A country with expansive ecosystems, riveting history, and mouth-watering foods, Peru is famous for plenty of things. Once the heart of the mighty Inca Empire, its unique cultures and traditions are unlike any other country in South America.
From the Seven Wonders of the World Machu Picchu to the mysterious Nazca Lines in the Peruvian desert, I can be here all day counting Peru’s notable attractions.
For those that are not sure what Peru is famous for, we have written this post on the 25+ most famous things about Peru so you can discover them yourself!
What is Peru Famous for?
1. Machu Picchu, One of the Seven Wonders of the World
There is nothing more famous in Peru than Machu Picchu, the most iconic landmark in the country and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The Inca Empire built this impressive citadel overlooking the Urubamba River in 1450, but it was abandoned after the Spanish conquest. It was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and since then has been a popular tourist destination.
Tucked away in the Andean Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was never discovered by the Spaniards, making it one of the most well-preserved Inca ruins in Peru.
A visit to Machu Picchu is like stepping into a time machine and visitors can immerse themselves in the life of the Incas.
2. The Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is an iconic trekking route in Peru that runs extensively through the historic Incan civilization and ends at Machu Picchu.
The trail is a rugged and challenging journey, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in Peru. The Inca Trail snakes its way through the Andes, with stunning views of the snow-capped peaks all the way.
The Inca Trail has been compared to the ancient Silk Road for its historical significance and cultural significance. It is believed that the Inca Trail was a route of pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.
Evidence also suggests that it was a main way of transportation for the Inca civilization, connecting numerous Inca settlements along the way.
Matter of fact, on the epic 4-day Inca Trail hike, trekkers will pass through more than half a dozen Inca archaeological ruins, and arrive at Machu Picchu on the last day through the Sun Gate.
3. Cusco, the Heart of the Inca Empire
Cusco is located in the Andes in central Peru and was once the capital of the Inca empire. The city was founded in the 12th century by the Inca rulers Pachacuti and Tupac Yupanqui and became an important cultural and political center of the Inca empire.
Today, Cusco is one of Peru’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its stunning colonial architecture and its proximity to Machu Picchu.
Cusco is also a good base for exploring the Sacred Valley, home of some of the most significant Inca settlements such as Moray, Ollantaytambo, and more.
Cusco also allows you to explore some of the best hikes in Peru, such as Rainbow Mountain, Humantay Lake, and more.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Cusco while exploring its beauty?
Check out our detailed guide here!
4. The Mysterious Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs found in the Nazca region of Peru. The lines are thought to date back to around 500 BC, and are some of the most mysterious and fascinating archaeological sites in South America.
The lines are composed of a variety of shapes, including figures of animals, humans, serpents, and more.
The lines have been the focus of numerous scientific studies over the years, and remain largely undiscovered.
Some theories suggest that the lines were used for religious ceremonies or navigation, while others suggest that they were used for astronomical purposes. Some even believe that the lines were made from extraterrestrial beings.
Whatever the case may be, the Nazca Lines is a must on any Peru itinerary.
Since the Nazca Lines are so massive, the best way to see them is by flying on top of them!
5. Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain is one of the most Instagram famous spots in Peru. Known as the Montana de Siete Colores, or Mountain of Seven Colors in English, Rainbow Mountain offers a unique view unlike anywhere else in the world.
At the top of the Vinicunca Mountain, various mineral deposits create an effect where the mountain has streaks of different colors.
Funny enough, this famous attraction in Peru only earned its fame in 2013. Due to climate change, the snow that regularly covers the top of Rainbow Mountain melted, revealing the rainbow-like colors below.
To see this miraculous sight does not come easy, especially since Rainbow Mountain is situated over 5,000 meters above sea level. Hikers must endure a 2-hour hike at a high altitude to reach the vantage point.
Want to experience the Rainbow Mountain with your own eyes and legs? Check out our favorite Rainbow Mountain tour here!
6. Peruvian Ceviche
There is no food more famous from Peru than the Peruvian Ceviche, one of the world’s best and most flavorsome seafood dishes. Originating from the coastal towns of Peru, ceviche is a dish that is made by marinating raw fish in Peruvian limes and spices.
The lime juice in Peru is so acidic that it kills all the harmful bacteria, resulting in a juicy and succulent dish that is sure to tantalize the taste buds.
It is no wonder the Peruvian Ceviche is known as the national food of Peru!
If you want to try authentic Peruvian ceviche, you must head to Lima. Its location next to the Pacific Ocean guarantees that you have some of the freshest and best types of fish for ingredients! Try not to get it in Cusco because they usually make it with trout, a not very fatty fish with lots of bones.
Lima is a great place to try ceviche, and there are plenty of ceviche restaurants in Lima to pick from!
7. Colca Canyon
There are many famous mountains in Peru, but none is as famous as Colca Canyon, the world’s second deepest canyon.
The canyon was formed by the river Colca over a period of millions of years. The river has carved a steep-walled canyon through the Andes Mountains, reaching depths of up to 3200 meters.
In fact, Colca Canyon is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the United States, which is already insanely deep!
The Colca Canyon is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Peru. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it is also home to some of Peru’s most impressive geology. The canyon is a great place to hike and explore, and there are many different viewpoints that allow you to take in the stunning views.
One of the best ways to explore the Colca Canyon is through a 2-day trek. Not only do you get to see some of the most revered and famous animals in Peru such as the condors, but you can also hike up and down Colca Canyon itself!
Experience Colca Canyon on this affordable 2-day hiking tour here!
8. Catarata de Gocta (Gocta Waterfall)
Catarata de Gocta, or Gocta Waterfall in English, is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls.
Measuring 771m in height, it was the 3rd highest waterfall in the world, but now it falls somewhere between 3rd and 16th in the world, depending on how you measure it.
Catarata de Gocta is one of those places where you can fully understand the power of mother nature. If you stand remotely close to the waterfall, you will get completely soaked.
And don’t even think about swimming in the waterfall, unless you want to be washed down the river and never be seen again.
If you want to visit the Catarata de Gocta, you will want to base yourself in Chachapoyas, From there, it is an easy day hike to Gocta Waterfall.
9. 4,000 Varieties of Potatoes
When we found out that Peru is known for its 4,000 types of potatoes, we were quite shocked, especially since we couldn’t even name more than 5 types of potatoes in our head.
Thanks to Peru’s favorable and diverse climates, crops, especially potatoes, thrive like crazy.
Potatoes are more than just a source of food for Peruvians, but they are also part of their heritage. It is believed that potatoes were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands.
Since then, farmers have been genetically manipulating them to provide favorable results.
Though it isn’t as popular now, some farmers still preserved the traditions of cultivating different potato varieties.
In some places in Peru, potatoes are often used as gifts for celebrations and ceremonies. Obviously, we are not talking about the typical ones you can get at the supermarket, but more exotic ones that you have not seen before!
It is also believed that potatoes originated from Peru!
10. Being One of the Best Places for Sandboarding in South America
Located in the heart of the Peruvian desert is Huacachina, a small town with a small lagoon in the middle surrounded by some of the most surreal sand dunes in the world.
The sand dunes rise nearly a hundred meters around Huacachina and offer visitors unique activities. For starters, the expansive sand dunes are perfect for sandboarding. You can sandboard for hundred of meters uninterruptedly, which is pretty rare in South America.
For those that don’t like to sandboard, Huacachina is also known for its incredible sunsets.
The hues of the sunsets harmonize perfectly with the colors of the sand. It is a dreamy scenery that will make you pinch your cheeks and ask yourself if you are dreaming or not.
11. Lake Titicaca, the Highest Navigable Lake in the World
Lake Titicaca is not only one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, but it is also the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,810 meters.
The high altitudes of the lake make it a unique destination for travelers, who can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers from its shores.
Lake Titicaca is also home to the Uros Islands, Peru’s famous floating villages.
They are built using the native totora plant, which gives them the buoyancy needed to house groups of people at once.
Originally built by the Uros people, these floating islands were designed for self-protection. Its extreme mobility meant that it could separate itself from danger at any second. Obviously, that wasn’t enough to stop the Spaniards but visitors can still find plenty of floating islands on Lake Titicaca.
Don’t miss the chance to experience this unique Peruvian tradition when you are in the region!
12. Pisco Sour
Peru is famous for its Pisco Sour, a type of cocktail made from Pisco (a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy from the winemaking regions of Peru), freshly squeezed lime juice, syrup, ice, egg whites, and Angostura bitter.
The raw egg white creates an “intriguing” foam at the top of the drink, and some people might find that a little bit repulsive.
However, that doesn’t stop it from being the national drink of Peru. Its popularity is also undeniable – you can find Pisco Sours almost everywhere in Peru.
13. For Eating Cuy (Guinea Pigs) as Food
One of the most interesting facts about Peru is that guineas pigs (or Cuy in Spanish) aren’t pets in Peru, they are actually food – a delicacy.
These little cute and fluffy pets that everyone loves have been a steady food source for many years in Peru.
Historically, the Incas bred guinea pigs for food simply because they were easy to maintain. Guinea Pigs reproduce at a staggering rate so everyone could have a reliable source of protein.
Fun Fact: Not only were guinea pigs used as food for the Incas, but they also used them for warmth in the cool months. Incas would bunch a ton of guinea pigs underneath their shelter, so when they move around, it would generate enough heat to keep the shelters warm.
Nowadays, the popularity of Cuy has risen dramatically. People flock from all around the world to try this unique Peruvian dish.
In fact, what was once a way of life of the people of the Andean Mountains has become quite common in the entire country as more locals breed guinea pigs to sell to tourist-serving restaurants.
14. For Being Home to the Amazon Rainforest
One of the most incredible things about Peru is its diverse terrain.
From oceans to mountains to jungles, Peru has it all. Matter of fact, Peru is home to 13 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, which is the second-biggest holding after Brazil’s 60 percent. The result is one of the most biodiverse places in the world.
There are many places in Peru to experience the Amazon jungle, but the two best places are:
- Puerto Maldonaldo
Iquitos is definitely the better place if you want to venture deep inside the Amazon. This port city is only accessible by boat and plane as there are no roads that connect Iquitos with the rest of Peru.
Its isolation means the flora and fauna around it are less disturbed, perfect for visitors planning to explore everything the Peruvian Amazon has to give. The city also sits next to the Amazon River!
On the other hand, Puerto Maldonaldo is the gateway to the southern parts of the Peruvian Amazon. It is connected to Cusco via a main road so getting there is much easier. If you want just a bite of the Amazon, then Puerto Maldonaldo is perfect for you.
15. 300 Types of Chili Peppers
Besides a huge variety of potatoes, Peru also has a giant range of chili peppers. Thanks to its diverse climate conditions, there are over 300 types of chili peppers grown in Peru. The most famous ones are
- aji amarillo (yellow chili pepper)
- aji panca (Peruvian red pepper)
These peppers create some of the most diverse and striking flavors in Peruvian cuisine.
Some of the other popular dishes that include Peruvian chili peppers include ceviche, aji de gallina, and rocoto relleno.
16. Huayhuash Trek, One of the Most Beautiful Hikes in the world
One of the most famous things about Peru is the Huayhuash Trek, an 8 to 12-day trek that is considered one of the best trekking circuits in the world.
It takes you through some of the most spectacular snow-covered peaks, dreamy blue glacial lakes, and crystal clear streams. Not only that, but visitors can get close and personal to some of the native flora and fauna of the Cordillera Blanca in the Andes.
Peru’s second tallest mountain, Yerupajá at 6634 meters, can be seen from the Huayhuash trek as well. Though extraordinary in every way, prepare for altitude sickness and make sure you acclimatize to this difficult hike from Huaraz!
17. Rich Inca Culture
Anyone visiting Peru must have heard of the Incas, the largest and most powerful empire in South America. Spanning over a period of ±100 years, their architecture, art, and engineering are some of the most impressive in the world.
Unfortunately, their reign ended short with the arrival of the Spaniards and their conquest.
Their legacy can still be seen in the form of breathtaking ancient ruins like Machu Picchu, or in the modern day, with the richness and diversity of Peru’s cultures.
18. Alpacas, Llamas and Vicunas and Guanacos
Alpacas, llamas, Vicunas and Guanacos are some of the native animals of the Andean Mountains of Peru. These animals are known for their soft wool and their role in Peruvian culture and folklore. In fact, Peru is home to 87 percent of the world’s alpaca population.
They even celebrate National Alpaca Day in Peru!
Everywhere you go from Rainbow Mountain to the streets of Cusco, you will find plenty of cute alpacas. A photo with them is a quintessential part of any Peru trip. But if you want to see them in the wild, you will have to venture deep into the remote villages in the mountains.
If you are planning on purchasing any Peruvian souvenirs, any alpaca-related products are going to be special.
19. Sacred Valley of the Incas
Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, was home to some of the most important Incan settlements. It stretched from Pisac to Ollantaytambo and the entire valley was irrigated by the Urubamba River, hence earning its name.
Because of its fertile land, the Sacred Valley was a popular place for settlements, and many Incas did settle in the Sacred Valley. Combined with Cusco, Sacred Valley made up the heart of the Inca civilization.
Some of the most recognizable Inca ancient ruins in the Sacred Valley are:
- Machu Picchu
- Salinera de Maras (the place where you can get Peruvian pink salt)
20. Chicha Morada
If you ever go to a restaurant anywhere in Peru, chances are, you will probably see Chicha Morada on the menu.
This purple-hued drink is actually made from a type of purple corn that is native to the Andes. Mixed with sugar and water, Chicha Morada is surprisingly quite delicious, especially when served cold or over ice.
There is a variation of the Chicha Morada that contains alcohol called Chicha Jora. It is pretty much corn beer but the taste is very sweet and unique. Chicha Jora is quite difficult to find but Chicha Morada is very popular in Peru.
21. Having Some of the Best Cuisine in the World
With its diverse terrain, rich culinary traditions, and fresh resources, Peruvian dishes are nothing less than amazing. From the coastal city of Lima to the highlands of Cusco, there is a huge variety of top-tier restaurants that will satisfy any palate.
If you are a foodie, then Peru’s world-renowned flavors will make you fall in love!
Visiting Lima? Check out some of the best things to do in Miraflores, one of the safest neighborhoods in Lima!
22. For Inca Kola, Peru’s Own Soft Drink
Created in 1935, Inca Kola is a legendary soft drink in Peru that has stolen the hearts of many locals. Its yellowish appearance might not entice you, but once you have a sip, you will immediately be enchanted.
One of the most unusual things about the Inca Kola is that no one knows what it exactly tastes like. Some say it’s fruity and resembles its main ingredient – lemon verbena. Some say (me included) it tastes like bubblegum and cream soda.
Whatever the flavor is, this super sweet soft drink is famous in Peru!
23. Incredible Coffee
When you think of what Peru is famous for, coffee probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Though often overshadowed by its neighboring countries like Colombia and Brazil, Peruvian coffee is far from lackluster.
You might not see lots of coffee in Peru thanks to other popular drinks such as coca tea and chicha morada, but Peru is the world’s 8th largest coffee producer in terms of area harvested and the 11th in terms of coffee exports.
In terms of taste, coffee from Peru is said to have a medium body with a flavorful and aromatic profile, mostly thanks to rich soil from the regions where coffee beans are grown (usually east of the Andes and near the Amazon Rainforest).
Peru also has a specialty coffee called the Coati poop coffee. It is coffee made from coffee beans that have been pooped out of Coatis, and some people love the extra flavor but we don’t.
One of the most emerging trends in the world is the use of Ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew that is used as ceremonial spiritual medicine among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest.
This brew is made from native plants of the Amazon forest, and the Ayahuasca ritual is usually performed by shamans of indigenous tribes.
Though a ceremonial brew for the indigenous people of the Amazon, nowadays, people are taking Ayahuasca for therapeutic effects.
Though the effects of Ayahuasca are still very much a mystery, many people compare it to going through 10 years worth of therapy. Some people experience spiritual enlightenment, a deeper connection with nature and themselves, and more.
It is a magical drug that originates from many parts of the Amazon, including the Peruvian part.
25. Quechua Language
Though the official language of Peru is Spanish, studies show that more than 25% of the people in Peru speak Quechua, a language that was primarily used in the Inca Empire.
Many villages in the Andean region of Peru still speak Quechua predominantly, and their Spanish might not be the best.
Peru has the biggest concentration of Quechua speakers, but you can also find them in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and even Argentina1
26. Túpac Amaru II
José Gabriel Túpac Amaru, or just Tupac Amaru II, might just be the most famous person in Peru.
Descendant of the last Inca ruler, Tupac Amaru II was in charge of fighting for more rights for Peru’s native people under Spanish rule. His fight for reform failed, and in fact, he and his entire family were executed.
Nonetheless, it had inspired the native and mestizo population of Peru, eventually leading them to their own fight and the overthrow of the Spanish rulers.
Most Famous Things About Peru FAQs
What food is Peru famous for?
There are plenty of famous Peruvian dishes, but none can be as famous as the Peruvian ceviche, lomo saltado, and cuy (guinea pigs). These dishes aren’t only traditional, but they resemble parts of the Peruvian culture and its evolution.
What animal is Peru known for?
Peru is known for its alpacas and llamas. Thanks to the Andes Mountains that divide Peru in the middle, alpacas and llamas can find plenty of native habitat for them. In fact, Peru is home to over 87 percent of the world’s alpaca population.
What are Peru’s most famous people?
Some of Peru’s most famous people are Tupac Amaru II (who was executed when he tried to fight for rights for Peru’s native people) and Mario Vargas Llosa (a Nobel Prize winner).
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That’s it to our guide: 25 things Peru is famous for that you might not have known. Did you find any interesting facts or shocking discoveries?
Let us know in the comments below!