Cusco’s Cathedral of Santo Domingo is a colonial gem, boasting an altar of silver and a magnificently carved choir. The building stands on the site of an Inca palace, and was built from stone blocks removed from the nearby Inca city of Sacsayhuaman by the triumphant conquistadors.
The elaborately decorated cathedral was built from 1559 to 1654 on the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas, and is filled with colonial artworks, artifacts and richly decorated chapels. The most famous artwork is a Last Supper painting by Marcos Zapata featuring a meal of local guinea pig served with an Inca corn beverage. The highly ornamental facade features two domes flanking the chapels and nave, built in a Gothic-Renaissance hybrid style.
The Inca site of Qorikancha forms the foundations of the colonial church of Santo Domingo, creating an unusual combination of monolithic Inca and arched colonial architecture.
Qorikancha means ‘Golden Courtyard’, and in Inca times the temple walls were clad with 700 sheets of solid gold, proving a tempting lure for the conquistadors. The gold sheets and gold and silver statues are gone, melted down and recast by the Spanish, but the impressively hewn curved wall of basalt stonework remains. The temple complex is thought to have been built by the first Inca emperor, Manco Capac, 100 years before the coming of the Spaniards. It was built as an observatory and religious temple to the sun, housing the mummified bodies of the Inca rulers. When you enter the courtyard, imagine the octagonal front clad with solid gold, flanked by temples to the moon and the stars draped in solid silver.
The Inca Trail might be the most popular trek in the Peruvian Andes near Cusco, but an arguably equally impressive (and certainly less crowded) trail leads visitors to Ausangate. Nevado Ausangate, the highest mountain in southern Peru, peaks at 20,945 feet (6,384 meters) above sea level. On a clear day, the snow-topped peak can be seen from Cusco.
The Ausangate Trail, named after the peak, takes five to six days, plus travel time to and from Cusco from the trail head. The trail begins in the brown grasslands of the Andean plateau and crosses four high-altitude passes, covering some of the most stunning terrain in the Cusco region. The trail, much of it at altitudes of more than 13,100 feet (4,000 meters) passes high alpine lakes, glacial valleys and small villages where alpacas graze freely and residents still dress in their traditional attire.
Inaugurated on October 2, 1580, 40 years after the city was founded, the Monastery of Saint Catherine has grown to become a city in itself. In fact, its over 215,285-foot-square design resembles the original city streets of Arequipa. Arequipa is often called the “White City” due to the fact that many of the buildings are made of volcanic white sillar, and this structure is no exception. It’s also made of ashlar, or petrified volcanic ash, coming from Volcan Chachani which overlooks Arequipa.
Visitors are able to explore the monastery on their own, wandering through narrow streets, ambient courtyards, peaceful plazas and ancient churches. Along with the historical churches and chapels, check out some of the cloisters. There is the Main Cloister, the largest in the monastery with paintings and confessionals, and the Cloister of the Oranges, which features three beautiful crosses residing amongst vibrant orange trees.
Plaza de Armas is the main square in Arequipa, featuring vibrant gardens, lush palm trees, bird fountains and colonial architecture. The first thing you will notice is how immaculately clean and symmetrical it is. Additionally, you’ll be in the best location to explore some of the city’s history and important buildings, like government offices, prisons and police stations. On the north side, you’ll see the twin-towered Cathedral. Founded in 1612, it was reconstructed numerous times in the 19th century due to earthquakes and fire damage.
If you’re looking to relax, chill out at one of the cafes or rooftop bars surrounding the square with a coca tea or Pisco Sour. These rooftop venues are also great for photographers who want a variety of shots, and the mountains set behind the provincial buildings make for an interesting contrast.
Lima, with a population of nearly 10 million people when counting the metro suburbs, isn’t exactly the first place you’d pick for a natural wildlife refuge. Here at Pantanos de Villa, however, over 200 different species of birds all flit through the wetlands spanning 650 acres outside the Chorillos suburb. On the winding network of walking trails, visitors with binoculars can encounter dozens of species in the span of a couple of hours. Scan the reeds for Black Skimmers, Herons, and Puna Ibis, and look in the water for Great Grebes of Neotropic Cormorants. Many of the birds here are migratory and sightings change with the seasons, and the months of December and January brim with seagulls lining the coast. 11 species of amphibians and reptiles can also be found in the reeds, although unfortunately as the city continues to grow, the manmade threats to Pantanos de Villa are literally encircling the marsh.
Much like New York and San Francisco, the city of Lima has its own Chinatown (Barrio Chino). Peru’s ethnic Chinese community comprises an estimated 1.5 million people — some five percent of the total population — and the hub of that community lies in the heart of Lima’s historic district. The neighborhood was founded by Chinese immigrants during the mid nineteenth century when Chinese import companies began opening commercial houses in the area.
Visitors pass through the red Chinese archway and into a maze of traditional Chinese architecture. Streets are lined with Buddhist temples, shops selling traditional ingredients and medicinal herbs, and dozens of Chinese restaurants, known locally as chifas. Come at midday, and many restaurants will offer set menus.
While there are many notable museums in Arequipa, Museo Santury is known as being one of the best. Its focus is on Andes Mountain archeology and history. Visitors can see exhibits like the famous preserved mummy of ‘Ice Princess’ Juanita, a young Inca girl who was sacrificed over 500 years ago as part of the Capac Cocha ceremony. This is where children were sacrificed to appease mountain gods. The child is thought to have been about 11 to 15 years old, and the body is so well-preserved it has been mentioned numerous times as one of the world’s top discoveries.
Give yourself at least an hour to see everything, as there is also a short informational video to watch before you explore. Additionally, you’ll see impressive grave tombs, with other mummies found atop Peru’s volcanoes and burial artifacts.
From boldly patterned, knitted ponchos to bright, intricately woven textiles or chullo hats made from baby-soft alpaca wool; few visitors leave Peru without buying some of the country’s colorful handicrafts. The Andean region in particular is world-renowned for its dazzling textiles, incorporating unique indigenous designs with traditional weaving techniques and locally sourced materials like sheep, alpaca and llama wool. It’s possible to buy the products all around Peru, but for those looking to learn more about the region’s rich craftmaking heritage, the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles in Cusco is a must.
As well as admiring the elaborate designs and purchasing handcrafted clothing and gifts, visitors to the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles can learn the origins and traditions of the age-old weaving techniques, used by local craftsmen for more than 2,000 years.
Many travelers to Cuzco are familiar with the Inca, the native inhabitants of the Peruvian Andes who were brutally conquered by the Spanish. Fewer people, however, are familiar with the Moche, Nazca, Chimu, and Chancay whose histories date back for thousands of years. Though only a handful of sights remain from these cultures, their legacy remains through the various art forms which have survived throughout Peru’s many conquests.
When visiting Cuzco, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum is a private collection of over 450 pieces which highlight the art from these ancient cultures. Set inside of the Casa Cabrera—itself a masterful piece of architecture which was once a ceremonial house for the Inca—the 11 different showrooms highlight art which dates as far back as 1250 BC. Fine pottery and ancient ceramics accompany sculptures of silver and gold. There is jewelry made from seashells and bone, and numerous carvings etched out of wood tell the story of Peru’s native people.
By Peruvian standards, the Chiclayo Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas is comparatively very young. Not constructed until 1869 (versus the early 16th and 17th centuries for churches in nearby Trujillo), the cathedral and its adjoining public square weren't inaugurated until 1916. Despite its relative youth, however, the cathedral still exudes a sense of grandeur and is one of the most striking buildings in Chiclayo.
Rising along the eastern flank of the pedestrian-filled Plaza de Armas, the white columns and pale yellow façade exude a neoclassical style. Also known as “Catedrál Santa Maria,” the twin bell towers and their white cupolas gaze out over the city, and an exquisite altar and religious carvings grace the cathedral’s interior. From the cathedral’s steps looking out towards the plaza, visitors and locals walk and mingle through the always-happening square, and the area surrounding the Chiclayo Cathedral is one of the most popular parts of the city.
Located 20 miles north of Chiclayo, this sprawling remnant of the Sicán civilization is set amongst a grove of algorrobo trees that form the largest dryland forest on South America’s west coast. Poking out from the field of green, eroded brown pyramids are all that remain of Sicán tombs that, for hundreds of years, were packed to the brim with gold. In fact, archaeologists estimate that over 90 percent of Peru’s gold was sourced from this river valley, and much of the gold in private collections is from looters who pillaged the forest.
Visitors to Batán Grande today will find an interpretive center and small museum that tell the history of the surrounding forest, as well as a viewing platform for gazing above the groves of algorrobo. The tops of the huacas (pyramids) seem to float above the treetops like haunting, dusty relics, and one of the trees in the middle of the forest has been standing for over 1,000 years.
Built around 1730, this large ancestral house is an excellent well-preserved example of baroque-mestizo architecture. The name of the house has nothing to do with ethics, but instead derives from the ancient mulberry (“moras”) tree in the central courtyard. Visitors will enter through a white sillar arch adorned with precisely detailed carvings of figures and symbols. For instance, one of the them is a coat of arms made of smaller carvings including a puma, bird, castle and two crossed keys, held up by two angels, while a crown floats above.
Inside, you’ll find sculptures, furniture, embellishments and artwork, including pieces from the Cusco School of Painting, one of the most important in American Art. Immersing yourself in this world will make you feel like a wealthy Peruvian during the 16th century. Out back, you can stroll through a small but well-manicured garden that is nice for taking pictures.
Often called “the Peruvian Galapagos,” the Ballestas Islands are where savvy travelers can experience wildlife on a budget. Here, on these rocky islets about 90 minutes off the coast of Paracas, hundreds of sea lions lounge on rocks that are covered in thousands of birds, and the cost of visiting is a fraction of the cost of visiting the Galapagos in Ecuador. When approaching the eroded islands by sea, there are so many boobies, cormorants, and penguins resting on the rocky cliffs, the entire island seems to vibrate with the collective fidgeting of feathers. Humboldt penguins are another draw for visiting the Ballestas Islands, and these tuxedo-clad birds can only be found off the coast of Chile and Peru. While motoring out to the guano covered islands, keep an eye out for the Candelabra Geoglyph that’s etched into the hillside. At 595 feet in height, the mysterious, ancient, unexplained symbol can be seen 12 miles out to sea.
この素晴らしい寺院、棚田、広場の集合体は、ピサロに率いられたヨーロッパ人に征服されるまでインカ皇帝、パチャクテクとトゥパック・ユパンキインカに治められた山上の城でありました。 マチュピチュチュの名前は有名ですが、構造の秘密、機能、滅亡を含む数々のミステリーはまだ解き明かされていません。茂り茂った遺跡は、1911年アメリカの歴史家ハイラム・ビンガムによって発見されました。石組は精巧で、ここが儀式的な場所として重要な役割を果たしていたことがわかります。 1450年頃インカ帝国は繁栄の頂点を迎えました。他のインカ遺跡はスペイン人に破壊され略奪されましたが、マチュピチュは、略奪を逃れ、像や寺院は良い状態で残されています。
Nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is the remote town of Maras, known throughout Peru for its thousands of worked salt pans. Salt has been collected here since before the time of the Inca, rising to the surface from a subterranean stream and evaporating in the Andean sunshine.You can gather your own handful of salt or buy some packaged to take home from Maras’ gift store. The terraced saltwork pools dotting the Andean hillsides look quite stunning, glittering like bright white snow in the sunshine, so bring your camera. The town of Maras was quite important in colonial times, and you’ll see some out-of-place ornate Spanish homes and the mud-brick colonial church.
South America’s most famous trek is the most stunning and unforgettable way to reach the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. Along the way, the four-day trek takes in three Andean mountain passes, Inca ruins and stupendous views of the snow capped Andes.
Over the four days the treks take you from km82 (82 kilometers along the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes) to Huayllabamba on day one, to Pacamayo on day two, to Huinay Huayna on day three, and to Machu Picchu on day four. The highlight of the trek, after having woken at 3am to catch it, is seeing the sun rise over the mountains at Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. May to September is the driest and best time to walk the trail, but it’s also the busiest. To walk the trail, you need to join a group of fellow hikers led by a licensed guide. Trail permits are limited, with only 500 hikers permitted on the trail, so you need to book ahead. The easiest way to book and make arrangements is by joining a tour.
The arid plains surrounding the small town of Nazca are detailed with South America’s most enigmatic sight, the extraordinary Nazca Lines.
Etched into more than 80km (50 miles) of rocky desert, and only properly appreciated from the air, the Nazca Lines are made up of more than 800 lines, 300 figures and 70 animal and plant outlines.
Creatures drawn here include monkeys measuring 90m (300 feet), lizards, spiders representing fertility, and an astronaut lookalike. Birds like the hummingbird, condor and flamingo represent summer and winter, and point exactly to where the sun rises and sets. The largest drawings measure 200m (660 feet) across.
There are a number of theories behind the lines and their construction - who made them, why and how? - but no one knows for sure, and they were only rediscovered in 1939.
One theory dates them to between 400 and 600 AD, believing that they were mapped as an astronomical calendar by early mathematicians.
Sometimes referred to as “the other Machu Picchu”, Choquequirao is an Incan ruin in the mountains outside of Cuzco. Unlike Machu Picchu, however, Choquequirao sees only a handful of visitors due to the difficult two-day hike.
That could potentially change, however, as plans are in the works to shorten the access to a 15-minute ride on a tram. Many believe that this will greatly-reduce the sense of tranquility which is found at the outpost, although others argue it will open the ruin for a greater amount of visitors. Like Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is an Incan city with ornately-carved terraces and structures, and historians believe that this city in the clouds was once the retreat of royalty. Only about a third of the site has been completely excavated, however, and much of the city continues to remain hidden within the cloudy, sweaty jungle.
The colorful Sunday market at Chinchero attracts stallholders and browsers from near and far.
This traditional Andean town is known as ‘the birthplace of the rainbow’, and it has the full complement of photogenic attractions: Inca ruins, Andean village houses, an elaborate colonial church built on Inca foundations, and of course the lively weekly market. Visit the market to buy vegetables from the local traders, and Andean handicrafts from the Quechua stallholders. The hand-woven textiles are a particular highlight, and a proudly preserved Inca tradition. The highlanders trade their woven crafts for the fruit and vegetables grown at lower altitudes. You’ll also find jewelry, pottery, toys, rugs and musical pipes for sale at the market.
Located in the Sacred Valley of Peru, Pisaq Potato Park encompasses nearly 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) of high-altitude Andean land where local residents manage and conserve one of their most important agricultural resources: potatoes. Some 700 varieties of potatoes grow within the park, many of them endemic to the region. Six Quechua communities joined forces on the conservation project with the aims of eradicating hunger, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Visitors to the Pisaq Potato Park can choose between three- or five-day guided treks through the park, or a single-day visit which includes a hands-on tour of a potato farm, a meal made from a variety of local Peruvian potatoes and visits to some of the communities involved in the project. The park also offers a cooking class using local potato varieties.