From ancient cultures to bustling cities to extraordinary landscapes, few destinations have as much to offer visitors as Peru, an astonishingly varied country. Here you'll find panoramic mountain ranges, vast deserts, beautiful beaches and tropical jungle, not to mention fantastically rich history, archaeology, wildlife and enduring indigenous cultures. You can make a trip to Peru whatever you want it to be, whether it is trekking the Inca Trail or heading out to more remote places to explore the little-known areas of the country.
Images of the extraordinary remains of ancient civilisations will inevitably jump to mind. The Inca stronghold Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and photogenic archaeological sites in the world and the mysterious Nazca Lines boggle the brain, but there are hundreds of similarly fascinating and even older sites to discover.
The beautifully excavated ruins of Chan Chan near Trujillo are clues to a culture which presided for 600 years, and these ruins were once the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. Heading off the beaten track, up in the northern mountainous region of Peru you will find Kuelap, an ancient fortress and burial site of the Chachapoyas culture. These remains are far less visited than others and provide the adventurous traveller with a challenge.
All are set in stunning landscapes, whether parched desert coast, soaring sierra or remote rainforest overflowing with wildlife. Such a diverse landscape generates diverse pleasures; you can hike through snowy peaks one day, and relax on the beach the next; paddle a dugout through lowland rainforest or hop on a traditional reed boat on some of the world's highest lakes.
The towns and cities of Peru are equally fascinating. Lima’s shiny and modern Miraflores area and grand and imposing historical centre, which has recently been cleaned up, are an example of the wealth of the country at its height. Contrasting beautifully is the ancient capital of Cusco with its steep, winding, cobbled street and its more than 1,000-year history. In between is everything from established cities to large communities to tiny indigenous villages, at extremes in altitude and temperature.
Peru does not solely involve rushing up and down mountains; if you’re searching for a relaxing destination, there are various beaches on which to perfect your tan while soaking up the local atmosphere. Máncora, in northern Peru, is the surfer and backpacker destination of choice, with good waves and a party atmosphere. A little more subdued but extremely popular is Huanchaco, where you can see the caballitos de totora, the reed canoes used by local fishermen. Locals from nearby Trujillo flock here at weekends, and the waves are excellent for surfers.
Peru is a hiker’s dream, with some of the world’s most picturesque and challenging mountain ranges in the world, including the Cordillera Blanca. The richness of accessible wilderness allows you to really immerse yourself in nature and discover the country for yourself. But there are plenty of other activities on offer, from sandboarding and surfing to extreme mountain biking and rafting. Add to this medicinal hot springs, mesmeric music, well-stocked museums, rich culture and uncommonly friendly people and you have a destination with something for everybody.