Machu Picchu, the UNESCO World Heritage site perched on a mountain and shrouded in a picturesque cloud of mist, receives thousands of visitors a day. But Peru has so much more to offer than these ruins of the Inca empire.
Flying over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are one of the great mysteries not only of Peru but of the world. The place became famous in 1939. This happened when Paul Kosok, a professor at Long Island University, observed lines forming a bird while he was on a mission in Peru, flying over the Nazca desert.
The 300 drawings and lines represent animals, geometric shapes and plants, and are now part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are hundreds of different theories that attempt to explain their meaning, origin and authorship. They are not small drawings on the walls, but huge figures hundreds of metres long drawn on the ground and visible only from the air. Some say they are extraterrestrial; others say they were sacred roads of the Incas and there are even those who say they served as a calendar. Either way, it’s a must-see that you’ll never forget on your trip to Peru.
Bellestas Islands, Paracas
From the small fishing village of Paracas, dozens of boats full of tourists leave every morning for small islands located half an hour off the coast. The Ballestas Islands are a wonderful jewel of marine biodiversity. It will be impossible to find a single place where you will not find hundreds of beautiful birds or impressive sea lions. Seagulls, pelicans, penguins or the famous gunay whose guano (their droppings) is collected by fishermen every 7 years, fill the whole surface of the island.
In addition to the incredible landscapes, you will find on the islands with cliffs, caves and thousands of animals, another surprise awaits you. On the way to the Ballestas Islands, you will stop in front of one of the Nazca figures overlooking the sea, “El Candelabro”, a huge drawing on one of the slopes of the peninsula that will leave you speechless.
The Colca Canyon, Chivay and Yanque
Everyone who visits the Colca Canyon usually sums it up with the same word: impressive. The Colca Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and is located right above a large earth fault. This fault, which has been eroded over thousands of years by the largest river on the Peruvian coast, is up to 3400 metres deep in some places. During the excursion to this unique place, you will find up to 12 small villages with a lot of charm, friendly alpacas and one of the main attractions of this place, a viewpoint from where you can witness the flight of the condor at close range.
Start your trek in the picturesque city of Arequipa, which is famous for its magnificent cathedrals and El Misti, the volcano that watches over the city. Plan a visit to spend the night in a village near the canyon, such as Chivay or Yanque, for a better experience of mountain life.
Around Lake Titicaca, Puno
What to do at 3800 meters of altitude? Surely activities such as skydiving, paragliding or hang-gliding; but not a boat trip, but on Lake Titicaca, you can do that!
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and a haven of peace and nature shared by Peru and Bolivia. There, in addition to getting to know the small islands of the lake, you will discover the different villages that surround it with their cobbled streets and high hills offering incredible views. Pre-Hispanic Peruvian architecture is mixed with colonial buildings and large churches. Due to the altitude of the place, it is common to suffer from the famous “altitude sickness”, so don’t forget to go prepared with some good coca candy and a good travel insurance to take in case of need.
Because Puno is not known for its beauty, it is advisable to spend as little time as possible there to better enjoy the lake, its floating and non-floating islands. Tribes such as the Amantani and Taquile live on some of the lake’s islands and it is possible for tourists to spend time with local families, just ask a guide to take you across the lake.
Lima, the capital
Lima suffers from its noisy and exhausting reputation, yet it is a city with much to offer. Settle into the Miraflores district and start to discover the city bit by bit along its promenade. Dozens of small parks take turns to give you the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Next, take a walk through Barranco and fill your camera’s memory card with hundreds of photos of its beautiful streets in this neighbourhood known as the artistic heart of the country. You’ll feel like a fish in water in Lima now, and it’s the perfect time to get closer to the historic centre. Walk around the Plaza de Armas from the cathedral to the government palace, then follow the street to the Santo Domingo convent, an architectural beauty that will surely make you fall in love with its Sevillian-style tiles.
Would you like to have some of the most incredible experiences in Peru with a guide who will accompany you and show you the best secrets of each destination? Our friends at Howlanders offer a multitude of unique experiences to enjoy in Peru. Seeing the sunrise at Machu Picchu, walking the Inca Trail, exploring the jungle of Iquitos for 4 days or taking a trip to the Colca Canyon are just a few examples. Are you ready? There is so much to see in Peru beyond Machu Picchu! Pack your bags, pick your dates, get good insurance and start discovering this exciting country that will make you fall in love with its history and gastronomy.