With its cultural wonders, rich ancient history, and dramatic mountain peaks, Peru is a country worth exploring. Peru’s mix of Spanish colonial influences and a strong indigenous identity make it a region full of diverse languages, cultures, and traditions. Whether you’re in Peru for a few days or a few months, you can rest assured you’ll never run out of things to explore. From the bustling city centers of Lima and Arequipa to the stunning natural beauty of the Amazon and the cultural marvel that is Machu Picchu, Peru is a one of a kind travel destination.
Peru’s capital city of Lima is a culturally rich city full of indigenous and colonial history. Nicknamed The City of Kings, Lima is a thriving city full of vibrant neighborhoods, fascinating museums, and breathtaking coastal views. Spend a few days exploring Lima, taking in the industries and identities that makes up modern-day Peru. Make sure you stop at Museo Larco for its display of indigenous art and Pre-Columbian artifacts. The museum also has a large garden and top-rated restaurant for visitors to relax in. While you're in the city, take a day to stroll through the quaint neighborhood of Miraflores and the nearby Parque del Amor to enjoy coastal views of the Pacific Ocean. For shopping, head to the Mercado Central to get fresh food, local goods, and souvenirs. History buffs can check out the Plaza de Armas and the ancient pyramid of Huaca Pucllana, two of Lima's important cultural sites.
Apart from the capital of Lima, Cusco and Arequipa are two Peruvian cities every tourist needs to visit. Arequipa is known as a city that perfectly showcases Peru’s Spanish colonial history. Nestled under three volcanoes, including the incredibly dramatic El Misti, Arequipa is a cool and confident city that’s as historically significant as it is beautiful. The city is also known for its fine dining and is the home of Peru’s recent gastronomic revolution. Tourists flock to Cusco because it's the ancient capital of the Incas and it’s also close to Machu Picchu and the start of the Inca Trail. The city is full of artisanal markets, galleries and boutiques to peruse, Spanish colonial architecture to admire and plenty of history to take in. Stroll through the neighborhood of San Blas, visit the Koricancha and sample local food at the San Pedro Market.
No trip to Peru is complete without a visit to Machu Picchu. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get to this wonder via the Inca Trail. You can choose the length of your hike, although most visitors opt for a two-day hike with one night of camping. You’ll be accompanied by local guides and other porters who carry luggage, cooking equipment, and other necessities. For those looking for a more straightforward trip, the Inca Rail is a train ride that takes you from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. You can also easily take a bus from the nearby town of Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu itself is an ancient Inca palace, and it's known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Make sure you arrive early, so you have the whole day to explore and enjoy the views.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas lies in the valley of the Urubamba River. Inca ruins dot the winding valley and scenic hills. This is also one of the best places to hike in Peru. Take the Inca Rail from Cusco and make stops at important Inca sites, like Chinchero, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Do some shopping at either the Pisac or Chinchero market and check out the local salt pans while you’re there.
A little over 60% of Peru is covered in the lush and biologically diverse Amazon. Take a 50-minute flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and book a room at one of the many eco-friendly lodges. From canopy walks to river tours to camping, there are plenty of activities to choose from for the adventurous. A trip to the Amazon is a one-of-a-kind experience, but be prepared to have insects on and around you at all times. Apart from the insects, the Peruvian Amazon is home to a huge variety of flora and wildlife that’s not found anywhere else in the world.
Peruvian cuisine varies depending on the region, but potatoes are a staple everywhere. The country consumes over 3,800 types of potatoes, and they come in every size and color you can think of. When you’re on the coast, be sure to sample the infamous ceviche. The fresh and flavorful dish is a medley of raw fish and seafood marinated in lime juice. This delicately flavored dish is typically served with raw red onion and pepper along with some type of potato or choclo, an Andean corn with large kernels. In the mountains, you can try cuy. This staple meat of Peru is more familiarly known as guinea pig. If you can’t stomach the cuy, try the lomo saltado, a Chinese-influenced beef stir-fry with rice or potatoes. When you start to get thirsty, you can grab a delicious and alcoholic Pisco Sour or opt for the bubblegum-flavored Inca Kola.
Lake Titicaca is home to over 100 floating islands known as the Uros Islands. The islands were constructed by the Uros people using countless floating reeds known as totora reeds. The roads are maintained and are usually rebuilt every 30 years to ensure the islands continue to stay afloat. Take a boat out to explore the islands, admire local craftsmanship and pick up some souvenirs. Some of the islands also have places where you can stay overnight. For more of an adventure, book a boat tour that stops at the Uros Islands as well as one of the larger islands. Taquile and Amantaní are beautiful natural islands on the lake that are fun to explore either on your own or with a guide.
About 250 miles south of Lima you’ll find the interesting and baffling Nazca Lines. These intricate drawings are etched into the landscape, but they only visible from the air. Experts continue to be puzzled about how the Nazca people created the lines over 2,000 years ago and for what purpose. Luckily, the unique desert environment has preserved the drawings, and they haven’t eroded, so you can still see them perfectly. Book an aerial tour, admire the drawings and try to come up with your own theory as to why they exist.
Inti Raymi, also known as the Festival of the Sun, is an Incan festival that honors the Sun God Inti and celebrates the winter solstice. Revelers celebrate the festival in Cusco every June where they recreate the ancient celebration. Enjoy the huge procession of traditionally dressed believers who recreate the traditions and rituals of their ancestors. The celebrations even include a fake sacrifice of a llama.
The Cordillera Blanca mountain range is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site that’s more than worth a visit. Head out on your own or hire a guide and hike one of the countless 19,000-foot peaks. If you’re looking for a shorter adventure, choose the Laguna 69, a one-day hike that takes you to a breathtaking lagoon that’s located over 15,000 feet above sea level. There are also longer hikes to choose from, including the Santa Cruz hike, a popular 4-day hike out of Huaraz.