• ~ mins read
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  • Kelley Lipphard
  • From USA
5 - Excellent
We had a fabulous nine-day tour, including the two day Inca experience, Inca trail/Ma...” Read More

1. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu with vast mountains surrounding it on a cloudy day.
Embark on a journey through time and wonder at Machu Picchu, a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled amidst the Peruvian Andes.

Machu Picchu is perhaps South America's most iconic archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perched high in the Andes Mountains, this ancient Incan citadel offers breathtaking panoramic views and a sense of awe-inspiring mystery. You can explore its well-preserved ruins, including temples, terraces, and stone structures while learning about the fascinating history and culture of the Inca civilization. Machu Picchu's stunning beauty and historical significance make it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Peru.

Highlights:

  • Climb Huayna Picchu, the towering peak that looms over Machu Picchu for breathtaking panoramic views of the Citadel and surrounding mountainous landscape.
  • Wander through the Citadel and marvel at the intricate stonework of ancient temples, residential areas, and agricultural terraces. Visit the Intihuatana stone, believed to be an ancient sundial and the magnificent Temple of the Sun.
  • Cross the precarious Inca Bridge, a remarkable feat of ancient engineering carved into the cliffside.
    Stand in awe before the Temple of the Sun, a sacred sanctuary within Machu Picchu.

Insider Tip: Machu Picchu is extremely popular and has a daily visitor limit. Tickets sell out quickly, especially during peak tourist seasons, so book your entry tickets early to avoid disappointment.

Tours in Machu Picchu

2. Cusco

Panoramic view of Sacsayhuaman during evening in Cusco.
Unearth the mysteries of ancient Inca civilization as you explore nearby ruins like Sacsayhuaman, where ingenious engineering and sacred rituals intertwine to reveal the rich tapestry of Peru's history.

Known as the historic capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is one of the top places to visit in Peru. The city’s cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old buildings, with a blend of Incan and colonial Spanish architecture, its vibrant markets, and lively plazas. Here, you can also explore ancient Incan ruins such as Sacsayhuaman and Qorikancha, as well as Spanish colonial landmarks like the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. Cusco’s rich cultural heritage and picturesque surroundings make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

Highlights:

  • Visit the iconic Plaza de Armas, the heart of Cusco, to observe the grandeur of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the Church of La Companía de Jesus.
  • Discover nearby Inca ruins such as Sacsayhuaman and Q’enqo, offering insights into the engineering prowess and religious practices of the Inca people.
  • Enjoy authentic local experiences in the San Blas neighborhood to escape tourist crowds and explore cozy cafes and artisanal shops.
  • Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Cusco by exploring its bustling markets, such as San Pedro Market, where you can find local handicrafts, textiles, fresh produce, and traditional Peruvian cuisine.

Insider Tip: To avoid altitude sickness, begin your Peru trip by exploring the lower elevations of Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu to acclimatize before ascending to the 3,300-meter heights of Cusco.

Tours in Cusco

3. Lake Titicaca

Totora boat on the Titicaca lake near Puno on a clear day in Peru.

Embark on a voyage to Taquile Island, where vibrant textile traditions meet ancient agricultural terraces, inviting you to immerse yourself in a tapestry of culture and natural beauty along the shimmering waters of Lake Titicaca.  

Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake's shores have ancient ruins, a testament to its historical significance as the reputed birthplace of the Inca. The lake is known for its peaceful stillness, and its reflected waters reflect the surrounding scenery with astonishing clarity. The Titicaca National Reserve encircles the lake and shelters unusual aquatic animals, including the iconic giant frogs.

Highlights:

  • Explore the unique floating islands of the Uros people, made entirely of totara reeds, and learn about their traditional way of life.
  • Take a boat trip to Taquile Island to discover its terraced landscapes, ancient agricultural terraces, and colorful textile traditions
  • Take a boat tour to the remote islands of the Titicaca National Reserve and witness the breathtaking scenery and wildlife in this pristine habitat.

Insider Tip:Consider spending a few days in either Cusco City or Puno before visiting Lake Titicaca, which is 3,800 meters above sea level. ⁤⁤This slow climb allows your body to adjust to the altitude. ⁤

Tours in Lake Titicaca

4. Lima

The Cathedral of Lima on a clear day in Peru.

Step into history and marvel at the grandeur of the Cathedral of Lima, a timeless architectural masterpiece echoing centuries of Peruvian heritage and religious significance.  

Perched on the Pacific coast, Lima, Peru's dynamic capital blends ancient history with a modern flair. From Miraflores' vibrant markets to the Plaza Mayor's historic charm, there's something to delight in at every turn. And don't miss the chance to stroll along the picturesque Malecón, where the Pacific Ocean stretches out in all its majesty.

Highlights:

  • Some of the top places to visit in Lima you will find at the city’s historic center. Explore the city’s history on a tour of places such as the Plaza Mayor, the Government Palace, and the Cathedral of Lima.
  • Explore the bohemian district of Barranco, known for its colorful street art, charming architecture, and vibrant nightlife.
  • Take a food tour in Peru and indulge in the world-renowned cuisine at top-notch restaurants, sampling dishes like ceviche, causa, and lomo saltado.
  • Visit museums such as the Larco Museum to learn about Peru’s pre-Columbian cultures and the Museum of Contemporary Art for modern art exhibitions.

Insider Tip: Learn a few fundamental Spanish words to understand the local way of life better, before embarking on your Lima tour.

Tours in Lima

5. The Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines giant ancient line art drawn in the Peruvian desert
 Nazca lines in Peru are one of the most awe-inspiring, remarkable, and yet puzzling archaeological areas in the world.

Embark on a journey to Peru's Nazca lines, where ancient geoglyphs sprawl across the desert, depicting intricate figures that defy explanation. Take a mesmerizing aerial tour to marvel at their scale and precision and ponder the mysteries of their creation. Explore nearby archaeological sites and vibrant markets, or venture into the Andean wilderness for an unforgettable trek.

Highlights:

  • Take a scenic flight over the Nazca Desert to see the mysterious geoglyphs from above and marvel at the intricate designs etched into the earth.
  • Visit the Nazca Lines viewing tower to see some of the geoglyphs up close and learn about the theories surrounding their creation.
  • Explore the Nazca Desert on a guided tour in Peru, discovering ancient archaeological sites and geoglyphs that are not visible from the air.

Insider Tip: Book a morning flight to fly over the Nazca lines as they have the best visibility from 7 am to 11 am

Tours in Nazca

6. The Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado)

A trip to the Sacred Valley opens you to access to Inca ruins

Embark on an odyssey of discovery as you traverse Peru's legendary Sacred Valley, where majestic mountains, storied ruins, and indigenous communities weave a tapestry of wonder waiting to be explored.

Nestled between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado) is the heart of the Inca Empire. The valley is home to breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage with many lesser-known archaeological sites peppering the landscape. The tiny village of Ollantaytambo is home to an imposing Inca fortress, and the bohemian town of Pisac has a striking hilltop citadel. Urubamba is an adventurer’s paradise with rock climbing, trekking, and downhill biking.

Highlights:

  • Wander through the ancient ruins of Ollantaytambo and admire the precision stonework and terraced hillsides.
  • Visit the Pisac Market to shop for traditional textiles, pottery, and souvenirs and explore the impressive Inca ruins overlooking the valley.
  • Marvel at the agricultural terraces of Moray, a series of concentric circular depressions carved into the earth that once served as experimental agricultural laboratories for the Incas.

Insider Tip: If you plan on visiting the markets in Pisac and Chinchero, cash is king. Some vendors may accept credit cards, but cash is welcomed. It also gives you bargaining power when negotiating prices!

Tours in Sacred Valley

7. Amazon Rainforest

Reflection of a sunset by a lagoon inside the Amazon Rainforest in Peru.
Discover the magic of Amazonian sunsets and immerse yourself in the rich culture of local communities.

The Peruvian Amazon, the second-largest expanse of the Amazon after Brazil's, covers about 60% of Peru's terrain. It acts as a vital ecosystem, hosting 12,810 species and sustaining numerous Indigenous communities that rely on its resources for survival. With iconic destinations like the Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park, the Amazon Jungle beckons adventurers with its rich biodiversity and untamed beauty.

Highlights:

  • Embark on guided jungle treks to spot diverse wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, colorful birds, and elusive jaguars,
  • Take a boat trip along the Amazon River and its tributaries, exploring flooded forests, oxbow lakes, and remote indigenous communities.
  • Learn about traditional Amazonian cultures and medicinal plants from knowledgeable local guides and shamans.
  • Witness the vibrant living culture of the Amazon at Iquitos' museums, where artifacts are not just displayed but part of everyday life for local communities.
  • Discover the authentic Shipibo market in Iquitos' main plaza, where artisans sell their handmade creations, providing a unique shopping experience.

Insider Tip: For a truly immersive journey, stay in one of the eco-lodges deep within the Amazon jungle. They offer rustic yet comfortable accommodations and provide guided excursions led by local guides.

Tours in Amazon Peru

8. Arequipa

City of Arequipa with its iconic volcano Chachani in the back
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Arequipa, where a captivating blend of colonial charm and pre-Spanish heritage beckons, inviting you to uncover centuries of culture and tradition amidst the majestic landscapes of southern Peru.

Home to striking colonial-era architecture crafted from white volcanic rock (sillar), Arequipa is one of the most beautiful cities in southern Peru. Framed by three snow-capped volcanoes, ‘The White City,’ boasts elegant Baroque buildings and stately squares that echo the city’s rich history. The Ruta del Sillar (Volcanic Rock Route) showcases the journey the sillar takes from extraction to production, and the nearby Cañón Del Colca (Colca Canyon) is home to the giant Andean condor. Arequipa is also renowned for its vibrant culinary scene and is a top spot for trying traditional Andean food.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery, a beautifully preserved colonial complex with colorful buildings, narrow streets, and tranquil courtyards.
  • Explore the historic center of Arequipa, a Unesco World Heritage Site, known for its stunning architecture crafted from white volcanic stone.
  • Explore the Santa Teresa District, known for its bustling markets, artisan workshops, and lively street performances. Stroll through the San Camilo Market to sample fresh produce, cheeses, and Andean snacks.
  • Sample the local food with specialties like rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy pepper) and adobo (marinated pork stew), paired with refreshing pisco cocktails.

Insider Tip: Join a free walking tour of Arequipa to gain insider knowledge from local guides and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.

Tours in Arequipa

9. Huascaran National Park

Huascaran National Park
 Huascaran National Park, home to one of the most extraordinary high-mountain ecosystems on Earth.

Home to the towering peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, including the eponymous Mount Huascaran, Huascaran National Park captivates adventurers with its rugged beauty and diverse ecosystems. Trekking enthusiasts flock to its pristine trails, winding through breathtaking landscapes of glaciers, alpine lakes, and lush valleys teeming with biodiversity. Discover ancient Inca ruins hidden amidst the wilderness, and encounter rare Andean wildlife such as the Andean condor and vicuna.

Highlights:

  • Embark on an unforgettable trek through Huascarán National Park, a pristine wilderness crowned by the towering peak of Huascarán, which reaches a majestic height of 6,768 meters.
  • Look for glimpses of the park's unusual inhabitants, such as the majestic Andean condor soaring overhead and the amazing Puya Raimondi plant, which has towering flower spires.
  • Travel through a diverse array of scenery, from steep Andean highlands with snow-capped peaks to lush lowlands with bright flora and crystal-clear streams.

Insider tip: The best way to get to the trailhead of the national park is by renting a car from Huaraz and completing the three-hour drive.

Tours in Huascaran National Park

10. Colca Canyon

Panoramic view in the deep Colca Canyon on a cloudy day.
Discover Colca Canyon's breathtaking vistas—towering cliffs, lush terraces, and winding rivers—unveiling nature's grandeur in one of the world's deepest canyons.

As one of the deepest canyons in the world, Colca Canyon offers breathtaking vistas of rugged landscapes. Beyond its natural wonders, Colca Canyon is also home to traditional Andean villages where indigenous cultures thrive, offering visitors a glimpse into centuries-old traditions and way of life. Whether you are trekking along its scenic trails, marveling at its majestic vistas, or immersing yourself in local culture, Colca Canyon promises an unforgettable experience in the heart of Peru’s Andean highlands.

Highlights:

  • Marvel at the breathtaking landscapes of Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, with its dramatic cliffs, lush terraced fields, and winding river valleys.
  • Witness the majestic Andean condors soaring on the thermal currents, providing a spectacular display against the backdrop of the canyon's sheer walls.
  • Embark on exhilarating trekking adventures along well-marked trails that offer stunning viewpoints. These allow you to immerse yourself in the canyon's natural beauty while enjoying panoramic vistas.

Insider Tip: If you are a beginner-level hiker, then ask your guide to take you through the shortest route that takes only two hours roundabout to complete.

Tours in Colca Canyon

11. Caral

The remnants of a pyramid in Caral.
Sightsee the pyramids in Caral that have existed since 5000 years ago.

Located in the high desert of the Supe Valley, the ancient city of Caral is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Americas. Built around 5,000 years ago, the impressively preserved Unesco World Heritage Site of Caral-Supe was home to the oldest known civilization in the Western Hemisphere. The once-complex city of the Norte Chico culture features circular plazas, ceremonial rooms, amphitheaters, and the remains of six pyramids.

Highlights:

  • Explore the monumental pyramids constructed from compacted earth and adorned with intricate carvings.
  • Wander through the vast circular plazas that served as ceremonial centers for the ancient inhabitants of Caral.
  • Admire the precise layout of these sacred spaces, once used for rituals, gatherings, and communal activities.
  • Discover the residential complexes where the ancient inhabitants lived with well-preserved remains of houses, courtyards, and communal kitchens.
  • Visit the temples and altars dedicated to the worship of deities and experience the spiritual ambiance of these sacred sites, where rituals and offerings were made to ensure the prosperity and well-being of the community.

Insider Tip: Caral is a four-hour car ride from the capital city of Lima, so hire a car or book a guided tour from Lima or Supe.

12. Kuelap

The ruins of Chachapoyas culture settlements on a ridge overlooking the Utc
Witness the ruins of Chachapoyas culture settlements on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley.

High in the lush cloud forests of the Andes in northern Peru stands the magnificent citadel of Kuelap. Built by the Chachapoya civilization in the 7th century, this ancient fortress complex is an excellent example of advanced engineering techniques and complex urban planning. Enclosed by massive stone walls, hundreds of unique circular structures lie within the citadel and are thought to have served as homes, storage facilities, and ceremonial buildings for the inhabitants.

Highlights

  • Explore the imposing fortress and discover intricate stone carvings, ceremonial plazas, and towering walls that highlight the architectural ingenuity of the Chachapoya civilization.
  • Marvel at the unique circular buildings known as chullpas, which dot the landscape. These cylindrical structures, adorned with intricate friezes and geometric designs, served as dwellings, tombs, and religious centers for the ancient inhabitants.
  • Climb the towering sky platforms, or ushnus, for spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. These elevated platforms served as ceremonial sites where rituals and offerings were made to honor the gods and ancestors.
  • Venture beyond the complex and explore the dense cloud forests surrounding the site on a network of trekking trails leading to hidden waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and vibrant biodiversity.

Insider Tip: Kuelap sits at over 3,000 meters above sea level, so it’s a good idea to acclimatize to the high altitude before visiting the site. Consider spending a day in nearby towns like Chachapoyas to adjust before exploring the archaeological site.

Need help planning a trip to Peru?

From the mystical allure of Machu Picchu to the bustling energy of Lima's markets, each destination offers a unique glimpse into Peru's rich history and culture. While our list of 10 recommended places to visit in Peru provides a starting point, there are also several hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So don’t forget to check them out on your trip to Peru.

If you are looking for a more personalized travel experience, contact our travel experts for a customized trip to Peru. For a seasonal overview, check out our guide on the best time to visit Peru. Our article on how many days to spend in Peru will also come in handy.

Peru Tours
Published by Astha Joshi, updated on May 10, 2024
Plan a custom-made trip to PeruWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Peru.
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