Peru’s Southern Route in 5 Must-See Places

25 de March de 2024

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a country of contrasts, with so many diverse corners and fascinating landscapes, different traditions, accents, and friendly people. In Peru, there’s much to choose from. You can decide to spend your vacation on one of the beaches along our extensive coast, from Máncora to Paracas or Huanchaco. Alternatively, you might be more interested in venturing into the Amazon rainforest, where you’ll discover ancient rituals and a variety of ethnicities and ways of life. Of course, Peru is synonymous with historical richness, as seen in its archaeological sites, from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo or Kuelap. The Andean country is also a haven for nature lovers, offering countless destinations for adventure. To experience Peru’s diverse landscapes, we propose the Southern Route, where you’ll see the best of the country across 5 destinations.

Exploring Peru in just a few days is nearly impossible due to the myriad tourism options it offers. However, what you can do is explore the country in parts. Many travelers prefer to start with the southern region because of its natural beauty and the immense diversity it embraces. Are you ready to embark on a journey filled with unforgettable experiences? Here begins Peru’s Southern Route!

1. Cusco: Welcome to the Ancient Capital of the Inca Empire

To begin the Southern Route without wasting time, the best approach is to fly to Peru and head straight to Cusco. Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, stands as one of the most impressive cities not only in Peru but across all of Latin America. Every stone along its paths holds a fragment of history, preserving some of the most significant Inca temples and bearing witness to a shared past.

Plaza de Armas serves as the neural center, the starting point for any walking tour of Cusco. Within this vast and lively square, are several noteworthy buildings, including the Cathedral and the Church of the Compañía de Jesús. But this is just the beginning of your journey. In Cusco, you mustn’t miss the San Blas neighborhood, where picturesque colonial houses and artisan markets await, offering unique souvenirs. Stroll down Loreto Street and explore the San Pedro Market, a mandatory stop to delve into Peruvian gastronomy. Here, you can savor an array of local dishes, such as chicharrón cusqueño or chiri uchu, accompanied by tropical fruit juices, all while marveling at the incredible variety of potatoes found in Peru. Did you know that the love for this tuber is so strong that we even celebrate a Potato Day?

Another allure of Cusco lies in its role as a hub for exploring the wonders of the surrounding areas. For instance, just 15 km from the city lies the Sacred Valley, where you can admire examples of Inca architecture in sites like Písac, Ollantaytambo, or Moray. Additionally, you can reach the quintessential Peruvian tourist attraction from Cusco: Machu Picchu, considered one of the world’s marvels. And if you’re an adventure enthusiast, don’t miss Vinicunca, known as the Rainbow Mountain due to its stunning hues. During the hike to Vinicunca, the minimum altitude reaches 4600 meters, so if you want to avoid altitude sickness (soroche), consider muña or coca tea.

2. Puerto Maldonado: Gateway to the Amazon

If you’re drawn to contrasting journeys, you’ll love including Puerto Maldonado in your travel plans. It serves as the most popular starting point for venturing into the Peruvian Amazon. Among the essential excursions is a visit to the Tambopata National Reserve, where you can behold the vastness of the Amazon rainforest and catch glimpses of various species: butterflies, birds, mammals, and reptiles—many of them native to Peru, such as the spectacled bear or the cock-of-the-rock. Additionally, you can traverse spectacular hanging bridges and navigate the waters of Lake Sandoval.

3. Paracas: Wildlife Watching and Beaches

One of the key attractions along Peru’s Southern Route is the Paracas National Reserve, another top destination known especially for wildlife observation and leisure enthusiasts. For this reason, it’s a place that caters to everyone, whether you’re traveling with family or friends.

From Paracas, you can take an excursion to the Ballestas Islands to observe the local inhabitants up close: sea lions, penguins, pelicans, and more. During your stay in Paracas Bay, you’ll also have the chance to see flamingos. Additionally, this town offers everything you need for a delightful few days: restaurants, cafés, markets, and more. If the weather is favorable, you can also enjoy its magnificent beaches.

Another remarkable feature you shouldn’t miss is the Nazca Lines, a collection of geoglyphs or figures etched into the desert that forms various shapes. In Paracas, you’ll also find the iconic Candelabra Geoglyph, which impresses with its dimensions

4. Arequipa: the City of Volcanoes in Peru

Arequipa without a doubt, is one of the most charming cities in Peru, and therefore, it couldn’t be missing from the Southern Route. Known as the White City due to the color of volcanic ash used in many constructions, it is nestled under the protection of three enormous volcanoes, which, by the way, you can admire from the Yanahuara viewpoint.

But before that, make sure to visit the Plaza de Armas and the Monastery of Santa Catalina. Inside, a series of colorful courtyards and passageways await, transforming into marvelous photos. Enhance your visit by exploring Yanahuara, the Cathedral, the Convent and Museum of La Recoleta, and the Church of La Compañía.

While you’re in Arequipa, take the opportunity to discover the picanterías, traditional taverns where you can savor typical dishes like chupe de camarones (shrimp soup). From the city, embark on an excursion to the iconic Colca Valley to discover the eponymous canyon and catch sight of condors.

5. Puno: descubre el lago Titicaca

The altitude is palpable in Puno, which happens to be one of the highest cities in the country, situated at 3827 meters above sea level. But this fact becomes more understandable when you realize that Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. No wonder!

Shared between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca beckons exploration. From Puno, you can take an excursion to the islands of this lake, especially the floating islands of the Uros, where you’ll meet the locals and admire their charming boats. If you’re still curious, consider spending a night on Amantaní Island, experiencing local life and learning about the rituals associated with Pachamama and Pachatata. Be prepared for chilly nights—don’t be fooled by the daytime sun; bring a warm coat.

The Southern Route of Peru is waiting for you! If you’re interested in exploring this special part of the country, get in touch with Betterfly, and we’ll take care of designing the trip of your dreams.

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