Matt Munro

North Coast

This staggering shore has some of the world's best surfing and plenty of tanned travelers to keep you company. It's also home to a jaw-dropping array of archaeological sites, colonial cities and evocative desertscapes straight out of Mad Max. In this land of rock and desert sand, you'll also find a few verdant valleys, while Peru's only mangrove forests cling for their lives up north.

There's a lot of hyperbole to be had – one of the world's longest left breaks challenges surfers in Puerto Chicama, South America's oldest civilization vexes archaeological explorers at Caral, and the massive pre-Columbian adobe complex at Chan Chan was once the largest city in the Americas.

The backpacker hubs of Máncora and Huanchaco kick into full party mode from November to March, while those seeking tranquility can go lo-fi and seek out unique adventures in fishing villages such as Zorritos and Cabo Blanco.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout North Coast.