Peru was conquered and colonized by Spain in the 16th century. As one of the most coveted destinations in all of South America it is rich of history and packed with archaeological remains and colonial architecture. The country’s spectacular natural beauty comes complete with breathtaking fortresses built by the Incas, soaring cloud forests, the snow-topped Andes, the dusty Atacama and the misty Amazon rainforest alike.
TOP 8 PLACES TO VISIT
The masterpiece UNESCO heritage wonder of the Incas, the Andean citadel sits 2,400 meters up on the spikey ridges above the winding Urubamba River; and reachable only by foot. As you pass rustic Peruvian mountain towns, breathtaking vistas of the Andes can be seen. At the top a glorious conglomeration of terraced houses and temples, crumbling altarpieces and animist sculpture, draped dramatically between the cloud forests and oozing pre-Columbian history from every one of its cracked and weathered pores.
The Moche Valley ancient gateways to the arid desert lands is one of the most fascinating pre-Columbian dig sites in all of PeruThe sprawling ruins of the city that can now be seen were raised in the middle of the 9th century AD. Until the 1500s the Chan Chan was the epicenter of the powerful Chimor Empire until the conquistadores established nearby power bases in Trujillo. Today you can see the remains of monolith defence walls, countless temples and court rooms, and elaborate irrigation systems.
Once trodden by the Spanish conquistadores, the largest city in Peru’s Moche Valley still oozes a colonial charm from each of its marble plazas and technicolour churches. In the heart of the metro the palm-spattered Plaza de Armas you can hear the clip clop of horses and the mellifluous sounds of Spanish chatter. The Rococo elegance abounds on the Cathedral’s faces and the desert peaks of Moche rise to a bulwark on the horizon. It’s a truly beautiful place to while away some time…
Puno runs along the shore of Lake Titicaca with cascading barrios of breeze-block buildings and dust-caked streets. Boat trips are hugely popular, taking travelers out to see the likes of Amantani, with its earthy Quechua farmers and crumbling pre-Columbian temples, or Uros, and its iconic reed villages.
The jungle city is straddling the waterways of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios Rivers as they join to form one of the tributaries to the mighty Amazon in the east. During the high-season, hikers and wildlife seekers come to spy out the multi-coloured macaws and old -rowth rainforests that the enticing trio of the Tambopata National Reserve, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park offer to the north-west and south-east alike. You can expect to see everything from cultural encounters with Peruvian tribes to giant otters and spectacled bears!
Arequipa is the second most populous metropolis with a buzzing metro hub of the country’s southern reaches. It is spread out over the highlands of the Huayco Uchumayo, set in the shadow of three mighty volcanos: brooding Misti, the snow-mantled massifs of Pikchu Pikchu, 6,000-meter-high Chachani. The town is filled with old-style mansions and Spanish colonial churches, all fused with the traditions of Peruvian building to create the unique architectural look now hailed as Escuela Arequipena. Also check out the 16th century Santa Catalina Monastery, the neoclassical Basilica Cathedral, or the almost Petra-esque Church of the Jesuits.
Located between the green slopes and cloud forest of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The streets are thronged with everything from classy hotels to earthy guesthouses, gringos and walkers fresh from the Incan Trail flitting between the bars and Plaza de Armas on rumbling auto rickshaws. You can explore the various ancient sites that adorn the ridges here, whether that means scaling to the heights of Machu Picchu, hitting the agricultural terraces of Tipon, seeking the mysterious ruins of Choquequirao, or enjoying ecotourism in the cultural attraction of Chichubamba.
The city is a thriving tourist hub, with everything from glorious Spanish churches to the crumbling remnants of the city’s former pre-Columbian masters. Century upon century of Peruvian past is concealed beneath the town’s streets. Also check out the whitewashed cottages of Barrio de San Blas, awash with Incan treasures below their floors, or the glowing Plaza de Armas, where Andalusian arcades rise and fall beneath the baroque majesty of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin.
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
The best way to get around in Peru is by passenger train. Other transport is bus, taxi or hitchhiking.
The Peruvian winter between May and September is the driest season and therefore the best time of year to travel, especially if you are planning to visit the Cusco area or trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The summer between December and March is the wettest season, with frequent heavy showers.