Peru things to see and do

Tourist offices

South American Explorers

126 Indian Creek Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States
Tel: 1 800 274 0568.
www.saexplorers.org

Things to see and do

Arequipa

A beautiful colonial city at altitude, Arequipa is the gateway to Colca Canyon and holds much history in its own right. See the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a mini city where for hundreds of years nuns lived their entire lives, and visit Juanita, the perfectly preserved sacrificial Incan girl in the Museo Santuarios Andinos.

Cruz del Condor

Found deep within the Colca Canyon region, this highlight is the viewpoint from which condors majestically soar up the canyon on the morning thermals. You can reach it from Arequipa via either a tour group or a long, bumpy ride on public transport through stunning scenery.

Huacachina

An oasis in the Peruvian desert near Ica, surrounded by pristine sand dunes, Huacachina is a place for relaxation and fun. It is becoming well known for its facilities for dune buggying and sand boarding, and is great for either a day trip or to chill out for a few days.

Arequipa-Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca-Arequipa)

At a depth of more than 3,400m (11,333ft), the Colca Canyon is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The valley towns, such as Yanque and Chivay, which have maintained their original appearance for almost 400 years, and the many pre-Inca tombs and ruins in the area, are also worth visiting.

Cajamarca Carnival

Go to Cajamarca's Carnival, famous throughout Peru for its annual celebrations that last for an entire month. One word of warning - the traditional Cajamarca Carnival greeting is to be soaked with water! Other sights to see include the ancient Incan remains, and the mountainous region is stunning.

Caral Complex

Visit the 5,000-year-old city of Caral (www.caralperu.gob.pe), near Lima. Caral was discovered in 1994 and has opened to tourists following years of excavation. Consisting of a series of pyramids, it has been deemed the most ancient city in the Americas.

Chan Chan

Discover more of Peru's countless archaeological treasures, including UNESCO-protected Chan Chan (www.chanchan.gob.pe). Home to the ancient Chimu culture, Chan Chan was the biggest pre-Columbian city in South America. The adobe (mud) city has been marvellously excavated along with its nearby huacas (pyramid temples) of the sun and the moon. The beautifully restored Huaca Arco Iris is covered with pre-Inca hieroglyphics.

City of Cusco

Don't miss a trip to capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco (www.inc-cusco.gob.pe). This World Heritage site, founded in AD1100, is a fascinating mix of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture. Murals depicting historical scenes splash across walls and local women still wear traditional dress.

Cordillera Blanca

Trek along the extraordinarily beautiful Cordillera Blanca trail, a 180km-long (113 mile) paradise of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, emerald-green lakes and archaeological sites, containing a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Handicrafts

Apart from its famous 33 colonial churches, Ayacucho is also well known for its handicrafts, and here you can browse for traditional crafts such as pottery, leatherwork, textiles and jewellery. Other places to scout for high-quality souvenirs include the mountain town of Cajamarca, or the colourful daily market in Lima's Chinatown district.

Iglesia San Francisco

See one of the few buildings to withstand Lima's 1746 earthquake, UNESCO-listed Church of San Francisco. Inside are an extraordinary domed roof, a vast library, masterpieces by Jordeans, Rubens and Van Dyck, and catacombs complete with ghoulish circular displays of the bones of some 70,000 souls.

Inca Ruins

If you’re looking for impressive Incan ruins, Sacsayhuamán is a great place to explore on horseback. This is the most impressive of Cusco's four neighbouring Inca ruins (the others are Puca Pucara, Qenko and Tambo Machay). On 24 June, thousands celebrate the Inti Raymi festival here.

Inca Trail

Puff your way around one of the world's most famous mountain treks, the (literally) breathtaking Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This ancient trail passes through snow-capped mountains, cloud forest and a string of 12 Inca ceremonial centres, including Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna. Only recognised tour operators can purchase permits to the Inca Trail, with 500 available per day. G Adventures (www.gadventures.com) can arrange permits and trekking trips, as well as local tour operators.

Lake Titicaca

Take a cruise on Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, which straddles the Bolivia-Peru border. Covering 8,379 sq km (3,235 sq miles), Lake Titicaca is surrounded by ancient ruins and the enormous freshwater lake is home to several small island communities, including the Uros islands made entirely from reeds.

Lima's Colonial Centre

Trawl through five centuries of colonial history in Lima, admiring the handsome plazas and opulent mansions with their Moorish latticed wooden balconies. The main square, Plaza de Armas, is home to the impressive 18th-century cathedral and the lavish Government Palace. The centre has been spruced up and the tourist police are helpful and friendly.

Machu Picchu

Ascend to Peru's top attraction, the awe-inspiring Inca city of Machu Picchu, perched atop a remote mountain northwest of Cusco. This World Heritage site, rediscovered in 1911, is arguably the most important archaeological site in South America, not to mention the most dramatically located.

Manu National Park

Delve into Manu National Park, Peru's greatest treasure in biodiversity. Covering 20,000 sq km (7,722 sq miles) of tropical rainforest, this World Natural Heritage Site is home to around 2,000 plant species, 1,200 butterfly species, 800 bird types and 200 different mammals, including monkeys, tapirs, sloth, jaguar and capybaras.

Nazca Lines

Take a flight over the ancient Nazca Lines, vast and spectacular geoglyphs etched into the desert 420km (265 miles) south of Lima. The most notable designs represent animals (birds, felines and reptiles), and date back to between 200BC and AD600.

World-class Trails

From this mountain-based city at 3,050m (10,000ft) you can head off on world-famous hiking routes such as along the Cordillera Huayhuash circuit or up the Huascarán. You can also get involved in some extreme outdoor sports such as white-water rafting and ice climbing.

Edited by Jane Duru
Did you find what you were looking for?
Newsletter