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Peru

Say “Peru” and people think only of the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. But Peru is a mystical adventure of many possibilities – explore the heart of the Amazon, crest over the world’s largest sand dunes or trek 15,000-foot snow-capped Andean peaks.

Throughout the extreme physicality of Peru, you will find a people still attuned to their ancient sites and civilizations. Here is Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. In the Peruvian desert, take in the Nazca Lines – thousands of figures cut into the earth 2,000 years ago, visible only from the air.

In the Urubamba or Sacred Valley – the heart of the Inca Empire – 1000-year-old villages flourish, just as they did in the pre-Columbian age. Stepping into the stone village of Ollantaytambo, you can walk the cobblestone streets, traveling back in time to this surviving example of an Inca community. The town has been continuously inhabited for 800 years and is a charming spot to wander and lose yourself in another era.

Nearby is the ancient citadel of Saksaywaman and further up the mountain ridge is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Machu Picchu, the renowned 15th-century fortress, known as the “Lost City of the Incas”. The site is meticulously restored and is a magical blending of stone terraces and vast green spaces, mixing with thick white mists rising through the mountains.

But not everything is ancient in Peru – near Machu Picchu you’ll find the relatively “new” colonial city of Cusco. Formerly the capital of the Incas, the city is now known for its Spanish colonial architecture. Spend some time here discovering its lively central plaza, cathedrals and colorful streets.

Not to be overlooked is the capital of Lima, with its own impressive colonial plaza. Here you will also discover big-city sophistication and perhaps the best culinary scene in South America. Peru never stops surprising the curious traveler.