From the iconic Machu Picchu to the towering Andes Mountains, Peru offers some of the most astounding landscapes and scenery in South America. Beyond the picture-perfect backdrops, Peru boasts a deep history and vibrant culture just waiting to be uncovered. And let’s not forget about the mouthwatering cuisine that incorporates fresh local ingredients with savory flavors.
With so much to offer, Pérou should be at the top of your travel bucket list. Keep reading to discover all the wonders that await you in this amazing country.
The Breathtaking Landscapes and Scenery
One of the biggest draws of Peru is the strikingly beautiful vistas found across the country. Majestic snow-capped mountains, crystalline lakes, and colorful hills are just some of the jaw-dropping sights you’ll encounter. Want to experience Mother Nature at her best? Head to Peru.
Trek the Inca Trail to the Majestic Machu Picchu
Without a doubt, the top attraction in Peru is the iconic Machu Picchu. This 15th-century Inca citadel sits 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level, surrounded by sheer lush mountains. Hiking the Inca Trail is how you reach this bucket list destination.
The 26-mile trek takes you through the Sacred Valley, immersing you in stunning Andean scenery. Follow ancient stone paths zigzagging through cloud forests, across rivers, and past archaeological sites. Look up to see the white glacial peak of Nevado Veronica pierce the horizon.
The rewards come once you walk through the Sun Gate and behold Machu Picchu in all its glory. This perfectly preserved city of stone palaces, temples, and terraces appears almost mystical blanketed in mist. You’ll instantly understand why Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Have you dreamed of following in the footsteps of the ancient Incas? The Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu will exceed your expectations. Just remember to book your permit well in advance since only 500 people are allowed to start the trek each day.
Marvel at the Striking Rainbow Mountains
Another natural phenomenon in Peru that will take your breath away are the Rainbow Mountains, also called Vinicunca. These colorfully striped slopes are located in the Peruvian Andes, about 3 hours south of Cusco.
The Rainbow Mountains’ vibrant hues come from mineral deposits in the stone that have been exposed through erosion. Streaks of red, green, gold, purple, and gray paint the landscape in dazzling bands. Sunlight accentuates the saturated colors, making this one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
A hike through the Rainbow Mountains treats you to 360-degree views of color-splashed peaks. Be prepared for a challenging uphill climb given the 14,000+ foot altitude. Reaching the summit means you can smile triumphantly in front of the iconic rainbow ridges. Your stunning social media photos will be worth every step!
Enjoy a Boat Ride on Stunning Lake Titicaca
Hop aboard a boat to uncover breathtaking vistas. On the Peruvian side, start in Puno where you can visit the fascinating Uros Islands made entirely of reeds. Then head to Taquile Island to explore ruins and spend a night with a local family.
Cruise along Titicaca’s sparkling blue waters with the Cordillera Real Mountains reflected on its surface. The azure skies contrast with the arid, golden-brown terrain dotted with alpaca herds. You’ll understand why Lake Titicaca has been considered a sacred site for thousands of years.
Stargaze in One of the World’s Clearest Night Skies
Peru’s high altitude and dry climate mean excellent conditions for stargazing. In fact, many parts of Peru have some of the clearest night skies on Earth.
For a next-level astronomical experience, head to the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca. This is one of the darkest places in South America where the Milky Way illuminates the night in incredible detail.
You can also find optimal stargazing around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Seek out a rural lodge or hotel away from city lights and look up to witness thousands of sparkling stars, shooting stars, planets, and even the occasional comet. A night admiring Peru’s star-filled sky is pure magic.
The Fascinating History and Culture
In addition to extraordinary landscapes, Peru offers the chance to immerse yourself in a long and storied history and culture. Ancient ruins, colonial architecture, and living indigenous traditions intersect to create a dynamic cultural fabric.
Uncover Ancient Ruins Across Peru
Beyond Machu Picchu, Peru contains many awe-inspiring archaeological sites left behind by pre-Columbian civilizations. The Inca Empire, which thrived from the 13th to 16th centuries, is the most famous. But cultures like the Wari, Chimú, Moche, and Chachapoyas also built impressive complexes.
Top ancient sites and ruins to visit include:
- Ollantaytambo – a still-inhabited Inca town with stone walls and terraces
- Saksaywaman – an Inca citadel with megalithic stonework overlooking Cusco
- Kuelap – an ancient Chachapoyas fortress made of limestone
- Chan Chan – capital of the Chimú Empire and the largest pre-Columbian ruins in South America
Make sure to also visit the excellent museums in Lima and Cusco where you can learn about Peruvian civilizations and see artifacts up close. Discovering Peru’s archaeological treasures will help you understand the sophistication of these ancient cultures.
Explore Cusco – Former Capital of the Inca Empire
The enchanting city of Cusco sits in the Peruvian Andes at 11,200 feet. It was the historic capital of the Inca Empire and later the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru. Layers of Inca and Spanish influence shape Cusco’s character.
Wander narrow cobblestone streets and lively plazas flanked by impressive colonial churches and mansions. Many incorporate Inca walls and foundations, like the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin on the Plaza de Armas.
Just outside Cusco lies the astonishing site of Saksaywaman. Its massive stones, some weighing over 120 tons, are pieced together like a puzzle with insane precision. The skills needed to build Saksaywaman emphasize the Inca’s advanced abilities as architects and engineers.
With ancient sites and Spanish architecture at every turn, Cusco offers the perfect blend of history, culture, and modern energy. It’s easy to see why this city charms all who visit it.
Related reading: [20 Incredible Things to Do in Cusco, Peru](https://www.trekhi.com/travel-blog/20-incredible-things-to-do-in-cusco-peru/)
Marvel at Spanish Architecture in Arequipa, the White City
In southern Pérou, the delightful city of Arequipa showcases an extensive ensemble of Baroque-style buildings crafted from white volcanic rock. This pale stone construction earned Arequipa the nickname “La Ciudad Blanca” or “The White City.”
The UNESCO-listed historic center glows brilliantly under the sunny skies. Plaza de Armas is the jewel of Arequipa, flanked by the Basilica Cathedral and arcades topped by stone arches and green-hued balconies.
The architectural marvels don’t stop there. Visit the 16th-century Monastery of Saint Catherine with its impressive facade and peaceful cloisters. Or check out the Precious Blood Church, Casa del Moral, the Mansión del Fundador – the list goes on.
Arequipa proves itself one of the most beautiful and culturally-rich cities in Peru. Wandering its atmospheric streets lets you glimpse Peru’s colonial splendor.
Related reading: [15 Top Things to Do in Arequipa, Peru](https://www.trekhi.com/travel-blog/15-top-things-to-do-in-arequipa-peru/)
Experience Indigenous Culture in Peru
Peru is home to many vibrant indigenous groups like the Quechua and Aymara. About one quarter of Peru’s population identifies as Amerindian. Visiting indigenous communities offers intimate insight into ancient customs and belief systems still practiced today.
Head to places like the Vallée sacrée near Cusco to witness indigenous culture. Stop into Chinchero Market and see women in traditional attire weaving textiles made from alpaca and llama wool. Or book a homestay in a Quechua village like Ollantaytambo or Maras to gain perspective on everyday rural life.
You can also visit communities around Lake Titicaca where locals still grow and live much like their ancestors. Taquile Island is full of shared traditions like men knitting distinctive hats, women weaving brightly colored belts, and the town organizing communal work parties.
Immerse yourself in Peru’s living culture for a memorable experience. Engaging with indigenous people provides an enriching and eye-opening look into ancient world views and ways of life.
Related reading: Top 7 Indigenous Experiences in Peru
The Tantalizing Cuisine
Peruvian cuisine offers an unforgettable culinary adventure. Influenced by pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial ingredients, techniques, and traditions, Peruvian food intrigues visitors with new combinations and complex flavors. Expect the unexpectedly delicious!
Indulge in Ceviche – Peru’s National Dish
You can’t talk about Peruvian food without mentioning **ceviche**, raw fish marinated in citrus juice. This bright, tangy seafood dish appears on menus throughout Peru, especially at beachfront restaurants in Lima.
The classic marinade of lime juice, chili peppers, red onion, cilantro, and salt “cooks” the white fish through the acid. Peruvian ceviche boasts an amazing balance of flavors – the citrus pops against the mild fish and heat from the chilies. It’s incredibly refreshing in the coastal heat!
Just like sushi in Japan or tacos in Mexico, you have to try ceviche when visiting Peru to enjoy the definitive national dish.
Related reading: 10 Types of Ceviche in Peru
Experience Chifa – Peru’s Chinese-Fusion Cuisine
One unique gustatory experience found in Peru is **Chifa**, also called Chinese-Peruvian cuisine. When Chinese immigrants came to Peru in the late 1800s, they adapted their cooking techniques to local ingredients, creating something new.
Today, chifa restaurants offer mouthwatering blends of Chinese and Peruvian flavors. Think stir-fries made with ají peppers, lomo saltado using soy sauce, or arroz chaufa fried rice loaded with seafood. You’ll find chifa dishes an explosion of tastes and textures!
Lima contains hundreds of chifa eateries, but chifa meals can be found all over Peru. Expand your palate and sample this fusion fare that represents centuries of cultural integration. A true only-in-Peru dining experience.
Related reading: The Ultimate Guide to Chifa – Chinese Peruvian Food
Quench Your Thirst with Peru’s Iconic Pisco Sour Cocktail
Peru’s trademark libation is the **pisco sour**, enjoyed at bars across the country. Pisco refers to a brandy made in Peru and Chile since the 16th century. The cocktail mixes this strong, fragrant pisco with lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters.
One sip of a pisco sour excites your taste buds – the frothy, chilled drink perfectly balances sweet and sour. Its crisp yet creamy texture goes down deliciously smooth!
Lima boasts many trendy bars and lounges for sampling pisco sours, like the historic Gran Hotel Bolívar in downtown. For the best quality cocktails, look for bars using artisanal pisco and fresh ingredients. Salud!
Related reading: [Pisco Peru – A Guide to Peru’s Iconic Grape Brandy](https://www.trekhi.com/travel-blog/pisco-peru-a-guide-to-perus-iconic-grape-brandy/)
Experience Authentic Local Flavors at Food Markets
For budget-friendly meals and a chance to eat like a local, head to food markets in Peru. Markets offer a range of fresh produce and prepared food stalls to choose from.
In Lima, the colorful Mercado de Surquillo draws huge Sunday crowds for its ribs, seafood, and chifa. Or try the ocean-view Miraflores Market to sample ceviche and other coastal specialties.
In Cusco, the **San Pedro Market** is a top choice where locals shop. Grab an empanada or corn snack to go, or sit down for a menu del dia (set menu) meal. Watching the bustling market activity as you eat provides added cultural immersion!
Peru’s markets let you experience authentic, affordable cuisine while connecting with local culture. Expect delicious smells, colorful displays of exotic fruits and vegetables, and plenty of temptation from regional specialties.
Related reading: 12 Must Visit Markets in Peru
An Unforgettable Adventure Awaits in Peru
From lost civilizations to culinary secrets, Peru offers endless options for adventure, exploration, and discovery. With epic landscapes from the Andes to the Amazon, ancient history at every turn, and mouthwatering cuisine, Peru promises to dazzle your senses.
The people, cultures, and wonders found in Peru will leave you in awe. Beyond Machu Picchu, this intriguing country is just waiting to be uncovered. Let Peru’s mysteries enchant you on a journey you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
What part of Peru excites you the most? Have any questions before your visit? Share in the comments below!