Cities like Cusco, Lima and Arequipa usually attract all the attention when it comes to Peru, but the country is much more than a couple of cities. In a lot of ways, the small towns in Peru are the places where you’ll find the old Peru, the people who still live traditional ways of life. Here are the most beautiful towns in Peru that you’ll want to visit.
Surrounded by mountains high in the Andes, Cajamarca has the quintessential Plaza de Armas. It has beautiful gardens, bright green lawns and is surrounded by old colonial buildings.
This town stays true to its traditional Andean roots. You’ll find the locals wearing their colorful outfits and walking around with brightly colored alpaca. You’ll also find some epic ruins that overlook the town.
The Uros people built floating islands made out of reeds on Lake Titicaca. Their islands, coupled with the bright blue water of the lake, and their colorful clothes and boats make everyday seem like a parade or celebration – but it’s just another day on the island.
The little town in the Sacred Valley is home to mystic, hippie ex-pats and Andean people, making for a confluence of cultures and traditions. On market Sundays, when everyone is out and about in the plaza, it is one of the most colorful places in all of Peru.
Santa Catalina Monastery
It’s called the city within a city. While not a city itself, this monastery was called home by the nuns who lived there their entire lives. The monastery has streets with street names, different houses and is set up perfectly all for the nuns – and it is without a doubt the most colorful place in all of Peru.
Tarma is a city in the Andes mountains of central Peru and is usually depicted in photographs for its flowers and verdant landscape that surround the city, a reason for its long history of inhabitants that pre-date the Incas. The neoclassical Cathedral of Santa Ana de Tarma sits in the central square and is worth a photo-op or two.
The people from this town are known for their religious devotion and, ironically, their celebrations and parties. The town is also known for its 33 churches, one for each year of Jesus’ life. Even though the Shining Path, Peru’s infamous militant group, uses the town as a base, Ayacucho still has its charm and beauty despite that terrible past.
You’ll find weavers everywhere, creating their beautiful and colorful textiles. They’ll be out in the streets creating their masterpieces, surrounded by Inca ruins and a quaint church.
Chivay is one of the main towns you’ll find in Colca Canyon. The town is very popular with tourists for its hot springs, wildlife, condor spotting and its townspeople.
This isn’t just a beautiful town to stay in, it is also the perfect launching point to discover the Kuélap ruins, recently recognized in the New York Times as one of the 52 Places to Visit in 2018, and the Gocta waterfall, one of Peru’s largest waterfalls.
San Pedro de Cajas
The small, infrequently visited town lies around 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) from Tarma. It gives you the best chance to see rural Peruvian life based on livestock and weaving. The town is well known for its beautiful, hand-woven tapestries.