Where to go

There are four main areas: the southern circuit, the northern circuit, the central highlands and the jungle. From them you can select the elements that suit you best and, providing the transport links are okay, you can tailor your own itinerary.

If short of time, flying gives you the greatest flexibility and, since almost all flights depart from Lima, you will have the opportunity to sample some of the capital's museums, nightlife and gastronomy.

At the end of the Inca Trail is the Intipinku, the Gate of the Sun. Through it you not only see Machu Picchu for the first time, but you are transported back through history
to the cultures from which the Inca civilization
developed. Caral, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, predates any other city-state in South America (3200-3000 BC).

The 2500-year-old fortress temple of Chavín de Huantar, in the lee of the snow- covered peaks of the Cordillera Blanca,
represents one of the most influential societies
of pre-Columbian times. The Nazca Lines, huge outlines of animals and geometric patterns etched into the southern coastal desert between 200 BC and AD 600, continue to puzzle scientists. Near the elegant colonial city of Trujillo, on Peru's northern coast, are Chan Chán, the largest adobe city
in the world, and the massive adobe pyramids
of Huaca del Sol, Huaca de la Luna and El Brujo.

Further north still, the pyramid complex of Sipán has revealed some of the finest examples of pre-Columbian jewellery, pottery and textiles to be found on the continent. Also here are the mysterious and evocative ruins of Tucumé, a huge city of 26 pyramids, and Sicán, whose pyramids rise out of a forest of carob trees. In the northeast, where the Andean mountains drop to meet the vast Amazonian lowlands, the cities and cliffside tombs of the cloud people lie hidden in the forest. The most visited of these, Kuélap, is the greatest pre-Columbian fortress in the Americas.

Machu Picchu's near neighbour, Cuzco, is the gateway to natural history. Its festivals are a microcosm of 3000 others across the country. It gives access to the jungle reserves of Manu and Tambopata, where the tally of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plants has yet to be fully catalogued. Without doubt, Peru is the best place on earth for seeing jungle wildlife, but Cuzco is not the sole point of entry. From the Amazon city of Iquitos you can access Pacaya-Samiria on whose tracks and waterways you can view Peru's wild heart to your own heart's content. In northern Peru, just as in Cuzco, the sporting possibilities are endless: hiking to ruined cities, whitewater rafting or biking down the mountains. Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca is a mecca for climbers and there are fabulous treks in the Chachapoyas area.

Look south beyond Cuzco to the islands in the sparkling waters of Lake Titicaca, where communities preserve traditions untouched by modernity. In the magnificent city of Arequipa, watched over by volcanoes, the high walls of the Santa Catalina convent conceal a perfectly preserved miniature colonial town which was, until recently, closed to the outside world. Nearby are the Colca and Cotahuasi canyons, remarkable chasms twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, where you can trek along pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces that are still in use, and look for mighty condors rising on the thermals.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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