Peru Vacation: 3 Fascinating Places to Go in Peru
When you think of Peru, you probably think of Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city that's the most famous site in Peru.
But there's a lot more to Peru than that! Here are a few other fascinating places to consider if you're thinking of a Peru vacation.
Cuzco is probably best known as the gateway to Machu Picchu. That's a bit unfortunate, because the city itself has many attractions that make it worth visiting for its own sake. Fortunately, though, most travelers who go there on their way to Machu Picchu also get the opportunity to explore this fascinating city.
When you visit Cuzco, you can see everything from Incan ruins to Spanish style cathedrals, occasionally both at the same time! Downtown at the Plaza de Armas, is the Renaissance cathedral, completed in 1669. Just ten minutes away from the Plaza, you'll find Incan and Spanish cultures mixed at the same site. The Spanish built Santo Domingo, a Dominican convent, on the site of Korikancha, the ancient Incan Temple of the Sun. The literal translation of Korikancha is "Place of Gold", and stories tell of a time when it was entirely covered in gold leaf.
These are just a couple of Cuzco's dozens of fascinating attractions. Make it a point to purchase an inexpensive tourist ticket (bolito turistico), so you don't miss any of them. And be sure to give yourself a couple of extra days here before you move on to Machu Picchu. Not only will you have a wonderful time, it also gives you an opportunity to acclimatize to the altitude - a good idea if you are planning on hiking the Inca Trail. The air is thin up here - the elevation of Cuzco is over 11,000 feet!
Straddling Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake on the planet. Even higher than Cuzco, the altitude here is a breathtaking 12,500 feet. To the ancient Incans, this was the birthplace of the world. According to Incan lore, Viracocha emerged from the lake and created the sun, stars and the first humans. Consequently, Lake Titicaca was one of the most sacred places in the Incan world. It is much easier to identify with the legend when you are actually there at Lake Titicaca in person. There is something quite magical about it.
Puno, the largest city on Lake Titicaca and also the capital city of the region, is often called the "Folklore Capital of Peru." At first glance, it's nothing to write home about, but the city comes alive during the monthly festivals. If you're lucky enough to be there in February, you won't want to miss the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria. This festival is held every year in Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela, but the 10 day festival in Puno is one of the most spectacular.
More about Inca heritage in Peru
When you think of pyramids and Incan ruins in Peru, Machu Picchu is probably the first place you think of, if not the only one. However, Peru has the largest number of ancient archaeological sites in all of South America. Pachacamac is one of these. There are several very good reasons for putting Pachacamac high on your list of must-see places to go in Peru. For one thing, the ruins here were originally built even before the time of the Incas. For another, they are conveniently located just 25 miles or so southeast of Peru's capital, Lima. Finally, and most importantly, they are fascinating!
The word "Pachacamac" is a combination of two words, which translate roughly as "the animator of the world." Pachacamac, the deity, was in charge of creating and maintaining the balance of the entire world. This gives you an idea of just how sacred this site was to the indigenous cultures of the Central Andes. Construction here began at the site in the early part of the 3rd century AD. At that time, the Incas had not yet arrived on the scene. Beginning with complex stone walls that served as a base for adobe structures, construction continued for another 1300 years, culminating in the spectacular Incan "Temple of the Sun" and other Incan temples.
For hundreds of years, it was one of the most sacred centers in the Incan world until Pizarro brought about its demise when he sacked it in 1532. Today, Pachacamac is enjoying a renaissance as travelers who appreciate the fascinating mysteries of ancient Incan culture flock there to experience its magical atmosphere.
You may have noticed that we've talked about more than 3 fascinating places to go in Peru. That's the amazing thing about this country. It is one of the most fascinating countries on earth and you can't pin its attractions down to just a few.
Between Peru's long coastline and Andean heights is a nation rich in history, culture and mystery. Go there, and discover some of its wonders in person. A Peru vacation just might change your life.
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