Peru has magical places that are not Machu Picchu. If you are curious and want to see them, grab a coffee and read on.
When you discover Peru, you will find at least eight magical places that are not Machu Picchu.
If you’re planning on visiting Peru and its magical places for the first time. It’s safe to assume the obvious – Machu Picchu ranks right at the top of your must-see list.
The hike to see this artificial wonder of the world with their own eyes. Every day, hundreds of underprepared tourists start on the Inca Trail’s steep, soggy, punishing slog. They do it willingly because the mystical, mist-shrouded lost city waiting at the end is a sight truly beyond compare.
Without the magnificent ruins of the ancient Inca capital, it’s doubtful that Peru would be the desired destination that it is today.
And that’s kind of a shame.
Machu Picchu or not, Peru is still one of South America’s most enchantingly beautiful, stunningly diverse destinations.
Peru has much, much more to offer beyond the typical Lima – Cuzco – Machu Picchu itinerary. Also, if you’re planning on exploring the country by motorcycle. Beware the journey to reach some of the attractions we’ve listed. Below can be just as exhilarating as the destinations themselves.
No.1 Peru and a Magical place is THE MYSTERIOUS NAZCA LINES.
The image above of the Nazca Lines showcases Peru’s most widely recognized archaeological site outside of Machu Picchu. Their exact origins are even more of a mystery.
The Nazca Lines are a collection of geoglyphs depicting animals, plants, humans, straight lines, and geometric shapes. All created by carving shallow trenches in the earth. In total, they cover a staggering area of approximately 450 square kilometers.
The designs. Such as the 135m long condors are so large that you need an aerial view to make them out.
Despite presumably any means of ascending high enough actually to see their creations. The pre-Incan Nazca culture was responsible for the motifs, somewhere between 200 BC and 400 AD. That makes the Nazca Lines roughly 1,400 years older than Machu Picchu.
Nazca is located on Peru’s coastal plain, about 400km south of Lima. It’s also a scenic ride from the Pacific Coast to the dry Nazca plains along the Pan-American Highway.
Once you get there. You’ll want to book yourself on to a light plane tour. As you’ll need to be airborne to appreciate the vast scale of this ancient enigma truly.
No.2 Peru Magical place is COLCA CANYON.
Peru has so many ridiculously awesome motorcycling roads. Still, with its combination of never-ending curves and cinematic scenery. Wildly careening descent into the Colca Canyon is up there with the country’s most exhilarating rides.
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and the second deepest in the world. Colca plunges to 3,270m at the deepest point of its 70km extent. It is also carved out of the Andes by the surging Rio Colca.
160 km northwest of Peru’s second-largest city lies Arequipa. The region is one of the few places you can regularly spot the Andean condor. (Endangered in much of its range) soaring freely above the majestic landscape.
No.3 Peru and its next Magical place is LAKE TITICACA.
At 3,810m above sea level, straddling the borders of Bolivia and Peru. Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, navigable to large vessels. While a cool fact. It’s more likely that its mesmerizing sapphire blue sheen and sweeping high-altitude scenery are Titicaca’s biggest drawcards.
The lovely city of Puno sits on the western shore of Lake Titicaca. Also home to the fishing and farming indigenous Uros people. And from there, you can take boat excursions out to the man-made Uros Islands.
No.4 Must never forget Peru’s next Magical place is. HUACACHINA DESERT OASIS.
Peru does have it all. Beaches, mountains, cloud forests, jungles, and also the deserts too. Surrounded by sand dunes in the middle of the scorching south Peruvian desert lays a miraculous miniature village called Huacachina.
Nestled on the edge of a fringed palm-tree lagoon. Huacachina is in the middle of one of the most desolate places on the continent.
The picturesque oasis, 5km from the city of Ica. Has developed a modest industry around letting tourists blast around the desert on dune buggies and sandboards.
No.5 Another jawdropping Magical place in Peru is HUASCARAN NATIONAL PARK.
An adventurous, semi-off-road ride roughly 440 km north of Lima leads you to one of Peru’s most beautiful national parks. It’s also home to Nevado Huascaran, the highest peak in Peru at over 6,600m.
Submitting this snow-capped beauty is only for experienced climbers. But you can enjoy fantastic views of the Cordillera Blanca range from numerous epic hiking trails within the park.
One of the most popular walks in short. Yet demanding high altitude trek to the stunning glacial turquoise lake known as Laguna 69. In case you’re wondering about the name. Before creating the park in 1975, all the lakes it encompassed were named.
While some had their indigenous Quechan names restored. Others are named after the surveyors, who clearly weren’t feeling incredibly creative.
No.6 Peru’s famous Magical place is THE SACRED VALLEY.
Cusco, best known as the home base for excursions to Machu Picchu. Still, it’s also the starting point for trips into another of Peru’s incredible archaeological sites, the Urumba Valley. Also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The Incas built an incredibly advanced road system that included the tightly zig-zagging stretch today through the Urubamba Valley. They once connected the settlement of Pisac to Machu Picchu, 100 km to the northwest.
Remember to take the old road out of Cusco through the Sacred Valley. And you’ll be up against days’ worth of steep and narrow dirt tracks. With the breathtaking backdrop of the Andes as your constant companion.
No.7 Peru’s coastal Magical place is BALLESTAS ISLANDS.
Sometimes referred to as the “Galapagos of Peru.” (A nickname that may be just a tad exaggerated.) It is a pristine offshore wildlife sanctuary.
It’s an hour or two’s boat ride beyond the arid coastal cliffs of the Paracas National Reserve.
The cluster of small islands is mostly made up of jagged rock formations and almost entirely devoid of vegetation. Animals, however, exist here in abundance. Colossal seabird colonies and Humboldt penguin colonies are the star attractions. But a short cruise around the islands can also reward visitors with sightings of sea lions, dolphins, and humpback whales.
No.8 Finally, Peru’s Magical place is PACAYA SAMARIA NATIONAL RESERVE.
Located in the Amazon Basin and completely flooded for much of the year. Pacaya Samiria is best known as the ‘mirrored forest.’ Mainly due to the reflections, its towering tropical trees cast over the water’s surface.
The reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Peru. It is a refuge for an astonishing 1,000 animal species. Including the jaguar, South American tapir, giant otter, macaw, and Amazon River dolphin.
To gain access to the park, you’ll have to base yourself in Iquitos. Said to be the most populous town on earth. Remember, with no road access (although the Peruvian government has ambitious, environmentally questionable plans to change this.) Iquitos is reached by either boat or plane.
From Iquitos, the best way to experience the beauty of the flooded forest is on a multi-day cruise. Ideally accompanied by an experienced wildlife guide.
So Peru now ticked in your bucket list, why not book your next two tours with MotorDreamer as your chosen favorite operator with these two tours at the top of your ready to tick list:
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer.)
Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com