Peru: There's more to this nature-rich country than Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu   -   Copyright  Canva
By Nichola Daunton

Lying on the western edge of South America, Peru is one of the most naturally diverse countries in the world.

Home to half of the Amazon rainforest, much of Peru’s unique ecosystem remains intact thanks to the endeavours of its people. Today, more than 1,800 species of bird, 10 per cent of the world’s reptiles, mammals and fish and even 3,500 varieties of orchid live here.

If you’re partial to a bit of adventure, Peru is a fantastic country to visit. From the craggy Andes mountains, to the verdant rainforest which covers close to two thirds of the country, there are ample opportunities for exploring . Whether you’re into trekking, climbing, paragliding or canoeing, the country boasts 14 national parks, 15 national reserves and of course the Amazon River.

“I think that going to Peru opens up your mind, and heals you, because you can connect with nature and the people, and if you want sports, you can do sports, if you want adventure, we offer you adventure,” says Amora Carbajal Schmacher, Executive President of the Peruvian Tourist Board.

“If you want to connect with rural communities, you can go and help them or see or learn from them. We are always in the city and in a rush. But in Peru, you will be renewed.”

We are always in the city and in a rush. But in Peru, you will be renewed.
Amora Carbajal Schmacher
Executive President of the Peruvian Tourist Board

History lovers will have a great time too. Peru boasts more than 5,000 archaeological sites, from the Incan Empire site of Machu Picchu to the lesser known site of Caral. And while Spanish is the official language, 47 Indigenous languages are spoken across a country that spans more than 1.2 million square kilometres.

So if you’re thinking of visiting this nature-rich destination in 2022, where should you go? Let us guide you through the twists and turns of this Pacific coast country.

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A group of people look out over the mountains, PeruCanva

What are the travel restrictions in Peru?

All travellers visiting Peru must provide a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing that their last vaccination was at least 14 days before arrival, or a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival.

Passengers younger than 12 years old are exempt from providing a test or a vaccination certificate.

All arrivals must complete an ‘Affidavit of Health and Geolocation Authorisation’ which can be found here.

Eat your way through Peru

With so much green space on offer, it’s little wonder that Peruvian cuisine is abundant. Famous for superfoods such as quinoa, asparagus, chia, grapes and blueberries, which the state exports around the world, Peru has a thriving gastronomic scene within its borders too.

Though it is perhaps most associated with coffee, as Schmacher points out.

“We are well known because of Peruvian coffee. But now our challenge is to work on the food of the regional communities. Each region has speciality dishes and right now, that is what tourists are looking for. This is what we want to tell people. Last year we were awarded the best gastronomic destination of 2021, which is very important to us.”

In response to growing demand for its specialty coffees, Peru’s cities are adapting too.

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The coastline of Lima, PeruCanva

“In Lima and in the main cities we have very fancy restaurants. But now also you can find coffee bars, where you can get speciality coffees with different tastes and in lots of regions we have specialty coffees. Also our cacao beans are the finest cacao beans, because Peru, along with Ecuador is the origin country of cocoa beans,” she adds.

You can sample Peru’s coffee and chocolate straight from the farms as part of a tour with Responsible Travel. Or you can head to some of Lima’s coffee shops like Cafe Bisetti and Arabica for a cup or two after a hard day’s sightseeing.

Visit the oldest civilisation in the Americas

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The ancient city of Caral, PeruCanva

Once you’ve chomped your way through Lima’s restaurants and coffee bars, head north of the capital to find the city of Caral, the birthplace of Andean culture. The most ancient civilisation in the Americas, Caral is more than 5,000 years old and was built around the same time as Mesopotamia, China and Egypt.

Sitting in the Supe Valley, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is incredibly well preserved and includes six pyramidal structures -a direct link with the Egyptian pyramids that were being built around the same time.

There are 12 other UNESCO sites in Peru too, you can find out more about them here.

Unleash your adventurous side

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A lake in Ancash, PeruCanva

The natural and varied landscapes of Peru mean there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. “Peru is a mega-diverse country, 60 per cent of our country is rainforest,” says Schmacher.

Peru is a mega-diverse country, 60 per cent of our country is rainforest
Amora Carbajal Schmacher
Executive President of the Peruvian Tourist Board.

It isn’t just the rainforest that provides opportunity for adventure though. With a desert running down its Pacific side, lots of nature-based activities are possible along the country’s coastline.

“There’s a lot of sand surfing in the desert, as well as water sports, trekking, birdwatching and swimming with dolphins.”

Trek through the Ancash

If you prefer walking to surfing, trekking through the Ancash might provide the nature fix you’re after. North of Lima, this rugged region has two mountain ranges, Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Huayhuash.

The number of hikes on offer makes it a trekkers paradise. Zigzagging along steep trails through snow capped peaks you’ll find Andean villages and turquoise lakes.

Just remember to pack your camera.

You can book yourself onto a guided trek here.

Experience Cusco on horseback

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Montaña de Siete Colores of Vinicunca, PeruCanva

The ancient city of Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire, and is now the oldest city still inhabited in the Americas. The metropolis witnessed the arrival of the Spanish into Peru and is now full of colonial architecture, archaeological sites and Incan ruins.

Outside of the centre, there are plenty of natural wonders to explore too. You can visit the salt mines of Maras and the ancient Incan terraces of Moray on horseback with Green Peru Adventures.

While to the southeast of the city lie the much photographed Montaña de Siete Colores - rainbow mountains - of Vinicunca. So make sure to take a peek and a picture before you leave this enchanting area.