Peru is a fascinating country that can take a lifetime to explore. With a diverse and rich geography – composed of coast, mountains and jungle – Peru has something to offer for each and every traveler. Here are some of the not-to-be-missed places and experiences to take into account when traveling around different parts of Peru.
Exploring the Peruvian Coast
Stretching from Ecuador to Chile, Peru has one of the most impressive coastlines in Latin America. When traveling around the southern coast of the country, you might want to visit Paracas, a popular nature reserve in the region of Ica. Visitors to Paracas have the opportunity to observe different ecosystems, archeological remains of the Paracas tribe, and a great variety of marine life. Organized boat tours from Paracas will take visitors out to Isla Ballestas, home to more than 150 different species of marine birds including cormorants and penguins.
The town of Nazca is another popular destination for tourists interested in exploring the southern coast of Peru. Here you can visit the Nazca Lines and geoglyphs, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A museum dedicated to Maria Reiche, an archeologist who spent much of her life dedicated to the study and preservation of the lines, is another popular attraction in Nazca. A trip to Nazca wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Chauchilla Cemetery to see the tombs and remains of the ancient tribes.
The city of Trujillo, in the northwestern coast of Peru, is a great option for travelers looking for the comforts of a mid-sized city close to some of the most interesting archeological sites in Peru. Here you can visit Huanchaco, a popular vacation beach town known for its surf breaks, caballitos de totora and its delicious ceviche. While in the area, don’t forget to explore Chan Chan, an impressive pre-Columbian city and archaeological site, known as the largest adobe city in the world. Trujillo also hosts the world famous Marinera Dance Festival in January.
Also in the northern coast of Peru is Chiclayo, a gateway to remarkable archaeological sites such as Huaca Rajada in the city of Lambayeque, and the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán, which contains most of the important artifacts found at Huaca Rajada, as well as Lord Sipán’s body. Chiclayo is also known for its beach resorts, especially Pimentel, and for its beautiful parks and gardens.
Discovering the Peruvian Andes
Every year, thousands of tourists come to visit the phenomenal Andean regions of Peru. Cusco, Peru’s most common tourist destination – receiving up to 3 million visitors yearly – is called by some “the archeological capital of the Americas”. Cusco is the first step in any trip to Machu Picchu. It is worth noting that UNESCO has declared both, Cusco and Machu Picchu, World Heritage Sites. Travelers to Cusco often visit the nearby town of Ollantaytambo, an ancient town which was a fortress for Inca resistance leaders during the Spanish occupation. The Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail are other intriguing bits of Inca culture to discover in the area.
Located in the northern region of Peru, the town of Chachapoyas in another great option for travelers interested in exploring less known parts of the Peruvian Andes. This town is a gateway to archaeological sites such as Kuélap, a walled city with hundreds of buildings from the ancient Chachapoyas civilization. Often referred as the “Machu Picchu of the north”, Kuélap will definitely not leave any traveler indifferent.
On another part of the Peruvian Andes – right next to Bolivia – we find Puno and Lake Titicaca. Located in the Andean highlands, Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. One of the most interesting sights to be found is the Uros people who make their homes in the lake on floating ‘islands’, handmade from reeds. Isla Taquile is a popular day trip from Puno for exploring and buying textiles and nearby Cutimbo and Sillustani are known for their pre-Incan ruins and tombs.
If you want to go off the beaten track, you might want to explore Ayacucho, a city located in the south central region of Peru. Known as a City of Churches, Ayacucho is a great destination for travelers interested in Colonial architecture. Ayacucho’s Plaza de Armas is home to the 17th-century Catedral de Ayacucho, a cathedral noteworthy for its gold-leaf altarpieces. While in town, you can also discover the local art and music.
Adventuring into the Peruvian Amazonia
Each year, some of the most adventurous travelers make their way to the Peruvian jungle. Despite the fact that it cannot be reached by road, Iquitos is the most visited city in the region. Iquitos is a perfect stepping stone for those interested in tours of the Amazon rainforest and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Bird watching in the Amazon basin is unparalleled, and there are many jungle lodges near Iquitos for tourists to stay in as they explore. Boat tours of nearby floating city of Belén and trips to its open air market are also popular with visitors.
Many travelers interested in the Peruvian jungle also visit the town of Tarapoto, known for the beautiful waterfalls located in its surrounding areas – including Ahuashiyacu, Huacamaíllo and Shapaja. Tarapoto also has one of the most famous and exotic cuisines in the Peruvian Amazonia. While in town, don’t forget to try their tacacho con cecina, made of fried plantain mixed with dry and smoked pork. If you have time to spare, visit one of Tarapoto’s chocolate factories.
You might also be interested in our article Day and Weekend Trips from Lima.
We’d like to hear from you. If you went on any of the mentioned tours and wish to share, let the expat community know in our forum topic Tourism in Peru.