When a city grows in popularity based on its culinary offerings, you know you're onto a good thing. Overlooked in favour of its Andean counterparts, Lima is an eclectic, modern city which offers colonial architecture alongside surfing, world-class restaurants, craft markets and wild nightlife. Look out for music stores selling charangos (Andean lutes) and quenas (bamboo flutes) - the shopkeeper might be able to give you a quick lesson.
It's worth spending a couple of days of your Peru vacation exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site's white rock buildings, majestic archways, vast Santa Catalina convent and the San Camilo Market - all under the shadow of a snow-capped volcano. It's a worthy rival to Cuzco for the nation's colonial crown. It's also the birthplace of many of Peru's best dishes - and its restaurants are suitably superb.
If you rush to tick off Peru's biggest sights you'll miss its magical highlights. Fly straight out of Lima and you miss Peru's most cosmopolitan city. Take the bus right out of Machu Picchu and you miss wandering back the next morning, before the crowds arrive. Take a daytrip to Titicaca's islands and you miss its most spellbinding sight - a golden sunrise over the sacred lake.
Peru's wildlife is much more than condors and llamas. There are 104 known "life zones" on the planet - and thanks to Peru's varied geography it contains a phenomenal 84 of them. Species include giant otters, spectacled bears, pink river dolphins and 1,800 birds - the second highest of any country in the world. Many habitats are endangered - so choose a responsible guide for your Peru vacation and tread lightly.
The highest navigable lake in the world, at a breathtaking 3,800m, Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia and once here, you'll realise why the Incas saw it as the birthplace of the sun, moon and the first humans. Its seemingly endless, sapphire waters stretch into the horizon, and the high mountain air is sparklingly clear.
Influenced by the Andes, Amazon and Pacific, as well as the Spanish, Chinese and Incas, Peru's cuisine deserves its rave reviews. Beyond the much-praised ceviche, there's a cornucopia of treats - from fancy restaurants to streetside stalls selling pasty-style empanadas, fresh tropical fruit juices, spicy aji de gallina, nutty-flavoured quinoa and stir-fried lomo saltado. Always choose local dishes, for freshness and flavour.
A mythical world of snow-capped peaks, smoking volcanoes, swirling condors and sacred, hidden valleys, the Andes spark everyone's imagination. The Peruvian section of this mighty mountain chain is particularly special, as it is liberally sprinkled with Inca and pre-Inca ruins, which can be reached by ancient stone paths. As well as superb hiking trails, the mountain biking is some of the world's most technical and exciting.
It's an obvious one, but no-one is ever disappointed by the Inca's Lost City, and everyone who emerges through the Sun Gate is just as awestruck as the explorer who rediscovered this mountaintop treasure a century ago. Even the sheer number of tourists fails to dull the impact, and the Inca stonework - cut to perfection and requiring no cement - is mindblowing.
Any successful tourist attraction runs the risk of losing its spirit once it becomes popular - and Quechua culture is an unfortunate example of this. While there are still many genuine markets, communities and traditions, the sad fact is that those located along the Gringo trail - particularly the floating Uros Islands - are likely to be merely tourist shows: mass-produced, inauthentic and exploitative of both locals and visitors.
Originally a remote railroad town without electricity, Aguas Calientes now receives over 1,500 visitors a day thanks to its proximity to Machu Picchu. While this is great in terms of local employment, it also means inflated costs all round - for the hotels, restaurants and crafts - without the high quality to justify it.
The Ballestas Islands are rather wonderful, with basking fur seals, penguins and blue-footed boobies. However, whoever nicknamed them "the poor man's Galapagos" has unfortunately built up an unreasonable expectation of these scraggy little rocks, and one that they simply can't live up to. Appreciate them for what they are, and contribute to their much-needed conservation during your vacation to Peru - but if you want the Galapagos, go to Ecuador.
One reason the creation of these vast glyphs remains a mystery is that they can only be properly viewed and appreciated from the air. Unfortunately for the modern traveler on vacation in Peru, that means an exceptionally environmentally unfriendly flight; a large fee for 30 minutes in the air; and a high chance of sickness as the plane banks left and right to allow views out of both sides.