There are few places where nature, culture and history merge together as effortlessly as they do in the South American country of Peru. The past here was shaped by geography and lost cultures that can still be seen in Peru’s most famous landmarks, of which you will see on tour. Most travellers think of Machu Picchu when they think of Peru, but this warm and welcoming nation is overflowing with mysteries and wonders far beyond the famous Incan site. From the lush and biodiverse world of the Amazon to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, Peru has something for all types of traveller. When you journey to this magnificent country with Gate 1 Travel, our local Tour Managers bring them all to life for you. Peru has it all and it’s time to see it for yourself.
Historic Cities and Ancient Sites
If you think of Machu Picchu as the pinnacle of Peru, then consider Cuzco and Lima as the country’s historic foundations. No visit to Peru is complete without exploring these two cities. Cuzco began as the capital of the Inca Empire and has remained the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. This “Imperial City” is lively, rich in culture and contains much of the ancient Incan and Spanish traditions to this day. Explore this city’s many stunning sights and even shop for local handicrafts.
Perhaps the city’s most distinct of its Incan origins can be found at Koricancha, or the Temple of the Sun. In pre-colonial days, the floors and walls of this Inca place of worship were covered in gold but much of it was paid to the Spanish as a ransom to save the life of Inca leader Atahualpa. Continue to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman that is located on the northern outskirts of the city and took over 7 decades to complete. The three-tiered walls of this citadel were engineered with some of the biggest blocks ever found in Incan construction and were built so tightly, a mortar was not even needed.
Lima, on Peru’s Pacific coast, was founded by famed conquistador Francisco Pizarro as the capital of the Spanish Empire. Its European style makes it a delight to explore. The highlight of the city has to be the splendid Plaza Mayor. The square contains the Palace of the Archbishop with its fine carved balcony, the opulent Government Palace, the official residence of the President, and the 16th-century Cathedral of Lima whose first stone was laid by Pizarro, who is also laid to rest here. Lima is also known for its food scene. The city offers up foodie delights simmered in the technique and spices of all who have shaped the city. Be sure to test some of the local delicacies including ceviche, pollo a la brasa and perhaps a pisco sour cocktail.
To the south, the white-stone buildings of another colonial city shimmers in the Peruvian sun: Arequipa. The city, nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca, or the White City, contains architecture created from a white volcanic rock called sillar. Its lightly coloured buildings make for a magical site along with the three dramatic volcanoes that guard it. Visit the 16th-century structures in the Plaza de Armas, or city’s square, including a massive cathedral and the Santa Catalina Monastery. Also, browse the San Camilo Market and take in the sights of local produce, colourful textiles and delicious fruits.
Legacy of the Inca
Fascinating as Peru’s colonial cities are, nothing in the western hemisphere compares to the country’s ancient sites. One of its most mysterious lies in a desert far from the heights of Machu Picchu, just outside Nazca City. The Nazca Lines, only visible in full from the air, were drawn in the sand centuries ago. Geoglyphs, or large designs on the ground, of monkeys, fish, hummingbirds and lizards adorn the landscape, some of them as large as 660 feet across. The designs cover around 170 square miles total and depict both natural creatures and ones from the imagination. These figures on the high plateau of the Nazca Desert have puzzled scholars for generations as well as enticed visitors.
Just outside Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, also known as the Urubamba region, holds even more of Peru’s mystery. This fertile stretch of land, fed by the Urubamba River, has hosted farmland and ancient ruins for centuries. Explore Ollantaytambo, perhaps the best-preserved fortress in the entire country. Here, you get a truly authentic glimpse of an Incan settlement, thanks to its original layout, terraces, temples and houses. Visit nearby Chinchero that contains a popular market that overflows with locals and travellers eager to find local goods and produce, such as textiles made from alpaca wool and Peruvian souvenirs.
High in the mountains above the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu straddles a mountain and is only accessible by foot or by train. Upon arrival, view more than 100 acres of meticulously built buildings, terraces, and stairways, all wonderfully preserved. Each building was constructed with an inward inclination, a method intended to help cities withstand earthquakes. This technique is very impressive considering the site was built around the 1450s. Explore the ancient citadel and view the imposing Temple of the Sun, House of the Priest and the Sacred Plaza. View the intricately carved rock that was likely used as a sundial by the ancient people. Be sure to take lots of pictures on this day of exploring Machu Picchu.
Natural Beauty in its Purest Form
Cultural, historic, and architectural wonders aside, Peru’s natural world is one of the most impressive on earth. The Amazon and its namesake river flow through so much of the continent that they play host to the greatest variety of plants and animals anywhere on earth. It’s a privilege to explore this magnificent place, and a thrill to experience it all from a forest lodge that we can only access by boat. Enjoy visits to riverside villages, sightings of pink dolphins, and thrilling walks on rainforest trails.
To the south, Lake Titicaca serves as a natural border between Peru and Bolivia. In the shadow of the Andes, this unique body of water is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet. Some members of this ancient Uru tribe still live on floating islands on the lake. The islands are sturdy platforms that have been woven together from the tortora reeds that grow in the lake. Entire communities exist on these islands, which were originally constructed so that tribes could escape from invaders simply by floating away.
From the highest heights to the lowest depths, another body of water, the Colca River, has carved one of the world’s deepest canyons into the Peruvian plain. At 13,650 feet, the Colca Canyon is more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Keep an eye out for the Andean condor while here. These rare birds ride the thermal air that rises up from the canyon floor, and they are a breathtaking sight.
See Peru with Gate 1 Travel!
No one knows Peru as well as we do. Our expert Tour Managers hail from the very country they’re introducing you to. Their insider knowledge and connections are invaluable in ensuring you get the most from your visit, whether they’re taking you to meet locals in their homes or sharing bargaining tips with you as you explore Peru’s rich and lively markets. Our 30 years of experience in the region lets us offer you more ways to discover the magical wonders of Peru.
Join Gate 1 Travel in Peru!
If you thought Machu Picchu was the only reason to visit Peru, think again. From rich cultural centres to remarkable ancient sites, there are endless wonders to explore. Best of all, Gate 1 Travel introduces you to this rewarding region in the most affordable way.