A traditional nation set amidst landscapes of rugged intrigue and verdant paradise, Peru conjures images of iconic Inca ruins, neoclassical monuments in ambient plazas, llama herders in colourful hats, and the meandering lushness of the mighty Amazon River.
Poetic, arresting and deeply fascinating, the long and layered history of Peru has produced South America’s most famous and mysterious archeological sites, and a delightfully unique culture and cuisine. Begin your journey in Cusco, where elegant Spanish facades hang above narrow alleys where the jigsaw-like stone foundations of the old Inca capital epitomise Peru’s historic dimensions. Due north, the pine-covered foothills of the storied Sacred Valley are decorated by terraced citadels and attractive villages with wonderful markets. Sumptuous lodges with blissful hillside baths reward those who choose to hike the Inca Trail, while opulent trains will take you along spectacular mountainsides in luxury, arriving at Peru’s spellbindingly mystical Inca enclave: Machu Picchu, the outstandingly beautiful city in the clouds. With lots more to unearth, fly over the perplexing Nazca Lines, preserved in their eccentric glory for 2,000 years, and admire the aesthetically unique pre-Inca Chan Chan ruins from surfers’ paradise Trujillo.
Sample Amazonian chocolate and pisco sours in Lima, Peru’s hectic capital where stately museums and Baroque cathedrals jostle with sophisticated galleries and high-rise condos, or stroll under the graceful arches of Arequipa - the ‘White City’ constructed in ornate colonial styles from rock provided by the colossal Misti volcano. Majestic landscapes can be found in jagged Andean heights, Huacachina’s mighty yellow dunes, or in the cavernous Colca Canyon, where nesting condors soar masterfully over serene hills. Watch waddling penguins and howling sea lions on the Ballestas Islands, search think rainforest for Peruvian jaguars, or cruise the Amazon in style, watching for pink dolphins and giant river otters from a steamy river-facing jacuzzi. Despite such an exciting array of experiences, you’ll likely cherish most the memories of Peru’s people: invariably generous, with easy smiles and joyful festivals, brass bands and dance troupes, colourful textiles and ornate handicrafts - they’ll make you feel welcome from the moment you begin your Peruvian adventure.
A true wonder of the Inca world, commanding tranquil views over forested hills wrapped in wispy clouds, Machu Picchu’s awe-inspiring ruins form a much-anticipated highlight to holidays in Peru. Whether the site’s palaces, temples and terraces were constructed here for isolation, protection or for the performance of rituals, what remains is a gloriously mysterious whisper to a mighty bygone civilisation.
High-altitude and low-tempo, Cusco’s charms lie in its burgeoning cultural wealth. First designed by the Incas in a homage to the sacred puma before being conquered by the Spanish, enticing cobblestone alleys, preserved Inca temples and soaring cathedrals beg exploration off the grand, flowery Plaza de Armas. Gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco is a traveller hotspot, with vibrant markets, delightful cafes and lively bars.
Sprawling beneath the domineering cone of snow-capped El Misti volcano, Arequipa boasts some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Latin America, with stunning Baroque-style arches carved intricately with floral designs. An excellent base for hiking in Andean foothills, Arequipa is a spectacularly scenic drive from the dizzying depths of Colca Canyon and its majestic condor guardians.
Strikingly still, brilliantly blue and surrounded by weaving terraces and the snowy peaks that lie beyond, Lake Titicaca might just be heaven on earth. At 3,800m above sea level, explore the picturesque tranquility of the world’s highest navigable lake, staying on fascinating floating islands, made entirely out of reeds by the indigenous Uros tribespeople, dressed in elegant waistcoats and floppy knit hats.
Whether watching sunset over Lima in a swanky rooftop eatery, pausing in an atmospheric Cusco alley, or following your nose in a bustling village market, your time in Peru will unearth some sumptuous gastronomic delights. Slow-cooked shrimp casseroles, cow’s heart stew, and ceviche - raw fish marinated with lime - are specialities, rotisserie guinea pig and yellow dumplings are prepared on busy city thoroughfares, and pisco sours make for excellent sundowners after a day’s hiking.
Dressed colourfully in alpaca hair hats, thick ponchos, showy waistcoats and finely-sewn skirts, the people of Peru proudly maintain their charming culture through vibrant, cheerful festivities, unique to the folklore and faith of each district. Watch peaceful zampona (panflute) performances, behold architecture fusing European styles with indigenous imagery, and pick up bright textiles and handicrafts from traditional markers.
There’s something decidedly alien - eerily otherworldly - about these ancient geoglyphs that reveal themselves only when viewed from high above. Preserved for over 2,000 years due to the Nazca Desert’s low winds and dry climate, you’ll recognise the stylised hummingbird, the giant condor, the curl-tailed monkey and, according to some, the angular landing strips designed for vessels from another world.
Two-thirds rain forest, with the Andean plateaux, the Urubamba valley, Lake Titicaca and the Colca canyon all pristinely preserved, Peru’s plethora of habitats are home to a disproportionally high number of the world’s animal species. The windswept Ballestas Islands are home to blue-footed boobies and penguin colonies, while luxury River Amazon cruises snake into a realm where the natural world reigns supreme: 4,000 species of butterfly, toucans and macaws, caiman, pink dolphins and jaguars roam amidst the countless green hues of virgin forest.
Highlights of Peru
12 days from £6,450 pp incl. flights
Whether it’s staying at the only hotel at Machu Picchu, enjoying a chef-led cooking course in Lima or travelling through the Andes on a luxury rail journey, this trip showcases Peru's icons at their very finest.
Wonders of Peru and the Galápagos
15 days from £8,900 pp incl. flights
In between exploring the mist-clad beauty of Machu Picchu and cruising the Galápagos Islands, discover the rhythms of Lima, Cusco and Quito, some of South America's most enticing cities.
Amazon Cruise & Sacred Valley of the Incas
13 days from £8,685 pp incl. flights
Explore the ancient grandeur of Machu Picchu and the enigmatic fortress ruins of the Sacred Valley before cruising through a natural wonder whose wildlife and tribes predate even the Incas – the Amazon Rainforest.
9 days from £3,790 pp incl. flights
Showcase the best of Peru’s Machu-Picchu wonders, colonial beauty and indigenous flavour with luxury stays and a host of excursions that range from culinary classes to mountain train rides.