Five Underrated Destinations in Peru to Visit in 2024

Melanie Wright  |  3 February 2024

Peru might be the most visited country in South America, but that doesn't mean all its marvellous treasures have gained equal worldwide attention. Sure, Machu Picchu and Cusco might hog all the tourist limelight (for good reason), but there are more hidden gems in this country that you ought to discover in 2024.


Planning a whirlwind tour of Peru in 2024? These are the five most incredible (and underrated) destinations you must include in your itinerary.

Consider this an off-the-beaten-path Peru travel guide…from us to you!


Five Underrated Destinations to Visit in Peru in 2024

1.    Arequipa

2.    Colca Canyon

3.    Nazca

4.    Paracas

5.    Lake Titicaca


Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru

Peru is famous for its Plaza de Armas, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more breathtaking one than Arequipa's – Pia, Senior Destination Specialist


1.    Arequipa

Arequipa is one of Peru's most enchanting colonial cities, where time seems to have stood still for aeons. The city is a glorious mix of Spanish colonial architecture infused with a palpable indigenous heritage and a thriving vibe that screams modernity. It's an intoxicating and utterly enticing scene that has attracted foreigners for decades. This is, after all, one of Peru's most enjoyable and liveable cities.

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa – Most of the city was built with a dazzling white volcanic rock called sillar – which is why it is affectionally known as the White City – La Ciudad Blanca


Framed by a spine of snow-capped Andean peaks, Arequipa is defined by its surrounding dramatic landscapes. In every direction you look, a towering volcano looms. At 5,800m altitude, El Misti is the city’s most iconic protector, revered by ancient Incas and their modern descendants equally. Over the years, Misti has revealed several ancient mummies, proving the peak's importance in local culture and their old propensity for human sacrifice.

The most famous Inca mummy ever discovered is Juanita, a young teenage girl sacrificed to the gods in the mid-1400s. Juanita was found on Mount Ampato in 1995, is considered the best-preserved Incan mummy, and is displayed in Arequipa's Museo Santuarios Andinos for several months a year.


Momia Juanita

Juanita was so well-preserved that her hair, skin, and even stomach contents were intact when she was discovered.


Meandering about Arequipa's streets makes you feel as if you are exploring a priceless outdoor museum. UNESCO agreed and declared the city's entire historic core heritage listing in 2000. This is one of Peru's most historically significant cities, so the accolades – and sheer number of world-class museums – make sense. The architecture of the city’s main Cathedral is astounding, and the colours, history and tranquillity of the Santa Catalina Monastery Museum are unforgettable highlights.


Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa

In a city filled with photogenic sites, the Santa Catalina Monastery reigns supreme – this is Arequipa’s most tranquil and beautiful attraction.


If all that isn’t enough, Arequipa is also arguably the best shopping hub in Peru. If you’re in the market for alpaca wool souvenirs, here’s where you ought to be buying them. A variety of markets and more upmarket boutiques sell a range of goods at much better prices than you’ll find elsewhere. 

Being so close to many fantastic peaks means Arequipa attracts a fair share of mountaineers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are loads of day and multi-day adventures to be had from here.

Starting with our #2 most underrated destination in all of Peru.

> See our 4 day tour of Arequipa & Colca Canyon


2.    Colca Canyon

Once you're in Arequipa, you'll want to dedicate a few days to getting to and enjoying the jaw-dropping spectacle of the Colca Canyon. Many visitors dismiss this natural wonder due to the relative 'hassle' of reaching it – but let us tell you – casting your eyes on the world's second-deepest canyon is worth every pothole-ridden road. We promise.

Colca Canyon Lookout

Once you reach the Colca Canyon, you’ll no doubt want to spend ample time at Mirador Cruz del Condor – at an altitude of over 3,000m, the views here are out of this world. You didn’t come all this way to rush your visit!


The drive from Arequipa to Colca is an adventure of its own accord; we'll grant you that. But the views are splendid beyond words, and the whole experience made all the more worthwhile. As you near the canyon’s rim, the landscape changes dramatically. Towering cliffs rise on either side, painted in hues of gold and red. This is one of Peru's most incredible natural wonders and one of its most underrated destinations.


Colca Valley

The Colca Valley, inhabited for thousands of years, is a testament to human perseverance in the face of nature's challenges. Here, ancient agricultural terraces cascade down the slopes, cultivated by the descendants of the Collagua and Cabana cultures.


The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s most breathtaking sights, especially at dawn when countless Andean Condors line the rim to take their daily flight in search of some desayuno.


Condors in Colca Valley

The majestic condor is the largest flying bird on earth and is revered as the guardian of the Colca Canyon.


Most visitors departing Arequipa spend one night in the Colca Valley, so they can be on the rim at sunrise. On our tours, we typically stay in Chivay, as it has a wide range of accommodation and dining options. Staying overnight also gives you the chance to visit nearby villages, like Yanque and Maca, where locals display their beautiful crafts and show off their traditional ‘coming of age’ dance, the Wititi – now proudly declared a UNESCO intangible cultural treasure. A 2-day visit to the Colca Canyon is a cultural and nature-based adventure you really shouldn’t miss.

This is a side of Peru that many never get to see – the more authentic and less visited side – the side that is tailor-made for those who wish to get a little off the well-trodden trail and discover hidden gems.


3.    Nazca

Speak to anyone who's ever visited Nazca; they'll undoubtedly tell you it was one of the most unforgettable highlights of their trip to Peru. So, how come you've never even heard of the place?

Well, because Nazca is kind of in the middle of nowhere – most travellers who visit happen to ‘stumble’ upon it because they are crossing Peru’s southeastern desert overland. They might be driving between Ica and Arequipa or taking the scenic route from Lima to Cusco.

So, what’s so special about Nazca anyway?

Nazca is home to one of the world's most intriguing and mysterious geoglyphs, the Nazca Lines. Carved onto the volcanic desert floor and covering an area of over 500, the Nazca Lines comprise a variety of figures and images. Over 1,500 lines have been discovered so far. No one knows precisely when they were carved. Or how. Or by whom. Theories (some of them plausible) abound. General scientific consensus says the Nazca civilisation probably made the lines around 1-700 A.D.

The Spider - Nazca Lines, Peru

The Nazca Lines are only clearly visible from the air. In Nazca, you can take an extraordinary short plane ride over the desert to see a multitude of figurines. This, right here, is The Spider.


And here’s The Monkey, one of the most well-known of the Nazca Lines.

nazca lines monkey


The latest discovery, in 2020, was the carving of a gigantic cat. As you can imagine, this further fuelled the internet’s cat obsession!

nazca lines cat

The Nazca cat


Enigmatic lines aside, the Nazca Desert is one of Peru's most underrated destinations. Among the many hidden gems are ancient cemeteries of pre-Inca civilisations and museums showcasing extraordinary archaeological finds over the last half a century. There's also a museum dedicated to the scientists who first discovered and went about studying and preserving the Nazca Lines.

As you plan your Peru travel guide and itinerary, remember that Nazca can be visited from Lima, even on a day trip, if needed.

However, slowing it down and adding the following entry to our list of most underrated destinations in Peru is a preferable option (see our six-day Nazca & Paracas tour).


4.    Paracas

Along the southern coast of Peru, about halfway between Lima and Nazca, is where you'll find the Paracas National Park and its enchanting Ballestas Islands, which you can explore by boat.

Natural archway on Paracas coastline

This stretch of Peru’s coastline boasts fascinating geological formations, including natural arches, caves, and towering cliffs.


Often referred to as the "Poor Man's Galapagos," these islands are teeming with wildlife, including sea lions, Humboldt penguins, Peruvian boobies, and pelicans. The rich ecosystem makes it a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers. As you navigate the crystalline waters, you'll also glimpse some of those enigmatic Nazca Lines mentioned above.


Ballestas Islands, Paracas, Peru

The Ballestas enjoy a rich natural history and are devoid of human habitation.


Back on land, Paracas Village offers a charming slice of Peruvian coastal life, away from the hustle and bustle of modern cities like Lima. Sample fresh seafood at local restaurants, explore the quaint artisanal markets or simply relax on the golden sands of El Chaco beach. For history buffs, the Paracas History Museum provides a glimpse into the ancient Paracas culture, known for its intricate textiles and enigmatic burial practices.

See how Viva combines a visit to both Nazca and Paracas on a 6-day round-trip itinerary from Lima.


5.    Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is usually considered one of Bolivia's top attractions, given its proximity to its capital, La Paz. Yet Peru's share of the highest navigable lake on earth is just as enticing, if not more so.

Puno is the undisputed 'gateway' to adventures on Lake Titicaca, and it's a culturally enriched town found on the Peruvian side of the lake.


Dancers in costume for the festival of the Virgin of Candelaria in Puno

The annual Feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria is held in Puno in February and is one of Peru’s most colourful cultural events.


You can also discover the fascinating Uros Floating Islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. These islands are entirely man-made and constructed using totora reeds, abundant in the lake. The Uros people, who inhabit these islands, have maintained this unique way of life for generations. They live, work, and travel on these floating platforms, anchored to prevent them from drifting.


Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Visiting the Uros Islands is a fascinating glimpse into the traditional lifestyle and resourcefulness of the local people.


Taquile Island is another remarkable destination on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It is renowned for its cultural heritage, particularly the knitting skills of the male inhabitants, who create intricate textiles that are recognised as UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage. The islanders are known for their hospitality and have a strong sense of community.

A day trip to Taquile is delightful. Learn about the local customs, enjoy a leisurely walk to the most photogenic spots and savour delicious local dishes like grilled trout.

Entrance stone arch leading to the interior of Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca,

Taquile Island offers panoramic views of the lake and surrounding landscapes. It's perfect for hikers and photographers alike.


At Viva Expeditions, we love offering classic Peru tours with well-known attractions and hidden gems. Moreover, our Destination Specialists are constantly looking for more hidden secrets to unravel (and share!) in the country. If you wish to create a bespoke itinerary that speaks to your heart, why not get in touch? We’ll help you create the Peru travel itinerary that’s just right for you.


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