Peru is slowly becoming a tourist destination of choice. Although widely unknown to the majority of people around the world, Peru offers international travelers the chance to embrace some great travel experiences. There are so many things to see and do, it’s difficult to know what to recommend first. Of course, Peru is more than just attractions. Experiencing the vibrant culture of Peru is also enticing. Whether it’s during the Inti Raymi festival in Cusco or Puno’s famous street festival of Candelaria, you can’t escape Peru’s cultural heritage. Do something exciting this year and experience the wonders of Peru. Here are our recommendations of 5 attractions in Peru that shouldn’t be missed.
1. Cusco Region / Machu Picchu
No trip to Peru would be complete without a stop at the famed Inca archaeological site of Machu Picchu. Tourists flock here, dying to catch a glimpse of the majesty of this elegant ancient city built seamlessly into the jungle-topped peaks of the Andes. Of course you can take the train to Machu Picchu but many tourists rave about the experience of hiking there via the Inca Trail. Tour companies will gladly walk you (literally) through the four day hike. It’s a tough trek but the beautiful misty mountains and the breathtaking approach to the Inca site have many visitors claiming it was the best part of their trip. Before you make the journey, be sure to spend a couple of days in Cusco both to acclimatize to the altitude and to enjoy the pretty cobblestone streets, fine dining, colonial plazas, and variety of services geared to tourists. As the continent’s oldest (continually inhabited) city, you’ll find plenty to do before setting off for Machu Picchu.
As the first Peruvian city to declare independence from Spain, the colonial city of Trujillo has a rich history of rebellion as well as of literary achievement. Tourists will delight in immersing themselves in the city’s backstory, on display in its stunning colonial architecture and numerous churches. Take a guided walking tour to absorb the sights and then pop into one of the many museums and art galleries for a more in-depth look at pre-Hispanic and colonial culture. And don’t forget to sample some of the region’s notable food such as stewed duck, ceviche, or the stellar coffee. The pretty village of Huanchaco nearby offers needed respite from the bustling city. It’s a great place to enjoy the pleasures of sun, surf, and sand.
Arequipa is nothing if not enticing. Called the “White City,” this gorgeous coastal hub boasts adventure galore, booming nightlife, and food to die for. Situated amid volcanoes, canyons, hot springs, and deserts, Arequipa is a perfect base to explore Peru’s spectacular wilderness. Scramble up a mountain, raft down a canyon, hop on a mountain bike, or just trek the terrain by foot. It’s hard to imagine another place more packed with heart-pounding fun. And after you’re winded from all the exercise, relax in one of the beautiful colonial hotels and enjoy the area’s excellent cuisine which is famed for incredible seafood and adobo soup.
4. Puno / Lake Titicaca
The Incas built a creation myth around it, the Spanish bequeathed it directly to their king, and tourists will be similarly wowed by the storied and breathtaking Lake Titicaca. Located high in the mountains, the lake is an intense blue and bordered by snow-covered Bolivian peaks and clear skies. Equally fascinating are the area’s indigenous villages whose way of life dates back some 3000 years. Exploring these villages as well as the rolling hills and tiny islands are some of the main pleasures of Lake Titicaca. But don’t forget your party shoes—the town of Puno knows how to throw a great fiesta, the religious festival of Candelaria being the most rowdy of all.
No holiday would be complete without a trip to the beach and the town of Máncora delivers everything sun seekers might want. The vast sandy beach is dotted with hotels of all stripes, from luxurious to budget-conscious. And if you’re a seafood lover Máncora serves it up straight from the boat via its many excellent restaurants. And while sun worshippers will be comfortable here whiling away long, lazy days by the turquoise sea there’s a plethora of other activities including surfing—Máncora offers reliably good waves—and a hopping party scene. The contrast between the tranquil beaches and bustling nightclubs are in fact Máncora’s main draw and demonstrate that this once sleepy fishing village hasn’t completely strayed from its roots. Just be mindful in high season (December to March) the town can get crowded and hotel prices tend to double. The town remains lively the rest of the year though if you want to save a few bucks and avoid the crush. Máncora is the perfect spot for backpackers and surfers, but other regions of Peru like Paracas may suit mid-range to luxury travelers.
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