Highlights of Peru
A visit to Peru provides the traveler with myriad opportunities, including a number of must-see cultural and historic attractions and must-do activities that will thrill visitors of all ages.
Everyone will no doubt want to head to the Inca Trail and ancient Machu Picchu the Lost City of the Incas- or fascinating Cusco, once the capital of the vast Inca Empire. Or how about a visit to awesome Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America? Others may choose to visit the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca, view the condors at Colca Canyon, or explore the Nazca Desert and its captivating geoglyphs.
Hike the Inca Trail
Visitors who are up for a 4-day trek can hike along the famous Inca Trail on their way to the Lost City of the Incas. This trail, which can be quite challenging, takes hikers through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Peru and passed fascinating Inca ruins and other historical and archaeological sites. Traveling the Inca Trail is probably one of the most rewarding adventures one can experience in a lifetime and the end reward is a chance to see incredible Machu Picchu in all its splendor.
The Lost City of Machu Picchu
Whether you get there on foot via the Inca Trail or by train through some of the country's prettiest scenery, visiting the ancient city of Machu Picchu is a must. Nestled in the Andes Mountains at nearly 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level and often bathed in clouds, this 15th century Inca city was lost for centuries before being discovered in the early 1900s. Today, visitors from the world over head to this World Heritage Site to view incredibly preserved classic Incan architecture.
The Incan City of Cusco
Situated in the Urubamba Valley of southeastern Peru, Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Just a stone's throw from Machu Picchu, the city is rich in Incan art but is also a showcase for wonderful post-Columbian Spanish architecture. It's not unusual to find, for example, a Spanish church sitting atop an ancient Incan wall. Guests will want to make visits to examples of each culture during their stay in this attractive city of about 300,000 residents.
Built between the 9th and 15th centuries, the pre-Columbian mud city of Chan Chan was once home to 30,000 people of the Moche civilization. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chan Chan and its walled citadels are a delight to explore. Visitors to this ancient city near Trujillo, not far from the ocean, will be treated to views of the most fascinating intricate carvings fashioned in the Chimú style, featuring fish, pelicans, and other maritime motifs.
The Colca Canyon
Twice as deep as America's Grand Canyon, awesome Colca Canyon is the second deepest in the world and is the best place from which to view the giant Andean condor, a prehistoric-looking bird that boasts a wing span of about 11 feet. Though this is the main reason for visiting Colca, the canyon itself presents many opportunities for great picture taking and also attracts visitors who are into extreme adventure sports. Chivay, the largest town in the canyon, also boasts a soothing hot springs.
The largest city in the rainforests of Peru, Iquitos has the distinct honor of being the most populated city in the world that cannot be reached by road. A major port in the Amazon Basin and accessed only by boat or plane, this hot, humid town was established by the Jesuits in 1750 and isn't what you might expect of a rainforest community. A thriving city, Iquitos boasts mansions, universities, markets, and much more, and is a growing eco-tourism site.
The largest lake in South America and the world's highest navigable body of water, Lake Titicaca, the Andean people believed, was the birthplace of civilization. The lake covers more than 8,500 sq. km (3,282 sq. miles), is 176km (109 miles) long, and 50km (31 miles) wide. Its picturesque islands are home to the people of the Quechua and Aymara Indian tribes. Visiting these islands on a guided tour or for an overnight stay is a must-do Peruvian experience.
The Nazca Lines
Not unlike modern-day crop circles found in the landscape of farms worldwide, the ancient Nazca Lines of Peru are etched into the desert along the country's southern coast. Believed to have been created between 300 BC and 700 AD, these lines appear as geometric shapes and animal or plant figures some 10,000 in all - and can only be viewed from the air. Local outfitters offer small craft flights that soar above these amazing phenomena.