You may know all there is to know about Cusco and the legendary Machu Picchu, but Peru is home to so many other spectacular sights that can easily go unrecognized. From the jungle to the Andes mountains, Peru is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and has a rich cultural history and tradition. Here are 15 must-see destinations that’ll take you on an unbeatable adventure through this unique country.
Lima is a must-visit, especially considering the food renaissance that is taking place in the city these days. The “City of Kings” now has two restaurants that rank inside the top 10 in the world, and even the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants stay true to quality Peruvian gastronomy. With beautiful places such as the Plaza de Armas and the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco to visit, Lima has a lot to offer.
Once you come, you’ll never want to leave – that’s what everyone who has ever been to Huaraz will tell you. With the Cordillera mountain range in its backyard, this mountain town has gained a reputation as the place to go backpacking in Peru. There are seemingly endless options that are sure to amaze.
The inscrutable stone figures are a must-visit and are only six hours from Lima. Hike high into the Andes mountains and discover the mystery that is the stone faces and figures of Markawasi, but be careful – going from sea level in Lima to the Andes too quickly will give anyone altitude sickness. Remember to take it slow.
This isn’t just another beach town along the coast of Peru. Huanchaco is steeped in history and tradition, which is evident as you take a walk done the boardwalk and see the fishermen in their reed boats dating back to time immemorial.
The beach capital of Peru, Mancora has everything you want in a beach town: nightlife, surf, sunny skies, and warm weather. With some of the most delicious and fresh food in all of Peru, this town seems to have everything.
The town itself is small and quiet, but people come here for the hiking. Just two hours outside this mountain town are two of the most spectacular sites in Peru: Gocta Waterfall, hidden in the mountains; and Kuélap, a walled city high in the mountains that was built by the Chachapoyas culture.
The city of Iquitos, located smack dab in the Peruvian jungle, is one of the more unique cities in Peru. Unreached by any roads, this town has an Amazon vibe that is not found anywhere else in the country, and it makes the perfect launching-off point for exploring the Amazon and for the ayahuasca retreats that take place close by.
The capital of the Incas is now the capital of tourism in Peru, and for good reason. Cusco is a remarkable city, surrounded by ruins and built on Inca foundations, with fascinating colonial architecture.
The hippy town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley offers beautiful ruins on top of a mountain and one of the best markets in Peru. You’ll also find all of your shamanic tools here, such as rapé (sacred shamanic snuff medicine) and rapé pieces.
The absolute must-see destination in Peru is, of course, Machu Picchu. It is one of those places that you won’t believe until you have seen it. The Inca citadel in the sky is an architectural marvel that is likely to leave you speechless.
The small town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley is a perfect example of Inca street planning and design. With narrow cobblestone streets and ruins that cling to the cliffside above, Ollantaytambo will make you feel that you are stepping back in time.
The highest navigable lake in the world is also home to the Uros people, a culture that continues to live on islands made out of reeds.
The whitewashed city of Arequipa is home to one of Peru’s most beautiful Plaza de Armas and some of the country’s best food, which is saying a lot. Colca Canyon, which makes the Grand Canyon look small, is only a short ride away.
The unexplained lines that are etched in the landscape are worth a trip to the Nazca. You can take a short plane ride above the lines so you can make out the shapes and come up with your own theory as to how they were created.
This desert oasis is only a short ride from Cusco. It’s surrounded by rolling rills of sand, and you really do feel as if you are stranded while staying at this tiny pond lake in the Peruvian desert. Take a day trip to explore the sand dunes on ATVs; you can even surf them.