Peru is a country full of things to appreciate. The wild nature mixes with a millennial culture, made up of fascinating stories and legends that are lost in the mists of time. It is the variety of landscapes, like its beaches, is the first thing that surprises visitors: you go from the desert to colonial cities, you can visit lagoons, canyons, Inca ruins and floating villages. Light, dream, beauty: the essence of Peru can be seen in the streets, colours and smiles of the people. Nature settings range from the Amazonian forest to the lines of Nasca, coloured mountains and the Andes peaks.

  • Lima
  • Cuzco
  • Sacsayhuamán Fortress
  • Machu Picchu
  • Callao
  • Pachacamac archaeological site
  • Lake Titicaca
  • Puerto Maldonado
  • Paracas
  • Ballestas Islands
  • Oasis of Huacachina
  • Rainbow Mountains
  • Nasca
  • Iquitos
  • Colca Valley
  • Arequipa
  • El Valle Sagrado
  • Kuelap
  • Trujillo
  • Chan Chan

Lima

Visiting Lima means discovering the capital of Peru that, during the colonial era, was the most important city in South America and today, is one of the main regional and most popular destinations worldwide for gastronomy. Lima is a dynamic city on the Pacific coast, that offers particular contrasts: on the one hand, pre-Colombian archaeological sites and traditional places, and on the other hand, modern buildings in sophisticated districts. There are several attractions, starting with Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas.

Here you can visit Lima’s city cathedral, built in 1535 on an Inca site of worship: it has undergone several changes over the centuries and still includes various styles: Baroque, Gothic, Neo-Classical and Romanesque. It is a huge building containing thirteen chapels and the tomb of Francisco Pizarro. The bishop's palace is next to the cathedral. It is a Neocolonial building, with wonderful wooden balconies, which is currently the residence of Archbishop of Lima and the administrative centre of the Catholic Church in Peru.

For several years, the building was home to a museum of religious art, that exhibited an art collection ranging from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The capital offers houses, ancient balconies and historical palaces, such as the home of Jerónimo de Aliaga, Francisco Pizarro's comrade in arms. It is a magnificent places with a huge staircase, wooden furniture, a French-style sitting room, Louis 16th-style furniture and mirrors, and a wonderful interior patio.

It is hard to choose between the 600 colonial monuments and buildings in a historic old town that has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.  There are many museums to visit, from the Mali (Lima’s Art Museum) to the Museo de Historia Natural. The most modern area of Lima is the Miraflores district.

Cusco

This is the wonderful, legendary capital of the Empire of the Sun. Legend has it that the Sun god gave an order to the first Inca king, that he had to find a spot in the earth where he had to plunge a golden staff into it until it disappeared. In that very spot, which was considered as the centre of the world, Manco Càpac founded Cusco. According to historians, it was originally in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. A place full of charm and history, where Incan architecture merges with Spanish Colonial architecture.

The city is 3,400 metres above sea level, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Plaza de Armas is considered to be the city’s central point. On the north side, there is a large cathedral, with a staircase and to each side the churches of Jesús María and El Triunfo. A city full of attractions, but also a lively meeting place in the San Blas district. You can also try out the local cuisine in Cusco, eating ceviche (raw fish with pieces of lime), alpaca steaks and soups.

Sacsayhuamán Fortress

This extraordinary archaeological site is two kilometres from Cusco, and covers over 3000 hectares. According to some Spanish documents, it was built by the Incas, starting in 1430 and work is said to have lasted 70 years. The specific nature of the area is given by the huge size of many stones, that were fitted together in an almost surgical fashion. One example if the main wall, comprising rocks that are up to 6 metres in height, 2.5 metres in width, and weight from  90 to 200 tonnes. Nobody knows how they were lifted or which tools were used to cut and chisel them.

There are many legends, starting from the true start of the works, and also the functions that the structure served, whether a temple or a fortress. There are also more magical stories, that tell of never-ending underground tunnels or the fact that the temple located in the centre of Cusco had its walls covered in gold in ancient times.

Machu Picchu

It is one of the seven wonders of the world and one of the most visited archaeological sites worldwide, as well as being a World Heritage Site. Imagine a city surrounded by temples, palaces, set into a mountain with roads and canals, and made using large stone blocks. The area was connected to the entire Inca Empire via the path known as "Qhapaq Ñan". According to historians, it was Pachacútec who built it in 1400. Its role is still the subject of debate, whether it was the occasional residence of the Inca Emperor, a holy city, a sanctuary or a flourishing political and administrative centre. What is certain is that nothing was left to chance: not even the construction at 2400 metres above sea level on a geological fault.

This choice would have provided a large supply of rocks and to be able to cut them without too much energy required. The position of Machu Picchu meant that rainwater and water coming from the melting glaciers could drain away directly. There was also a protective function, against avalanches.  The city was discovered by chance in 1911, by the American historian Hiram Bingham, while he was looking for the remains of another city.

Callao

Sea, islands and culture: here, there is everything. Callao is the most important port in the country. It is basically the

trade entrance and exit point for the whole of Peru. Its history is of a similar era to that of the capital, Lima, and has seen difficult times, such as the tsunami in 1746. It was the wealthy district, and contains palaces and villas with wonderful balconies; in addition to museums, churches and the Real Felipe fortress, which overlooks the bay from a headland and that has withstood pirate attacks.

As well as art and tradition, it is possible to appreciate the unspoilt nature of the Palomino Islands and San Lorenzo in Callao, or some relaxing beaches with their smooth pebbles. One of the first places to visit is the historical old town. It offers many styles that show a reflection of the Colonial and Republican era. While walking around, you will find cobblestone lanes, picturesque squares, wooden balconies, theme parks, Plaza de Armas full of colour and similar to what you find in the centre of Lima.

Pachacamac archaeological site

They call it the “millennial citadel” and is located about forty kilometres from Lima. Imagine that you are surrounded by desert and that in front of you there is a succession of pyramid-shaped palace and temple ruins that were built in stone using the Incan technique. You will be surprised by the enormous staircase, that was discovered during recent digs and is connected to the temple of the sun. Even though an earthquake damaged the area in 2007, you can still admire the Palacio de las Mamacuna and its trapezoidal doors.

Lake Titicaca

A certified attraction that boasts large numbers too. Lake Titicaca, that lies 3800 metres above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world, and has a surface area of over 8500 square kilometres in several regions and  between two nations: Peru and Bolivia. It is a peaceful area, full of natural beauty, a biodiversity that includes species that are unknown to us, such as the giant Lake Titicaca frog. It is a place filled with folklore and cultural traditions that are explained and valued by the resident population. It is also possible to visit the Uros islands, to learn about local customs of the population that live on the totora plant, using it to build houses and boats, and also to feed themselves.

Puerto Maldonado

Nature parks, reserves, and journeys into the Amazonian forest. Puerto Maldonado is truly a great destination for those who want a holiday in contact with nature. It is at the intersection of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers, at 256 metres above sea level, about 45 minutes by plane from Cusco. In the area it is possible to visit botanical gardens and learn about the properties of plants and how they are used by the Amazonian populations. The area offers several natural viewing points, from where it will be possible to look at breath-taking views, especially at sunset.

The town is becoming increasingly popular with tourists and is also popular for its Mariposario, a place that holds many types of colourful butterflies. You will come into contact with an unrivalled biodiversity at Tambopata National Reserve, which is home to over 600 kinds of birds, more than 160 mammals and thousands of butterflies. Lake Sandoval is the main attraction in the park and is close to Puerto Maldonado. The protagonists in this area are the macaws, but the park is also a habitat for coypus. There are many facilities and overnight accommodation is also available. For anyone wanting to relax or want to see a particular view over this amazing landscape, there is an observation tower.

Paracas

Expanses of sand, wind, waves, jagged cliffs, a sense of freedom and a place where all the perfumes combine. Paracas is a protected area in the region of Ica and most of it is in the province of Pisco: the backdrop it offers is one of endless beaches surrounded by rocky walls that have been eroded by the water and atmospheric agents. Its name in the Inca language means “Sand storm” which explains its very essence, as it is an extremely windy area where the gusts can lift the sand. Paraca National Reserve is home to many animal species and offers the opportunity for several activities. walks and bike rides for cyclists providing the opportunity to see the desert and enjoy the marine ecosystem. You may come across wolves, condors and flamingoes. You may prefer to cycle along the coast, however, and simply enjoy the sea and the sunset.

Ballestas Islands

Prepare yourselves for a vision of flora and fauna that will bowl you over. The Ballestas Islands in Paracas, of which there are three, provide spectacular views and an enviable marine ecosystem. You can easily come across penguins, sea lions and pelicans, that all live here. You can also admire a scenario made up of rocks and caves to find your special point and observe the local fauna. The priority of the area is to protect the biological diversity of the marine ecosystems. It is possible to reach the islands by boat, which leave from the port of Pisco to provide tourist tours.

Oasis of Huacachina

 

With its dunes, palm trees and oasis, the Huacachina lagoon is an unmissable opportunity for all tourists who want to take a dip in its green waters in the middle of the desert. Located in the region of Ica, it is a perfect place for excursions or to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your friends or family.  It would also seem that its waters are curative for asthma and rheumatism. There is also a legend that would explain its name: In the Quechua language, Huacachina means "woman who cries". According to an ancient legend, the green water originates from the tears of a womanwho was crying over the death of her beloved husband. The certainty is that in this area, there may be various activities, in addition to adventurous excursions in Jeeps, it is possible to go sandboarding (snowboard with a board on the desert dunes).

Rainbow Mountains

They also call them the “seven-colour mountains”, and the truth is that the Rainbow Mountains are one of the most popular attractions in Peru for climbing and trekking enthusiasts. Admiring the colourful mountains, which is due to the sedimentation of various materials, at 5300 metres above sea level, is a unique experience. There are seven colours, from the red of the iron oxide to the pink from manganese, yellow from sulphur and black from granite. The last stretch that involves a climb of a thousand metres, can be done on foot or on horseback. The highest peak is Vinicunca which is south east of Cusco, in the region of the same name.

Nasca

The Nasca desert is an arid high plain about eighty kilometres long and wrapped in mystery. Here, in fact, we can see the famous hieroglyphics, a set of 13,000 lines that form about800 drawings. There are some stylized animals among them: condors, monkeys, whales and a spider. Archaeologists have identified an unusual animal with a dangling tongue and an extremely high number of feet. It is difficult to understand the meaning, whether linked to a religion or have an astronomical meaning.

Recent studies have shown that the lines may have been connected to water, symbolically, or the presence of wells. They were apparently drawn between 300 B.C. and 500 A.D. and are a World Heritage Site. Stones rich in iron oxide have been removed from the desert, which contrast with the lighter stone chippings , which has stayed here thanks to the climate which is not at all windy.

Iquitos

Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian forest and the main river port on the Amazon Rio. It is the largest city that cannot be reached by land. A metropolis in the jungle that alternates opposites and picturesque settings. Beyond the centre and sophisticated bars, there is the forest. Beyond the river bank and bars and elegant palaces, there are the huts. The city is lively, full of folklore. And alternates the “iron house” designed by the architect Gustave Eiffel, or “Art Nouveau” buildings with the rustic houses in the Belèn district that stand on stilts to defend themselves from the river. One of the most important attractions for tourists is to sail the rivers and lakes in boats, but also to relax on its beaches.

The area was populated in ancient times by various native groups, but it was the Jesuits who founded the city. 

Colca Valley

We can begin by saying that it is the second most visited destination by tourists after Machu Picchu. The Colca Valley is famous for its canyon, one of the deepest in the world. A setting of pre-Colombian terraces in a landscape filled with cacti, gorges, and rivers where you can see the flight of the condors, who live and nest in this area. An immense scenario at over 4 thousand metres above sea level, where the landscape changes, the green merges with the wild colours of the mountains. Here you can go trekking or go in search of the thermal springs, visit picturesque villages, churches and monuments. The area is 4 hours from the city of Arequipa. In the area, there are also caves and mysterious carvings made by the ancient inhabitants of these places.

Arequipa

 

They call it the “white city” due to its building constructed with a particular stone that is similar to tufa rock and that reflects its light onto the roads. It has a beautiful old town centre, filled with monuments, colonial palaces and history, that are now a UNESCO world heritage site. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, after Lima and is surrounded by mountains and the huge El Misti volcano, over 5 thousand metres high. One of the most interesting attractions is the Santa Catalina monastery, with its blue and red painted walls

The cathedral in Plaza de Armas is the largest in Peru. At the Santuarios Andinos Museum, you will learn about the story of Juanita, a mummified girl who was found at the top of the Nevado Ampato mountain in 1995. The twelve-year old Inca child was sacrificed to the gods in 1450. The tour ends with the view of the girl’s body.

El Valle Sagrado

Landscapes of lush vegetation, towns that respect their own history and hand it down, places full of archaeological sites. El Valle Sagrado shows all its potential to visitors. The area was the main Inca agricultural area, in particular being famous for growing maize. It is now a place to admire, starting with the colourful villages, the rivers or the imposing mountains that frame the view, near Cusco. In 2006 it was declared a National Cultural Heritage site. There are several attractions to visit, including the popular Ollantaytambo: a pre-Inca city, that still preserves a part of its stone buildings.    

Kuelap

Another imposing fortress that stands at 3,000 metres above sea level. Kuelap was built by a culture that precedes the Incas, that developed and lived from 800 A.D. According to archaeologists and experts, the structure and chosen position show that it had a defence purpose. The stone walls that reach 20 metres in height, and that protected the city, are worthy of note. There were three narrow alleyways that served as entrances. The structure is in the Amazonas department.

Trujillo

Mild climate, an important economic and agricultural centre, Peru's third city, Trujillo is also known as “the city of eternal spring” due to its ideal climate that encouraged the agricultural activity in the area. The name Trujillo was chosen as a tribute to the place where the conquistador Francisco Pizarro was born. The old town centre contains sophisticated buildings, convents and picturesque houses that still carry the traces of colonial architecture. One place not to be missed in the bright yellow cathedral. Historically, the city was particularly inclined to revolts, from the time of the Incas. It was, in fact, the first to declare independence from Spain.

Chan Chan

There are many reasons to visit it, above all because it is one of the most important and popular archaeological sites in Peru, as well as being a Unesco World Heritage site. “Sun sun”, this is the meaning of its name in the native language, was the capital of the Chimú domain, before being conquered by the Incas. Its historical centre is formed by ten walled citadels, striking in their decorations. The geometric patterns accompanied by fish are a surprising sight. A complexity and high quality that proves the level and importance that it had achieved before the Incas arrived. The archaeological site has preserved various elements. There are still the working class districts, the pavements, the walls, canals, cemeteries and other buildings from the original town.

Depart for Peru with Costa

 

A history of more than ten thousand years that gathers the inheritance of the Inca Empire. As we have seen, Peru is full of archaeological ruins and testimonies. The country is a mix of different landscapes with a biological diversity that is one of the most surprising in the world. Snow-covered mountains, forests, desert and historical old towns. It may be the cultures and traditions that surprise you, starting with the 50 languages that live together in ancient music and folklore dances, without forgetting the food and wine. The local cuisine is rich in taste and tradition, and ranges from meat to fish,  thanks to its variety. There are at least 3000 different varieties of potatoes grown here. Just allow yourself to be won over by its colours and amazing opportunities, and set off right now.

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