Cusco is located in the southern Peruvian Andes and is the main tourist destination in Peru with around two million visitors each year. Cusco sits on the location of the capital for the Inka Empire, which spanned from 13th century to 1532. Because of this, the city is a mix of colonial and Inka architecture and the city itself is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as the wealth of archeology, Cusco is the base to experience a contrast to lowland Amazon Rainforest, the misty cloud forest of Manu National Park.
Manu National Park Cloud Forest
The largest National Park in Peru, Manu contains an astonishing diversity of life. Manu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains many endangered, threatened and endemic plants and animals, and also lots of species that are still unknown to science. Because of the position of Manu, which includes land on the eastern slope of the Andes, you can visit the Manu Cloud Forest and see the contrasts to lowland rainforest. Enjoy incredible Cloud Forest bird life and see different Orchids and other flowers. You may not think of bears living in the Amazon Rainforest, but the Cloud Forest offers many exceptions as you will stand a chance of seeing the only bear on the continent, the Spectacled Bears that live in these dense Andean rainforests.
Manu National park Lowland Rainforest
As well as the Manu National Park Cloud Forest, you can combine tours from Cusco to experience the lowland Manu rainforest to see beautiful Oxbow Lakes home to Giant Otters, Turtles, Caiman and many birds. The park offers a change to see Clay Licks to see Macaw Parrots and Tapir (South America’s largest land mammal), and of course the forest itself with its abundant Monkeys, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians.
Being the ancient capital of the Inkas, Cusco is full of archeological sites. Here you can visit the famous Machu Picchu, however, given the restrictions and the worries about degradation along the Inka Trail, there are alternatives. For example, behind Machu Picchu is the Cradle of Gold, built to rival its famous neighbor. You can take the Weaver’s Way to Machu Picchu as well to see Lares and the andean communities of Patacancha and Willoq.
The hotspot in Peru is the city of Cusco located in the southern portion of the country. From Cusco, you can organise tours to see the archaeological sites of the Inkas, the main attraction being Machu Picchu. This 15th-century Inka site draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to see the ancient ruins and hike the Inka Trail. However, there is much more to Peru than this site and there are even more archaeological interests, such as the Inka Cradle of Gold and Northern Kingdoms.
In addition to archaeology, Peru boasts the second largest amount of Amazon Rainforest and more species of animals and plants have been found in this region than in others. As Earth’s largest container of life, this is clearly a must see if you’re even a little bit interested in nature.
If you like Monkeys, Sloths, Macaws, Parrots and other Birds, the Amazon Rainforest should be on your list. If you would like to unwind free from the stresses of city life, a tour of the Amazon Rainforest is also recommended. You can choose budget friendly visits, such as from Puerto Maldonado, as well as luxury cruises from Iquitos. If you’re after adventure for deeper experiences of the Amazon Rainforest, you can find these tours from both Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. We have selected some of the best tour operators to make sure you make the most of your visit. Continue To Amazon Tours >>
The protected areas in Peru include the following UNESCO World Heritage listed areas:
UNESCO World Heritage listed Cultural Protected Areas:
- Chan Chan Archaeological Zone (1986)
- Chavin (Archaeological Site) (1985)
- City of Cuzco (1983)
- Historic Centre of Lima (1988)
- Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa (2000)
- Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana (1994)
- Sacred City of Caral-Supe (2009)
- Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (1983)
UNESCO World Heritage listed Natural Protected Areas:
- Huascarán National Park (1985)
- Manú National Park (1987)
- Río Abiseo National Park (1990)
Complementing these areas, there are many more national parks and reserves that protect an incredible number and diversity of birds, mammals, amphibians, plants, insects and reptiles as well as offering protection for the Amazon’s remaining indigenous populations.
Other protected areas of Amazon Rainforest:
- Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Loreto
- Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, Loreto
- Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve, Loreto
- Matsés National Reserve, Loreto
- Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, Madre de Dios
- Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios
- Otishi National Park, Junín
Other Peruvian protected areas:
- Paracas National Reserve, Ica
- Lachay Hills Reserve, Lima
- Titicaca, Puno
- National Reserve of Pampa Galeras Barbara D’Achille, Ayacucho
- Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, Arequipa
- Tumbes National Reserve, Tumbes
These reserves, especially those in the Amazon Rainforest, contain an incredible diversity of wildlife. Some reserves, such as the Pampa Galeras National Reserve, protect Peru’s wild camelids, the ancestors of llamas and alpacas.
Peru is a bird enthusiast’s paradise. From the Andes to the Amazon, you can find incredible bird life. The National Bird of Peru is the Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), easily seen near the Cock of the Rock Lodge on a 3D/2N tour from Cusco.
As Peru contains a large portion of the Amazon Rainforest, the country includes a large amount of Amazon wildlife, such as sloths, monkeys, macaws, giant otters, anacondas and much more, which you can see from Peru’s top Amazon Rainforest Lodges.
Peru is a hit with food lovers worldwide for its traditional and unique cuisine. If you’re even a little bit interested in sampling different foods, you will have already heard about ceviche, a dish originating in Peru consisting of raw fish drizzled with lemon, lime and spices.
Lock up your pets for the next dish, as you may not have realised that Guinea Pigs were originally bred for food and as Europeans farmed Sheep, Goats and Cows, Peruvians living in the Andes farmed Guinea Pigs known locally as cuy.
There are many other main meals to try like various beef, chicken and even alpaca dishes as well as meals centered around the potato. Potatoes originated in Peru and only a few varieties from the thousands available were exported to the rest of the world.
For dessert, again there are many varieties available like the Suspiro a la Limeña, which had its origins in the 19th Century and includes peanut and meringue flavors. Another traditional dessert from the colonial era is Frejol Colado, which is made using black or red beans, honey molasses, clove and toasted sesame seeds. The preparation varies, but usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, red wine, molasses, and brown sugar.
Of an evening, the cocktail of choice is the Pisco Sour, which has a heavy citrus, sour flavor and had its origins in Lima, Peru.
The main cities in Peru to base yourself for a Peruvian adventure are:
- Lima: Gastronomy, culture, base for tours to other areas
- Cusco: Machu Picchu, Cradle of Gold, Manu cloud forest
- Puerto Maldonado: Most developed Amazon tourism industry
- Iquito: Amazon lodges & cruises on the Amazon River
- Cajamarca: Explore Inca history
- Chiclayo: Explore Chachapoyas history
A continent of contrasts, South America split from the African landmass and joined with North America to merge a distinct set of flora, fauna and geographical features. The South American continent is bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west and is the jumping off point for Antarctica to the south. After the merger with North America, the Isthmus of Panama in the north would be the land bridge by which many different animals, including humans, migrated south into this diverse continent. Welcome to South America.
South American Rainforest
The largest tract of continuous rainforest on Earth is found in South America. The Amazon is larger than the other largest rainforests, the Congo Rainforest in West Africa and the New Guinean Rainforest in Australasia, combined. This incredible forest has filled the hearts and minds of naturalists and explorers for hundreds of years and can be accessed from any one of the nine nations it crosses. For the majority of Amazon tourists, the two countries to base themselves for an Amazon Adventure are Peru and Brazil, which contain the largest portions of the rainforest, but there are lesser known adventurous alternatives…
The Brazilian Cerrado
The Brazilian Cerrado is the country’s 2nd largest habitat after the Amazon Rainforest. The Cerrado is a tropical savanna habitat that experiences a humid climate. The habitat is home to many endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. Here you will see incredible wildlife, such as Endangered Maned Wolves, Hyacinth Macaws, and tool-using Capuchin Monkeys.
The Pantanal Wetlands allows a higher chance of seeing some of the Amazon Rainforest’s most sort-after wildlife, such as Jaguar, Giant Otters and Capybara. The open and often treeless habitat means Capybara can roam the grasslands in huge numbers and animals cannot easily hide from view. Although lesser known than the Amazon, the Pantanal houses an equal concentration of wildlife to the densest areas in Africa.
Brazilian Atlantic Forest
When the Portuguese first set foot on South America over 500 years ago, they were met with the Atlantic Forest. One of the most threatened tropical forests, the Atlantic forest in southern Brazil is home to many highly threatened animals and plants. Over 85% of the original forest cover has been deforested, but because of its significance as a home for many endemic species, hundreds of businesses, NGOs and charities are working to restore this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South American Countries
The main countries that make up South America are, in order of highest population, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (France).
Eco Regions in South America
Tourists can explore the different eco-regions in South America, which offer a chance to view breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife and contrasting environments. You can explore the Amazon Rainforest or Atlantic Forest previously mentioned, the wetlands, which are home to abundant animals and plants, Andean Cloud Forest to see incredible bird life, the Atacama desert, Earth’s driest area, the Andean mountain range, the world’s longest mountain range, and the famous Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador to see uniquely famous animals and plants.
Wildlife and Protected Areas
Within these Bio Regions are the main National Parks that protect South America’s famous and world renowned wildlife for future generations. View the famous macaws of Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park and see Jaguar in the Pantanal.
Tourist Attractions – Culture, History and Nature
In addition to South America’s cities and bio regions, tourists flock to South America to see its rich cultural heritage for a glimpse into a land before the modern world as well as natural wonders, such as Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world’s highest waterfall.
South America History
Like the pyramids of Egypt, South America is home to its own archeological sites of now vanished societies. Machu Picchu in Peru alone draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to visit this mystical Incan ruin. As well as Machu Picchu, Peru is home to other archaeological sites like the Cradle of Gold and the latest tourist destination, the Northern Kingdoms.
There have been many different civilizations in South America, such as the Chavin, which spanned 900 BC to 300 AD, the Moche, from 100 BC to 700 AD, the Chachopayas, from 1000–1450, but none that have caught the public attention as much as the Inkas, which dominated the Andean region from 1438 to 1533 and were invaded by the Spanish in one of the most significant periods in South American history. To explore South America’s rich and interesting Archeological sites, travel to one of our popular Ancient Destinations.