Peru: Where Ancient Sites Meet Soaring Peaks
The Peruvian Incas, Llamas, and thick dark jungles are enough to conjure up a magical image of Peru. But there is so much more for you to discover in this fascinating and diverse country that’s blessed with culture, attractions, and activities to rival any other South American destination.
A trekker’s paradise, Peru offers distinct environmental regions that provide great trekking options with plenty of trails to choose from. One of the most popular treks is the descent into Canon del Colca near Arequipa. You may also go on multi-day treks into the Peruvian Amazon Basin or go on a high altitude trek into the Andes Mountains from Huaraz. Any visit here will not be complete without a tour of Peru’s share of the Amazon rainforest. Expect to encounter many bird species, jaguars, cougars and of course an abundance of marine life courtesy of the Amazon River.
Set within a mystical landscape of high mountains and forests, Machu Picchu is a beautiful lost city once inhabited by an ancient civilization that previously ruled the continent. The first important site you will see when you enter the ruins is the Temple of the Sun, a tower-like wall that displays the magnificent stonework of the Incas. Many of the stones used in the construction of Machu Picchu weigh more than 50 tons.
The visible areas of Machu Picchu account for less than half the construction achievements. It is believed that about 60% of the construction lays underground, providing drainage and foundation for the walls and buildings. The Huayna Picchu Mountain rises above Machu Picchu and offers an adventure opportunity for hikers brave enough to hike up the narrow trails up to its peak.
The Nazca Lines are among the most marvelous archaeological features on Peru’s southern coast. The Nazca Lines comprise hundreds of lines, shapes, and figures laid out across Peru’s Nazca Desert. The complex system of lines covers some 350 square miles of arid flats in the southern region of Peru.
About 800 lines make up 300 geometric figures known as geoglyphs, as well as roughly 70 animal and plant depictions known as biomorphs. The biomorphs range from monkeys, lizards, hummingbirds, and human figures, a killer whale and a condor. An excellent way to view the Nazca Lines is by taking a flight over the Nazca Desert which offers stunning aerial views of the geoglyphs.
Dubbed the “City of Kings,” the Peruvian capital of Lima offers enough things to do to warrant an extended stay. Your first stop in Lima should be the charming historic center. Stop by Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor, which rests at the heart of the historic center in Lima. This is the spot at which Lima was founded in 1535. You can admire the colonial fountain which is the centerpiece of the square, as well as some of the most important buildings in Lima which surround this historic plaza.
Plan your visit around noon to watch the changing of the palace guard at Palacio de Gobierno, which is the official home of the president of Peru. Other photo opportunities include Catedral de Lima, the palace of the Archbishop and City Hall, both of which are adorned with ornately carved wooden balconies. Another beautiful religious building worth visiting is the San Francisco Monastery whose interiors offer an oasis of calm in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle. Its rooms are a showcase of beautifully preserved Baroque architecture, gilded altars and religious artworks.
The Amazon Basin is an empire of water. You could literally spend a lifetime exploring the vast interior of the Amazon Basin, most of which is inaccessible – no human has yet laid eyes on it. In Peru, the Amazon Basin lies to the east of the Andes Mountains. A transition zone stretches from the eastern foothills of the Andean highlands into the vast reaches of the low jungle. This region of highland jungle and cloud forest is referred to as the “eyebrow of the jungle.”Many parks offer guided hikes to specific sections of the rainforest which will give you the opportunity of seeing many unique animals including giant river turtles, pink river dolphins, various monkey species, manatees and if you’re lucky, a jaguar. One good way of experiencing the Amazon Basin is by trekking through its jungle. Many Peruvian wildlife reserves and national parks enable visitors to get up close with the wildlife of the Amazon within their natural habitats. Cruising Rio Amazonas is another excellent way to experience the Amazon Basin.