Peru is one of the great centers of ancient civilization. The Norte Chico civilization already flourished along the Pacific coast as early as 3,000 BC. Many other civilizations such as the Moche, Chavin, Chimú and Nazca would follow, leaving behind fascinating ruins and artifacts. The most famous ancient ruins in Peru were built by the sun-worshiping Incas who emerged in the 15th century and would form the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.
Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River, the majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city anywhere in the world. Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the spectacular backdrop of steep, lush, and often cloud-shrouded mountains. Standing near the caretaker’s hut, looking out over Machu Picchu, the jungle covered mountains, and the river far below, it is not hard to imagine why the Incas chose this place to build their city.
The sparkling blue water of Lake Titicaca is surrounded by rolling hills and traditional small villages, offering a mix of beautiful scenery and culture that sets it apart from other regions of the country. Sitting at 3,820 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca is known for being the highest navigable lake in the world, but it is also an extraordinarily scenic area where visitors can relax and enjoy some tranquility.
Reached through the small town of Maras, Moray is an Inca site consisting of several enormous terraces carved into a huge earthen bowl. Each layer has its own micro-climate, according to how deep into the bowl it is. The temperature difference between the top and the bottom is as much as 15 °C (27 °F). For this reason, some theorize that the Incas used them as a kind of laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species.
Considered Peru’s best beach town, Mancora offers surfers year-round waves. The left-hand reef break is a magnet for north swells, which hit the coastline consistently throughout the summer. The water hovers around 69F (20C) degrees, giving surfers a chance to ditch their wetsuits for board-shorts.
Salinas de Maras is located along the slopes of Qaqawiñay mountain in the Urumbamba Valley. This salt mine is a complex network of nearly 3,000 salt pans, shallow pools that are filled by highly salty water from an underground spring. The salt pans are believed to have been developed in pre-Inca times and today are still actively hand-harvested by local families during the dry season, May through November.