If you’re looking for some excitement and adventure on your travels, look no further than South America and, more specifically, Peru. This country has everything you need to enjoy a well-rounded break that involves lots of hiking, wonderful wildlife and fascinating history.
Of course, if you want to make hiking the focus of your break the famous Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu will no doubt be on your to-do list. There are some excellent trips to this astounding site, including some that will take you on more than just the classic trek. Explore Worldwide is one tour operator that offers these kinds of itineraries.
The following is just an outline of some of the places you can visit and things you can see on this sort of trekking holiday.
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
We’ll start with the bit that you probably know the most about – the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. What you may not be aware of is that you don’t have to follow the classic route to the fabled city in the Andes – there are extensions that allow you to trek a longer stretch of the Inca’s path through the mountains.
The extended Inca Trail involves hiking to a higher altitude than you would if you took the standard route, with Inca Chiriasca marking the highest point at 5,017m. Of course, you’ll still take in all the sights along the classic path as well, with old Inca ruins like Winay Wayna, Phuyupatamarka and Sayaqmarka among the highlights.
You’ll also have two opportunities to explore the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu – a few hours on the day that you reach the city and the following day when you have the chance to watch the sunrise and see more of the complex.
Discover the Amazon jungle
An optional extension on your Peruvian adventure is to travel into the Amazon jungle to see this astounding ecosystem up close. You’ll begin with a river boat trip along the waterway, allowing you to observe the dense expanse of forest that surrounds you and look out for some of the creatures that live in the trees.
You’ll spend a few days at a jungle lodge where you’ll have several opportunities to explore on foot and (hopefully) spot some more of the jungle’s inhabitants. Animals like toucans, harpy eagles, giant anteaters, tapirs, jaguars, capybaras and macaws are among the creatures you may see as you wander around the jungle.
Another advantage of staying in the lodge in the heart of the forest is that you can go out on walks at different times of the day, giving you the opportunity to observe a wider variety of the region’s fascinating wildlife.
Cusco and Pisac
Before you set out on your Inca Trail adventure, you’ll spend some time in the Andean city of Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude – and this presents you with a wonderful chance to experience a bit more of Peru’s history and culture.
Cusco was once an Inca city, although many of the original buildings were destroyed and replaced by the Spanish conquistadors. You can still see the Inca foundations, though, many of which were used as a base for the newer colonial structures – an interesting blend of cultures.
One of the most impressive Inca ruins is just a short distance away on a hill overlooking the city – Sacsayhuaman. Although this fortress is no longer intact, you can still see its vast stone walls that once provided the main defences – the sheer size and scale of them is breathtaking.
The village of Pisac is a great day trip to take from Cusco, with this settlement boasting a lively and vibrant market where you can pick up all manner of traditional Peruvian handicrafts. There are dozens of stalls here selling the likes of ponchos, jumpers, rugs and musical instruments, among many other things.
Another reason to visit Pisac is to explore its ruins, where you can see the remains of many buildings and walls, as well as what is left of some temples. One of the most important on the site is the Temple of the Sun, which is believed to have been an astronomical observatory.
Have you been to Peru? What is your favourite part about the country? Tell us below!