Imagine scenery on the epic scale of an Indiana Jones or Lara Croft flick: forgotten temples entangled in jungle vines, cobwebbed ancient tombs baking in the desert sun and bejewelled buried treasures beyond all reckoning. Wild rivers that rage, pumas prowling in the night and hallucinogenic shaman rituals – it’s not just a movie here, it’s real life.
Like a continent in miniature, Peru will astound you with its diversity. Not even fierce Inca warriors or Spanish conquistadors could totally dominate such jaw-dropping terrain, from glaciated Andean peaks where majestic condors soar, to almost limitless coastal deserts, to the steamy rainforests of the Amazon basin. Peru is home to snow-capped mountains, giant sand dunes, flocks of brightly hued tropical birds, postcard-perfect volcanoes and rocky Pacific outcroppings inhabited by argumentative sea lions that will send your camera into overdrive.
Peru offers such a wide range of experiences that it can be difficult to choose between them. Solemn pilgrimages honour gods both Christian and indigenous. Neon-lit discos get jam-packed with revelling youth. Ancient ruins divulge prehistoric secrets. There are museums to visit, lakes to ogle, waves to surf, labyrinthine cities to explore. And let's not forget the food – a bounty of sublime concoctions made from ingredients native and contemporary. You'll need weeks to savour the vast selection of delicacies: from rare strains of potato to guinea pig to succulent ocean mollusks.
Take it easy on the ‘Gringo Trail’ encircling the country’s top highlights, ending at the cloud-topping Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Or step off the beaten path and groove to Afro-Peruvian beats, chase perfect waves off a paradisiacal Pacific beach or ride a slow boat down the Amazon.
Wherever your journey takes you in Peru, you’ll be welcomed by big-hearted folks that tackle their often-unfortunate lot with gusto and a deep lust for life. Small wonder, then, that the land of the Incas is one of the continent’s top picks for adventurous travellers.
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Cuzco & the Sacred Valley
As the heart of the once mighty Inca empire, the magnetic city of Cuzco heads the list of many a traveler’s itinerary. Each year it draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to its cobbled streets, lured by the city’s unique combination of colonial and religious splendors built on the hefty stone foundations of the Incas.