Machu Picchu, the myth-and mist-shrouded inca citadel, but hands up who knew that peru boasted more ancient archaeological sites than any other country in South America? Or that it vast green carpet of jungle is home to the greatest diversity of plants and wildlife on the planet? How about the fact that peru is the birthplace of surfing, that its rivers offer that its rivers offer the scariest white-water rafting anywhere, and that the peruvian andes are so unexplored they make the himalayas seem like Central Park on a summer weekend? And that's only scratching the surface. There’s a lot to find out here, so you'll have to be selective - or take about a year off work.
Everyone who visits Peru inevitably comes to Cusco, one of the most fascinating cities anywhere in the world. The Spanish built their colonial churches and houses on top of the original inca foundations, and this starling mix of architectural styles is still much in evidence. Cusco may have become famous as the ancient capital of the inca Empire – the “navel of the world” – buy today it is equally famous among travelers as the “gringo capital” of south America. There’s more tan enough here to hold the interest of even the most demanding of tourists for at least a week, and after a hard day’s sightseeing or sourvenir shopping, there are restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs aplenty in which to unwind.
Cusco is also the ideal base from which to explore Machu Picchu. Peru’s best known archaeological site is the main attraction for visitors, and rightly so. This was the only major inca retreat to escape 400 years of looting and destruction and remains the most spectacular sight in all the Americas – no matter how many times you see it. Machu Picchu can be visited in a day, by train from cusco, but the best way to appreciate it is at the end of the four-day Inca Trail. Much of the trail is along perfectly preserved inca paved roads, through inca tunnels and up and down huge inca staircases. It passes other inca ruins along the way and runs through sections of beautiful cloudforest, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountain rages.