Perched high in the Andes mountain range, Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca citadel that attracts thousands of visitors a year.
Built in the 15th century, but only discovered around 100 years ago, the mysterious maze of buildings, plazas, and platforms continues to bewilder historians and archaeologists – who are still to this day trying to understand its original purpose!
Trek the famous Inca trail to the top, or enjoy a scenic train journey from Cusco. The views that greet you when you reach the summit are well worth the journey: shrouded by mist and surrounded by layers of mountains carpeted in lush, green forests, the Inca citadel’s location only adds to the mystical atmosphere that captures your heart from the moment you step foot here.
Imagine dropping to sleep in the beating heart of the largest rainforest in the world, with only Mother Nature and your fellow travellers to keep you company. Taking up an astounding 60% of the entire country, the Peruvian Amazonia can make that fantasy a reality.
Spend a few days in Puerto Maldonado – a city and gateway to the southern Amazon jungle. Here, you can explore the rainforest by foot and canoe, keeping an eye out for the endangered giant river otter, colourful macaws, black caimans, red howler monkeys and one of the world’s biggest freshwater scaled fish: the paiche.
And when the sun sinks below the horizon, embark on a twilight river cruise, where you can witness the behaviour of nocturnal animals while gazing up at the stars. Magical!
On Lake Titicaca, in the shadow of the Andes, the ancient Uros people live an extraordinary life on islands made of totora reeds. Their lives have been interwoven with these buoyant reeds for thousands of years, after being driven onto the floating islands by the Incas.
The 1,200 Uros people living here now make their living from fishing and from their handicrafts. Pay a visit to meet the friendly locals and learn about their traditional livelihood, and take a trip on one of their spectacular boats which – like everything else – are made almost entirely from reeds!
Peru doesn’t spring to mind when you think of the world’s best food destinations, but this South American country is in fact widely regarded as the capital of South American cuisine.
Foodies rejoice: Peru offers a dazzling array of choice to suit every palate, sprinkled with Spanish, indigenous, African and Asian influences. Try the nation’s signature dish, ceviche: a zesty seafood dish made from raw fish. If you’re feeling adventurous, stick your fork into anticucho, grilled cow heart on skewers or guinea pig (cuy) – which is considered a local delicacy.
READ MORE: Top 10 Best Foodie Cities
Peru’s captivating capital city is definitely one not to be missed. Drowning in history, Lima has it all: a fascinating colonial centre, mouth-watering street food and fascinating museums and galleries.
Don’t leave without visiting the UNESCO-listed historic old town and the Plaza de Armas – the perfect introduction to Old Lima. You should also take a stroll down to the San Francisco Monastery – arguably the city’s finest architectural masterpiece that showcases beautifully preserved Baroque architecture, gilded altars and works of religious art.
For a more upmarket feel, head to the Miraflores district and dive into its myriad stylish bars and restaurants. It’s here that you can also find Parque Kennedy – a central point of the neighbourhood that’s famous for its population of cats.
The gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco is where traditional and cosmopolitan collide. It’s not only coined the Inca capital of Peru: as the Americas’ oldest continuously inhabited city, it’s the archaeological capital of the entire continent!
Evidence of the ancient is all around. Make a beeline for Coricancha (Temple of the Sun), the most important temple of the Inca Empire, or get clued up at the Machu Picchu museum before your visit.
Come here to get lost in the hustle and bustle of Cusco’s hilly, cobblestone streets, and to admire the magnificent colonial architecture. At 3,399 metres above sea level, there are some pretty amazing viewpoints to be found too.
Love to shop? You’ll be in your element in Peru. It’s here that you’ll discover the most vibrant and colourful marketplaces, filled with locally made handicrafts and exotic foods that are near-enough impossible to resist.
Lima has some of the best around. Head to the Inca Market in the Minaflores district to get your hands on everything from traditional textiles and Incan-style jewellery to alpaca scarves and shawls. Peruvians tend to shop in the Gamarra market – a bustling marketplace solely dedicated to clothes – and cheap clothes at that.
Remember: Haggling is a way of life here, so make sure you barter your way to the best price!
READ MORE: 8 Of The Best Shopping Cities In The World
Although you can visit Peru all year round, the country does experience two main seasons. The winter (May – September) is the driest of the two, and therefore the best time of year to travel, especially if you’re planning to visit mountainous regions such as Cusco or Machu Picchu. The summer period (December – March) is warmer but experiences frequent, heavy showers.
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