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Home to Machu Picchu and a section of the Amazon rainforest, Peru is a diverse country that is rich in culture and tradition. Nicknamed the “Land of the Incas”, this beautiful country is home to fascinating archaeological sites, exotic jungles, coastal charms and natural wonders that offer a chance to enjoy memorable outdoor adventures and explore sleepy colonial towns. To see the country’s most spectacular sights, read to on to discover the best places to visit in Peru.
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Most likely you’re first stop on a Peruvian adventure, Lima is the capital city that offers a mix of pre-Hispanic architecture with modern infrastructure. In addition to its rich history and vibrant food scene, Lima stands out for its lively nightlife. Explore its historic district to discover ornate churches and monasteries, Spanish palaces and one of the oldest universities in the Americas. You can also visit the beaches at the north and south ends of the city.
Cusco is the capital of tourism in Peru, often serving as a popular base to explore nearby ruins like Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It served as the historic capital of the Inca Empire and is a sleepy town that boasts well-preserved Spanish colonial-style buildings and a bustling Plaza de Armas. For an interesting day trip, head to the Inca site known as Sacsayhuaman, a walled complex constructed from limestone boulders.
A whitewashed city surrounded by three volcanoes, Arequipa showcases a mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. See the Santa Catalina Convent and its collection of colorful buildings and flowers, then wander around the city to see other buildings made using the distinctive white or pink volcanic ashlar stone. It’s also home to one of the country’s most beautiful Plaza de Armas and has a vibrant food scene, while the enormous Colca Canyon is just a short drive away.
You’ll find an array of interesting attractions to explore in Trujillo, as it’s dotted with picturesque buildings that feature colonial architecture, an elegant Plaza de Armas and various museums where you can learn about the region’s history. Explore its historic city center to discover local restaurants serving local specialties, or visit the fascinating Moche archaeological sites in the surrounding area. Founded in 1534, Trujillo is also within arm’s reach of the pre-Columbian site of Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the ancient world.
Outdoor enthusiasts won’t want to miss a chance to explore Huaraz, as its Cordillera mountain range sits in its backyard and is an ideal spot for a backpacking adventure. The city lures in trekkers, climbers and outdoor adventurers who want to visit the Huascaran National Park and the highest mountain in Peru, while Cordillera Blanca is home to glaciers and mountains that attract hikers, climbers and snowboarders. If you want to see a fascinating archaeological site, head to Chavin de Huantar.
Sunseekers will surely want to put Mancora at the top of their itinerary when exploring Peru, as this once attractive fishing port has been transformed into a trendy beach area. You’ll find the area lures in surfers from around the globe, as the city is an ideal stopover when crossing the north coast. It’s got everything you need to enjoy your beach holiday, from a buzzing nightlife scene to warm weather and delicious food.
Sitting on Peru’s west coast, Paracas is known for its beaches, such as the picturesque El Chaco that is nestled on the sheltered Paracas Bay. The small port town serves as a base to explore the nearby Paracas National Reserve with its desert, ocean and island landscapes. You’ll find luxurious hotels along its shoreline, while those looking to go wildlife watching can head to the uninhabited Ballestas Islands to spot sea lions and penguins.
Nestled in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is a small town that showcases Inca street planning and design with its narrow cobblestone lanes and cliffside ruins. Meander through the old town and admire the charming adobe buildings. You’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time at this town nestled on the Urubamba River, where you can visit the Ollantaytambo ruins and photograph its massive Inca fortress with stone terraces and explore the Sun Temple and Princess Baths fountain.
Known as the “Folkloric Capital of Peru”, Puno boasts rich traditions and an array of lively festivals throughout the year. Sitting on the banks of Lake Titicaca, visitors come to this area to see the beautiful body of water on the Altiplano of Peru. Lake Titicaca is one of South America’s largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water, while those more interested in the region’s history can see landmarks such as the Puno Cathedral with its Andean baroque-style architecture.
One of the most important historic settlements in Peru, Cajamarca sits in the country’s northern highlands in the Andes Mountains. Wander through the Plaza de Armas to discover Baroque colonial architecture, then visit the Cajamarca Cathedral to see its gold leaf-covered altar. To see fascinating catacombs and religious art, head to the Monastery of San Francisco to see its on-site museum, while the El Cuarto del Rescate is rumored to be where the last Incan emperor was imprisoned.
A popular beach town, Huanchaco is also steeped in history and tradition. Meander down its picturesque boardwalk to observe the local fishermen as they reel in the day’s catch, while those looking for more action can try their hand at catching a wave. Unwind from a day of sightseeing with fresh ceviche at one of the nearby restaurants or take a day trip to the ancient ruins of Chan Chan.
Pisac is a hippie town in the Sacred Valley that is home to beautiful ruins on top of a mountain. It boasts a vibrant handicrafts market where you can pick up colorful souvenirs, while a scenic path winds from the square up to the picturesque terraces in Pisac Archaeological Park, a hilltop Incan citadel with ancient temples and a stone structure thought to be a sundial. Sit back and soak up the spectacular views that stretch all the way to Quitamayo gorge.