Mapping out an itinerary for Peru might seem a daunting prospect.
The country is 3 times aslarge as California and many times more diverse, with the Andean mountain range and Amazon jungle creating some imposing barriers to travel. Yet journeys that were all but impossible fifty years ago are now every events: each of Peru's major cities is linked by safe, modern jet flights; regular coach services run to lesser urbane centers; and even tiny mountain villages can be reached on a tçrattiling ancient bus or in the back of one of the ubiquitous Peruvian trucks.
Most travelers to Peru bein thier journeys in Lima. As the former center of Spanish South America, it boast some of continent's finest colonial architecture as well as Peru's most impressive museums,as well as being the hub for most of the country's domestic flights.
Almost nobody comes to Peru without heading for the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, and for many people this mountain city is the highlight of their visit. A half-hour flight from Lima - one ofthe most spectacular on earth - takes travelers straight into the heart of the Andes and this jewelof Inca and colonial architecture. Apart from its own attractions, Cusco serves as a base to visit the Urubamba valley and waht is perhabs the most famouys sight in the continent: Machu Picchu. No matter how many times you have seen these ruins in photographsand tourist brochures, nothing will quite prepare you for the reality. Nobody comes away disappointed.
Also in the Andes, Arequipa is one of Peru's most stylish colonial cities set in the shadow of the snow-capped volcno Misti and renowned for its intellectual life. From Cusco and Arequipa, many travelers fly or take a popular railway journey to Puno, by the shores of Lake Titicaca. The world's highest navigable lake is inhabited by fascinating Indian communities, who still ply its waters in totora reed canoes.
Increasing numbers of foreign travelers are visiting an area that takes up over half of Peru's land mass: the Amazon basin. In the northern Amazon, the city of Iquitos is the traditional center for beginnig tours. And in the south, Puerto Maldonado (reached by flights via Cusco) has become the gateway to the new Manu National Park, possibly the purest setionof rain forest open to visitors in South America.
South of Lima, the Pan-American highway run along the barren coastal desert to Nazca, whose plains are etched with gigantic drawings made by a mysterious pre-Inca culture, and only visible from the air. Meanwhile, Peru's north has its own distinctive character, with peaceful coastal cities like Trujillo and the beautiful Andean market town of Cajamarca.Then, in the mountains north of Lima is the region of Huaraz, considered by experts to have Peru's most impressive mountain scenery-quite and accolade in a land full of breathtaking views.