Cradle of ancient empires
Cradle to the vast Incan Empire, the largest in pre-Colombian America, Peru's power and gold attracted the Spanish conquistadors who used it to fund their own vast empire in the Americas. As a result, colonial gems like magnificent Cusco were built on Incan foundations, making for a fascinating hybrid culture. Peru is peppered with Incan sites, but none so famous as the "lost city" of Machu Picchu, whose breathtaking image seems to grace every brochure and travel book. Peru has been blessed with natural gifts as well: a huge chunk of Amazon rainforest falls within its bounds, and visitors can hike through jungle, trek in the Andes, and surf the northern beaches all in the same week. Cap it off with Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world, and you've only just begun to scratch the surface.