Peru, in all its awe-inspiring glory, is a magical, mystical place still full of mystery, with foods, animals, history, and customs you may have never heard of. Honeymooners and tourists flock to Macchu Picchu for its majestic views of an abandoned Incan citadel in the sky amongst rolling green hills—the reason for its creation unknown. The incredible sprawling Nazca desert lines that can only be viewed aerially remain one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Drink piscosours, enjoy the fresh ceviche, and explore all that is weird, creepy, and wonderful in Peru.

Be Surrounded by Skulls at Saint Francisco Monastery and Church

The well-funded 17th century Spanish Baroque-style Saint Francisco Monastery and Church is just off the main square in Lima. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains one of the world’s largest libraries of ancient texts. Inside, amongst the grand gold leaf icons on the first floor, are historic paintings and a Peruvian Last Supper depiction of a devil next to Judas with an indigenous meal of guinea pig, potatoes, and chilis. Gaze down and you’ll see small, square open grates offering a preview of what’s downstairs, the main attraction discovered in 1943: the remains of 25,000-70,000 people whose skulls and bones (mostly tibia) are arranged in neat, decorative geometric shapes. The ossuaries, some of which were also designed to absorb seismic waves, are said to contain past patrons and friars all housed under dusty low ceilings for the claustrophobically challenged. It’s all worth it for the creepy sight of bones in metaphysical mandala shapes. The catacombs also housed secret passages that connected to the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition and the Cathedral.

Meet Mummies at the Larco Museum

The Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum houses a mummy that illustrates the ways the ancient pre-Incan Waris tribe preserved their dead. The mummy appears to simply be aged cloth that had been sewn in the shape of a man’s torso with an eerie golden mask and feathered hat to match. Inside this torso figure is a child in a fetal position: this was the mummification style of the Waris. What reason would possibly convince a family to sacrifice a child? Both the pre-Incans and Incans believed in offering the purest sacrifice to the Gods in times of famine or the death of an Emperor. They’d choose a child, feed them a fattening elite diet, have a shaman administer the intoxicating chichi drink, and leave the child to die of exposure, strangulation, or force. The Waris believed in a better afterlife for such victims.

Sleep Suspended From a Cliff

The only hotel of its kind in Peru (and the world), this unique luxury accommodation is made up of three glass pods hanging off a 1300-foot cliff. Located in the beautiful and lush Sacred Valley, this unusual hotel is accessed via ferrata (a hike assisted by a steel cable handrail bolted to the rock) or by zip-lines. Both are suitable for beginners, the latter being easier. Once inside the pods, you’re treated with a bottle of wine, gourmet dinner, and breakfast overlooking the valley. There are 360-degree views of the stars, the valley and the majestic mountains you just climbed. The capsules are quite safe and are made from aerospace aluminum and weather-resistant polycarbonate with exit portals located in the upper part of the craft. They include six windows, four ventilation ducts, four comfortable beds, a separate dining area, and a private bathroom with a view. To get down, rappel, or via ferrata and zipline back to the ground.

 

Published on Fodor’s Travel, by Alyssa Pinsker