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Peru is a country known for its natural beauty, an abundance of historical sites, and a thriving food scene. Whether you're taking a culinary tour of Lima, hiking the Inca trail or exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu, there's something for just about every traveler.
While many first-time visitors to Peru focus on the citadel of Machu Picchu (which should be on everyone's bucket list), there are loads of destinations worth visiting. The historic city of Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with ancient architecture dating back to when it was the capital of the Incan Empire. About an hour north, there's the Maras Salt Flats, a collection of over 1,000 salt ponds that easily rival those in Bolivia. Further south, you'll find the floating Uros islands on Lake Titicaca, a collection of man-made islands where locals sell their wares.
The country is a beautiful collection of juxtapositions, from the peaks of the Andes Mountains to the lush Sacred Valley, there's beauty around every corner. So if you've never been to Peru—or are dreaming of your trip back—we've put together some travel inspiration to get you through until you're en route to this stunning South American country.
Lima, Peru's capital city, is a popular stopover for most travelers heading to the country. With a thriving food scene, beautiful scenery, and legendary surfing, the city offers a wide array of activities.
The city hugs the coastline, offering miles of undisturbed beach access. In the center of town, you'll find a collection of historic European-style buildings that contribute to the area's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the base of Machu Picchu lies the sleepy town of Aguas Calientes. While most of those in town are travelers staying the night before trekking to the citadel, it doesn't necessarily feel like a tourist town. There's a central market by the train station that offers plenty of great souvenirs, and in town, you'll find a number of excellent restaurants—many of which offer Peruvian specialties like cuy (guinea pig) or llama.
Now, what most travelers come to Peru for: the citadel at Machu Picchu. This stunning collection of Incan ruins offers a glimpse into the everyday life of Peruvians back in the 1400s—plus unbeatable views of the Andes Mountains.
Situated in the Andean Highlands, the Sacred Valley is another destination that draws in thousands of visitors each year. Its natural beauty and near total seclusion offers a relaxing retreat less than an hour from the bustling city of Cusco.
Along with Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley was at the heart of the Incan Empire. Filled with quaint colonial villages, this stretch of nearly 40 miles of rolling hills makes for a perfect day trip for those looking to escape the city.
Surrounded by rolling hills, Cusco is an historical goldmine dating back to the 1100s, when it was the capital of the Incan Empire. There are still traces of the lost civilization in a number of local historic sites.
The Iglesia De La Compañia De Jesús isn't the only architectural beauty in town. The city is home to over a dozen artfully designed cathedrals, some of which date back to the 1500s. And just an hour away from Cusco, visitors can explore the Maras Salt Flats. With over 1,000 ponds and stunning scenery all around, it's a great place for photography lovers.
The city center of Cusco was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its collection of ancient architecture. It's worth spending a few days just walking around the cobbled streets to take in the views.
Colorful textiles and hand-crafted trinkets are available at any local market and make for a perfect souvenir.
While thousands of tourists visit Cusco every year, the town still maintains a strong identity. Regularly touted as one of the best cities to visit in the world, this town lives up to its reputation with world-class dining, historic sites, and plenty of day trips to fill an entire vacation.
For a more leisurely trip through the south of the country, hop aboard the Belmond Andean Explorer. The luxury train takes travelers on a three-day, two-night journey (from Arequipa to Puno) before heading off to Cusco.
The trip takes travelers to some of the highest altitudes in the world and offers breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains. Guests will be treated to hand-crafted cocktails, delicious meals, and top-notch accommodations, all while soaking in the surrounding scenery.
About a twenty-minute boat ride from Puno, the Uros Islands are a popular destination for travelers heading to the area. If you plan on visiting, make sure to give your body enough time to adjust. At over 12,000 feet above sea level, visitors are susceptible to the effects of altitude sickness.
Mary, 16, sells goods made by her family on the stunning Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca.
This collection of over 120 man-made islands stretched out across Lake Titicaca offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the Uros people.