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30 Breathtaking Destinations in Peru Beyond Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a must-see. But there are countless other places in Peru to explore, including ancient ruins, museums, dense jungles filled with unusual animals and world-class restaurants. Get locals' tips for the best places to go in Peru.

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Photo: Antonia Mufarech

Machu Picchu Isn't the Only Place to Go in Peru

Machu Picchu deserves its fame. These agricultural terraces built by the Incans in the mid-15th century in a tropical mountain forest that stands 8,000 feet above-sea level are quite impressive and a must-see while in Peru. Although millions of visitors travel hours (and even days) to get a glimpse of the mysterious ruins every year, they might be missing a few places along the way that are just as beautiful.

Whether you love archaeology, hiking or are a foodie looking for world-class cuisine, there is a spot (or two) for you in Peru.

But before we start, I must admit I’m a little biased. Born and raised in Lima, Peru, I really love (and miss) this place. While digging deeper into Peru’s hidden spots, all I could think about was packing my bags and becoming a tourist in my own country. In compiling this list I reached out to my Peruvian friends and family to come up with a list of local-approved places to add to your itinerary.

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Photo: Antonia Mufarech

Urubamba Valley Near Cusco

Located in the Sacred Valley and a few hours away from Cusco, Urubamba is the starting point that leads to some of the most beautiful places in the region, including Maras and Moray. Other activities near the valley include exploring the ruins of Pisac, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo, which is known for its immense stone terraces. The most important piece of advice is to make sure that you’re looking out the window instead of at your phone. The red hues of the quinoa fields that define the valley offer postcard-like views. If you’re a photographer, make sure your trip companions are patient — you might want to stop more than once along the way. Although some choose to drive 680 miles to reach Urubamba from Lima, the most common option is to hop on a plane from Lima to Cusco and then reach Urubamba via bus or private transfer.

Local Tip: If you’re traveling to Cusco (which is located at 11,152 feet above sea level), Urubamba (around 9,420 feet above sea level), is a better place to visit first, as it will help you acclimate to the altitude and avoid soroche, or altitude sickness. So, although you might arrive in Cusco first, try to go to Urubamba before exploring Cusco city.

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Photo: Lepretre Pierre

Arequipa City

Known as the Ciudad Blanca (White City) for its baroque architecture made from sillar, a white volcanic stone, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city. With three volcanoes surrounding the colonial-era town, every corner has stories to tell. The historic city center has a beautiful cathedral that follows the sillar theme, and the area also features different colonial churches decorated with religious artwork. If you love ice cream, make sure you try a few scoops of the queso helado arequipeño. Although this dessert’s name directly translates to frozen cheese, don’t worry — there’s actually no cheese involved in this delicious recipe.

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Photo: Antonia Mufarech

Iquitos in the Amazon Rainforest

All roads lead to Rome — but none lead to Iquitos. This Amazonian wildlife metropolis in the Loreto departamento (Spanish for region) is the world’s largest city that can’t be reached by road. That doesn’t mean the flights and boat rides aren’t worth the final destination. Other than exploring the remote jungle areas, make sure you stay in Iquitos for a while — it has a vibrant nightlife, and other interesting activities include touring around Belén, a neighborhood and market built on rafts to accommodate the river’s constant rise and fall. You can find all sorts of things in Belén – from local fresh fruit to herbal medicines. For more wildlife, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is not to be missed and features pink dolphins and black caimans (the largest of the alligator family). Another option during a stay in Iquitos is visiting Monkey Island, which is about 20 miles from Iquitos. (If you do go, hold onto your camera — these monkeys love mischief and will try to grab them.)

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