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Top 10 Things to Do in Peru

Discovering the richness of different worlds in Peru is an unforgettable experience which takes you back in time to ancient civilizations. Forget the skyscrapers and artificial lights for a moment.

Turn off the connection to modernity and technology. Immerse yourself in the primal, wild nature. Meet the Peruvian people who learned how to live in harmony with the rivers, ocean, Amazon, deserts, and Andes.

The archaeological heritage of prehispanic cultures, Inca Empire, colonial architecture, Western, East Asian, African influences and Mother Earth’s gifts will make your heart beat faster.

Clear your mind and get ready for the adventure.

1.Discover marvellous architecture of Cusco (Cuzco), „Archaeological Capital of the Americas“

Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, is located in the Andes. This beautiful city is best known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture.

Cusco is filled with contrasts between the ancient times of Inca temples and modernity of a cosmopolitan city which makes it an interesting place to visit.

Must see places:

Plaza de Armas

It’s Cusco’s main square with arcades, carved wooden balconies, and Incan wall ruins.

Cuzco Cathedral

Almost 400 colonial paintings are found here, including, the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, which shows Christ and the Apostles about to dine on guinea-pig, enjoying a glass of chichi.

Temple of La Compañía de Jesús (Society of Jesus)

The Temple has an impressive baroque facade with two majestic bell towers.

San Blas

Cusco’s neighbourhood is known for its narrow streets and alleys full of handicraft shops selling local paintings and ceramics, artisan workshops, restaurants, and bars.

Mercado Central de San Pedro

It’s a local market where you can find everything, from fruit & vegetables, meat, traditional medicines, herbs, and local dishes to handicraft section (you can buy there alpaca sweaters, blankets, textiles).

2. A once in a lifetime experience, taking the road to Machu Picchu (Old Mountain)

Built in the 15th century and set high in the Andes Mountains, Incan citadel is Peru’s most visited and best known archaeological site. Often called the “Lost City of the Incas”, it‘s one of the new 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Its sophisticated dry-stone giant walls, intriguing buildings and beautiful setting deep in the Amazonian jungle are a spectacular view you can’t miss.

The best and most adventurous way to get to Machu Picchu is Inca Trail.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (4 days)

Rated by many tourist guides to be in the top 5 treks in the world, the Inca Trail is the most famous trek in South America. It crosses through different ecosystems (mountains, forests, subtropical jungle) and colossal archaeological sites (i.e. Inca ruins of Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca), reaching the final destination – Machu Picchu. For some, it may seem like a long, exhausting road. But don’t think twice. It’s one of those experiences in life that will stay in your memories forever.  

Note: you have to book it through a licensed Inca Trail operator

You can also choose between Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (2 days) and Santa Teresa Trek (5 days). Or, if you don’t have a lot of time, there are two train options  from Cusco:

Train from Ollantaytambo Station (most popular) – 2 hours

Train from Poroy Station- 3 hours 15 min

3. Feel the beating heart of Peru’s capital – Lima

Lima is located on the west central coast of Peru and it was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Recognized as a World Heritage Site, the capital is full of ancient Incan archaeological sites, elegant cathedrals, magnificent palaces from Spanish colonial times, museums, beaches, the boardwalk, valleys, and natural reserves.

Even though Lima was transformed into the main political and administrative centre of South America, it hasn’t lost its historical and traditional spirit.

Must see places:

Lima Plaza Mayor

On Lima’s main square there is the Government Palace (home of Peru’s president) and Cathedral with the remains of Francisco Pizarro.

San Francisco Church and Convent

Two spectacular buildings from the colonial era, catacombs and 17th– century library with thousands of antique texts.

Torre Tagle Palace

The Tower is known for its colonial architecture and beautiful facade with a baroque stone doorway between two dark wood balconies.

4. Marvel at Nazca lines by flying over the desert

The Lines of Nazca are a group of pre-Columbian geoglyphs depicting animals, birds, and gods, spotted from the air in 1939 in the middle of the coastal desert, in southern Peru. It is said that geoglyphs have been drawn by the ancient Nazca people between 100 B.C. and 600 A.D. The mystery about how and why they were created has never been solved. The most popular hypothesis is one of an astronomical calendar whose figures marked different solar periods.

Among the 800 figures, there are the hummingbird, condor, and monkey.

The best way to see the Nazca lines

To fully see the Nazca lines you should take the light aircraft from the Nazca airport and fly over the desert. The flight on small planes (between 3 and 5 passengers) usually lasts from 30-40 minutes and costs around $40 plus $2 departure tax per person.

5. Immerse yourself in the wild nature of Amazonas

If you’re interested in archaeology. little-known historical places, folklore, and nature, you will be thrilled to visit The Amazonas region in Northern Peru. The cloud forests, páramo (alpine tundra ecosystem), waterfalls (Gocta and Yumbilla), lakes,  orchids, archaeological sites (like the enigma of Kuélap), mysterious tombs and sarcophagi. You can find it all in this splendid, mysterious place.

Must see places:

Puerto Maldonado

It’s the main gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. They have a rich offer of the night jungle hikes and canoe excursions.

Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve

You can observe many wild animals here such as birds, monkeys, Giant Otters, Black Caiman and Jaguar.

6. Enjoy the water activities in Peru

Surfing

Peru’s beaches are one of the best in the world, making it a paradise for surfers all year round.

Research showed that the first men riding the waves using the rafts were in Ancient Peru. The practice is 2,000-year-old and even now the fishermen in the northern coves of Huanchaco, Santa Rosa, and Pimentel ride the waves on reed rafts in search of the fish.

Surfers can enjoy the waves on the north coast between October and March. The best time to surf in the central coast is from April to September, during the winter. The best beaches can be found in the cities of Cabo Blanco, Lobitos, Chicama (with the longest left wave in the world), Huanchaco, Pacasmayo and Los Órganos.

Diving

If you want to discover the hidden underwater treasures in Peru, you can choose a scuba diving. In the rich waters of the Peruvian coast, you can find tropical fish such as seahorses butterflyfish, groupers, Cortez angelfish, octopuses, green turtles and even mammals like sea-lions and whales. The best diving places are the beaches of Los Órganos, Vichayito, El Ñuro and Punta Veleros (Piura area) and Punta Sal of Tumbes.

7. Relax at Lake Titicaca

The National Reserve of Titicaca (RNT) is located on the Lake Titicaca, close to the provinces of Puno and Huancané. It’s best known for its rich and diverse wild flora and fauna, but it also maintains the traditions of the people living there – Uros and Uros Titino. If you want to get to know the local culture, the communities offer many tourist attractions like traditional fishing, weaving and reed handicrafts, excursions on totora reed boats and rural tourism activities.

8. Horse Riding

If you’re a horse riding lover, there are also many options to choose from. The most popular are near Cusco and the Sacred Valley – Perol Chico, Cusco For You and Manu Expeditions which offer various itineraries from 2 days rides up to 12, including accommodation and meals.  

9. Mountain Biking

Being a relatively new sport in Peru, mountain biking is getting more interest, and new routes are

opening up. The best places for mountain biking are Huaraz (El Callejon de Huaylas) and Cusco. They offer organized tours with qualified guides and bike rental.

10. Get to know the locals

Peru’s civilization is the oldest in South America. Peruvians are very welcoming people who take pride in their historical and cultural wealth, both from their Andean origins and modern customs. They are open to visitors and offer amazing experiences such as festivals Inti Raymi (Sun Festival), Danza de tijeras (Scissors dance) and local celebrations.

Peru is the place where all of your senses will fire up. Visiting the ancient monuments and palaces, marvelling at the primal nature, trekking, surfing, learning about Peruvian rich and diverse culture. Whichever you choose, you will definitely enjoy your stay.

Note:

The best time to visit Peru is between May-September (Peruvian winter). It’s better to avoid the summer (December – March) as it’s the wet season, with heavy showers.

Written by guest writer Aneta Dąbrowska – Find her on LinkedIn

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