Machu Picchu and ancient Inca cities and archaeological sites deservedly place Peru at the top of many bucket lists, but South America’s third largest country is also home to a treasure of incredible places and experiences beyond the Incas. Historic Spanish colonial towns, the Peruvian Amazon which covers over half the country, the stunning highlands of the cloud-topped Andes mountains, the Peruvian altiplano as well as its rich marine life along its Pacific shores are there to be explored and enjoyed.
It was not so long ago that Lima was considered just a stopover en route to Peru’s many other iconic destinations. Now a destination on its own, Lima has become one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in Latin America. The capital boasts a wonderfully preserved colonial centre, a burgeoning bohemian and artistic vibe in its Barranco and Callao neighbourhoods, pre-Colombian ruins, some of the continent’s best art museums, a thriving nightlife and, at the forefront of Lima’s renaissance – an electrifying food scene. In the past few years, Lima has become, not only Latin America’s, but one of the world’s most exciting culinary destination. With multiple local restaurants consistently listed in the world’s top 50, this is one foodie destination that you will not want to miss.
Surely one of the most fascinating cities in Latin America, Cusco will linger in your imagination well after you leave. With ornate baroque cathedrals built on top of ancient Inca temples, this city is full of surprising contrasts. Walking down its cobblestone streets, a local woman in traditional garb leading her llama is as common a sight as the luxury boutiques and restaurants that now inhabit the centre. This ancient Inca capital also has its fair share of important archeological sites in and around the city, as well as the best foodie scene outside of Lima. Make sure you leave enough time to explore this amazing city.
There are few of the world’s wonders that live up to expectations, Machu Picchu actually exceeds it! The beauty, the architectural genius and the mystery behind this iconic site never ceases to amaze and mystify everyone who is fortune enough to behold it. Whether you trek the Inca trail or take a luxury train to Machu Picchu, you will also discover the ancient settlements and stunning landscapes of the Sacred Valley, home to many important Inca sites, as well as charming colonial villages and a local Andean population with customs and traditions unchanged for centuries.
In less than two hours, you can fly from Lima to Iquitos, the jumping off point for your luxury Amazon cruise. With 3, 4 or even 7 night cruise options available, this is the best way to explore the northern Peruvian Amazon in style. These boutique river boats can be exclusive or join a scheduled departure; either way, you will be blown away by the breathtaking scenery and pristine wilderness as you explore the unique wildlife, visit local villages and search for the famous pink dolphins of the Amazon.
World renowned because of its spectacular macaw and parrot clay licks, the Tambopata National Reserve is one of the true remaining jewels of the Amazon. Because of the reserve’s protected status and secluded location, it offers incredible biodiversity and contains pristine primary rainforest. The reserve plays host to over 1,000 species of butterflies, 100 species of mammals (including a healthy population of jaguars), around 600 species of birds and hundreds of species of indigenous trees and plants. In fact, this reserve and surrounding region is one of the most biodiverse locations on earth. More than just a natural wonderland, this region is also home to the indigenous Ese Eja people who are believed to have descended from the heavens on a thread of cotton and are one of the last remaining foraging Amazonian cultures on earth. Enjoy your stay in one of our recommended luxury lodges in coveted and secluded locations throughout the reserve.
Accessible only by road and then boat from both Cusco and Puerto Maldonado, Manu National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Famous for being where the Amazon basin meets the Andes, this pristine natural wonder has been protected by its isolation and by its indigenous people who live deep in its rainforest, some of whom have had very little contact with the outside world. Manu has some of the best wildlife viewing in Peru with over 4,000 different animal species including jaguars, pumas, tapirs, giant otters, and various monkey species not to mention its colourful macaws and their clay licks.
Take a short flight from Cusco, or for the more adventurous, a spectacular overland luxury train journey, and you will arrive at mystical Lake Titicaca. Shared by Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the most sacred site of the Incas, believed to be the ancestral birthplace of the Incas as well as the Sun God. This massive high-altitude lake, flanked by the towering snowcapped Andes, is home to several inhabited islands with ancient Incan ruins and colourfully dressed villagers. Do not miss the floating reed islands and their inhabitants famous for their perfectly crafted reed boats.
Guarded by three dramatic volcanoes and locally known as “La Cuidad Blanca” (white city) for its sparkling white buildings, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and, considered by many, its most charming. Renowned as a cultural and culinary capital, Arequipa is blessed with world class museums, a dazzling white Plaza de Almas and a colourful monastery and is surrounded by the snowcapped Andean peaks, making it a visual delight. Once considered a jumping off point to visit the nearby Colca Canyon, Arequipa is now firmly on the map as a must-see destination on its own.
Slicing through the High Andes like a giant fissure for more than 100 kilometres, Colca Canyon is the world's second deepest canyon, nearly twice as deep as the United States’ Grand Canyon and, in our opinion, twice as magnificent. Located just 160 kilometres from Arequipa, the canyon is one of the most impressive sights in the entire Andean mountain range and is definitely one of Peru’s most underrated and under-visited highlights. Famous for breathtaking hikes, this is the best place in Peru to see the majestic Andean Condor, the largest flying bird on earth. The Colca Valley is a colourful Andean valley with pre-Inca roots, and towns founded in Spanish colonial times, still inhabited by people of the Collagua and the Cabana cultures. The local people maintain their ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces. A recently opened luxury lodge located right in the valley makes this a must on any Peru itinerary.
Descending down to around 450 metres above sea level, one of the world’s great ancient mysteries is revealed. Peru’s Nazca lines over the desert have stayed largely intact for at least 500 years and still baffle archaeologists, historians, and explorers to this day. Covering an area of over 1,000 square kilometres deep in the heart of the Peruvian desert plains, more than 300 exquisitely accurate and immaculately preserved giant geoglyphs, which are only visible from the air, evoke a mysticism which can only be explained once you have witnessed this sight.
For the ultimate train journey, travel from the Inca capital of Cusco, across the Andean plains to the white city of Arequipa. Take in the region’s most spectacular sights, including Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon. Let yourself be enchanted as you pass through some of Peru’s most spectacular scenery in the lap of luxury on this three-day overland journey.
Ready for your trip?
Let us help you plan everything.
We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.