Although most travelers head for Lima, then Cuzco to visit Machu Picchu, there’s much more to Peru than that. Here are the 3 most underrated cities in Peru that are worthy of a visit.
Huaraz is the adventure capital of Northern Peru. Sitting at over 10,000 feet above the sea level and surrounded by the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes mountains, Huaraz is one of the most impressive mountain towns of Peru.
Hikers and mountaineers choose Huaraz as their base camp to tackle the summit of Huascarán, Peru’s tallest mountain standing at 22,205 feet above sea level. For motorcycle travelers, the nearby Huascarán National Park is a must-ride: local gravel roads lead up the mountains almost at the glacier level, revealing breath-taking views of the turquoise blue glacial lakes and lagoons and the stunning Andean vistas, then descends down the fjords and valleys on the other side, running through stunning green country dotted with little villages and teeming with wildlife.
A little north of Huaraz lies Cajamarca, another high-altitude (8,900 ft above sea level) Andean city boasting a beautiful colonial town, rich history, and incredible scenery. Cajamarca is a gateway to Leymebamba and Chachapoyas, two towns on the eastern slopes of the Andes that are home to the mysterious Cloud People – an ancient culture pre-dating the Incas who have built the fortress of Kuelap, known as the Machu Picchu of the North. Significantly less touristy, wild, and remote, the Cajamarca – Chachapoyas route is a must of you’re traveling Peru on two wheels.
Arequipa is my favorite city in Peru: located in the southern Andes, Arequipa has one of the largest and most beautiful historic centers in the whole country. At the same time, Arequipa has a very modern, bohemian vibe, and it’s a friendly city to base yourself for a little while to explore the surrounding areas.
One of the most spectacular places near Arequipa is the Colca Canyon, a stunning river gorge carved high in the Andes mountains where you can see the flight of the condors and appreciate the wilderness and the vastness of the Andean high plains.