Top 10 Sights in Inca Country
Historical ruins, the densest jungle, colonial architecture, world-famous festivals and breathtaking landscapes make Peru one of the most diverse countries in South America.
1- Machu Picchu
Undeniably #1 among the top highlights of Peru is, of course, Machu Picchu, one of the best-preserved ancient ruins in the world. Now a World Heritage Site, it was rediscovered only about a hundred years ago and is one of the “7 New Wonders of the World” chosen in a worldwide survey in 2007. The “Lost City of the Incas” is invisible from the Urubamba Valley that surrounds it, which is probably why it remained so undiscovered by the Spanish conquistadors at the summit, which is over 2,000 meters high, and thus preserved for modern times. The site on the “Old Peak” (translation of the name from the Quechua language), the surrounding terraces and the mystical panoramic view from Huayna Picchu, the neighboring peak, mean nothing less than a must-visit for every traveler to Peru.
2- Lake Titicaca
The largest lake in South America (as long as you consider the even larger Lago de Maracaibo in Venezuela to be connected to the sea rather than a lake) is simply stunning. Its surface is at about 3810 meters of altitude, which is why snow-capped peaks of the Andes surround it and offer a unique panorama. Highlights of the freshwater body of water include white sand beaches (but you don’t want to swim in them because of the icy cold water), the straw islands of the Uros (A culture that existed before the Incas) and beautiful views from its shores.
3- Huaraz and the Andes
The Cordillera Blanca is one of the most spectacular mountain sceneries to be found anywhere in the world. Here, the snowy six-thousand-meter peaks line up, at the feet of which the turquoise-green glacial lakes gather and offer fantastic views. Here not only the heart of the experienced mountaineer beats faster, but also that of the somewhat inexperienced hiker, because due to the location of this mountain range in tropical climes, one can exceed 5,000 meters of altitude here without encountering snow. The altitude sickness (in Spanish Soroche), which unfortunately does not spare many tourists, can be prevented by chewing coca leaves, which are consumed in this region of the world by no means illegally but in any case in large numbers. The starting point for the most beautiful hikes in Huaraz, located at about 3100 meters, where the temperature can quickly drop below freezing at night.
4- Iquitos and the Amazon River
Considered the largest city in the world not accessible by interstate highway, Iquitos is the Peruvian Amazon capital. Overnight stays in jungle lodges, wildlife watching, tropical temperatures and a diverse music and food culture make this patch of jungle, accessible only by boat or plane, the strongest competitor to the Brazilian, larger Amazon section. If you want to experience both parts, a boat trip with overnight hammock stays toward the Atlantic is recommended. Don’t forget tons of bug spray!
5- Arequipa and the Canyons
Arequipa, which still has a colonial feel, is the most beautiful city in the country next to Cusco. The main attraction within the city limits is clearly the Santa Catalina Monastery, which impresses with its colorful walls and its incredible magic and size.
Near Arequipa you can also see the deepest canyons of the country, which are almost twice as deep as the famous relative in the USA, the Grand Canyon. The main attractions in the beautiful valleys of the Cañon de Colca are the hot thermal springs, which offer absolute relaxation to the tourists who hike there. Those who make it to the edge of the canyon through a guided tour or hike are usually rewarded with magnificent views and often sightings of the resident condors.
6- Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
Probably the most beautiful square in all of Peru is the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco. The center of the former Inca Empire was built according to the shape of the puma; its heart was located exactly where the large square with its current, mighty cathedral can be found. If you come to Peru’s cultural capital, you should take a few days to visit not only Machu Picchu, the most famous ruin, but also other great Inca buildings such as Pisac or Sacsayhuamán (which many gringos like to call “Sexy Woman” because of its similar pronunciation). Here you can find a list of the most worth seeing ruins sites in Peru.
7- The Oasis Huacachina
Huacachina is a small oasis village near Ica, about four hours south of Peru’s capital Lima. In the past, it was mainly the rich Limeños who came here for a little wellness and recreation vacation, as the small lagoon promises healing powers due to its mineral content. Nowadays, however, the water is very much diminished and hardly suitable for bathing. Nevertheless, small hostels and hotels for all kinds of tourists have settled here, which, among other things, impress with refreshing pools. The constantly good weather and the surrounding sand dunes, up to 100 meters high, which allow sandboarding and buggy riding, make this small piece of desert a real adrenaline experience with fun guaranteed.
8- The Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are located near the city of Nazca, from which they got their name. They were created by the culture of the same name around 200 to 700 AD, but were rediscovered as huge images of various creatures only in the 1920s, when a flight connection between Lima and Arequipa was established for the first time. The huge drawings in the dry desert area show both human figures and a variety of animals, such as llamas, monkeys, beetles or fish.
9- Ayacucho during Semana Santa
If you have the opportunity to visit this small town in the mountains during Semana Santa, the holy week of Easter, you should not miss this spectacle. So largest of these festivities in all of South America, several processions in the typical Inca costume take place here every day, from 3 in the morning until 12 in the evening and longer. For those who prefer to go wild, there is also the opportunity to party hard and have fun at this time.
10- The neighborhoods of Lima
The city itself is actually quite dirty, noisy, polluted and dangerous, yet it has its negative as well as its positive sides. The center with its colonial buildings, the bleak and sad but at the same time impressive view of the colorful slums of the surrounding hills, the top culinary restaurants in the more upscale neighborhoods, the lively nightlife in the artist barrio Barranco or the shopping opportunities in the expensive district of Miraflores, which is also breathtakingly located with its high cliff.