Machu Picchu Isn't the Only Place to Go in Peru
Why try to battle the more than 400,000 annual visitors to South America's most popular historical destination? Peru has so much more to offer. Here are nine of our favorite, less crowded options so you can get up close and personal with the ecological and cultural legacy of this South American destination.
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Tambopata National Reserve
Near the Bolivian and Brazilian borders, the Reserve is home to one of the most diverse habitat systems in the world. There are a number of different excursions and adventures available to immerse oneself in this incredible environment. Ecotourists can take part in conservation efforts throughout the Reserve too.
Guests can discover less charted parts of the Cusco region while supporting conservation efforts on various community-based itineraries. Adventures can work with local artisans to learn about local craftwork and even hike into salt pits in the Sacred Valley. Most importantly, all tour revenue is sent back to these local communities to preserve and grow their heritage.
Clear waters and untamed beaches await one of Latin America's best beach destinations. This is a surfer's paradise with multiple options for experienced surfers. One of the most perfect tubes is at Cabo Blanco (which has separate swells in summer and winter). Professionals head for Chicama, which has the longest wave in the world at more than one mile!
Huascarán National Park
Located in the highest tropical mountain range in the world (the Cordillera Blanca), this park also holds Peru's most important freshwater reserve. It's home to 663 glaciers, 200+ snow-capped peaks (the highest rising to 22,200 feet) and 44 rivers hosting an incredible diversity of wildlife. UNESCO declared it a Biosphere Reserve in 1985.
Discover the site of one of the world's first state governments just 124 miles north of Lima. It's a barren landscape that offers the ruins of an institution started in 3000 BC. Caral is a stunning reminder of what millennia of wind and weather decay can do to man-made formations. It makes a great day trip from Lima when coupled with neighboring historical sites too.
Peru's central coast is home to some of the country's best winds for sports like kite surfing. Strong gusts blow from the desert every afternoon, creating ideal conditions right off the coastline. There are also plenty of ruins and historical sites within driving distance of the Bay.
The Mohica and Lambayeque peoples built this complex of pyramids around 1000 AD. Each has a different representation and intricate artwork carved into the stones as a result. It is thought that these markings depict parts of Lambayeque culture and they still command a great deal of respect from those that carry on the traditions of today.
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
This is one of the few places globally to experience a phenomenon known as "the floodable forest." Every rainy season (January to March), the rivers overtake their banks and flood thousands of acres of the reserve. The result is a rare opportunity to sail among treetops and experience canopy habitats rarely seen at eye level. The reserve is home to more than 250 species of fish and a number of indigenous peoples and tribes.
Almost 10,000 feet above sea level, the Chapacaoyas built this walled city of more than 400 buildings in the 6th century. After their civilization collapsed in the 16th century, the fortress fell into decay for some time. A recent renovation effort has restored some of its luster, making it well worth the arduous journey.