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9 Essential places to visit in Perú

There are many essential places to see in Peru, beyond the wonderful Machu Picchu, although we cannot deny that this, by itself already justifies a trip to one of our favorite countries.

Perú is one of the most popular trips in South America, where we will find Inca ruins, historical cities, the wild nature of the Amazon, incredible landscapes of valleys, deserts and beaches, along with one of the best gastronomies in the world, with ceviche as star dish, which will make this trip exceed all your expectations.

1. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most essential place to visit in Peru. This ancient Inca citadel, remained for centuries hidden among the mountains and thick vegetation, until it was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Machu Picchu is located about 130 kilometers from Cusco, above 2,500 meters of altitude between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu peaks, two magnificent viewpoints of the ruins, which you can climb, taking the corresponding entrance next to the ruins.

The most mystical and spectacular way to get there is by doing the Inca trail, traveling the more than 40 kilometers that in 4 days, through incredible paths and ancient stone steps, lush forests, valleys and mountains surrounded by dense fog, will take us even the dream of many travelers.

Other more comfortable ways to get to the old citadel, is to start at a point closer to Machu Picchu, which will save us 2 days of walking, or take a van or a train to Aguascalientes and there very early, go by bus or walking to the ruins.

Keep in mind that there is a limited number of tickets to see Machu Picchu and they sell out quickly, so you must book as far in advance as possible. In addition, as happened to us and many travelers have explained to us, buying them through the official page is often problematic, since non-Peruvian cards give errors in payment. Taking this into account, a good option is to make the reservation of the official Ticket for the Lost Citadel of Machu Picchu here.

2. Cuzco

Cuzco, declared a World Heritage Site, is one of the most beautiful cities in America and our favorite in Peru. This ancient capital of the Inca Empire preserves very few buildings from this era, although in some of the colonial buildings you will see Inca remains on its walls, such as the stone from twelve angles.

The Plaza de Armas is the epicenter of the city, where its cathedral stands out, a place chosen by many inhabitants to spend a few hours in the afternoon, enjoying the life of Cuzco.

Other of the great attractions of the city is to walk through the beautiful neighborhood of artisans of San Blas, get lost in the San Pedro market, see the Inca remains of the Temple of the Moon or enter the Convent of Santo Domingo, built on the Temple of the sun.

If you have more time, it is very worth taking a walking route to see the Inca ruins of Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenqo and the spectacular fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which are very close to the city. During the tour you will also pass a viewpoint near the Cristo Blanco, one of the most essential places to visit in Cusco, from where you have the best views of the city.
A good option to learn about the great history that this city hides and discover the Inca ruins around it, is to book this tour with a guide in Spanish.

3. Iquitos

One of the most important decisions depending on the days available, is whether or not to include the Peruvian Amazon in the trip and delve into the jungle from Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado.
We, after the experience, have no doubts, we recommend booking between 3 and 5 days to visit the Amazon, one of the most essential places to visit in Peru and whenever possible, both for days and budget, do it in the area from Iquitos.

Puerto Maldonado is more accessible and cheaper than Iquitos, although over time it has become a tourist attraction that can distort the true image of the immense and wild Amazon.

Iquitos can only be reached by boat or plane from Lima, so being more isolated will allow you to experience the most authentic Amazon, although as we mentioned previously, the price is more expensive.
In this area, the lodges are located in the middle of the Amazon jungle and all have a transfer service on small rafts from Iquitos, although you must bear in mind that the journey can take several hours.

The days in the lodge you will spend enjoying the wildest nature, making walking routes through the jungle to see the fauna and flora, other times by raft through its narrow rivers and some night tour to see the most timid animals.

4. Colca Valley, one of the essential places to see in Peru

Desde la bonita Arequipa puedes hacer una de las mejores excursiones de Perú, el tour de 2 días por el Valle del Colca y así poder ver el vuelo de su ave más famosa, el cóndor.

Durante el viaje en bus hasta el valle desde Arequipa se pasa por alturas de entre 4000 y 5000 metros, por lo que es muy recomendable mascar hojas de coca para no sufrir el temido mal de altura o soroche.
Durante el recorrido de unas 4 horas verás paisajes que parecen de otro mundo, con volcanes nevados y grandes llanuras donde las alpacas y vicuñas campan a sus anchas.

Al llegar al valle del Colca puedes alojarte en algún hotel que tenga pozas de aguas termales y darte un baño relajante, algo que te aseguramos, es inolvidable.

Al día siguiente muy temprano, el cóndor suele volar a primera hora de la mañana, te adentrarás en el Cañon del Colca, uno de los más profundos del mundo, hasta el mirador de la Cruz del Cóndor, donde si tienes suerte podrás ver estas enormes aves volando a pocos metros de ti.
Durante el camino de regreso puedes disfrutar de los increibles miradores del cañón y de algún pueblo tradicional como Chivay, que serán el mejor punto final del viaje.

5. Titicaca lake

Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, is located very close to the city of Puno at 3,800 meters of altitude. This immense lake, in which its calm blue waters merge with the sky, is one of the most essential places to see in Peru.
To explore the lake and visit the islands of Uros and Taquile from Puno, you can take a boat in the port, from where just over 5 kilometers from the pier you will find the Island of Iros, built with totora, a typical aquatic plant in the area.
The houses and most of the items are made from this floor, and you can even sail on a reed boat and although it seemed to us in general a very tourist visit, we think it is worth knowing its history and if you have time, it is a visit to be made in this area of ​​the country.
Another island that can be visited is the Taquile Island, more than two hours by boat from Puno, where you can also spend the night on the island sleeping in a house of its neighbors. Having no extra day, we opted only to cross the island on foot, eat good fish and enjoy its viewpoints to the lake.

6. Paracas and Ballestas Islands National Reserve

Just under 4 hours by bus from Lima is the Paracas National Reserve, located next to the Peruvian coast and one of the best places to see in Peru. This national reserve forms a unique ecosystem in the world, which combines a desert area with great marine diversity due to the great abundance of food in the form of plankton.

It is recommended to visit this protected natural area with a guide, especially not to miss places such as the red beach, fossil sites, fauna and archaeological remains of the ancient Paracas Culture, explained by an expert, which will bring you much closer to the history of this area of ​​the country.

Very close to Paracas is another of the places to visit in Peru, the Ballestas Islands, some small rocky islands that on excursions are surrounded by small boats that leave from the Paracas pier to see its large number of birds, the colony of Humboldt penguins and sea lions.

7. Arequipa

Arequipa, known as the white city and built above 2,000 meters of altitude, in the desert mountains of the Andes, is together with Cuzco, one of the most beautiful cities in Peru, where volcanic stone houses predominate Blanca, which together with the historic center were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Our favorite place in the city is the Santa Catalina monastery, a small citadel with beautiful streets, houses and cloisters where you can get lost for hours.
Other of its essentials in Arequipa are the Plaza de Armas with its Cathedral, the Church of the Company and its cloisters, the Casa del Moral and the viewpoint of Carmen Alto or Yanahuara, with magnificent visits to the city and the Misti volcano.
A good option to learn about the history of the city is to book a visit with a guide in Spanish in which you will also go up to its spectacular viewpoints.

8. Huacachina Oasis

Located about 5 kilometers from the city of Ica, there is the photogenic Oasis of Huacachina, another of the places that enter all routes through the country and is on the list of the essentials to visit in Peru.
This oasis located in the middle of the coastal desert, with emerald green waters and surrounded by palm trees, is one of the few remaining natural oases in all of America.

The oasis has hotel infrastructure for spending the night and many leisure activities such as a buggy ride through the desert, practicing sandboarding from its high dunes or simply walking to the top of a dune to watch the beautiful sunset over the oasis.

The Huacachina Oasis is located about 80 kilometers from Paracas and you can get from Lima by bus from the Cruz del Sur station to Ica and take a taxi to the oasis there.

9. Nazca

One of the great archaeological mysteries of history is found in the arid Nazca desert. Between 700 B.C. and 200 AD the Nazca culture developed in this area, in which its inhabitants created the Nazca Lines, removing the red stones and leaving the white sandstone underneath, thus forming enormous geoglyphs with human, animal or geometric figures, only visible from the air.
Many theories, from a huge calendar to religious ceremonies to the visit of aliens, have been written about the reasons why these huge figures were created, without today reaching any definitive conclusion or demonstrable theory.
The only way to see the figures is to fly over the Nazca lines by plane from their small airport next door. The flight due to the wind and the pilot’s maneuvers, tends to be moved so it is advisable not to have breakfast before, take something for the dizziness and go prepared with the bag that they will give you when you climb.
Other visits that are very worthwhile in Nazca is the Chauchilla Cemetery, a necropolis from pre-Inca times, which is a perfect complement to the Nazca Lines overflight.