Peru is one of the most Fabulous countries in the world by far! What irks me the most is when people really have no interest in seeing anything more than Machu Picchu. This destination is so much more than just that (even though it is incredible). It is filled with culture, colour, vibrancy, great food, great shopping, history, mountain ranges and definitely some mysticism. Try to see more than just the main attraction, give the whole country a chance and maybe you will be more than pleasantly surprised. With that said, here are my top ten things to see in Peru!
NUMBER ONE: Lima
Typically being the city people fly into when visiting Peru, it is best to not forget to actually see what it has to offer. With many squares, parks and culture to go around, you can easily spend a few days just exploring. The Miraflores area is my personal favourite; you can sit in Parque del Amor, have a nice picnic and watch the surfers crashing waves on the Pacific coast. Stay in this city long enough to catch a sunny day- it looks completely different than its typical cloudy atmosphere.
NUMBER TWO: Cuzco
There are a handful of cities across the world that I feel are really special. Cuzco however is definitely one of them. Perhaps it’s the altitude, or maybe the Andes. Something about those narrow streets, lively squares, vibrant people and vast history really make it very different from most. Some consider it the gateway to Machu Picchu I consider a special gem in itself. There is a certain sense of simplicity and happiness in this complex historical city that I have not experienced elsewhere. Oh, and the food and shopping is FABULOUS!
NUMBER THREE: Huacachina
When I first started researching the details of my Peru, I stumbled upon a hidden gem called Huacachina. What is it you ask? Well it is a true Oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert on route to Nasca. A perfect pit stop for a Pisco sour, a nap or even a little dune buggying. Regardless of what you stop for, it really is quite the stop, so if it wasn’t on your itinerary, perhaps it should be. PS. Bring some sunscreen, you are in the middle of the desert after all!
NUMBER FOUR: Nasca and a flight over the lines
Not too far from Huacachina lies the city of Nasca. A sleepy little town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, which is also a key to the mystery of the Nasca lines. Mystical lines carved in the ground, primarily only recognizable from the sky. Take a risk, grab a flight, and view these images as they are meant to be seen.
NUMBER FIVE: Ballestas
Dubbed the Galapagos of Peru, the Ballestas Islands are what I would consider a snap introduction into the ecology and wildlife of the South American Pacific Coastline. Although not as vast or as protected as the Galapagos, you can still spot a great range of wildlife from sea lions, to my personal favorite; the blue footed boobies (and it is a bird, get your minds out of the gutter!). This is a true testament to all the things Peru has to offer, and there really is a little bit of everything for everyone, so stop compromising your interests and see everything!
NUMBER SIX: Arequipa
One of the most pleasant surprises in Peru came through the lovely city of Arequipa. Nestled at the base of Misti (a Volcano), the area came with gorgeous views, amazing food, phenomenal shopping and a little bit of European flare. Sunset was particularly lovely with the mist coming over, and pink reflections shining off of the volcanic background. Although not being a religious person, one of the highlights of this city is visiting the incredibly vibrant monastery next to Plaza de Armas. Do not let the word monastery fool you; stepping inside is like entering a crayon box. It is a vision of colour, and some of my favorite photos came right from this one place. If possibly spend a day or two, maybe even three exploring.
NUMBER SEVEN: Uros Islands
Although Peru is well know for many various sites, Puno is an area many tourists don’t even realize exists. Primarily surrounding Lake Titicaca, Puno is the entry into the Uros Islands (floating islands), people have been creating islands from grasses and plant matter for generations, living in straw houses and leading uncomplicated and basic lives. Stepping on to one of these islands is like stepping back in time. One would think that with such basic surroundings the people may not be so welcoming, but the exact opposite is true, and the welcoming smiles from ear to ear ring true. On the islands woven masterpieces can be found like nowhere else in peru, along with that straw creations and paintings. It would truly be a shame to visit this beautiful country and to miss out on such culture.
NUMBER EIGHT: Taquile
On route to or from Uros, Taquile is not far behind. It is a high altitude Island amidst Lake Titicaca. Although not far off from Uros, or mainland Puno, the people of this Island seem as though from a different world. Again, it is like stepping back in time, and the traditions that still exist to this day are very humbling. On this island, on a clear day, you can also get a perfect view of Bolivia and its mountain range. Perhaps a culture shock for some, it is all part of the experience. Even if this is not for you, this is probably one of the best places to get handcrafted knitwear made by local families living right on the island.
NUMBER NINE: Colca Canyon
A canyon set approximately 100KM away from Arequipa; it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, in the USA. Its vast land is the home for various wildlife, and for the bird watchers this is the perfect place to spot the Andean Condor. If birds aren’t your thing, then the landscape should do you just fine. If that still isn’t enough find yourself an Alpaca- they always bring amusement.
NUMBER TEN: Machu Picchu
Well I suppose you really cannot forget Machu Picchu… the main tourism draw of the country. This mystical village set amongst the mountains and lying in the clouds is a structure of pure awe. Although the abandoned structures are a sight to marvel, the most impressive factor is the setting. Once trekking that trail, or taking the bus to the top, it is almost unbelievable that something so prolific is where it is. Even more so, being originally built hundreds of years ago, the thought of normal people, creating and building some like that with such simplicity is what makes this place so majestic.
Honorable Mention: Driving the Pan-American Highway
One of my favourite parts of my Peru trip were the amazing views, most of which can be seen from the Pan-American highway. I had never thought that a road could be so interesting. It is so interesting to see the geology by every hour driven by. From the beautiful untouched beaches of the Pacific, to the desert sands, all the way through to the Andes. One thing I know is that if this trip is ever repeated; I will drive this road again, but slower. Although not the most tame of roads in the world as most of the drive is on a road hugging a Cliffside, there are no other views in the world quite like this. Do yourself a favour and don’t fly across the land, but drive- you will not regret it!