Peru is a country of geographic and cultural diversity, natural beauty, and historic sites. It offers bustling cities as well as beaches, mountains, rainforests, and reminders of ancient civilizations, including the most iconic - Machu Picchu.
Peru has three distinct geographic regions: The coast features beaches, deserts and river valleys. The highlands consist of the Andes Mountains with peaks as high as 22,200 ft and the world's highest navigable lake, Titicaca, at over 12,700 ft above sea level.
As Peru’s main gateway, Lima is a metropolis with a vibrant nightlife, a rich cultural scene, colonial buildings in its old quarter (a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site) and ancient ruins like huacas (temples) and the Pachacamac shrine, a major pilgrimage center for the Incas.
Peruvian cuisine includes a variety of local fare from the different regions, all of which are available in Lima. Among the specialties are escabeche (cold fried fish or chicken marinated in vinegar and served with onions) and parihuela (fish and shellfish broth). Most night spots in Lima can be found in the Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco districts. In other cities, they are typically located downtown. Besides discos, pubs and nightclubs, nightlife can be found in peñas (restaurants that offer live music shows). Ask any bartender to make you a Pisco Sour. The foamy sour drink infused with bitters is one of the most favored by connoisseurs from all over the world.
The Incas established their capital in Cuzco in the 12th century. They were the only ancient culture in the world to define constellations of both dark and light. Some of the main streets in Cuzco are designed to align with the stars at certain points of the year. At Machu Picchu, each sun temple and ritual stone lines up perfectly with the sun for their assigned solstice.
Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel, is now an important archaeological site with temples, squares and royal tombs. It was built in the 15thcentury and believed to be a religious site for Inca leaders. This olden civilization was said to be washed out by the Spanish invaders in the 16th century. The majestic fortress spans to a spectacular 5-mile distance. Machu Picchu is a famous man-made wonder, which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year just to see the marvelous sunset, quite a breathtaking backdrop to the magnificent ancient stone monuments.
Machu Picchu is accessed via the Inca Trail from the city of Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was the capital of the Incan Empire, with its own collection of archeological remains. Visitors also can ride Orient-Express’ Hiram-Bingham, train, which offers guided day trips to Machu Picchu from Cusco.
Situated between Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is one of South America’s largest lakes and it’s the highest lake in the world that boats can navigate. Sixty million years ago, a massive earthquake hit the Andes Mountains. It split the range in two creating a hollow in the middle, which was then filled with water from melting glaciers, forming Lake Titicaca. It is said to be the birthplace of the Incas. They believe it to be the birthplace of the sun and its people and essentially where the world began hence it is called the “cradle of the world”.
A tour around Titicaca is an absolutely memorable experience for anyone. The Bolivian side of the lake features the fascinating town of Challapampa, home to the famous labyrinth (Chinkana). While you’re there, don’t miss the biggest island of the lake, Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun).
Situated in the Peruvian coastal plain about 250 miles south of Lima Peru is a collection of enormous geoglyphs called the Nazca lines. The designs are etched into the desert sands covering an area of nearly 1,000 sq. kilometers. The giant geoglyphs were created by ancient Nazca culture in South America, presenting different plants, animals and shapes. The Nazca Lines is over 2,000 years old and the best way to appreciate this UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 is going up into the air because of its gigantic size. Researchers, for over 80 years, have studied the Nazca lines but despite the long years of research they still find this vast ancient site to be a mystery.
Whether you are looking to hike the Inca Trail or arrive at Machu Picchu in style by train, there are many comprehensive tours of fascinating Peru! Eight days is enough but 10 or 11 is even better!
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