Giving yourself at least a day, either when you fly into Lima or before you leave, is a must. The City of Kings may have a reputation for ugly weather and ubiquitous traffic, but it is also establishing itself as the food capital of Latin America, and enjoying a couple of world-class meals is a must. Restaurante Central and Maido in Lima both rank inside the top 50 in the world, and are more than worth the price of a dinner. It’ll be a meal you’ll never forget.
Barranco is Lima’s artsy, bohemian neighborhood, with streets filled with street art and colorful houses. It has enormous charm and is the best place to go out in Lima, with old colonial mansions turned into trendy bars. A stroll to la puente de suspiros (“the bridge of sighs”) is a must; it may be the most romantic place to go in Lima.
In Lima’s downtown historical center you can marvel at the restored colonial mansions and churches, as well as the presidential palace. Lima is known for its colonial balconies that jut out above the sidewalks.
Take a bus from Lima toward Pisco and then on to Ica, the desert oasis. A few miles outside of Ica lies Huacachina, a desert oasis from where you can enjoy endless hills of orange sand. Here, you can spend the day sand-boarding and off-roading in the desert.
After staying in Ica, head down to check out the inscrutable Nasca Lines. These mysterious drawings carved into the land have baffled experts and resulted in a multitude of explanations, from the most out-there to the more grounded in reality. Take a quick plane ride to see the lines from above, so that you can make out the drawings and then come up with your own theory.
Arequipa is a beautiful colonial town in the south of Peru, and the country’s second-largest metropolis. Stunning colonial architecture and a volcano for a backdrop make this city a must-see.
Canon del Colca
While Machu Picchu and Cusco get all the attention, Cañón del Colca might be the most naturally beautiful place to visit in Peru. The canyon is 62 miles (100 kilometres) from end to end, and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The area is also rich with ruins from pre-Incan and Incan societies, as well as numerous Spanish structures.
Floating Reed Islands
Lake Titicaca is a large lake in the Andes that offers a unique landscape and stunning views, but it’s perhaps most famous for the floating reed islands that have been constructed in the lake. They were built centuries ago in order to escape invaders, and require constant rebuilding as the bottom slowly rots away. These surreal artificial islands are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Cusco was considered the “navel” of the universe, and was the capital of the Incas until it was taken over by the Spanish. Visiting Cusco, you’ll experience the beautiful confluence of Inca and Spanish architecture, and that alone is worth the trip. This city high up in the Andes is unlike any city you’ve ever seen.
Somewhere on everyone’s bucket list is Machu Picchu. There isn’t enough to say about the Inca ruins in the sky. Surrounded by towering peaks, with lush green terraces, the sights at Machu Picchu are unimaginable. Even if you can only go for a day, take the train or bus up to the famous ruins and discover its beauty and mystery for yourself.
The Sacred Valley
The sacred land of the Incas is breathtaking. Surrounded by craggy mountains and green grass, it is a remarkable landscape. Not only is the area beautiful; there are also plenty of things to do to keep you busy, such as zip-lining, mountain biking, horse riding, and rafting.