Though Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and the like have historically led the tourism industry in South America, this alternative country has now become the trendiest to visit for both culture and affordability, attracting a growing number of foreign visitors.
Known for its incredibly welcoming locals, ancient heritage, and incredible nature, Peru is expected to grow a further 15% year-on-year as a destination, outpacing the recovery of several larger neighbors and positioning itself as a key regional player.
This is why you, too, should give the Incan heartland a chance:
Why Is Tourism Rising In Peru?
Located in Western South America, Peru has perhaps the most diverse topography and geographical features among its peers.
As it is the third largest country in the continent, with a territory that encompasses a long Pacific coastline that’s delineated by Andean peaks, it has a plethora of natural sites and a huge biodiversity that simply cannot be rivaled.
Sun-seekers often flock to the Peruvian Pacific coast for a relaxed, crowd-free sunny break, seeing it is not as hugely popular a destination as the Colombian Caribbean or Brazil’s glitzy Copacabana resort strip. That’s not to say it suffers from a lack of allure.
Believe it or not, Peru is so much more than Machu Picchu.
Beautiful Pacific Beaches
Máncora is a small resort town in the Piura province, famous nationally for its long, sandy beach and lively bar district.
Southeast of the Downtown area, visitors will also find the medicinal Poza de Barro hot springs and mud baths; while traveling to more remote, undisturbed areas along the coast, they might get the chance to spot whales migrating offshore and other marine life.
Paracas is an incredibly popular coastal destination also, with its landmark El Chaco beach unfolding along the scenic Paracas Bay.
A starting point for those heading to the uninhabited Ballestas Islands, or the wildlife sanctuary that is the Paracas National Reserve, it is a hidden gem of Peru most foreign tourists are yet to discover.
Impressive Natural Diversity
Away from the coast, popular natural reserve sites include the Colca Canyon in Southern Peru, the world’s deepest and the country’s top-rated trekking hotspot, the Cordirella Blanca, a snow-dusted highland, and the Peruvian Amazon.
Yes, Peru administers part of the cross-border Amazon, and visiting small local cities like Iquitos, full of stilt houses lining the riverbank and a European-inspired historic center, you get to experience a less-touristy side of life in the heart of the world’s greatest rainforest.
Lake Titicaca is becoming increasingly popular with tourists as well, as it is one of South America’s largest lakes. Puno, the gateway to the Titicaca reserve, is one of Peru’s cultural capitals, owing it to its folkloric tradition, colonial architecture, and numerous festivals.
The Rainbow Mountain is yet another signature postcard of Peru, with its unique geology and rainbow-colored stripes extending from the base to the peak, easily visited from Cusco.
Of course, no article on Peru would ever be complete without highlighting the former Incan capital.
Incan And Colonial Heritage
Perhaps the main reason why tourists are flocking to this South American gem, Cusco is a beautiful, ocher-tinged city jam-packed with Spanish-era buildings and resting atop yet-to-be-fully-excavated Incan ruins.
Its Plaza de Armas stands among the best-preserved in the wider Hispanic World, flanked by colonial structures and their neatly carved wooden balconies that simply could not be replicated as masterfully in this day and age, Incan walls, and the monumental Cusco Cathedral.
Originally built as an Incan temple in the 13th century, it came under the possession of Spanish Christians upon the colonization of Peru, and it now resembles any late-Gothic European cathedral.
In recognition of its fascinating History and architectural feats, Downtown Cusco is considered by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
Though it is well-deserving of a visit based on its colonial heritage alone, most tourists use Cusco as a base for ascending to Machu Picchu, the most visited tourist attraction in Peru and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
If you wanna get those steps in, and you’re in good shape and don’t get altitude sickness often, you can get to Machu Picchu by foot from Cusco following the Inca Trail – something one of our writers has already attempted and found to be incredibly rewarding.
Trust us; the views over the majestic peaks and vertiginous, cliffside walking paths are to die for. No pun intended (the climb is actually quite safe).
Of course, you can opt instead for the Inca Train, which will get you to the nearest access point before you have to complete a short trail to the top of the viewpoint.
Naturally, we couldn’t forget Peruvian food, as it plays a massive part in the country’s tourism revival, now that culinary immersions are just as sought-after as cultural or sunny getaways, and the local cuisine, dating back to the Incan period, is unlike that of any other modern South American state.
The best place for sampling Peru’s rich, ethnic cuisine is certainly Lima, its largest city and bustling capital.
Recently described as a foodie capital, Lima offers a myriad of traditional cevicherias specializing in the classic Incan seafood-based dish, tiraditos (a type of marinated raw fish), rice with duck, and many more intangible national treasures.
Additionally, Lima is famous for its multicultural cooking practices. Like much of South America, Peru hosted numerous migrant groups, particularly Southern Europeans, but also Asians (especially Chinese and Japanese), and Africans.
As their homeland ingredients cannot be easily found in the Global South, they were forced to adapt and modify dishes with any other available condiments in Peru, giving rise to a cuisine that is a unique blend of Eurasian-African-Native Peruvian influences.
Peru Is Becoming More Tourist-Friendly
With tourism in Peru growing, the Government is ensuring development in lesser-known parts of the country and even launching secondary attractions, including a cable car traversing the Incan Choquequirao Park, set to attract over 1.2 million tourists.
Safety concerns have been addressed, too.
Earlier this year, Peru was rocked by a fresh wave of protests that led to the closure of some airports and even the vital rail link connecting Cusco to Machu Picchu, leaving hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded and in the midst of an open clash between protesters and state authorities.
The situation has now largely subsided, and Peru is back to being a Level 2 destination, as classed by the U.S. State Department.
This means Americans are no longer urged to reconsider travel and are free to explore Peru’s manmade and natural wonders without restrictions.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com