When you say Peru, the image of the stone complex of Machu Picchu and the most famous Inca ruins will likely spring to your mind. However, various attractions await travellers beyond the citadel’s walls, including the mammoth waterfalls and older archaeological sites, making it a home to beautiful traditional crafts.
Whether you are planning a trip or looking for our daily dose of wanderlust, read this post as we guide you to the best places in Peru.
1. Cajamarca, Cajamarca Region
Filled with ancient and colonial history, Cajamarca is a city that needs a visit on a trip to Peru. One of the extraordinary claims in this place was how the site of Pizarro’s trickery towards and eventual capture of the Inca Emperor Atahualpa – events that led to the ultimate conquest of the Inca empire by the Spanish.
Travellers can visit El Cuarto del Rescate, the only remaining Inca structure in the whole city. Here, a drawn line around the room is still visible. It is believed that the Atahualpa drew it to indicate how much gold he would give to the Spanish to free him. However, even if the Inca emperor stuck to his bargain, Atahualpa was still executed.
Beyond its fractious history, the city boasts a series of spectacular buildings. These include the fascinating Combayo and Ventanillas de Otuzco and the intricately carved Baroque cathedral.
2. Huaca de la Luna, La Libertad Region
310 miles north of the Peruvian capital, Lima, lies Trujillo, a colonial city and the access point for the beautiful Huaca de la Luna. This adobe-brick ceremonial centre belonged to the Moche civilization, and excavations suggested that it was built anytime between the first and eighth centuries and was part of the more massive archaeological complex that includes Huaca del Sol, another Moche temple.
The Huaca de Luna laid partially buried under sand for centuries, which preserved it from the worst intentions of looters. Even if many tourists head to the Chan Chan complex of the Chimu civilization, located outside Trujillo, the Huaca De Luna is visually appealing – thanks to its wall of unique, colourful murals narrating sacrifice rituals practised by the Moche.
3. Salinas de Maras, Cusco Region
The white salt ponds of Maras seemed to spill down the mountain into the Sacred Valley are a unique sight. From the travellers centre, a short path directs you to the pools, where locals patiently watch farming each salt-laden through.
4. Kuélap Fortress, Amazonas Region
Kuelap or the Machu Picchu of the North is now more accessible, while makes it a deserving detour in southern Peru. A new system of cable cars zips visitors up to mountain’s fortress in 20 minutes, while offering fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding valley along the way.
However, the growing popularity means the citadel of the Chachapoyas people is no longer free of tourists but is still a fantastic sixth-century monument. Moreover, it provides an incredible engineering feature because of its three tiers of circular stone houses and soaring defensive walls. In the latter, you will see remains of where guinea pigs were kept and a niche beneath to store the mummies of their ancestors.
5. Saqsaywaman, Cusco Region
Among the archaeological sites on the Bolet Turistico del Cusco, Saqsaywaman is the most impressive in terms of historical archaeology and importance.
The massive stone walls that placed almost entirely without the need for cement is one of the most excellent examples of Inca masonry. The sheer scale of the site was a vital citadel. It also overlooks Cusco, which offers exceptional views across the country.
6. Catacombs at the Convent of San Francisco, Lima Region
The monastery is an excellent example of religious structure, but most people go here for the catacombs.
Below the monastery are the crypts full of skulls, femurs, tibiae, and fibulae – some laid out in circular or spiralling patterns – and you can walk among them through the darkened arched passageways. By more estimates, the remains of about 25,000 bodies lie in the subterranean vaults.
7. Gocta and Yumbilla Falls, Amazonas Region
Even there are many striking natural landmarks, a spectacular waterfall is still unbeatable. Peru is home to two of the world’s largest falls, both situated an hour north of Chachapoyas.
2500-foot high Gocta is the most known of the paper after it was discovered by a group of German explorers last 2006. With a 3.4-mile trail leading to its base, you don’t have to explore too far to reach the falls. The walk will also take you through the beautiful, seemingly untouched scenery and the verdant cloud forest.
Just a further north on the road towards the Amazon Rainforest and Tarapoto, Yumbilla Falls are even higher and more remote. Just an hour hike from the trailhead through the humid forest brings you to a picture-perfect of the 2900-foot height waterfalls.
8. Taquile Island, Peru
Lake Titicaca is believed by the Inca to be the birthplace of the sun. It is the largest in South America, a place of crystal clear waters and mysterious islands of myth and legend, traditional dress, and colourful nature,
None is more beautiful than Isla Taquile, where visitors can spend a night in a homestay and learn about the long tradition of weaving on the island. Different community-run textile shops also make for lovely places form which to buy a unique souvenir.
Although many backpackers head for Copacabana and the Bolivian side of the lake, Isla Taquile is a destination you should not miss as it has a centuries-old culture, so unique from that on the mainland.
9. Huaraz, Peru
If you seek a challenging hiking experience, then look no further than the mountain town of Huaraz. Situated 10,000 feet above sea level, the breathtaking town and its majestic Cordillera Blanca nearby Huascaran National Park attract the crowds.
Huaraz offers everything from five-day hikes in the shadow of dramatic, snow-capped peaks to tour to crystal clear high-altitude lakes, such as Laguna 6. If you have plenty of experience, the options are even more adventurous. Embark on treks up to two weeks as long as you explore crystalline lakes’ landscapes and isolated rural villages that only a few tourists can reach.
10. Máncora District, Peru
When compared with Colombia and Ecuador, Peru may not be particularly renowned for its beaches. But with around 1500 miles or 2500 kilometers of coastline, it should be not surprising that there are many stunning spots to be found.
The northern coast of Peru is synonymous with surf. Near in Ecuadorian border, Manocra has one of the most popular beaches because it can be relied upon for its warm waters and beginner-friendly waves. With several lively restaurants and bars, the town has acquired the reputation as Peru’s number one place to party.
11. The Huchuy Qosqo Trek, Cusco Region
If you want to stretch your legs and tick off a visit to Machu Picchu, then look no further than the Huchuy Qosqo trek to Machu Picchu. You will pass through different sceneries, from sheltered Inca trails to rolling hills winding the narrow river canyons as you arrive at the Inca-built Huchuy Qosqo.
Huchuy may lack some of the grandeur of Machu Picchu. However, the archeological site is still a notable example of Inca architecture and makes an interesting detour before passing on to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
12. Ayacucho, Ayacucho Region
Ayacucho holds status as Peru’s city of traditional crafts and has its stately central Plaza de Armas. Just an hour flight from Lima, Ayacucho is one of the country’s best kept secrets despite being relatively close to Cusco.
A souvenir shopper or craft lover’s dream, Ayacucho is known as the artisanal capital of the country. Local artisans in the Santa Ana neighbourhood still elaborate textiles in the workshops and travellers can learn about the city’s proud history of weaving before buying a beautiful rug or wall hanging, which costs hundreds of dollars