Peru offers many tourist opportunities, including history, culture, and beauty. While Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca City, is a highlight of any South American trip, many other attractions can be found throughout Peru.
A boat ride on the world’s highest navigable lake is possible. You can also look out over the deepest canyons of the world by sandboarding, hiking in the Andes, or fishing for piranha at the Amazon. You can also explore the Nazca lines and walk through the Sacred Valley’s ancient ruins. Or, you can experience modern Peru as you stroll the streets of Lima.
Peru is a unique destination because of its diversity in landscapes, people, and experiences. Our list of top tourist attractions in Peru will help you find the best places to see.
1. Arequipa’s Historic City Center
Arequipa is Peru’s most beautiful town, with an elevation of more than 2300m. The city’s center, set against snow-capped mountains, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arequipa’s most notable feature is its old architecture made of sillar rock, a volcanic stone that glows brightly in the sun. This stone is used in many of the colonial buildings of the historical city center, which gives rise to the nickname “white city.”
Arequipa is often used as a stop-off point by those who want to visit the Colca Canyon (Canon del Colca), about four hours from the city.
Arequipa Accommodation: Where to Stay
2. The Inca Trail
A four-day trek that ends at Machu Picchu is the famous Inca Trail. It is considered by many to be the highlight of their Peru trip. Although it is more complex than many expect, this scenic trail is one of the most popular activities in Peru.
The Inca Trail has a few starting points, but the most popular four-day trek starts at km 82 on the Cusco-Aguas Calientes railway line. The trail crosses over 30 Inca ruins and passes through stunning scenery. The second day is the most challenging, as it involves a 1,200m elevation gain and two high passes.
You must book the hike with an agency. Reservations should be made in advance, especially in the high season, June through August.
A few agencies offer shorter versions of the hike, including the last two or the final day. You will find campgrounds all along the trail, as well as one at Machu Picchu’s base.
Depending on the tour they are taking, hikers can bring their backpacks or have them shipped. It is strictly enforced that there be no more than ten hikers or porters per day on the trail.
3. Cusco’s Architectural Treasures
It’s like walking through a museum. The streets of Cusco are full of history. Many of the beautiful old colonial buildings that line the roads are built on Inca ruins, which reflects the city’s long and rich history.
Plaza de Armas, the main square in the city. It houses La Compania and the Cathedral, both equally impressive structures. You can also start a walking tour from the court, grab a bite to eat or watch people go by during the day.
While there are many museums and buildings worth seeing, the most crucial attraction in Cusco is the church of Santo Domingo. It rests on the ruins at the Coricancha Inca site.
Accommodation: Where to Stay In Cusco
4. Lake Titicaca
The lake’s sparkling blue waters surround rolling hills, traditional villages, and small villages. Its beautiful scenery and rich culture distinguish it. Lake Titicaca, located at 3,820m above sea level, is the highest navigable lake on the planet.
The best way to see the lake is by boat. The Uros Floating Islands, also known as Islas Flotantes, are a significant tourist attraction. They support small groups of Uros Indians. These artificial islands are made of reeds and have maintained a traditional way of life since the Incas.
The tour to these islands offers a glimpse into traditional life, although it is primarily intended for tourists. The floating islands are just one part of Lake Titicaca’s appeal. The natural attraction lies in the charming villages in the hills near the shores and main islands of Isla Taquile and Isla Amantani.
Puno is the main gateway to Lake Titicaca. Here you will find hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies. There are buses and trains to Puno and flights from and to Juliaca.
Accommodation: Where to Stay at Puno
5. Colca Canyon (Canon del Colca)
It was once considered the deepest canyon on the planet. However, Colca Canyon (Canon del Colca) is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is second only to nearby Cotahuasi Canyon. It is formed by a seismic fault that was created between two volcanoes. The canyon has a depth of 3400m. A winding river runs down to the bottom.
Colca Canyon has been home to thousands of people for thousands of years. It was also home to the Cabana, Colleague, and finally, the Incas. The canyon walls still have stone terracing that dates back to AD 800.
It is approximately four hour drive from Arequipa to the canyon. You can make day trips to the canyon from Arequipa, but it is worth taking two days or more due to the long drive required to reach the canyon. There are many other attractions to explore, including hot springs, churches, churches, Inca ruins, and hot springs. Colca Canyon is also home to condors, which can be seen flying past the cliff walls.
6. Nazca Lines
You will be amazed at the Nazca lines, an extraordinary sight that awakens you. These massive images of the desert floor were discovered in the 1920s. Planes flew over it and saw distinct patterns and pictures.
The hillside drawings at Paracas and Nazca, near Paracas, were recognized by some until then. The vast graphics on the desert floor’s flat surface are so huge that you need to see them from above.
It is possible to view 70 different animal and plant drawings from the air. There are also hundreds of lines and geometrical shapes. These lines can stretch up to 10 km and cover hundreds of kilometers. The most notable figures include a lizard measuring 180 meters in length, a condor with a 130-meter wingspan, and many others, such as a monkey, hummingbird, and killer whale.
It isn’t known who or how the lines were created, but theories suggest that they were created by the Paracas and Nazca cultures between 900 BC to 600 AD. Much debate surrounds the origins of these lines. Some ideas suggest that the lines are an astronomical Calendar for Agriculture, an alien landing platform, a running track, and walkways connecting ceremonial sites or part of a Water Cult.
By removing the darker layer of stones from the surface, the lines were made by piling them along the sides. This creates a contrast between the darker rocks and the lighter soil below. You can book your flight in advance or walk in and take a seat on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Cantalloc Aqueducts are located approximately four kilometers from Nazca. The aqueducts, built between AD 300 and 600, are intended to provide water for the entire area year-round. Underground canals carry water from the mountain springs to Nazca. Farmers still use some of the Cantalloc Aqueducts.
The Cemetery of Chauchilla is another exciting spot in the region. It contains Nazca remains as well as mummies.
7. The Sacred Valley
The beautiful Sacred Valley, with the towns of Pisac and Urubamba, is less than an hour’s drive from Cusco. The fertile valley is home to many Inca ruins worth exploring, but it’s also a tranquil area where you can wander through the markets and soak up the local culture.
The Pisac Ruins and the Sunday Market at Pisac are two of the main attractions in the valley. Smaller markets are held on Tuesdays or Thursdays. You’ll find a wide range of handicrafts from the local area.
Moray, a small town with circular terracing used by the Incas as an agricultural test area, is slightly out of the way. It’s worth the effort. You have probably seen pictures of perfectly circular terraces on social media and other tourist sites.
According to researchers, this new farming method is the Inca’s equivalent of a greenhouse. Different areas and levels had different temperatures, with higher or lower sun exposure. Moray is situated near Maras, a small village at 11,500 feet.
Visit Moray, and make sure you stop by the salt mines of Salinas while you are there. These unique mines have been around since the Incas. Salinas Mines produces highly sought-after pink salt and traditional white salt.
It is worth visiting for the intricate layout of the salt mines. The water, which is high in salt content, comes from the top of the mine. It flows through complex canals and reaches the ponds via square evaporation channels.
The best place to take photos is at the top of salt ponds. Here you can see the white salt pools against the background of the green valley.
Accommodation: Where to Stay In the Sacred Valley
You should include Ollantaytambo, the charming little town with its fortress and ruins, on your list when you visit the Sacred Valley. It is easy to walk around and enjoy the city. It’s also home to many handicraft vendors, much like Pisac.
This spot is a great photo opportunity with the two impressive Inca ruins that tower over the village. You can walk up the hill to explore the ruins for a few minutes. Highlights include the Wall of the Six Monoliths and the Bath of the Princess. The Pinkuylluna is an ancient storehouse, and the Terraces of Pumatillis are nearby.
Accommodation: Where to Stay at Ollantaytambo
9. Machu Picchu
The majestic Inca City sits on a ridge at 300m above the Urubamba River. It is the most ruined city on the planet. The stunning backdrop of high, lush, often cloud-shrouded mountain peaks is almost as striking as the ruins. From the caretaker’s house, you can see why the Incas chose Machu Picchu as their capital.
Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. He believed it was the “Lost City of the Incas,” first documented by Spanish soldiers in the 1500s.
Historians now believe that the actual lost city of the Incas is at Espiritu Pampa. Hiram Bingham discovered this ruin, but it is not significant.
Machu Picchu can only be as incredible as the journey. The beauty of the landscape is overwhelming. Trains leave from Cusco, Ollantaytambo or Urubamba to Aguascalientes.
Aguas Calientes can be found below Machu Picchu. So you can take a bus to Machu Picchu. It takes approximately 20 minutes to travel on a treacherous switchback rout. Although it is possible to hike up the road to the site, this is not recommended.
It would help if a guide accompanied you and followed a specific tour route. The park must be entered at a particular time. Although many websites claim to sell tickets, make sure you go to the official site.
The high season is June-August, but the two months to the east and west are good weather and offer a great time to visit with fewer crowds.
Accommodation: Where to Stay at Machu Picchu
10. Puerto Maldonado, and the Amazon
Puerto Maldonado, a significant starting point for Amazon tours, is just a half-hour flight from Cusco. It offers a unique experience, as you can see the Amazon’s wildlife in a hot and humid environment. In this area, you will find caimans, capybaras, monkeys, parrots, and turtles.
Reserva Nacional Tambopata is the main attraction. Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene is also well served by many jungle lodges. Puerto Maldonado is approximately one hour away by boat from the Reserva Nacional Tambopata forest lodges. Parque Nacional Bahuaja scene, located across the river from Parque Nacional Madidi (Bolivia), takes approximately four hours by boat. The tours last anywhere from a few days to a week.
Puerto Maldonado Accommodations