Machu Picchu is Peru’s most iconic landmark. Photo by Fabrice Jazbinsek / CC BY 2.0

A South American gem slowly polished over recent years to reveal its hidden lustre, Peru is a mesh of exotic cultures and rich traditions, the raw power of the wilderness and inventive flavours to excite the palate. With historical ruins dating centuries back, dramatic jagged mountain peaks and the Amazon rainforest teeming with flora and fauna just days away from developing cities with their breezy vibe and vibrant bustle, the Peruvian lands are some of the best places to lose yourself to adventure.

Make a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu
A 15th-century Inca citadel tucked within the lush greenery of the Andean mountain peaks, Machu Picchu lives amongst the misty clouds at more than 2,400 metres above sea level. A sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mysterious stone structures form walls, terraces and temples that are predicted to align with certain astronomical events. Whatever its true purpose is, Machu Picchu has become so iconic that tourists all over the world flock to Peru for the sole purpose of visiting the site for themselves. Clearly, its popularity is not just limited to the many grazing llamas on its grounds as Machu Picchu was also deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in an international poll.

Embark on one of the Inca trails en route to Machu Picchu and be blessed with panoramic views of the citadel and the rushing Urubamba river below. You’ll also be greeted by the sight of rich forestry and other historic Inca sites along the way.

The Uros are an ethnic tribe that now live on floating islands. Photo by Shawn Harquail / CC BY 2.0

Visit one of Peru’s oldest ethnic groups at the Uros Islands
In order to survive, the Uros people made a new home for themselves on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water, when the Incas expanded into Peru. Now, lay eyes on their remarkable handicraft skills at the man-made floating islands they reside in. The 70 islands themselves, the boats used for navigating the waters, the little individual huts that serve as their residences and the furniture within are all created with the totora reed.

Encircled by the turquoise blue lake with mountains in the distance, the islands are situated amidst idyllic surroundings. While there, hitch a ride on one of the quirky boats, whose prows are typically headed by shapes of unique creatures. You can also take home little handicrafts prepared by the tribesmen; the income generated by this is one of the few methods the Uros people depend on to sustain themselves.

Cusco is a living representation of the region’s long history. Photo by VillegasLillo / CC BY 2.0

Delve into history at Cusco
The capital of the impressive Incan empire and a city during the Andean times and modern Peru, Cusco is an intriguing blend of cultures. Its long history is most apparent in its architecture; visit the Korikancha, the Incan Temple of the Sun, and the La Catedral, a baroque structure constructed in the 1500s that combines Catholic traditions and local legends. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the locale is also a convenient rest stop for travellers on their way to Machu Picchu.

Just 15 kilometres north of Cusco lies the Sacred Valley, a popular hiking spot where curious markets selling local goods and ancient archaeological sites are located. Along with Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, Cusco was regarded as one of the most vital locations to the Inca Empire in the bygone past.

Ceviche is zesty, spicy and just all around delicious. Photo by Juan Felipe Rubio / CC BY 2.0

Taste vibrant Peruvian cuisine at Lima
Dubbed the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards for four years straight, most recently in 2015, Peruvian cuisine is enjoying its moment in the spotlight. And as the metropolitan capital of the country, Lima has risen to the forefront as one of the hottest gourmet destinations in not just Peru but also South America.

Sample everything from Lomo Saltado or stir-fried salted beef tenderloin, to picarones, deep fried donuts served with cane syrup. Amongst the wide variety of selections, the ceviche is arguably the must-have dish. Essentially raw fish flavoured with a kick of peppers and onions and doused with tangy citrus juices, the refreshing combination whets the appetite unceasingly, keeping you coming back for more.

The Colca Canyon forms a dramatic picture of deep valleys and sheer cliffs. Photo by Joe / CC BY 2.0

Hike at the dramatic Colca Canyon
With its deepest dip measuring approximately 3400 metres, Colca Canyon is an imaginable reality of what the earth would look like split apart. The dramatic landscape is enhanced by staggered terraces that seem to almost form staircases on the canyon edge, which native farmers still utilise to plant crops for sustenance. At a lookout spot on top of one of the numerous cliffs lining the trails, raise your head to catch the majestic Andean condors dancing freely along the wind currents.

As your guide leads you downwards, the massive canyon walls slowly envelop you within — it is at this moment where you are dwarfed by the landscape that you feel your existence intertwine with nature most keenly. Let this be one of your most memorable experiences in Peru.

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