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Since Hiram Bingham, the American explorer, described Machu Picchu as a “wonderland”, the fabled Inca city has become perhaps the single image that says ‘Peru’. But it’s not even half the story. Peru has more ancient archaeological sites than any other country in South America, with more being discovered all the time. There is much more to Peru than old stones, however. Peru has life zones from mangroves to cloudforest, mist-fuelled oases in the desert to glacial lakes. Jungle covers 60% of the country, and while less than 6% of its population lives there, the forest provides a home for the greatest diversity of plants and wildlife on the planet. The variety that Peru offers the visitor is enormous.
At the end of the Inca Trail is Inti Punku, the Gate of the Sun. Through it you not only see Machu Picchu for the first time, but you are transported back through history to the cultures from which the Inca civilization developed. Machu Picchu’s near neighbour, Cusco, is the gateway to natural history. Its festivals are a microcosm of 3000 others across the country.Read more
Look south beyond Cusco to the islands in the sparkling waters of Lake Titicaca, where communities preserve traditions untouched by modernity. In the magnificent city of Arequipa, watched over by volcanoes, the high walls of the Santa Catalina convent conceal a perfectly preserved miniature colonial town which was, until recently, closed to the outside world. Nearby are the Colca and Cotahuasi canyons, remarkable chasms twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, where you can trek along pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces that are still in use, and look for mighty condors rising on the thermals.
Cusco also gives access to the jungle reserves of Manu and Tambopata, where the tally of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plants has yet to be fully catalogued. Without doubt, Peru is the best place on earth for seeing jungle wildlife. In northern Peru, just as in Cusco, the sporting possibilities are endless: hiking to ruined cities, whitewater rafting or biking down the mountains.
Often forgotten, northern Peru hides archaeological sites to match the south – in terms of the physical location and their size and intricacy of architecture. Chachapoyas, the “Land of the Cloud people” is one of Peru’s least frequented and under-rated areas – the ruins of Kuelap are simply staggering
Places of interest in Peru
Cusco stands at the head of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is the jumping-off point for the Inca Trail and famous...
The startlingly limpid waters of Lake Titicaca straddle Bolivia and Peru only a few hours from La Paz. With the...
The well-established cliché is to call Lima a city of contradictions, but it’s difficult to get beyond that...
There is a tremendous feeling of awe on first witnessing this incredible sight. The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu,...