What is Peru? Peru or the Republic of Peru is a country located in western South America. Its name, in the Quechua and Aymara languages, is pronounced Piruw.
It is bordered to the north by Ecuador and Colombia, to the south by Chile, to the east by Brazil and Bolivia, and the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru has a total extension of 280,000 km 2. Its capital is Lima and the main cities along with it are Cuzco, Callao, Arequipa, Trujillo, and Chiclayo. The country is divided into 24 departments and the constitutional province of Callao. It is a country with a great Inca tradition that it maintains even today since most of its inhabitants are descendants of natives.
It has a diversity of climates, vegetation, and fauna, which makes Peru a country with a great tourist attraction.
There are many fascinating places to see in Peru, beyond the wonderful Machu Picchu, although we cannot deny that Peru destinations like this, by themselves, already justify a trip to one of our favorite countries. Peru is one of the most popular trips in South America, where we will find Inca ruins, historic cities, the wild nature of the Amazon, incredible landscapes of valleys, deserts, places, and beaches, along with one of the best cuisines in the world, with ceviche as star dish, which will make this trip exceed all your expectations.
Peru fascinates travelers with its great biodiversity and ancient cultural heritage. But how to choose the places to visit in such a large country?
There are many adventurous and untouched natural beauties in Peru. So, here are some Fascinating Peru Destinations.
12 Most Fascinating Peru Destinations
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most essential Peru destination. This ancient Inca citadel remained hidden between the mountains and thick vegetation for centuries until it was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Machu Picchu is located about 130 kilometers from Cusco, above 2,500 meters altitude. between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu peaks, two magnificent viewpoints of the ruins, which you can climb, taking the corresponding entrance next to the ruins.
The most mystical and spectacular way to get there is by doing the Inca Trail, traveling more than 40 kilometers in 4 days, through incredible paths and ancient stone steps, lush forests, valleys, and mountains wrapped in a dense fog, which will take us even the dream of many travelers.
Another more comfortable way to get to the ancient citadel is to start at a point closer to Machu Picchu, which will save us 2 days of walking, or take a van or a train to Aguascalientes and there very early, go by bus or walking to the ruins.
Keep in mind that there is a limited number of tickets to see Machu Picchu and they sell out quickly, so you have to book as far in advance as possible.
Cuzco declared a World Heritage Site, is one of the most beautiful cities in America and our favorite in Peru. This ancient capital of the Inca Empire preserves very few buildings from this era, although in some of the colonial buildings you can see Inca remains on its walls, such as the twelve-angled stone.
The Plaza de Armas is the epicenter of the city, in which its cathedral stands out, a place was chosen by many inhabitants to spend a few hours in the afternoon, enjoying life in Cuzco.
Out of the great attractions of the city are strolling through the beautiful neighborhood of artisans of San Blas, getting lost in the San Pedro market, seeing the Inca remains of the Temple of the Moon, or, entering the Convent of Santo Domingo, built on the Temple of the sun.
If you have more time, it is well worth doing a walking route to see the Inca ruins of Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenqo, and the spectacular Sacsayhuaman fortress, which are very close to the city. During the tour, you will also pass by a viewpoint near the White Christ, one of the most essential places to visit in Cusco, from where you have the best views of the city.
A good option to get to know the great history that this city hides and discover the surrounding Inca ruins is to book a tour with a guide in Spanish.
One of the most important decisions depending on the days available is to include or not the Peruvian Amazon in the trip and go into the jungle from Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado.
We, after the experience, have no doubts, we recommend reserving between 3 and 5 days to visit the Amazon, one of the most essential places to visit in Peru, and whenever possible, both for days and budget, do it in the area. from Iquitos.
Puerto Maldonado is more accessible and cheaper than Iquitos, although over time it has become a tourist attraction that can distort the true image of the immense and wild Amazon.
To Iquitos, it can only be reached by boat or plane from Lima, so being more isolated will allow you to experience the most authentic Amazon, although as we mentioned before, the price is more expensive.
In this area, the lodges are located in the heart of the Amazon jungle and all of them have a transfer service in small rafts from Iquitos, although you should bear in mind that the journey can take several hours.
The days at the lodge will be spent enjoying the wildest nature, hiking through the jungle to see the fauna and flora, other times on a raft through its narrow rivers, and a night tour to see the timidest animals.
4. Colca Valley, one of the essential places to see in Peru
From the beautiful Arequipa, you can do one of the best excursions in Peru, the 2-day tour of the Colca Valley, and thus be able to see the flight of its most famous bird, the condor.
During the bus trip to the valley from Arequipa, you pass through heights of between 4,000 and 5,000 meters, so it is highly recommended to chew coca leaves to avoid suffering from the dreaded altitude sickness or soroche.
During the tour of about 4 hours, you will see landscapes that seem from another world, with snow-capped volcanoes and large plains where alpacas and vicuñas roam freely.
When you arrive at the Colca Valley, you can stay in a hotel that has thermal water pools and take a relaxing bath, something that we assure you is unforgettable.
The next day very early, the condor usually flies first thing in the morning, you will enter the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, to the viewpoint of the Cruz del Cóndor, where if you are lucky you will be able to see these enormous birds flying a few meters from you.
On the way back you can enjoy the incredible viewpoints of the canyon and some traditional towns like Chivay, which will be the best endpoint of the trip.
5. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, is located very close to the city of Puno at an altitude of 3,800 meters. This immense lake, in which its calm blue waters blend with the sky, is one of the best Peru destinations.
To tour the lake and visit the islands of Uros and Taquile, you can take a boat from the port, from where, just over 5 kilometers from the pier, you will find the Island of Iros, built with reeds, an aquatic plant typical of the area.
The houses and most items are made from this plant, and you can even sail on a totora boat and although in general, we found it to be a very touristy visit, we believe that its history is worth knowing and if you have time, it is a visit that must be done in this area of the country.
Another island that can be visited is the Island of Taquile, more than two hours by boat from Puno, where you can also spend the night on the island sleeping in a neighbor’s house. We, not having any extra days, opted only to cross the island on foot, eat good fish and enjoy its viewpoints of the lake.
6. Paracas National Reserve and the Ballestas Islands
A little less than 4 hours by bus from Lima is the Paracas National Reserve, located along the Peruvian coast and another of the best places to see in Peru. This national reserve forms a unique ecosystem in the world, which combines a desert area with great marine diversity due to the great abundance of food in the form of plankton.
It is advisable to visit this protected natural area with a guide, especially so as not to miss places such as the red beach, fossil beds, fauna, and the archaeological remains of the ancient Paracas Culture, explained by an expert, which will bring you much closer to the history of this part of the country.
Very close to Paracas is another of tourist’s favorite Peru destinations the Ballestas Islands, small rocky islands that on excursions are surrounded by small boats that leave from the Paracas pier to see its large number of birds, the colony of Humboldt penguins, and sea lions.
Arequipa, known as the white city and built above 2,000 meters of altitude, in the mountains of the Andes desert, is, together with Cuzco, one of the most beautiful cities in Peru, in which volcanic stone houses predominate. Blanca, together with the historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Our favorite place in the city is the Santa Catalina monastery, a small citadel of pretty streets, houses, and cloisters where you can get lost for hours.
Other must-sees in Arequipa are the Plaza de Armas with its Cathedral, the Iglesia de la Compañía, and its cloisters, the Casa del Moral and the Carmen Alto or Yanahuara viewpoint, with magnificent views of the city and the Misti volcano.
A good option to learn about the history of the city is to book a tour with a guide in Spanish in which you will also go up to its spectacular viewpoints.
8. Huacachina Oasis
Located about 5 kilometers from the city of Ica, is the photogenic Oasis of Huacachina, another of the places that enter all the routes through the country and that is on the list of The Most Fascinating Peru Destinations.
This oasis located in the middle of the coastal desert, with emerald green waters and surrounded by palm trees, is one of the few remaining natural oases in all of America.
The oasis has a hotel infrastructure to spend the night and many leisure activities such as a buggy ride through the desert, sandboarding from its high dunes or simply walking to the top of a dune to watch the beautiful sunset over the oasis.
The Huacachina Oasis is located about 80 kilometers from Paracas and you can get there from Lima by bus from the Cruz del Sur station to Ica and from there take a taxi to the oasis.
One of the great archaeological mysteries of history is found in the arid desert of Nazca. Between the years 700 BC and 200 AD, the Nazca culture developed in this area, in which its inhabitants created the Nazca Lines, removing the red stones and leaving the white sandstone below, thus forming enormous geoglyphs with human figures, animals, or geometric, only visible from the air.
Many theories, from a huge calendar to religious ceremonies or the visit of aliens, have been written about the reasons why these enormous figures were created, without reaching any definitive conclusion or any provable theory today.
The only way to see the figures is by taking a flight over the Nazca Linesby plane from its small airport located next door.
The flight, due to the wind and the pilot’s maneuvers, is usually moving, so it is advisable not to have breakfast beforehand, take something for dizziness and go prepared with the bag that they will give you when you go up.
Another visit that is very worthwhile in Nazca is the Chauchilla Cemetery, a pre-Inca necropolis, which is a perfect complement to the overflight of the Nazca Lines.
10. Sacred Valley
Between Písac and Ollantaytambo, on the banks of the Urubamba River, is the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas. Due to its climate and geography, this fertile valley was one of the main sources of food supply for the Inca empire where the archaeological ruins of several Inca settlements remain and where you can also visit several traditional towns from the colonial era.
Pisac with its artisan market and the Inca archaeological remains located on a mountain is one of the most famous places in the sacred valley and that we advise you, you cannot miss in Peru.
The best way to visit the Sacred Valley is from Cuzco by taxi or by booking a tour with a guide in Spanish so you don’t miss any detail of one of this most incredible areas of the country.
11. Larco Museum
The Larco Museum is one of the most important museums in Peru and houses a large collection of pre-Columbian art.
Located in a beautiful 118th-century mansion, it presents 4000 years of history through gold and silver jewelry, sculptures, paintings, textiles, and ceramics from the Inca and pre-Inca cultures.
It also has the largest collection of pre-Columbian erotic art in the world.
Incredible but true! The museum-reserve is open to the public and you can find an additional 30,000 archaeological finds.
In the flower garden of the museum, there is a restaurant with a charming terrace: a nice place to have a drink!
12. The Fortress of Sacsayhuaman
Located on a hill with a magnificent view over Cusco, it is a fortress that is an impressive example of Inca construction techniques: walls made of stone blocks so well carved that they fit together perfectly and do not require any type of cement.
It is partly here that the great celebration of Inti Raymi, the famous Inca sun festival, takes place on June 24.
Sacsayhuamán is the best-known and largest of the 4 Inca archaeological sites around Cusco and it is mandatory to obtain a tourist ticket to visit it.
All About Peru
The capital of the Republic of Peru is Lima and it has twenty-four departments and the Constitutional Province of Callao.
It is located in the western and central parts of South America. Its territory borders Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and the Pacific Ocean. We suggest using a map and explaining the cardinal points and neighboring countries.
31,826,986 people (as of September 2017, INEI)
In the last century, the majority of the population lives on the coast, mainly due to migratory flows as a result of the economic crisis, and the lack of educational and employment opportunities in other cities.
Spanish is mainly spoken, in addition to Quechua, Aymara, and other native languages.
Three main regions can be identified: Coast, Sierra, and Selva. The coast has a warm temperate climate, without extreme cold or heat, but with high humidity. The sierra has two seasons: summer (April to October) with sunny days, cold nights,s and little rain, the ideal time to visit it; and winter (November to March) with rain. The jungle also has two seasons; the months of November to March with abundant rains and between April and October with little rain. Humidity is very high throughout the year in this region. In 2017, the Niño Current affected the northern part of Peru, a warm marine current that produces heat and humidity, as well as intense rains and overflowing rivers.
Geographical characteristics of Peru
Regarding its topographical characteristics, Peru can be classified into three main types of relief:
- Coast area. In the Pacific Ocean, in this area, most of the population and industries of this country are located. This coast has desert characteristics and appears as a narrow coastline that reaches a width of 140 km in the Sechura desert.
- Sierra area and mountain. This country is crossed by the Andes mountain range, the mountainous and sierra area covers 30% of the total extension of the Peruvian territory and crosses it as a vertical line from north to south. The highest mountain is Huascarán, with 6768 meters in height.
- Jungle area. Towards the eastern side of the country, there is a jungle in a plateau area that borders Brazil.
Climate and hydrography of Peru
Most of the rivers descend from the Andes mountain range. In this country is Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, located at 3,808 meters above sea level.
Although this country is located on the equatorial l e the relief with a predominance of mountains and sierras prevents its climate from being completely tropical.
The southern coast of Peru has an arid subtropical climate with average temperatures of 18º C and annual rainfall that barely reaches 150 mm. To the north, the coast is warmer, with an average of 24ºC and more rainfall, especially during the summer.
In the area of the mountains, the climate is temperate sub-humid, with temperatures of 20º C and rainfall that averages between 500 and 1,200 mm per year. This area also has a cold climate, with temperatures up to 12º C and possible frost during winter.
In the jungle area, there are two types of climates: humid semitropical in the upper jungle area with an average of 27º C, and humid tropical in the lower jungle area with average temperatures of 27º C.
Food is a very useful and valuable resource to maintain the traditional culinary culture in the family, even when abroad. The variety of dishes and flavors of Peruvian food will allow children to expand their vocabulary of vegetables, fruits, meats, spices, and sauces, among others.
We mention traditional dishes such as lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, causa limeña, papa a la huancaína, and the traditional cebiche that delight both Peruvians and foreigners around the world. There are Peruvian restaurants in several cities in Japan that have a great reception among the foreign and local population.
Peru offers many opportunities to enjoy diverse ancient, modern, traditional, and natural treasures. We mention some tourist places such as Cusco, Machu Picchu, Paracas, Nazca, Lima, the beaches of Tumbes and Piura, Arequipa, and Loreto.