When people think of Peru, what comes to mind most readily is probably Machu Picchu, pisco sours, and the song El Condor Pasa by Simon and Garfunkel (no, it isn’t an original). 

What they may not realise, however, is that these three headliners are simply part of Peru’s wider story. They each represent three crucial elements from which the country is built – nature, culture and food – but the reality of this country and its wealth of incredible sights, sounds, and tastes is rather broader. 

From the Rio Grande to the Magellan Strait, Latin America boasts an absurd diversity of peoples, cultures, languages, landscapes, foods, animals, and adventures. But none perhaps showcase that diversity in one country quite like Peru (although every country in Latin America would argue it’s them!). The heights of the Andes, the thick Amazon jungle, sweeping deserts, and thousands of miles of rugged, beautiful coastline – even the potatoes are diverse, with over 4,000 varieties!  

Because of this diversity, Peru is the perfect place to introduce you to Latin America and a wonderful country to return to time after time. Here are just some of the highlights you can explore on a tailor-made adventure through the Kingdom of Viracocha…

LIMA

Lima currently hosts two of the best restaurants in the world: Central and Maido. Both offer gourmet tours through the country with exquisite tasting menus paired with the finest wines.

Central’s offering Territorio en Desnivel sees courses arranged and arriving in descending order of altitude where one would find the ingredients in Peru. From pork belly in the Andean forests to squid and seaweed combinations from beneath the waves, this undulating selection is an absolute must. 

You don’t have to love fine dining to enjoy excellent food in Peru. Lima boasts incredible street food, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving fresh-caught ceviche and sprawling markets full of fruits in every color of the rainbow – great for delicious and refreshing smoothies.

For the brave, a delicacy from the highlands is cuy,a guinea pig spit cooked in an earthenware oven – just be prepared that it might be served to you whole, with the teeth still in! If you had one as a pet, you might want to go for alpaca…

Lima, or more specifically Callao, is probably best known for having the great honour of being the birthplace of Nolberto Nobby Solano, perhaps the finest midfielder to wear the black and white of the great Newcastle United. 

CUSCO 

With its imposing colonial architecture intermingled with original Inca temples and sites, the capital of the Inca Empire is not to be missed.

As a cultural centre in a country of countless cultural gems, the history of Cusco is written in its buildings. Pre-colonial techniques of fitting together large stones are observed at the base of buildings. Upon these foundations are then built traditional colonial wood and brick structures, literally showing and representing the legacy of the Spanish Empire upon indigenous roots.

MACHU PICCHU AND THE SACRED VALLEY

Latin America claims three of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, but perhaps none are as recognisable (sorry, Rio!) as Machu Picchu.

This 15th-century Inca citadel memorialised by Pablo Neruda, Che Guevara, and countless selfie-takers was built initially as a royal palace. It now serves not just as an emblem of Peru but “as an expression of the most powerful indigenous civilisation in the Americas”. This is a place that cannot be done justice by reading about it or seeing a picture, but only by witnessing its majesty with your own eyes. 

Often in the shadow of Machu Pichu is the Sacred Valley, through which one travels to get to the coveted sight. The journey is itself a must for anybody seeking sweeping mountainous vistas, rushing white water rivers to vanquish, architectural and agricultural wonders, and a true insight into the lives of Andean people beyond taking a photo with an alpaca in central Cusco.

While a more authentic experience of Andean Peru can be found in the Sacred Valley, that’s not to say you can’t do it in style. Alongside beautiful casita-style luxury hotels on the banks of the Urubamba River runs a train line bearing the Hiram Bingham Train, which shuttles travellers through the valley from Cusco to Aguas Calientes in true style. Accompanied by gourmet food, local entertainment, and breathtaking views, your trip through the heartland of pre-colonial Peru couldn’t be more exciting. 

PARACAS AND NAZCA

The rugged, brutish Pacific coastline south of Lima is a cornucopia of riches (sounds like a pretentious word choice, but the ‘cornucopia’ is so important in Peru for its symbolism of prosperity and abundance that it features on the country’s coat of arms!).

Huacachina

A fantastic place for adventurers and relaxation-seekers alike, the craggy cliffs give way to beautiful beaches running up against furious seas, ideal for surfers. Sand dunes slope away from the coast and into endless desert, providing the perfect playground for sand boarders and dune buggies. And the mythically therapeutic waters of the Huacachina oasis, nestled between mountains of sand, is a gentle respite, the perfect spot for a cold glass of Peruvian beer before the next adventure begins. 

Staying in Paracas, at a fantastic hotel staring out over the roiling sea in one direction and the rolling desert in the other, means you can pack many unique adventures in a short amount of time. The relatively short three-hour drive from Lima means you can base yourself here and still make it to the airport in plenty of time. In one day, you could be spotting penguins and boobies on the Ballestas Islands, soaring above the otherworldly and seemingly miraculous Nazca Lines and bidding a fond farewell to South.

THE PERUVIAN AMAZON

The Amazon Rainforest. The 55-million-year-old lungs of the earth are so vast that even Peru’s huge chunk of it represents only about 13% of the total swathe.

And yet the Peruvian Amazon is hugely diverse, and when it comes to luxury travel can be split into two crucial areas. The northern Amazon is explored out of the remote city of Iquitos, from which you can take sublimely luxurious cruises right into the depths of the jungle, and the south around jungle lodges accessible only by tiny boats.

The dense tropical rainforest surrounds you. The night is black, and the world’s noise is drowned out by the calls and howls of all the creatures that call this natural wonderland their home. There is no experience on earth quite like being in the heart of the jungle. Whether you are paddling through the trees, the floodplains bringing the canopy almost within touching distance, or sitting in the hot tub of a luxury cruise – cocktail in hand and the sun setting behind the emerald expanse – you are sure to have an unforgettable experience. 

 

HIDDEN GEMS

Peru is a vast, welcoming country that deserves multiple visits. If you don’t get a chance to see everything in the country, the likelihood is that you’ve seen something amazing. These hidden gems will keep you coming back time and again.

1. PALCOYO MOUNTAIN

The alternative Rainbow Mountain. You’ll have seen a thousand pictures of Rainbow Mountain tucked away in the high Andes not far out from Cusco, but with many travellers clamouring to grab their own photo of this iconic site, it can become a little crowded. Why not travel to its sister, a lesser-known but equally spectacular mountain that can spirit you away from the crowds?

2. THE NORTHERN TRAIL OF ANCIENT PERU

Journey back in time, long before the Inca Empire gripped the land, and you will find the ancient cultures that laid the foundations, began to build the roads and developed the terrace farming methods so associated with the culture. Discover the largest adobe city in the Americas at Chan Chan, the heartland of Chimu culture, and the ancient Valley of the Pyramids, unlike anything else in the country. On a guided tour from Trujillo to Cajamarca and Chachapoyas, you will discover a secret history often lost in the great discourse of the Inca civilisation.

3. THE NORTHERN BEACHES

Between the rolling scrubland of the Andes and the froth of the Pacific Ocean lies one of the country’s most luxuriant secrets. Peru is not necessarily known for its beaches always overshadowed by the heavy hitters of Brazil, Mexico, and the Caribbean, but after an adventurous trip, these strips of pure sand lapped by blue sea make for the perfect finale. Unforgettable sunsets and the perfect pisco sour are just two reasons to end any Andean adventure with a little R&R.

BUEN VIAJE 

There’s a popular myth that there is no word for goodbye in Quechua, supposedly because all the phrases imply “until we see each other again”. It may not be strictly accurate, but as your plane climbs out of the garúa and away from Peru, you’ll certainly not want to say goodbye, and you’ll certainly plan to see one another again.

Get in touch with an expert to start planning your bespoke Peruvian adventure.