If you are short on time, it’s important that you focus your attention where you can get the most bang for your buck. To get the most out of your trip, here are some of the most unforgettable destinations you should include on your Peru vacation.
No visit to Peru is complete without a trip to Machu Picchu. In fact, most people only visit Peru because they want to see Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel that was built high in the Andes above the Urubamba River valley. The citadel was built sometime in the 15th century, and it was built with sophisticated techniques that held the huge stone blocks together without any mortar. The citadel was also built around astronomical alignments, and it has been the subject of intense academic study since it was discovered.
You may not think that salt pans are much to see, but the Maras Salt Pans are an exception, routinely drawing tens of tens of thousands of visitors. The salt pans are located northwest of the town of Cusco, and are formed by warm, salty water generated from a nearby spring. The water has been directed into a series of narrow channels. The water flows in and is trapped in a series of geometric pools. When the water evaporates, the locals come in and gather the salt. Visitors love to see the vast, intricate landscape that these pools create.
Choquequirao of Sacred Valley
Choquequirao is known as the sister city of Machu Picchu. The ruins are similar in structure and architecture to those found in Machu Picchu, and the hilltop on which they are built is terraced and ringed with stone. The site offers gorgeous views as it overlooks the steep Apurimac River canyon. Choquequirao is also a popular destination for hikers since it sits so high above sea level. You can create a multi-faceted experience from visiting this ancient site.
The Amazon Rainforest runs through Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and other countries in South America. Much of it is in Brazil, but there is plenty to see in Peru. The Peruvian Amazon is the fourth largest rainforest in the world, and it is home to more than 7,300 species of flowering plants, 2,500 butterflies, 293 mammals, 180 reptiles, 697 fish, 806 birds, and 262 amphibians. You can take guided tours and cruises through the Amazon to learn about the diverse wildlife found there, and you can explore villages and local cultural practices through workshops and displays.
The Moray Inca ruins lie about 31 miles northwest of Cuzco about 11,500 feet above sea level. The ruins are just west of the Maras Salt Pans, and it continues with the geometrical theme found there. The ruins consist of multiple ringed terraces stacked inside each other. No one knows for certain what these ruins were built for, but they are a wonder to behold. Because of the elevation of the site and the local climate, the ruins are at threat of destruction from erosion. You should plan to include a stop to these ruins while you still can.
Humantay Lake rests at the base of a mountain at nearly 14,000 feet altitude. The lake has intense, turquoise water that will seem unreal, and it is surrounded by scenic mountains and a glacier. You can hike through the mountains surrounding the lake to get different views, or you can swim in the gorgeous water. There is a small village you can explore and learn about local customs or eat authentic cuisine.
Lake Titicaca is one of Peru’s famous sites. The giant lake sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia, and it is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America by both volume of water and surface area, and is known as the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake has numerous islands, including the floating islands that were created by the Uros people. You can travel from island to island learning about the rich history and culture of the people there. Lake Titicaca is also home to an underwater temple that was built around 1,000 to 1,500 years ago.
Huchuy Qosqo (Little Cuzco)
This Incan archeological site is north of Cuzco, and it overlooks the Sacred Valley and the town of Lamay. Archeologists believe that the site was once the royal estate of the Incan Emperor Viracocha in the 15th century, and it includes numerous homes and buildings for workers. The buildings are made of stone and adobe, and the site includes an irrigation channel leftover from when the Spanish took control of the space and turned it into a farm. You can only access the site by hike or horseback, so prepare for a good sweat when you head out to see this historical gem.
Vinicunca is better known as Rainbow Mountain – and for good reason. The mountain is marked by arched bands of colored stone, making it look like a rainbow set in rock. While hiking the mountains, you can see snow-capped peaks, wild alpacas, and much more. Expect to spend a full day hiking to and from Rainbow Mountain, and spend some extra time at the elevation before you begin the hike. You can also hire a horse ride up the mountain if you are really struggling with a hike.
Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it includes numerous historical buildings and homes. Browse through the city to see palaces, churches, municipal buildings, and more. You’ll get a great understanding of what life was like for the Incas, and you’ll marvel at the architecture that still stands today.
Winay Wayna Ruins
If you are hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you can make a stop at the Winay Wayna Ruins along the way. These Incan ruins were built into a steep hillside over the Urubamba River. Upper and lower houses are built on the stairs carved into the hillside, and they are connected by fountains and stairs. Farming terraces are also carved into the hillside both above and below these houses. You can plan to stop and explore these ruins on your hike to Machu Picchu, and you can camp in the nearby site of the same name.
Peru is not your typical tourist destination. It doesn’t have flashy casinos or gourmet restaurants, but it does have plenty of history, a rich culture, gorgeous views, and recreational activities. You could spend weeks or months hiking and exploring these and other sites throughout Peru, and you can learn much about one of the most important civilizations in the world’s history.
Take a Guided Tour of Peru
Guiding Peru offers a variety of guided treks to these and other top destinations in Peru. We put together hikes and activities that let you see these sites while also interacting with local people, eating authentic foods, and more. We take the guesswork out of travel, ensuring that you see and do all the most interesting and important things while you are in the country. Explore our site to find the guided tour that is perfect for you, or call us now to talk with a specialist who can help you book your vacation.