Machu Picchu ruins

Places to visit in Peru besides Machu Picchu and Cusco

User Avatar Author: Johanna  Alvear Larenas
4 months ago - October 21, 2022

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Peru holds some of the world’s most sought-after travel destinations. Everyone is drawn to the mystery of its ruins, even those skeptical of mysticism. It’s common to opt for Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley for a full Inca tour, and Lima for its popular Miraflores, Barranco, and San Isidro neighborhoods.

However, there are many other destinations surrounding these tourist favorites that can accommodate different travel preferences and open your eyes to the lesser-known Peru. Read on to discover eight places to visit in Peru they didn’t tell you about.

 

Machu Picchu Citadel

Best Trips to Take From Cusco Besides Machu Picchu

In the coastal region of Peru, the immediate choice is usually Lima, the capital city and gateway to the rest of the country. Between the Historical Center, Bohemian District, museums, and Callao, visitors have their pick of outdoor activities and adventure sports; not to mention an array of handicrafts to purchase. Moreover, Lima is a world-renowned culinary destination. It’s also a meeting point from where you can go to Puno and Arequipa.

High above the Andes Mountain Range, Cusco is a good place to visit in Peru because it’s another spot to make connections to Puno and Arequipa. In fact, these three places together form what the locals refer to as The Southern Triangle. Other destinations of interest that are easy to reach in and around this zone are Tambopata, Ica, Colca Canyon, Nazca, Paracas, and Lake Titicaca.

Within the highlands of Peru, altitude sickness is quite common for folks coming from lower elevations, so, going down to Cusco from the Sacred Valley allows you to get used to the altitude and avoid the feared soroche.

A well-rounded tour would include Cusco, Puno, Arequipa, and the Colca Canyon. That way, you’d encompass the best of the Coast and the Highlands in a single trip. We recommend these other combinations of the best places to visit in Peru: Paracas, Nazca & Ica; Arequipa & Colca Canyon; Tambopata & Puerto Maldonado.

The Peruvian Coast

Around these parts of the world, travelers are accustomed to thinking of the coast as a green place of lush vegetation speckled with colorful beaches. Although you do get that experience in the Northern Beaches, most of Peru’s coast is desert, covering the country’s entire coastline, with diverse marine life populating the shores. This is the place for adventure travel.

Paracas

This town offers the beachside attractions water-based sports lovers seek. The iconic turquoise waters of the ocean here are perfect for kayaking and kitesurfing. If you prefer land sports, the desert is also full of excitement, with dune buggies to ride, and sandboarding, which is like snowboarding on sand!

For those whose ideal tour is spent in calm contemplation, there is birdwatching to be done, and, for an intimate alternative date night, you can even enjoy a picnic in the desert!

Other attractions that make this a good place to visit in Peru are the Paracas National Reserve, the uninhabited Ballestas Islands that are full of marine wildlife (and which you can reach by boat), the Traditional Pisco-producing Bodegas (vineyards), and The Candelabra mysterious geoglyphs, which can be observed by sailing.

Whether you’re looking for culture, history, or adventure, Paracas has you covered, and it’s only a bus ride away from Lima!

Geoglyph in Paracas, Peru

Geoglyph spotted during an excursion in Paracas, Peru.

Ica

If you’re fond of dunes, Ica can make you feel like you’re visiting Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. The Huacachina Lagoon is a beautiful oasis surrounded by sand dunes that make for exciting desert tours. Like Paracas, other outdoor activities here include birdwatching, stargazing, and enjoying romantic candle-lit dinners in the middle of the desert.

Ica enjoys better weather conditions in the morning, as this city is windy. Besides Huacachina, it’s known for its agricultural exports. This is another interesting place to visit in Peru.

Huacachina in Peru

Nazca

Machu Picchu and Cusco are not the only archeoastronomy sites in Peru. In fact, there are seven prominent ones, Nazca among them, known for the Colibrí (hummingbird) mysterious geoglyphs. The famous Nazca lines can be seen from the air, which allows for the full-scale vision of the designs. If you enjoy alien conspiracy theories and are fascinated by crop circles, you won’t want to miss this. One thing though, beware of motion sickness aboard the plane.

Nazca Lines, Peru

The Peruvian Highlands

This is the region of Peru that belongs to the Andes Mountain Range. The desert of the Coast gives way to several canyons, where available tours consist in equal parts of adventure and relaxation. It’s in the highlands where you’ll find the popular Machu Picchu and Cusco, but this is also the home of Puno —the district that harbors the quite popular Lake Titicaca—, the White City of Arequipa, and one of the world’s deepest canyons, Colca.

Arequipa

An archaeological destination of wonders, the White City (named after the white volcanic rock of which it is built) houses both Colca and a second deepest canyon, Cotahuasi. This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site thrives on the enduring traditions of native Inca communities that live their legacy every day.

Uncover some of the history of this key trade hub at temples such as Santa Catalina Monastery or explore nature and wildlife at Salinas & Aguada Blanca National Reserve and The Condor Cross. You can get here by plane from Lima or by land from Puno. Cusco offers both air and land transportation to Arequipa.

Vineyards in Arequipa, Peru

Colca Canyon

Four hours north of Arequipa, this canyon dots the Colca river with terraces typical of the constructions found in the pre-Hispanic era. Archaeological remains from the Collagua people such as petroglyphs can be explored in the valley caves. The landscape offers itself to a variety of mountain sports, such as cycling, climbing, and trekking, and water-based sports such as rafting.

This is the natural habitat of the Vicuña, whose fur is used to produce the famous textiles travelers from all over the world come to South America to purchase, to protect themselves from harsh winters in this artistic, ethnic style.

Puno

This is an interesting place to visit in Peru if you’re here for cultural enrichment. From Cusco, you can get to the Puno Province by car, van, or train. Our very own Altiplano Pass van takes you from Cusco to Puno, making stops along the way so you can observe the traditions. This way you get used to the altitude before reaching the City of Puno.

From the city, you can easily get to nearby Lake Titicaca, an isolated vacation spot whose atmosphere is quite magical, where you can do some kayaking. The town rests on one side of the lake and treats visitors to performances of festive native dance and music, sights of ancient funerary monuments, and sales of authentic handicrafts and native musical instruments.

For more details, we have a whole blog on Lake Titicaca and the City of Puno that you can read here.

Uros Floating Islands in Puno, Peru

The Peruvian Amazon

This is the place to visit in Peru if you’re intrigued by pristine primary rainforests. As you enter the Peruvian Jungle, you’ll be immersed in breathtaking natural reserves and remarkable indigenous communities native to this land.

While you explore the Amazon, you can stay at jungle lodges and observe rainforest fauna like sloths, land turtles, and macaws, who have their own spot at the Colorado Macaw Clay Lick! Some good places to visit here include the Canopy Walkway and Tower, and the Manu National Reserve. You can also go on excursions to Sandoval Lake and Oxbow Lake.

Keep in mind that Wi-FI is not readily available in the jungle. You can get here by plane from Lima or Cusco.

Puerto Maldonado

As the capital city of the Tambopata province, Puerto Maldonado is the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. The city is home to the Tambopata River and indigenous peoples, such as the Machiguenga. Once known for its mahogany wood production, the area has been purged of all but one mill, seeing this activity replaced almost entirely by vibrant eco-tourism that exposes visitors to locals building boats amid the jungle, visible from eco-lodges tucked away in the dense foliage. Both Cusco and Lima offer daily flights to Puerto Maldonado.

Tambopata

The Vilcabamba-Amboró Conservation Corridor in Southeastern Peru tends to fall victim to illegal gold mining, which requires the care for subtropical rainforest ecosystems to go from protection to preservation. Thus, a sanctuary was created inside the Tambopata National Reserve for animals like the Peruvian spider monkey, capybara, and tufted capuchin to roam freely amidst the plains and hills. A most interesting place to visit in Peru!

This rainforest is filled with streams, rivers, oxbow lakes, and swamps, making Tambopata equal parts secluded spot for peaceful camping and hiking land of wonders. You’ll be surrounded by palm trees housing singing macaws. We recommend wearing comfortable, breathable clothes and waterproof boots.

Tambopata National Reserve in Peru

Now that you have all the necessary information to choose Peru travel destinations besides Machu Picchu and Cusco, expand your knowledge with this comprehensive blog on all the travel aspects of visiting this country, and all the little details of touring its prestigious sites.

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