erched 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.
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 also more rewarding.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.