Peru’s sheer size is balanced by a depth of history dating back to before the Inca. The country has sprawling beaches, towering mountains, huge metropolitan cities, and ancient ruins that rise out of the lavish foliage of the highlands. Keep reading for ten of the visitor sites to explore while traveling in the country.
One of the Seven Wonders of the New World, Machu Picchu is Peru’s most iconic site. Trains leave Cusco daily and make the journey through the Sacred Valley to the high peaks of the Andes. The number of people who are allowed to visit is limited daily, so make sure to purchase tickets in advance through the Ministerio de Cultura’s website.
The Cordillera Blanca is Peru’s outdoor adventure center. Each season thousands of avid hikers head to the north to scale mountains and glaciers that make for burley hikes. The area is also home to climbers, who head into the foothills for bouldering after the rain stops from June to August.
Salinas de Maras
Salinas de Maras is located outside of Cusco high in the Urumbamba Valley. The salt flats were created by the Inca, and have been harvested since the 1400s. There are over 3000 pans, fed by a saline spring and harvested by the local community who sell the salt at nearby markets.
Located in the midst of a vast desert at the base of a sand dune, Huacahina is one of the few true oases in the Americas. Lush palm trees surround a central lagoon in the town of less than a hundred people. It is a popular spot for sand boarding and dune buggies, taking adventurous travelers on tours of the surrounding area. Tours often combine this visitor site with the nearby Nazca Lines.
Located on the northwestern coast of Peru, Mancora still sports a small town feel, sparkling waters, and sunny skies for most of the year. The seaside mecca is a destination for surfing, with swells drawing local and international surfers each year. Ernest Hemingway visited the area, where it is rumored that he found the inspiration for “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Located on the Amazon River and only reached by boat or plane. The metropolis is a jumping off point for trips to the jungle and the neighboring reserves. Despite its remote location, there are plenty of bars and restaurants serving international fare. Make your way to the blocks along the riverfront to find a metal building designed by Gustave Eiffel. It’s rumored that the captain that transported it along the Amazon River, decided to leave the building in Iquitos, where it was assembled on site.
Reached and seen from a plane ride that begins and ends in Lima, the Nazca Lines are a series of giant designs on a thirty-seven mile plain. There are 90 biomorphs here-including plants and animals in massive form. Elsewhere on the one mile wide plain, there are 900 intricately designed geoglyphs.
Built by the Inca and colonized by the Spanish after the previous empire fell, Cusco is a mix of ancient ruins, colonial architecture, and modern tourist attractions that include restaurants and bars geared toward travelers. During the Spanish occupation, it became the center for religious art in Peru. It is the gateway to the Sacred Valley, with trains leaving for Macho Picchu daily.
The city of Lima is home to 9 million people and is a metropolitan city that stretches for miles in every direction. The Miraflores neighborhood is home to swanky restaurants, movie theaters, and an assortment of shops that rival major cities in the states and Europe. There are also museums in the area displaying an impressive amount of art and artifacts from the Spanish and the Inca.
Saqsaywaman is located close to Cusco to the north. It was called the House of the Sun by the Incas and is considered one of the most important religious complexes of its time. The park covers 3,094 hectares and has over 200 archaeological sites. Archaeologists are still finding canals, water fountains, and rooms around the grounds.