PERU What to See and Do

PERU What to See and Do

Things to see in Peru, offer incredible places to visit and things to do in this wonderful South American country . From the Amazon Rainforest, to the ancient city of Machu Picchu , there are many places of interest in this country. From the Sacred Valley to the Inca Trail, arriving in Cusco , up to Lima , the capital overlooking the Pacific coast. Let’s discover in our guide the best things to do and see in the country, discovering it during a wonderful trip to Peru!

Peru, Why Visit It?

Visiting Peru also means taking a journey through its history and wonderful landscapes. The Republic of Peru is located in South America and borders Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and the Pacific Ocean. In addition, Peru is home to habitats of various types, from the coasts , reaching the peaks of the Andes , to the arid plains and the tropical forest and its Amazon River of the Amazon basin. Being the 19th largest country in the world, there are truly many things to see here. Home to ancient cultures , from the Caral to the Inca Empire , it has one of the longest histories of ancient civilizations. The area was conquered in the 16th century by the Spanish Empire, arriving at the independence of Peru only in 1821, with the definitive end of the dominion of Spain with the Battle of Ayacucho .

Peru has incredible natural beauty and historical sites of enormous value. Among them we find the highest lake in the world and the second deepest canyon , as well as the oldest continuously inhabited city . The Sacred Valley, its wonderful natural parks and the incredible Rainbow Mountains are a must-see . But here we also find dream beaches , a world-famous cuisine and the archaeological mystery of the Nazca Lines . In addition, Peruvian culture, its crafts and traditions are still strongly present today, creating a truly unique and colorful place, which offers something for all travelers.

Between culture, landscapes and history, let’s discover what to see and do in Peru!

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Read also:  Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca between history and myth

What to See in Peru – 10 Things to See

After the introductions, let’s go and see together the guide Peru what to visit for our trip. This wonderful country of South America , in fact, offers many things to see and do.

1. Five

Our journey through the things to see and visit in Peru can only begin from its capital Lima. Overlooking the Pacific coast, its historic center preserves buildings that are a legacy of its colonial past. Known as a lively city and one of the largest metropolises in South America, here we can also find important museums , thus discovering through the works of art and finds the pre-Columbian and Peruvian civilizations that have succeeded one another here. The heart of the city, in Plaza de Armas , is its Cathedral , dating back to the 16th century. At the Museo de la Naciòn , among ceramics and archaeological collections, you can discover the history of the country before the conquistadors and visit the Basilica Convent of San Francisco .

Founded in 1535, it has a wonderful facade and inside there are catacombs . In the Miraflores district , Huaca Pucllana is among the archaeological sites that are a must-see here. A monumental pyramid dedicated to an ancient female sea deity, where sacrifices were made. In the Parque de la Reserva there are sculptures by Peruvian artists in neoclassical style and the Magic Water Tour is the largest fountain complex in the world. Also in Miraflores you will find a modern district overlooking the ocean, ideal for shopping and full of beaches . Visit the bohemian Barranco district and arrive at the Ponte dos Suspiros.

2. Machu Picchu

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 wonders of the modern world , Machu Picchu is the third archaeological site in the world , after Pompeii and Ostia Antica. A wonderful Inca site in the Urubamba Valley , at 2,430 meters above sea level, it is absolutely one of the things to see in Peru. An invaluable cultural and natural heritage, with over 1 million visitors a year. The American explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered the site in 1911 , in a tropical forest and in the heart of the Andes , this sanctuary is an important legacy and among the most complex Inca architecture. In the citadel we find palaces, monuments, walls, temples and water channels . Built around 1450, it is still a place full of mysteries today.

According to historians, this could be a large mausoleum for Pachacutec , or an administrative and residential center. The site can be visited through various routes, with over 196 points immersed in nature divided by a 400 m wall into two sectors : the agricultural area and the urban center. Here we find the royal residences, the sacred plaza, the Intihuatana pyramid with the sundial and the Three Facades, in addition to the temples of the Condor Group. An architectural and natural wonder to see during the trip also to discover its fauna and flora, in over 30 thousand hectares of wooded areas , snowfields, peaks and mountains.

Machu Picchu

3. Cuzco

Considered the archaeological capital of America , Cusco , or Cuzco, is absolutely among the things to visit in Peru during your trip. In fact, an essential part of any itinerary, here you can find some very important archaeological sites , as well as a wonderful city. Among these we find Machu Picchu nearby and the Sacred Valley , once the Inca capital. Among the things to see here, don’t miss the Plaza Mayor in the center of the city , the ancient cultural and religious center of the empire, symbol of the Inca revolution against colonization when in 1781 the warrior Tupac Amaru II was executed. We visit the cathedral of Cuzco, founded on the remains of the Inca temple Kiswarkancha in 1539, combining Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic styles.

Through the Inka Museum we can discover its collection of Inca culture artifacts, inside a wonderful colonial house from the 17th century. The Qurikancha , or Temple of the Sun, is among the most important Inca temples for Inti ; solar deity. Destroyed by the arrival of the Spanish, today we can admire its foundations. To immerse yourself in the culture, food and local crafts, visit the Mercado Central de San Pedro . Among other unmissable museums to visit here in Peru we find the Machu Picchu Casa Concha Museum and go to the fortress of Sacsayhuamán . Among the most mysterious places in America, the purpose of these imposing walls over more than 3,000 hectares has not yet been understood. Finally, near the city we find the Montaña de los 7 colores !

PERU What to See and Do

4. Lake Titicaca

On the border between Bolivia and Peru, among the things to absolutely see during our trip, we find the magnificent Lake Titicaca. With a surface area of ​​8,330 km² , at over 3,812 m above sea level, it is the highest and most navigable lake in the world, 281 m deep. A natural heritage site of the country, it is surrounded by rich vegetation and has several islands within it, which preserve ancient traditions. Among these we find Amantaní, Taquile and Uros . According to mythology, this is also the place where the Sun was born . Inhabited since before the Incas by the Colla, Tiwanaku and Pukara cultures. This is also a National Nature Reserve, which protects over 159 animal and 171 plant species. The largest island in the lake is that of the Sun , on the Bolivian side, which includes important archaeological sites and the Challapampa museum .

Among the main attractions to visit on Lake Titicaca in Peru, we find Puno , which preserves its cathedral, numerous museums and wonderful observation points. Do not miss the site of Sillustani , the Archaeological Complex of Cutimbo and the Capachica Peninsula , popular for rural tourism. Considering the altitude of the lake, for visits to these places it is also always recommended at least 1 day of acclimatization , thus avoiding health problems. In addition, it is important to remember that here we will find a cold climate, but with a tropical sun during the day. The best way to visit these floating islands is definitely thanks to a cruise!

PERU What to See and Do

5. Arequipa

A colonial city that is a must-see during your trip to the country, Arequipa offers so much to see and do. Also called the white city for its walls and the sides of the buildings, its surrounding landscape is characterized by volcanoes , which will make the backdrop unique. This is also the ideal starting point for visiting Lake Titicaca, Puno and the Conca Canyon. Being at 2,335 m above sea level, it is necessary to acclimatize to best enjoy the trip and avoid altitude sickness. Its center is the wonderful Plaza de Armas , which houses the Basilica , behind the El Misti volcano , founded in 1540 in neo-Renaissance colonial style with its granite porticos.

Here we also find the Cathedral of Arequipa and the Monastery of Santa Catalina , with its red color and sacred charm. Among the most popular places to visit in Peru, go to the Museo Santuarios Andinos , which houses the frozen body of Juanita . A 14-year-old girl who lived about 500 years ago, found in perfect condition in a glacier in the Andes; probably an Inca sacrificial victim. To learn more about the mestizo architecture of the city, instead, visit the Iglesa de La Compañía and the Claustros de La Compañía nearby. Walk through the wonderful Yanahuara neighborhood and, finally, reach its Belvedere to take unique photos of the volcanoes.

6. Sacred Valley of the Incas

Located in the valley of the Urubamba River , in the Andes near the city of Cusco , the ancient capital, and close to Machu Picchu, we find the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Absolutely among the things to see in Peru during your trip, it was also called the Yucay Valley in the colonial period . A historical place of great importance for the Inca empire during its heyday, rich in natural resources and with an optimal climate for cultivation , it was therefore considered sacred by the indigenous peoples. Today, the communities present are their descendants who still maintain intact ancestral traditions and rites. This area includes the towns of Pisac, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, Maras and Urubamba. In this place we will be able to admire the agricultural terraces , the andeneria , used by the Incas for cultivation.

It was also the main place of worship of Pachamama , Mother Earth. In Ollantaytambo you can admire the original Inca foundations and urban planning of the time, as well as a unique panorama and its archaeological complex. Pisaq preserves important ruins, such as military and religious buildings. In Moray , an ancient center of corn cultivation, particular Inca ruins are preserved : enormous terraced and circular depressions that reach up to 30 m. Their purpose is not certain, but it was probably used for research purposes. Here in September the festival of the sun, the Raymi Moray, is still celebrated . Finally, in the valley we can also visit the Salinas de Maras .

PERU What to See and Do

7. Nazca

Among the greatest unsolved mysteries in the world and among the things to absolutely see during a trip to Peru, we find the famous Nazca Lines. Clearly visible thanks to a flyover of the area, these lines represent the Fragata Bird and the Giant Bird, the Spider, the Monkey and the Hummingbird. It is still unclear who created these enormous works or the exact reason. Gigantic geoglyphs of up to 300 m traced with a single continuous line declared a World Heritage Site, located 500 km from Lima. They were probably created by a pre-Inca civilization, between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. The geoglyphs extend over the plateau for about 80 km , from Palpa to the city of Nazca. The site has been divided into 800 representations in 3 groups : straight lines, geometric designs and representations.

These were discovered only in the 1930s , when overflights of the area began, starting their sighting. This stretch of desert, moreover, has been defined by scholars as a huge book of astronomy for its probable meaning. The archaeologist Maria Reiche spent her life on this site to study the lines and, today, her house has become a museum dedicated to the studies of the Lady of the Lines . As with the crop circles, these too have often been linked to conspiracy theories , hypothesizing that they were not made by humans. To see these lines at their best, a morning overflight is recommended, which occur approximately every 30 minutes.

PERU What to See and Do

8. Colca Canyon

Among the things to see and visit in Peru, one of the deepest canyons in the world could not be missed : Colca. A landscape that will leave you breathless, in the kingdom where the condors , the king of the skies of the country, fly. Not only a wonderful viewpoint , but here in Peru you can also find many activities. Relax in its thermal waters , go canoeing , trekking or mountaineering in the Andes. In addition to the condors, here you can also see many other animals typical of this habitat, such as pumas and the very cute alpacas ! The second after the Tibetan Yarlung Tsangpo . Near Lake Titicaca, this place is considered by many to be a very exciting experience and certainly without equal among the places to visit in Peru, as well as being a place loved by those who practice extreme sports .

From the Sibayo steppes to the Yanque terraces , between extreme expanses the Colca River has carved out this landscape in a unique way over time. The upper area of ​​the Canyon is characterized by a cold climate towards Yanque and Chivay, in addition to being the least visited place, it also contains ancient traditional villages, such as Tuti . Moving northeast from the village, there is the hanging bridge, the Puente Colgante Portillo , used for alpacas, and the Mirador de Largarta . The most visited area is Chivay , being easy to reach. Finally, do not miss the village of Yanque and the Cruz del Cóndor : the most famous panoramic point!

9. Ballestas Islands

A short distance from the coast of Peru, if you are looking for a wild place to see during your trip and inside the Pacific Ocean, the Ballestas Islands await you. A complex ecosystem rich in marine fauna , they are also called the small Galapagos because of their incredible landscape. A true natural sanctuary , this natural park preserves its biodiversity by giving precise and severe rules and times for visits, thus not going to affect it. An excursion considered obligatory, starting from the port of Paracas above all, where small boats will take you to discover this natural paradise.

After about 40 minutes of sailing , we begin to see the islands, which look more like reddish rocks , ranging from the size of a cliff to rugged mountains shaped by natural erosion. We can observe caves, coves, natural arches and incredible spires. These islands are also often completely covered in animals . In fact, the Ballestas are home to Humboldt penguins, sea lions, sea lions, cormorants, albatrosses and pelicans; also creating a lot of noise . In fact, the animals are attracted here by the Humboldt current , which brings plankton and fish in abundance.

PERU What to See and Do

10. Lake Titicaca

Finally, among the things to see in Peru during the trip, right on the western shores of Lake Titicaca , we find the city of Puno. Universally considered the capital of Peruvian folklore , it is certainly not the least important. In fact, this is the cradle of the Inca empire, where the founders of the dynasty, Mama Ocllo and Manco Cápac, arose. Here, in addition to breathing the history of a civilization , you will find a lively atmosphere, characterized by traditional festivals, ancient rituals and dances. The landscape is dominated by folklore and the lake, but we can also visit its Cathedral and the sites of Sillustani and Cutimbo in its vicinity. From here, moreover, visits to the islands of Uros and Taquile depart , discovering the peoples of the floating islands and the ancient Tiahuanaco culture .

In February, Puno celebrates the important festival of the Virgin of Candelaria ; one of the most heartfelt traditions in Peru. Among its cobblestone streets, reach its center, Plaza des Armas , to visit the Basilica Minore and the Cathedral . Along its pedestrian area, Calle Lima , you will find many small shops and stores for your purchases, in an incredibly folkloristic place. Other important monuments here in Peru to see are the Casa del Corregidor and the Church of San Juan . Finally, to admire a unique landscape, go to the Kuntur Wasi Viewpoint .

PERU What to See and Do

What to do in Peru, 5 experiences not to be missed

During your stay in Peru, in addition to visiting the main attractions and places described previously in our guide, we also want to point out the activities to do in the country, thus making your trip unique. Between culture, adventure, tradition, history and local food, an experience in Peru will be able to unite the desires of all travelers.

So let’s not waste time and discover together the 5 experiences to do in Peru !

1. Lake Titicaca Cruise

Among the things to do in Peru, to discover this incredible natural landscape and the places of interest on the floating islands , you can’t miss an excursion on Lake Titicaca. With its approximately 3,820 m , this is the highest navigable lake in the world, where the Uros civilization is still found today , preserving ancient rites and traditions. To discover these people and admire unique landscapes, many excursions leave from Puno to the floating islands, built mainly with floating reeds . This is because the ancient people were forced to take refuge on the waters with the arrival of the invaders.

The reeds then degrade and are constantly replaced, today also integrating modern materials, such as plastic bottles . This lake on the border between Peru and Bolivia offers exciting experiences during navigation and the most suggestive moment is certainly at sunset. We always remember that, considering the altitude, it is necessary to acclimatize to avoid altitude sickness.

2. Trekking on the Mountain of 7 Colors

Also known as Rainbow Mountain , a trek here is one of the most popular things to do in Peru, offering a surreal natural spectacle. Vinicunca , called Montaña de Siete Colores, is located in the Andes , about 138 km from Cuzco . With a height of about 5,300 m , it is covered in snow for most of the year, offering the spectacle of its multi-colored vertical streaks only in the hottest moments. Among the most sought-after destinations to see in the world, it has only become famous since 2015 , as the effect is due to climate change , having always been covered in ice.

In its background stands the Ausangate , a sacred mountain for Peruvians and among the highest, it is a destination for pilgrims and for ancient rituals. The color of the Rainbow Mountain is due to the minerals superimposed over the centuries here, such as red, due to iron oxide, yellow for sulfur and pink manganese. The fact that the stripes are vertical, however, is due to the tectonics of the plates between Nazca and the South American part. A trek here is challenging and lasts about a couple of hours. The best time for a hike here is during the dry season .

PERU What to See and Do

3. Enjoy Peruvian cuisine

Among the things to do in Peru, you can’t miss an experience in the flavors and aromas of the Peruvian culinary tradition. A cuisine famous throughout the world, created by the union of indigenous traditions with Spanish , African and Asian ones . Known above all for its fresh and varied ingredients, including chili pepper, quinoa, corn and potatoes, but not only. The symbolic dish of the country is undoubtedly ceviche , based on raw fish and lime, chili pepper, coriander and onion.

Don’t miss the Lomo saltado , a mix of meat sautéed with chilies, onions and served with rice and chips. Chicken is also a very common ingredient, as in the Aji de Gallina . In addition, Peruvian cuisine varies greatly depending on the areas we visit, making the most of local ingredients.

PERU What to See and Do

4. Discover local crafts

To discover the culture and traditions of Peru, among the things to do you can not miss an immersion in its local craftsmanship. Expression of the cultural heritage of the country, it reflects ancient traditions, inherited from generation to generation, combining colonial influences with the most modern techniques, in addition to the skill of local artisans. These products, in addition, also represent a unique souvenir to bring home after your wonderful trip to this country, for yourself or as a special gift. Among the main artisanal processes, we find weaving with natural fibers, especially alpaca and llama , still using manual looms and natural dyes.

The patterns of these fabrics also represent symbols related to cosmology or traditions. Ceramics also have a very long tradition in Peru, with roots in pre-Columbian cultures, like goldsmithing . You will also find many objects in wood or stone and, for your purchases, visit the markets, such as those in Cuzco or Pisac , the cooperatives for solidarity purchases and to support indigenous populations in this way.

5. Visit the Pisco Distilleries

Finally, among the things to do in Peru, discover the national drink through its production. Pisco is a liquor distilled from specific grapes , with a unique taste and also known by the name of bodegas . The distilleries that deal with its production are mainly found in Lima, Tacna, Moquegua and Ica . In these areas, in fact, the climate is ideal for growing the grapes that are used. By visiting one of these distilleries, it will be possible to walk among the vineyards and do tastings of this prized local product, while the experts explain its history and processing methods.

This distillate, moreover, is originally from the Peruvian coastal area, taking its name from the city of Pisco, where it was initially produced in the 16th century , after the introduction of viticulture by the colonists. Pisco, moreover, means bird , referring to the species of the region. Even today it is bottled with the original strength , without adding water, and can range from 38 to 50% alcohol.

PERU What to See and Do

What to See in Peru, Recommended Itineraries

So, after seeing what to see, visit and do in Peru, you are ready to pack your bags and leave !

So, let’s discover together the itineraries according to your needs. Here’s what to visit in Peru!

What to See in Peru in 10 Days

With about 10 days at your disposal, the Classic Peru Tour: Machu Picchu of Enchantment takes you to discover the land of the Incas from Lima to Cuzco, with a visit to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture and great archaeology of this country.

What to See in Peru in 15 Days

The Grand Tour Peru takes you on a complete journey, with a flight over the Nazca Lines and a visit to the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Designed for those who want to immerse themselves in the rich culture and exceptional archaeological heritage of this extraordinary country.

How to Visit Peru?

Now that, thanks to our guide Peru What to see , you have a clearer idea of ​​what to visit on your trip, before leaving we recommend that you inform yourself as much as possible about the documents needed for entry. 

Furthermore, considering the morphology and position of Peru, before organizing a trip to the country it is important to also take into account its climate , organizing ourselves based on the areas we want to visit and having the appropriate clothing. There is no period not recommended for visiting Peru, the dry season, from May to October, is recommended.

Although it is possible to organize your trip to Peru completely independently, we at traveljourn, recommend that you rely on a specialized tour operator to organize your group trip. This way you will be sure to live a travel experience  in total  safety and reliability, discovering what to see in Peru.

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Read also: Discover Peru’s Hidden Treasures: From Machu Picchu to the Amazon

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