Top Things to Do in Peru
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail
This "Lost City of the Incas" is the main reason why people come to Peru. The Machu Picchu ruins were built around the 1450s, only to be abandoned a hundred years later. Spanish conquistadors never found it, and for centuries it stayed hidden. But in 1911, it was rediscovered by an American historian. If you're adventurous, and in good shape, the four-day Inca Trail is the classic route to Machu Picchu.
Twice as deep as Arizona's Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is typically a side trip from Arequipa, which is a three-hour drive away. Adventure enthusiasts head for the Canyon's Colca River for white-water rafting, while those less inclined toward danger hike along the canyon for gorgeous vistas. The highlight is the Cruz del Condor, a mirador where lucky visitors might spot the Andean condor in flight.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, this archaeological site was home to the second largest pre-Columbian society in South America: the Chimú. The estimated 30,000 Chimú residents built the mud city between 850 and 1470. You can roam the ruins—which contain 10 walled citadels that house burial chambers, ceremonial rooms, and temples—on a day trip from the charming northern city of Trujillo.
At 3,812 meters (12,500 feet), Puno's Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. More than 25 rivers empty into it, and according to Inca legend, it was the birthplace of the Sun God who founded the Inca dynasty. On Isla Taquile and other islands here, Quechua-speaking people preserve the traditions of their ancestors.
Baños del Inca
Six kilometers (3.7 mi) from the northern city of Cajamarca, Baños del Inca (Inca Baths) hot springs were once used by Atahualpa, the last sovereign Inca emperor. Supposedly, the emperor was relaxing in one of the mineral-rich baths when Spanish conquistadors arrived in Cajamarca. While visitors can only view the older pools that have been preserved intact, they can bathe in the newer pools built specifically for tourists.
It's thought that between 900 BC and AD 600, the Nazca and Paracas cultures constructed the Nazca Lines: geometric figures drawn into the Pampa Colorado (Red Plain) near Nazca, a city south of Lima. Three hundred geoglyphs and 800 straight lines make up these mysterious figures. No one knows why these massive drawings—which include representations of a lizard, monkey, condor, and spider—were created. The only way to get a good view is to take a flight-seeing tour.
Machu Picchu isn't the only must-see Inca ruin to visit from Cusco. Used as a fortress during Pizarro's conquest, the military site of Sacsayhuamán is made of huge stone blocks; the largest is 8.5 meters (28 feet) high and weighs more than 300 tons (600,000 pounds). It's believed that some 20,000 men worked on the site.
Part of the Andes, Cordillera Blanca (White Range) has more than 50 peaks that reach 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) or higher and stretches 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) wide and 180 km (112 miles) long. Mountain climbers and hikers of all skill levels can enjoy this majestic range, which is part of the Huascarán National Park.
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- $177 -- Peru: Lima 4-Star Hotel w/Breakfast, 35% Off Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center
- $1849 & up -- Machu Picchu: 8-Nt. Trek w/Inca Trail Hiking LatinEscapes.com
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- Journeys of Discovery (16-Day) — $9,995 IExplore