Lima, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Peruvian Amazon and Northern Peru
Bursting with colour and culture, Peru is one of South America’s most rewarding destinations to visit, affording ancient civilisations, stunning landscapes, wildlife in abundance and a vibrant indigenous culture. Holidays in Peru can encompass adventure, city exploration, historic insight and incredible wildlife encounters.
The best time to visit Peru is from May to October, though being so geographically diverse the weather is determined by both altitude and season. From trekking the iconic Inca Trail - an experience on many a travellers’ ‘bucket list’ - to exploring the wetlands of the mighty Amazon, or sailing on the highest navigable lake on the planet, Peru offers much to the intrepid traveller. History buffs will find plenty to discover in Cuzco, the capital of the Incan empire, which also offers a burgeoning culinary scene that takes inspiration from the surrounding valleys and its plentiful and varied local produce. Animal lovers will delight in the bounty of wildlife that inhabits the Amazon, swinging from the dense canopy of trees or swimming down the many tributaries of the river that gives the region its name.
Those seeking deeper exploration away from the well-trodden tourist trail will find peace and unspoilt landscapes in the north - often overlooked but no less fascinating or beautiful than the south. In short, Peru is packed with sights and is a joy to explore - though there is a lot more to the country than merely Machu Picchu.
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REGIONS OF PERU
Most holidays to Peru begin in the capital, Lima. Situated on the Pacific coast, this colourful city buzzes with friendly people, fantastic museums and a thriving café culture. Start your journey in the historic heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas and wander down historic streets lined with museums housing some of the finest art collections in existence and restaurants serving up traditional Peruvian cuisine. Recently named as the gastronomic capital of South America, Lima is home to a number of notable chefs producing twists on classic dishes using exotic ingredients and fresh locally grown produce.
Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa, is known as the White City due to the pale hue of its buildings, constructed with the white volcanic sillar rock mined nearby. Founded in 1540 by the Spanish, much of the city, including the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage listed main square, takes influence from its founders with a well preserved colonial ambience. The city serves as the gateway to the famous Colca Canyon: twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, the great fissure is renowned for its beautiful terraces and gliding condors.
On the border with Bolivia, high in the Andes, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Home to many indigenous communities, traditional Peruvian life is preserved on peaceful floating islands built using totora reeds that grow plentifully in the lake. As well as the 42 self-fashioned islands of Uros, a popular attraction in the lakeside city of Puno, other island communities include Taquile, Amantani and the islands of the Sun and the Moon, the latter known for their spectacular sunsets.
Cuzco sits at an elevation of 3,400 metres, high in the Peruvian Andes. The city was once the capital of the great Inca Empire and now acts as a gateway to the other Inca sites in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley. The city has developed a reputation as a foodie destination and is known locally as the ‘navel of the world’; this is thanks in part to the abundance of fresh produce that grows locally: think alpaca steaks, lamb and river trout. The scenery here is outstanding: relax and unwind as you admire breathtaking panoramic views of the terraces surrounded by snow-capped peaks, or ramp up the action with trekking, horse riding, rafting or climbing.
One sight in Peru never fails to take the breath away; one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, surrounded by cloud forest and hidden for many years before its miraculous discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Machu Picchu is the ‘lost city’ of the Incas – a hidden citadel that captures, all who visit, leaving them spellbound. Hike the classic Inca trail and arrive at the Sun Gat at Intipunku, take the train, or choose an alternative trek which takes walkers off the main trail, still with beautiful views amid the subtropical rainforest. Whichever route you choose hiking the Inca trail is a once in a lifetime experience and your first view of the ancient site will stay with you forever.
Amazon holidays continue to increase in popularity thanks to improved transport links and better accessibility to the farthest reaches of the jungle. The Peruvian Amazon blankets almost half of the country and is split into the northern and southern regions. Here you can sail along the river’s many tributaries in search of wildlife (you won’t have to venture too far) and explore the unspoilt habitat for an enormous array of flora and fauna, man of which are only found in the Amazon region.
Northern Peru is a vast and almost untouched region that’s largely overlooked by most visitors to the country. The area is rich in archaeology and history, home to a number of pre-Inca sites such as Chan-Chan, the world’s largest clay-built city as well as surprisingly beautiful beaches that are ideal for surfing and whale watching. The colonial town of Chachapoyas, or Chacha as it’s known locally, is renowned for its bustling markets, friendly atmosphere and close proximity to the ancient ruins left behind by the Chachapoya civilization. The true adventurer will delight at the chance to travel into the interior to view archaeological sites still being uncovered and catalogued, such as Kuelap and the funerary complex of Revash.