All over the world, Peru is synonymous with Machu Picchu or the Inca Trail but it is in fact so much more. It offers an insatiable appetite for culturally rich experiences with unfathomable historical links. If you are planning a Peru holiday, these are some suggestions of places you should not miss.
This coastal city is the current capital of Peru but it is a haven for lovers of food and those with a sweet tooth. Lima is a kaleidoscope’s vision of history with Spanish relics (it was created by conquistador Francisco Pizarro) and ancient Inca ruins.
For many first-time tourists, Lima may seem like a part of the Peru experience that can be skipped but it has many modern attractions such as paragliding off its coast and a plethora of fashionable restaurants.
If your interest gravitates towards religious history, there are many colonial churches downtown and a World Heritage Site namely the ‘Historic Center of Lima’.
- Huaca De La Luna (La Libertad Region)
The colonial city of Trujillo lies some 500 kms away from Lima but it boasts of possessing the spell-binding Huaca De La Luna (a center of ceremonies) which belonged to a civilization which predated the Incas called the Moche. They were not the makings of an Empire but had a significant presence in this part of Peru in 100 to 700 AD.
The site remained buried and hence protected for centuries but today it depicts the vivacious imaginings of an archaic group of settlers. The colorful walls of the ruins still show drawings of sacrifices and ritualistic undertakings.
- Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is a hotbed for tourist activity and for good reason. It has been postulated that it was created for the Inca aristocracy and for near-exclusive worship of the gods, with its considerable height to keep it unreachable for the common people.
Even today only a fixed number of tourists are allowed to hike to the site via the Inca Trail at any one given day.
If you are going back and forth with the question of what to do in Peru, then you will not regret making the trip down to Machu Picchu since it is a World Heritage Site and known to possess powerful energy fields which can be experienced by walking through the temples still standing in the vestiges of the city.
Its name means ‘old mountain’ and you can opt for a train ride which takes you through the Sacred Valley (which has many notable historical sites of its own) but for that you should ideally set aside 7 days or more.
- City Of Cusco
Cusco is actually one of the few areas you’d find that is higher up than Machu Picchu and is another delectable amalgamation of Inca relics and Spanish colonial architecture.
The air may be thinner as you’re walking around but there is a lot to do such as the hike up to Cristo Blanco for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the whole city.
Cusco is also home to the well-known Sacsayhuaman which is one of the largest single structures built by the Incas and was used as a military fortress. It is a testament to the inborn talent of stonemasonry that the Incas possessed along with the practice of solid engineering principles.
- Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca was believed to be the ‘lake of creation’ in Inca mythology by which they traced the circumstances of their origin. According to legend the creator god Viracocha had emerged from these same holy waters and created the first beings.
There is a silent meditation retreat on the island of Amantani which lies in the middle of Lake Titicaca which you can visit for an out-of-body, life-changing experience. A train can take you from Cusco to Puno and this is roughly a 10-hour journey but there is plenty of rural Peru to see on the way as you reach the mystical Lake Titicaca.
If you enjoy the magnetism of nature more than the allure of cities and fine architecture then Chachapoyas is a fitting area to visit with its miles of vibrant forest (Selva Alta) woven into a tapestry with its towering mountains.
It may take a couple of days of travel to reach the high jungle but it is relatively uninhabited and the peace and quiet is ideal for meditation and yoga with a scenic backdrop.
Furthermore, if you are in the area you can visit Kuelap which is a pre-Incan ruin which includes a citadel right at the top of a mountain. While the structure itself is bit unimposing, it was meant to overlook a settlement of the ‘people of the clouds’ as they are called in the native tongue.
All the home-like structures are circular and the natives think it was to prevent the dire effects of earthquakes as the area is prone to seismic activity every now and then. Among the storeys of these houses, there are remains of animals mainly guinea pigs which were used for food as well as human remains which have been attributed to mummification.
Arguably the second largest city in Peru, Arequipa or the ‘white city’ has one of the most impressive natural skylines in the world riddled with majestic volcanoes.
It also has a year-round affiliation with spring so no need to pack your warmer clothes when sightseeing. Many of the buildings are constructed using mainly volcanic rock due to its obvious proximity to them.
The city’s historic center is also a World Heritage Site and a stroll around the Basilica Cathedral offers a memorable lunch-time excursion.
- Isla Taquile
While several islands surround Lake Titicaca, one of the most well-preserved in native culture and spirit is Isla Taquile where tourists can stay a night or two and enjoy storytelling by the locals about the island’s long history of weaving fabric and elaborate textiles.
Many of the men start learning how to make handicrafts as early as boyhood so that their fingers develop the adequate dexterity. The women weave large belts called Chumpis and also prepare the dye to stain the woven fabrics.
You can also purchase souvenirs for loved ones from the many shops in the area and the locals are welcoming and friendly and always ready for a hearty conversation.
- Nazca Lines
While the Nazca Lines cannot technically be visited per se, you can fly over them and see hundreds of ancient geoglyphs which are shaped like people, animals and various objects.
Earth scientists have many speculations about the purpose and origin of these markings with some theorists even going as far as to suggest extra-terrestrial involvement in their creation.
- Peruvian Amazon
We’ve all heard of the Amazon for its varied wildlife and deep, mysterious jungles. Variations of the jungle have even been adapted in literature over the years but seeing it in person is just as bewitching.
Among other things, the Amazon is a haven for animal lovers with a sizable number of indigenous varieties such as the armadillos, poison dart frogs, iguanas and river dolphins to name a few.
The rainforest is also a home of many local shamans and they impart their wisdom to travelers who seek them out. It may be a dying art but it is fascinating for those that seek spiritual alternatives to western medicine.
The Amazon is a fitting testament to the 1800 different kinds of birds which thrive in the greater Peru region. The Amazonian macaws, parakeets, and storks are especially to be found in ever-increasing numbers.