Equipped with vast swathes of tropical rainforest, massive snow-capped mountain ranges, and sprawling expanses of arid grassland, Peru is a veritable paradise for those wishing to explore the abundant natural beauty of South America. In addition to massive amounts of indigenous plant and animal life, this sprawling nation is also equipped with some truly impressive natural features ranging from towering volcanoes to vibrant striped mountains. With 2022 just a few days away, there’s no better time than the present to start planning a nature-focused expedition across Peru in the new year.
Huascarán National Park
Peru is rife with spectacular mountain vistas, but the rich biodiversity of Huascarán National Park puts this iconic preserve in a league of its own. When it comes to native Peruvian fauna, Huascarán offers an opportunity to spot spectacled bears, Pampas cats, pumas, Andean condors, and a wealth of other species found in and around the Cordillera Blanca. In addition to indigenous animals, the park is also a prime spot for finding fascinating flora, with the iconic Queen of the Andes serving as one of the most notable native plant species. Capable of growing up to fifty feet tall, this eye-catching organism serves as the earth’s largest bromeliad.
While most visitors to Cusco tend to head northwest to Machu Picchu, there’s one truly incredible natural wonder lying in wait for those who travel east. Known as Vinicunca, this massive natural feature is often referred to as Rainbow Mountain thanks to the vibrant streaks of color splayed across its front. A diverse combination of minerals and soils including red clay, quartz, and sulfur-rich sandstone all contribute to Vinicunca’s vibrant appearance, but the colors aren’t the only thing to keep an eye out for around here. As you trek throughout the area, be sure to keep an eye out for herds of Peru’s native alpacas and llamas.
Manú National Park
Established in 1973 and expanded in 2002, this massive eastern Peruvian preserve offers ample opportunity for spotting all sorts of indigenous South American flora and fauna. Manú National Park encompasses a diverse array of biomes ranging from puna grassland to cloud forest, but for most visitors, the Amazon rainforest is certainly the main attraction. Rife with jaguars, tapirs, sloths, and giant armadillos, the preserve is a top spot for encountering some of the Amazon’s most iconic mammalian species, while seasoned birders have roughly 1,000 different varieties to search for including the scarlet macaw, roseate spoonbill, and harpy eagle.
Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve
Peru is renowned for its lush interior rainforest and towering Andean peaks, but there’s a wealth of other biomes across the nation that often fly under the radar. Case in point—Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, a little-known park that’s home to vast swathes of puna grassland. While the reserve is equipped with ultra-reflective lakes, idyllic villages, and a high degree of biodiversity, one particularly fascinating attraction within Nor Yauyos-Cochas is Sima Pumacocha. Measuring in at roughly 2,100 feet in depth, this limestone cavern is one of the deepest caves in South America as well as one of the highest found on earth.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation
Rife with massive volcanoes and native Peruvian wildlife, the sprawling Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation offers an opportunity for visitors to explore the sprawling high-elevation plateaus that southeastern Peru is known for. While the towering Misti volcano is certainly one of the reserve’s most breathtaking sights, visitors should also keep their eyes peeled for some of the region’s living wonders as well. Salinas and Aguada Blanca is a well-known haven for all sorts of camelids including alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas, and lucky birders may be able to catch a glimpse of some Andean and James’s flamingos, two indigenous species equipped with pale pink feathers.