Peru is an incredible country filled with astounding history, culture, beauty, adventure and endless possibilities for travellers. The diversity of the landscape and its people make it one of the most unique destinations on the continent of South America. From the capital city of Lima’s museums, a boat ride on the world’s highest navigable lake or a walk through the ancient ruins in the Sacred Valley to hiking in the Andes and the mysteries of the Nazca Lines, there are so many spectacular sights and experiences that planning a trip may seem exhausting – but don’t worry, we have you covered. Check out our list of 10 must-see Peru tourist attractions that you must include in your itinerary for an incredible holiday.
1. Explore the Real Amazon at Parque Nacional Manu
Peru is only South American country where one can experience the different forms of the Amazon jungle that starts from Carhuasanta, stretching to the Andes and the Amazon basin on the other side. Manu National Park (Parque Nacional del Manú in Spanish), established in 1973 is Peru’s best-protected national park and one of the most bio-diverse in the world, with over 1,000 birds and over 200 mammal species. The park is located in the regions of Madre de Dios and Cusco. Here, you can catch glimpses of exotic beings and wild animals such as the pink dolphin, jaguar and monkeys. The national park spread over an area of 1,716,295.22 hectares which comprises mountainous areas (traversed by creeks and valleys) with elevations close to 4,000 m above sea level and a portion of the Amazon Basin plains was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Tourists visiting the park can indulge in multiple adventure activities.
Best time to visit: The ideal time to visit Manu National Park is during the dry season from April to November. Avoid the rainy season (February to March), when access through road or air gets difficult.
How to reach: Access to the park is only possible if you’re travelling with an organized tour and authorised permit. The tour begins from Cosco and takes about six to eight hours to reach the park.
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2. Explore the Inca trail and Find a Way to Machu Picchu
The most popular trail in Peru, none matches the beauty and history of the Inca Trail. It includes the stuff of travel legends, a four-or five-day trek along the ancient road between soaring mountains to get to the secret city of Machu Pichhu. This holy trail is one of the world’s greatest, going through stone Inca stairways to pass deserted villages and fields terraced onto steep Andean slopes.
Concerned about ecological impacts, the Peruvian government has placed a cap on the number of people taking the trail per season, as a result of which booking is mandatory. Every day, a maximum of 500 people are permitted on the trail, out of which only 200 are trekkers, the rest being guides and porters. One of Peru’s most impressive tourist attractions, hike the Inca Trail on your visit to Peru. However, remember that the trail is closed every February for cleaning and hence, if Inca Trail is in your list, avoid February
Best Time to Visit: Inca trail is closed in February, every year for cleaning and hence, you need to avoid this month for the trail. All other months of the year are ideal for the trail.
How to Reach: The 3-night hike starts from one of the two points: 88 km (55 miles) or 82 km (51 miles) from Cusco on the Urubamba River, all the way to Machu Picchu via Sun Gate (also called Inti Punku).
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3. Explore the Surquillo Market and Eat Adventurously
Over the past few decades, Peru has turned into a foodie destination. The food scene has exploded especially in Lima that is now considered the gastronomical capital of Latin America. The city boasts two of the world’s top 10 restaurants in the world. It’s hard to beat fresh seafood with the Pacific Ocean being so close. Young chefs from every part of the country are creating some of the most exciting dishes on the planet. Surquillo Market in Lima is a food hot spot and one of the best markets in the city. Opt for a walking tour of the market and you’ll see a variety of local vegetables that you probably have never heard of. You can also find a wide range of dry goods, spices and many other rare food items here. At the center of the market, there are little food kiosks that prepare unique seafood dishes with the daily catch. A visit to the market is an excellent way to taste traditional Peruvian food.
How to Reach: The market is located in the district of Surquillo, just a few blocks from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. You can reach here after a 10-minute walk from Av. Ricardo Palma.
Best time to visit: Surquillo Market is ideal for a visit round the year. And the best time of the day is the late morning when everybody is busy with their routine.
Delicacies that you should not miss: Ceviche, spiced with red onion and aji pepper, and served with sweet potato and Rocoto Rolleno, red bell stuffed with spiced, sautéed ground beef and hard-boiled egg.
4. Get the Most Out of Lima
Most travellers overlook the charms of the capital city, Lima and move to tourist hubs like Cusco and Arequipa. However, Lima is no less than any fascinating tourist destination with numerous attractions and is one of the best places in Peru to visit on a holiday. The city has mountains and jungles mere hours away. Lunahuana, located 187 km south of Lima, is home to numerous vineyards and also offers great opportunities for white water rafting. If you’re a historical buff, travel 200 kilometres east to Tarma and visit the adobe buildings that belongs back to pre-Colombian times, with South America’s deepest cave Sima Pumacocha, nearby. Lima is also home to the best and most famous museums in the country. Museo Larco and Museo de Arte de Lima are some of the most popular ones that display Peru’s great history, where you can spend your days exploring the ancient art and erotic pottery.
Best time to visit: December to March is the ideal time to visit Lima when it’s warm with plenty of sunshine.
How to reach: Jorge Chávez International Airport serves the city of Lima and connecting flights are available from London that takes about 15 hours 30 minutes approximately.
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5. Spend a day with the Condors at Cañón del Colca
Cañón del Colca, one of the world’s deepest canyons is a place that you should not miss while in Peru. Located in southern Peru, 160 kilometres northwest of Arequipa, this is the third most visited place in Peru with the footfall of 120,000 visitors annually. The 62-mile canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is also the place where mighty condors rule the roost. Come in the morning to Cruz del Condor viewpoint to watch these majestic birds. Watch them in action as they soar above your head in the sky and make their way down to the canyon, disappearing out of sight. The region is also home to ruins from pre-Incan and Incan societies, as well as various Spanish structures.
Best time to visit: Colca Canyon can be visited at any time of year but we recommend to go between March and June when the condors are most active and the trails are in great condition.
How to reach: An organised group or a private tour is the best way to visit Colca. Tours start from Arequipa and take approximately three to four hours to get inside the Canyon.
6. Discover the Other Side of Cusco
Most travellers get out of Cusco as soon as they complete Macchu Picchu and the Inca Trail but if you are willing to extend your stay by a day or two, explore the Historical Capital of Peru, which has several gems to offer. Take a Boleto Turistico del Cusco pass to gain access to 15 key historic sites inside and around the city. Head to Sacsayhuamán overlooking the city and walk back to Cusco strolling through the San Blas neighbourhood, popular for its galleries and boutiques. You can also visit the Sacred Valley, the valley of the Urubamba River and explore the historic Inca sites at Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. Cusco was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and hosts around 2 million visitors a year. While on a visit here, you should also make sure not to miss pre-Incan salt pans at Maras.
Best time to visit: The ideal time to visit Cusco is from June to mid-September when the city sees fewer rain showers and temperatures hover around mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit.
How to reach: The quickest way to reach Cusco is to take a flight from Lima that takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Buses are also available but they can be time-consuming.
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7. Hike to Peru’s Stone Faces, Marcahuasi
Located 60 kilometres east of Lima, Marcahuasi is a plateau in the central Andes known for its enormous stone sculptures that are a part of the stone forest. It contains dozens of megaliths and mysterious monuments that resemble human faces and animals and is one of the places to visit in Peru on a holiday. The origin of these carved figures is still unknown and has been the subject of countless debates, with some claiming that they were created by aliens. Out of all the monuments in Peru, Marcahuasi with its stone faces structures have one of the most compelling stories.
Best time to visit: To visit Marcahuasi, opt the dry season from May to October, when the weather will be more pleasant and welcoming.
How to reach: Take a cab from Lima to Marcahuasi, which will take about five hours by road.
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8. Go for Urubamba River Rafting
Faint-hearted vacationers, please excuse. This is not for you. Urubamba River rafting is reserved for tourists aspiring for extreme adventures. If you are one among them, it is your chance to raft down class III and IV rapids of Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, located at a short distance from Cusco. Undertake this adventure with a professional guide and a group of friends and see what the thrill is all about. It is a great way to escape the busy city life of Cusco and raft your way through world-class rapids.
Best time to visit: Rafting is possible only during the dry season, that too on some specific sections, like the one between Huambutio and Pisac. So make sure to plan the trip accordingly.
How to reach: Take a 1.5 hour journey from Cusco by road to reach the point at Urubamba River to experience the adventurous rafting.
9. Visit the Floating Reeds on Lake Titicaca
The largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca in the Andes is renowned for its man-made islands, built out of reeds by the Uros people who live in a collection of traditional houses on these islands, each differing slightly from the other. These surreal islands over 70 in total were created centuries ago for the defensive purpose to escape from invaders. The uniqueness of Uros Floating Islands is the material used in its construction that was created completely out of buoyant Totora reeds, that grows on the lake’s surface. These dense roots are piled on top of each other until an island is formed. Since the bottom starts rotting over time, new layers are needed continuously to be added to the top. One of the best things to do in Peru is to visit Floating Reeds on Lake Titicaca.
Best time to visit: Dry season from May to October is the ideal time to visit the floating reeds and to experience it better, you need to plan the trip accordingly.
How to reach: Take a one-hour flight from Cusco to reach Juliaca and take a bus or taxi from there to Puno to reach Lake Titicaca to visit the Floating Reeds.
10. Read between the Nazca Lines, Nazca
The Nazca Lines found in the arid Peruvian desert have long puzzled both experts and tourists. Researchers have spent their entire lives trying to make sense out of these mysterious lines in the ground without coming to a clear, unanimous conclusion. A UNESCO heritage site, it was first discovered by Toribio Mejia Xesspe, a Peruvian archaeologist in the late 1920s and you must take a plane ride to see the images carved into the ground clearly and experience the wonder yourself. Although it is not known who created these lines and why it is believed that these lines were the product of the Paracas and Nazca cultures between 900 BC and AD 600. As to why these were created, some suggest the lines were a type of astronomical calendar, some say it was an alien landing pad or a track that joined the ceremonial sites or perhaps a part of a water cult.
Best time to visit: Since Nazca Lines are more visible in the dry season from May to October, tourists are advised to visit this site during this time of the year.
How to reach: The best way to witness Nazca Lines is from the top and hence, it is better to opt for an air ride from Nazca airport. Since Nazca’s tiny airport doesn’t serve passenger flights, you need to take a bus from Lima, which will take around seven hours to reach Nazca.
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Peru is one of those countries that is fascinating beyond measures and manages to stand above the crowd. With so many natural and cultural treasures, it is one of the world’s most exciting destinations in South America. There are thousands of reasons to visit this majestic land but we just gave you ten. So, make sure you visit Peru and include all the attractions in your itinerary.