Peru is one of these appealing destinations that offers in a single country, the best diverse experiences for any type of traveler. In the heart of the Inca heritage flavoured by an unique cultural blend, you’ll witness unforgettable landscapes such as endless deserts, lush jungles and of course breathtaking mountains and as it wasn’t enough, your senses will also be thrilled by the continent’s most delicate gastronomy.

1. Lima

With its skyscrapers, its malls, its fancy restaurants and its western way of life, the city located on sumptuous cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean is denoting with the rest of the country. But together with its modern look, Lima also has a beautiful and well preserved historical center where you’ll love to wander around. The patchwork city is made of different style neighbourhoods that are worth to visit.

You’ll probably have your accommodation located in Miraflores, the hype city’s neighbourhood where the city’s heart beats and people love to gather, especially on the summer’s evenings, after the sunset, when the temperature is then bearable. The city nerve center is located around the Miraflores Central Park and the John F. Kennedy Park. There, you can find most of the hostels, restaurants but also some bars and clubs. On Sundays evenings, the J.F.K. Park turns itself into a charming outdoor dance-floor where mainly elderly people reunites to dance Merengue, Bachata and Salsa.

Just next to the Miraflores, you’ll find the colourful and very charming beautiful Barranco district. Considered as one of the most romantic areas in Lima, there you’ll find vibrant colonial mansions that have been turned into cafés, bars, restaurants and even night clubs. Barranco Street Art is one of the continent’s finest and the neighbourhood has been an important inspirational place for Peruvian and Latin American artists. Don’t miss the fairy Puente de Los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs).

2. Paracas Peninsula

Just about 4 hours south of Lima, the small town El Chaco itself looks like any western seaside city. But the village sides the beautiful Paracas National Reserve, which is home to the biggest protected deserts in the Americas and mostly the spectacular Ballestas islands.

Take a boat tour to las Islas Ballestas —there are three islands— to spot Sea lions, Fur seals, Humboldt penguins, blue-footed boobies, Peruvian pelicans and many other bids and mammals. You might even see turtles, dophins, orcas and whales. There, you’ll pretty much see the same fauna as on the Isla de la Plata in Ecuador, the other island called the poor man’s Galapagos island, but unlike the Isla de la Plata, you won’t be able to walk around the island, it’s a 100% boat tour. As a funny bonus, you’ll get to see the Candelabra (the Chandelier), a 200BCE old Nazca-like line.

The main highlights of the Paracas National Reserve are its gorgeous beaches and wildlife observation. Due to its steep coast, most of the beaches are unaccessible but not all of them. Enclaved by the steep coast, inside a horse-shaped bay, one of the most beautiful ones, la Playa de la Mina, is accessible via a concrete ramp. And as you’re on your way, don’t miss the Playa Roja lookout. The Paracas Reserve, itself, is an immense sand dunes desert. It’s impressive but don’t expect to see many living beings there, specially if you’re on a tour. And as most interesting sites where you might see birds or mammal colonies are only accessible after long hikes which are usually not included in tours, only the bravest and motorised ones will get to experience the exceptional Paracas wildlife.

3. Huacachina

Imagine yourself walking through extensive sand dunes, with nothing in sight excepted more sand, and suddenly, out of nowhere, loved in a small dunes valley, the vision of a beautiful oasis, surrounded by palm trees. You’re not in the Sahara neither in the Lawrence of Arabia movie but in the spectacular oasis de Huacachina, in Peru, which is usually better known for its sumptuous Andes ranges than for its deserts. Located only at 5km from the city of Ica, this little paradise is the perfect place to experience buggy and sandboarding tours on gigantic dunes and to admire the sun rising and setting over these vast expanses.

4. Nazca Lines

Raised to the rank of Unesco World Heritage Site, the mysterious geoglyphes or Nazca lines are known throughout the world. From geometrical to plants and animals shapes as the very famous hummingbird, these 2,000 years old lines haven’t still delivered all their secrets. Although it is now understood that most of them represent Nazca animal deities, the real purpose of the site is still a mystery. Was the site a gigantic astronomical calendar, place of ritual activities or giant weaving areas? It is very impressive to see these lines going straight across ravines and hills without their rectitude is being affected. Although there’s a viewing tower —from where you’ll it will barely see portions of one or two drawings, the best way to appreciate the extend of this wonder is definitely to take a ride on a Cesna plane.

5. Arequipa

The White City, so-called due to the white rocks extracted from the scenic volcanoes surrounding the city and used to rebuilt the city after it has been completly destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1600 AD, has now a pure Spanish colonial style, which make Arequipa and its central square “La Plaza de Armas”, together with Cusco, the most beautiful cities in Peru.

But Arequipa is not only about beautifull white walls, incredible churches at every corner and the stunning Convent Santa Catalina, it’s also a charmful atmosphere, a comprehensive historical heritage, and the perfect basecamp to plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking a nearly 6,000m high volcano or trekking through the breathtaking Colca Canyon.

6. Colca Canyon

Long time considered as the world’s deepest canyon, before it has been dethroned by its neighbour, the 3,400m deep Colca Canyon is still twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. About 4 hours away from Arequipa, the Colca Canyon offers plenty of sensations. From the observation of the majestic Andean Condors, to the numerous possible treks on the canyon slopes, leading you from one Andean village to another, as staying overnight with locals or in a hostel by the refreshing oasis located in the valley, are as many experiences that will make this adventure unmissable and unforgettable.

7. Puno, the Uro floating islands and Taquile island

On the Titicaca lake’shores, located at 4,000m high, Puno is the gateway to the incredible floating islands and to some out of the time Quechua islands. While Puno looks like a typical newly built Andean city whose charms isn’t obvious, the floating islands will appear as they’d coming straight out a Pixar animation movie. But these self-fashioned islands are very real and they foundation structure to the Uro’s homes. Although, it is true, this is a very touristic “attraction”, actually in this fast changing world, the tourism enable them not to have to move to cities and to perpetuate their unique way of life. As they are a very supportive community, visitors will be braught alternately in the different families, in order to spread the advantages of the tourism activity. That said, the islands are stunning and it’s really impressive to see that the islands, the houses and event their traditional boats are just made of dried Totora reeds and their very traditonal way of life.

Further away on the Titicaca lake lies the gorgeous Taquile island, where you’ll get to see Quechua families who are known for their splendid handwoven textiles. You’ll also get the amazing chance to stay overnight in one of the families and share their way of life for a day or more.

7bis. Copacabana and Isla del Sol

You’re probably confused and wondering why does the divine Rio de Janeiro beach in this listing but actually, there’s a little town in Bolivia called the same way. And yes, it’s in Bolivia, but it’s such a nice place, that it would be a shame not to go. Indeed, Copacabana is a located just at the Peru-Bolivia border, only 140km away from Puno and really, it’s worth the detour. Not exactly for the town itself which is not really attractive but mostly for the beautiful view you’ll have on the lake from the Cerro Calvario’s top but above all because it’s the access point to the fascinating Isla del Sol. The lake’s biggest island used to be called Isla Titicaca and it’s the island who eventually gave its name to the lake. Hiking through Isla de Sol is a continuous delight for the eyes. Through the 10km trail crossing the island from South to North, you will be flabbergasted by the landscapes, the typical Andean terraced plots perfectly following the island’s curves and softly plunging in the deep blue water and the women’s colourful traditional dresses wearing their unexpected European bowler hat. Throughout the island, you’ll also see numerous Inca ruins but the most important, located on the island’s northern tip is the Temple of Sun.

8. Cuzco and the Sacred Valley

The Inca Empire Capital is undoubtedly the country’s cultural capital. Surrounded by spectacular Andean villages and Inca ruins, the ancient royal capital will seduce you by its perfectly well preserved city-center combining the splendour of the Inca heritage with the Spanish colonial architecture, the colourful traditional dresses of the women selling dozens of different corn and potato varieties as by the continent’s best gastronomy. From the Pisac’s Sunday traditional market to the Ollantaytambo fortress and the picturesque Maras Salt Mines, you’ll be blown by all what this region has to offer. And of course, Cuszo is also the gateways to breathtaking treks and to the inescapable Machu Picchu.

9. Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

Be prepared for a breathtaking hike, literally and figuratively. First because, to reach the mountain summit, you will have to wake-up at 4AM and hike for 7,5km at about 4,500m above sea level with a positive elevation of 700m through sumptuous landscapes and then, because, facing these marvellous range of multi-coloured mountains is probably one of the most beautiful mineral formations you’ll ever see. And for those who cannot handle such a demanding hike, don’t worry, you can hire a horse who’ll do the job for you.

10. Machu Picchu

These last decades, the fabulous Inca city has been massively victim of its success, and it went even worse, when, in 2007, it took place with the happy few in the New 7 Wonders of the World cluster. Fortunately, local authorities are taking the site preservation very seriously and are strictly limiting the daily site access to 2,500 persons per day, and being even stricter regarding the Huyana Picchu and the Machu Picchu mountains where only 400 tickets are available per day for each of them. Which means in high seasons, tickets are sold out, months in advance. On the other hand, it’s totally possible to buy your ticket the day before you visit during low season.

That said, although you should expect to share the experience with at leat hundreds of people, the mythical city did not steal its success. Located on the Machu Picchu mountain’s crest, witnessing the sunrise or the sunset from the sacred city is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ll also love wandering through the different city’s areas, walking down or up the farming terraces and take pictures next to the beautiful Llamas. And to add to the magic, there’s no better way to reach the Machu Picchu than by one of the beautiful treks bringing you through unforgettable landscapes such as the Inca or the Salkantay trails. Or you treat yourself with the splendid route through the Sacred Valley onboard one of the luxurious Inca trains.