When thinking of Peru, countless destinations rush to mind: the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu, the untamed Amazon, the culinary metropolis of Lima. With multiple millions of tourists visiting the country every year, the country’s most impressive destinations are recognized far and wide, but these well-known haunts are simply skimming the surface of what Peru has to offer tourists.
As the third largest country in South America, Peru is chock full of hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Want to get off the beaten path on your trip to Peru? Here are our favorite unvisited destinations and why you won’t want to miss them.
About five hours from modern Lima is the city of Nazca, home to the remarkable Nazca Lines. Haven’t heard of them? It’s a wonder they still remain fairly off the beaten path. The Nazca Lines are the mysterious creation of the Nazca culture that flourished between 100 BC and 800 AD. Clearly visible from planes flying over (and too large to take in from ground level), these massive lines form hundreds of shapes and figures (animals and other designs), the largest up to 200m (660 feet across). Hummingbirds, monkeys, fish, lizards, and many more are carved across the Earth, creating an impressive manifestation of an ancient culture worth exploring.
As the deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon is hardly a secret. Luckily, as a bucket list item for any trekking aficionado, the numbers of travelers here pale in comparison to those trekking to Machu Picchu. Trek through remote villages in the valley, view terraced agriculture from pre-Incan times, raft along the Colca River, and watch the Andean condor soar overheard in this gem of a destination. Outdoorsy types consider it one of the best places to visit in all of Peru.
Another surprisingly lesser-known destination, Huaraz offers some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in all of Peru. More than 3,000 meters above sea level, Huaraz is home to the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, turquoise lakes, Peru’s tallest mountain Huarascan, and some very impressive wildlife (the Andean condor and jaguars, to name a few). Huaraz is highly regarded amongst locals and in-the-know travelers as the place to go for trekking, hiking and climbing in Peru.
The oldest city in all of the Americas, the massive archaeological site of Caral is only 100km North of Lima, yet a world away. This 5,000 year old, 626 hectare large set of ruins houses ancient pyramids built at the same time as those of Egypt, an incredible collection of significant artifacts, and enough history to keep any buff entertained. As the oldest ruins in Peru, it’s a wonder this Pre-Incan destination has yet to become crowded with tourists.
Anyone interested in Peru’s strong living heritage won’t want to miss the beautiful colonial streets of Trujillo. The second most populous city in the country, this historically relevant destination is known within Peru as the Capital of the Marinera (Peru’s traditional dance). It is also home to two major archaeological sites: Chan Chan (the largest adobe city in the ancient world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Temples of the Sun and Moon (the largest adobe pyramids in Peru). Explore the significance of Trujillo through these various time periods, and make sure to do it before everyone else finds out!
If the ruins of Cusco simply aren’t enough for you, veer off the beaten path to the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Northern Peru. Six hundred meters in length and one hundred and ten meter in width, this massive structure overlooks the beautiful Utcumbamba Valley. Associated with the Chachapoyas culture, the ruins are unlike many others you’ll see- and hardly as visited, despite being every bit as interesting.
Those searching for surf and sand need not look further than the northern town of Tumbes, Peru. This beautiful beach town is right near the border with Ecuador, and known for having an especially lush part of the coast bridging the dry desert and tranquil beach. Picture yourself with the incredible seafood the region is known for, clear waves, warm sun, and few other tourists who’ve gotten the memo on this hidden gem.
A number of years ago, Mancora was nothing more than a tiny little surf spot. Slowly, a small beach town has built up around it, with just enough restaurants and beachside hotels to keep you comfortable, but not enough to spoil it. Younger crowds love staying right in town, but those seeking some privacy and R&R will find plenty of rentals stretching onto much more secluded bits of beach, with options of swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and even horseback riding.
These destinations in Peru may be rarely visited, but all are worthwhile. The hardest part is choosing which one to visit first! Whether you’re seeking culture, history, nature, or simply a beach without all the crowds, there’s an unvisited destination in Peru that’s just right for you. Get off the beaten path and discover the many diamonds in the rough that Peru has to offer.
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