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Peru is probably one of South America’s most well-known destinations, and the mysterious settlement of Machu Picchu has adorned many a tourist postcard. But while the country is certainly celebrated for the Inca Trail and its ancient archeological site, Peru has so much more to offer than crumbling ruins. Explore the museums of Lima, soak in the hot springs of high-altitude Cusco, and fly over the astonishing Nazca lines.
Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Peru:
Number 10. Chachapoyas
Set in a scenic yet secluded spot far from the Peruvian coast, Chachapoyas lies high amid the mountains and is the capital of Amazonas.
Founded by the Spanish in 1538, the small city is home to a couple of interesting monuments and colonial buildings, with plenty of restaurants, and hotels found around its main plaza. From here, you can arrange to visit incredible sights such as the distinctive sarcophagi of Karajia, the pre-inca city of Kuelap and the sparkling Gocta Waterfall.
Number 9. Trujillo
Nestled within a lush valley eight hours north of Lima, Trujillo is celebrated for its photogenic colonial center filled with colorful Spanish mansions and quaint churches. Not far from the Pacific Coast, this relatively large city was founded in the 1500s close to the abandoned Chan Chan ruins, one of the largest pre-Incan empires of ancient Peru. Within its impressive once-walled ruins, this mud city is the largest adobe city in the Americas and boasts a series of religious temples, burial grounds, and royal residences.
Number 8. Nazca Lines
The puzzling Nazca lines that crisscross the valleys of Palpa and Nazca have put this part of Peru’s otherwise uninteresting desert on the map.
These enormous inscriptions of lines, animals, and other geometric patterns were carved into the sandy terrain by the Nazca people and are believed to have been part of a thousand-year-old holy road. The dry, windless, stable climate of the Nazca Desert has helped keep the lines uncovered to the present day.
Number 7. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest lake, straddles the border of Bolivia and Peru. At an elevation of just over 12,500 feet, it is considered the highest navigable lake in the world. Many of its 41 islands are inhabited, including the floating islands the natives make with heavy reeds. About 500 species of aquatic life live in the lake, which has a large population of water birds. Local belief says the sun was born at Lake Titicaca.
Number 6. Lima
As Peru’s capital and largest city, Lima is a sprawling metropolis of almost 9 million people. The city was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and offers a rich history as well as exceptional food and a great sense of culture. Whether you’re taking a stroll through the historic heart of Lima Centro and its craft markets or exploring the more tourist-friendly green suburb of Miraflores, which overflows with antique shops and bars, you’re in for something special.
Number 5. Colca Canyon
There’s a reason Colca Canyon is the third most visited tourist destination in Peru: stunning views. The canyon is one of the deepest in the world and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. If you get tired of scenic views, you can feast your eyes on the sky where you may see Andean condors and the biggest hummingbirds you’ve ever seen. Villages are a good place to buy local handcrafts.
Number 4. Sacred Valley
Once the heartland of the Inca Empire, The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a valley in the Andes, close to Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities. Whichever route you take, there’s plenty to discover along the way.
There are gorgeous colonial towns, remote villages, colorful markets, and fascinating Incan sites such as the citadels of Pisac, Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo tucked along this mysterious valley.
Number 3. Arequipa
Lying at the foot of the towering El Misti volcano, Arequipa’s mountainous setting makes it beautiful to behold. Distinct from the rest of the country, Arequipans rightly have much to be proud of as a stunning array of lavish colonial architecture greets you as you wander around the city’s streets.
Examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the center of the city. Among the most significant of these is the Santa Catalina Convent, which has some lovely little streets and captivating architectural designs for visitors to explore.
Number 2. Cusco
Formerly the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is mesmerising to wander around as decadent colonial churches jostle for supremacy with the Inca temples and modern fast-food joints that line its ancient cobbled streets.
The archaeological capital of the continent is simply breathtaking for its fantastic wealth of historical sites and rich cultural heritage. The surrounding area is full of amazing sights just waiting to be explored and, as the gateway to Machu Picchu; Cusco is a must-see city in Peru.
Number 1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is a magnificent representation of the Inca civilization before the Spanish came.
Nestled in the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu served as a palace for the emperor, a fortress and as a site for religious ceremonies where human sacrifices were made to appease the gods. Untouched by the Spanish, the site was abandoned after the conquest, only to be “discovered” by an American professor in the early 1900s.
Built from polished stones, the city is a fascinating example of classical Inca architecture. With its spectacular views, Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited tourist attraction..