With over 5,000 years of history weaving together a remarkable tapestry of nature and people, Peru has increasingly become a must-see destination for travelers from all over the world. Yet, just because something is popular does not make it worth the price of admission. While Machu Picchu beckons with its complex story of Incan pride and eventual struggles against the conquering Spanish, is there more to Peru than this fabled city?
We are here to tell you that there absolutely is. Although Machu Picchu may hold the title as Peru’s claim to fame, the intrepid adventurer can easily find so much more to see and do as they crisscross this welcoming and biodiverse South American country. Consider for a moment that Peru is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world, with 84 of the 103 existing ecosystems and 28 of the 32 climates all within its borders; from hot, dry deserts to tropical rainforest, surfing-friendly beaches, towering mountain ranges and even tundra, Peru has something for everyone.
For those looking for fun in the “cuidad,” Peru’s cities also have so much to offer. Cosmopolitan Lima offers itself up as a fascinating, bustling, and at once both gritty and gorgeous capital city.
High up in the majestic Andes mountain range, Cusco and Pisac are the gateways to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Charming little villages like the desert oasis of Huacachina, and Ollantaytambo, the ancient vacation home of Incan Emperors and launching point for those hiking the Inca trail, represent the best of Peruvian fun and hospitality.
The definition of hype is both an excitation and/or clever marketing ploy, and Peru meets both. While there is a lot to be excited about when visiting Peru, it also meets the definition of a marketing ploy, yet there is nothing clever about it. All you need to do is learn more about Peru to understand that there need be no ploy to draw you in.
Here are just a few reasons why:
Sandboarding in Huacachina
Look up the definition of “desert oasis” and the mystical village of Huacachina could easily serve as the marquee picture. Surrounded by huge sand dunes, with its green lagoon enclosed by groves of palm trees, Huacachina looks like it was plucked right out of Lawrence of Arabia. Boasting the largest sand dunes in South America, the oasis offers itself up as more than just a silver screen-ready Peruvian village. Like snowboarding, sandboarding is a must-do activity for visitors. It provides an even greater rush than its snowy counterpart thanks to the texture of the sand, which makes it faster than snowboarding! For those not accustomed to strapping their feet in, many lay flat on the board, let their adrenaline kick in, and race down the dunes!
Did you know that one of the deepest canyons in the world is in Peru? With a depth of 3,270 meters (10,730 feet), it stands tall, or perhaps deep, among other natural marvels like the Grand Canyon in the United States and Yarling Tsangpo in Tibet. The surrounding Colca Valley is comprised of a lush, green valley, traditional villages, and terraced agriculture that predates the Incas. This breathtaking landscape also serves as the main natural habitat for the giant Andean condor. From circling condors to challenging hiking trails, dormant volcanoes and cascading waterfalls, Colca Canyon should not be missed on a visit to Peru.
Shopping in Pisac
Whether you are looking for a one-of-a-kind keepsake or just want to take in the sights of one of the most famous markets in the Cusco region, Pisac market has something for everyone. Here you’ll find the indigenous Quechua people selling their produce, trinkets and clothing while mixing with visitors from across the region. This is the perfect place to drop a few Peruvian Soles on one-of-a-kind wares. For those not interested in spending some coin, the colorful, unique clothing and big, bright smiles of the Quechua people will light up both your camera lens and your heart. For those visiting the market on a Sunday, don’t let the name of Sacred Sushi fool you, this small, nondescript vegan restaurant will leave the most ardent meat-eater satisfied.
After leaving Pisac on your way to Ollantaytambo, the starting point for your trip to Machu Picchu, you will have to make your way through what many consider the Peruvian heartland: The Sacred Valley of the Incas. Stretching roughly 60 kilometers, towering hillsides straddle the valley’s fertile farmlands and quaint Spanish colonial villages. Must-see stops include the ancient, terraced salt flats of Salinas de Maras and the deep, bowl-shaped hollows of the Moray Ruins, which many believe served as an Incan plant nursery with stepped micro climates. Interesting note: some consider there to be an energy vortex at Moray, and that the location served as much more than a plant nursery for Incan shamans.
Boating the Ballestas Islands
Often referred to as “the poor man’s Galapagos,” there is nothing poor about the Ballestas Islands. Home to hundreds of thousands of birds, sea lions, dolphins, and even penguins, the colorful wildlife sanctuary of the Ballestas is a little-known attraction reachable by boat from the coastal city of Pisco. Take special note of the hillside geoglyph known as the “Candelabra” as your boat makes its way around the islands. When you return from the islands, you would be remiss not to visit the Paracas National Reserve, a resplendent salt desert which dramatically plunges right into the South Pacific Ocean.
Considering the Amazon Rainforest stretches across nine South American countries, deciding where to dive in to one of the most biodiverse regions in the world can be daunting. Let us be the first to tell you, you can’t do much better than the Peruvian Amazon. After Brazil, Peru lays claim to the second-largest portion of the Amazon. There are three main regions where the vibrancy of the jungle is a sight to behold: the regions of Manu, Tambopata, and Iquitos. Expect to encounter 293 mammalian species, 806 species of bird, 2,500 species of butterflies, and a whopping 7,372 species of flowering plants. Fifteen long and powerful rivers house 697 species of fish. Make no mistake, the Peruvian Amazon is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring aspects of Peru.
The fact is this: Peru is a welcoming, colorful, historical, and naturally beautiful country that is begging to be seen. A favorable exchange rate makes it an affordable destination for almost any traveler. We could put another couple thousand words into highlighting the many wonderful sights, sounds and experiences that travelers will have available to them in this must-see country. Its cuisine is world-renowned, its natural landscapes among some of the most breathtaking, and its people incredibly warm and welcoming.
Is Peru worth the hype? If your definition includes both excitement and satisfaction, it most certainly is.
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