5 Cities in Peru and 5 Reasons to Visit
There are several cities in Peru that are unforgettable and cannot be missed on your journey through the land. It is important to do your research on each place you plan to visit so that you don’t miss
5 Cities in Peru- 1. Cusco
The magnificent former capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco meaning “navel” in the local Quechua language was considered the centre of the world. Standing at 3350 meters above sea level this Peruvian city is steeped in history, from the pre-incan Saqashuman fort created by the Killke people and later occupied by the Incas.
The astounding Inca walls of huge granite blocks, and many Spanish colonial buildings leave little doubt as to why in 1983 the city was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Doorstep to Machu Picchu Cusco is not just a city in Peru, it is a gateway to a whole other world. The enigmatic Inca Citadel Machu Picchu lies 80 km to the north-west of Cusco; designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 Machu Picchu attracts in excess of 700,000 visitors a year. There are a multitude of tours departing from Cusco every day.
Plaza de Armas – Cusco Plaza de Armas has been the nerve centre of the city since Inca times. Lined on two sides with colonial arcades and the other two sides by a huge cathedral and equally imposing Jesuit church – La Compania, the Plaza never fails to take visitors’ breath away.
San Blas –The oldest neighbourhood in Cusco located on a small hill beyond the Plaza. Quaint narrow cobbled streets, art galleries and cafes this barrio is a haven for those seeking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the centre itself.
Sample the Nightlife Throngs of tourists, backpackers, and locals alike mingle nightly in one of Cusco’s many watering holes.Enjoy the salsa clubs and discotheques around the main plaza. There is an international flavour to nights out in Cusco, you are just as likely to encounter a Peruvian Salsa specialist as a Yogi from Denmark. Inca Museum – The best museum in Cusco located one steep block from Plaza de Armas. Jam packed with Inca artefacts, pottery, jewellery and textiles. This 16th century Colonial mansion is not to be missed.
5 Cities in Peru- 2. Lima
Culinary Capital– Lima the gastronomic capital of all the cities in Peru. With influences from Japan, Spain, Italy and Africa combined with indigenous produce Peruvian food is very much in every real foodies must visit list. Peru is a country with hugely diverse geographical regions leading to a vast variety of different dishes. Ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), Lomo Saltado, Cuy, and Causa are all popular and delicious dishes native to different cities in Peru.
No rain– Lima is located in the huge desert that stretches for much of South America’s Pacific coastline and it has one of the driest climates in the world. Even though it is often covered in a blanket of low clouds it very rarely rains with just 6.4mm of rainfall per year.
Magic Water Circuit– Lima hosts the largest fountain complex in the world. There are nightly shows with Peruvian music and synchronised lighting creating a magical spectacle that is well worth the 4 soles entrance fee.
Learn to Surf– Peru’s long Pacific coastline is becoming a mecca for surfers. Lima itself has a vibrant surf scene, with tons of surf schools, board rentals and consistent swells. It is one of the best cities in Peru for beginners to learn and bigger waves for the more advanced can be found a short drive south to Punta Hermosa.
Shopping – Lima is one of the biggest retail destinations in South America. Huge malls and bustling markets are abundant, and if counterfeit goods are your thing then look no further than Polvos Azules: a huge multi storey maze crammed with every type of merchandise you could ever imagine.
Related: Tours of Peru: Worth It?
5 Cities in Peru- 3. Arequipa
Peru’s “White City” is named after the white volcanic stone used to construct many of Arequipa’s impressive buildings. Arequipa is located at the feet of three huge Volcanoes: Mount Chachani, Mount Misti and the snow covered peak of Mount Pichu Pichu. This city in Peru is located a mere 17 kilometers from the summit of El Misti and the views are spectacular.
Arequipa is also home to the Colca Canyon –the second deepest canyon in the world and home to the magnificent Andean Condor – one of the biggest birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 3.2meters!
Adventure Sports –Arequipa has plenty of options for adrenaline junkies. Downhill mountain biking, volcano climbing and white water rafting are some of the activities that can be done in day trip from this city in Peru.
Mild Climate –Clear blue skies for most of the year Arequipa is the perfect place to chill out. 300 days of sunshine per year is hard to beat.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina –Locked off from the world for hundreds of years. This fully functioning convent founded in 1579 is now open to the public. It previously was home to some 200 nuns and 300 servants it now has under thirty nuns that live there today.
Don’t be a typical tourist and dig deeper into the city you are about to visit. For more information check the Arequipa website.
5 Cities in Peru- 4. Pisaq
While not technically one of the many cities in Peru, Pisaq is one of the main villages of the Sacred Valley, making it unmissable on any Peruvian itinerary.
Peace and Tranquillity – Pisaq is a picturesque rustic village in the heart of the Sacred Valley. Just under an hour from Cusco by mini-bus or private taxi, in contrast to Cusco’s streets that can be thronged with travellers- particularly in high season- Pisaq has a village feel and everything moves at a much slower pace.
Incredible Ruins – High above the valley floor carved into the mountain side is a huge historical Inca citadel. This strategic lookout point has hundreds of carved terraces and fortified structures. There is an Inca Sun temple and several Inca burial tombs. The site is 10/15 mins in a taxi from the village centre or a gruelling 2.5hour hike.
Pisaq Market – An exceptional market of handmade artisan goods takes place in Pisaq main plaza, there are stalls every day except Tuesday. Thursdays and Sundays are the big market days. The colour and variety of goods on offer is unmatched by any other city in Peru.
La Fiesta de Virgen de Carmen – Every year in July the village of Pisaq has a huge festival to celebrate and honour the Virgen de Carmen. There is a horse race, dance groups and costumes galore. It is a spectacular display of colour and heritage that lasts for days.
San Pedro / Ayahuasca – San Pedro is a cactus that grows in the Andes. It has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Ayahuasca is another medicine from the Jungle that is known as the purge. Both medicines are known for their cleansing properties and also they can be strong hallucinogenic agents. There are a host of retreats and “shaman” local medicine people based in the valley that provide ceremonies and encounters with either San Pedro or Ayahuasca.
And Finally… 5. Huacachina
A tiny village in the Ica Province. While this, again, is not one of the cities in Peru, it too it unmissable.
Desert Oasis – Huacachina formed around a small natural lake in the desert. Palm trees, clear water and sand dunes it is an idyllic setting and is South Americas only natural desert oasis.
Sandboarding – The sand dunes in the Ica are enormous second only in size to the Sahara desert. In the 90’s thrill seekers climbed to the top of these dunes and started using boards to slide down the sides of these dunes at great speed for fun. This developed into the sport of sandboarding, not unlike Snowboarding – the equivalent but on snow. It is heaps of fun.
Buggy Rides – Also hugely popular in Huacachina is Dune Buggy riding. These huge noisy buggies drop down into the little village to pick up visitors and speed up and down the dunes for a couple of hours. The screams and shouts will make you feel like you are on a rollercoaster and the views are unforgettable.
Nearby in Ica – A short drive from Huacachina is the city of Ica, which has some interesting museums, shopping centres and all the amenities of any of the good sized cities in Peru. Check out this blog about getting to Huacachina from Ica.
Pisco Vineyards – Peruvians are very proud of their native drink Pisco. Its origin can be traced back to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Created from fermented grapes it is a clear spirit. There are plenty of Vineyard tours that show you the production process and explain the history of the drink with plenty of free samples too…Pisco has an alcohol percentage of 48% so we don’t recommend trying before you go sandboarding!