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For Seekers of Ancient Culture and Pristine Wilderness, Peru ‘Beyond Machu Picchu’ Is a Goldmine, Advises Vaya Adventures

Story by Vaya Adventures

Posted: April 2, 2015

Vaya Adventures, an expert in designing premier bespoke vacations in South America, goes off the tourist path in Peru to explore those ancient cultures and natural wonders that are much less commonly visited than Machu Picchu.

“While we tend to think of Machu Picchu as the main reason to visit Peru, anyone with a thirst for ancient cultures and wilderness will be exhilarated by what else we can show them,” says Jim Lutz, Vaya Adventures founder and director.  (For more details please see southern Peru, he suggests that tours begin in Arequipa, founded in 1540 in an area previously settled by the Inca. Known as the White City because it is composed of a volcanic stone with a white cast, Arequipa is Peru’s third-largest city and considered by many to be the most beautiful in the country. The city is a masterpiece of colonial architecture, and its historic center has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Arequipaalso has the advantage of being near to Colca Canyon, twice as deep as theGrand Canyon and surrounded by towering volcanoes and mountain peaks. Here guests may enjoy mountain biking, hiking, relaxing inhot springs, visiting Andean villages and spotting massive Andean Condors soaring overhead.  Ancient agricultural terracing stretches out as far as the eye can see, still used by the descendants of the many traditional communities that have inhabited this area for thousands of years.

On the coast to the west lies the former home of the Paracas culture, active from 800 BCE to 100 BCE, which predated and heavily influenced the better known (and nearby) Nazca culture. Here travelers can visit the Regional Museum of Ica, housing an impressive collection of locally excavated artifacts, as well as the beautiful Paracas National Reserve, the only marine reserve inPeru. For families, adventurous activities such as sand boarding and dune buggy riding are options in the massive sand dunes in and around the town of Ica and the oasis at Huacachina.

The nearby Nazca region is best known for the Nazca Lines, a series of ancient, enigmatic geoglyphs drawn in Peru’s Nazca Desert between 400 and 650 CE. The lines, which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, compose hundreds of individual figures and are best seen from a flight in a small plane over the desert landscape.  The largest figures are over 600 feet across and include monkeys, hummingbirds, insects, and a variety of mysterious shapes.

For a sample itinerary covering Machu Picchu, Nazca, and Arequipa, please see:

Peru’s Amazon is another often overlooked destination of significant wonder. Many people think of Brazil when they consider a visit to the Amazon, but Peru offers the highest quality lodging and cruise options in the entire Amazon basin.  One of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, the Peruvian Amazon covers nearly 60 percent of the country’s territory, extending from east of the Andes to the borders of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. The area is home to an incredible array of wildlife, from colorful orchids and butterflies to wild caiman and monkeys.

Peru’s Amazon offers a variety of travel options including a luxury cruise out of Iquitos, on the Delfin or Aqua, exploring the jungle while traveling on mighty rivers. Guests may also stay in a first class jungle lodge near Puerto Maldonado, such as Posada Amazonas or Refugio Amazonas. There are also options even farther off the beaten path, such as the remarkable Manu Wildlife Center, one of the premier wildlife viewing reserves in South America. For a sample itinerary see:

These regions of Peru can be explored year round. Per person rates including lodging (double occupancy), meals, ground transportation, private guide services and entrance fees starts at around $2,900 for eight days.