From massive sand dunes to Pacific waves, Peru is much more than the chiselled peaks of Machu Picchu. If you visit this beautiful and diverse country, be ready for a little whimsy and a lot of adventure. While it is almost impossible to have a bad time in Peru, if you are considering a visit, consider these must-see locations:
One of the New 7 Wonders and an ancient Incan city, Machu Picchu is renowned for its unparalleled beauty. Hike the Inca trail if you dare, but know that it is not for the weak-willed. This trail is often rated one of the top treks in the world. It last 43 km and offers beautiful mountain scenery, views of the famous cloud forest, and a variety of Inca paving stones. If you wish to visit, buy your tickets in advance and remember to bring your passport – it is required upon entry.
The Amazon covers 60 percent of Peru, so it would almost be a waste not to visit. Enter the Amazon Basin through Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado and find experienced guides. This area is best to visit between June and November, as the other half of the year is, aptly, rainy. Rent a cabin in the middle of the forest and spend the night surrounded by breathtaking wildlife.
Often overlooked as a ‘stopover city’, Peru’s largest metropolitan city actually has a rich history and culture. If you do decide to visit, enjoy a vast array of art and history museums, historical cathedrals, ancient catacombs, bustling nightlife and delicious street food. Start from the city centre – the Plaza Mayor – and work your way outward. While the city has a slightly more dangerous reputation, it is not quite as fearsome as many suggest. If you visit, remember to make smart decisions and be conscious of your surroundings at all times.
Home to the famous floating islands, Lake Titicaca is a perfect day excursion. Travel to Puno and book day trips to learn about the floating city inhabitants, the Uros tribe – an indigenous group that pre-dates the Incan civilisation.
In the middle of the lush greenery and rainforests is Huacachina, a desert village surrounded by sky-high sand dunes on all sides. Adventure travellers, consider trying the area’s popular sports such as sandboarding or high-speed dune buggy racing. (Of course, looking into adventure sport cover for your travel insurance policy before engaging in these activities.)
Famous for its lush, green landscape and jaw-dropping clifs, Colca Canyon’s claim to fame is its depth – it is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in America. The region is also well-known as home of the rare Andean conodor, a bird with a massive 3.2 metre wingspan. If you decide to take a hike, travel to Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city, to book overnight trekking and sightseeing tours. Oftentimes these tours will take you down to the popular villages in the valley. If possible, be sure to visit the valley village of Chivay, known for its natural hot springs and dramatic views.
The best time to visit Peru is between June and August – this is the dry season for the Andean highlands and the eastern rainforest. Avoid travelling to Peru between December and February (or December and May if you wish to visit the Amazon Rainforest), as this is the rainy season. In February, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu closes for clean-up in preparation for the tourist season.
Australian travellers visiting Peru should keep in mind these important travel considerations:
Image courtesy of Flickr user David Stanley; cropped from original