Cerro San Cristóbal, rises to the northeast of downtown Lima. If you want a panoramic view of the city, this is where to go. Take a taxi or a tour bus from the Plaza de Armas (walking here isn’t particularly safe). From the top, you can see right across the city and all the way out to sea—at least on a clear day. Thick coastal fog can severely obscure the view, so pick your moment wisely, while a tour in the late afternoon allows for views enhanced by the twinkling lights of the city below.
Sample Peru’s Ubiquitous Cocktail: The Pisco Sour
Cathrine Lindblom Gunasekara/Flickr/CC-BY-SA 2.0
Although more often than not a welcome, refreshing aperitif served before a plate of ceviche, the pisco sour is a staple Limeño cocktail in its own right. Although there’s controversy over the origins of pisco (don’t mention Chile when you order one), there’s no disputing that the Peruvian version of the sour is the tastiest.
Whipped up from a mixture of pisco, lime juice, bitters, sugar and egg white and whizzed in a blender over crushed ice, it’s impossible to visit Lima without trying a glass or three. The most famous place for a taste is at the Gran Hotel Bolívar , a bar whose former clientele allegedly includes Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, and whose mammoth-sized drinks are as magnificent as the building itself.
Dance Until Dawn at a Traditional Peña
Every country has its unique way of partying, and Peru is no different. For a truly authentic experience, head to one of Lima’s most famous peñas , a small bar where Creole music played by live bands gives forth to vigorous traditional dancing and plenty of pisco drinking.
Unfortunately, many of these peñas operate behind the closed doors of people’s houses and a vast majority are only to be found if you know where to look. Don Porfirio in Barranco is one of the most famous but is just open on Fridays, while La Candelaria in the same neighborhood is a more up-market option that’s open Saturdays too. Make sure to book a table, as both are hugely popular with the locals.
Wander in the Footsteps of Nobel Prize-Winning Author Mario Vargas Llosa
viajesyturismoaldia/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 2.0
For a cultured afternoon, nothing beats checking out the old haunts of Peru’s most famous writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, whose novels such as The War of the End of the World , saw him rise to international acclaim.
Having spent most of his childhood in Miraflores, the district is scattered with places that influenced his writing. Contact the Municipality to join the tour starting from Parque Kennedy, which stops via various roads and buildings that have been featured in his work.
Learn To Surf Along Lima’s Costa Verde
TripSavvy / Chris VR
While beaches such as Máncora further north in Peru are better known for their waves, Lima’s Costa Verde has some surprisingly good spots for surfing. La Herradura, south of Barranco, is considered one of the best, with its powerful left break and a swell that can reach up to four meters, making it only for those with experience. Waikiki, in Miraflores, is a good option for beginners, particularly as there are some schools where you can learn the ropes. It’s also home to the Waikiki Club, which started up in the 1920s, making it one of the world’s first surf clubs.
Go Back In Time at the Pachacámac Archaeological Complex
Only 35 kilometers southeast of the city, the Pachacámac site dates back between 200 AD to 700 AD, making it practically ancient compared with Machu Picchu (1450-1460). Most of the buildings around today were built during Inca occupation in the 15th-century, and you’ll need a bit of imagination to return the adobe-brick temples to their former glory, many of which look like they’ve melted a bit in the sun. That said, if you want to get a glimpse of Peru before the Spanish arrived really, it’s an excellent place to start.
Discover Peruvian Gastronomy at its Most Delicious
Peru has long been recognized as home to South America’s most exciting fine-dining, with its restaurants consistently appearing on the world’s best lists. Among those not to miss include Central , which, led by chef Virgilio Martínez, has a tasting menu exploring every inch and altitude of Peruvian territory and cuisine. Maido, with its Peruvian-Japanese fusion tasting menus, à la carte and sushi dishes, is another one for a food splurge, while perhaps Lima’s most famous restaurant, Astrid y Gastón , which opened in 1994, continues to lead the way when it comes to top-class, contemporary Peruvian cuisine. Book well ahead and expect to pay for an experience—you might leave with an empty wallet, but it’ll be an evening you won’t forget.
Your Trip to Lima: The Complete Guide
48 Hours in Lima: The Ultimate Itinerary
12 Best Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Lima, Peru
Annual Festivals and Events in Lima, Peru
The 10 Best Museums in Lima
Places to See in the Plaza de Armas in Lima
El Malecón in Miraflores, Lima's Scenic Cliff Top Walkway
Art Museums in Lima
Movie Theaters in Lima, Peru
The Best Time to Visit Lima
Nightlife in Lima: Best Cocktail Bars, Breweries, & More
The 16 Best Restaurants in Lima
Getting Around Lima: Guide to Public Transportation
The 12 Most Popular Cities in Peru
The Top 20 Things to Do in Peru
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25 best places to visit in peru [2023 local's travel guide].
Are you thinking of heading off to Peru?
Then you’ll want to read on to uncover the very best destinations to visit in this iconic South American nation!
Peru truly is a spectacular country, and any trip here will without doubt be a memorable one. There's a reason why it's one of the most popular countries in South America !
From fiery volcanoes and tall snowy peaks, to Pacific beaches and the sweltering jungle, there’s all sorts of experiences to have in Peru.
It can often be somewhat difficult to plan a trip here, given the immense amount of places to visit.
In this guide, we’ll explore the 25 very best destinations in Peru, and why each is worthy in their own right.
I’ll also cover other important things you’ll need to know, like how to get around Peru, as well as the best time for a visit.
So, let's get started...
When is the Best Time to Visit Peru?
You probably already have an idea of where you want to visit in Peru, so the next important detail to look at is when is best to visit.
Peru is quite a big country, and is full of different terrains and microclimates, which can make things somewhat complicated when planning.
If you’re thinking of heading to just one or two destinations during your time in Peru, then it’s more simple to check the weather and best time to visit on WeatherSpark .
Whereas, if you’re planning to travel around different parts of the country, then you’ll want to read on.
The dry season in Peru runs from April until September, and is the overall best time to visit for weather (in most parts of the country) .
Although temperatures may be chillier in certain areas (most notable in Lima, Puno and Cusco), there’s much less rainfall, which is perfect for exploring and when heading out into nature.
Here’s some of the best times to visit for some major Peruvian destinations:
- Lima : November-February
- Arequipa : Year-Round!
- Cusco : June-September
- Puno : April-October
- Máncora : April-October
Getting around Peru: What’s the best option?
Peru is quite a rugged region, full of many incredible landscapes.
Whilst this is great for adventure and trip inspiration, it’s not so good for logistics!
Thankfully though, the bus system in Peru is pretty good, and is the main mode of transport we’ll use to get around.
RedBus is the best site for buying bus tickets online, as they have the majority of routes covered, as well as most bus providers listed there for you.
Some of the best providers include Oltursa, Cruz del Sur as well as Movilbus.
All have the usual seats (which are still pretty comfortable), as well as the more expensive VIP seats that recline a full 180°.
One of our top travel tips is to make the most of overnight buses as you'll save on accommodation this way too!
The other option for getting around is using domestic flights.
These are actually quite cheap, however are still more expensive than the bus.
In some cases using a flight is pretty favourable, such as travelling between Lima and Cusco, as well as from the capital to Máncora in the north.
In other cases flying is mandatory, such as when heading to Iquitos in the Amazon (there’s no roads leading here).
As always, use Skyscanner to compare the best dates and cheapest flights.
25 Places to Visit in Peru
Now it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for!
Here I’m going to uncover 25 of the very best destinations. From popular areas to lesser known gems, let’s get stuck in.
As a useful reference, I’ll group the destinations below depending on what you’re looking for (in order of appearance):
- The Beaches (Coast) : Lima, Paracas, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Máncora, Tumbes.
- The Andes (Mountains) : Marcahuasi, Huancayo, Puno, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Aguas Calientes, Ayacucho, Huaraz, Cajamarca.
- The Desert (Arid) : Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa.
- The Amazon (Jungle) : Puerto Maldonado, Chachapoyas, Iquitos, Tarapoto, Pucallpa, Oxapampa.
The bustling capital of Peru is often the first experience travellers get of this nation, and most tend to overlook it (which is a big mistake!).
Within the historic centre we’ll find lots of history and architectural gems such as the Plaza de Armas, as well as the Basilica of San Francisco (with its creepy catacombs underneath too).
This awesome sightseeing tour is the best way to see all of these highlights, with transport provided between them all.
The best area for a stay is in Miraflores, which is the cosmopolitan heart of Lima , and is much cleaner and safer too.
Here you can rent a bike and cycle along the rolling hills above the Costa Verde, as well as go surfing if you can brave the cold waters!
From here, you can walk around the ancient ruins of Huaca Pucllana , as well as head to the nearby hip district of Barranco.
If you’re lucky and get a clear sky day here (trust me, it’s pretty rare unfortunately), you’ll want to summit nearby Morro Solar in Chorrillos for the best views over the capital.
With all these activities and attractions, it's no wonder that the city gets around 2.35 million international visitors each year1
There are endless things to do in Lima so where better to start your Peru trip?
Things to do in Lima:
- Explore the ruins of Huaca Pucllana
- Head to the Catacombs of San Francisco
- Get to the popular areas of Miraflores and Barranco
Where to Stay in Lima:
- Budget: Passion Hostel
- Mid-Range: Selina Posada
- Luxury: Innside Lima Miraflores
This high altitude destination isn’t that well known amongst foreign tourists, however the Peruvians that have been constantly rave about it.
Located at an altitude of some 4000m, Marcahuasi is a mountain close to the small rural village of San Pedro de Casta.
It’s around 5 hours driving from Lima, and is the perfect place to get into nature and off the beaten path.
Be sure to bring coca leaves or altitude sickness medication, since the 2/3 hour hike up can be pretty exhausting otherwise!
Once at the top you can set up camp, and then explore the Stone Forest, which is full of unorthodox, granite rock formations that resemble animals and human faces (all natural too, caused by erosion and powerful winds).
As well as getting a necessary photo next to the picture-perfect entrance gate at the top, you’ll also want to walk on the rocky outcropping for the best views of the surrounding Andes. Be careful though, since there’s no rails and it’s a straight drop down!
This useful article by AllTrails gives an idea of what the hike around Marachuasi looks like, and also how long it could take you.
If you're looking for unique places to visit in Peru then this might just be the spot for you!
Things to do in Marcahuasi:
- Explore the Bizarre Rock Formations
- Hike up for an epic Sunrise and Sunset
- Camp overnight for the best overall experience
Where to Stay in Marcahuasi:
- Camping on the Mountain (you’ll need to bring your own tent with you)
This desert oasis town is well on the touristy path, and is one of the most popular destinations to visit in all of Peru.
Sandwiched between some of the tallest sand dunes in all of South America , Huacachina has a naturally forming lake right in the middle, which makes for a truly, once-in-a-lifetime photo!
Although the town itself is pretty tiny, it’s the perfect place to get away from the grey skies of Lima for the weekend, and to soak up the rays in a pool or next to the lake (we’re in the desert after all).
One of the top things to do in Huacachina is to head on this combined tour , where you’ll go Sandboarding and also ride around on a Sand Buggy through the desert.
It’s a perfect option for those looking to get their adrenaline fix!
I recommend going for the 4:00pm slot, where you’ll then be able to watch the crimson sunset over the epic dunes.
Huacachina is located roughly 4 hours south of Lima, which can easily be reached by bus (you’ll first stop in Ica, then it’s a 10 minute mototaxi to this desert paradise).
There are endless things to do in Huacachina so what are you waiting for?
Things to do in Huacachina:
- Sandboarding down the Giant Dunes
- Chill by the Lake during the midday heat
- Take a Buggy Ride out into the Desert
Where to Stay in Huacachina:
- Budget: Wild Rover
- Mid-Range: Hostel Boulevard
- Luxury: DM Hoteles Mossone
This central coastal town lies just three hours south of Lima, and is usually travelled as a day trip by most tourists.
However it’s really worth spending more time in this cute fishing village, given its abundance of awesome nature waiting to be explored.
Paracas is mostly known for the close-lying Ballestas Islands , which are rocky islets home to many spectacular animal species, such as Humboldt Penguins as well as the Peruvian Pelican and Booby.
You’ll need to head out on boat tour to visit these islands, where you’ll also visit the mysterious lines of Candelabro.
It’s also worth heading to the Paracas National Reserve , where the desert meets the sea, as well as being home to a stunning red beach .
Given the windy conditions, Paracas is also perfect for adventure sport enthusiasts, where many come to go Windsurfing and Kitesurfing.
Paracas can easily be reached by bus from Lima, with frequent direct departures daily.
Things to do in Paracas:
- Visit the Ballestas Islands
- Tuck into some fresh, tasty Seafood
- Get your fix with some Extreme Sports
Where to Stay in Paracas:
- Budget: Kokopelli Hostel
- Mid-Range: Paracas Guest House
- Luxury: Casa Paracas
When it comes to mysterious Peruvian destinations, Nazca for sure comes out near the top of them all.
This small town is located within the arid desert, and is between Ica and Arequipa (making it a good stop-off point).
The most famous thing here are the Nazca Lines , whose secrets are still hidden today (despite extensive research from many interested groups).
With hieroglyphs as large as 1000 metres wide etched into the desert, here you can head on a small plane tour overhead for the very best views of these gems.
See if you can spot the different symbols such as the Spider, Monkey and the Dog!
For those looking to see these mysterious lines, here's a more in-depth guide to visiting the Nazca Lines !
Another worthy visit here is the chilling Chauchilla Cemetery , where you can see various ancient mummies and artefacts in their incredibly well-preserved states.
The city itself of Nazca doesn’t have too much going for it, however the Plaza de Armas has its own character which is worth a visit.
The bus from Ica to Nazca takes around 2.5 hours.
Things to do in Nazca:
- Fly over the mysterious Nazca Lines
- Tour through the spooky Chauchilla Cemetery
Where to Stay in Nazca:
- Budget: Jumana
- Mid-Range: San Isidro Gran Hotel
- Luxury: Casa Andina Standard
Although rarely visited by tourists, this city is considered the main commercial hub of the Peruvian Andes.
With its unorthodox centre and sights , as well as some awesome sceneries, it’s a great place to get off the traditional Peruvian tourist path.
Getting here is a real part of the adventure, where you can board the train from Lima to experience mesmerising landscapes until you reach Huancayo .
Some of the best things to see in the city include the Parque de la Identidad as well as the Archaeological Site of Wariwillka.
For those who love hiking, then the nearby Huaytapallana mountain range is a must, with incredible alpine lakes and towering mountains to be explored above the clouds!
Last but not least, when in Huancayo, you must try the food.
One of Peru’s top dishes - Papa a la Huancaina - originates from Huancayo, and will prove tastier here than in other regions.
As well as the train , you can also reach Huancayo from Lima by bus, which takes around 8 hours.
Things to do in Huancayo:
- Hike Nevado Huaytapallana
- Try some authentic Andean Dishes
- Chill out in the Parque de la Identidad
Where to Stay in Huancayo:
- Budget: Hospedaje Nilton
- Mid-Range: Hotel Las Lomas
- Luxury: Hotel Presidente
Now we head to arguably the most beautiful city in all of Peru, and a good contender for the entire continent too!
Arequipa is set between three prominent volcanoes, which provide the perfect backdrop for some awesome photos (hint: you should head to the Yanahuara Mirador for some great shots).
This city is also covered in white buildings, which were constructed out of the volcanic Sillar rock , excavated from nearby valleys.
The historic centre is the best place to see the finest work, including the Plaza de Armas as well as the historically important Santa Catalina Monastery .
Some of these volcanoes are hikeable as day trips, with El Misti being the most popular, and Chachani the most difficult (bringing back some bad memories for me… please take the altitude seriously on these hikes folks!).
Also nearby is the breathtaking Colca Canyon , which is one of the deepest canyons on earth.
It’s best to go with a multi-day tour , where you’ll visit many cute rural towns and other cool sites along the way.
Arequipa is a 10 hour bus ride from Nazca, and roughly 18 hours from Lima.
Things to do in Arequipa:
- Hike Arequipa’s fiery Volcanoes
- Delve into the depths of the Colca Canyon
- Explore the Historical Centre
Where to Stay in Arequipa:
- Budget: Mango Hostel B&B
- Mid-Range: Casona Plaza Hotel
- Luxury: Palla Boutique Hotel
Located on the cool shores of Lake Titicaca , Puno truly is a delight with its lakeside views.
Beauty doesn’t come without cost here though, given its very high altitude (which is the case for many Peruvian destinations within the Andes).
Located up at an elevation of 3827m, you’ll need to bring coca leaves and take it slow whilst your body adjusts to the more difficult conditions.
The very best thing to do in Puno is to visit the stunning Uros floating islands .
Just a short boat ride (around an hour from the harbour), these floating islands are made entirely out of the Totora Reed, a naturally-occurring plant found around the lake’s edge.
Here you can get to know the indigenous locals, as well as ride around on the awesome colored boats!
The best way to see these stunning islands is with an organised tour with many of them offering multiple departures throughout the day.
You can also head up (slowly of course, given the altitude!) to the Mirador El Condor for views over Lake Titicaca, as well as explore the Plaza Mayor with its impressive cathedral.
Puno is also a good jumping off point for those heading to Bolivia , with the bus and boat services easily connecting to nearby Copacabana.
The bus from Arequipa to Puno takes around 6 hours. From Cusco it’s a similar time too!
Here's some more information on things to do in Puno ...
Things to do in Puno:
- Visit the Floating Uros Islands
- Ride around Lake Titicaca on the Dragon Boat
- Head up to Mirador El Condor for awesome Lakeside views
Where to Stay in Puno:
- Budget: Kaaro Hotel Puno
- Mid-Range: Casona Plaza Hotel
- Luxury: Hotel Hacienda Puno
Cusco is undeniably one of the best cities to visit in Peru, and no trip to the country is complete without spending some time here!
Sandwiched within the rocky Andes, Cusco is located at an altitude of 3399m, and also within the stunning Sacred Valley region.
Once the beating heart of the Inca civilization , today you can walk around the historic centre and see many ancient ruins and interesting sights such as Sacsayhuaman , and Qorikancha , as well as the bustling Plaza de Armas with its imposing Cathedrals.
Cusco is also the perfect place to get to know the traditional Andean cuisine, with dishes like Cuy readily available in the San Pedro Market, as well as local restaurants such as Kusikuy .
However, Cusco is all about the day trips you can take into the Sacred Valley.
From stunning alpine lakes such as the popular Lake Humantay and the lesser-known Ausangate National Park , to the ruins of Moray and pools of Maras, you’ll have almost infinite things to see and do here!
This day tour is one of the best out there for those wanting to explore the Sacred Valley, where you’ll see many of the top sites in just one day (perfect for those in a rush).
As you can see, there are tons of awesome things to do in Cusco so make sure you don't leave this amazing city off your itinerary!
Cusco can easily be reached by bus from Arequipa (10 hours) or Puno (6 hours), however from Lima the bus takes 24 hours, so it’s best to hop on a flight from the capital.
Things to do in Cusco:
- Explore the ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Qorikancha
- Get to know traditional Andean cultures
- Venture into Alpine Lakes and Mountains within the nearby Sacred Valley
Where to Stay in Cusco:
- Budget: Kokopelli Hostel
- Mid-Range: Posada Villa Mayor
- Luxury: Casa Andina Standard
Many travellers who head to Cusco don’t even know about the different towns until they head out into the Sacred Valley.
Ollantaytambo is a prime example, and is one that really has a lot going for it.
The Pinkuylluna Archaeological Ruins is one of the highlights , with this fortress steeped on the edge of a cliff in the skies.
As well as its diverse market that’s perfect for souvenir hunting, another must-visit here is the Inti Punku Sun Gate , which is the perfect area for a snap with its incredibly scenic background.
If you're planning on visiting lots of different destinations within the Sacred Valley, I’d actually recommend staying in Ollantaytambo rather than Cusco.
Not only is it much closer to all the top sites, it also retains a much more authentic culture and vibe, with locals still following ancient traditions today from hundreds of years ago.
The buses and local colectivos that run from Cusco to Ollantaytambo take roughly 1.5 hours.
If you're looking to visit Ollantaytambo then here's some information that you might find helpful...
Things to do in Ollantaytambo:
- Wander around this ancient city
- Visit the Pinkuylluna Archaeological Ruins
- Head up to the Inti Punku Sun Gate
Where to Stay in Ollantaytambo:
- Budget: Hostal Chaska Wasi
- Mid-Range: Picaflor Tambo Guest House
- Luxury: Apu Lodge
Similar to Ollantaytambo, Pisac is another small town located within the vast Sacred Valley region.
Increasingly popular with tourists, Pisac has a very charming vibe with its narrow cobblestone streets, as well as a strong bohemian presence too.
The market here is one of the best in all of Southern Peru , where you can pick up anything from alpaca garments and bags to trying various authentic Peruvian dishes.
One of the very best things to see in this town has to be its archaeological site , which is built on top of a mountain and has tombs built into the side of it too!
This town is also a good way to get acquainted with a more traditional, rural Peruvian way of life, which can be quite difficult in Cusco with its never ending bustle and noise.
For those who want a new experience, consider looking into taking San Pedro . Just be sure to follow preparation guidelines properly before taking it.
A shamanic brew, it’s been known to cure health problems, and even help people find their own path in life.
If you're wondering where to go in Peru then I highly recommend spending some time here!
The bus from Cusco to Pisac takes around an hour to arrive.
Things to do in Pisac:
- Visit the Pisac Archaeological Site
- Wander through the town’s amazing cobblestone streets
- Go Bargain Hunting in the Mercado de Pisac
Where to Stay in Pisac:
- Budget: Pisac Inn
- Mid-Range: Pisac Inca Guest House
- Luxury: Florencio Casa Hacienda
12. Aguas Calientes
Set along the Urubamba river, Aguas Calientes is a small city that's mostly known as the stop-off point for those heading to Machu Picchu.
Surrounded by thick jungle vegetation and high cliffs from all sides, it’s a really scenic area, and an ideal location to get away from the never-ending noise of Cusco.
Of course Machu Picchu is the star highlight here, and really is stunning to see regardless of the time of year.
With sweeping views from the top terrace, to friendly alpacas strolling around, it’ll be an unforgettable moment along your Peruvian trip.
Trust me, you don't want to miss this UNESCO World Heritage Site as it's one of the country's top tourist attractions.
This ancient citadel can be reached with just a one hour hike from Aguas Calientes (or by using the buses that are constantly up and down the nearby mountain).
You can also join a combo tour where they provide all logistics, as well as including an interesting guide who can teach you a lot around this legendary Peruvian site.
Other great things to do in Aguas Calientes include climbing Huayna Picchu for an incredible alternative view of the ruins (this hike is more demanding). You can also visit the hot springs too (the town's name translates to “Hot Springs” after all).
To get here from Cusco, you’ll need to take buses (approx 4/5 hours) to the start of the train track.
This is then followed by either taking the train, or completing the 2 hour walk along the tracks.
Things to do in Aguas Calientes:
- Visit the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu
- Rest tired legs in the Baños Termales
- Get to know the Plaza de Manco Capac
Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes:
- Budget: Nativus Hostel
- Mid-Range: Sacred Stone Boutique Hotel
- Luxury: Tierra Viva Machu Picchu Hotel
13. Puerto Maldonado
Known as the gateway to Peru’s Southern Amazon, Puerto Maldonado is one of the best places to experience this rich jungle.
With wildlife endemic to just this area of the world, you can easily take a multi-day tour into the jungle to see the very best of this ultimate South American gem.
Here you can see everything from Caiman and Capybara to the elusive Jaguar , as well as climbing a canopy tower for some insane Amazon views.
You can also stay deep within Tambopata national reserve which offers you a better chance to spot wildlife!
Within the actual city itself, a great thing to do is to climb the Obelisco tower which is in the very heart of town.
At the top you’ll have some of the best views of Puerto Maldonado, contrasted with the formidable jungle behind.
The Plaza de Armas is a nice place to come for a stroll, with this one more relaxed when compared with other, busier Peruvian cities.
You’ll also want to visit the Isla de los Monos, where you’ll see many different species of monkeys as well as having a chance to go zip-lining through the jungle!
The closest city to Puerto Maldonado is Cusco. Whilst flying is the preferred method of getting between the two, the cheapest way is to take a bus which takes around 10 hours.
Things to do in Puerto Maldonado:
- Head on a multi-day Jungle Tour
- Visit Monkey Island for a quick and easy day trip
- Climb the Obelisco Tower for the best views over Puerto Maldonado
Where to Stay in Puerto Maldonado:
- Budget: El Fauno Hostel
- Mid-Range: Hotel Principe I
- Luxury: Wasai Puerto Maldonado Eco Lodge
Located within the Southern Peruvian Andes, Ayacucho is another very pretty city to visit whilst in Peru.
Known as the “City of the Churches”, there’s a good 33 dotted around here, meaning there’s going to be at least one that takes your fancy (I tried visiting them all in a day and failed spectacularly. The altitude I guess…).
The historic centre is the best place to base yourself, with some really scenic streets such as 28 de Julio which leads towards the picturesque Plaza de Armas.
One of the most popular sights close-by is Millpu , which are a series of stunning, cascading blue waterfalls (or green depending on cloud cover and time of year).
These pools are undeniably one of the most beautiful places in Peru so you don't want to leave this spot off your itinerary!
The best way to visit this gem is with a day tour where you’ll also have a traditional sierra lunch prepared for you.
You’ll also want to visit the Huari archaeological complex, which was once one of the largest urban cities in ancient Peru.
Here's some more information on things to do in Ayacucho ...
Things to do in Ayacucho:
- Visit the Cascades of Millpu
- Stroll around the heart of Ayacucho
- Explore the Huari archaeological site
Where to Stay in Ayacucho:
- Budget: Hotel Misky Samay
- Mid-Range: Platero Hotel
- Luxury: ViaVia Cafe Ayacucho
The unofficial hiking capital of Peru, Huaraz is the ultimate destination for mountain lovers and trekking enthusiasts alike.
Sandwiched between the Cordillera Blanca (which is the highest tropical mountain range in the world) and Huascarán national park , travellers spend weeks at a time here getting to know the very best areas.
Alpine Lakes are amongst some of the most popular, with Laguna Parón renowned for its large blue lake and surrounding snow-tipped peaks.
Laguna 69 is another lake which is more challenging, but features a glacial lake that is so perfect, you would have thought it was designed by the gods.
Other awesome day trips include the hike up Nevado Mateo, a trip to the high altitude Pastoruri Glacier as well as visiting the pre-Incan ruins of Chavín de Huántar .
There’s also many multi-day hikes to do here too, such as the popular Santa Cruz trek , as well as the Huayhuash circuit.
The city of Huaraz itself is typical of a Peruvian Andes town, with its bustling Plaza de Armas nice for a midday stroll.
The bus from Lima to this mountain paradise takes roughly 8 hours.
This Huaraz travel guide will help you plan your trip as it includes what to do here, where to stay, and some other top travel tips!
Things to do in Huaraz:
- Hike the unforgettable Huayhuash and Santa Cruz circuits
- Visit stunning Alpine Lakes
- Explore the ancient ruins and temples of the Chavín tribe.
Where to Stay in Huaraz:
- Budget: Selina Huaraz
- Mid-Range: Ebony Hotel
- Luxury: Hotel La Joya
Situated along Peru’s long Pacific Coast, Trujillo is known for its abundance of ancient ruins, as well as for its beaches and local culture.
The best area for a stay is within the district of Huanchaco, a sleepy surfer’s area that runs along the coast.
Without a doubt the best site to see here is the ruins of Chan Chan , which are known to be one of the largest ancient adobe cities on earth.
It’s best to visit in the morning before the crowds arrive on buses, and also to avoid the sometimes overbearing heat here too.
You’ll also want to make stops at the Huacas del Lunar y Sol , two other pyramids close to Trujillo.
This combined tour includes entrances to all of the ruins mentioned above, including a couple of extras too!
This city is also known for its impeccable surfing conditions, so regardless if you’re a pro or just starting out, this is a good place to hit the waves.
Other worthy things to see and do in Trujillo include walking around the historical centre, which is full of colourful buildings and Spanish architecture.
I also recommend heading on a Caballito de Totora boat ride (a traditional fishing boat that’s been crucial for Trujillo’s industry and growth for over 3000 years).
The bus from Lima to Trujillo takes between 10/11 hours.
Things to do in Trujillo:
- Visit the expansive Chan Chan ruins
- Lounge on the beach in Huanchaco (or go surfing)
- Explore the colourful architecture in Trujillo’s Historic Centre
Where to Stay in Trujillo:
- Budget: Punta Huanchaco
- Mid-Range: Hotel Bracamonte
- Luxury: Costa del Sol Trujillo Centre
Chiclayo sits along Peru’s Pacific coast, in the popular northern region of Lambayeque.
Most travellers usually pass through Chiclayo on the way to the beaches in the north, or at best spend a couple of days here.
However this major coastal city is home to many interesting ruins and sites , and is worth a trip here in itself.
Whilst located more inland than say Trujillo, there is the nice beach of Pimentel close-by which is great for a much needed time-out.
One of the best things you can do in Chiclayo is to visit the Tombs of Sipán with this all-inclusive tour . Sipán was an ancient ruler of the Moche civilisation, whose pristine preservation helps give us more of an insight into how cultures of these eras used to live.
It’s also worth heading to the pyramids of Chotuna and Chornancap for some more exploring.
The bus from Lima to Chiclayo takes around 13 hours in total.
Here's a guide to Chiclayo if you're wanting to learn more!
Things to do in Chiclayo:
- Explore the Tomb of Sipán
- Relax on Pimentel Beach
- Visit Chiclayo’s Historic Centre
Where to Stay in Chiclayo:
- Budget: Hotel Plazza
- Mid-Range: Casa Huéspedes Pimentel
- Luxury: Sunec Hotel
A Peruvian city with much historic importance , Cajamarca is indeed a great place to visit to learn more about the real Peru (and not just the touristy version - as much as I love that part too).
Cajamarca was the last city to fall from Inca rule to the Spaniards , and as such Peruvians here have maintained their identity and cultural heritage exceedingly well.
This can be best seen with the locals walking around, from how they dress to their daily activities and lifestyles.
The Baños del Inca are located here, with these hot springs once used by the elite centuries ago.
Today they’re still in operation, and you can go for a dip yourself, which is a nice way to change up the day!
The Ventanillas de Otuzco is another must-visit when here, as well as the Ransom Room (where the last Inca emperor was imprisoned before his execution).
Be sure to walk up the many stone steps to the top of Cerro Santa Apolonia, which features a pretty church as well as some awesome cityscape views.
The bus from Chiclayo to Cajamarca takes roughly 7 hours, whilst from Lima it will take around 15 hours.
Things to do in Cajamarca:
- Go for a dip in the Baños del Inca
- Hike up to the Mirador of Cerro Santa Apolonia
- Visit the nearby Ventanillas de Otuzco
Where to Stay in Cajamarca:
- Budget: Hotel San Francisco
- Mid-Range: El Portal Del Marques
- Luxury: Costa del Sol Wyndham Cajamarca
One of my all-time favourite destinations in Peru, Chachapoyas has a tonne going for it.
With incredible waterfalls, mountain fortresses and remote hiking paths, you’d think it would be highly visited among tourists.
However it’s not!
For this reason I love it, since you’ll see all the best things in an authentic way, without the crowds of tourists constantly breathing behind your neck.
Whilst here, you’ll want to make various day trips to see the best of the region.
One of these is Yumbilla Falls , which at a grand height of 895m, is the 5th tallest waterfall on the planet.
Gocta Falls is another fan favourite with its longer hiking path and beautiful sceneries.
This area of Peru is also known for the Chachapoyas culture, an ancient civilization known as “The Warriors of the Clouds”.
You can visit their fortress of Kuelap with this awesome tour (including the cable-car ride), which lies on the edge of a mountain.
It was so formidable and well defended, that even the Incas had a hard time conquering it!
The Sarcophagi of Karajia is another must-visit, which features 6 oversized sarcophagi on a mountain ledge, containing the human remains of some of the most important Chachapoyas leaders.
The city of Chachapoyas itself is very relaxed and has its own vibe, which is best seen in and around the Plaza de Armas and along the busy Jirón Amazonas.
As you can see there are tons of things to do in Chachapoyas so what are you waiting for?
Chachapoyas is an 8 hour bus ride from Cajamarca.
From Lima, it will take a hefty 24 hours straight!
Things to do in Chachapoyas:
- Hike to Yumbilla Waterfalls
- Get to know the ancient Chachapoya Culture
- Visit the stunning fortress of Kuelap
Where to Stay in Chachapoyas:
- Budget: Aventura Chachapoyas Backpackers
- Mid-Range: Casona del Rosario
- Luxury: La Xalca Hotel
Located deep within the Amazon jungle, Iquitos is by far the most inaccessible destination of all on our list - despite being a large city.
This is because it's entirely cut off from civilization by dense jungle, and is the largest city in the world that can’t be reached by road!
Due to its location, it’s by the far one of the best places to kickstart a tour into The Amazon Jungle.
This multi-day tour starts from Iquitos, and will allow you to explore virgin rainforest, catch pirañas, swim with pink dolphins and see a whole bunch of rare and exotic animals.
Just be aware that the seasons can vary dramatically here, which can make some parts of the jungle (and what you’ll see) unreachable.
The city of Iquitos is pretty hectic, and you’ll want to ride around on a few moto-taxis to get into the swing of things.
The Plaza de Armas is worth a visit, as well as the nearby town of Nanay.
Here you can rent a boat and guide for the day, visiting a butterfly farm, local tribe and spotting giant anacondas along the way.
From Iquitos, you can also take a river cruise to reach Pacaya Samiria Reserve, but you'll need to get to Nauta Port first.
As already mentioned, it’s impossible to reach Iquitos by land.
The easiest way is to fly from Lima which takes a couple of hours. Otherwise, from Pucallpa you can take a boat, however this can take up to 5 days!
This Iquitos travel guide includes everything you need to know for exploring the Peruvian Amazon...
Things to do in Iquitos:
- Explore the most biodiverse Jungle on Earth
- Swim with Pink River Dolphins
- Visit nearby Nanay for more unique experiences
Where to Stay in Iquitos:
- Budget: A&T Amazon Backpackers
- Mid-Range: Safari Hotel Iquitos
- Luxury: El Dorado Classic Hotel
Peru is known for its expanse of jungle and green foliage, with many awesome destinations to choose from.
However Tarapoto is different since it’s located in the high jungle region, and thus has its very own unique atmosphere.
There are many awesome sights worth seeing here, such as the infamous hand of the Taytamaki Mirador which stretches out over the jungle (the best place for a photo).
Whilst most eco-centres don’t usually make a travel list, I have to say that the Centro Urku really stands out from the rest.
As well as seeing rare animals such as Ocelots and Otters, you’ll also learn about their conservation efforts, successes, and current challenges they’re looking to solve.
Your entrance ticket helps them massively, so you’ll feel proud of yourself too when walking around.
As well as visiting these sites in the city (along with strolling around the beautiful Plaza de Armas here), there’s many awesome experiences out in the nearby region too.
Some of the best include the hikes to the waterfall of Ahuashiyacu and that of Pishurayacu, as well as exploring the Laguna Sauce.
The closest major city to Tarapoto is Chachapoyas, which takes roughly 8 hours.
From Lima it’s best to fly here (1.5 hours), since the bus is going to take roughly 30 hours in total.
Things to do in Tarapoto:
- Head up to the Taytamaki Mirador
- Visit Ahuashiyacu Falls
- Learn in the Centro Urku
Where to Stay in Tarapoto:
- Budget: Tengana Hospedaje y Tours
- Mid-Range: Hotel Fatima Inn
- Luxury: Pumarinri Amazon Lodge
This jungle city is slowly gaining mainstream exposure, with many who head here interested in a very different Peruvian experience.
Pucallpa is where the majority of Shipibo healers come from, who work with natural plants such as Ayahuasca to help cure physical problems and also provide spiritual guidance.
Whilst most still head to Iquitos for this (since it’s more touristy), you’ll find the scene more authentic and fresh in Pucallpa .
This city is located on the Ucayali River (one of the major rivers flowing into The Amazon), and thus is a great starting point for treks into the jungle.
There are many multi-day treks you can embark on here, where you’ll leave the bustle behind and explore hidden species and landscapes on your journey.
Another worthy spot to visit is the Plaza de Armas, which has many interesting human statues in its gardens, as well as its unorthodoxly shaped Cathedral.
The bus from Lima to Pucallpa takes roughly 16 hours, so you may want to consider flying instead.
Things to do in Pucallpa:
- Head into the Amazon Jungle
- Visit Laguna Yarinacocha
- Visit the Plaza de Armas and its stunning Cathedral
Where to Stay in Pucallpa:
- Budget: Hospedaje Independencia
- Mid-Range: Hospedaje El Virrey
- Luxury: Casa Andina Select
When you think of coming to Peru, you usually imagine the following; traditionally-dressed locals, huge swatches of green jungle, ancient ruins and some friendly alpacas too.
I can bet my left arm and leg that visiting a German colony probably didn’t make your original thoughts!
In the mid 1800s, many German immigrants moved to this isolated town in Peru, and now we have a European-inspired town in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
The town of Oxapampa is located in the high jungle region of Pasco, and truly is a unique place to visit.
You’ll see many typical architectural styles and buildings from Western Europe here.
They also have their very own Oktoberfest - where those will finally be rewarded for their ability to consume inhuman levels of alcohol.
When you’re not dying from a resaca , then you’ll want to head outdoors given Oxapampa is known for its adventure experiences.
Zip-lining through the canopy is a popular activity, whilst you can also head to the mysterious Tunqui Cave for some surreal sights and exploring.
Although on a map it seems like a trek to get to, you can take a direct bus from Lima to Oxapampa in just 11 hours (sounds a lot but trust me, this is a relief given other routes you may need to travel in Peru!).
Things to do in Oxapampa:
- Zip-line through the Jungle Canopy
- Marvel at its European Architecture
- Head to the nearby Tunqui Cave
Where to Stay in Oxapampa:
- Budget: Suzet House
- Mid-Range: Hotel Heidinger
- Luxury: Carolina Egg Gasthaus
Whilst Peru isn’t exactly known for its beaches, the north has some very good areas for bathing in the sun and living the good life.
Máncora takes the cherry, and is by far one of the most popular areas for a beach vacation (for both nationals and tourists alike).
Almost 1000km north of Lima, the scenery in Máncora drastically changes, as well as being accompanied by a big heat boost.
Here you’ll find palm-fringed beaches such as Las Pocitas and nearby Punta Sal, with the waters ideal for swimming and some surfing too.
Another awesome thing to do here is to head on a Humpback Whale tour, where you’ll see these beauties as well as some friendly turtles too (the whale season here is between June until October).
Máncora itself is a mixture of low developed roads (where you’ll fly around on a moto-taxi), and bustling hotels and restaurants catering for the mass of tourists arriving.
It’s got a really lively nightlife scene too, which would probably rank as one of my all-time favourites in Peru.
Hostels like The Point and Selina usually have good parties most nights of the week, where they then tend to spill out onto the street and into nearby bars.
Here's some more information about visiting Máncora ...
Things to do in Máncora:
- Relax on some stunning Pacific beaches
- Watch Humpback Whales from June until October
- Get involved with the wild party scene
Where to Stay in Máncora:
- Budget: Wild Rover
- Mid-Range: Ku-Lodge Máncora
- Luxury: Don Giovanni Máncora
Right next to the border with Ecuador, Tumbes is one of the most northern-lying cities in the country.
It's also one of the most underrated places to visit in Peru, with it usually being quickly visited by tourists as an entry or exit passage. However, I think it’s worth spending a few days here given it has some unique attractions worth seeing.
The biggest of these is its Pacific Tropical Forest, home to several mangrove swamps.
It’s in fact the only of its kind in all of Peru (pretty surprisingly, considering how much jungle there is here).
You can head on a tour here, where you can visit the sole habitat of the Peruvian crocodile, as well as the endemic Mono Coto Howler Monkey.
The Plaza de Armas in town is a nice spot to visit, home to a stunning mural which is perfect as a background for a snap.
From Tumbes you can also visit some low-key remote beaches, which are much more relaxed than the busier ones near Máncora.
Some of the best include Playa Hermosa and Playa Cruz.
There are several ways of getting to Tumbes, with the most popular being a crossing point from nearby Cuenca in Ecuador.
Tumbes is just a 2 hour bus north from Máncora, whilst it’s around 22 hours from Lima (it’s worth flying instead).
Things to do in Tumbes:
- Tour around the Mangrove Swamps
- Relax on Hidden Beaches
- Wander around it’s cute Plaza de Armas
Where to Stay in Tumbes:
- Budget: Guest House Tumbes
- Mid-Range: Rizzo Plaza Hotel
- Luxury: Costa del Sol Wyndham Tumbes
Where will you visit in Peru?
And that’s all for this guide to the best places to visit in Peru!
This diverse country is home to numerous idyllic landscapes and colonial cities , and sometimes it can be hard to make up your mind where’s best to go.
In this guide I’ve covered 25 of the very best destinations you can visit, and why each is unique and deserves their own place along any Peruvian itinerary .
I’ve also covered other things you’ll need to know, including the best time to visit Peru, as well as how to get around this Latin American nation.
Just keep in mind that many of these destinations are scattered across the country, so you'll need to prioritize where you'd like to visit!
I hope you enjoy your time in Peru as much as I did!
Here are some other guides that you might find helpful for planning your trip:
- Peru Packing List
- The Best Things to do in Peru
- Backpacking Peru Itinerary
Leave a comment
Let us know what you think.
5 million people can't be wrong
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!
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
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!
We also have posts on…
- The most beautiful places to visit in Chile
- The most beautiful places to visit in Brazil
- The most beautiful places to visit in Patagonia
- The most beautiful places to visit in Colombia
- The most beautiful places to visit in Bolivia
- The most beautiful places to visit in Ecuador
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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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Nomadic Matt's Travel Site
Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer
Peru Travel Guide
Last Updated: September 1, 2023
Travelers flock to Peru to hike the famous Inca Trail, explore the lush jungles, and devour their way through the incredible food scene of Lima.
But while the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu attract the majority of the attention (2,500 people visit Machu Picchu every day), there is much more to see and do in Peru if you’re willing to get out there and explore.
From the famous Lake Titicaca to the beaches in the north to the vibrant indigenous culture, Peru is bursting with things to see and do.
While many travelers just visit for a week to see the highlights, you can easily spend a month here (or more) and still not see everything.
Best of all, traveling around Peru is inexpensive. You don’t need a lot of money to visit here (even if you hike the Inca trail).
This guide to Peru can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most out of your time in this beautiful destination!
Table of Contents
- Things to See and Do
- Typical Costs
- Suggested Budget
- Money-Saving Tips
- Where to Stay
- How to Get Around
- How to Stay Safe
- Best Places to Book Your Trip
- Related Blogs on Peru
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Peru
1. Explore Machu Picchu
This legendary “lost city of the Incas” is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in South America. Here you have the chance to wander around the old Inca city observing ancient aqueducts, granite and limestone temples, and other forms of Inca architecture that are all beautifully preserved. There are two ways to see Machu Picchu depending on the amount of adventure and exercise you want. There is a 4-day/3 night hike that takes you through 43 kilometers (26 miles) of steep, yet scenic uphill terrain along winding Andean mountain trails starting from Ollantaytambo. The Inca Trail gets you to the majestic Machu Picchu at dawn in time to see it before the clouds arrive mid-morning. The alternative is to wake up super early to get the train there and enter along with the tour groups competing for the beautiful morning sunset photos. (There are also longer 7-8 day hikes too if you want an even bigger challenge. Multi-day hikes start around 2,600 PEN. You can also just buy a day pass if you don’t want to hike.
2. Check out Lima
Lima is a chaotic and beautiful introduction to the country. Check out the trendy, vibrant Miraflores neighborhood that overlooks the Pacific and has plenty of restaurants and bars to try. Also, visit the Larco Museum to see its pre-Columbian artifacts, the Aliaga House for Peruvian art and artifacts, and Plaza Mayor for colonial beauty. Tour the city’s colorful markets for both food and shopping, wander around the world’s only Cat Park, or check out the Park of Love for good luck in love. At night, head to the artsy Barranco district for the nightlife and try a local drink with pisco, a local brandy. The city is a foodie hub too so don’t forget to try the ceviche!
3. Fly over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs that dominate the San José desert and Nazca Valley. There are over 10,000 lines and 300 different plant and animal figures that make up this UNESCO World Heritage Site. No one really knows how they got there (maybe aliens?) but the park itself is free to visit. If you want to splash out and get a better view, take a scenic helicopter or plane tour (they cost around 400 PEN).
4. Relax at Lake Titicaca
This stunning lake covers over 7,790 square kilometers (3,000 square miles) and sits at 3,810 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level, making it the world’s largest high-altitude lake. With deep blue water and spectacular sunsets across the lake lined with snowy mountains, this lake attracts people from all over the world to the nearby towns, which offer a mix of colonial architecture and bustling markets. There are three islands on the lake that are home to pre-Inca ruins: Isla del Sol, Taquile, and Amantani. Every year, the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca at Puno celebrates the Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria in February. However, the best and driest time to visit is June, July, and August.
5. Hike the Colca Canyon
Other things to see and do in peru, 1. hike the inca trail.
Getting to Machu Picchu is best via the famed Inca Trail . This multi-day hike allows you to see the mountains, jungles, and follow the route the Incas used to take. It is a truly spectacular hike, but it is challenging and you may experience altitude sickness. There are two ways to do this hike: you can sign up to be part of an organized tour, or you can hire your own private guide. You cannot hike the trail independently. Tours start around 2,600 PEN for a 4-day, 3-night tour with a reliable, reputable company. The final leg of the hike can actually get a bit crowded, so if you can do a longer 7-day hike you’ll be able to beat the crowds and enjoy the incredible landscape before you arrive. The driest time is May-October but also unfortunately the most crowded. If you go from November-April, prepare for mud and perhaps rain but fewer crowds.
2. Visit the Islas Flotantes de los Uros
The Floating Islands of the Uros may sound like an Indiana Jones title, but it is actually the name of the group of man-made islands in Lake Titicaca. The islands are home to the indigenous Uros people who have built their own houses, islands, and boats from the tortora reeds which grow along the banks of the lake. This is an extremely touristy site and is a bit exploited as such, so it’s not for everyone. The boat tours start at 165 PEN.
3. Surf at Máncora Beach
Great fresh seafood, watersports, horseback riding, whale watching, fishing with locals, visiting the mangroves, and plenty of relaxation are the order of the day at this popular beach resort. Máncora is one of the finest beaches in South America and its year-round sunshine, two ocean currents, and beginner-friendly waves also make it Peru’s surfing Mecca. Accommodation prices can be expensive from December to March, so it’s best to book in advance. Whale watching costs 135 PEN, surfing classes start at 95 PEN, and SUP tours with sea turtles cost 175 PEN.
4. Step back through time at Batán Grande
Batán Grande, also known as the Sicán Archaeological Complex, is an archaeological site comprising 50 pyramids and tombs, which are thought to date to 750-1300 CE. Located near Chiclayo, this site was once the ancient Sicán capital and has yielded many impressive pre-Columbian artifacts. For example, a gold Tumi ceremonial knife weighing almost seven pounds was recovered from one of the royal tombs! Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks for the day.
5. Discover Cusco
This colonial city is a major tourist destination and sits on Inca-built stone foundations not far from Machu Picchu. The area is popular with trail walkers, history lovers, and party goers who come to enjoy the city’s nightlife and festivals. Cusco is the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas and an essential part of your trip to Peru. The Cusco Tourist Ticket grants admission to most of the popular archaeological sites and attractions in the Cusco area (with some notable exceptions, including Machu Picchu). Note that transportation and guide services are separate. You can purchase either a 10-day pass that includes admission to over 16 sites (130 PEN) or one of several different “circuit” tickets that include admission to a smaller number of sites and are valid for one day only (70 PEN). Be sure to visit Coricancha (15 PEN) and Sacsayhuaman (included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket) during your visit. Right outside Cusco, take a day trip to the incredible Rainbow Mountains. For great food, head to Green Point. Plan to spend around 3-5 days in Cusco as there is plenty to see and it’s a good place to acclimate before doing any hiking as the city sits at 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) above sea level.
6. Get your Amazon fix in Iquitos
Accessible only by boat or plane, jungle-locked Iquitos is the largest city within the Peruvian rainforest. The city sits at the mouth of the Amazon and is the perfect destination for eco-tourism. The nearby Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is Peru’s largest reserve at two million hectares. It’s home to a huge range of nearly 1,000 birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and more. A 3-day, 2-night tour through the reserve starts from around 1,400-1,500 PEN per person including food.
7. Sandboard in Huacachina
This little town is a desert oasis and a welcome relief after hiking through Machu Picchu. It’s very affordable and hostels here offer great deals for sandboarding and sand buggy tours around the nearby dunes. Two-hour tours cost about 100-125 PEN, which includes a sand buggy driver and sandboard rental. Most tours leave around 4pm so you can catch the sunset on the dunes. There is also a lagoon surrounded by palm trees in Huacachina, and you can rent a rowboat to paddle around it. A half-hour rental costs around 5 PEN per person. Huacachina is easily reached by bus from Lima, Cusco, Nazca, Arequipa, and Paracas.
8. See penguins in Paracas
Paracas is in the south of Peru and is sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” for its impressive wildlife, consisting of over 400 different species. Thousands of birds, as well as large sea lion and penguin populations, call the area home. You can visit the Paracas National Reserve via an organized boat tour. Be sure to go early. A full-day tour of Paracas includes a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas and a bus trip around the national reserve in the afternoon. It costs about 150 PEN.
9. Walk through the White City
Arequipa is a beautiful city with a historical center that was constructed primarily from volcanic rock. Start getting to know the city by wandering around the Plaza de Armas and take in the city’s architecture over a glass of wine overlooking the main square with views of the stunning Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. Then, visit the gorgeous, vibrantly colorful Santa Catalina Monastery, see a frozen Inca mummy, and enjoy the local cuisine with favorites like shrimp soup or spicy stuffed peppers. It’s easy to see why Arequipa is undoubtedly one of the most beloved destinations in the country; everyone who visits here loves it.
10. Go to El Parque de la Reserva
This park in downtown Lima is home to the largest water fountain complex in the world, called El Circuito Mágico del Agua . There are 13 distinct fountains in total, including the Tunnel Fountain of Surprises, the Children’s Fountain, and the Fantasia Fountain, whose water jets are synchronized to music during the evening laser light shows. The park is open daily from 3pm-10pm, with beautiful, colorful light shows taking place at 6:50pm, 7:50pm, 8:30pm, and 9:30pm. The entrance fee is 4 PEN. The park also hosts a lot of events and is a popular place with dog owners too.
11. Visit Chachapoyas
This region in the Andean mountains was home to the Chachapoya civilization that lived there between 500-1432 (they were eventually conquered by the Aztecs). Today, you can visit Kuelap, the fortified city at known as “The Machu Picchu of the North.” The ruins are accessible via a guided tour, 4-hour hike, or cable car from the nearby town of Nuevo Tingo for 21 PEN roundtrip. Be sure to also visit Gocta, a beautiful waterfall that, at 770 meters (2,526 feet), is one of the tallest in the world. You can get there by taking a tour from Chachapoyas.
12. Tour Trujillo
Trujillo is the second-oldest Spanish city in Peru, located on the coast with eternal spring-like weather and widely considered the capital culture of Peru. While here, visit the archaeological site of Chan Chan, the world’s largest adobe city ever built and the largest pre-Columbian city. It was built by the Chimu, a civilization that inhabited the area until 1470 when they were defeated by the Incas. Admission is 11 PEN. Be sure to also visit Huanchaco, a small fishing town directly on the beach.
13. See Vinicunca, Rainbow Mountain
Chances are you’ve seen these colorful mountains on social media. Over the past few years, Rainbow Mountain has become a huge tourist attraction. Just keep in mind that the colors are not as vivid in real life and the place is super crowded (it’s a very popular site). Day trips and multi-day hikes are available from Cusco, usually starting around 110-135 PEN per person. There is also an “Alternative” Rainbow Mountain called Palcccoyo where you can enjoy an incredibly colorful scenic panoramic at 5,200 meters (17,060 feet). If you want to escape the hordes of people (though it’s also pretty busy these days).
14. Hike the Salkantay
If you want an alternative to the busy Inca Trail, try hiking the Salkantay. It sees a fraction of the tourists and is half the price of the Inca Trail — but just as stunning! There aren’t as many ruins, but there are epic mountain views and summits of up to 5,200 meters (17.060 feet)! Hikes can vary in length, but the 7-day hike offers the best views. You’ll need to be in decent shape though. 5-day hikes start around 1,700 PEN.
Peru Travel Costs
Accommodation – A bed in a 4-6-bed dorm costs 35-65 PEN while a bed in a dorm with 10 or more beds generally costs 32-38 PEN. A private room costs 115-170 PEN per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have a kitchen or include free breakfast.
Budget hotel rooms with basic amenities like Wi-Fi, TV, and occasionally free breakfast cost around 85-105 PEN per night.
On Airbnb, which has limited availability in Peru, private rooms average around 100 PEN while entire homes start at 200 PEN per night. Book early though or prices will double.
For those traveling with a tent, wild camping is permitted as long as you’re not on somebody’s land.
Food – Cuisine in Peru varies from region to region, though you can expect to find staples like potatoes (most potatoes in the world originated here), quinoa, seafood, and indigenous animals like guinea pig and alpaca. Be sure to try ceviche, which is the national dish (it’s a seafood dish with fresh raw fish). Other popular dishes include stir-fried beef, roasted cuy (guinea pig), arroz con pato (rice with duck), and roasted chicken.
Overall, dining out in Peru is very inexpensive. Street food is incredibly cheap, costing 5-7 PEN for a meal from a parrilla (grill) set up on the side of the road. A plate of food at a casual takeaway restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine costs around 10 PEN.
A meal of traditional cuisine at a casual restaurant with table service costs around 15-25 PEN. If you want to splash out, a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant costs 45 PEN.
Fast food (think McDonald’s) is 20 PEN for a combo meal. A large pizza is around 28-30 PEN.
Beer is around 8 PEN while a glass of wine or a latte is around 9 PEN. Bottled water is 2 PEN. A cocktail is 15-20 PEN and up, though many restaurants have extended happy hour specials (sometimes even all day).
If you plan on cooking, expect to pay 60-80 PEN per week for groceries such as pasta, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat. The best places to shop are the local markets, though Plaza Vea is the big grocery store chain with affordable prices as well. However, given how cheap food is here, it’s best to just eat out all the time. Buy snacks and fruit at the markets but eat out all other meals.
Backpacking Peru Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker’s budget of 135 PEN per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, eat out for a few meals at cheap local street stalls and cook some meals, limit your drinking, take the bus to get around, and do mostly free or cheap activities like relaxing on the beach and going hiking.
On a mid-range budget of 400 PEN per day, you can afford a private Airbnb room, eat out for all your meals, drink more, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like going surfing or day-tripping to Machu Picchu.
On a “luxury” budget of 700 PEN or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out anywhere you want, drink as much as you’d like, take some domestic flights, and do a longer multi-day trek to Machu Picchu. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in PEN.
Peru Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Peru is generally pretty cheap, but it is easy to splash out here on food and tours. Here are a few hacks to cut down your costs in Peru:
- Stay at hospedajes – These are family-run hotels and are the cheapest accommodation you can find outside of hostel dorms. Try to stay in these as often as possible.
- Take public transportation – Embrace public transportation to get around — it’s super affordable so skip the taxis. You’ll save a fortune.
- Eat the meal of the day – These are set meals, often including multiple plates, that restaurants offer. Look around for set menu meals to eat out on the cheap.
- Travel off-season – For a low-cost trip, the best times to visit Peru are the fringe months of April and May or September and October. Prices are usually cheaper during these months.
- Take the colectivos – These are cheap buses that cost around 2-10 PEN for a ride. They are a bit confusing as they don’t necessarily have a schedule, but there is always a door person whom you can ask if the bus is going to your location. There are not always marked bus stops, so look for gathering crowds.
- Book tours last minute – If you are looking to do the Inca Trail and have a bit of extra time to wait for a deal, showing up in Cusco and booking a last-minute tour can save you lots of money. Booking months in advance means paying the premium price but if you can wait your patience may be rewarded. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get on last-minute if you have your heart set on doing it though since it might not work out.
- Go on a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and avoid missing any must-see stops. Free Walking Tour Peru has tours that can guide you around both Lima and Cusco. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here isn’t safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle with a filter to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Peru
Peru has a ton of hostels. Here are some of my favorite places to stay throughout the country:
- Pariwana Hostel (Lima)
- 1900 Backpackers Hostel (Lima)
- Loki Hostel (Cusco)
- Kokopelli (Cusco)
- Wild Rover Hostel (Cusco)
- Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta (Cusco)
- Arequipay Backpackers Downtown (Arequipa)
- Loki del Mar (Mancora)
- The Point Mancora Beach (Mancora)
How to Get Around Peru
Public transportation – City buses cost around 1.50-3 PEN per trip. Microbuses ( colectivos ) are available and prices vary depending on the distance. Trips generally cost 2-10 PEN, though they are a bit hectic and take some getting used to.
Bus – Buses can take you all over Peru and are the most common way to get around for budget travelers. The usual price for a 10-hour bus journey is around 40 PEN depending on how nice the bus company is. You can use Cruz del Sur to look up bus schedules and prices. Keep in mind that any journey through the mountains will be a slow ride! Lima to Cusco takes over 21 hours and costs 185 PEN, though you can get a ticket for as low as 39 PEN if you book in advance.
Peru Hop is another reliable and comfortable bus company designed for backpackers. This bus is a hop-on/hop-off service you can take around the country. Three-day journeys from Lima to Cusco start from 683 PEN, while 7 days in Southern Peru costs 836 PEN.
Flying – Peru has five international airports (Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Iquitos, and Piura), as well over a dozen airports with domestic service. LATAM, Avianca, and Star Peru are the main domestic airlines.
Flying between destinations isn’t always the cheapest option, but it’s a whole lot quicker. A flight from Lima to Cusco takes just over an hour (as opposed to the 21 hours by bus) and prices start around 250 PEN. Lima to Arequipa starts around 200 PEN.
Train – Like the rest of South America, the rail system in Peru is basically non-existent. There are nice tourist options though, like PeruRail and Inca Rail, which both run trains between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu Pueblo (the gateway to Machu Picchu). On PeruRail, tickets start from 179 PEN. Inca Rail also runs between Cusco and Machu Picchu Pueblo with tickets starting around 220 PEN.
From Lima, there’s just one train: the Ferrocarril Central Andino, the world’s highest passenger train, which travels across the Andes to Cerro de Pasco and Huancayo. One-way fare starts from 230 PEN. However, service is limited — sometimes the train only runs once a month. Journeys are currently suspended due to Covid so be sure to check their website for updates.
Car rental – I don’t suggest renting a car here as the drivers are aggressive, the roads are poorly maintained, and accidents are common. If you do decide to rent a car, use Discover Cars to find the best prices.
When to Go to Peru
Peru has just two seasons: wet and dry. May through October is the dry season, while November through April is the rainy season. The wettest months are from January to the end of April. This isn’t a great time to visit Peru — at least not in the mountain areas, where roads and hiking trails may become blocked or closed.
Most people come to Peru from the beginning of May to the end of November, with July and August being the busiest months. May and September are great months to visit, as tourism slows down slightly but temperatures are still pleasant.
If you want to spend more time in the mountains, June to September has clear, sunny days (but chilly nights). This is a good time to trek the Inca Trail. It’s also the best time to visit the Amazon Basin, when mosquitos are fewer.
Temperatures on the desert coast can get as high as 25-35°C (77-95°F) from December to April, while temperatures cool off from May-October. In the highlands from May-October, you can expect temperatures to reach 20-25°C (68-77°F).
How to Stay Safe in Peru
Peru is a pretty safe place to backpack and travel around, even for solo travelers, and even for solo female travelers. Your biggest worry is petty theft, which is rampant in the bigger cities and on overnight buses. Don’t flaunt expensive jewelry or belongings. Avoid taking your phone out in public if you can. Lock your bags on overnight buses and keep your valuables secure and out of sight. It’s easy to get robbed if you aren’t careful here (especially at night).
If you’re in Lima, don’t walk around alone at night, unless you’re in the safer neighborhoods (Miraflores and Barranco). Smaller cities and towns are perfectly safe to walk around alone day and night.
Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).
Scams aren’t super common but if you’re worried about getting ripped off, here’s a list of common travel scams to avoid .
If you’re doing any hiking, check the weather in advance and bring plenty of water. If you’re hiking to Machu Picchu, arrive early to adjust to the altitude. 3-5 days early can make all the difference!
If you experience an emergency, dial 011 for assistance. If you’re in one of the bigger cities, you can also seek out the tourism police.
For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Peru, check out this post that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Peru Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
- Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
Peru Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Peru travel and continue planning your trip:
The 4 Best Tour Companies in Peru
Is Peru Safe to Visit?
How to Hike the Inca Trail
How to Turn Right at Machu Picchu and Find Atlantis
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- 20 Best Places To Visit In Peru For An Incredible Holiday Experience In 2023
23 Mar 2023
Ruins of Incas empire, dramatic landscapes, beaches, and nightlife, Peru has got it all. You’ll always find something to keep you entertained no matter what kind of traveler you are. In fact, there are so many great places to visit in Peru that you’ll have to plan your itinerary carefully. Which is where we come in for help! Check out this list of places to visit in Peru recommended by us!
The country of Peru is located in the western region of South America and shares its borders with Ecuador as well as Columbia in the north and Brazil in the east. There are various age-old cultures in Peru that reflect its historical significance.
Best Time To Visit Peru
If you’re planning to visit Cusco or experience the Machu Pichu trek, the months of May-September is the best time to visit as it is a dry season and people can explore the best attractions of the these cities without any hassle. While summer which starts from December and lasts till March is the wettest season, and there is frequent heavy showers. And from April-October the weather is quite unpredictable here and may vary just like UK.
20 Best Places To Visit In Peru
These 20 top attractions in Peru are nothing less than magical. Take a look at what awaits you there and how can these places make your trip truly unique and unforgettable.
Archeological ruins take center stage in this erstwhile Incan empire. There are many places to visit in Cusco, Peru such as the Inca complex, Sacsayhuaman and Coricancha. You can also explore sites like the 17th century Cusco Cathedral and the vibrant Plaza de Armas that plays host to events and festivals.
This Peruvian city lies amidst the mountains of Andes. Cusco once was considered to be Inca Empire’s capital and therefore is a home to various archaeological remnants. The architecture here features Spanish colonial influence.
Location: Southeastern Peru
Key attractions: Sacsayhuaman, Coricancha, Cusco Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Sacred Valley, Tambomachay
Must Read: Peru Is Proving To Be An Emerging Travel Destination For Indian Travelers
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2. Machu Picchu
One of the most famous tourist places in Peru is Machu Picchu . It’s home to the iconic ruins of an Inca citadel. The best thing to do here is to hike and explore the stunning remains, which are world-famous for their spectacular beauty.
This Incan citadel has been established atop the Andes Mountains of Peru and overlooks the valley of Urubamba river. Machu Picchu was established in 15th century and was abandoned after some time. The dry stone walls attract the most tourists around it.
Location: Cusco Region, Peru
Key attractions: Temple of the Moon, Huayna Picchu, Sayacmarca, Putucusi
Suggested Read: Moray Inca Ruin: A Wonderful Pocket Guide For Your Next Getaway To Peru!
3. Lake Titicaca
Nestled between Peru and Bolivia is Lake Titicaca, a gorgeous stretch of water that’s incidentally also the highest navigable water body in the world. It’s also a home to the man-made Uros Islands, which are one of the best places to visit in Peru.
This is one of the largest lakes of South America. Like other places in Peru, this place too has historical significance, as it is believed to be the birthplace of Incas. This is why, one can find a variety of ruins here.
Location: Andes, between Bolivia and Peru
Key attractions: Suasi Island, Isla de la Luna, Puerto de Puno
Suggested Read: Skylodging In Peru: Camping While Hanging Off A 1,200 Feet Cliff
There are numerous places to visit in Lima, Peru . Peru’s capital is a bustling city with colonial buildings, museums, and bars, creating a lively ambience. Those looking for nightlife will find it here in spades. This city lies around the arid Pacific coast of Peru.
The colonial center here has been preserved and still the capital of Peru has been established as a busy urban city. It is one of the largest cities in South America. Historically enriched, this place is known for pre-Columbian art and a cathedral established in 16th century. Since there are so many places to visit in Lima, Peru, keeping it in your itinerary is a must.
Location: Valley of Chillon
Key attractions: Larco Museum, Basilica and Convent of San Francisco, Huaca Pucllana
Suggested Read: The Magnificent Colca Canyon In Peru Will Take Your Breath Away!
The Nazca lines continue to mystify and enthrall. If you love history, Nazca should be your next stop on your trip to Peru. It’s one of the famous places in Peru and is packed with sights to see for a mesmerizing experience.
Located at the southern coast, Nazca is also the largest town in Nazca Province. The name ‘Nazca’ has been originated from the culture of Nazca that used to flourish during the time span of 100 BC and 800 AD.
Location: Southern Coast Of Peru
Key attractions: Nazca Lines, Museo Maria Reiche
Suggested Read: 10 Best Things To Do In Brazil For A Wild & Unforgettable South American Sojourn
Winter sports and outdoor adventures make Huaraz a popular place to visit in Peru among adventure enthusiasts. There are interesting spots to explore inside the city as well such as Jiron Jose Olaya that holds weekly markets selling regional foods which are some of the unique things to see in Peru.
The city is located in the north of Callejon de Huaylas valley. Huaraz is a capital of Ancash Region and lies 3,000 meters above the sea level. This place is also famous for Huarascan National Park where one can be a witness to jaguars and Andean condors.
Location: Callejón de Huaylas valley
Key attractions: Wilcahuain, Museo Arqueologico de Ancash, Jiron Jose Olaya, Mirador de Rataquenua
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See more of Peru’s history at Maras where the Maras Salt Mines date back to Incan times. It’s located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is itself a major Peru tourist attraction that you can’t afford to miss.
Maras is one of the cool places to visit in Peru and is essentially famous for Maras Salt Mines that is gaining significance since times immemorial. The trails around this place lets you witness picturesque landscapes from all four directions.
Location: Sacred Valley of the Incas
Key attractions: Maras Salt Mines, Moray
Suggested Read: 15 Best Restaurants In South Africa To Enjoy Ultimate Culinary Delight
8. Paracas National Reserve
Experience the natural beauty of Peru at Paracas National Reserve that provides the migratory birds and wild animals a safe shelter. The reserve also has gorgeous beaches with reddish shores where you can chill and unwind for hours with your loved ones.
This is one of the best places to go in Peru which always find the top spot in the list. This place keeps the animals in their natural habitat and is located in the Ica region of Peru. One can find 65 archaeological sites in this reserve.
Location: Peru, Ica
Key attractions: Paracas Candelabra geoglyph, beaches
When you want to take a break from exploring historical sites and nature, we recommend heading to the resort town of Mancora. It’s a great place to go in Peru with cafes, bars, and restaurants lining the streets.
This town lies in the region of Piura, which is located in the northwest coast of Peru. This place is renowned for Mancora beach which is visited mostly by the surfers.
Location: Piura Region, Northwestern side of Peru
Key attractions: La Poza de Barro, beaches
Suggested Read: 15 Most Haunted Places In America: One Of A Kind & Each One With A Disturbing History!
10. Cordillera Blanca
Round off your list of places to visit in Peru with a trip to Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range that offers plenty of opportunity for hiking. Climbers can also put their skills to the test by summiting Huandoy.
This mountain range is considered to be the part of the larger range of Andes, expanding for about 200 kilometers. This range comprises various peaks that are more than 6,000 meters high. The range even includes about 722 glaciers.
Key attractions: Huandoy, Llanganuco Lakes
Markawasi is considered to be a stone forest and is ideal for the adventurers, as the place gives them the opportunity for hiking in the mountains of Andes. The place is known for its intricate stone structures and is located 6 hours away from Lima.
However, make sure you take a day’s break before coming to this place from Lima, as there’s a chance you would be caught by severe altitude sickness if you travel this far the same day.
Location: Andes Mountain, Peru
Key Attractions: Unique and large rocky structures
This beach town in Peru is located in Trujillo city and is famous for caballitos de totora, ceviche, and surfing. Huanchaco isn’t someplace that would look like a standard beach town to the tourists. The town has been infused with rich history and is located at a close distance to the age-old ruins of Chan Chan.
The historical elements in this place are a reflection of Colonial and Pre-Columbian eras. Therefore, surfers, as well as history buffs, would love this town in Peru.
Location: Trujillo, Peru
Key Attractions: Mount Campana, Chan Chan
Image Source In a valley in northern Peru, is this town called the Chachapoyas surrounded by the cloud forest. The town often attracts history buffs due to its rich heritage and is no doubt one of the best places to visit in Peru, South America . The town is a way to archaeological sites and attracts a lot of tourists each year. If you are an adventurous soul, then you can find hiking opportunities in this quaint town of Chachapoyas.
Location: Northern Peru
Key attractions: Gocta Waterfall and Kuélap
Suggested Read: Inca Trail: For Trekking Through The Marvelous Beauty Of Peru Like Never Before
This is a beautiful port city in Peru which attracts quite a lot of nature enthusiasts, it being the entry point to the jungles and tribes of north Amazon. If you are visiting Iquitos, then you should not miss the open-air street market of Belen which is one of its kind. Also, one cannot reach Iquitos by road. This city of the world is only connected to it via air and water. So, if you are a road trip person, then you might need to consider other options!
Location: Loreto, Peru
Key attractions: Casa de Fierro, Belen, and Quistococha
Image Source Pisac is a quaint village in southern Peru. One can explore the ancient temples here. It is a great archeological site. The markets have quite a lot of handicraft items in Pisac. So, you can take home souvenirs from the South American trip from here. The environs are lovely here in Pisac and the views spectacular. If you are planning a trip to South America, then this place should definitely be on your list!
Location: Calca Province, Peru
Key attractions: Awana Kancha, Pisac Market, Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, and Lord of Huanca
Suggested Read: This Island In South America Is The World’s Most Dangerous Place
16. Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Image Source One of the largest reserves in Peru, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve exhibits surreal views of the forest reflecting on the water’s surface. Home to an extensive number of various species of flora and fauna, this national reserve is one of the popular places to visit in Peru. One can spot bright colored birds, different species of monkeys, beautiful orchids, luxuriant vegetation, and much more. The best way to take a look around this national reserve is via a tour on the cruise.
Location: Calle PV. # 12 Tibilo Villa, Lagunas 16551, Peru
Key attractions: Howler monkeys, macaws, pink river dolphins, capuchins, toucans
17. Manu Rainforest
Image Source Allowing visitors to witness the magnificent Amazon Rainforest, Manu Rainforet or National Park houses plenty of marvelous wildlife. The rainforest attracts hundreds of colorful macaws by virtue of salt-rich clay licks. Manu Rainforest is one of the amazing places to visit in Peru that enables the travelers to witness river otters, tapir, and other beautiful creatures of the forest. This forest is nothing less than a paradise on earth for nature admirers.
Location: Calle Plateros 373-a, Cusco 08002, Peru
Key attractions: Jungle lodge, otters, tapirs, jaguar, macaws
18. Cloud Forest
Image Source Located at such a high altitude that one can witness the clouds passing in between the lush greens, Cloud forest is home to a diversity of animals and flora. With an amazing stay named Cock of the Rock Lodge, Cloud forest is home to the national bird of Peru of the same name. This location also gives travelers an opportunity to visit the dancing ground that showcases fascinating, colorful and showy dance of the birds.
Key attractions: Capuchin, woolly monkeys, bromeliads, orchids
19. Colca Canyon
Image Source One of the locals’ favorites, Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world. The canyon exhibits picturesque sceneries and mesmerizing features along with intriguing remnants of Incan. Colca Canyon has plenty to offer including great lodges, amazing walks, cultural experiences, and much more.
Location: Chivay, Peru Key attractions: Locals in traditional Andean dresses, spectacular views of the canyon
20. Ollantaytambo Ruins
Image Source A place that exhibits rich history of Incan battle perfectly, Ollantaytambo Ruins is the destination where Incan won a battle against the Spanish invaders. This location was used as a royal estate during the 15th century. Sitting in the Sacred Valley by the Patakancha River, Ollantaytambo was the last stronghold of Incan during the war. The rugged and rocky structure of this location makes it one of the good places to visit in Peru.
Location: Southern Peru
Key attractions: Ruins and history of Incan battle
Further Read: Sacred Valley Guide: An Encounter With The Treasure Trove Of Peru!
These places to see in Peru are surely one of their own kind and so impeccable that they can add wonders to your international trip with TravelTriangle So, don’t think, save your dates, book, and head out right away! Know of more places to visit in peru? Share with us in the comments below!
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Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.
Frequently Asked Questions About Places To Visit In Peru
Which is the prettiest place in Peru?
Machu Picchu is amongst the prettiest places in Peru. The place is home to the famous ruins of an Inca citadel. Other famous places in Peru are Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Lima, Nazca, Huaraz, Maras, Mancora, Markawasi, etc.
What cities should you visit in Peru?
Cuzco, Lima, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Iquitos, and Puno are the top cities to visit in Peru. Other popular cities that offers amazing vacations in Peru are Trujillo, Ica, Nazca, Huaraz, Cajamarca, Chiclayo, Huanchaco, Tarapoto, etc.
Is it safe to visit Peru during Covid times?
You need to follow all the mandatory safety guidelines mentioned by the authorities to ensure a safe travel experience. Remain masked while stepping out and maintain social distance. Avoid visiting crowded places and keep sanitizing your hands after touching surfaces.
What is Peru most famous for?
Apart from gaining all the popularity because of Machu Picchu as well as the Incan trail, Peru is also famous for Ayahuasca ceremonies and Shamans in Amazon. Sacred Valley, Colca Canyon, Nazca Lines, Saqsaywaman, and Salcantay are the prominent attractions of Peru.
What can I do in Peru?
You can make the most of your trip to Peru by exploring the prominent cities. You can even make your trip more fun by indulging in activities like hiking and trekking in the adventurous trails of various mountain ranges.
What is the most popular food in Peru?
Peru is known for its exquisite cuisine. You can try savory dishes like Peruvian Primer, Aji de Gallina, Papas a la Huancaina, Cuy, Causa, and Ceviche to name a few.
Is it cheap in Peru?
Whether Peru is cheap or not depends on the kind of accommodation and transfers one chooses. There are numerous pocket-friendly alternatives available for budget travelers across the country.
Do they speak English in Lima?
English is not much spoken across the country, however, Lima has more percentage of English-speaking locals. The official language of Peru is Spanish.
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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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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!
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.
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 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
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- Peru’s star products
Thanks to a long history defined by major ancient civilizations, Peru is home to more than 5000 archaeological sites. Many of these remain shrouded in mystery, but are still capable of transporting visitors to the periods when such societies flourished. For example, a visit to Machu Picchu reveals the perfection of the Inca empire; this sacred city can be reached onboard the luxurious trains that run through imposing mountain scenery dotted with colorful Andean villages.
Peru is synonymous with natural beauty and it is one of the world’s ten most biologically diverse countries. With more than 200 protected natural areas, it possesses 84 of the planet’s 117 life zones. Peru has created 14 national parks, 15 national reserves, 9 national sanctuaries and 11 reserved zones. It is home to more than 1800 species of birds and 10% of all the reptile, mammal and fish species that exist on Earth. It also has 3 500 varieties of orchids.
Peru is also a paradise for lovers of adventure, offering a range of outdoor sporting activities for the curious, beginners, amateurs and experts, including trekking, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, paragliding, hang gliding, camping, canoeing and kayaking. These are just some of the most popular activities that form part of the host of possibilities offered by the varied geography of Peru.
Moray Archaeological Complex - Province of Moray
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Peru Travel Advisory
Travel advisory june 1, 2023, peru - level 2: exercise increased caution.
Last Update: Reissued with updates to crime information.
Exercise increased caution due to crime, civil unrest, and the possibility of kidnapping . Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Do not travel to:
- The Colombian-Peruvian border area in the Loreto Region due to crime .
- The Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), including areas within the Departments of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, and Junin, due to crime and terrorism .
- The Puno Region, including the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, and the Apurimac Region due to civil unrest .
Country Summary : Crime, including petty theft, carjackings, muggings, assaults, and other violent crime, is common in Peru and can occur during daylight hours despite the presence of many witnesses. Kidnapping is rare, but does occur. The risk of crime increases at night. Organized criminal groups have been known to use roadblocks to rob victims in areas outside of the capital city of Lima.
Demonstrations occur regularly throughout the country. Public demonstrations can take place for a variety of political and economic issues. Demonstrations can cause the shutdown of local roads, trains, and major highways, often without prior notice or estimated reopening timelines. Road closures may significantly reduce access to public transportation and airports and may disrupt travel both within and between cities.
U.S. travelers participating in Ayahuasca and Kambo ceremonies should be aware that numerous persons, including U.S. citizens, have reported that while under the influence of these substances, they have witnessed or been victims of sexual assault, rape, theft, serious health problems and injuries, and even death.
Currently, U.S. government personnel cannot travel freely throughout Peru for security reasons . Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Peru.
If you decide to travel to Peru:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans as needed.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program ( STEP ) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter .
- Follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook and Twitter .
- Review the U.S. Embassy webpage .
- Review the Country Security Report for Peru.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist .
- Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
Colombian-Peruvian border area in the Loreto Region – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Drug trafficking and other criminal activity, combined with poor infrastructure, limits the capability and effectiveness of Peruvian law enforcement in this area.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling within 20 kilometers of the border with Colombia in the Loreto region, except on the Amazon River itself, without permission. This includes travel on the Putumayo River, which forms most of the Peru-Colombia border.
U.S. government personnel must receive advance permission for any travel to the Peruvian-Colombian border.
Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) includes areas within the Departments of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, and Junin – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Remnants of the Shining Path terrorist group are active in the VRAEM. The group may attack with little or no warning, targeting Peruvian government installations and personnel.
Drug trafficking and other criminal activity, combined with poor infrastructure, limit the capability and effectiveness of Peruvian law enforcement in this area.
U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling in the VRAEM except for certain areas during daylight hours. U.S. government personnel must receive advance permission for any travel to the VRAEM. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens due to these travel restrictions.
The Puno Region, including the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, and the Apurimac Region– Level 4: Do Not Travel
The Puno and Apurimac regions, including areas previously frequented by tourists near Lake Titicaca and the cities of Puno and Apurimac, were epicenters of recent violent civil unrest and have yet to recover.
Local police and emergency services do not have the same capacity to respond to traveler emergencies in these regions as elsewhere in Peru.
U.S. Embassy personnel are currently prohibited from traveling to the Puno Region, including Lake Titicaca, and to the Apurimac Region.
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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.
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.