As an exciting, cultural and scenic experience, Peru truly is an exotic jewel in South America. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes Mountains running through its length, Peru boasts an amazing diversity of landscapes. Whether you want to explore the heart of the Incan Empire, discover amazingly pristine nature reserves or tour the sights in some incredible cities, Peru has it all. Be sure to make your way to as many of these destinations in Peru as your next trip to this amazing country will allow.
If you’re looking for a getaway to Peru that involves lots of outdoor recreation, great scenery and resort-style amenities, then Huacachina could be the perfect spot. Located in the south of Peru, Huacachina is an oasis of lagoons, restaurants and resorts surrounded by incredible sand dunes. The juxtaposition of lush greenery and water with the harsh dunes makes for amazing scenery, and there are also plenty of things to do in the area. In the dunes, you can hike, ride dune buggies or even try sandboarding for a rush of adrenaline. Huacachina also boasts opportunities to dine at dozens of fantastic restaurants or dance the night away at clubs and bars in town.
To see a side of Peru that few visitors do, be sure to visit Iquitos, the largest city in the world inaccessible by roads. Located in the Amazon, Iquitos is the ultimate spot to view wildlife and explore undiscovered territory in Peru. The biggest reason to visit Iquitos is to go on a jungle tour, where you can take a boat ride along the Amazon, spot alligators and anacondas or even camp overnight in the wilderness. There are several Amazonian lodges that let you escape from everyday life, and there is a fantastic floating market, called Belén, that you have to see in order to believe.
In the area of Peru known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, you’ll find the city of Pisac. With ruins that date back to the same time as Machu Picchu, this is a great stop for anyone interested in Incan history. Pisca is also best known for its weekly Sunday market, which brings in local vendors from the surrounding area selling everything from Alpaca wool products to musical instruments. The town of Pisac is completely pedestrian friendly, and it makes a pleasant retreat from some of the biggest tourist attractions in Peru.
4. Paracas National Reserve
On the southern coast of Peru you’ll find the Paracas National Reserve. This is definitely the place to be if you’re interested in spending time outdoors, as the national reserve offers beaches, deserts and breathtaking coastlines. You can hike through rustic trails or rent bicycles to tour the landscape even faster. The national reserve is home to millions of birds all year long as well as thousands of migratory birds that stop here en route to other destinations. Paracas is also a good introduction to pre-Inca culture, with its ancient peoples admired for their weaving skills.
5. Machu Picchu
The one destination that visitors most associate with Peru has to be Machu Picchu, a collection of ancient Incan ruins set among a truly breathtaking backdrop. Exploring Machu Picchu can’t be done in a hurry, so leave plenty of time to see the Sun Gate, the Temple of the Sun, the sun dial called Intihuatana and the Temple of the Condor. A popular way to get to Machu Picchu is via the Inca Trail, but there are also several other trails that wind around the forgotten Incan city and provide spectacular vantage points for history lovers and amateur photographers alike.
6. Uro Islands
On the border between Peru and Bolivia is Lake Titicaca, the largest body of water in all of South America. In the middle of Lake Titicaca are the Uro Islands, a unique destination that you won’t want to miss. The Uro Islands are not typical islands, since they are made from reeds. On these reeds, a group of native people that speak the Aymara language reside. Their homes, also built from reeds and rushes, are located on the floating reed islands. Tours are available to view the Uro Islands, and you can even mail a postcard from their operational post office.
Along with Lima and Cusco, Arequipa is one of the three big city destinations in Peru. A major landmark in the city is the El Misti volcano, which serves as the city’s backdrop. While you’re in Arequipa, you can tour the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by white buildings made of volcanic stone, you can shop in the historic San Camilo Market or you can admire the views from the Puente Bolognesi bridge. The city boasts nearly 300 colonial buildings, many of which are now transformed into restaurants, shops or office buildings.
If you want to visit Peru and kick back at the beach, do like the locals and visit the seaside town of Mancora. This is where Peruvians come to spend their vacations, and it boasts plenty of glorious coastline and lots of outdoor activities. Some of the ways to pass the time include spotting whales and dolphins from Main Beach or playing volleyball on South Beach. To stay active, you can try kiteboarding, surfing or even scuba diving. Seafood is on the menu of nearly every seafront restaurant, and Mancora’s bars have a reputation for playing live music and serving up drinks until at least dawn.
Located in the Andes, Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire, and it is now an amazingly preserved city packed with archaeology, history and beauty. You’ll definitely want to see the Incan walls around the Plaza de Armas, the Monumento Pachacuteq and the vibrant San Pedro Market. Arts and history enthusiasts will find an array of spectacular museums including the Papa Museo, the Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha and the Qoricancha itself, which is the Incan Sun Temple. There are also numerous ancient archaeological sites surrounding the city of Cusco worth exploring. Cusco has a unique culinary landscape, so don’t forget to try local specialties like alpaca steak, a pumpkin soup called sopa de zapallo and stuffed potatoes called papa rellena.
10. Colca Canyon
Near Arequipa is Colca Canyon, one of the top travel spots for epic views in Peru. Colca is one of the deepest canyons in the world, creating unparalleled views for hikers. Guided hiking tours are popular through Colca Canyon, and many last for several days and include camping each night between destinations. The canyon is also culturally exciting thanks to a unique indigenous culture. While you’re in the area, you can take classes to learn how to make the local handicrafts, spot Andean Condors in their natural habitats and even relax in the amazing natural hot springs, which are unbelievably relaxing after a long day of hiking through the canyon.