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Peru’s Hidden Gems: 18 Places You Won’t Want to Miss in 2024

Peru’s Hidden Gems: 18 Places You Won’t Want to Miss in 2024

If you’re planning a trip to Peru, there are so many places you’ll want to add to your itinerary — but without enough time to see them all, a list of the best destinations will help you ensure you hit some of the highlights.

From the Lost City of the Inca, Machu Picchu, to hiking trails that lead you through the dramatic scenery of Huascaran National Park, you’ll find some well-known places to visit along with our favorite hidden gems in Peru below.

The 18 Best Places to Visit in Peru

There are so many amazing places to visit in Peru, we couldn’t fit them all onto one list, but here are some of the must-visit places during your trip.

1. Machu Picchu

Ruins of the mountain-top town of Machu Picchu with the sun setting over the mountains and clouds in the valley below

David Ionut/Shutterstock

The ruins of the Lost City of the Inca are nestled nearly 8,000 feet high in the Andes Mountains and known as Machu Picchu. Terraced fields, dry-stacked stone walls, secret caves, and remains of sacred temples and holy sites rest on this remote peak overlooking the Urubamba River valley.

Machu Picchu’s layout tells the story of the Incan people and their harnessing of agricultural and astronomical studies. It’s a wonder that these structures have remained since the 15th century and walking among the ruins is an experience you’ll never forget.

Guided tours are the best way to experience the magnitude and enormity of the Machu Picchu complex, wandering through structures like the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of Three Windows, and the sun-tracking Intihuatana stone.

You’ll come to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco (also one of our favorite places to visit in Peru) and hike around 2.5 hours or take a bus to reach the mountain-top ruins to explore them. Trek the Inca Trail from Cusco over 4 days for a more immersive experience.

2. Lima

Downtown area of Lima Peru overlooking the ocean from its tall and rocky cliff face


As the capital city of Peru, Lima sees a lot of visitors and at first, it might strike you as a metropolis like any other. But its coastal location, incredible surfing beaches, iconic museums, and stunning architecture make it a must-visit place on your trip to Peru. 

The historic city center, known as Ciudad de los Reyes, or the City of Kings, is one of the most fascinating parts of Lima. It boasts some impressive 16th-century architecture, like the outstanding Convent of San Francisco complex, and monuments to explore.

See the Sagrario Chapel and archbishop’s palace in the sprawling Plaza de Armas, the Santo Domingo Basilica in the historic Plaza de la Vera Cruz, bridges of stone crossing the Rimac River, and stunning examples of Hispano-American Baroque architecture. 

Travelers love traversing Miraflores and Isidro, the walkable main areas for tourists with an upscale, downtown feel. Parks, restaurants, and shops line the streets. You’ll find ample breweries and nightlife over in the bohemian southern Barranco district. 

Check out interesting museums to learn about Lima and Peru’s past through artwork, relics, and immersive exhibits in the Museo Larco, Museo de la Nación, and Museum of Contemporary Art to add a little culture to your visit. 

Read Next: Is Lima, Peru Safe to Travel to in 2024?

3. Cusco

Peruvians in colorful dress walking along a narrow path between two giant stone walls in Cusco, one of our top picks for must-visit places in Peru


As the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco tends to collect a reputation as merely a stopover on the journey to the ruins. But it’s a mesmerizing hub of Incan history and archaeology sites that deserves recognition all on its own. 

In Cusco’s historic center, the beating heart is the 16th-century Plaza de Armas, or the main public square. It’s home to the Basilica Cathedral of Cusco and the Church La Compania de Jesus, both Spanish stone churches built from Incan temples that were destroyed.

You’ll see the adobe Iglesia de San Blas, the famed Qorichancha Golden Temple that honored the Incan Sun God, and the fascinating 15th-century Sacsayhuaman citadel ruins in stone on a hilltop just outside of the city center. 

The artisan San Blas neighborhood sits just 4 blocks from the Plaza de Armas with stepped alleyways, art galleries, bars, the San Blas Temple, and the bustling San Blas Square.

Head to the San Pedro Market to enjoy choclo con queso, or huge roasted corn cobs with cheese, and tamales from street food carts and see local crafts and artisan works for sale to bring home as souvenirs.

4. Inca Trail

Woman in a blue shirt walking along the cliff-side Inca Trail with clouds next to her for a piece on the best places to visit in Peru

Gleb Aitov/Shutterstock

From Cusco, hardy adventurers can take the illustrious Inca Trail to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu on a rugged trek through the Andean wilderness on scenic paths carved into the mountain.

The views are dramatic, the journey is unforgettable, and for many, it’s the most fulfilling way to begin a trip to Machu Picchu. It’s a 4-day journey at a high elevation (nearly 14,000 feet) over 26 miles of Peruvian mountain terrain. 

Large segments of the path are paved in stones, placed by the Incan people centuries ago as they wandered the same route. You’ll pass through rare and misty cloud forests, alpine tundra, tunnels, Incan ruins, and ancient settlements on your way.

At the end of the trail, you’ll reach the Sun Gate that marks the entrance to Machu Picchu and the end of your Inca Trail trek. The only month that the trail isn’t open is February, the rainiest month of the year here that makes the journey too treacherous. 

After 4 days of hiking scenic, rugged terrain and taking in some of Peru’s most beautiful vistas, you’ll feel accomplished and ready to explore the magic of Machu Picchu.

5. Nazca Lines

For a roundup of the best places to visit in Peru, an aerial view of the Nazca Lines showing a tree and hand geoglyph next to a tower and a parking lot

Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

You’ve probably seen images of the mysterious Nazca Lines carved into the dry Pampa Colorada desert of southern Peru, but witnessing the enormity and magnitude of these geoglyphs, or designs carved into the landscape, is an enchanting experience. 

Monkeys, hummingbirds, whales, spiders, and plants along with spirals and triangles are depicted in the Nazca Lines’ 300 geoglyphs, some as large as 900 feet 

It’s one of the best places you can visit in Peru, owing to the mystery and wonder that surrounds these huge designs. From the ground, they’re almost indecipherable.

So how did humans create these glyphs over 2,000 years ago without the ability to get an aerial view? And why do they exist?

There are platforms bookending many of the carvings, leading historians to believe they were used for a ceremonial purpose. But that doesn’t answer the question of how they were expertly designed without aerial help.

You’ll see some of the massive carvings from the hilltop Mirador observation tower about 16 miles north of the Nazca Lines, elevating you to 42 feet for nice views of the region. But the best way to see them in their full glory is with a 30-minute charter flight over the desert.

6. Colca Canyon

Steep cliffside viewing point at Colca Canyon pictured with a stunning view of the valley below in full view of the reader


Colca Canyon is a popular hiking area for travelers looking for a challenge that culminates in gorgeous mountain and valley views. You’ll hike ridges down into the steep canyon, staying in tiny villages along the way and enjoying authentic Peruvian dishes at quaint accommodations. 

Most people go for a 2-4 day hike in Colca Canyon, allowing time for the steep trek down (difficult) and back up (incredibly difficult). At the bottom, the Colca River snakes through the canyon. 

You’ll see local wildlife, like the giant Andean condor, on your journey, along with the endless green of vegetation growing in the valley and small villages with terraced farms practically carved into the steep sides of the canyon as you go. 

Cruz del Condor overlook is a particularly scenic spot for panoramic views. Plan on taking around 3 hours to hike down into the canyon (little to no shade) and allow plenty of time to spend taking in the villages and views, rafting the river, visiting hot springs, and checking out old ruins. 

Get to Colca Canyon from tour operators in Arequipa, choosing how many days and nights you want your trip to be (at least 2 days, 2 nights is ideal). Know that the hike requires some physical fitness and isn’t for the faint of heart!

7. Sacred Valley

Circular terraces pictured at Moray in the Sacred Valley, one of the best places to visit in Peru

Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

Peru’s Sacred Valley has extensive Incan history, salt mines, gorgeous views of the Andes Mountains, and spiritually significant sites that make it a must-visit for anyone interested in the Incan people and their lasting imprint on Peru’s landscapes and culture. 

Touring the Sacred Valley typically runs from Cusco to Pisac, Calca, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and ends at Machu Picchu. This route makes it easy to take day trips out to Moray and Maras for their unique terraces and salt mines. 

Take the journey from Cusco to the Spanish colonial village of Pisac, where you can hike to amazingly preserved Incan citadel ruins with baths, homes, terraces, and a cemetery high in the mountains. Explore the town’s markets, coffee shops, restaurants, and stay in a hotel. 

From Pisac, Calca is the next stop in the Sacred Valley. It’s a traditional village where you can buy hand-woven textiles and food at the busy markets, stay in cozy accommodations, and find easy access to other parts of the valley, like Urubamba — the next stop on your list. 

In Urubamba, adventure awaits with hang-gliding, Urubamba River rafting, and day trips to the Maras Salt Mines or Moray terraces in unique formations. Ollantaytambo is next, with its charming downtown area, great food at nondescript stalls and markets, and trains to Machu Picchu to continue the adventure.

8. Lake Titicaca

Unique Totora Boats on Lake Titicaca near Puno


Lake Titicaca holds twin titles as the largest lake in South America and the highest lake in the world. Sitting in the peaks of the Andes Mountains near the border with Bolivia, this is Incan land and the area is filled with ruins from their civilization. 

You’ll need a guide to explore Lake Titicaca by boat on the calm waters, thanks to the lack of wind here on the mountain. The lake is surrounded by Titicaca National Reserve and incredible views of ruins sitting on hills amid the snow-capped mountains. 

Ruins of agricultural terraces, ceremonial temples, and housing complexes still remain on Isla de la Luna, and a “lost city” under the lake has been found with intact stone-paved roads and temples. 

See the Uro people and their handicrafts at markets on the floating islands, or Isla Flotantes, in the middle of Lake Titicaca near Puno.  The islands are made of reeds and dotted with tiny houses with central ponds where locals fish for trout.

Try a homestay with a local family on Amantani Island, home to the Pachamama and Pachatata ruins (meaning Mother Earth and Father Earth) sit on hills and overlook the lake.

9. Chan Chan

Wooden figures standing guard outside the entrance to Chan Chan, a must-visit place on a trip to Peru

Milton Rodriguez/Shutterstock

Chan Chan is South America’s biggest city from pre-Columbian times, located in the coastal desert and filled with relics and archaeological sites dating back to the Chimú and Incan civilizations. It’s a hidden gem that’s rarely visited in Peru.

In the mouth of the Moche Valley in the Trujillo area, Chan Chan is surrounded by barren desert sands and adobe-mud structures that are constantly buffeted with high winds carrying sand in dusty gusts.

Wandering through Chan Chan, you’ll be amazed at the size and strength of the earthen structures that tower over you in curves (no straight lines or perfect angles to be seen). The Tschudi Palace, public squares, and cemeteries around Chan Chan are fascinating. 

You can visit the Museo de Sitio Chan Chan to see actual relics taken from the area, including stone tools and ceramics, along with educational exhibits that tell you about life in the city thousands of years ago. 

Most people stay in Trujillo, a large city nearby with ample hotel and restaurant options (known for its delicious, authentic Peruvian cuisine and desert views) as well as the massive Temple of the Sun and Moon adobe structures.

For a more immersive experience, you can stay in a small community like Huanchaco by the sea to be close to Chan Chan. This site was notably excavated, where remains of sacrificed llamas and children lend a ghostly, solemn air to the town.

10. Huaraz

Gorgeous palm trees next to a rock and walking path with mountains in the background in one of the best places to visit in Peru, Huaraz


Huaraz is a gateway to the stunning Huascaran National Park (another of our favorite places to visit in Peru), and well-worth making time in your trip to see. Sitting in the Callejón de Huaylas valley on the northern side of Peru, it’s a high-altitude city with incredible views of the mountains. 

Multi-day treks and guided hiking tours are popular things to do in Huaraz, capital of the Ancash region, but the city itself has lots to offer you before you set out on a hike or once you get back. 

Plaza de Armas, the main square in town, has cool architecture and fountains to give you glimpse into daily life for locals. Churches, like the Catedral de la diócesis de Huaraz, stand tall and proud in the square.

Markets, like Mercado Centro and stalls set up along Juan de la Cruz Romero and Avenida Luzuriaga streets, hot springs at Real Hotel Monterrey, and museums like Museo Arqueologico de Ancash are fun stops on your visit. 

See the Monumento Nacional Wilcahuain Ruin features a hilltop massive stone mausoleum with 3 levels, passageways, and a museum to tour. Look for the Ichik Willkawain site just steps away with its own museum.

11. Arequipa

Sunset over Arequipa, a colonial-style town in Peru, pictured with a few people strolling through the gardens and walking paths below

Flavio Huamani/Shutterstock

Arequipa is where most travelers begin their journey over to the scenic Colca Canyon for multi-day treks, and it’s a captivating city (“White City”) with stately colonial architecture made from striking white volcanic rock. 

The city is vastly underrated, only ranking as one of the best places to visit in Peru for those in the know. It has a distinct European feel with Spanish influence felt and seen everywhere.

You’ll find lots of churches, convents, and monasteries here, like the Renaissance-Revival Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and the red volcanic sillar stone complex of the Santa Catalina Monastery

Near the main square, or Plaza de Armas, is the 18th-century Claustros de la Compañia, or the Cloisters of the Company, that’s been transformed into shops and eateries to check out. Wander the Mercado San Camilo market to eat and drink, buy souvenirs, and meet locals. 

Along the Av Arancota street and Mirador de Yanahuara, you’ll find lots of restaurants to fuel up for your walking tour of the city with Rocoto Relleno (stuffed peppers), adobo (pork and chili stew), and the local specialty always on the menu: Chicharrónes! 

Try queso helado, or Peruvian “cheese” ice cream made with coconut, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla, for a sweet treat while you’re here. Nearby day trips to Colca Canyon, Aguada Blanca, and the Salinas Mountains are all possible through Arequipa’s numerous tour operators and guides.

12. Huacachina

Huacachina seen from the top of a sand dune with the city surrounding the lush lagoon below


Huacachina is an awesome destination if you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for new experiences in a scenic desert oasis. Located around a small lagoon created by a natural spring on the edge of the Atacama Desert, your eyes won’t believe what you’re seeing here. 

Clusters of palm trees, restaurants, hotels, and mansions group around the small lagoon seemingly out of nowhere in Huacachina. You can cross the entire town on foot in just 10 minutes! Start at the main entrance to see the mermaid and wishing well statues related to local Incan legends. 

Around the lagoon and town are massive sand dunes, which set the stage for the most popular tourist activities in the area: Sandboarding, dune buggy rides, and dune climbing! 

You’ll find several tour operators in town to set out with, whether you choose to slide down the dunes on a board, stand up like you’re snowboarding, or hop in a dune buggy to rip across the sandy “hills” at high speeds. Some tours include a traditional dinner and bonfire! 

If you’re not the adventurous type, you’ll still enjoy a calm rowboat ride across the lagoon as you take in views of the oasis city and desert around you. 

It’s just over 3 miles from Ica, home to many of Peru’s wineries and Pisco (Peruvian liquor made with grapes) distilleries. You can head out for a guided tour of these places to taste and explore the wider area’s museums (like the Regional Museum of Ica).

13. Mancora

Little wood and thatch homes on the beach in Punta Sal, Mancora, one of Peru's best places to visit

Elisa Locci/Shutterstock

Mancora is a beach destination popular with backpackers and party-seeking travelers on Northern Peru’s coast. It boasts an incredibly beautiful white sand beach, Mancora Beach, with huge swells for surfing and nearby beaches with calmer water for swimming or surfing lessons. 

The town’s main street where all the buzz is focused is Avenida Piura. This is where you’ll find the highest concentration of seafood restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops to browse while you’re in town. 

The atmosphere in Mancora is reminiscent of Ibiza or Cancun, where the party never stops and local hostels, like the well-known Loki, attract young backpackers in search of good times and great company. 

Spend your days lounging on the sunny stretch of beach, taking surfing lessons, dining at nearby restaurants overlooking the ocean, and browsing the local markets for crafts, art, and souvenirs. Sunsets here are breathtaking. 

Outside of town, you can swim with green sea turtles in El Ñuro, visit hot springs and healing mud baths in La Poza de Barro, and check out gentle surf at beaches like Las Pocitas to avoid the crashing waves.

14. Puerto Maldonado

Small observation pint and still water in a well-manicured park in Puerto Maldonado


Enter the Amazon Rainforest through the southern portal of Puerto Maldonado, a lush and humid paradise on the edge of the rainforest. This city sits on the Madres de Dios River and boasts an interesting city center with convenient access to the shaded, leafy world of the Amazon. 

The Tambopata Natural Reserve is Peruvian Amazon region you’ll be exploring from Puerto Maldonado. It’s filled with unique and diverse flora and fauna, from colorful macaws and monkeys to sneaky jaguars and caimans lurking in the river. 

You’ll find many ecotour operators and guide services within the town to set up your excursions. From river cruises to rainforest treks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy from Puerto Moldonado. 

Go into the Obelisco tower in the heart of the town for incredible views of the high canopies surrounding you. The main square, or Plaza de Armas, houses great coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants to fill up on before you set out on a journey through the Amazon.

15. Paracas National Reserve

For a piece on the best places to visit in Peru, a beach stretching as far as the eye can see in Small observation pint and still water in a well-manicured park in Puerto Maldonado

Elisa Locci/Shutterstock

South of Lima, the Paracas National Reserve is an expansive region near Pisco of Peruvian grape brandy fame. Paracas’ landscapes are varied and encompass everything from barren desert sands to offshore islands teeming with wildlife.

Tall cliffs towering over the ocean, dunes rising from the sea of sand that forms the desert, and marine life swimming in the waters just off the coast around the Ballestas islands make it an awesome place to visit.

You’ll watch dolphins, orcas, Humboldt penguins, and sea lions play in the water, birds flying overhead, and chill on laid-back beaches from those with restaurants and facilities, like Playa La Mina near the Lagunillas village, to remote beaches like Playa Mendieta further south.

Visit the Museo de Sitio Julio C. Tello at Paracas Bay to see artifacts, ceramics, and artwork from the area, then stop at the nearby  Centro de Interpretación de Paracas for ecological exhibits that teach you about the conservation goals of the reserve. 

There are other cool places to explore, like the historic fishing village of El Chaco with lots of restaurants and accommodations and the uninhabited Ballestas islands to see hoardes of sea lions with views of the Paracas Candelabra geoglyph at Pisco Bay.

16. Iquitos

Idyllic view of the blue and white buildings of Iquitos with little rickshaws and bikes passing by the camera at an intersection

Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

Iquitos is your ticket into the Amazon Rainforest if you’re up for an adventurous trek or cruise down the Amazon River. As a secluded and remote area, getting here involves chartering a flight or cruising down the river from Contamana, Caballococha, Yurimaguas, or Requena.

The town has tons of tour operators waiting to take you deep into the rainforest on guided hikes or relaxing, scenic cruises on the Amazon River. You could take a boat to a jungle lodge, fish for piranhas, take a night hike, visit native tribes, and more. 

The Plaza de Armas, or public square, has cool architecture and feels European in design with the scenic surroundings of palm trees and colorful accents on the buildings. You’ll find some excellent restaurants, especially considering that this place isn’t connected by road, here. 

The floating Belen Market has tons of handicrafts, foods, and textiles for sale. It’s a fun place to be if you enjoy haggling! The Shamanic Alley is in the market and if you’re up for it, it’s the spot to source Ayahuasca for ceremonial sessions. 

Before you head out into the Amazon, check out the Museum of Historic Boats, or Barco Museo, just north of the square. Play with monkeys at the nearby Isla de los Monos.

17. Chachapoyas

Neat ruins of the Chachapoyas, one of the best places to visit in Peru, seen with a wooden walking path winding down and around the grounds

Ricardo Barata/Shutterstock

Chachapoyas, a remarkable all-white city in northern Peru’s Utcubamba Valley, centered around its historic Plaza de Armas with balconied homes, restaurants, a few shops, and coffee shops cloaked in white paint for a cool, homogenous effect.

The city’s main square has a bronze fountain at its heart surrounded by Spanish colonial structures that house government buildings, restaurants, the Museo El Reino De Las Nubes, and small shops owned by locals. 

There’s a market opposite the plaza with exotic ingredients, alcohol, food, and handicrafts for sale. Pozo de Yanayacu, a stone well steeped in local lore of an archbishop who commanded water to flow from it, can be visited just a few miles from the square.

While the architectural style is decidedly Spanish colonial, you’ll notice that the city feels almost Asian with its mototaxis and rice paddies. Keeping with the Chinese theme, you’ll want to gorge yourself on “chifa” (Chinese-Peruvian) dishes like arroz chaufa, or Peruvian fried rice with chicken and veggies.

You’ll want to head out of town to see some of the amazing surrounding sites, like the Canyon of Sonche (15 minutes by car), the awe-inspiring 2,530′ Gocta Waterfall in a jungle filled with monkeys and toucans (1 hour by car), and sarcophagi in caves at Cavernas de Quiocta.

The stunning, walled 6th-century Kuelap Fortress ruins feature hundreds of structures that sit on a mountain peak about 2 hours away for a day trip, cobbled by the hands of Chachapoya people (“Warriors of the Clouds”) thousands of years ago.

18. Huascaran National Park

Three people walking along a cement path in Huascaran National Park with the enormous glacier dwarfing them


Huascaran National Park is nestled in the scenic Cordillera Blanca region of the Andes Mountains, famous for its rugged hiking trails that prompt adventurers to visit for day trips and multi-day treks deep into the valley forests, up to the summits, passing glaciers and lakes on the way. 

The park’s immensity can’t be overstated. There are 17 peaks over 19,600 feet (6,000 meters) high, hundreds of lakes and lagoons, and 720+ glaciers resting in its bounds. Jaguars, giant Andean condors, and pumas are often seen in the park. 

The hike to the Llanganuco lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, is particularly nice with surrounding mountain views, bright blue waters, and wildlife. Chinancocha is more visited than Orconcocha, which is much higher up around 12,600 feet and harder to reach. 

Lagoon 69, or Lago 69, is another popular spot to hike over 2 days, leading to amazing views of waterfalls, babbling creeks, and open fields ringed by mountains once you reach the glacial lake. It’s a tough hike up to 14,700+ feet, but well worth the scenery. 

The Santa Cruz trek takes 3-4 days and is one of the best hikes through the park. You’ll cross through the picturesque villages in the green Quebrada Huaripampa Valley, Punta Union Pass, and mountain peaks like Santa Cruz and Alpamayo as you look down over glacial lakes. 

Look for sacred sites like the temples of Chavin with its own museum, try ice climbing if you’re up for a new challenge, and experience the breathtaking beauty of the mountains in this park.

Frequently Asked Questions

Very neat shot of the rusty Villena Bridge in Miraflores spanning the road that leads to the ocean in a breathtaking image, seen at dusk

Christian Vinces/Shutterstock

Here are some other things you might want to know about Peru:

What is the most beautiful area of Peru?

The mountains of Peru are some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. They are especially beautiful at ancient sites such as Machu Picchu.

What is the best part of Peru?

Peru is so diverse that the answer to this question depends on what you want. If you want to explore the jungle, then the state of Amazonas is the best. For bustling city life, Lima is the best part. For a first-time visitor, Machu Picchu is the best part because it is a world-famous wonder.

What is the number one tourist place in Peru?

Machu Picchu is probably the number one ranked tourist place in Peru. It makes sense since this is a wonder of the world, after all.

Is seven days enough in Peru?

Seven days is enough to comfortably see a lot of Peru’s sites and give yourself time to acclimate to the altitude. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to see all of the country, so pick one or two regions to focus on.

Is Peru inexpensive for tourists?

Peru is pretty affordable to travel and possible to do on a budget. There is a reason why it is so popular on the backpacker circuit, after all.

Book Your Trip to Peru Today!

The stark contrasts and endless adventures waiting for you at the best places to visit in Peru make this country one of the most memorable to experience in South America. Deserts, beaches, rainforests, villages, ruins, and historic cities mean you’ll never be bored. 

From walking the sacred site of Machu Picchu and riding dune buggies and sand boarding in a desert oasis to touring Lima’s cosmopolitan Miraflores district, we think Peru’s best spots are well worth a visit.