Peru is much more than Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail and the Sacred Valley. A serial offender on bucket list journeys, this fascinating land of archaeological wonders dating from the pre-Inca civilisations also boasts stark, striking deserts; beautiful beaches such as those at Mancora and Punta Sal; majestic Andean mountain splendour; a massive portion of the Amazon basin; and the world’s highest navigable body of water, Lake Titicaca.
Colonial splendour is to be found in the UNESCO World Heritage city centres of Cusco (former capital of the Inca empire), ‘the white city’ of Arequipa, and Lima, which was once the centre of the Spanish empire and is now the gourmet capital of the Americas, with two restaurants in the world’s top 10 – Central and Maido.
Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain, is Peru’s new star of the Instagram era, but the place that should really get your attention now is Kuelap, ‘the Machu Picchu of the north’. This walled citadel atop a mountain near Nuevo Tingo was built around 500AD by the Chachapoya people (‘the Warriors of the Clouds’), and its 400-plus buildings housed 3500 people.
Until mid-2017, it was accessible only by a five-hour hike or a long bumpy drive up tortuous roads, but now you can whiz up to it in 20 minutes on a scenic 4km cable ride.
Rupac, a pre-Incan ceremonial site in the highlands near Lima, is another great getaway – at 3000 metres, it’s where you come “to touch the clouds”, the locals say.
For a totally different experience, head to Huacachina (“hidden lagoon”) an intimate little village clustered around an oasis about 300km south of Lima. A perfect honeymoon hideaway, it’s the sort of spectacle you’d expect to find only in the Sahara.
We asked Flight Centre small group travel expert Sam Young and he outlined how to get the most out of your holiday time in Peru.
Is small group travel part of the solution to overtourism in Peru?
“Absolutely. When your group is small (less than 20 people, usually 12–15) and steps lightly, you can visit the local restaurants more easily! Plus you’re likely to have a far more authentic, in-depth experience.”
How do you find a small group tour that suits you?
“Start by chatting to your Flight Centre travel expert. We work with many small group touring companies to make sure we match you up with the right tour – everything from the Inca Trail to the Chelsea Flower Show. The more you tell us about what you want to experience, the more we can help narrow down your options.”
When is the best time to book a trip to Peru?
“To get a good deal, plan early. For international travel, the best deals are normally around nine months in advance.”