Peru, famous for its history and culture, is a South American nation with many different things to lure travelers and keep them wanting to come back time and time again. Read on for a sample of the top things to do when you travel to this part of the world for the first time.
Visit Machu Picchu
Of course, one of the biggest attractions in Peru has to be the famous Inca ruins, Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Here, by exploring the once-lost city, you can step into history and learn about ancient civilizations. You can arrive at the site by train from Cusco or, if you have some hiking experience and a decent level of fitness, walk to the archaeological site on the approximately 23-mile Inca Trail (trips take about four days).
Once at Machu Picchu, it pays to try to explore the ruins before dawn, so you don’t have to share the site with the hordes of visitors who arrive later in the day. Keep in mind that there is a hotel nearby where you can stay the night.
Explore the Amazon
While the first meaning of the word ‘Amazon’ that may come to mind for you these days is the e-commerce and production business, the Amazon jungle in South America is even mightier. During your time in Peru, it’s well worth organizing a trip to this part of the country so you can truly see the majesty of the natural phenomenon. The Amazon is believed to start in Peru, and in fact, this country is the only one where you can experience each of its different forms; there is a diverse array of habitats and wildlife to be found here.
One of the best ways to experience it is via a jungle boat cruise. Make sure you keep an eye out for caiman (related to the American alligator), and rarely glimpsed creatures such as the Amazonian pink dolphin. You can paddle canoes in certain areas; help out on a conservation volunteering project; and go bird-spotting.
It pays to book a boat or plane trip to the jungle-locked city of Iquitos, too. Lying deep within the Peruvian rainforest, the destination sits at the mouth of the Amazon and is close to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the second largest protected area in the Amazon. Covering around two million hectares, it’s known for its biodiversity. This Reserve is home for close to 1,000 different mammal, reptile, bird, and fish species.
Check out Lima
To get more of a city fix while in Peru, schedule some time in the capital, Lima. While most travelers fly into Lima but then leave straight away to head to Cusco for its jumping off point to Machu Picchu, it’s worthwhile allocating at least a few days in this city before you leave. Lima is Peru’s largest city and has a wonderful mix of old and new.
There are excellent museums in Lima where you can learn about the nation’s history. One of the most famous is the Museo Larco. Housed in a former mansion, here you can check out ancient erotic pottery art that dates back at least a thousand years, as well as thousands of other sculptures in all sorts of shapes, plus even Peruvian mummies. You should also go to Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), where you’ll find the broadest collection of art in Peru, and pieces which encompass the Inca, Nasca, Moche, Chimu, and pre-Columbian cultures.
Lima also has a thriving food scene, and is considered by many to be the gastronomical capital of Latin America. There are two restaurants in the city which regularly feature in the Top 10 in the World listings. While in the city, you particularly need to try the seafood dish, ceviche.
View the Nazca Lines
Another historical site to put on your itinerary is the Nazca lines. Book a seat on a plane so you can fly over these mysterious lines, carved into the ground, which academics have been trying to figure out for decades. No one knows how the Nazca lines were formed or what the purpose was for their creation. It is believed, though, that most of the lines were made by the Nazca people, who thrived in the area from approximately 1 A.D. to 700.
The lines are found a bit over 200 miles southeast of Lima, near the town of Nasca. There are more than 800 straight lines all up, plus 300 geometric figures, and 70 animal and plant designs (“biomorphs”). One of the most amazing things about the lines is their size. Some of the straight lines reach up to 30 miles in length, while the biomorphs can get to 1,200 feet, which is as big as the Empire State Building.