Today’s blog is by our fabulous Apprentice Anastasia Malavolti, who has extensive travel experience in South America.
Believe it or not, Peru is a lot more than Machu Picchu and llamas! It is a country of utter beauty. Spectacular landscapes, fascinating historical sites, and cultural gems: Peru is an exciting destination. Depending on what you are looking for, museums, cities, hikes in nature or discovering the local food options, Peru offers you all of that…and more! Here are some of the best places to visit in Peru.
Peru is affordable, easy to access, easy to travel around (there are many bus companies running around the country) and it offers a variation of attraction, for different tastes. It is fairly easy to get to Peru. Many direct flight options to the International Airport in Lima are available from the USA or Europe, as well as from the main South American cities.
Best Places to Visit in Peru
Without further ado, here is a collection of some of the best places to visit when in Peru.
Fall in love with the Mysteries of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is a must for any traveler going to Peru. You’ll be astonished by the energy surrounding it. Getting there almost feels like going back in time. However, the many tourists visiting the site might ruin you this sensation. I personally suggest going during low-season, when it is a bit quieter. It gets quite busy during high season (between July and October). Try to book your tickets in advance.
Either way, Machu Picchu won’t disappoint you. To get a deeper perspective on the intriguing history of the site, you should hire a guide for visiting Machu Picchu. There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco or Ollantaytambo, including taking a bus, a train to Aguas Caliente or the popular 4 days-trekking through the Inca Trail. However you chose to arrive, the “city above the clouds” will not let you down. Its mysteries, the history, the precise architecture and the science behind its buildings will amaze you.
Enjoy Landscapes you’ve never seen before and Hike in the Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain)
Vinicunca Mountain is probably a much less known destination in Peru. But if you decide to go, you won’t be disappointed. Many travel agencies from Cusco offer bus rides and guided tours. To get to the top of the Rainbow Mountain, you’ll have to account for 3-4 hours long hike up plus 3 more hours down.
If you’ve spent time in Cusco, you will know how altitude is also a factor, so be prepared. You’ll see many locals selling coca-leaves tea on the trail to fight altitude sickness. Bring enough water and snacks to keep energised. You could even ride a donkey until a certain point, which will definitely save you some effort. But you cannot reach the top on a donkey ride. If you decide to get to the end, the views you’ll have will be totally worth the work! Not only the rainbow mountain itself but the glaciers surrounding it and the “red desert” are landscapes that seem to come from another planet.
Rest and live with locals on Titicaca Lake
Titicaca Lake is another place in Peru that you don’t want to miss. You can get there by boat from Puno. There are agencies organizing 3-4 days trips or you can try to contact a local family to spend a night or two on one of the main islands, to get a taste of local life. There are several islands in the lake you can visit.
One of the main stops are the floating islands of Uros, a cluster of artificially made islands, built out of totora reeds, collected from the lake. The Uros people are an indigenous tribe that still lives there from the time their ancestors where escaping from Inca and Spanish invaders and follow a simple, traditional lifestyle. However, they do have access to electricity, powered by solar panels! Today, they mainly live off tourism. The islands need to be maintained and repaired periodically. A well- maintained island could last for 30 years.
Amantani Island and Taquile are the biggest islands. They offer its visitors breath-taking sunsets and sunrises, as well as historical, ancient buildings. Locals live very simply and follow mainly a pescetarian diet, eating off the food they can grow on the island and fishing. Here, many families opened their houses for tourists to stay.
Go wild and sporty in Huráz and enjoy its Glaciers of Breath-taking Beauty
Huaraz, in northern Peru, is the base if you want to go and explore the beautiful Cordillera Blanca. There are so many places that you just have to choose what suits you and what you are looking for since many spots require at least some hiking. One of the most beautiful long-treks is the one to Laguna 69, a wonderful, clear blue lagoon created by the pure water melting from a glacier.
Places to Visit in Peru – History in Cusco
As you’ll notice travelling around the country or as you might imagine, Peru is a country full of history. The beautiful city of Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire and is characterised by a weird but fascinating combination of colonial and traditional Incan architecture. Walking down its streets really gives a sense of the long history. The immense cathedral in the main square is definitely worth a visit.
Get your full dose of History in the Sacred Valley
To learn more about the lost Andean civilisations and the Inca Empire, there’s no better place than the Sacred Valley. Cusco is part of it, but people mainly tends to differentiate between that city and the rest of Incan old town, which are more like villages. The Sacred Valley is of great historical and cultural value for the country since it was highly significant during the Inca Empire for the richness and fertility of its lands.
Usually, people travelling around the Sacred Valley, finish off at Ollantaytambo, as mentioned earlier one of the starting points for visiting Machu Picchu. It is a very well preserved old Incan village and one of the last ones to survive during the Spanish Conquista, definitely worth as a stop. Other destinations include Moray with its circular agricultural fields that remind of Greek amphitheatres, Pisac known for its weekly market offering artisanries and its ingenious terraces used for agricultural purposed and Maras and its salt pools.
Best Places to Visit in Peru for Peruvian cuisine – Lima
Last but not least, Lima is a city worth visiting. Aside from the many museums which provide more detailed information about pre-Incan, Incan and colonial history, Lima is also well known, and for good reasons for its world-renowned culinary offers, which are worth exploring. With exotic combinations such as the famous “Chifa”, a mixture between traditional Peruvian and Chinese cuisine or the delicious Ceviche, Lima’s cuisine is an intriguing result of multiple global influences, which will leave the visitor in awe.
There’s no doubt that you should see the best places to visit in Peru.
If you liked this post, you might also like to read about the best Peru Tours and the most famous Churches in the World.
What to pack for Peru
First of all, athletic shoes work perfectly for your hikes. However, if you have weak ankles or you are trekking during the rainy season, hiking boots might be more suitable for you.
Having a warm base layer under your other layers is an excellent solution when hiking or camping. Both a thermal shirt and thermal leggings are absolute must-haves. They are thin, but really keep you warm.
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Even if you’re travelling during the dry season, the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and it is wise to bring a rain jacket with you.
Also, either you are heading to the beaches or to the hot springs in the highland, don’t forget your swimsuit.
Sunglasses and sunscreen are also vital to protect you from the strong sun while you go out on treks or tours.