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Unlocking Peru’s Hidden Treasures: Beyond Machu Picchu to Coastal Charms, Highland Adventures, and Jungle Wonders

Are you considering visiting Peru? That’s a wonderful idea!

If you want to make the most of your stay, you should know that Peru has many other options, often overlooked because of Machu Picchu. However, the impressive amount of options can overwhelm beginner travelers.

In this article, we shared some of the best options for travelers. From the most famous places to some hidden gems, here is a summary of what you can find in each region.

What you should know before traveling to Peru: The Regions

Peru is home to beautiful landscapes and a rich culture. However, all travelers should know that their experience will be very different depending on the places they visit.

Peru is divided into three regions: Costa (Coast), Sierra (Highlands), and Selva (jungle). Although this division does not perfectly reflect the complexity of Peru’s geography and culture, it provides a framework for understanding the diverse experiences travelers can have.

Each region has different landscapes, weather, and culture, and a unique experience to offer. For this reason, we divided the articles into three parts, with unique plans and travel destinations in each region.

The Coast

This region has a long coastline along the Pacific Ocean. It offers stunning beaches, vibrant coastal cities, and delicious seafood. The  Coast has places like Lima, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Nazca, etc.

Beach paradises and surfing adventures

The Coast is the place to go if you love the beach and are visiting during the Summer (from December to March).

Mancora, Punta Sal, and Punta Hermosa are some of the country’s most famous beaches. However, you can also visit some less-known gems, such as Caleta San José in Camaná.

If you want something different, ride a caballito de totora (‘little reed horse’) on the beautiful beach of Huanchaco in Trujillo: wooden reed vessels used by fishermen in Peru for the past 3000 years.

Museums and historical places

Numerous cultures lived on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, leaving hundreds of historical places. From ruins to archeological parks and museums, history lovers will enjoy the vestiges of ancient civilizations. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Lambayeque, the famous Nazca lines, and the citadel of Chan Chan in Trujillo, the largest mud city in the Americas!

Big city life in Lima

The Coast encompasses many of Peru’s biggest cities. Lima, the capital, may appear overpopulated and noisy, but it has many options for tourists.

Lima has many attractions to offer, from exploring historical places and cathedrals to visiting the beaches. Barranco—Lima’s Bohemian District is another wonderful option with colorful street art and eccentric cafés. Miraflores Boardwalk offers incredible views and a relaxing walk. Finally, adventure junkies will love paragliding over the Pacific Ocean!

Seafood

Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the best in the world and has been awarded the best culinary destination by the World Travel Awards 2023.

Although magnificent food can be found in every region, the Coast is the home of ceviche, Peru’s national dish. This dish, which consists of raw fish marinated in lime juice and hot peppers, delights both locals and tourists. 

You will find the best cevicherías in the world all over the Coast. These places often offer more than just ceviche: Try parihuela, fried calamari, or jalea de mariscos.

Explore the desert

Peru’s desert landscapes offer a compelling experience for adventure-seekers. Uncover the mysteries behind the world-famous Nazca lines, enjoy the beautiful oasis of Lake Huacachina, or visit Paracas and get a tour in dune buggies: ride a motorized vehicle in the middle of the desert.

The Highlands

When we think about Peru, the Highlands often come to mind. With a rich culture and impressive landscapes, the highlands are where the Inca Empire rose in the 13th century.

The Highlands is your place if you love cold climates, Andean traditions, and mesmerizing mountains. They include cities like Huaraz, Huancayo, Cusco, and Puno.

Trekking Adventures

The mesmerizing mountains in the Peruvian highlands are perfect for trekking and climbing. If you visit northern Peru, visit Huaraz and the beautiful Wilcacocha Lake. You will find the Huaytapallana in the central highlands, an impressive peak at 5,557 m above sea level. Finally, the Colca Canyon is a great option with beautiful views of southern Peru.

Archeological sites

Beyond Machu Picchu, the highlands have many historical places to visit but are often overlooked.

Chavin de Huantar, an ancient religious and cultural center in Ancash, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered the “cradle of Andean civilization.” Choquequirao, often called “Machu Picchu’s little sister,” was a major agricultural center. In the north, you will also find Kuelap, a fascinating fortress complex built by the Chachapoyas culture, a preincan civilization.

The Jungle

The jungle is an otherworldly experience for travelers. You will find a completely new and different experience in the Amazon rainforest. This is the place to be if you are looking for nature and wildlife. The jungle has cities like Tarapoto, Iquitos, Pucallpa, and Madre de Dios. Your experience in Peru is not complete without the jungle!

Spotting wildlife

Wildlife lovers will enjoy Tambopata Nature Reserve’s extreme natural diversity, where you can spot jaguars, sloths, giant anteaters, and many other species. However, it is not the only place. Consider visiting the Marasha Natural Reserve in Puerto Alegría, the Tapiche Jungle Reserve in Iquitos, or the Circuito Ecoturístico Alto Shilcayo in Tarapoto.

Amazon river cruise

Embarking on a boat journey along the mighty Amazon River is one of the best plans in the Peruvian jungle. If you are visiting Iquitos, don’t miss the opportunity! But if you are not, don’t worry, most cities in this region have fascinating rivers and lakes that you can visit.

Visit local communities

The Amazon rainforest is home to numerous indigenous cultures that still preserve their culture and heritage. These communities open their doors to share their stories and customs. You can get this unique experience in their ethnic communities in Bellavista Nanay, Iquitos. Remember to approach it with respect.

Other places

Some magical places in Peru don’t belong to an exact region. Instead, they combine the best of two or even all areas in one to offer a unique experience.

Arequipa

Famously known as the “white city” in southern Peru, Arequipa strategically links the Coast and the Highlands. It has beautiful architecture and history, with buildings constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone. You will find some fascinating monasteries and cathedrals in the city. Moreover, Arequipa is framed by three volcanos, including the majestic Misti.

Huánuco

The surrounding Huánuco region encompasses a wide range of ecological zones, with the Huánuco city itself residing within the Highlands and fringes of the Amazon rainforest in the East of the city.

Final Thoughts

Peru’s culture, history, landscapes, and wildlife are rich. Each region is like a world on its own, offering travelers a completely different experience.

If you want to experience the magic and uniqueness of each region, it is best to stay longer in Peru. However, if your trip is relatively short, plan your stay to suit your needs better and do the things you enjoy more. Remember, you can always come back to Peru!

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