Peru boasts the most dramatic Andean peaks and finest regional cuisine, but the jewel on its crown is undoubtedly Machu Picchu, the legendary Inca ruins hidden high in the clouds. Cuzco, the former Inca capital is within hiking distance, and the region is plenty of Inca ruins and fascinating history. Peru’s long, fertile territory was the starting point for many pre-Columbian civilizations. Other attractions include the Nazca Lines, the jungle city of Iquitos, the Mantaro and Ica valleys, beach towns, and the oasis village of Huacachina.
Lima & Vicinity
Lima, capital of Peru, sitting on the Pacific coast, a metropolitan city of 10 million is perfect for discovering the famed national cuisine, with its multitude of ingredients and spices. A relaxing tour of San Francisco convent, with its 21-altar Basilica and museum featuring works by a.o. Rubens, Zurbaran and Rivera. A tour of the many downtown plazas (squares) including the seaside cycle path, botanical garden and Parque del Amor, ending with a visit to Lima’s best nightspots. Meanwhile, the ancient tradition is very much alive at Huaca Pucllana temple, just steps away from the hotels and hostels of central Miraflores district. The impressive Pyramids of Pachacamac are just a 40km drive to the south.
Cusco & Vicinity
Cusco (or Cuzco) was the historic capital of the Inca Empire, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its elevation of over 11,000 ft allows visitors to acclimatize before setting off on long treks towards Machu Picchu’s legendary mountain ruins. Cusco is a pleasant city to explore, with wonderful ancient stonework, narrow streets and important Inca temple remains, complemented by Spanish colonial buildings. Numerous museums showcase Inca and pre-Colombian culture, as well as textiles and sacred plants. Being a rich agricultural region, many fusion and neo-Andean restaurants offer unique Peruvian gastronomy. Meanwhile, day trips to nearby lagoons can be combined with visits to Inca ruins such as Pisac, Tambomachay, Kenqo, Sacsayhaman and Ollantaytambo.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is the eternal home of Machu Picchu, built in the 15th century for Inca emperor Pachacuti. From Cusco, the former Inca capital further down the valley, visitors decide between a suitable “Inca trail”, or take the train (or half and half). All routes wind around dramatic peaks, rivers and archaeological sites, with regular rest stops at scenic points, and camping for up to three nights (depending on trail length). The region was prized by many civilizations for its agricultural potential, and towns such as Ollantaytambo were once retreats for Inca royalty.