Boasting some of the most remarkable ancient sites, colonial landmarks and natural scenery in the Americas, Peru should be seriously considered when devising a South American travel itinerary.
Indeed, after taking flights to Peru, you could spend many exciting weeks, if not months, exploring this mountainous nation's wondrous historic masterpieces and thriving jungles, especially as accommodation here is so affordable.
An intriguing mix of pictorial colonial buildings and towering modern skyscrapers, Lima, the capital of Peru, is one of the world's driest cities. See its 17th-century Monastery of San Francisco, go to the magnificent Plaza Mayor where the city was born, and don't forget to observe the majestic Palacio de Gobierno and the immaculate cathedral. Some of the most sought-after accommodation establishments in Lima include the deluxe JW Marriott Hotel, the friendly Tierra Viva Miraflores Larco, and the stylish Peru Star Apartments Hotel.
A testament to the extraordinary ingenuity of the Inca empire, Machu Picchu is a sanctuary that stands in perfect harmony with its dramatic natural surroundings. This archaeological world wonder, which is more than 2,400m above sea level and was built nearly 600 years ago, comprises preserved ruined temples, terraces, residents and sculptures, accessible via the famous Inca Trail.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is close to numerous friendly lodges such as Wonderful Dreams and the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, and is particularly captivating when partially shrouded in mountain cloud.
The largest city in the world without a direct road link, Iquitos, in the western Amazon, is as wild as it is reverberant, with attractive historic squares and a proud Amazonian cuisine. Learn about the history of the rainforest by visiting the Ethnographic Museum (Museo Etnográfico), and see the splendid 19th-century Case de Fierro, which was deconstructed and transported here in 1890, having originally been built in France 30 years earlier. Highly regarded hotels include the delightful La Casa Morey and the budget-friendly Hostal El Colibri.
In the far south, Arequipa is known for its stunning Basilica Cathedral and stupefying 18th-century Casa del Moral, a fine Baroque house with an exquisite colonial-style art collection. For accommodation, you could consider the very hospitable Los Tambos hotel or the sophisticated, conveniently located Hotel Libertador Arequipa.
Officially, the Historical Capital of Peru, Cusco is generally around 3,300m to 3,500m above sea level, which means it's very cool for its tropical latitude, with pleasantly warm days but somewhat chilly nights.
Admire the terrific, meticulously decorated 17th-century cathedral, see the fascinating medieval Saksaywaman citadel near the edge of the city, or take a day trip to the vast Moray archaeological site, another formidable Inca ruin. The Palacio del Inka a Luxury Collection Hotel and the affordable Hotel Torre Dorada are among the most popular places to stay in Cusco.
Other places of interest in Peru:
See the breathtaking Río Abiseo National Park and the Huascarán National Park, or visit the awe-inspiring historic city of Caral-Supe and the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site.