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20 best places to visit in Peru

Lima coast

Is Peru riding high on your bucket list? It definitely should be. With ancient ruins, Inca architecture, jaw-dropping mountain landscapes and lots of biodiversity, Peru might just be one of the most wholesome travel destinations around. Here are some of the best places to visit in Peru. 

1. Lima

One of the busiest cities in South America, and the continent’s ONLY capital that faces the sea. Lima is a metropolis worthy of the name, with great museums, historic centres like the famous Plaza de Armas de Lima, one truly magnificent water fountain and lots of great cuisine.

Don’t miss: Huaca Pucllana Site Museum – a pre-Incan pyramid.  

Lima, Peru

Image source:Photo by Jhordy Rojas on Unsplash

2. The Sacred Valley

Out in the Peruvian Andes, the Sacred Valley has a bit of everything. A magnificent landscape, outstanding Inca ruins such as Ollantaytambo and Moray (an amphitheatre-like structure built into the ground). Once you’ve done hiking, taking snaps and admiring the wildlife, you can try your hand at weaving, paragliding or even ziplining in Action Valley.

Don’t miss: Inca Kola – like regular Cola but with a clear/greenish colour.  

3. Arequipa

This colonial city is known for its great weather and for being a haven of authentic Peruvian culture – with lots of museums, cathedrals and traditional architecture. It’s surrounded by three volcanoes, which make for awesome views. Here in Arequipa you’ll also have the chance to raft down the Chilli River. 

Don’t miss: Museo Santuarios Andinos to see a frozen mummy from the 16th century!

arequipa, peru

Image source:Photo by Megan Kotlus on Unsplash

4. Colca Canyon

Peru’s deepest canyon. Which you’ll fall deeply in love with. You may also see Andean condors flying overhead, depending on the time of year

Don’t miss: Chacapi, because it’s never too hot for hot springs. 

5. Machu Picchu

The jewel in Peru’s tourism crown. One of the world’s finest archeological sites. A wonder of the world. And all the other accolades. Hiking through the Inca trail to visit this magical site, never actually conquered by the Spanish conquistadors, is a uniquely inspiring and rewarding experience. 

Don’t miss: the Temple of the Sun – once one of the most important temples of the ancient Inca empire.

machu picchu, peru

Image source:Photo by Junior Moran on Unsplash

6. Lake Titicaca

One of South America’s largest lakes, sitting on the border between Peru and Bolivia. Lake Titicaca holds the title of being the world’s highest navigable body of water, and is one of the best places to visit in Peru for wildlife lovers. See the Titicaca Water Frog, wild Guinea pigs and Andean foxes at the surrounding nature reserve. Ah. It’s just a great day all around. 

Don’t miss: Uros floating islands. 

7. Rainbow Mountain

Many travellers stay at Cusco and take day trips out to the magical Rainbow Mountain. You may have a hard time believing it’s completely natural, but it is. A great one for your next background pic.

Don’t miss: the llamas, alpacas and other wildlife.

rainbow mountain, peru

Image source:Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

8. Puerto Maldonado

A jungle city where you travel by boat between biodiversity hotspots. Known as the gateway to the Amazon jungle, Puerto Maldonado is 680,000 acres of jungly goodness – home to caimans, otters, and even jaguars.

Don’t miss: Monkey Island, coz monkeys. 

9. Cordillera Blanca

Part of the Andes, Cordillera Blanca (‘White range’) is the world’s highest tropical mountain range – with lush landscapes made up of snow-capped mountains and the enchanting Llanganuco lakes. 

Don’t miss: mountain biking in this unique setting. 

cordillera blanca, peru

Image source:Photo by Javier Sobrado Ortega on Unsplash

10. Nazca Lines

1000 square kilometres of ancient markings, etched into the desert by the Nazca people of 1-700 AD. 

Don’t miss: A bird’s eye view of the Lines from a helicopter – some etchings are 30 metres wide! 

11. Manu National Park

Home to thousands of bird species and even spider monkeys, this famous cloud forest is one of the best places to visit in Peru if you’re big into beauty and biodiversity. 

Don’t miss: the breathtaking Pyramids of Paratoari. 

machu picchu, peru

Image source:Photo by Gabriel Rojas on Unsplash

12. Chan Chan

A UNESCO World Heritage site in the desert of northern Peru, Chan Chan was once the capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom. 

Don’t miss: Nik An for truly unique architecture.

13. Huacachina

This southwestern desert oasis is best known for its sand dunes – which you can (and should) go sandboarding on. The palm trees and green waters of the Huacachina Lagoon make for one pretty postcard destination indeed. 

Don’t miss: the nightlife. The area has lots of bars and restaurants to top off your Peruvian adventure nicely. 

huacachina, peru

Image source:Photo by VeDoble on Unsplash

14. Chachapoyas

This small city perfectly straddles the ruins of ancient worlds and the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds it. Located in Amazonas, a detour to this little town will offer your some interesting historical knowledge. There are acheological sites all around and you can visit the sarcophagus of Karajia or the stone city of Kuelap.

Don’t miss: Gocta Cataracts, this stunning 700m high waterfall.

15. Paracas National Reserve

Sitting on the south coast of Peru, Paracas National reserve is a cocktail of all things nature. You’ll find beaches, desert and islands, plus stunning coastal views. Look out for sea lions and dolphins while you’re there too. 

Don’t miss: the Paracas Candelabra geoglyph – a huge etching drawn into the cliffside, also known as the ‘Candelabra of the Andes.’ 

paracas, peru

Image source:Photo by Marco Topete on Unsplash

16. Mancora

In the mood for a beachy day? Look no further than Mancora, the up and coming newest hip location for anyone who wants to relax in the sand and take a dip in the sea. It’s located in one of the sunniest areas of Peru as well so you’ll be sure to spend a beautiful summer’s day here any day!

Don’t miss: the vibrant beach bars to get some delicious food and drinks to fuel your day of relaxation!

17. Trujillo

A few hours north of Lima is Trujillo, a city celebrated for its colourful and stunning Spanish architecture. Take a stroll here through streets lined with flower beds and water fountains for a South America fairytale vibe. The Spanish mansions, classical churches, and friendly locals will charm you beyond belief and you’ll never want to leave!

Don’t miss: the incredible mosaic murals of Huaca de la Luna.

18. Iquitos

Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto region of Peru which is the region that encompasses the Peruvian Amazon so expect lots of jungle and a very famous long and winding river. This region is rural and quiet so getting there can be a little bit of a challenge, but once you set eyes on the traditional river-side huts and the historic architecture it’ll all be well worth it.

Don’t miss: the Belen floating market for a really unique browsing or shopping experience.

19. Cusco

Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire, but it is now just a gorgeous, colourful, and vibrant city located in the Souther Sierras. Head there for a steady day of walking around and getting to know the locals. The city is built in the middle of a valley, flanked by hills on either side, so the views are beautiful as well.

Don’t miss: Plaza de Armas for all the best restaurants, cafés, and boutiques.

20. Huaraz

One of the top tourist attractions for lovers of outdoor activities in the summer and the winter. Visit for some beautiful mountains and lakes, heart-racing bungee jumping and sports, and the stunning National Park where you can perhaps get a glimpse of jaguars and condors.

Don’t miss: the weekly food markets for a taste of regional specialties.

Foaming at the mouth to get to Peru? We don’t blame you. Check out all the trips to Peru Contiki has to offer!

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