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Peru Beyond Machu Picchu

May 13, 2024 Global Basecamps

Category Peru, Lima, Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is Remarkable, But Peru Has Many Other Extraordinary Attractions

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says, “Peru.” Dollars to doughnuts you’re thinking, “Machu Picchu.” And with good reason. Machu Picchu is indisputably the jewel in the crown that is Peru.

It’s not hard to understand what draws people there. Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu is the most magnificent expression of Inca civilization. With its breathtaking location overlooking the Urubamba River Valley and its stunning architectural, archeological, and natural features, the site is a fascinating magnet for adventurous travelers and trekkers, as well as for historians, archeologists, and scholars. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, Machu Picchu is recognized as a treasure of human history that illuminates the mystery of the Incas' daily life, their cosmology, and the complex economic and social structure of their society. And we would never dispute Machu Picchu's significance. We love taking people to Machu Picchu and pride ourselves on the quality of our trips. Have a look at some of the stupendous experiences you can have there on this sample itinerary page. (Remember, these itineraries are merely suggestions. We will custom design any trip for you.)

But beyond the magnificence of Machu Picchu, Peru offers the visitor an astounding abundance of extraordinary destinations and experiences. Perhaps they are less traveled but that doesn’t mean they are less worthy. Come with us on a short detour to these destinations. 

If you travel to the ancient city of Choquequirao, the so-called “cradle of gold,” you can have the experience of visiting the majestic ruins of an important citadel in a breathtaking location like Machu Picchu but minus Machu Picchu's crowds. According to Travel + Leisure Magazine Choquequirao, known as the sister city to Machu Picchu, gets the equivalent of two days’ worth of Machu Picchu visitors over an entire year. The site is accessible only by a long rigorous trek through rugged terrain, further cutting down on the number of people willing to visit. This lesser-known ancient city sprawls over a high jungle ridge, commanding stunning views and offering a profound sense of seclusion and historical intrigue. The amazing ruins cover an area far bigger than Machu Picchu, and display similar features like the enormous curved terraces, ritual baths, and a gorgeous main plaza.

Magnificent and mysterious, Choquequirao occupies a stunning position overlooking the valley. 

If you’re a foodie, Lima is a must-visit destination. With three restaurants on the current list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, including the number 1 Central, the city earns its place as the gastronomic capital of South America.

As you might expect from a country that has experienced hundreds of years of colonization by a foreign power plus successive waves of immigration, Limeno cuisine bears the influences of all the cultures that have shaped life in Peru over centuries. But don’t call it fusion. A city, a port, and a gateway to Latin America, Lima doesn’t have a distinct geographical cuisine, it has dozens of them. 

Barranco in Lima is known for its bohemian art scene.

Although largely based on indigenous cuisine, with significant influence from Inca and pre-Inca culture, Lima's cooking shows Spanish influence from its 300 years of colonization, African influence of the Spanish occupiers’ cooks, as well as contributions from the many waves of later immigrants from Italy, Japan, China, and now Venezuela. It all adds up to a layered and complex cuisine that is entirely unique.

Lima has other attractions besides world-class food. Its rich colonial history is evident in its splendid architecture, like the grand Plaza Mayor and the ornate Basilica Cathedral. A thriving cultural scene means museums and galleries are abuzz with interesting exhibits. Be wowed by the Museo Larco’s extensive collection of pre-Columbian art; for more contemporary art, visit vibrant neighborhoods such as Barranco, known for its bohemian arts scene and colorful street art. 

Four hours out of Lima brings you to the mysterious and amazing Nazca Lines, another UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a gigantic area of geoglyphs that were scratched into the surface of the ground between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. They are among archeology's greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants, and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometers long. They are believed to have had ritual astronomical functions.

On the way to Nazca, the coastal town of Paracas makes an excellent overnight stopover. The town sits just north of Paracas Peninsula, an area of rich biodiversity within the Paracas National Reserve. The peninsula is famous for its colonial-era cathedrals. For the more adventurous, you can take a quick boat ride to the Ballestas Islands and immerse yourself in a remarkable ecosystem full of Humboldt penguins, sea lions, pelicans, cormorants, terns, boobies and vultures.

For devoted trekkers, a trip to Colca Canyon is a must. At almost 14,000 feet, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. The route to the canyon is lined with picturesque mountain communities that predate the Incas. Colca Canyon is also home to the majestic Andean Condor; with a wingspan of 7 to 9 feet, you won't forget the sight of them soaring past the canyon walls at close range. Other birds you may see: giant hummingbirds, Andean geese, Chilean flamingos, and mountain caracara. There are also native animal species like vizcacha, a rabbit-sized relative of the chinchilla; zorrino, also known as hog-nosed skunk; and vicuña, the wild ancestor of the alpaca, and of course llamas.


In Colca Canyon, local people continue to cultivate pre-Inca stepped terraces.

What about the Peruvian Amazon? What Peruvian Amazon? you ask. The area remains one of the country's best-kept secrets, offering an entirely different world of exploration. According to the U.N., more than 53.1% of Peru is forested. Of this 88.5% is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. This vast region is a haven for eco-tourists and adventure seekers, presenting a stunning array of wildlife in addition to lush untouched rainforests.

An Amazon River cruise provides opportunities to see exotic wildlife such as pink river dolphins, giant river otters, colorful macaws, howler monkeys, and capybaras. Also, caimans and anacondas. Sleep in a jungle lodge and wake to the sounds of the rainforest. Later go canopy walking or kayaking for a bird's-eye view of the local ecosystem and watch resident toucans, squirrel monkeys, and three-toed sloths. Nighttime hikes reveal different hidden mysteries of this dense, verdant paradise.

Have we convinced you to take a look at these roads less traveled? Or maybe you want to combine Machu Picchu with another of these destinations? We can do that too. Contact us now to start planning at

Remember we will customize any trip to your specifications.

Now's the Time...

For Planning Holiday Trips to Finland


Photo by Norman Tsui on Unsplash.

November, December, and January are busy times for travel to Europe. Finland, home of Santa, reindeer, and lots of snow, is especially popular.  If you're planning to visit during the 2024 holiday season, now is the time to book your trip. Contact us at for more information and help getting started. 


Tags: Peru, Lima, Machu Picchu