What to see
First on the list for any visitor to Peru must be the magical Machu Picchu
, which never fails to amaze with both its scale and, perhaps even more remarkably, its setting, high up in the Andes and a scenic train journey away from Cuzco. It is not difficult to see how the conquistadores completely missed this significant site. The industry of the Incas amazes elsewhere as well, in particular with the precise masonry at Sacsayhuaman near Cuzco, and the ingenious agricultural terraces in the beautiful Sacred Valley
. Despite being the hub for visiting most of these places, the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco seems surprisingly unspoiled. It retains a magical atmosphere with its clash of Incan and Spanish colonial architecture, and is worth spending a few days in. The whole of this region is set against a backdrop of lush green mountains and big skies, and is what sets Peru apart from any other Latin America country.
In the north of Peru, there are more pre-Colombian remains from other civilisations which will appeal to second time visitors or anyone with a keen interest in ancient cultures. Close to Trujillo
visit sites including the adobe walled city of Chan Chan
and the Sun and Moon Pyramids, while even further north near Chiclayo visit the Tombs of Sipan
and the Pyramids of Tucume
. Further inland explore Kuelap
, a spectacular pre-Inca walled city hidden atop a precipitous mountain or the cliff-top funerary sites of Revash and Karajia.
For more recent history, the white-walled colonial city of Arequipa is worth a visit, a picturesque city which overlooks the volcano El Misti. From here you can continue on over the high altiplano to the awe-inspiring Colca Canyon, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and home to remote Andean villages, hot springs and majestic Andean condors.
At 3,855 metres, the deep blue Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest in South America. Dotted with small islands, including floating islands made out of totora reeds, visits here offer spectacular views, Inca ruins and the chance to interact with the local people who live and work on and around the lake. Stay in Puno located on the shores of the lake or combine with night or two on tranquil Suasi Island. Alternatively it is well worth making a full day trip or an overnight visit to the Sun and Moon Islands on the Bolivian side of the lake.
Wildlife enthusiasts should explore Peru’s Amazonian north, where we can particularly recommend an Amazon River cruise from Iquitos aboard the Delfin or the luxurious Aqua and Aria boats. Or stay at a remote lodge in the Amazonian rainforest near Puerto Maldonado, an excellent place to see wildlife, birds and flora.
For those who like to travel in style there are now many excellent character hotels in Peru, including five luxury Orient-Express managed properties.