Peru (officially the Republic of Peru) is undoubtedly a special destination known for its inspiring wonder, ancient culture, rich history (and Pisco sours!). The country is known as the “Land of the Incas” because it was once home to the expansive Inca Empire before being conquered and colonized by Spain in the 16th century.
As a result of its fascinating historic roots, Peru today is packed with archaeological remains and colonial architecture. Add in the country’s phenomenal natural beauty, and the product is an outstanding travel destination with something for everyone to enjoy! Read on to learn more about the top cities to visit in Peru, and check out of some our Say Hueque signature experiences through this South American gem.
1. Machu Picchu
When people envision Peru, Machu Picchu is most likely what initially comes to mind. As the most popular tourist attraction in the country – and one of the most recognizable archaeological wonders on earth – Machu Picchu is located 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) above sea level, nestled in the Andes Mountains. What is most intriguing for many visitors is this magnificent Inca site provokes more mysteries than facts. It is widely believed that Machu Picchu was first built around the middle of the 15th century to serve for military purposes before being used as an estate for Incan royalty. Today, visitors can explore Machu Picchu and see many of the preserved structures such as houses, temples, fountains and baths.
Not far from the famous ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas is the city of Cusco. Frequently used as a base to access Machu Picchu, Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Located in southeastern Peru, Cusco remains one of the country’s most significant tourist destinations. A city steeped in history, Cusco features many detailed buildings dating back to Inca and Spanish colonial times. The heart of the city is the main square, Plaza de Armas, which is known for its variety of restaurants, cafes, and churches. Just beyond the city limits is an important Inca site known as Sacsayhuaman, an enormous walled complex made of large limestone boulders.
Another one of Peru’s most popular destinations, Arequipa is surrounded by three iconic volcanoes in the country’s Southern Coastal region. Arequipa embodies a gorgeous mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. Examples of well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the city center. Among the most visited is the Santa Catalina Convent, which is often described as a city within a city because of its charming streets and colorful buildings. Arequipa also serves as the gateway to Peru’s most visited natural attraction, the Colca Canyon.
4. Sacred Valley
Formerly the heartland of the Inca Empire, the Sacred Valley of the Incas lies amongst the Andes, close to Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its unique geographical and climatic qualities. People visiting the region can expect to find numerous archaeological remains and villages, including the Inca cities of Písac and Ollantaytambo.
Lima happens to be Peru’s largest city and also serves as the country’s capital. Lima is a bustling metropolis constituting an architectural blend of pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern infrastructure. The city was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and is renowned for its exceptional food, vibrant culture, and effervescent nightlife. Lima’s historic district features many interesting attractions with old churches, monasteries, Spanish palaces, and one of the oldest universities in the Americas. Visitors also enjoy Lima’s proximity to beaches to the north and south ends of the city.
Iquitos is a special in the sense that it is the largest city in the world completely inaccessible by roads, meaning planes and boats are the primary ways to enter the city. Despite that fun fact, Iquitos is still amongst the most popular tourist destinations in Peru. Located along the banks of the Amazon River in northeastern Peru, Iquitos is also a popular home base for people looking to explore the Amazon. Visitors also enjoy attractions and activities such as stopping by the butterfly farms, animal orphanages, and protected nature reserves.