16 Most Famous Landmarks In Peru To Visit in 2024

Rebecca Crowe
Last Updated: February 8th, 2024

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Peru is a melting pot when it comes to ancient ruins, cuisine, changing landscapes,and activities, so much so that every traveler has dreamt of visiting Peru at least once.

For those who have visited Peru, the urge to return time and time again is endless, for great reason – there is just so much to see and do far beyond Machu Picchu.

With a strong cultural heritage, world-class cuisine, and a remarkable variety of changing landscapes, Peru appeals to those who seek adventures and memorable experiences, where each trip provides something new.

In this article, I will reveal the 16 most famous landmarks in Peru, which cannot be missed – some of which I enjoyed so much that I visited more than once.

So, if you have Peru on your travel bucket list or want to learn more about the country and what it offers, stick around for some authentic travel inspiration from someone who regards Peru as one of my favorite destinations.

Let’s dive into Peru’s most famous landmarks.

The 16 Famous Landmarks In Peru

1. Machu Picchu

The most visited landmark in Peru

Without a doubt, Machu Picchu is the most famous landmark in Peru and, of course, the most visited, receiving over 1.5 million tourists each year.

The ancient Inca citadel is so popular that in recent years, plans have been put in place to limit the number of visitors to preserve the ruins. In addition, the most famous trail to reach Mach Picchu, the Inca Trail, must be reserved months in advance due to its popularity.

So, why is Machu Picchu so famous? This fascinating Inca ruin is out of sight atop the Eastern Cordillera in the Andes mountains above the Urubamba Valley.

Because of this remote location, the citadel is so well preserved it could not be seen or found by the Spanish conquistadors.

Today, this is one of the most iconic ancient ruins in the world and is incredible to explore, so much so that I visited twice – in winter and in summer.

There is no doubt that if you visit Peru, Machu Picchu will be high on your list, so plan, check the weather, and prepare to enjoy one of the world’s great wonders.

2. Nazca Lines

One of many images as seen from a viewing tower in the Nazca Desert

The Nazca Lines are one of Peru’s most mysterious landmarks, attracting tourists each year who are eager to determine their purpose and unravel the mystery.

To this day, archaeologists are still discovering more lines in the Nazca Desert, which are said to have been created by the Nazca people between 500 BC and 500 AD.

Many don’t realize that the lines are superficial, having been created just a few layers deep, yet are preserved by the lime in the soil and lack of rain in the region.

Despite strong winds in the Nazca Desert, the lines are still well preserved and can be seen easily by various watch towers or by taking a short flight over the region.

Witnessing these lines is a bucket list opportunity for many travelers to Peru. If you drive along the Pan Americana (the longest highway in the world), you will drive alongside them, so watch for the various shapes that can be seen.

Some interpretations of the Nazca Lines include the idea that they were created as an Astrological Calendar or symbols of the gods above. In contrast, some claim extra-terrestrials could have created them.

3. Colca Canyon

One of the most scenic regions of Peru

Peru is not short of canyons; while exploring the country, you will feast your eyes on many incredible landscapes. Yet Colca Canyon is one of the most famous landmarks in Peru.

Set in the Colca River, this canyon is one of the world’s deepest and is a haven for trekkers and nature enthusiasts. Colca Canyon, surrounded by remote traditional villages and lush green landscapes, is also marvelous for photographers.

Located close to Arequipa, this region is excellent for whitewater rafting, trekking, and bird-watching. However, the area also has plenty of hot springs after a long day of adventuring.

If you want to explore one of the most beautiful regions of Peru, Colca Canyon cannot be missed.

4. Lake Titicaca & the Uros Islands

Lake Titicaca as seen from Puno

Lake Titicaca is no ordinary lake; it is the highest navigable lake in the world, straddling the border between Bolivia and Peru. On the Peruvian side, Puno is the hub for travelers who want to explore the famous Uros Islands, uniquely made by stacking layers of totora roots and reeds.

These floating islands have become so famous that people travel around the globe to witness them in person, learn about the Uros culture, and meet the locals.

Tours depart from Puno, a bustling lakeside town, and take at least three hours, bringing you to various islands and teaching you about creating these unique floating islands.

Visiting the Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and this is an excellent place to try the local fish, served everywhere.

5. Cusco

Cusco Cathedral, visible from the main square

Cusco is the most visited city in Peru since it is the gateway to Machu Picchu. Still, before travelers depart for their treks or tours to the famous Inca Ruins, they take time to soak up the city’s atmosphere.

Cusco has so much to offer, so it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the same year Machu Picchu was added to UNESCO.

Cusco was once the Inca Empire’s main center; today,it oozes an atmosphere and culture that captivates travelers. The colonial architecture built by the Spaniards, paired with the preserved structure of the original Inca Empire, makes this a truly unique and exciting city to explore. Hence, saving some time to soak it all up is wise.

6. Mancora

A surfing mecca in Peru

You might have heard about the Peruvian surf and beach culture, which is alive and well in Mancora, the most famous beach resort in the country.

Located on the northwest coast close to the Ecuadorian border, Mancora is a haven for surfers, travelers, and beach bums eager to enjoy all this bustling town offers.

From its exciting nightlife to its stunning turquoise beaches, Mancora captivates every kind of tourist, and if you seek some fun, relaxation, and adventure, then this is the place for you.

The famous Pan American Highway runs through Mancora, serving as the town’s main street, and here you will find bars, restaurants, beach resorts, and surf hangouts.

If that isn’t enough, Mancora is the place to find the best and freshest ceviche – Peru’s national dish, year-round sunshine, incredible sunsets, and a relaxing vibe.

7. Cordillera Blanca

Laguna Paron as seen from the viewpoint

Mountain lovers from across the globe flock to the Andes, particularly to the incredible Cordillera Blanca in Peru, for various reasons.

Not only is this the most extensive tropical ice-covered mountain range in the world, but it also features several peaks that soar above 6,000 m (about twice the height of Mount St. Helens) and stunning glacial lakes.

This is an excellent place for trekking, visiting lakes, and observing glaciers, of which over 722 exist.

The towns of Huaraz, Yungay, and Caraz are ideal places to base yourself to explore various sections of the Cordillera Blanca, especially Lake Paron, Lake 69, and Lake Allicocha, to name but a few.

This is an excellent place to experience the Peruvian Andes in all its glory and greatly contrasts the bustling Peruvian coast.

8. The Sacred Valley

Stunning scenery in The Sacred Valley of the Incas

When visiting Cusco, exploring The Sacred Valley is a must, especially for nature and history enthusiasts. The Sacred Valley is located in the Peruvian highlands and formed the heart of the Inca Empire alongside the nearby town of Cusco.

The Sacred Valley is a wonder to explore since it boasts a variety of Inca Ruins such as Moray, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Maras Salt Mines. The fertile landscape of the area is irrigated by the Urubamba River, which is why the area was sacred to the Incas.

When visiting the area, it is recommended to take 3-4 days to explore the ruins, for which combination tickets are available. Each ruin is unique, with Moray being known as an experimental farm for the Incas utilizing advanced irrigation techniques. Ollantaytambo is iconic for its vast, carefully carved rocks overlooking the small town.

9. Iquitos

The hub for an Amazon adventure

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s most well-known landmarks. In Peru, it is a worthwhile experience to discover the heart of this region, known for being the lungs of the earth.

Iquitos is the most well-known city in the Peruvian Amazon, which can only be reached by boat or plane, making it the largest city in the world, not on an island that cannot be accessed by road.

Iquitos is a fascinating place to get close and personal with Amazonian indigenous culture, spot wildlife, and soak up wild and rugged nature.

In contrast, the town has bustling markets, historic sites, and various places to buy handicrafts, which make it a great city to discover. Iquitos remains one of the most famous landmarks in Peru, known as the cultural hub of the Amazon, and is a truly remarkable region of the world to discover while visiting this diverse country.

10. Paracas National Reserve

The sun setting over the coast at Paracas National Reserve

As you might have guessed, Peru is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, and by visiting the Paracas National Reserve, you will see why.

While the country may be known for having soaring mountains, ancient ruins, and bustling cities, it also has some fascinating coastal landscapes that captivate everyone who visits the region.

Paracas National Reserve is one of the most famous landmarks in Peru for its stunning scenery, wildlife, and numerous sandy bays.

The reserve is home to sea lions, dolphins, over 200 species of birds, and over 168 species of fish, but this is undoubtedly the place to discover many species of wildlife.

In addition, the Paracas region is home to over 100 archaeological sites of the Paracas culture, known for their textile crafts. In contrast to the soaring Cordillera Blanca, the highest point in the Paracas Reserve is just 786m (about twice the height of the Empire State Building), which shows the incredible diversity in landscape apparent in Peru.

11. Lima

Ceviche at the local market in Lima

Calling all food lovers! Lima is one of the world’s best cities for cuisine, and here, you will have the chance to try food from all across the country. Ceviche is Peru’s national dish and a must-try when visiting any coastal town in Peru, as well as Lima, but there are many more dishes on offer in Lima.

From various soups (caldos) and chifa dishes (Chinese/Peruvian fusion) to cuy (guinea pig) and fresh seafood, Lima is a haven for a food safari.

In addition to the incredible variety of food, Lima is a great place to explore, with several unique neighborhoods offering different atmospheres. Barranco and Mira Flores are two of the most visited regions of the city, known for their cosmopolitan vibe, beach resorts, upscale restaurants, and hip hangouts.

In saying that, the historic center of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must-visit, as well as the central market, where you can buy souvenirs and discover even more food.

12. Huacacina Dunes

A fantastic place for a dune buggy adventure

If you have ever seen photos of a desert oasis in Peru, chances are this was Huacachina, surrounded by sand dunes and close to Ica. These are the highest sand dunes in South America, which is reason enough to witness them in person.

While here, it is recommended to take a thrilling dune buggy adventure (not for the faint-hearted) or try sandboarding, both of which are fantastic activities to do while in the area.

The town of Huachina is well known for its party atmosphere, and there are plenty of hostels, bars, and clubs in the area, making it an excellent place for backpackers and adventurers to socialize and have fun.

If you fancy visiting the Huacahina Dunes but would rather stay somewhere quieter, Ica is just a few minutes from Huacahina. Ica is famous for its pisco and red wine, which are must-tries for a local experience.

13. Arequipa

A town surrounded by volcanoes

Framed by three majestic volcanoes, the town of Arequipa is picture-postcard-worthy. Adventure seekers will love the fact that you can scale the volcanoes as part of a trekking tour once you are acclimatized; in fact, Mt Chachani is said to be the most straightforward 6000 m + trek in the world.

This trail is easily accessible, even if you are an inexperienced trekker since it doesn’t require technical abilities. However, it has to be said that the altitude should be taken seriously, and proper acclimatization is crucial.

So, what else is there to do in Arequipa? Arequipa is one of the most famous landmarks in Peru, not only for its adventurous activities but also for its stunning colonial architecture, historic center, and heritage attractions like the Basilica Cathedral.

Arequipa also makes an excellent base for day treks or multi-day trips to Colca Canyon, Salinas National Reserve, and Volcano Misti. If you are an adventure seeker, you won’t want to miss out on Arequipa and the surrounding areas.

14. Tacama Winery

The oldest winery in South America

As I mentioned, the city of Ica is well known for its wine production, so much so that it is here where you will find the oldest winery in South America. It is from Tacama Vineyard that vines were brought to Chile and Argentina, two countries well known for their excellent varieties. However, in Peru, you should take the time to try the many local wines produced in Tacama.

Tacama is one of the most famous landmarks in Peru, known internationally for its world-famous pisco and wine – in fact, you will find every type of wine here.

Taking a tour of the winery gives you a great insight into Peruvian wine production and how it has changed over the years; plus, there is a restaurant with outdoor seating, where you can enjoy some delicious dishes with wine pairings.

This is a place where romance fills the air, so much so that we witnessed an engagement, so if this is on the cards, it could be the perfect opportunity.

15. Gocta Waterfall

One of the tallest waterfalls in the world

Believe it or not, Peru is home to one of the tallest leaping waterfalls in the world, having been brought to the world’s attention in 2002 when a German explorer discovered it.

Located over 700 km northeast of Lima, the waterfall is a sight to behold and can be seen many kilometers away, yet this is an excellent place to embark on a trail to the falls.

Visitors can embark on one of many trails to the falls, depending on where they begin their journey, either in Cocachimba or San Pablo.

Still, either way, this journey promises to be an excellent adventure. Sometimes referred to as the third tallest in the world, which has been disputed many times, there is no doubt that witnessing the Gocta Falls in all their glory is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the best time to visit the falls is in the rainy season (summer) when the falls are as full as possible. You will spot many waterfalls and abundant wildlife along the way, so keep your eyes peeled.

16. Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain as seen during the rainy season

One of Peru’s most iconic and, by far, one of the most famous landmarks is Rainbow Mountain, known locally as Vinicunca. Remarkably, this renowned mountain was only discovered for its array of colors when snow, which consistently covered the peak, began to melt, and nowadays, the mountain attracts plenty of tourists each year.

To get here, visitors can embark on a short 30-minute hike to the viewpoint and a 30-minute hike back, but this may take some time if you are not used to the altitude.

It is advised to visit the mountain when the sun shines, and the weather is mild and clear since the colors can only be witnessed in their true glory in these conditions.

Visiting in the rainy season (summer) means you can encounter hail, snow, cold temperatures, and cloud cover, which is not ideal for witnessing the colors of Rainbow Mountain.

About The Author

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport. Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals! If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport.

Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals!

If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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