Peru is one of South America’s most fascinating countries to visit for nature, culture and incredible history. When many people think of Peru, they first think of Machu Picchu as this is by far the most popular Peruvian tourist attraction and is regarded as one of the new seven wonders of the world. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Machu Picchu each year and many of these people are only interested in this beautiful and mysterious ancient attraction. As you know, however, Peru offers a fantastic assortment of attractions that can parallel and surpass the beauty of this one famous landmark. I will first mention Machu Picchu then highlight some of other attractions, which I hope you will consider for your visit to this fantastic country.
This well known attraction is the main reason the majority of tourists visit Peru, and it deserves the attention. The mystery of Machu Picchu matches its beauty and encapsulating surroundings. This UNESCO World Heritage listed landmark was a 15th-century Inca site thought to have been built for emperor Pachacuti who lived between 1438 and 1472. This was at the pinnacle of the Inka Empire and stands prominently atop the mountain as if to highlight Inca dominance.
Cradle Of Gold
The Cradle of Gold, or Choquequirao, is a lesser known Incan structure but was thought to have been built to rival Machu Picchu. Choquequirao is a very similar structure to its rival and can be reached from a two day hike from Cusco. In 1535 the Inca staged a siege on the city of Cusco on Pizarro and his army. Choquequirao was one of the Inca’s last strongholds against the Spanish invasion.
Cusco, the base city for the Peruvian Cloud Forest, Machu Pichu and other Incan ruins, is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site as this was the capital of the Incan Empire. Not only the Incan capital, Cusco was the city and area where the Incan tribe first appeared. The city was mostly destroyed by the Spanish in 1535, however, Spanish architecture was built on top of the old ruins making for some of the world’s most interesting city walks. Cusco is also the home of great restaurants and beautiful parks, and you can organize a tour of the city in combination with your tour of Cloud Forest, Machu Picchu or other Incan ruins.
The Cloud Forest
The Peruvian Cloud Forest is the most pristine of this highly threatened and diverse forest. Cloud forest is loosely defined as forest at such a high altitude that its penetrated by cloud cover. The Cloud Forest of Manu National Park, accessed from Cusco, is fantastically diverse containing a high number of bird species and other wildlife, such as capuchins, spectacled bears, the brilliantly red Cock of the Rock birds and mysterious plant life. You can enjoy a tour of this threatened ecosystem by staying at the Cock of the Rock Lodge where your naturalist guide will point out the forest’s plants and animals. The lodge is located right next to the Cock of the Rock’s dance grounds. These showy birds perform dances to attract the females, which makes for a favored spectacle for Cloud Forest visitors. In addition to cloud forest, you can combine the trip with a package tour to the Manu Amazon Rainforest lowlands.
The Amazon Rainforest
Peru contains the second largest portion of the Amazon Rainforest, after Brazil, and because this is all located in western Amazon Rainforest, it is also the richest in animal and plant life. To accompany your tour of Incan sites, consider a visit to Earth’s largest and most pristine tropical wilderness where you can see incredible animals like monkeys, large colorful parrots, giant river otters, caiman, and fascinating reptiles.
Puerto Maldonado is just a short stop from Cusco and a favored base town for Machu Picchu vistors combing the ruins with the rainforest. The town is ideal for a short tour as the Tambopata National Reserve, an incredibly diverse tropical area, is just 30 minutes from town. A fantastic lodge for a short visit before your return home is the Sandoval Lake Lodge, nestled on one of the most beautiful lakes in the rainforest. This section of Amazonia has the highest number of clay licks. These are places where you cane enjoy hundreds of macaw parrots feeding from the medicinal clay. You can also visit deeper Amazon Rainforest on tours to either Tambopata Research Center or the Heath River Wildlife Center. Heath River is also home to a tapir lick where the lodge has constructed a special hide to maximize your chances of spotting South America’s largest land mammal.
Iquitos is one of Peru’s main gateways to the Amazon Rainforest and is located in northern Peru, a short flight from Cusco or Lima. Iquitos is a fantastic destination for a deep Amazon Rainforest experience to see several different monkeys, different Amazonian birds, and various reptiles. For a tour of the Amazon Rainforest, we recommend the Tahuayo Lodge, a top rated lodge that provides private guides and a customized tour as standard. The lodge also features the longest zipline in the rainforest and a primate research grid where you can see different monkeys and other wildlife.
The Amazon River
The Amazon River is the largest river by volume and feeds the Amazon Rainforest. The river is enormous. Early sailors are reported to have been able to drink freshwater from the ocean before even sighting the South American continent. From Iquitos, you can take enjoyable cruises on the Amazon to visit some remarkable and wildlife filled sections of the rainforest. The most beautiful protected area accessible on cruises is the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is home to abundant monkeys, birds, reptiles and attractive flowers. As a recommendation, you can make the most of your time on the Amazon River by taking a Delfin Luxury cruise into this magnificent nature reserve aboard either the Delfin II or the even more luxurious Delfin I. In addition to luxury vessels, Delfin provides exploration in the jungle on forest walks, modern kayaks and skiffs.
From Puno, in Peru’s south, you can visit Lake Titicaca to see this wonderful high altitude lake. Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and is also the highest navigable lake in the world making it a fascinating tourist attraction. Not only because of its size and altitude, the lake is also fascinating because of its diverse flora and fauna. The area is a protected reserve home to around 60 different high altitude birds including flamingos. You will also see the Vicuña, the wild ancestors of Alpaca. These graze along Titicaca’s shores where you may also spot mysterious burial chambers of the Inca. Some unusual sights to see at Titicaca include the Uros Islands, which are built by the Uros Indians from tortora reeds and float above the water.
In the south of Peru, Arequipa is a lovely area to visit with one of the nicest climates in the country. The city is near the foot of an ice-capped volcanco named El Misti. This city even struck the conquistador Pizzaro on his colonization of Peru who wanted to name the city Villa Hermosa (beautiful town) due to the colonial architecture of many mansions and churches. Arequipa is also close to Colca Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons on Earth. This is Peru’s third most popular tourist attraction and has a human history dating back to before the Inca civilization.