17 Must-Visit Cities in Peru

17 Must-Visit Cities in Peru

With a wealth of ancient Inca sites, beautiful architecture, and delicious food, Peru’s cities are magical to explore.

Diverse and dynamic, each Peruvian city has its own unique pace of life, festivities, and traditions. Let’s walk through the 17 must-see cities in Peru.

Table of contents:


lima coast view during the day

Lima, the capital of Peru, is a dynamic place brimming with life and energy. With a heap of Colonial-style buildings, leafy parks, and incredible things to do, this is easily one of the best cities in Peru to visit.

Lima is also home to quite a number of world-renowned restaurants. In fact, Central, a high-end restaurant, ranks second on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Whether you opt for a fine-dining restaurant or a food market, be sure to try ceviche. With the Pacific Ocean just west of Lima, this is the perfect place to enjoy this fresh fish dish.



cusco plaza de armas

Cusco is one of the most popular Peruvian cities that spring to mind when planning a trip to Peru. The city is best known for its captivating main square, cobbled streets, and unique architecture. Cusco is also a popular gateway for those visiting Machu Picchu or hiking the Inca Trail.

There are also plenty of activities you can enjoy in the city itself. Some of the top things to do in Cusco include discovering the San Blas district and visiting the San Pedro Market.



Situated right at the heart of the Sacred Valley, Urubamba is a charming little town surrounded by tall Andean peaks.

The main draw to Urubamba is its laid-back vibe and surrounding natural beauty. The city is a popular base camp for many travelers coming to explore Machu Picchu, Pisac, Moray, Ollantaytambo, and the nearby salt mines of Maras. It is also a great stop to acclimatize to the altitude or take a break on your way to other attractions in the Valley.


Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado is another gateway to the Amazon jungle. This small city is located right next to the country’s border with Brazil and Bolivia and can be accessed via bus or flight.

Although it’s lesser-known than Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado can still be a good base to explore the Rainforest in Peru. If you’re not sure which one to visit, we recommend our comparison of Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos.

A comprehensive Amazon travel guide can be immensely helpful when it comes to working out the details of your jungle adventure and ensuring a comfortable trip.



arequipa plaza de armas

Arequipa is a wonderful city that combines rich history with modern lifestyle.

Some exciting things to explore here include the Sumbay cave paintings, the Colca Canyon, the Santuarios Andinos museum with its frozen Inca girl, and the El Misti volcano.

Even more, some of Peru’s most famous dishes, such as ocopa (potatoes in a creamy sauce) and rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), originated from this region. Some of the best restaurants in Arequipa to try traditional Peruvian food include El Tio Diario and La Despensa.



Tucked away in a cloud forest, Chachapoyas is a remote, off-the-beaten-path city in northern Peru.

While Chachapoyas is less touristy, it holds some dazzling pre-Inca archeological ruins, trekking routes, and a number of waterfalls. The city itself does not have many attractions. That said, it still has colonial-period architecture and a beautiful main plaza.

Chachapoyas is mostly known for its fruit liqueurs, so if you’re visiting be sure to give them a try.



cajamarca main square

Cajamarca is another Peruvian gem relatively unknown to international tourists.

Nestled in a valley in the Northern Highlands of Peru, Cajamarca boasts mild, dry, and sunny weather. It also has Colonial architecture and captivating countryside.

For outdoors lovers, Cajamarca is a great base for visiting the rock forests of Cumbemayo, the funerary complexes and mausoleums, and the archaeological ruins of Kuntur Wasi (the House of the Condor).



Nazca is best known for its proximity to the Nazca Lines – one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries. The main attraction in the city is embarking on a memorable flight tour over the famous collection of giant geoglyphs.

If you have some more time to spend in Nazca, you can visit the Cantalloc aqueducts, check out the Maria Reiche Museum, or catch an evening show at the Nazca Planetarium. You can find more info in our Nazca Lines guide.


Trujillo makes a great base if you’re looking to combine a visit to pre-Columbian ruins with a relaxing beach getaway.

There are two main archaeological sites nearby Trujillo – the Temples of the Sun and Moon (the largest adobe pyramid in Peru) and the Chan Chan (a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest adobe city of ancient times).



houses surrounded by water and jungle

Iquitos is a small Peruvian port city that can only be reached by boat or plane. It is also the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

With hectic mototaxi traffic and intriguing jungle culture, the city is very different compared to what you’d see in Cusco or Lima. One of the important things to know about Iquitos is that the humidity in this jungle town averages around 80-100% year round and the average temperature is 80°F (26°C), so be sure to pack accordingly.



Chiclayo is probably one of the best cities to experience everyday life in Peru.

Mostly away from the main tourist trail, this city doesn’t have as many attractions as the more popular cities. That said, Chiclayo has a great local market (Mercado Modelo) near the Plaza de Armas. Along with food and clothes, the market has a “witch section” that offers fascinating items ranging from traditional medicine to dried animal parts.


Aguas Calientes

view over river and bridge between the two sides of the aguas calientes

Aguas Calientes is a small city located just below Machu Picchu. While it’s more laid back than cities like Lima and Cusco, there are still plenty of things to do in Aguas Calientes.

Along with visiting the ancient Inca citadel, you can also climb the Putucusi mountain, visit the butterfly farm, explore the Manuel Chavez Ballon Museum, and enjoy the Mandor waterfalls.


La Rinconada

La Rinconada is the highest town in the world with one of the most isolated communities. The city is surrounded by high Andean mountains and you can see enormous glaciers lurking over the town. It’s famous for its gold mine.

The city can be reached via a 6-hour bus ride from Puno. The main attraction is Sleeping Beauty – a glacier overlooking the town.



view over huacachina oasis surrounded by desert


Just 4 hours south of Lima, Ica is a fantastic weekend getaway. It also has some pretty unique landscapes including sand dunes and wineries. In fact, Ica is the largest producer of wine and Pisco (Peru’s traditional drink).

The crown jewel of Ica is Huacachina – an oasis surrounded by sand dunes and palm trees. Here, you can embark on the unique experience of sandboarding in Peru, as well as go on dune buggy rides.



Ayacucho is among the most beautiful highland cities in Peru.

For those looking to immerse into Peruvian culture, Ayacucho has plenty on offer. You can visit the city’s picturesque Plaza de Armas, discover the local art, and check out one of the city’s 33 churches.

While you won’t be able to tell, the city was once the hub of a terrorist organization (the Shining Path). You can learn more about its history at the Museo de la Memoria.



view over coast of paracas

Paracas is a tiny place along the Peruvian coastline.

Paracas has a number of must-see highlights. One of them is the Ballestas Islands – a small group of islands where you can see Humboldt penguins, sea lions, and, if you’re lucky, humpback whales.

Nature lovers can also visit the Paracas National Reserve. You can walk through the park, as well as visit the reserve’s museum where you can learn more about the animals of the Pacific Ocean and our impact on the waters around the town.



Not too far from Trujillo, you’ll find the stunning beach town of Huanchaco. This friendly little town is filled with delicious food and gorgeous sunsets and is one of the best surfing spots in Peru.

Huanchaco is the perfect point on a Peru itinerary to relax a little, (learn how to) surf, and eat fresh seafood.


Ready to pack your bags?

With great archaeological attractions, as well as plenty of local events highlighting the country’s diverse cultural makeup, the best cities in Peru have something for everyone.

Feeling inspired? Here’s how to experience the best of Peru in 8 days.

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