- Map of the most beautiful places in Peru !
- 1. The whole Peruvian civilization at the Larco Museum
- 2. Nazca lines and Palpa
- 3. The incredible city of Cusco
- 4. Machu Picchu obviously !
- 5. The Vinicunca rainbow mountain around Cusco
- 6. Whale watching in the north
- 7. Americas’ oldest pyramids in Caral
- 8. The famous Titicaca lake and its surprising islands
- 9. Arequipa and its beautiful architecture
- 10. Toro Muerto petroglyphs
- 11. See condors and much more at Colca Canyon
- 12. To marvel at the Museo del Senor de Sipan
- 13. Discover the richness of Chan Chan
- 14. The numerous pyramids of Tucume
- 15. Paracas and Ica desert
Because Peru is a huge and fascinating country, because there are REALLY things to see everywhere, and because I’m starting to know it pretty well, I’m offering you a list of 15 places you absolutely must discover.
So of course, since these places are so scattered around the country, it will be difficult to see everything in one trip, so unfortunately you will have to come back. What a pity 😀
Obviously this list is totally subjective, dozens of other sites deserve to appear. And also I put here only the places I visited. So no Chachapoyas, Choquequirao, for example. But this list will grow when I can really tell you about these new places.
Here we go, let’s find out what it is about !
Map of the most beautiful places in Peru !
In this map, I put all the places listed below.
We can see that it is quite spread over the whole territory, hence the need to go there several times to really enjoy all the regions!
1. The whole Peruvian civilization at the Larco Museum
Why am I putting this museum at the top of my list? Because it will allow you to understand a lot of things about Peru, all the pre-Columbian and pre-Inca civilizations.
Before heading away from Lima and exploring Peru, learning more about the Moche, Nazca, Huari and many other civilizations will allow you to connect many pieces of the Peruvian cultural puzzle. So I think you have to visit this museum first, that should be your first place to see in Peru.
In this museum, you will already find two timelines with the different civilizations and the achievements of each. Yeah, that’s useful.
But also thousands of ceramics specific to each civilization, treasures discovered in each archaeological site, precise explanations (which is not a luxury in Peru). It’s really exciting! Afterwards you will be unbeatable 🙂
You can discover more about Lima in my article (in French translated soon!)
2. Nazca lines and Palpa
Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our time. What do these geoglyphs represent, what are they for, who won this giant drawing contest?
The Nazca and Palpa geoglyphs are fascinating. There’s a man waving on a hill, a spider, a monkey, a hummingbird and hundreds more. And all this can be discovered from above, with a plane ride that will amaze you.
Recently, they notably found a cat, hidden under the dust and which was discovered thanks to the help of the wind. Something new is found from time to time.
And what makes it even more exciting is that the Nazca civilization was not the first to do this. The Palpa, next door, did it several hundred years earlier, with “the sun family” in particular.
Discover the Nazca Lines, come and work your imagination to find out where they come from and what their purpose was. And no, there is no UFO landing strip!
3. The incredible city of Cusco
Probably the most beautiful city in Peru. Cusco is more than a leap into the past. In Inca history, in colonial history. It’s a beautiful and exciting city, with things to see everywhere!
The architecture is superb, the small stone streets on the hillside are too beautiful and have a crazy charm, and above all at every street corner we are in the history of the Inca Empire, we have vestiges absolutely everywhere, whether through the many museums but especially through archaeological sites like Saqsayhuaman. And again, here I am only talking about the city itself. Because the surroundings are fantastic!
Cusco is in the mountains, and the Incas had built their empire around it so we will obviously find temples like Machu Picchu, Choquequirao or Pisac, but wonders of nature like the colored mountains, the sacred valley, some fantastic treks.
Discover Cusco and its area in this article ! (translated soon)
4. Machu Picchu obviously !
How not to talk about Machu Picchu when talking about Peru and the essential places?
So yes, it’s ultra famous, it’s touristy, it’s so classic. But it is really an exceptional place, which needs to be discovered by taking your time and especially by arriving early and leaving late to enjoy without the tourist groups. And there it is a real happiness!
In addition to the architectural prowess, because they had to have fun building this complex at the top of the mountain, the surroundings of Machu Picchu is exceptional. The views are fantastic, really, in the mountains, head in the clouds.
You can combine this with one of the two hikes overlooking it, but watch out for the calves, it hurts!
To come to Machu Picchu, the easiest way is to come by train from Cusco. But it can also be done on foot via treks!
5. The Vinicunca rainbow mountain around Cusco
The rainbow mountain of Vinicunca is one of the wonders around Cusco. A very atypical mountain in a magnificent place, it is one of the essentials. Touristy yes, but rightly so! Because it is truly unique. A set of red mountains, and a mountain that lives up to its name of rainbow with lots of layers of colors.
Located at an altitude of 5000m, this mountain is easy to access but requires a certain amount of acclimatization time. The good thing is that getting there does not require a big effort except for the last steps which climb well! But you will be really rewarded, the view is magnificent, and by pushing a little you have a stunning 360° view!
6. Whale watching in the north
Did you know ? winter in Peru is a great season to see whales. And even better, the Peruvian north coast is a perfect place to meet them, like Mancora or Punta Sal. From July to October, it is therefore the reproduction period for humpback whales that you can come and admire (well, not in full action eh, they remain modest).
For having seen whales in several places in the world, the Peruvian north coast is really an excellent place. The whales are numerous, relaxed because the activity is not huge, and you can also see dolphins, turtles or rays. It’s really here that I was able to enjoy them the most, and see them jump a bit far away!
7. Americas’ oldest pyramids in Caral
And yes, there are pyramids in Peru! In general, we mainly think of the Aztec and Mayan pyramids, but those of Caral, in Peru, are much older! They are from the same period as the pyramids of Egypt, namely 5000 years ago, just that.
This surprising site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is made up of several pyramids in relatively good condition, and in a very nice place. The valley of the pyramids of Caral is between beautiful mountains, we understand why the first civilization of the American continent settled there!
Caral is located 3 big hours north of Lima. It can be visited more or less easily because it takes time, but it is really worth it!
8. The famous Titicaca lake and its surprising islands
Another classic yet essential from southern Peru!
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Perched at an altitude of 3800m, this magnificent expanse of water is best known for its populations who live there on small reed islands, the totora. These are the Uros and Titinos islands, communities that tamed the lake several hundred years ago to escape Inca domination, and who still live there ever since. Now they are developing tourism to show their way of life.
But there are other communities like on Taquile Island, the kings of weaving, on an isolated and super peaceful island. As well as pre-Inca remains around the lake!
9. Arequipa and its beautiful architecture
Before knowing Arequipa, I thought that Cusco was obviously the most beautiful city in Peru. But now… we can debate ! Arequipa, the white city, is magnificent. A very beautiful city center, a superb and (surprisingly in Peru) soothing plaza de armas, with its cathedral and all the arches that surround it.
But Arequipa is also incredible because the city is surrounded by volcanoes including the Misti, and canyons. It’s a fantastic region to discover, a rather arid region, where it’s a real pleasure to drive and take the roads in the middle of nowhere (and in addition people drive well, I might as well tell you that it’s surprising).
10. Toro Muerto petroglyphs
One of the places that really impressed me the most in Peru. It is simply the largest rock art site in the world. Imagine, over hectares and hectares, thousands of rocks on which very old representations are engraved or painted.
These drawings representing life at the time, the domestication of llamas, fishing scenes… we see a lot of fauna, birds like condors. But above all, it tells us about their way of life, the difficulties they encountered in particular in terms of drought, which they tried to fight with the dances of the rain.
Not easy to get to, 3 hours from Arequipa, it’s a truly exceptional place.
11. See condors and much more at Colca Canyon
A classic, but an exceptional place.
The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, truly magnificent, where you will be amazed all along the way. There are also many hiking possibilities, not easy because of a very big elevation gain.
But we especially know the canyon for its condors which fly every morning! And that is a truly magnificent sight. So between these condors, the landscapes and also the trip from Arequipa which is superb via the salinas, it’s really a must.
12. To marvel at the Museo del Senor de Sipan
Let’s head north again with one of the best museums in Peru. The museum of the royal tombs of the Senor of Sipan, in Lambayeque, contains the remains of the most important discovery from the Moche civilization: the tomb of the Senor of Sipan. If this discovery were considered at its fair value, then it would be as famous as the tomb of Tutankhamun. Just that.
First of all because the Moche are a very important ancient civilization from northern Peru, which provided a lot of archaeological sites such as adobe pyramids, but did a very heavy gold work. The graves of the most important people were therefore filled with gold, objects, relics.
This museum is an excellent preamble to the discovery of the northern Peru civilizations , extremely rich but yet little known, before attacking the amazing archaeological sites.
13. Discover the richness of Chan Chan
A côté de Trujillo, dans le nord du pays, se trouve l’ancienne cité de Chan Chan. Imaginez une ville qui s’étend sur plusieurs dizaines de km, entre Trujillo et Chiclayo. Chan Chan était la plus grande cité du continent américain précolombien. Et les principaux vestiges sont cette partie de Chan Chan, accessible au public, avec ses fresques magnifiques et son histoire passionnante.
Le site de Chan Chan, bien qu’inscrit à l’Unesco, est pourtant menacé car totalement laissé à l’abandon. En le montrant, le partageant, on participe à augmenter sa visibilité et sa notoriété afin de peut-être lui redonner le prestige qu’il mérite.
14. The numerous pyramids of Tucume
Exciting and surprising! That’s what you’re going to feel when you arrive in Tucume (well actually you’re going to let out an “oh fuck!”) .
Imagine a site with 26 pyramids (and still, the excavations are not finished), in good condition (excellent for some), pyramids which all have different shapes because they are made of adobe, which is a friable material and therefore the pyramids have altered by heavy rains.
Tucume is a vestige of the Sican civilization (which is also called Lambayeque), a civilization halfway between the Moche and the Chimu, which left an enormous mark in the region.
This huge site can be visited on foot, very freely, there are in addition to the pyramids frescoes with engravings representing in particular fishing scenes, marine life. The museum is nice, is done rather quickly.
Funny thing, the adventurer and researcher Thor Eyerdahl (known especially here for Kon Tiki, see his great museum in Oslo, and whom the locals call Doc Thor) fell in love with this place and launched other excavations and initiated the museum.
15. Paracas and Ica desert
3 hours from Lima, there is a little paradise, a nature reserve where you can notably discover superb marine fauna such as sea wolves, penguins and superb birds. This is the Paracas, a truly peaceful place, but which is also the origin of an important civilization of the same name. In particular, we can discover a huge geoglyph: the candlestick, whose meaning is still unknown.
Straddling the sea and the desert, the Paracas are also a superb gateway to the Ica desert, a place out of time, where you will find the surprising oasis of Huacachina, a canyon or skeletons of sharks, whales or crocodiles. In the middle of the desert, yes!
Here it is ! And these 15 sites are only a tiny part of the wealth of Peru, whether it is cultural heritage or fantastic landscapes. Each region has a lot to offer, many archaeological sites and crazy landscapes.
So really, take the time, enjoy, discover!
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