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3 Reasons to Visit Peru (Besides Exploring Machu Picchu)
Explore colonial towns, take in stunning Andean views and check out pre-Columbian ruins.
There are plenty of fascinating attractions and vibrant traditions to experience beyond Peru's iconic UNESCO site.(Getty Images)
Peru, the third-largest country in South America, attracts visitors with its diverse landscapes, awe-inspiring attractions, boundary-pushing cuisine and eclectic cultures. Here, you'll find pristine coastlines, highlands, valleys, jungles, deserts and lush rainforests, not to mention dramatic vistas of Andean peaks. Aside from the country's picturesque locales and ample opportunities to take part in adrenaline-pumping adventures, Peru offers an abundance of iconic wonders, from Machu Picchu and the legendary Inca Trail to 400-year-old structures across Cusco. In fact, Machu Picchu has become so popular that the Peruvian Ministry of Culture has implemented new rules stating that all foreign visitors to the sites must hire an official guide, follow predetermined paths and adhere to time limits to prevent long-term physical damage to sacred temples and stones across the endangered UNESCO site.
[See: Best Trips for Adventure Junkies.]
So, what else should you cross off your list in Peru? Here are three top selling points for planning a visit, along with can't-miss experiences for an unforgettable trip.
Exploring the Highlights of Lima
Most travelers dismiss Lima as a gateway to other destinations across Peru. But while Lima once served as a major pilgrimage epicenter during the Inca Empire, today the city of 8 million residents is bustling with modern and pre-Hispanic architecture, vibrant cultures, a lively nightlife, world-renowned museums, world-class shopping and celebrated gastronomy. And thanks to the city's location at sea level, you'll find pleasant year-round temperatures that allow for comfortable sightseeing. In addition, there are numerous festivals taking place across the city, including National Pisco Sour Day or Dia Nacional del Pisco Sour. To celebrate the time-honored national drink, Lima celebrates with a lively festival filled with cultural dance performances, special concerts and, of course, Peruvian food.
Sampling Peruvian Specialties
Peruvian cuisine offers a mix of Spanish, Italian and Chinese influences. In addition to globally inspired flavors, Peruvian cuisine is characterized by its unique juxtaposition of climates and landscapes. Each region, town, city and village has its own spin on Peruvian gastronomy. However, traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine include corn, potatoes, quinoa, beans, rice, meat and fish. If you're looking to sample local delicacies, don't pass up the chance to try crowd-pleasers, such as ceviche and Lomo Saltado (a stir-fry filled with beef, red onions, tomatoes, chilies, soy sauce, vinegar and cilantro). No matter where you want to visit, rest assured, you can find excellent meals in all corners of the country.
Checking Out Huaraz and the Countryside
One of the top reasons to plan a trip to Peru is its distinctive outdoor attractions and microclimates that are well-suited for a variety of activities and interests. Instead of making the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, consider exploring Huascarán National Park, which can easily be reached via a 30-minute flight from Lima or a scenic bus ride. Huascarán National Park and the surrounding hiking trails introduce you to some of the highest tropical peaks in the world, including Huascarán Sur, the tallest in Peru at 22,205 feet above sea level. While trekking, you can marvel at the park's glaciers, 300 lagoons and snow-capped peaks. Plus, the park has numerous walking trails and climbing paths that cater to novices and experts. Just keep in mind that due to the high altitude, it is recommended that you spend a few days in Huaraz to acclimate your body.
One of the most popular trails in Huascarán National Park is Laguna 69. A short, but scenic trek, Laguna 69 has been called the most magnificent glacier lake in all of Peru. Those who dare to conquer it must be well prepared. The round-trip hike takes about five or six hours, and can be spread out with an overnight camping trip. Even better, transportation to and from the start of the trail can easily be organized and is relatively inexpensive. To maximize safety, it is best to use a tour company or work with a local hotel when hiking in Huascarán National Park; before you go, make sure you bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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