More than a country, Peru is a continent. Impossible to cover everything in one life. If you are going to this great country for the first time, I would recommend starting in the south, where icons such as Machu Picchu and Cuzco await you .
If you go to Peru for the first time, there is a place that you have to visit no matter what: Machu Picchu ; he alone would justify the trip. And also, it never disappoints. The most famous of the Inca citadels remained forgotten and buried by the undergrowth for 400 years until in 1911 the American historian Hiram Bimgham located it by chance with the help of several locals while looking for another site, the lost city of Vilcabamba. Today the most accepted idea is that Machu Picchu was a ceremonial center.
Nine centuries of history written on Cyclopean stones have lived Cuzcoin these Andean heights. First as the capital of the Inca empire, which gave it its name in Quechua: Qo’sco. It was a settlement of great importance for the Spanish conquerors, although they did not establish their capital here, but in Lima. Today Cuzco is the tourist capital of Peru and also the maximum emblem of its mestizo culture. The Spanish used the gigantic stones with impossible angles carved by the Incas as foundations to build temples and colonial palaces on them.
Cuzco is so high (3,400 meters) that it does not allow the development of certain crops. That is why the Incas established their production areas along the Urubamba River , a long valley nestled between lofty mountains to the north of the capital, but at an elevation 600 meters below it.
Cuzco and Puno are the two great capitals of the Peruvian highlands. And although there is a continuous bus service between the two, the most original way to travel from one to the other is on board the Andean Explorer , the most luxurious tourist train in Peru , operated by the same company that runs the one that goes to Machu Picchu .
Rafting in the Urubamba
In Peru there are several rivers where you can do commercial rafting, but very adrenaline. The most recommendable and affordable -because of its location- is the Urubamba , which crosses the entire Cuzco region. A perfect excuse to tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas in a very original way. The experience is offered by many of the active tourism companies that look out over the arcades of the historic center of Cuzco.
The Inca Trail
A cobbled path linked the sacred city of Machu Picchu with Cuzco . A route between mountains that the Incas hastened to destroy so that the Spanish will not use it. Today it is known as the Inca Trail, the most famous hiking route in South America. A slower way to reach the ruins than the train, but much more authentic. It has a total of 82 kilometers and it takes four days to complete the entire path from Cuzco (there are also organized two-day treks).
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and a sea in the middle of the Andes. It is 177 kilometers long, spread between Peru and Bolivia . So big is it that before there were roads, the Peruvian Navy had two iron ships, the Yavarí and the Yapura, that patrolled the lake. They were built in England in 1862 and shipped piece by piece to the coast of Peru.
In Arequipa , the white city full of churches, convents, palaces and colonial houses, the main tourist attraction is… red! This is the citadel-monastery of Santa Catalina , founded in 1580 as a retreat for daughters of the best Creole families, who by tradition had to take the habit. More than a typical monastery, Santa Catalina grew as a small autonomous town with whitewashed streets and houses of various sizes in which each one of the nuns resided.
An abyss opens in southern Peru , at the foot of the great Ampato volcano. It is the Colca canyon , the second deepest in the world. A 1,500-meter-deep pit at the bottom of which the Colca River slides . The snow-capped peaks of volcanoes over 6,000 meters above sea level stand out against a clear, transparent sky through which it is easy to see condors fly.
In a country with so many deserts (even high altitude) it is logical that there are also oases. One of the most famous in the south of the country is the Huacachina lagoon , five kilometers from the city of Ica , in the middle of the coastal desert.
The Peruvian capital seems to live sheathed in a perpetual gray and flat sky. Between that ashy climate and its huge suburbs of humble houses that rise up the desert hills, many travelers avoid it in their programs. However, LimaIt has many places of interest. To begin with, the downtown area, including the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de San Martín and the surroundings of the beautiful church of San Francisco, which form a pleasant colonial ensemble.
Choquequirao, the other Machu Picchu
Everyone wants to go to Machu Picchu , and rightly so. But be ready to share the most famous citadel with thousands of tourists. However, there is another similar Inca construction and almost as spectacular to which no one goes. It is called Choquequirao , it is 169 kilometers from Cuzco and is the hidden treasure of southern Peru.