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Peru: Going Beyond Machu Picchu

Peru is a geographical utopia of serene beaches, crystal-blue lakes, snowy mountains and scorching deserts. While you can’t go wrong seeing the famous Sacred Valley and the treasured Machu Picchu, some of the best experiences lie beyond the hype and congested tourism. At OROKO, we urge you to step outside the mainstream travel bubble – whether it’s surfing the waves off Mancora or the sand dunes around Huacachina. There’s so much to do, this is just a taste of what you can expect.

Mancora

Mancora is one of the world’s best kept secrets. This Peruvian hideaway is known for its beautiful beaches, sun-drenched skies, whale watching and incredible waves. Explore this resort town by a motorised tuk tuk or ride horseback along the sandy beaches. Feast on fresh seafood in Cabo Blanco, the nearby fishing village that inspired Old Man and the Sea. Take a mud bath or soak in the hot springs of La Poza de Barro. You can even relax under coconut palms at Arennas Mancora resort in Las Pocitas.

Uros Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca

Peruvians have a reputation for friendly hospitality and the Uros are no different. They are sure to welcome you with open arms - and some unique handmade goods! Set afloat Lake Titicaca, these buoyant Totora reed islands house roughly 1000 villagers, and have sparked intrigue among tourists. While the Uros lead traditional, hunter-gatherer lifestyles, they also use solar technology and even run their own radio station. Travellers can opt to visit each island on foot or view them from totora reed boats. For a more immersive experience, stay overnight with one of the families. They may even teach you a local dance!

Colca Valley and Canyon

Colca Valley and Canyon is one of the world’s deepest trekking destinations. Garnished with valleys of remote Incan villages and grazing alpacas, this river canyon is perfect for rafting and watching condors soar around the Coropuna and Ampato volcanoes. You can also camp in caves covered with ancient drawings by the Collagua people. Colca Valley is also en route to Arequipa, a lovely city to sample the famous pisco sour.

Paracas and Ballestas Islands

Considered as the Galapagos of Peru, Ballestas Islands is a collection of small, rocky islets just outside the Paracas National Reserve. It’s home to thousands of birds like Humboldt penguins and Peruvian pelicans, as well as seals, dolphins, sea lions and turtles. The best way to reach these islands is through Paracas, a unique region combining desert sand and sea. You can also spot the famous Paracas Candelabra on a wildlife boat tour.

Desert Oasis Huacachina

South America has some of the most impressive dunes and deserts outside of Africa, and Peru is no exception. The continent’s only desert oasis is so picturesque, it seems too good to be true. But we promise this place is no mirage. A stroll around the entire city is a mere 30-minutes, so it’s easy to experience it all. Sandboard around the oasis or cruise in a jeep or dune buggy. Rent paddleboats to ride on the lagoon. With a population of around 100 regulars, this laid-back desert city makes for a leisurely overnight trip and a heavenly spot for wine tasting tours.

Nazca Lines

If you’re around Huacachina or the Ballestas Islands, take advantage of a Nazca Line tour. Hop on a plane or helicopter and fly to the Peruvian coastal plain where a massive collection of 2000-year-old designs and motifs are etched in the ground. This archaeological site spans more than 75,000 hectares in one of the driest places on Earth. Gaze at the world’s largest art gallery filled with canvases made of soil. From a birds-eye view, see figures of flowers and cacti as well as monkeys and lizards.

Cusco

Cusco is the perfect starting point for many Peru trips. Upon arrival, you may have the urge to dart straight for Machu Picchu. But why not stop and smell the empanadas? Like the ones in San Pedro Market! Wafting with delicious aromas, this Incan capital hosts beautiful colonial architecture below majestic mountains. This 16th century city is also home to historical hotspots like Koricancha, Sacsayhuaman and the Cusco Cathedral. The main square is filled with eclectic shops, restaurants and foodie-friendly excursions like cocktail classes at Museo del Pisco. You can even head to Choco Museo to make chocolate out of fresh cocoa beans.

Laguna 69 Huaraz

Laguna 69 Huaraz is quickly becoming a destination for Instagram influencers. This beryl blue lake in Huascaran National Park lies at the end of the highest mountain route in Peru and Laguna Llanganuco. This three-hour long trail isn’t the longest trek you’ll encounter, but it may be the steepest. At 4,500m above sea level, air quality tends to thin leaving you breathless on an already rigorous climb. When hiking to Huaraz, slow and steady always wins the race. The prize? A sparkling lagoon that needs no filter.

Vinicunca aka Rainbow Mountain

Vinicunca, famously known as Rainbow Mountain is another site for a gorgeous photo opp. These formations of sorbet-coloured sandstone lie on the upper valley of Pitumarca, along the peaks of the Ausangate mountain region. Its proximity to Cusco has helped it skyrocket in popularity, but don’t let tourism scare you away from this recent phenomenon. Up until a few years ago, these mountains were covered with snow and ice. Due to the rising climate, Rainbow Mountain is finally showing its true colours. While a trip to Rainbow Mountain is great on its own, Andean Lodges offers an exciting five-day trek along the Trail of Apu - with Rainbow Mountain as a featured stop.

Peru’s Amazon Rainforest

Cruise and peruse through the country’s Amazonian region: home to the Gocta Waterfall, ancient fortresses and mysterious sarcophagi. Sixty per cent of Peru is covered by the Amazon which makes it nearly impossible to skip. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a great spot for canopy walks, kayaking and paddle boarding. We also recommend seeing Lake Sandoval, home to river otters, caimans and howler monkeys. Daring travellers can embrace the night with a twilight safari. With Delfin luxury cruises, you can sail the Amazon in style alongside passing pink dolphins.

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