Peru; Off the Beaten Track

Peru; Off the Beaten Track

True, Peru has seen increased visitors numbers over the last couple of years but this does not mean that there are no longer any potentially world-class sites that not have been discovered by the crowds.

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For Peru itself Machu Picchu is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in the way that it attracts a lot of international attention and interest from travelers all over the world. A curse in the way that it does not allow other places in Peru reach their full potential. Peru enjoys easily 10 world-class sites and destinations but all of these are overshadowed by Machu Picchu which receives the bulk of all travelers. Nevertheless the likes of Lake Titicaca, the Amazon Rainforest, Arequipa or the Colca Canyon are no longer off the beaten track and have become part of the main destinations that are combined with Machu Picchu. Believe or not (if you do not believe it, please do not take my word for it and come find out yourself) apart from these, Peru has another incredible number of sites that could be world-class if they were not competing with Machu Picchu. Here we will list some of our favorites.

Chachapoyas / Gocta / Kuelap

Located in the northern central highlands covering Andean Highlands as well as Cloud Forest the region is blessed with a diversity few places can compete. A huge amount of Fauna and Flora but also the dramatic landscapes with snowcapped mountains, lush forests and anything in between. It is here that the ancient Chachapoyas culture flourished. These Inca contemporaries where one of the few civilizations who withstood the Inca pressure and more or less able to live as a small friendly neighbor to the huge Inca Empire next door. There are many archeological remnants from the Chachapoyas such as sarcophagus that are built into the mountains and small temples and constructions but the highlight of the Chachapoyas is by far the fortress of Kuelap. Like Machu Picchu this fortress can be found on top of a mountain overlooking the valleys cutting below.  Unlike Machu Picchu the fortress is not built from low to high but rather on a manmade platform that was held in place by huge walls that can reach almost 20 meters high at some points. On top circular constructions can be found some with beautiful decorations. The main city on the region is the quiet picturesque Andean town of Chachapoyas which makes for a nice day visit. The other highlight of the region are the Gocta Falls, depending on the type of measurement between the fifth and eighth largest falls on the planet standing at a combined height of 711 meters. Close to the Gocta Falls there is also the (less accessible) 896 meters high Yumbilla Falls. To get to Chachapoyas one can either fly from Lima to Chachapoyas with the small planes of Atsa Airlines or fly to Jaen or Tarapoto from where the drive will take approximately 4-5 hours.

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Cordillera Blanca / Huaraz / Chavin de Huantar

The Cordillera Blanca is Peru highest part of the Andea Mountains running from North to South through the country and contains 17 mountains over 6,000 m (19,690ft) as well as Peru’s highest mountain; Huascaran (6,757m / 22168ft) above sea level. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that this is prime hiking country, competing with world class hiking destinations such as the Himalaya, the Alps or the Ural. Another attraction is the Alpamayo Mountain (5,957m / 19,511ft), once selected as the most beautiful mountain in the world by a society of alpinists.  The main city in the area is Huaraz which can only be reached overland. From here there are dozens of hikes one can take either guided or (if you feel confident enough) on your own. Hikes go from 1 to 4 or even 7 and 9 days so make sure to be informed properly before you set off. About 90km south of Huaraz one can also find the interesting archeological site of Chavin de Huantar. One of Peru’s most underestimated site it is one of the few remnants from the Chavin Culture which lived on these lands from about 300 till 1500ac. The structure is made up out of two temples parts of which are built with smaller stones but other parts with huge monoliths that do remind of the Inca architecture. The piece de resistance of the site is a complex network of underground halls and galleries lighted by strategic holes that allow the sunlight to come through. Within this complex one finds the Lanzon, a monolith of about 4.5 meters tall that is carefully decorated with an anthropomorphic figure thought to be related with the cult of water and fertility.

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Tarapoto / Moyabamba

The jungle area around Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado are the most visited ones and best known to first time visitors of Peru. Other famous jungle areas include Manu National park, the park best known for its unparalleled tropical bird population which is harder to access and therefore much less visited. Nevertheless there is another region which is very interesting for those with interest in tropical fauna and flora; the region between Tarapoto and Moyobamba. Tarapoto is a typical jungle city with the hustle and bustle that comes with this denomination but is also the gateway to several natural parks as well as Yurimaguas up north from where one can travel to the Pacaya Samiria National Park and Moyobamba next to the Alto Mayo Park, famous for its birds and one of the few that can compete with Manu National Park.

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Caral

Probably the archeological site that has been most overlooked in importance on the continent. Located in the Supe Valley about 200km north of Lima, Caral was built around 2600BC and abandoned around 2000BC. This 4,600 year old city in the desert, includes and elaborate complex of temples, amphitheater and civil houses. The urban complex is spread out over 150 hectares and contains plazas and residential areas. Caral was an important metropolis at roughly the same time that Egypt's great pyramids were being built. The structure is made out of the temples of which the main one is about 150 meters long and 110 meters wide. Little is known about the Caral Culture with only little artifacts being recovered; the site has been heavily looted before its discovery in 1948. Nowadays it makes for a nice day trip from Lima. You will be surprised to see that on many days you will be more or less the only visitors.

For more information on some of these destinations, please have a look here; https://satoperu.com/itineraries/10-day-lima-cusco-machu-picchu-chachapoyas-kuelap/

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