Peru is one of the world’s most diverse countries. Its beaches, desert, jungle and high mountains make it a truly spectacular place to visit.
Its cuisine is equally as impressive. From roasted guinea pig to the world’s most pungent potatoes, you’ll have no trouble finding a delectable dish here.
1. Machu Picchu
Located about 3,300 feet below the city of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is an ancient citadel that was built by the Incas. The complex is known for its intricate architecture and awe-inspiring mountain views.
Its mysterious nature attracts researchers and tourists. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is South America’s most popular attraction, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.
The ruins were discovered in 1911 by an American adventurer and professor, Hiram Bingham. He had heard rumors that Machu Picchu was hidden deep in the cloud forest near Vilcabamba, the last Inca capital.
He traveled to the area and spent six days hiking up to the ruins, which were still under several inches of vegetation at the time. However, the locals had been aware of the ruins for many years.
One of the mysteries surrounding the ruins is why they were built. Archeologists have a variety of theories as to what the Incas may have intended. They could have been built as a royal estate or a secret ceremonial center.
Another interesting idea is that they were created to honor the sacred landscape of the area, especially the Vilcamayo River. This holy river is said to mirror the Milky Way in the sky, and many of the locations within the complex line up with the rising and setting of the sun during solstices and equinoxes.
These theories are backed up by scientific tests that show the stones were cut to fit together without mortar, which is an extremely difficult task. It is thought that a single stone could weigh up to 50 pounds, and the designers must have used their skills in engineering to construct such a large structure.
2. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is one of South America’s most iconic and awe-inspiring natural wonders. The world’s highest navigable lake sits across the border of Peru and Bolivia, and is surrounded by a vast ring of snow-tipped mountains that seem to float in the water’s depths.
The lake has a rich cultural history that spans several millennia, steeped in religious mythology and ancient traditions. Throughout its eras it’s been home to several civilizations and remains an important focal point of life for both Peruvians and Bolivians.
It is most easily accessed from Puno, on the Peruvian side of the lake. The city is renowned for its annual Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria celebration, and is an excellent place to begin your exploration of the area.
Travelers are also drawn to the floating islands on the lake, known as the Uros, which are inhabited by a pre-Inca population that still maintains their unique traditions. These floating communities, built from totora reeds, are incredibly scenic and the perfect backdrop for photos.
For a more in-depth exploration of the region, a 2-day Lake Titicaca tour that includes an overnight stay on one of the inhabited islands will allow you to immerse yourself in local culture while learning about the rich history of the area. The pristine Amantani Island is particularly popular, as it’s a truly remote place to visit and offers an opportunity to experience traditional island living first hand.
Another famous site is Taquile Island, home to a group of women who still weave their garments using the same techniques that were used centuries ago. The textile art is an important part of the community’s heritage and is considered a masterwork of intangible heritage by UNESCO.
3. The Amazon
The Amazon is a world-famous, biodiverse region and the best protected tract of rainforest on earth. It is home to over 400 indigenous tribes, most of which live in a largely traditional manner and rely on the forest as their only habitat.
It is one of the richest biological reservoirs in the world, with more than 10% of all known wildlife species found here. The Amazon Basin is also the planet’s largest carbon sink, with its vast forests absorbing more than 100 billion metric tons of CO2 each year.
As a natural climate protector, the Amazon’s massive forests are vital in keeping regional temperatures stable. The trees absorb carbon dioxide, store it in their leaves and send water vapor into the atmosphere. The rainforest is also the home to a huge variety of animals, which play a crucial role in pollinating plants and dispersing their seeds.
Guests can get a real jungle experience on an Amazon adventure in Peru. Cruise remote Amazonian waterways, meet local communities, swim with pink river dolphins and visit lush jungle lodges.
The rainforest is a rich biodiversity paradise, with a diverse array of flora and fauna that includes hyacinth macaws, poison dart frogs and the endangered jaguar. The Amazon is also a thriving ecotourism destination, with jungle resorts and eco-lodges.
Visitors can explore the jungle on a two or three week trip, allowing them time to discover a wide variety of wildlife and plant species. Guests can also fit in spellbinding sights like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
The Amazon is an essential part of the ecosystem, but it is facing challenges from human activity. The area is now being burnt at an unprecedented rate. This is a major threat to the rainforest’s health and survival.
4. The Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a group of huge geoglyphs: lines, shapes and designs etched into the ground. It’s difficult to see the patterns from the ground, and it’s only possible to do so from a plane or helicopter.
These lines were first discovered in the 1920s by a Peruvian archaeologist named Toribio Mejia Xesspe. He and other scientists found furrows in the ground that looked like large geometric designs, but he was unaware of the vast scale of these markings.
Over the years, many theories have tried to explain these mysterious geoglyphs, but their significance remains largely unknown. Maria Reiche, one of the earliest researchers, was convinced that these lines represented an enormous astronomical calendar. She thought they marked places on the horizon where the sun and other stars would rise or set on important holidays.
However, this idea has been discarded by more recent researchers. Instead, they’re believed to be symbols of worship and rituals.
Another theory is that these designs were a plea for rain from the gods, as the Nazca people lived in an area that rarely gets much rain. This is especially true of the Andes region, which is arid and dry.
Regardless of what you believe, there’s no denying the sheer wonder of seeing these giants in person. Book a tour with our destination specialists to visit the Nazca Lines and get up close and personal with these incredible artifacts.
5. The Andean Condor
The Andean Condor is a large flying bird that is a must-see for any birder visiting Peru. It is an emblem of the Andes and plays important cultural and ecological roles in the region (Birdlife International 2020).
Condors are apex scavengers that use their excellent eyesight to find food from great distances. They often travel more than 200 km (120 mi) a day in search of carrion, including dead birds and small animals. They will also feed on eggs and chicks if they are available.
Andean Condors are able to eat large amounts of meat at one time, which helps them stay healthy. This may help them avoid disease and parasites that can be transmitted to their young.
These big birds spend most of their time soaring, using warm air currents called thermals to gain altitude and fly with little effort. They can flap their wings only once every hour, allowing them to glide over large areas without using much energy.
Outside of the breeding season, Andean Condors can be seen in large numbers roosting on cliffs and rocky outcrops. They form groups and compete to be the top of their ‘pecking order’. This is done by body language, competitive play behavior and vocalizations.
Andean Condors are endangered across their range and they are facing extinction in many parts of South America. They are threatened by a wide variety of factors, including habitat loss and persecution. This is especially true in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador where they are often hunted or poisoned as a result of conflict with humans over their territory and food resources.