Places to visit in Peru beyond Machu Picchu! Explore deserts, lakes, jungles, and Lima. All offer incredible and unique experiences.
Places To Visit In Peru Beyond Machu Picchu
Peru has so much going for it – incredible food (ceviche to die for!), landscapes that range from the jungle to the desert, high-altitude mountains to the sea, biodiversity of the Amazon, and history that hides lost civilizations.
In 1911, a history university teacher from Yale climbed to the top of a mountain ridge in Peru. He found one of those lost civilizations; Machu Picchu. Undiscovered for 300 years, it’s now the country’s most visited attraction.
The irony is that so much of Peru now goes undiscovered, under the shadow of the fame of Machu Picchu. So this article is dedicated to everything else there is to see, taste, and do!
These are the best places to visit in Peru, beyond Machu Picchu.
Lima – For City Life
Lima is the capital of Peru, and while there are a couple of different airports across the country, you’ll most likely land here before venturing off further.
Commonly used as a stopover for reaching Machu Picchu, Lima is worth a visit in its own right. It’s full of pre-Columbian history and colonial architecture. It has also become South America’s foodie capital, bursting with flavors of Peruvian cuisine.
The best time to visit is anytime between December and April when it’s warm and you can take full advantage of the coast. There’s so much to do outdoors in Lima. Despite being a sprawling metropolis, you’ll find plenty of parks, plazas, and squares where you can people-watch, take in the architecture, and pick up some ceviche. The Cat Park of Lima is a must-visit if you’re a cat lover.
Lima can be chaotic at first glance and traffic can be pretty crazy. But, if you go in with an open mind and a willingness to give it a chance you’ll be surprised by how diverse, energetic, and fun the city is. We recommend staying in Miraflores, which is a safe, trendy, coastal part of the city.
Paracas – For Coastal Desert
Paracas is just south of Lima on the Pacific Coast. It is known for its nature – here you’ll have access to desert dunes and a beautiful coastline. When it comes to food, it’s known for pisco sour and wine tours.
Lima to Paracas takes around 4 hours by bus and can be as cheap as $20. This is a destination to unwind and is a favorite local holiday for those living in Lima.
Islas Ballestas is a big draw, and you can take a cheap boat tour around the islands to see the sea lions, birds, and penguins, making it known as Peru’s version of the Galapagos Islands.
There’s also Paracas Nature Reserve, where the desert meets the sea, and the beaches have vibrant red sand. Huacachina is a great day trip if you’re after a desert experience. It has huge sand dunes where you can sandboard, take buggy tours, or soar over them on a tandem paraglide. Another day trip option is a Nazca Lines flight.
Lake Titicaca – For Culture
If you’re after a water experience that isn’t on the coast, Lake Titicaca is on the border of Peru and Bolivia, accessible from the city of Puno.
This is the highest navigable lake in the world. And while the sightseeing is spectacular enough, island hopping on the lake is an experience not to be missed if you enjoy both nature and culture.
There are plenty of communities that have sprung up across the lake and its islands. While many of the islands are uninhabited and have great opportunities to explore ruins, history, and wildlife, the Peruvian side is famous for the floating islands of the Uros people. They are a community that live on islands made of reeds, with their homes and totora reed boats.
Puerto Maldonado – For Wildlife
Peru is a fantastic base for accessing the Amazon. If you have chosen to include Machu Picchu in your itinerary, it’s very easy to get from Cusco (where we ate Cuy) to Puerto Maldonado (8 hr bus ride).
The Amazon is obviously one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, with plant and animal species in the tens of thousands. You can visit the Amazon from 9 different countries, but visiting from Peru is one of the least touristy (Brazil being the most famous).
Here you’re on the border of Bolivia and Brazil, and while you can do short one-day tours, we recommend spending at least 3 – 4 days. If you have the time, base yourself at an ecolodge. After all, this isn’t a zoo where you’re guaranteed sightings. Though with that said, there is so much wildlife here that it’s pretty much a given you’ll see unique monkeys, eagles, and if you’re extremely lucky, maybe even an elusive jaguar!
Final Thoughts On Places To Visit In Peru Beyond Machu Picchu
As you can see, there is a lot more to Peru than just Machu Picchu. So make sure to add one, or all, of these other places to your Peruvian itinerary.
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