Peru is a land of contrasts, with ancient ruins, snow-capped mountains, lush Amazon rainforest, and bustling cities. Once the seat of the Incan Empire, Peru is home to some of the most iconic historical sites in the world, including Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.
But Peru is more than just its history. It’s also a country with a rich culture, delicious food, and stunning natural scenery.
Whether you’re interested in hiking through the Andes, exploring the Amazon, or simply soaking up the sun on one of Peru’s many beaches, there’s something for everyone in this amazing country.
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
Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and anyone who’s been to the magnificent site will see why. This abandoned city nestled in the Andes Mountains offers a spectacular glimpse at how majestic the Incan Empire was in its prime.
You can trek or take the train up to Machu Picchu and explore the abandoned stone buildings and spectacular views. Be sure to check out the Sun Gate, the famous entrance to the city.
Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu in 2023
Lima, Peru’s capital, is an amazing blend of ancient and modern cities. The historic core of Lima Centro is full of imposing Spanish cathedrals, mansions, and other buildings.
One of the finest buildings here is the Convento de San Francisco. However, a visit to Lima that remains stuck in the past would be a mistake.
Make sure to spend time checking out the neighborhoods where Peruvians live, such as chic Miraflores and bohemian, artistic Barranco. Lima also has an excellent gastronomy scene — be sure to try ceviche while you are here.
Read Next: Is Lima, Peru Safe to Travel to in 2023?
Cusco is much calmer, and some would even say prettier, than Lima. The city is one of the oldest cities in Peru. It used to be the capital of the Incan Empire, and some of that majesty shines through in sites Sacsayhuaman.
Unfortunately, much of the old Incan city was destroyed by Spaniards, who constructed an impressive colonial core on top of its ruins.
Besides marveling at Cusco’s architecture, you can check out handicrafts at the San Pedro Market and local galleries showcasing regional artists throughout the streets.
Cusco is also a great base for exploring the Incan sites in the mountains, including Machu Picchu.
4. Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is one of the most popular trekking routes in the world. This trail through the Andes Mountains dates back to the Incan Empire.
Today, it stretches from Cusco to Machu Picchu, passing spectacular mountain vistas, Incan ruins, and quaint remote villages along the way.
The Inca Trail is beautiful, but it is also very difficult and packed with other travelers. Make sure that you book with a tour operator to make sure that you can go on the trail.
5. Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are some of Peru’s most mysterious sites. Located in the Nazca Desert, these lines are actually geoglyphs, or art carved directly into the land. The lines form geometric or animal patterns, with some patterns stretching over 1,000 feet long.
Nobody really knows why the lines were carved or who exactly did them, although the most educated guess is that the lines were done by the Nazca people. The best way to appreciate the lines is from the air, so splurge for a flyover if it’s in your budget.
6. Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is one of the most beautiful natural sites in the world, not just Peru. The yawning canyon is one of the deepest in the world, and it’s easy to feel lost as you gaze into the depths, mesmerized by the colorful rocks.
As you trek along the canyon, you’ll discover diverse landscapes, wildlife such as the Andean condor, and ruins of ancient cities.
7. Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a valley in the Andes that was a special site for the Incas, which explains why there are so many archeological sites here. Machu Picchu is technically located within the valley, but there are so many other sites that the whole region deserves a mention.
History buffs will also love Choquequirao, a well-preserved city ruin. The Sacred Valley is also perfect for more modern activities. Browse traditional handcrafts from the indigenous residents of the valley in Pisac or Ollantaytambo.
Check out some of the adventure activities, from trekking to rock climbing. The Sacred Valley is also becoming a hotbed of spiritual tourism for everything from yoga retreats to ayahuasca trips.
8. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia, is often called the world’s highest navigable body of water. The location of the Incan origin myth, it is still home to thriving indigenous communities today, as well as a spectacular natural environment.
Use the quaint city of Puno as your base to explore the region.
From there, you can head to the Uros Islands, floating islands local Uru people make out of reeds. You can even stay in a homestay on one of the islands.
9. Chan Chan
Inca ruins may dominate the history and landscape of Peru, but they were relative newcomers to the country. Chan Chan was built by an even older civilization, the Chimu Empire.
Wander around the site, the largest pre-Colombian city discovered, and take in the buildings, reliefs, and statues made from adobe. The stark geometric patterns have faded slightly over time, but the site is still very impressive and off the radar for most tourists.
The mountain town of Huaraz may not boast spectacular architecture, but it doesn’t need to when the scenery of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range surrounds it. Huaraz is the perfect base for exploring the mountains.
Tours for trekking and other outdoor adventures depart from here on a regular basis. While you’re in Huaraz, you can take in the vibrant culture created by the network of hostels and the fact that most backpackers in Peru pass through here.
Arequipa is one of the best places to visit in Peru for lovers of colonial architecture. Nicknamed “The White City” because most of its buildings are made out of white volcanic rock, just a stroll through the old town with its beautiful architecture will make you feel as if you stepped back in time.
Besides admiring the architecture, you will find Arequipa is a great place to use as a base for exploring nature. The Colca Canyon, Salinas Mountains, and Aguada Blanca are all very close.
Most people come to Peru for the mountains, but this incredibly diverse country also has amazing desert landscapes. Huacachina is an amazing oasis in the sandy Ica desert.
Enjoy the beautiful lagoon and the spas that surround it, along with the many wineries and clubs in the fun-loving town.
Huacachina is a great base for exploring the surrounding desert. You can book outdoor activities such as sandboarding, dune buggy rides, and quad riding throughout the sand.
After a lot of trekking, you probably want to relax on the beach. Luckily, Peru has a fantastic stretch of coastline, including the popular beach town of Mancora.
Mancora is a town that combines surfers, backpackers, and resort guests in a cultural clash that somehow works. Whatever your travel style, you will feel at home here.
While in Mancora, try your hand at surfing, check out opportunities to swim with wildlife, or just laze on the beach all day. The town itself has a lively nightlife as well as a more laid-back health food and smoothie shop scene.
14. Puerto Maldonado
The Amazon rainforest is another ecosystem that is part of Peru’s very diverse landscape. Puerto Maldonado is Peru’s gateway to the Amazon and the perfect base for exploring this forest like no other.
Even from the center of town, you can see the forest canopy and hear the cries of animals.
From Puerto Maldonado, book excursions to Tambopata Natural Reserve, the most impressive part of Peru’s Amazon. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as butterflies, monkeys, and even jaguars.
15. Paracas National Reserve
Paracas boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Peru. The rugged landscape features a desert that abruptly terminates in cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean. Stand on the cliffs to feel as if you are on the edge of the world.
From Paracas National Reserve, you can also take an excursion to the Ballestas Islands, an archipelago of uninhabited islands rich with wildlife, from pelicans to sea lions.
Iquitos is another city that is the gateway to the Amazon. It’s unique for a major city because it doesn’t have a single major road leading to it—you either have to fly in or take a boat on the Amazon River!
That doesn’t stop the city from being a bustling hub for this region of Peru. Spend some time wandering around Iquitos, admiring the traditional wooden huts clinging directly to modern buildings.
Visit the Belen floating market for a unique look at the local culture. Of course, you should also book tours into the Amazon while you are here.
Chachapoyas in the remote mountains is a great city to stay in to get off the beaten path and use as a base for some natural exploration. It has a pleasant historic core, but the real goal is to get out of town and into the surrounding nature.
Be sure to check out Kuelap, a ruin of a 7th-century walled settlement that is even older than Machu Picchu. Other nearby sights include the Gocta Cataracts waterfalls and plenty of spectacular mountain views.
18. Huascaran National Park
Huascaran National Park is set in the Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range with stunning, snow-capped peaks. This park has some of the best views and hiking trails in all of Peru, making it a must-visit destination if you are a nature lover.
If you visit, you must check out one of the hundreds of glaciers nestled in the mountains, lakes such as Laguna Churup, and for the bravest, a multiple-week trek to the summit of Huascaran.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Peru:
- Since the end of 2022, Peru has been rocked by frequent protests and demonstrations. Check the news before you go, as you don’t want to get caught up in an unpleasant situation.
- Peru also has a very high crime rate, so you want to take appropriate precautions while you are traveling here.
- Most of Peru is at a very high elevation, so give yourself a few days to acclimate in a city such as Lima before planning trekking excursions higher up in the mountains. You don’t want to get altitude sickness and ruin your travel plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
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!
Peru has many beautiful places to visit, from cities such as Cusco to the Amazon rainforest and the Pacific coast. Machu Picchu should be at the top of every traveler’s list, but the rest of what you do is up to you. Happy travels!