First-time visitors will inevitably try to fit in most of the major sites of the south; for those with ample time on their hands, the northern circuit offers an offbeat array of tastes and destinations. You could also take an adventurous trip into the Amazon rainforest, staying at one of its many eco-lodges.
Taking in the main attractions of the south of Peru, this tour can be covered in a couple of weeks, but could very easily absorb an extra week or two.
1 Paracas and the Ballestas Islands
A few hours south of Lima, this beachside area offers boat trips to islands of penguins and sea lions, great beaches, desert scenery, a scattering of pre-Inca sites and fine seafood.
At this desert oasis, its lagoon ringed by palm trees, you can relax and enjoy the scenery, or hit the dunes on a sandboard or dune buggy.
Located in an attractive desert valley, Nasca sits next to a huge plain on which an ancient civilization etched enormous animal figures, as well as geometric shapes and perfectly straight lines.
4 Arequipa and canyon country
Arequipa is a stunning city with a colonial heart, built on white volcanic stone. The rugged regions around the city offer access to two of the world’s deepest canyons – Colca and Cotahuasi.
5 Puno and Lake Titicaca
One of the most desolate yet scenic corners of Peru, Puno sits at the edge of the enormous Lake Titicaca. Take in its lively and vibrant music and festivals scene, and visit its peaceful islands.
Capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco today embodies outdoor activities, lively nightlife and craft-shopping as much as it does ancient history.
7 Machu Picchu
Easily accessible from Cusco, this magnificent Inca citadel makes a fitting culmination to any trip.
The main focus of the little-visited north is beaches and surfing, coastal archeology and a chain of ancient mountain citadels and tombs, with the option of a jungle trip tagged on for those with more than two weeks to spare.
1 The Mochica Trail
Stretching from the desert valley where Trujillo now stands, the ancient Mochica civilization developed an important centre around the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna. Mochica dominance is also in evidence at the richly endowed tombs of El Señor de Sipán and the Valley of the Pyramids.
2 Máncora and the beaches
Máncora is the trendy focus of several stunning sandy beaches – all good for surfing, fishing and diving. Further south, Cabo Blanco has been popular since Hemingway gave it his seal of approval; closer to Trujillo are the surfers’ paradise of Chicama and the more traditional Huanchaco.
3 Chachapoyas and Kuelap
Inland and high up in the northern Andes, the Chachapoyas region competes pretty well with Cusco. Instead of Machu Picchu, it offers Kuelap, a mountain citadel with 20m-high walls. The area abounds in waterfalls, cliff-bound mausoleums and little-explored trails.
4 Tarapoto and the jungle
Those with more time can head from Chachapoyas down into the Amazon region around the busy little jungle frontier city of Tarapoto. From here you can travel by river as far as the Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria or Iquitos, for a taste of Peru’s rainforest.
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners
Planning your trip to Peru
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
Book Your Trip To Peru
Get your dream travel planned & booked by local travel experts
At Rough Guides, we understand that experienced travellers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track. That’s why we’ve partnered with local experts to help you plan and book tailor-made trips that are packed with personality and stimulating adventure - at all levels of comfort. If you love planning, but find arranging the logistics exhausting, you’re in the right place.Learn Morechevron_right
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
Pyramids and human sacrifice: the top ancient sites in Peru
The traces of human civilisation in Peru date back some 20,000 years, to nomadic peoples who crossed into the Americas via the Bering Straight during the last …
A first-timer’s guide to Peru
Paddington, the world’s favourite intrepid bear, turned 60 in 2018. The first Paddington novel by author Michael Bond was published in October 1958. The stor…
Missed out on the Inca Trail? Try these treks instead
If the Inca Trail is booked up, or you don't fancy camping, or you want to hike away from the crowds, there are more treks in Peru's Sacred Valley than you migh…