Peru is one of the great centers of ancient civilization. The Norte Chico civilization already flourished along the Pacific coast as early as 3,000 BC. Many other civilizations such as the Moche, Chavin, Chimú and Nazca would follow, leaving behind fascinating ruins and artifacts. The most famous ancient ruins in Peru were built by the sun-worshiping Incas who emerged in the 15th century and would form the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.
You do not need to be a history buff to enjoy Peru however. Other popular tourist attractions in Peru are some great natural wonders. The Andes run the full length of the country, rising to almost 7,000 meters (23,000 feet), and separate the arid coastal strip from the lush Amazon rainforest providing a diverse range of travel experiences.
Spread out on the mountains above the bustling colonial village of Pisac are several impressive Inca ruins known as Inca Pisac. The ruins include a military citadel, religious temples, and individual dwellings, and overlooks the Sacred Valley. It is thought that Inca Písac defended the southern entrance to the valley and controlled a route which connected the Inca Empire with the border of the rain forest.
Reached through the small town of Maras, Moray is an Inca site consisting of several enormous terraces carved into a huge earthen bowl. Each layer has its own micro-climate, according to how deep into the bowl it is. The temperature difference between the top and the bottom is as much as 15 °C (27 °F). For this reason, some theorize that the Incas used them as a kind of laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species.
The Plaza de Armas is where the city of Lima was born. Also known as the Plaza Mayor, it is the heart of the city, located in its historic district, with streets radiating out in a grid. The location was picked by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Today the plaza is flanked by a cathedral and several palaces.
Kuelap combines ancient ruins with a cloud forest and the Amazon River. Kuelap is an ancient walled city built by the Chachapoyans, also known as the Cloud People, who lived where the Amazon carved a valley deeper than the Grand Canyon in the Andes. The fortress at Kuelap is the largest one in South America and pre-dates the Incas. Orchids and bromeliads grow inside the fortress.
Cordillera Blanca is a mountain adventurer’s dream, offering hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Located in northern Peru, it has 16 peaks more than 6,000 meters (19,000 feet) high, earning it the nickname of “the highest tropical mountain range in the world.” Part of the Andes, Peru’s highest mountain, Huascaran, is located here. Cordillera Blanca also is a good place to see ruins of pre-Inca cultures.
Sacsayhuaman is an ancient walled complex overlooking Cusco. The Incas built Cusco in the shape of a puma, which was one of their symbols, with Sacsayhuaman as its head. Sacsayhuaman is considered one of man’s greatest building feats. The fortress walls were built with huge boulders that dwarf humans; pieces were cut to fit so mortar wasn’t needed. The foundations can be seen today.
The Lord of Sipan, who reigned around 100 AD, has been called the King Tut of the Americas because of the richness of his tomb. It is considered one of the richest archaeological discoveries in recent times. Sipan was king of the Moche who ruled along Peru’s northern coast centuries before the Incas. They were the best metallurgists of ancient times; their treasures can be seen in the Bruning Museum a few miles away.
Salinas de Maras is located along the slopes of Qaqawiñay mountain in the Urumbamba Valley. This salt mine is a complex network of nearly 3,000 salt pans, shallow pools that are filled by highly salty water from an underground spring. The salt pans are believed to have been developed in pre-Inca times and today are still actively hand-harvested by local families during the dry season, May through November.
This vast national park in the Amazon Basin is one of the best places in South America to see a stunning variety of tropical wildlife. With patience, wildlife is seen in most areas. During a one-week trip, visitors can reasonably expect to see many different bird species, several kinds of monkey and a few other mammals. The best time to visit Manu National Park is during the dry season, between June and November.