Are you the kind of traveller that craves for a full-on varied journey, packing as many different experiences as possible? Then look no further, Peru has them all!
The South American nation is an utterly diverse country, with three major geographic regions –coast, highland and jungle-, but really hosting a much greater variety of life zones. Peruvians are really proud of their natural assets and diversity, as they should.
While there are many possible routes to choose from, if you want to have a bit of everything, plus tick off the World Wonder of Machu Picchu from your bucket list, then the southern circuit is perfect for you! So, let us take you through some of the gems that you can visit to get the FULL PERU EXPERIENCE!!!
1. THE COAST
Of course “coast” refers to an area next to the ocean, but there really is no such thing as “THE coast” in Peru, as conditions vary significantly as you move from north to south along the approximately 1,500 miles of coastline. But you can get a grasp of it with these destinations.
The capital city is located close to the country’s coastal midpoint, within a subtropical desert. But, due to the cold current streaming in from the south, the water is cooler than you might expect. Lima has a great mix of busy urban pace, with a laid-back atmosphere by the ocean. Seize the opportunity to eat like the gods and maybe take a surfing lesson down at the “Costa Verde” or just stroll along the Miraflores “malecón” (seaside promenade), enjoying the views of the Pacific Ocean.
Nazca, Paracas and the Ballestas Islands
This is a completely different type of coast. These places are located further south from Lima and are part of a desert. Nazca is most known for its famous Nazca Lines, magnificent figures drawn on the desert’s sand, so huge that can sometimes only be appreciated from the sky. If you have a chance to fly over them, don’t give it a second thought! Paracas and the Ballestas islands are part of a marine-coastal natural reserve and promise some outstanding landscapes and opportunities for observing wildlife, including sea lions, pelicans, cormorants and, if lucky, Humboldt penguins and dolphins.
2. THE HIGHLANDS
Spreading from north to south, the grandeous Andes mountain range pretty much divides the country, separating the western coast from the eastern jungle. Again, the mountains offer an incredible diversity of landscapes and climates, from milder to seriously extreme ones. Make sure to bring clothing for every temperature and condition and to get acclimated to avoid altitude sickness!!!
Probably a good place to start adjusting to altitude, the city of Arequipa is located at roughly 7,800 feet above sea level. The historical center is breathtaking, mainly built of “sillar”, a white volcanic stone. The city is therefore referred to as “la ciudad blanca”, meaning “the white city”. Heads up, Arequipa is also famous for the volcanoes surrounding them, as well as its superb food. Do not miss out on visiting a local picanteria to try some of the local specialties!!!
Cusco and Machu Picchu
Continuing your ascent, next stop is Cusco!!! The former capital of the Inca Empire lays a bit higher, at around 11,100 feet above sea level. The Sacred Valley of the Incas and the World Wonder of Machu Picchu, though, are situated slightly lower than the city. Allow some time to explore the town and just loose yourself walking along its many ancient, stone-cobbled streets. And then, of course, get ready for a truly unforgettable experience visiting the awe-inspiring Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, nestled in-between magnificent mountains. Tip, if you have a chance, hike up to the top of the Wayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountains for some amazing views!
Puno and Lake Titicaca
You’ll experience a whole different type of highland in Puno, at over 12,000 feet above sea level. Lucky for you, Arequipa and Cusco will have worked up a bit of a resistance to the altitude, so you should be fine. Still, take it easy at first. This is the high plains region and offers wider, more open landscapes. Lake Titicaca, directly next to the city of Puno, is a major attraction, being the highest commercially navigable lake in the world and featuring numerous islands with local communities living on them.
3. THE JUNGLE
Finally, your Peruvian expedition is only complete when you get to the Amazon Basin!
The Tambopata National Reserve
Just a short flight from Lima or Cusco brings you to Puerto Maldonado, from where you will deepen into the dense jungle for an experience of a lifetime! Immersing yourself into the dense, humid and intensely green rainforest, coming across with endless types of plants and animals, is something that will change your view on everything and stay forever imprinted in your memory.
Check out this program to get you started!