- Cantalloc Aqueduct & Chauchilla Cemetery: An incredible necropolis dating to around A.D. 1000 and a sophisticated irrigation system in the area around Nasca are two of the south's most interesting archaeological sites. Of the thousands of graves at Chauchilla, 12 underground tombs have been exposed. What they hold is fascinating: the bleached bones of children and adults with dreadlocks, and some of the garments and goodies they were buried with. Close to town, nearly three dozen aqueducts represent a spectacular engineering feat of the Incas and their predecessors. The canals have air vents forming spirals descending to the water current and are still in use today by local farmers.
- Colonial and Inca Cusco: Vibrant Cusco, the ancient Inca capital, is a living museum of Peruvian history, with Spanish colonial churches and mansions sitting atop perfectly constructed Inca walls of exquisitely carved granite blocks that fit together without mortar. Streets still have evocative Quechua-language names that date back to Inca times, such as Saqracalle ("Where the demons dwell") and Pumaphaqcha ("Puma's tail").
- Qoricancha-Templo del Sol: The Inca Temple of the Sun is an exceptional example of the Incas' masterful masonry. Dedicated to sun worship, the greatest temple in the Inca Empire was a gleaming palace of gold before the Spaniards raided it. During the summer solstice, the sun still magically illuminates a niche where the Inca chieftain held court.
- Sacsayhuamán: On a hill overlooking Cusco, the monumental stonework at Sacsayhuamán forms massive zigzagged defensive walls of three tiers. Built by the Inca emperor Pachacútec in the mid-15th century, some blocks weigh as much as 300 tons, and they fit together seamlessly without mortar. The main pageant of the splendid Inti Raymi festival, one of the greatest expressions of Inca and Quechua culture, is celebrated every June 24 at Sacsayhuamán.
- Pisac Ruins: At the beginning of the Sacred Valley, just 45 minutes from Cusco, are some of the most spectacular Inca ruins in Peru. Equal parts city, religious temple, and military complex—and perhaps a royal estate of the Inca emperor—the ruins enjoy stunning views of the valley. A hike up the steep hillside to the ruins, beginning at Pisac's main square, is one of the most rewarding climbs you're likely to take.
- Ollantaytambo's Fortress Ruins: Even though the Incas never finished this temple for worship and astronomical observation, it is still extraordinary, one of the greatest examples of their unparalleled engineering and craftsmanship. On a rocky outcrop perched above the valley, dozens of rows of incredibly steep stone terraces are carved into the hillside; high above are elegant examples of classic Inca masonry in pink granite. If that weren't enough, the charming little town of "Ollanta" is a perfect grid of Inca-laid streets with rushing canals.
- New "Lost" Inca Cities: Archaeologists keep unearthing fantastic Inca ruins in and around Machu Picchu (which obviously qualifies as the most fascinating ruins of all). Most are still being excavated and documented, but Choquequirao, to which hard-core trekkers put off by the crowds and regulations of the Inca Trail are now hiking, and the recent discoveries of Qorihuayrachina, Cota Coca, and Llactapata are all envisioned as new Machu Picchus.
- Huacas de Moche: On the outskirts of Trujillo, this complex of mysterious Moche adobe pyramids, the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, dates to A.D. 500. The Temple of the Sun (Huaca del Sol), today sadly eroded, is still mammoth—it was once probably the largest manmade structure in the Americas. The smaller Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna) has been excavated; revealed inside are cool polychromatic friezes of a scary figure, the decapitator god.
- Chan Chan: A sprawling city of adobe in the Moche Valley, just beyond Trujillo, Chan Chan was the capital of the formidable Chimú Empire. Begun around A.D. 1300, it is the largest adobe complex of pre-Columbian America. Among the nine royal palaces, the partially restored Tschudi Palace has unusual friezes and is evocative enough to spur thoughts of the unequaled size and sophistication of this compound of the Chimú kingdom, which reached its apogee in the 15th century before succumbing to the Incas. Chan Chan includes three other sites, all quite spread out, including a modern museum.
- The Ruins of Kuélap & Choquequirao: The remote site of Kuélap, hidden by thick cloud forest and more than 800 years old, is one of the manmade wonders of Peru waiting to be discovered by visitors. The ruins are still tough and time-consuming to get to, but the fortress complex of 400 round buildings, surrounded by a massive defensive wall, rewards the efforts of adventurous amateur archaeologists. The same can be said about Choquequirao, an extraordinary and massive Inca construction that is only 30% uncovered; it takes 4 or 5 difficult days on foot to get there and back, but it's a superb alternative to overcrowded Machu Picchu.
- Chavín de Huántar: About 110km (68 miles) from Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca are the 3,000-year-old ruins of Chavín de Huántar, a fortress-temple with excellent stonework, constructed by the Chavín culture from about 1200 to 300 B.C. These are the best-preserved ruins of one of Peru's most sophisticated and influential ancient civilizations. In a subterranean tunnel is the Lanzón, a huge and handsome stone carving and cult object shaped like a dagger.
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.