In Europe, they say all roads lead to Rome. In South America, it can feel like all roads lead to Peru. This small country has long draw in outsiders, from the days of the Inca when Cusco was the center of the empire to the modern day international fame of Machu Picchu. People often come to Peru for a short visit, seeing only one or two of Peru’s many highlights. Where you have a week or a month, here is our full list of sites definitely worth visiting in Peru.
Most visits begin in Lima, the capital of the country and where international flights land. The city doesn’t always get a kind review from travelers. It is big, noisy, hot, dusty, and in areas, dangerous. Hidden behind all that though, Lima is a city like noneother. It has impressive history, from Inca ruins to modern skyscrapers. It has some of the world’s best restaurants and equally incredible street food.
Spend at least 2 or 3 days in Lima and you will find yourself liking it a bit more by the hour. While you are there be sure to check out Lima’s historic district, the fountain show at Circuito Mágico del Agua, and don’t forget to try some local ceviche.
Easily the most visited site in Peru, Machu Picchu sees around 2,500 visitors per day. The site was named one of the new 7 wonders of the world and it doesn’t disappoint. The ruined Inca city perches high on a mountaintop, which breathtaking views in every direction. It has a magic about it and the restoration of the ruins lets you almost feel like you are stepping back in time.
For the best visit to Machu Picchu, skip the one-day tours and plan on spending a night in Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. This way you can see the sunrise over the mountains, clearing the fog around the ancient city. It is also the best way to avoid the midday rush when most tourists show up at the site for their short 3-5 hour visit.
Since the days of the Inca, Lake Titicaca has been considered sacred. It was here that they believed the world was first created, when the god Viracocha brought forth the sun, the stars, and the first people. Today Lake Titicaca offers a chance to experience traditional Peruvian life.
A visit to Lake Titicaca often includes a trip out to the floating islands of the Uros. These pre-Incan people have made their homes on the water for centuries, building floating islands from reeds. The islands contain everything they might need from homes to gardens.
As the world’s most incredible jungle, the Amazon extends beyond Brazil and into Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and or course Peru. A trip to the Peruvian Amazon offers a chance to see the jungle up close and without the same signs of destruction you might find downriver. Sign up for a boat cruise down the river or book a stay in one of the eco-friendly jungle lodges.
Most flights arrive in Puerto Maldonado though to really get into the jungle you will then have to travel by boat. Embrace the remoteness of where you are, leave your phone and computer behind, and make sure to pack lots of bug spray.
We have only just touched the surface with the above Peruvian highlights. Spend some more time in the country and you could see the beaches of Northern Peru, fly over the Nazca Lines, or sandboard down a dune outside the desert oasis of Huacachina.