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Why This Cultural Latin American Destination Is Surging In Popularity Right Now

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After surviving a shaky 2023, plagued by nationwide protests and political turmoil, Peru has reclaimed its rightful spot as a firm favorite in Latin America, not only due to its cheap prices but also its thriving nature and immense cultural value.

Now that peace has been reinstated, gloomy travel alerts have been rescinded on Washington's part, and the contagion of anarchy has moved to the next country in line, Peru is inching closer to full recovery, preparing to host 3.2 million adventurers in 2024.

The Incan heartland may have had a troublesome last couple of years, but it's never been trendier to visit than it is now, and this is why:

A Couple Wearing Traditional Peruvian Attire As They Admire A View Of Machu Picchu During A Foggy Day, Andean Peaks Of Peru, South America

What Makes Peru So Unique?

Located on the Western side of South America, Peru is one of the most inherently fascinating nations in the continent, sandwiched between the vast Pacific and the Andean mountain range.

It may not stand alongside Chile or Brazil among the more well-off, but it's fair to say its true wealth lies in an intriguing History, delectable ethnic cuisine, and abundance of natural resources: in fact, Peruvian nature is a big draw for country-hoppers in the Global South.

Huayhuach, A Lake Surrounded By Snow-Capped Andean Peaks In Peru, South America

From the coast, through the towering central mountains, all the way to the Amazon rainforest that flanks the Eastern borders, this is a country with over 60% of tropical forest coverage, and needless to say, the list of phenomenal natural wonders is extensive.

If travel content dominates your Insta or TikTok feed, you have certainly come across one or two of Peru's most striking natural sites already, and we wouldn't be surprised if you've hit the like button on the viral Vinicunca, or how foreigners call it, Rainbow Mountain.

Peruvian Nature Is A Force To Be Reckoned With

hikers and the rainbow mountains in peru

This impressive range of peaks splayed with colorful stripes, a result of the rare minerals found in the soil, is a popular hike for visitors to Peru, who flock to the protected park to catch a glimpse of and potentially interact with the native llamas.

If you're a wildlife spotter, you'll definitely want to add in a safari in the Manú National Park, as it is one of the few preserves where you can tick off the ‘big South American five‘: we're talking jaguars, the Amazonian ungulate, giant otters, various species of monkeys, and of course, the Instagrammable capybaras.

Capybaras Swimming In A River In Manu National Park, Peru, South America

Southeastern Peru is best known for its volcanic hinterland, and one national reservation in particular, Salinas and Aguada Blanca is your go-to spot for watching alpacas and other Peruvian wildlife in their habitat, with an imposing Misti volcano as a backdrop.

An omnipresent force, Peruvian nature is reason enough for tourists to place it at the top of their bucket lists, but it's only the tip of a much larger iceberg, or should we say Holy Mountain?

Incan Culture Is At The Heart Of Peru's Nationhood

A view of Machu Picchu through a stone entryway in Peru

The Sacred Valley in the Andean highlands is Peru's most visited tourist attraction, largely thanks to its association with the extinct Incan civilization.

Much like the Mayans ruled much of Central America before the arrival of European settlers, the land comprising modern-day Peru was ruled by the Inca Empire, which had city-building on high plateaus, ingenious agricultural techniques, and military strength as its three defining traits.

The widely-recognized Incan remnant is Machu Picchu, a 15th-century citadel perched atop the Eastern Cordillera and a Wonder of the World attracting thousands of visitors per day.

a blue train travels towards the camera on tracks on the way to Machu Picchu Peru

Whether you're venturing in the arduous but very rewarding Incan Trail or taking the tourist train up to the safest access point, you will be met with sweeping views of mountains and deep valleys dotted with abandoned ancient towns close to being reclaimed by nature.

Just make sure you drink up your coca tea, as altitude sickness is a common malaise affecting tourists attempting the ascent.

The good news is, from 2024, local authorities will allow more visitors to the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site per day, up from 3,800 to as many as 4,500 daily guests – on certain dates, that number can go as high as 5,600.

Llama Posing And Machu Picchu In The Background, Peru, South America

You should still book your visit in advance, as Machu Picchu tours can sell out fast.

Colonial Heritage Is Everywhere To Be Seen

The eclectic architectural styles seen around Peru and the nation's multicultural character make Peru equally important as a cultural hub.

Cusco, the postcard colonial city, is one of the oldest founded by the Spanish in the Americas, with a landmark main square dominated by a striking stone cathedral, an Old Town traversed by cobbled lanes, and a sea of terracotta tile roofs as far as the eyes can see.

Plaza In Cusco, Peru, South America

A lesser-known gem built at the height of the Spanish Empire, Trujillo boasts a plethora of well-maintained historical mansions and ornate churches, most notably the towering Cathedral, and its UNESCO-protected, ruined adobe city of Chan Chan alone is worth the detour.

Arequipa, on the other hand, has a whitewashed townscape, with winding alleys that are flanked by centuries-old houses molded out of volcanic stone, charming cafes and traditional eateries, and an impressive Santa Catalina Monastery as the main point of interest.

old street in cusco peru

The national capital Lima should not be so quickly dismissed as a mere stopover destination, either: as sprawling and modern as it may be, it has a high concentration of museums, perhaps the country's best, and it seems to have won the hearts of foodies worldwide.

Ceviche, tiger's milk, creamy chicken, stir-fried beef, tiraditos, and basically every Peruvian delicacy that's reached the mainstream palate (or is yet to): Lima is where you'll find them, be it in highly-reputed restaurants lining the colonial Main Square, or the bustling Central Market.

Ceviche Served In A Peruvian Restaurant

Peru Can Be Dirt Cheap

There is a reason why backpacking travelers have Peru on their radar: its low consumer prices, weaker currency compared to the U.S. dollar, and high-quality food available at surprisingly affordable prices will definitely get you more bang for your buck.

While we wouldn't advise you to travel to Peru on a shoestring budget, especially if you're keen on enjoying all that this beautifully diverse ethno-state has to offer, there's no doubt you can have a memorable vacation and treat yourself every now and then, without breaking the bank.

Aerial View Of The Coast In Lima, Peru, South America

The average price for a comfortable private room in centrally-located hotels is a dirt cheap $25, while daily expenses for travelers who explore Peru over the course of a week are capped at $60, according to Budget Your Trip.

There is no catch here. It's just your tourist dollars stretching much further than you're used to back home.

Peru Is Safer To Visit In 2024

a line of Peruvian police officers stand in a line with riot gear in Lima

Safety remains a primary concern for travelers in Peru in light of the 2023 protests that put the brakes on tourism nationwide and led to the cancellation of multiple flights.

Thankfully, the country has recovered from this recent low, having regained its Level 2 status, as granted by U.S. authorities, and is no longer considered somewhere American citizens should ‘reconsider' traveling to.

Now, general safety advice applies, mostly relating to pickpocketing and other common forms of urban crime.

Is Latin America The World's New Top Cultural Hub?

Tourist woman in rainbow hat and brown poncho holding man by hand and going to the lake in the mountains in peru

It's becoming increasingly common among Americans that, when planning a trip abroad, they make culture-based activities a top priority: we see it in the rise of colonial tourism, the renewed interest in foodie hotspots, and in the increase in demand for more meaningful experiences.

Home a rich heritage, it's only natural that Latin America would be at the front of this fast-spreading trend: from the Mayan ruins of the Mexican Caribbean, down to the timelessness elegance of European-inspired Buenos Aires, it just oozes History.

Learn more about the awe-inspiring subcontinent, and start planning your trip here.

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