Get Away from Machu Picchu on Your Peru Holidays
For many people, their trip to Peru is all about one thing: seeing Machu Picchu. And it has to be said that if you go on holiday to Peru and don’t visit Machu Picchu, there’d better be a very good reason for it! But it would be a shame if a focus on seeing this famous lost Inca city meant that you missed out on some of Peru’s other major attractions. From stunning pre-Inca ruins, to some of the world’s best restaurants, here are some other sights you really should try and include in your Peru holidays:
Arequipa – the White City
Arguably the most beautiful city in Peru, Arequipa is known as the White City because all the buildings in the lovely historic centre are made from the local white granite called sillar, from the local post office to the stunning cathedral. This flanks one side of the main square, with two-storey colonial colonnades completing the other three sides. Most of the buildings on the upper storey have now been turned into restaurants, so you can enjoy a delicious Andean meal while you look out on the palm trees and fountains in the square.
Sampling Peruvian cuisine in Lima
The whole of Peru is one gigantic gourmet smorgasbord of taste, but as you’d expect from the nation’s capital, the very best of Peruvian food is available in Lima, and it’s currently the hot place to eat for the world’s fine-dining set. A new generation of Peruvian chefs are experimenting with traditional ingredients and techniques, mixed with European and Japanese influences to make Peruvian cuisine some of the best food in the world, and a major reason to take a holiday to Peru. Lima hasn’t always had the best of reputations but this is definitely changing, and food is very much part of the story in that rehabilitation.
Sunbathing in Paracas
Just to the south of Lima, on the Pacific coast, you’ll find another of Peru’s little secrets on the beautiful Paracas Bay. Traditionally most sun-seekers in Peru head for the northern resorts like Mancora and Punta Sal, but so long as your Peru holiday is in their spring or summer (roughly November to March) then the string of gorgeous new beach hotels in Paracas should definitely be on your itinerary. Within just a couple of hours’ drive from Lima, you’ll find ultra-modern hotels with great pools and spa facilities, all overlooking the ocean and within easy reach of the Nazca Lines and the Ballestas Islands – Peru’s very own mini-Galapagos.
A traditional highlight of Peru holidays, but one that is still often overlooked in the rush to get to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, and claimed by many as the birthplace of Andean civilization. The floating reed islands of the Uros are an incredible sight, but for many the real way to experience the lake is to stay overnight with a local family on one of the ‘real’ islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca – a fantastic way to experience proper Andean hospitality.
Sand-boarding in Huacachina
Sandy deserts aren’t what you generally associate with Peru, but in fact the very south of Peru includes part of the Atacama Desert, and just outside of the town of Ica you’ll find a huge stretch of honest-to-goodness sandy desert, complete with dunes that wouldn’t look out of place in a remake of Lawrence of Arabia. And in the middle of this sits the genuine desert oasis of Huacachina, complete with a lagoon ringed with palm trees. The best way to experience the dunes is to go out in a dune-buggy to take in the desert sunset and – for the brave – to try your hand at a spot of sand-boarding, where you surf down the dunes on a converted snow-board at truly terrifying speeds!