Whilst Machu Picchu remains the most iconic and most significant archaeological destination in Peru and is likely to go unmissed on any first-timer itinerary, it can sometimes overshadow some of Peru’s other remarkable destinations. Below we look at five worthy contenders for you to consider when planning a trip to Peru…
Despite covering more than 60% of the country’s total landmass, the Amazonian rainforest is largely ignored by the majority of those who visit Peru. The reason for this is not entirely clear – accessibility is not a major issue and there is no shortage of accommodation options available in the region. Those who do make it here, therefore, are greeted with pristine rainforest, an abundance of exotic wildlife and opportunities to meet indigenous communities, all away from the masses. The northern region is possibly the easiest way to experience the rainforest, reached via Iquitos. Characterised by its vast flood plains and wide tributaries, river cruises are popular and a fine way to experience the beauty of the Amazon.
The spectacular valley of the Colca Canyon, four hours from the city of Arequipa, is simply phenomenal. Not only for the sheer scale of it – it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and runs 63 miles in length, but also for its archaeological legacy, particularly of the ancient inhabitants of the Callagua people. Little has changed in the many millennia of its known existence and the canyon has come to symbolise the enduring nature of the Andes to the Peruvian population. It is easy to pass many hours here, if not days, due to the palpable spiritual ambience of the natural wonder, the Giant Andean condors that can be spotted soaring overhead, as well as being a great place for hiking, horse-riding and relaxing in the many natural hot springs.
The aptly named Sacred Valley is perhaps one of the better-known destinations on this list but nevertheless is a must consideration for any Peruvian itinerary. Arguably the most important and spiritual early settlement region for the Incas, the valley remains one of the finest places in South America to discover the ancient culture and customs of the ancient civilization. High in the Andes, the towns of Pisaq, Yucay, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo are the most frequented destinations in the Sacred Valley, each contributing their own draws and attractions but united with their Incan heritage and beautiful valley views.
Peru’s second-largest city is far removed from the nations’ capital, not only in distance but also symbolically, to the extent where the locals jest that a passport is needed to enter Arequipa. A nonchalant and charming city, guarded by three imposing volcanoes, Arequipa retains a colonial atmosphere with jovial locals and a thriving gastronomic scene which rivals the capital. Many use the city as a gateway to the Colca Canyon and for adventurous activities in the surrounding valleys, but time should be afforded to immerse yourself in the aura of the city, discovering the majestic holy buildings, the colonial architecture and the atmospheric coffee shops that can be found in abundance in the plazas.
Remotely located between the high Andes and the Amazon Basin, Chachapoyas and the surrounding area is a trove of wonders waiting to be discovered. The region is enigmatic from the offset, isolated by cloud forests and with deep verdant valleys, colossal waterfalls and birdlife like no other. The town itself is quaint but small and so most of the jewels of the area can be found scattered across the countryside that flank the town in every direction. Pre-Inca ruins, imposing fortresses and remnants of ancient civilizations, still largely submerged beneath the undergrowth are just some of the reasons to make the journey to the north.
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