PromPeru, the Commission for the Promotion of Peruvian Exports and Tourism, just recently published the visitor numbers of protected natural areas in Peru in 2017 based on data provided by the National Service of Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP).
At the moment, Peru has nearly 160 protected natural areas which cover 17% of the Peruvian territory (more than 22 million hectares). These areas are divided into different categories: national parks, national reserves, national sanctuaries, historical sanctuaries, reserved zones, protected forests, communal reserves, landscape reserves, wildlife refuges and hunting grounds.
And while all these areas enjoy a high level of protection from the state, tourism and the income generated by visitors is an indispensable source to continue and expand the protection efforts. Most protected natural areas in Peru only receive a few hundred or maybe a few thousand visitors per year; others are real tourist magnets which have to find a healthy balance between protection and visitors.
The Top 10 of Peru's most visited protected natural areas 2017
1. Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary
The Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (SHM) is the most visited protected natural area in Peru. Declared a Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it protects not only the archaeological complexes the Incas left us, but also the surrounding ecosystems including the wide variety of flora and fauna.
In 2017, a total of 1,411,279 tourists visited Machu Picchu; 76% were foreigners (a plus of 8% compared to 2016) and 24% nationals (up 4%). That’s on average nearly 4000 visitors per day, while peak months in Machu Picchu are July, August and September.
2. Ballestas Islands National Reserve
The Ballestas Islands (Islas Ballestas) are a group of small islands offshore Paracas in the Ica region. The reserve, which can be visited by boat, is an important sanctuary for the unique marine wildlife, among them Humboldt penguins, sea lions, guanay guano birds, blue-footed bobby
In 2017, 388,533 tourists visited the reserve; more than half were nationals.
3. Paracas National Reserve
The Paracas National Reserve in the Ica region consists of the Paracas peninsula, coastal areas and desert protecting the ecosystem and wildlife of this unique coastal-marine area as well as pre-historic geoglyphs.
In 2017, 354,303 tourists visited the Paracas National Reserve (7% more than the previous year).
4. Huascaran National Park
The Huascaran National Park located in the Ancash region covers an area of 340,000 hectares. It features the highest tropical mountain range in the world, the Cordillera Blanca, and is a declared World Heritage Site. Huascaran is well-known by hikers and climbers and harbors a wide and unique biodiversity with plant, tree and animal species.
In 2017, 283,369 tourists visited the Huascaran National Park.
5. Titicaca National Reserve
The Titicaca National Reserve is located in the Puno region and preserves the great biodiversity, the cultural traditions and native communities of the Titicaca Lake. The Uros and Uros Titino that live on islands in the lake welcome visitors year-round.
In 2017, 194,695 tourists visited the Titicaca National Reserve.
6. Pampa de Ayacucho Historical Sanctuary
The Pampa de Ayacucho Historical Sanctuary is located in the Ayacucho region. It was established to protect the site of the Battle of Ayacucho, a decisive military encounter on December 9, 1824 during the Peruvian Independence Wars which ended the Spanish rule in South America and secured Peru’s independence.
In 2017, 147,397 tourists, mostly nationals, visited the Pampa de Ayacucho Historical Sanctuary
7. Tingo Maria National Park
The Tingo Maria National Park is located in the Huanuco region and features montane forests with a wide variety of native flora and fauna, the mountain massif “La Bella Durmiente” (The Sleeping Beauty) and “La Cueva de las Lechuzas” (The Cave of the Owls).
In 2017, 91,383 tourists visited the Tingo Maria National Park.
8. Lachay National Reserve
The Lachay National reserve is located in the desert foothills of the northern Lima region. It features a unique mist-fed ecosystem of wild plant and animal species. The area is great for birdwatching and hiking.
In 2017. 56,901 tourists visited the Lachay National Reserve.
9. Tambopata National Reserve
The Tambopata National Reserve is a nature reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin in the Madre de Dios and Puno region protecting the enormous biodiversity and ecological processes as well as cultural traditions and native communities in the area.
In 2017, 55,142 tourists visited the Tambopata National Reserve, from which 84% are nature loving foreigners.
10. Huayllay National Sanctuary
The Huayllay National Sanctuary is located in the central Peruvian Andes in the Pasco region. It’s an immense open-air geological museum consisting of a “stone forest” which figures, shapes and cliffs were formed by volcanic activity, natural erosion and glaciers.
In 2017, 45,661 tourists visited the Huayllay National Sanctuary.