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Top must-see Peru destinations ranked by Peru for Less Travel Experts

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Everyone knows that Peru has some of the “world’s most spectacular destinations “:http://www.peruforless.com/blog/explore-peru-what-to-do-and-where-to-do-it/ and sites, and seeing them all would require weeks of vacation time and an unquenched thirst for adventure. From climbing mountain summits higher than 6000 meters, and navigating the depths of the Amazon Rainforest to witnessing the majestic remnants of once great and ancient civilizations, Peru is undeniably one of the most diverse and beautiful places on Earth.

As avid travelers with a passion for Peru, our team of travel experts at Peru for Less compiled a list and ranked their favorite must-see destinations of this magnificent country. Here is what we came up with!

1. “Cusco”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/cusco-tours/, the former capital of the Inca Empire


_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

Number one on our list is the ancient city of Cusco, the former capital of the vast Inca Empire. It is a city that has evolved over the centuries, but never completely transformed or lost its roots, which can be seen at every corner of its narrow cobblestone streets. Cusco is a testament that the Inca Empire wasn’t entirely defeated by the Spanish Conquest. With ancient ruins constructed in intricate stonework design alongside Catholic churches and holy sanctuaries, the city walls whisper tales of a clash of civilizations that somehow molded into one.

2. “Islands of Lake Titicaca”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/lake-titicaca-tours/, the birthplace of the Inca


_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

The Islands of Lake Titicaca hold the #2 spot for top must-see destinations in Peru, mainly for the deep rooted cultures and traditions that still have such a powerful influence in the lives of the local people today. Add in the beautiful vistas of the lake’s tranquility, and the experience is one of timelessness and an almost uncanny displacement from modernity. From the floating islands of Uros, to the textile weavers of the island of Taquile, it is as if the lake and its island inhabitants have been protected from the influences of globalization, living the same way they have for centuries before.

3. “Machu Picchu”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/machu-picchu-tours/ , the lost city of the Inca

machu picchu
_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

Of course Machu Picchu made our list! What is a Peru experience without a visit to the hidden city of the Inca nestled in the deep ridges of the Andes Mountains. The stone walls of the citadel have remained intact for more than 500 years, surviving weathering and devastating earthquakes. No one really knows for what purposes Machu Picchu was originally constructed, but archaeologists suspect that it was a summer retreat for Inca elite or quite possibly an agricultural research center.

4. “Sacred Valley”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/sacred-valley-tours/ , the cradle of the Inca Heartland

sacred valley
_(Photo: Peru For Less)_

The #4 must-see destination in Peru is the Sacred Valley of the Inca, where small pueblos are sprinkled along the Urubamba River and mountain sides. Some of the highlights are the endless hiking trails that wind past ancient ruins of Inca temples, as well as local Quechua-speaking communities and their authentic handicrafts. Sitting a little lower in altitude than Cusco at 2,700 meters, the Sacred Valley is a good place to adjust to the altitude, while being surrounded by majestic mountains and scenery.

5. “Colca Canyon”:http://www.peruforless.com/blog/the-best-place-to-see-condors-in-peru/ , the home of the endangered Andean Condor

condor
_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

Situated outside of Arequipa, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world and the best known place to catch a glimpse of the endangered Andean Condor. To witness this winged giant soaring over the cliffs of the Colca Canyon is truly breathtaking. There are also several hiking trails with opportunities to witness the grandeur of the landscape and visit ancient pre-Inca ruins of the Wari civilization.

6. “Iquitos and the Amazon River”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/amazon-rainforest-tours/ , into the depths of the jungle

market
_(Photo: Helidixon/Flickr)_

Iquitos is ranked #6 on our list, with its bustling markets of exotic foods and remedies straight from the dense jungle surrounding the Amazon River. Monkeys and parrots are common visitors to the city and the wilderness alike. Top attractions that draw the adventure-seeking visitors are the Island of Monkeys (Isla de los Monos), the untouched wildlife of Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, and the strange Mercado Belen where everything from shaman remedies to turtle meat are for sale.

7. “Puerto Maldonado and the Tambopata River”:http://www.peruforless.com/blog/iquitos-or-puerto-maldonado-ryans-exploration-of-the-peruvian-amazon/ , the gateway to rainforest riches

travlers
_(Photo: Daniela and Trudie/ Peru For Less Travelers)_

The southern part of the Amazon Basin also made our top ten list with the untamed natural beauty of Puerto Maldonado and the Tambopata River. Bordering Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, this region is one of the most rapidly growing areas in Latin America due to its richness in resources and strategic location of the InterOceanic Highway, which was completed in 2013. The national reserve of Tambopata is also home to the largest clay lick in the world, used by tens of thousands of exotic bird species to gain necessary nutrients for their survival. With so much development, this area of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of exploitation and destruction. A visit to the Tambopata region is an opportunity to learn about the delicate ecosystem while admiring its raw charm, and even stay at an eco-friendly lodge that gives back to the local communities.

8. “Arequipa”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/arequipa-and-colca-canyon-tours/, the city of Peruvian writers and intellectuals

walker
_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

The “White City” takes the #8 spot from our travel experts. The gorgeous city of Arequipa, with many of its colonial buildings constructed by white volcanic sillar, has a character unmatched by any Peruvian city. It is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and picturesque volcanoes, one of which, El Misti, is still active. Arequipa is also the home of 2010 Nobel Prize of Literature and active public figure Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa. To walk the streets of this charming city is to truly witness the influence of Spanish colonialism in Latin America and understand how it has added another facet to Peruvian culture. The details are everywhere in Arequipa – the strata of the Cathedral from layer upon layer of architectural influence, the flavorful spiciness of authentic Arequipeñan dishes like rocoto relleno, and the sleeping volcanic giants that cast looming shadows on the vibrant city.

9. “Lima”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/lima-tours/ , the oldest colonial city in the Americas

colonial
_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

The former capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty makes the top ten list as ranked by our travel experts at Peru for Less. Lima is not only the capital of present-day Peru, but it is also the economic hub and largest city in the country. It is an international city that celebrates the culture and history of Peru and its people. Lima is home to some of the world’s best restaurants and chefs, such as famed Gaston Acurio, as well as some of the freshest and most savory seafood and ceviche dishes in Latin America. Never will you find a dull moment in this pulsing capital.

10. “Paracas Wildlife Reserve”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/nazca-lines-and-paracas-tours/ , protected island ecosystems isolated off mainland Peru

Paracas
_(Photo: twak/Flickr)_

Travel experts at Peru for Less rank Paracas Wildlife Reserve and the Ballesta Islands in the top ten must-see destinations in Peru, with its pristine waters and playful wildlife. Located just a few hours south of Lima, a visit to Paracas is a sweet escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital. It is also an ideal stop en route to other popular destinations in Peru, such as Ica, Huacachina, Nazca and Arequipa.

Tell us about your favorite Peru destination! Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

_Kathleen McAfee is a writer and editor for Peru for Less. She fell in love with Peru’s culture, the people, the food, and the way of life and now calls Lima her “home away from home”. Interested in a trip to Peru? Contact_ “www.peruforless.com”:http://www.peruforless.com/: _the Peru tour experts._

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