Cusco is one of Peru’s most famous cities for a reason, but what are some of the best towns to visit in the Peruvian Andes besides this historic Incan capital? The Andes is one region that’s rich in history, culture, and stunning natural landscapes. As you plan your adventure, be sure to step off the beaten path and discover some of the amazing communities beyond Cusco!
From traditional small villages to colorful international communities, Kuoda has curated a list of the best places to explore in the Andes. Discover the diverse beauty of Peru as you explore these hidden gems!
– Get Immersed In Andean Tradition in Ollantaytambo
Culture lovers should not miss an opportunity to visit Ollantaytambo, a village in the Andean foothills that has kept many beautiful traditions alive for centuries. Once upon a time, this town was a strategic center for the Incan empire’s military, religious leaders, and agricultural scientists. Today, this town is home to several remarkable archaeological sites, cultural experiences, and some beautiful natural landscapes. However, travelers often miss out on exploring it, mainly because it lives in the shadow of Machu Picchu looming in the mountains.
But for those looking to enjoy an authentic taste of the local lifestyle, Ollantaytambo is one of the best towns to visit in the Peruvian Andes. Start your adventure here with a visit to the Ollantaytambo fortress, which you can access right at the edge of town. Historians believe this site was reserved for the most important leaders in the Inca empire as a place of refuge and safety. The incredible stone site is built into the side of a steep mountain, an architectural feat that seems impossible to accomplish without modern technology. Marvel at the expert craftwork of Incan engineers as you climb the 200 steps to the highest vantage point, an excellent place to grab some photos of the stunning valley below!
For travelers that love to shop, the Ollantaytambo market is a must-see. Local vendors set up their stalls filled with artisanal products. It is not quite as large as the Pisac market, but it’s a great stop for some souvenirs! Pick up some of the handcrafted textiles woven by local indigenous residents.
Speaking of indigenous residents, Ollantaytambo is home to a vibrant Quechua population that travelers should connect with while visiting. One way to do this is by dining at the Parwa Community Restaurant, a dining spot that celebrates Andean cuisine. The restaurant is operated by 70 indigenous families who contribute in one way or another, and the proceeds all directly support over 1,000 community members!
Another great immersive cultural opportunity in Ollantaytambo is booking a Quechua weaving class. Learn the ancient wool-weaving art form from an indigenous instructor as you escape to the Andean countryside.
Explore the historic town of Ayacucho
One of the best towns in the Peruvian Andes to visit if you love history and wish to explore complex, dynamic communities is Ayachucho. This mountain town is known for its celebration and love for religion. There were 33 churches built here in the 17th century, one for every year of Jesus’ life on Earth. Discover how European architectural influence merged with the local customs as you walk through the town trying to find them all!
Visit the Museo de la Memoria if you want an educational lesson about Peru’s famous war on terrorism against “The Shining Path.” Anyone with a passion for history should be sure to visit this museum, as it explores the dark impacts this group had on Peru. They used Ayacucho as the center of their operation, so the museum was erected here to honor and remember those it most negatively affected and aims to educate locals and travelers alike.
If you prefer a taste of local art, Ayacucho also has the Museo de Arte Popular. Highlighting the work from the ayacucheño artists, you’ll see everything from detailed silverwork to wood carvings to famous retablos, a type of religious diorama very popular in this region.
Connect with the beauty of Peru in Chachapoyas
Few travelers have ever heard of this small mountain town, but Chachapoyas is an amazing place to visit for nature lovers. Built in the middle of a tropical cloud forest, this is one destination that feels like a whole other world. Lush green mountains surround the main town, with plenty of stunning adventures waiting for you in the area.
Start with a day trip to Kuelap, a 6th-century walled-off settlement located in the mountains that has been overlooked by so many people due to the popularity of Machu Picchu. However, the ruins of this town once inhabited by the Chachapoya civilization are remarkable. With more than 100 buildings to explore and some impressive examples of ancient stonework, this spot is also an exciting adventure because of the amazing foliage that surrounds the ruins. You can hike through the mountains if you wish to take things slow and soak up nature, or you can hop on the newly installed cable car and soar above the green Andes to reach the fortress!
Another must-see near Chachapoyas is Catarata de Gocta, a waterfall that’s over 2,500 feet tall – one of the highest in the world! Discovered in 2002, this natural wonder was completely isolated from human civilization until a German researcher went on an expedition and popularized the site. Locals kept this spot a secret in fear of a curse befalling their community, worried that several mythical creatures including a giant snake and a mermaid may be upset if anyone approached. However, you can reach the site today (curse-free) by walking the Catarata de Gocta trailhead.
Discover a whole different type of natural wonder when you visit the Sonche Canyon. At its deepest point, the canyon boasts a steep 3,000-foot descent and stretches over 300 feet long. The crowds here are minimal which makes it a great option for travelers who want to avoid any huge tourist locations, and the views are stunning. What’s unique about this canyon is that you barely even notice it until you’re standing on the edge! The dramatic reveal is a heart-pounding adventure in and of itself.
Book your Peruvian adventure with Kuoda for the best hidden gems
As you begin to plan your trip to Peru, you’ll have a ton of exciting opportunities like visiting Machu Picchu or exploring the city of Cusco. But, if you’re looking to dive deeper into this amazing country and explore off-the-beaten-path, book your trip with Kuoda for expert insights and itinerary planning to the destinations most travelers have never heard of! We’ll take care of planning your travel logistics and matching you with our local expert guides, so you can enjoy a one-of-a-kind vacation exploring Peru.
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