Think of Peru and most visitors will immediately conjure up a picture of the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. While these dramatic ruins are undoubtedly the main draw for Peru it would be wrong to write off the rest of this fascinating and incredibly diverse country. With over 1000 miles of coastline and scenery that ranges from jungle to snowy peaks with everything inbetween, Peru has so much offer those who choose to explore its riches.
This week we feature five of Peru’s ‘other’ attractions. I can speak about the first three from my own experience; the last two are still on my wish list.
Arequipa is certainly one of Peru’s most attractive cities. Colonial buildings carved out of the local white stone are set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. The city is set at 2353m above sea level ensuring a pleasant cool even when much of the country bakes. It is an easy city to explore on foot, with the beautiful wood carvings in the cathedral and the Santa Catalina convent being the main attractions.
Day trips from Arequipa take visitors to the spectacular Colca Canyon, where as well as seeing traditional mountain village life, the valley provides perhaps the best place in the country to see the majestic condors. Be prepared for a very early start to do this as a day trip.
2. Nazca Lines
Are they religious worships or space highways? Arguments continue about the purpose and function of these strange shapes carved into the desert floor. Impossible to make out at ground level, an overflight in one of the small planes from the nearby airstrip is the only way to appreciate this mystical patterns. The pilots will make sure everyone gets a good sighting of each shape, even if that requires near aerobatic manoeuvers that will test the srongest of stomachs!
3. Lake Titicaca
The highest navigavable lake in the world, I can’t think of a more peaceful and pleasant setting on earth than the middle of Lake Titicaca. Clear, silent and above all else, blue; bluer than you’ve ever seen. Skip the floating supermarkets of the Uros Islands and head for an overnight stay on the magical Taquile Island, where little has changed for many generations. No roads, no electricity and no police force, and the residents speak only the indigenous Quechua language.
An attractive colonial city, Peru’s second largest, Trujillo gets a fraction of the visitors that come to Peru. Most head south from Lima, leaving this part of the country very much untouched by the effects of tourism. As well as being a place worthy of a couple of days exploration, Trujillo is a good base for visiting the nearby pre-Inca sites such as the Moche pyramids.
5. Amazon jungle
The Amazon isn’t all about Brazil. Around half of the country of Peru lies in the Amazon basin and Peru contains around 15% of the total Amazonian jungle. It’s a region that is teeming with the most diverse wildlife on the planet. Visitors can stay in comfortable eco-lodges and travel on foot or by boat into the heart of the Amazon. Those who choose to visit the northern part of Peru’s Amazon, around the city of Iquitos, can enjoy several days on one of the river’s famous cruise boats.
There are many other highlights of Peru that could be included in such a review. Perhaps it is enough to say that a trip to this corner of South America is guaranteed to have more than one major highlight.
by Andy Jarosz