Peru is the most visited country in South America and with good reason. Not only is Peru the heart of the brilliant Inca civilisation, it is also home to one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in South America. Have you ever wondered about the inspiration behind the logo of Paramount Pictures? That is the peak of Mount Artesonraju, one of the many stunning peaks in the Huascaran National Park. Yet Peru is not just all history and nature. Peruvian food is famous all over the world, from the fresh ceviche to the aromatic beef stews. It is no wonder that Peru attracts tourists from all over the world, ready to see, hear, feel and taste what it has to offer.
Everyone who goes to Peru visits the Inca capital of Cusco. Cusco is also the base for the once-in-a-lifetime journey to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. If you want to see all of the major Inca sites around Cusco, you will need at least two or three weeks. Even for the hurried tourist, five days is just too tight a timeline to see everything that Cusco and the surroundings have to offer.
However, Peru is not just about the Incas. Did you know that there were many major civilisations that lived in Peru, long before the Incas? Make a trip to Chachapoyas and visit the ancient Chachapoya city of Kuelap. The Chachapoya people have lived for more than 700 years in that region before the Incas conquered them. Or head to the coastal cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo. There, you can find the vast ancient cities of the Huari, Moche and the Chavin civilisations. The burial sites are grandiose, and so are the museum collections of the beautiful jewellery made by those people. No doubt the Inca civilisation is the most famous in Peru, but the other civilisations are definitely worth a visit too.
Of course, if you prefer nature over history, Peru is also one of the best places to see it in South America. Even after witnessing the beauty of Patagonia in Argentina and in Chile, I must say that hiking in Peru was far more memorable. If you enjoy snow-capped mountains and alpine forests, be sure to visit the Huascaran National Park. There are many multi-day trails you can do, and every one of them is worth your time. If you are a big fan of deserts, head to Ica and visit the oasis of Huacachina. The deserts are so vast and wild, it is hard to imagine that you are in Peru and not somewhere in the Sahara. Alternatively, fans of jungle and rainforests can head into the Amazon. Take a multi-day boat trip to the city of Iquitos, which is one of the few cities in the world not connected by road. Peru’s nature is amazing, and is something I would definitely go back again for.
As for those who love colonial architecture, be sure to visit the city of Arequipa. Also known as the white city, the buildings in the city centre of Arequipa are mostly white with maroon roofs. The cathedral and buildings around the main plaza are built with an elegant marble-white volcanic rock. The buildings are so beautiful that many people would gather around sunset just to watch the sun set over these amazing structures. I have visited so many colonial cities in Latin America, but Arequipa continues to hold a special place in my heart.
No unforgettable trip can be complete without great food. Food in South America is generally unremarkable, but Peruvian food is simply too delicious to ignore. As a result of the immigrant influences from China and Japan, Peruvian food has developed its own fusion taste. Ceviche, or marinated raw fish, is one of the best dishes I have tasted in all of Latin America. Different cities make ceviche of different fish or of other seafood such as shrimps. As such, the taste of ceviche is unique in each city, even for each restaurant. Also, when in Peru, you cannot miss the wok dishes of the ubiquitous Chifas in every city. There is a huge Chinese population in Peru and many of them have opened Chinese food restaurants in Peru. However, expect your food to have a unique Peruvian twist! There is so much food in Peru to die for, you can even visit the country just for the food.
Peru is an amazing country, and is definitely the country I recommend the most for South America. Touring Peru tickles all of your senses and what more can you ask for? Even if you do not like certain activities, there are many others that you can do in Peru. Some countries simply cannot justify the huge number of tourists, but Peru surely can. Even if I had to take another forty-hour flight just to visit Peru, I would do it in a heartbeat.
This is a map of all the places I have been in Peru. Check out the various places that I have been to!