Across its parched coastal desert, jagged Andean peaks and the lush expanse of the Amazon rainforest, the regions of Peru have cultures and landscapes brimming with diversity. In Lima, urban life is among the most sophisticated on the continent. In the provinces and remote areas, communities still follow age-old traditions. Within this dazzling cultural mosaic, solemn pilgrimages honor gods both Christian and indigenous, neon clubs pulse with reveling youth, and ancient ruins lead us back to prehistory. And then, there is Peruvian cuisine – sublime creations that alter with the landscape, made with native ingredients and contemporary preparations. Welcome to Peru – it's a real blast to the senses.
Novoandina & Beyond
Setting the foodie world on fire, Lima’s signature pan-cultural cuisine introduces fresh, indigenous ingredients to sophisticated dishes. Join the half million attending prestigious food festival Mistura.
From Clubs to Catacombs
Founded in the 15th century, Lima boasts culture in spades, from colonial catacombs and museums to clubs and galleries and design boutiques in funky Barranco.
When the sun sets behind the Pacific and a million lights switch on, it's time to enjoy some Latin nightlife. Start with a pisco sour or a chilcano in a weathered bar or a velvet lounge. Later shake it ’til the wee hours to cumbia, house, techno, Latin rock or reggaeton.
Marked by Legacy
Two important pre-Inca civilizations stamped their presence here. Nazca etched famous geoglyphs into the desert south of Ica while Paracas buried intricate textiles in necropolises near Pisco.
There's excellent river running in Lunahuaná and sandboarding in desert oasis Huacachina and Cerro Blanco, one of the world’s tallest sand dune. Surfers can rent a 4WD to discover unchartered breaks.
Peru’s best grapes grow in its well-irrigated southern desert. Beyond the wine and pisco capital of Ica there are decent wineries in Lunahuaná, close to Lima, and Moquegua, south of Arequipa.
Arequipa & Canyon Country
Cañón del Colca
For many, trekking in Peru begins and ends on the Inca Trail. But if the crowds make you claustrophobic, come to the spectacular, isolated trails of Colca and Cotahuasi canyons.
The White City
Arequipa is touted as one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial cities in the Americas, crafted uniquely out of white volcanic sillar rock. Less heralded are the exquisitely preserved baroque churches in Colca Canyon villages.
Long before Gastón Acurio, Arequipa was fusing Quechua, Spanish and Chinese influences to concoct a unique hybrid cuisine best showcased in the city’s traditional restaurants.
Like a Virgin
With wild costumes and more than 300 traditional dances, Puno knows festivals. La Virgen de la Candelaria (celebrated February 2) honors the city's patron virgin with a thunderous street party that’s the event of the year.
Community tourism is the best way to understand life on this great blue expanse almost 4000m high. Islanders live in another dimension – from the surreal reed-made Uros to the rural rhythms of Isla Amantani.
Splurge on a visit to the nature preserve of Isla Suasi or spend a few days in rural homestays on the lakeshore to experience timeless Titicaca.
Cuzco & the Sacred Valley
Historic Sacred Valley
Overnight in Pisac or Ollantaytambo for full immersion in the Andean culture and landscape before the grand finale of Machu Picchu.
High Andean Escapades
Whiz from the high Andes to the jungle on a mountain bike, ascend sheer rock on the via ferrata (iron way) or trek the wild wilderness around Ausangate. Cuzco rivals Huaraz as Peru’s adventure center.
The Quechua World
Inca culture permeates the relics, but living indigenous cultures have just as much of an impact on modern-day Peru. Engage in community tourism, join the fervor of a festival or do the culturally fascinating Lares trek through remote Andean villages.
Forgotten cities such as Ayacucho and Huancavelica offer insight into Peru’s colonial past. While they lack preservation funds, they haven’t been spoiled by Western chain stores either: wander ancient streets and be transported in time.
Discover the Andes of the good old days: adventure through spectacular gorges on wheezing buses along abysmal roads to cities and ruins seldom seen by tourists.
Holy Week Revelry
Here they take revelry seriously – one valley has a festival every day. Don't miss South America’s best Semana Santa celebrations and the party towns of Río Mantaro.
Civilizations in the Sand
It’s not hard to channel your inner Indiana Jones along Peru’s north coast, where under nearly every grain of sand this sweeping dune desertscape reveals yet another largely intact antediluvian ruin.
There’s no better stretch of sand for a seafood crusade. Don't miss Peru’s iconic dish, ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus and chili, served with onions, corn and sweet potato), a major player in the country’s gastronomic renaissance.
Big Breaks, Soft Sands
Take on some of South America’s best breaks at Lobitos and Puerto Chicama before hitting the beaches of Vichayito and Punta Sal near Mancora for some serious relaxation.
Huaraz & the Cordilleras
Peru's Trekking Capital
The majestic peaks of the Blanca, Negra and Huayhuash cordilleras host the most iconic trails in South America. A nearly endless array of treks through diverse terrain with postcard-perfect scenery.
Beyond trekking, these stately mountains offer a bounty of open-air adventures that range from casual mountain biking, horseback riding and rock climbing to ice climbing and mountaineering endeavors.
Chavín de Huántar
The Unesco ruins at Chavín de Huántar are among Peru’s most important and fascinating prehistoric sites, so break up your outdoor lovefest to explore the wonders of this ancient culture.
Back to Nature
From the impressive 771m Gocta waterfall to birding opportunities galore and numerous new nature lodges, the Northern Highlands has some of Peru’s most impressive landscapes.
Second only to Machu Picchu in awe, the excellently preserved ruins of Kuélap, tucked away in misty-eyed cloud forest near Chachapoyas, is reason alone to venture into this neck of the woods.
Jungle-influenced recipes of Tarapoto and Chachapoyas offer original flavors, only just finding their way to renowned Lima restaurants. Wash it down with regional elixirs soaked in wild roots and vines.
Trekking amid foliage so thick you have to slice through it; navigating rivers in dug-out canoes like 17th-century explorers; soaring through the canopy on ziplines. It’s hard to not have an adventure.
It’s not just anacondas or giant creepy-crawlies, nor is it rose-colored river dolphins, the scarlet flash of cock of the rocks found only in Manu’s cloud forests, or jaguars – the search for these creatures makes for one wild adventure.
The Amazon’s two premier parties are among Peru’s best – conveniently occurring within a week of each other in June: San Juan (Iquitos) and Selvámanos (Oxapampa).