5 Sights to see in Peru besides Machu Picchu
The ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu is a bucket-list item for many visitors heading to Peru, but it is just one of many amazing sights that Peru has to offer. Make sure to leave some time to explore the rest of this beautiful country and some of these other incredible natural wonders on offer.
Maras Salt Pans (Sacred Valley)
Most people come to Cusco just to do MachuPicchu, but there is so much more to the ancient Incan culture than this one location. The Sacred Valley, also known as the Riobamba Valley sits between Cusco and Machu Picchu and is home to some intriguing attractions worth checking out while you are acclimatising to the altitude of Cusco.
Most people take a day tour or hire a private car and hit several sites along this stretch in a single day, like the ruins of the grand fort of Ollantaytambo, the fascinating circular rings of Moray, or the traditional markets of Pisac, but one place you definitely should visit are the salt pans of Maras.
These salt pans were an ancient Incan innovation but are still in use today – many shallow pools are dug out of the side of the mountain almost like terraced rice paddy fields, except these contain mineral water pumped out of an underground spring deep in the mountain, and after evaporation leave behind a pinkish crystallised salt.
The desert sands of Nazca are deceiving - what looks like endless plains of sand at ground level transforms into a bizarre canvas of over 300 geometric shapes and intricate symbols of animals and objects known as geoglyphs when you take a bird’s eye view and fly over the desert in southwestern Peru.
These shapes are the result of displacing sand and stone from the desert floor, some of which stretch hundreds of kilometres long. The extremely low rainfall and wind in the Nazca desert means little movement which is how these geoglyphs have stayed intact for over 2,000 years. No one quite knows what purpose these geoglyphs serve exactly – some think it has to do with the prayer ritual routes walked by the ancient Nazca peoples, others posit that it might be related to astronomical and star positions, while other theories think these are symbols of fertility and rain meant to beg the higher deities for a little bit of rainfall.
The best way to see the geoglyphs is to take a small plane ride from the tiny Nazca airport in the morning when the air is less dusty. These plane rides typically last half an hour and involve a pilot pointing out the various key geoglyphs like the hummingbird, monkey and even an astronaut as they fly you over the landmarks. You can also climb a watchtower in the middle of the desert if you rather not take to the skies.
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in all of South America, more than 11 times the size of Singapore, so big that the local people living on the lake often refer to it as the sea, and you can see tidal movements and waves on the lake. Lake Titicaca also has one of the highest altitudes at over 3,800m above sea level.
The lake straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia, with Puno as the gateway to the lake from the Peruvian end. Most people take a boat to see the floating manmade islands of Uros, buoyant islands of tightly-packed reeds that are each home to a little village. The more intrepid do a back-to-basics homestay on the islands of Amantani or Taquile, where they can spend the evenings taking in a very serene and scenic view of Lake Titicaca.
If you want to see the lake from the Bolivian side, head to Copacabana where you have a marvellous viewpoint of the shore and you can visit Isla del Sol and Isla del Luna, the islands of the sun and moon respectively.
Peru’s Colca Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world, with peaks climbing to over 4,000m and gorges almost as deep. Located about 3 hours by winding mountain roads from Arequipa in south-eastern Peru, this amazing canyon is a scenic vista and you can still see signs of ancient traditional farming terraces that leave distinctive marks on the sides of the steep mountainsides.
Leisure hikers enjoy hiking here, a cheaper and less crowded option compared to Machu Picchu’s Inca Trail, while others who prefer a less strenuous journey can take a day trip from Arequipa to the famous Condor Cross look out point. Keep an eye out for these aforementioned condors that soar majestically through the air over the canyon. Make a stopover at Chivay and you can even enjoy the canyon view while soaking in an outdoor thermal bath!
The diversity of Peru’s landscape is truly amazing – from mountains and canyons to desert sands, and finally the Amazon Rainforest that covers 60% of Peru’s eastern terrain and it is the second largest patch of Amazon Rainforest after Brazil.
Because of its sheer size, there are several options of Amazon Rainforest bases to visit in Peru. Iquitos along the Amazon River gives you the opportunity to see the rare pink dolphins, while Manu is relatively closer to Cusco and home to a UNESCO World Heritage park with over 15,000 plants species in its midst, and a popular place to see the weird ‘beakless’ Andean Cock of the Rock. Or head closer to the border with Bolivia to Tambopata and start your Amazon adventure from Puerto Maldonaldo.
Some tips for first-time visitors to Peru
- Singaporean tourists visiting Peru do not need a visa for up to 183 days
- The diverse terrain and altitudes in Peru means that you should be prepared for a wide variety of quickly-changing weather conditions. Make sure to have warm clothing on hand if you plan to be up in the mountains.
- Give yourself plenty of time to travel in Peru as road infrastructure may not be the best – long overnight coach rides are the cheapest way to get around the country and are actually quite comfortable if you are on a budget.
- It is imperative to take note of the altitudes of the cities you are visiting and to give yourself sufficient time to acclimatise to the high altitude. Make sure you have the necessary medications on hand if you are susceptible to altitude sickness, and drink lots of the local coca tea which is a natural non-medicinal way to counteract altitude sickness.
- Be adequately covered with a comprehensive travel insurance plan so that you can enjoy the adventurous activities to the fullest.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.