- Islas Ballestas: The Ballestas Islands, considered the "Peruvian Galápagos," are home to an amazing roster of protected species, including huge colonies of sea lions, endangered turtles, Humboldt penguins, red boobies, pelicans, turkey vultures, and red-footed cormorants. The islands are so covered with migratory and resident seabirds that they are known for their production of guano, or bird droppings. The Ballestas are part of the Paracas National Reserve, two-thirds of which is ocean. Sadly, the Reserve was affected by the 2007 earthquake, losing one of its iconic stone formations, known as the "Cathedral."
- Colca Valley: The Colca Canyon is an awe-inspiring site and the best place in South America to witness giant condors, but the entire area, which Mario Vargas Llosa called the "Valley of Wonders," is extraordinarily scenic. From snowcapped volcanoes to patchwork valleys of green, narrow gorges, and beautiful desert landscapes, Colca has it all. On the way to Colca Canyon, you pass the Salinas and Aguada Blanca Nature Reserve, where you can glimpse vicuñas, llamas, and alpacas from the road.
- Tambopata National Reserve: A huge reserve of rainforest in the departamento (province) of Madre de Dios, Tambopata has outstanding biodiversity: more species of birds (nearly 600) and butterflies (1,200) than any place of similar size on earth, as well as a dozen different types of forest and gorgeous oxbow lakes, and at least 13 endangered animal species. The famous Tambopata macaw clay lick, where thousands of brilliantly colored macaws and parrots gather daily for feedings, ranks as one of the wildlife highlights of Peru.
- Manu Biosphere Reserve: Remote Manu -- about as close as you're likely to come to virgin rainforest anywhere -- is the second-largest protected area in Peru. Its incredibly varied habitats include Andes highlands, cloud forests, and lowland tropical rainforests. One hectare (2 1/2 acres) of forest in Manu could have 10 times the number of species of trees found in a hectare of temperate forest in Europe or North America, and Manu has the highest bird, mammal, and plant diversity of any park on the planet. The reserve is one of the world's finest for birding (greater even than all of Costa Rica); other wildlife includes giant river otters, cocks-of-the-rock, and perhaps 15,000 animal species, as well as native Amerindian tribes that remain untouched by the modern world.
- Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve: This reserve, nearly 322km (200 miles) south of Iquitos, is the largest protected area in Peru and one of the best conserved in the world. Its dense, pristine rainforest and wetlands comprise 1.5% of Peru's total surface area and contain some of the Amazon's greatest wildlife, including pink dolphins, macaws, black caimans, spider monkeys, and giant river turtles. Found in the reserve (at last count) are 539 species of birds, 101 species of mammals, 256 kinds of fish, and 22 species of orchids.
- Huascarán National Park: For trekkers and climbers, the soaring peaks of the longest tropical mountain range in the world are a South American mecca. It's a visual feast, with 200 alpine lakes, 600 glaciers, and incomparable mountain vistas. The park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Trust site, contains nearly the whole of the 161km (100-mile) Cordillera Blanca.
- Lagunas de Llanganuco & Puya Raimondi: Near Huaraz, the snowcapped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca are the biggest natural draw for trekkers, but the area is replete with all kinds of natural wonders. The two Llanganuco lakes are turquoise, glacier-fed alpine lakes that reflect the snowy summits of several 6,000m (20,000-ft.) mountains. In the valley of Pachacoto, 56km (35 miles) from Huaraz, are the famous Puya Raimondi plants: trippy bromeliad plants that soar up to 12m (39 ft.), flower just once in 100 years, and immediately die. The colorful flowers, against the backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca mountains, make for one of the prettiest pictures in Peru.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.