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The quintessential South American country, Peru fires the imagination like few other places. A land of magnificent lost cities, rich cultural heritage and dizzying historical upheavals, it has long drawn treasure-hunters and travelers alike, united in their search to uncover the secrets and wealth of remarkable, sometimes remote civilizations. Peru played host to the fabulous Inca Empire that flourished 500 years ago, but this was just the last of dozens of complex pre-Columbian civilizations, including those that built massive pyramids or drew immense and indecipherable shapes on the desert floor. Explorers are only just beginning to comprehend the sheer scope of the country's archaeological assets, continually discovering new and ever-more exciting ancient sites.
Peru is also a country of astounding natural diversity. Climb from parched expanses of dusty desert to the cool sapphire-blue waters of Lake Titicaca or descend from the jaw-dropping glaciated pinnacles of the Andes to lush jungles replete with wildlife. Outdoor adventurers will be itching to try the multitude of walking and wildlife-watching activities available. Culturally, the country is equally diverse. From the wild Afro-Peruvian music of the coast to the deeply ingrained traditions of the ancient cultures of the highlands; or from the modern beat of Lima nightlife to the timeless sounds of Amazonian Indian dance - wherever they go, travelers are welcomed by curious, big-hearted folk that tackle their underlying poverty with gusto and a lust for life.
Add to all of this the most strikingly familiar image in South America - the awesome, cloud-topping Inca city of Machu Picchu - and you have a simply unmissable destination.
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