One of Peru’s biggest draws has to be the chance to trek the Inca trail to Machu Picchu – but did you know there are many other historic sites to explore in the country? Here’s our guide to the top sights to take in, either before or after your trek.
Situated just over 1 mile from Cusco, this impressive fortress is conveniently located for a quick detour at the start or end of your Peru adventure. Also known as Sacsayhuaman, the building is thought to have been constructed in the 15th century to help protect Cusco from tribes living in the nearby jungle. The fortress is made from huge chunks of granite that form walls as high as 16 ft and up to 984 ft long – an awe-inspiring sight for any visitor.
Head to Ica and you’ll be well-placed to see an amazing collection of huge ground drawings in the Nazca Plains. Known as the Nazca Lines, these images depicting gods, animals and insects are truly massive – the largest drawings measure nearly 1,000 ft in length. They are believed to have been created between 500 BC and 500 AD and are generally considered to have been etched for astronomy-related purposes. Because they are so large – they cover a total area of more than 19 square miles – they are best seen from the air.
This majestic city occupies a striking setting surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. There’s more to see than the breathtaking scenery, though; Arequipa is rich in colonial art and architecture, with highlights including the convent of Santa Catalina. Head out of the city and there’s much more to take in – one must-see is the rock paintings of Toro Muerto, which comprise a series of drawings etched into thousands of rocks from the eighth century to the 1500s. Elsewhere, Cotahuasi Canyon is the deepest in the world and well worth a visit to peer into its eerie depths, while the Colca Valley is filled with strangely beautiful rock formations created by wind erosion.
Lima is packed with historic sites of note, but one of the most important has to be the shrine dedicated to Pachacamac, a fire god whose origins are believed to lie along the central coast of Peru. The temple was built between 300 and 400 AD and underwent several changes as the Incans and then the Spanish claimed this part of the country. The site still exists, though, and visitors can learn all about its history at the museum and take a tour of what remains of the temple itself, as well as nearby areas of natural beauty.
This stretch of land between Machu Picchu and Cusco is usually explored by those trekking the Inca trail, but it’s well worth returning for a more in-depth visit to ensure you don’t miss any of the fascinating sites and attractions that are located here. The local villages provide a wonderful insight into the history of the region, as many of the residents use the same equipment and follow the same customs as their ancestors did decades or even centuries ago. The ruins at Ollantaytambo and Pisac are well worth a look for further exploration of Peru’s history, as is the market town of Chinchero, which offers excellent views of the valley from its high-up location. Explore offers a Discovery Tour of Peru from £1678 without flights.
These are just a few of our suggestions of historic attractions to visit while in Peru; do you have any more?