You might have guessed by now that I fell in love with Peru during our visit! From our epic hike to Rainbow Mountain, climbing the impressive Huayna Picchu and taking the Andean Explorer from Puno to Cusco. The country is filled with some of the most ancient and best places in Peru that are dotted all around.
I’ve got to be honest, before travelling around Peru, I really didn’t appreciate how diverse the whole country is.
It’s so easy to think of one place (For me, that was Machu Picchu,) and to think that’s what the rest of the country will look like. I hadn’t really considered all the other incredibly beautiful and some of the best places in Peru that are a little more ‘off the grid’.
One thing that instantly stood out to me was the incredible history and how the best places in Peru seem to be centred around its incredible history.
With more Inca citadels and ancient sites than you can shake a stick at, you could spend your life whizzing through the country (pisco sour in hand, obviously) and still not have time to see everything.
Anyway, whatever places you want to visit, make sure to check out some of these incredible and best places in Peru. It really is a special place.
1.) Visit the Chachapoyas site of Kuélap
Nestled away in the beautiful cloud forests of northern Peru lies Kuélap, a pre-Inca settlement that was constructed by the Chachapoyans.
It’s easy to sometimes forget that Machu Picchu is far from the oldest site in Peru, with Kuélap being almost 3 times older than the country’s most famous ancient site.
Quite a bit off the traveller trail, If you decide to come to Kuelap Fortress you will have (almost) the entire complex to yourself so that you can freely roam around this ancient city.
2.) Climb Huayna Picchu for views of Machu Picchu
Let’s face it, Machu Picchu is possibly one of the most iconic and best places in Peru to see.
The image of vast Inca ruins, offset by majestic Andean peaks is one that is firmly etched in most peoples’ minds (well, mine anyway) and an ancient site that is on lots of traveller’s itineraries. And rightly so.
Discovered in the early parts of the last century, Machu Picchu is one gorgeous (albeit busier) site to see. Make sure to book your tickets well in advance before your trip (especially if you want to climb the mountains too). Read more, here, on how we booked our tickets.
For a completely different view of the citadel, think about hiking up Huayna Picchu.
Only a few hundred tickets are released every day, so bag yours fast. It’s a stunning vista across the region and the view of Machu Picchu is incredible.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, we chose this gorgeous place (with its own tea plantation).
3.) Explore Chavín de Huántar
Perched high up in the Andes, near the trekking hub of Huaraz, Chavín de Huántar is a high-altitude archaeological site you should see.
It stands as a testament to the amazing architectural and cultural feats of the Chavin culture, a pre-Inca civilisation who specialised in cultivating crops by harnessing the earth’s electromagnetic field.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth seeing, though expect intermittent access as some structures are being safely secured.
4.) Visit Saksaywaman
If you have an afternoon to spend exploring this site then it’s well worth a visit. It’s so easy to see from Cusco and is easily one of the best places in Peru to get a taste of its rich history.
Besides its vast historical interest as an old pre-Inca fortress, the views across the Andes are spellbinding.
As you wander about the place you’ll notice that the stones used to construct the citadel? They are all huge and perfectly formed, leading to arguments amongst the world’s top archaeologists about how the stones were cut. Still, to this day, there’s no absolute truth known.
We visited these four Inca sites all around the same area.
5.) Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna
In the arid coastal deserts of northern Peru, lies a wealth of ancient archaeological sites that see far fewer visits than Machu Picchu.
Amongst these sites is the majestic Huaca del Sol, an ancient adobe pyramid, with its sister pyramid, the Huaca de Luna sitting close by. It really is one of the best places in Peru to see a pyramid.
6.) Discover the Sillustani Tomb
Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, is on lots of travellers itineraries when visiting Peru.
Sillustani is located about 30km from the main town of Puno itself and quite easy to see if you’re in the area.
Expect to see lots of Chullpas (created by the Qulla people) dotted around the landscape for sure. It’s one of the best ways to discover the long history of how they become integrated into the Inca civilisation.
7.) See the Nazca Lines
Okay, so if we are being honest, the Nazca Lines are technically geoglyphs rather than ruins – but that doesn’t make them any less impressive to see.
These mysterious formations are a series of large ancient drawings set in the sand of the Nazca desert in southern Peru.
Comprised of hundreds of vast lines and geometric shapes such as birds, fish, llamas, monkeys and jaguars.
It’s one of the best places in Peru that’s most iconic from the air.
8.) Visit Caral
If you’ve got a few spare days to explore the Lima area, then Caral is well worth a visit.
Although it is not that well known it deserves to be as it is the most ancient known city in the Americas. Around 200km north of Lima, you can hop on a day trip to reach the ruins (though expect some pretty long days with the roads in Peru).
9.) Find the impressive Moray
Moray is one impressive site that’s well worth a visit when in Peru and particularly in the Cusco region.
Apparently, historians still don’t quite understand the reason behind the deep depressions but that shouldn’t stop you visiting.
Though, they have found out one interesting thing, to say the least. What has been discovered is that this shape creates a big cooling effect which might have been good for the crops. Who knows?
It’s about 50 km or so from the city of Cusco and can be easily seen within a day.
10.) Discover Chan Chan
Now, Chan Chan is famous for being the largest adobe complex in the Americas. Apparently, it once spanned over 20km and had a complex urban centre of about 6km, which is massive.
Constructed the Chimu people in 850 AD, it’s one of the most ancient and best places in Peru you should really see.
It was the Chimor Empire’s capital city with an approximate population of about 50,000 people. The Incas conquered the city in around 1470 AD after which it slowly fell into decline.