PERU CITY STOP OVERS
- Arequipa and the Colca Canyon Condors, 4 days
- Inca Capital - Cusco Stop Over, 3 days
- Lake Titicaca Stopover, 3 days
- Lima - Ancient Cultures, 3 days
- Northern Wonders, 3 days
- Andean Classic, 14 days
- Essential Peru, 13 days
- Heart of the Incas Classic, 6 days
- Los Conquistadors, 12 days
- Lost Civilizations of South America Classic, 9 days
- Luxury Cruise in the Amazon, 4, 5 & 8 days
- Machu Picchu by Train, 2 days
- Machu Picchu Express, 2 days
- Mountains, Rivers & Waterfalls Classic, 8 days
- Nazca Experience, 2 days
- Nazca Overview, 1 day
- Peru Explorer, 8 days
- Peruvian Amazon - Inkaterra, 3, 4 & 5 days
- Peruvian Amazon - Posadas Lodge, 3, 4 & 5 days
- Peruvian Amazon Tambopata, 5, 6 & 7 days
- Peruvian Landscapes, 6 days
- Puno to La Paz Connector, 1 day
- Sacred Lake & Mountains, 9 days
- Unique Dining Lima, 1 day
PERU TREKKING EXPERIENCES
- Baby Inca Trail, 2 days
- Horses, Bikes and Feet to Machu Picchu, 9 days
- Inca Trail, 5 days
- Lares Trek - Cusco Valley, 5 days
- Luxury Inca Trail, 5 days
- Luxury Incan Footsteps, 10 days
- Mountain Lodges to Machu Picchu, 7 days
- Traditional Inca Trail, 4 days
PERU VALUE GROUP TOURING
- South American Explorer, 22 days
- Value Peru, 8 days
- Value Peru and Colombia, 12 days
- Value South America, 15 days
LATIN AMERICAN DESTINATIONS
- Antarctica (12 trips)
- Argentina (28 trips)
- Belize (6 trips)
- Bolivia (10 trips)
- Brazil (28 trips)
- Chile (30 trips)
- Colombia (9 trips)
- Costa Rica (7 trips)
- Ecuador (14 trips)
- El Salvador (4 trips)
- Falkland Islands (2 trips)
- Galapagos (14 trips)
- Guatemala (7 trips)
- Honduras (2 trips)
- Panama (6 trips)
- Peru (36 trips)
- Uruguay (3 trips)
- Venezuela (2 trips)
HOLIDAYS OF A LIFETIME
- Splendours of South America (2012), 17 days
- Splendours of South America (2013), 15 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru (2012), 20 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru plus Bolivia (2013/2014), 23 days
- Best of Ecuador, 11 days
- Cradle of the Incas, 13 days
Trekking, walking, wildlife encounters, cycling, rafting, sailing, cruising, camping, safaris, overland journeys and more.
Country General Information
Peru - home to some of natures most amazing sights such as the immense Andes running down the back of the country, the barren but amazingly beautiful high plains - Altiplano - the deepest canyon in the world - Colca Canyon - mighty tributaries feeding the Amazon river, the highest navigable lake in the world - Lake Titicaca - the mysterious Nazca Lines and probably the most famous sight in Latin America - Machu Picchu.
Backed by some of the richest cultures ever recorded - The Moche, Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Wari, Chimu and of course the Incas Peru offers up samples of this past as well of the modern from the Spanish conquest to the modern cities such as Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and Trujillo.
In all Peru is one of the most popular stops in Latin America and its people await to welcome you to one of the most diverse and interesting countries of the Andean community.
- Country Facts
- Food & Drinks
- Travel Info
- Passport & Visas
Western South America
1,285,220 km² (496,225 sq miles).
29,248,943 (July 2011 est.) .
22 per km².
Lima. Population: 8.27 million (2004).
Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1824, having declared it in 1821.
Peru is a large, mountainous country on the Pacific coast of South America. It has borders with Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west.
There are three natural zones:
The Costa region, which contains Lima (the capital), is a narrow coastal plain consisting of large tracts of desert broken by fertile valleys. The cotton, sugar and rice plantations and most of the so-far exploited oil fields lie in this area.
The Sierra contains the Andes, with peaks over 6,000m (20,000ft), most of the country's mineral resources (silver, zinc, lead, copper and gold) and the greater part of its livestock.
The Selva, an area of fertile, subtropical land, lies between the Andes and the border with Brazil. The Amazonian jungle has vast natural resources. The absence of land communications, however, left the area largely uncharted until full-scale oil exploration began in 1973.
The population is largely Indian and Mestizo with a noticeable influence from African, Chinese and European (mainly Spanish) settlers.
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages. Aymara is spoken in some areas of the region of Lake Titicaca. Many other dialects exist in the jungle regions. English is spoken in major tourist areas.
81% Roman Catholic, 2.1% other denominations, 16.3% unspecified or none.
GMT - 5.
Shaking hands is the customary form of greeting. Visitors should follow normal social courtesies and the atmosphere is generally informal. A small gift from a company or home country is sufficient. Dress is usually informal, although for some business meetings and social occasions men wear a jacket and tie.
220 volts AC, 60Hz. (110 volts AC is available in most 4- and 5-star hotels.)
Head of State
For many travelers, the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Peruvian history is 'Inca.' Indeed the Inca civilization, the best-known and most-studied of South America's pre-Columbian cultures, is the one you're most likely to encounter on the road. Yet the mighty Incas are merely the tip of the archaeological iceberg. Peru had a bounty of pre-Columbian cultures, some preceding the Incas by millennia.
Peru is unequaled in South America for its archaeological wealth, and many archaeologists find Peru's ancient sites and cultures as endlessly fascinating as those of Mexico, Egypt or the Mediterranean. Learning about and visiting these centuries-old ruins is the highlight of many travelers' journeys as well, and even those travelers with limited interest in archaeology will find seeing some of the main sites rewarding.
What we know of Peru's pre-Columbian civilizations has been gleaned almost entirely from archaeological excavation. With no written records available, archaeologists have had to derive historical information from the realistic and expressive decoration found on ancient ceramics, textiles and other artifacts. These relics are worth examining wherever they are on display in Peru's many archaeological museums.
Humans are relatively recent arrivals in the New World, probably spreading throughout the Americas after migrating across the Bering Strait about 20,000 years ago. Peru's first inhabitants were nomadic hunters and gatherers who roamed the country in loose-knit bands, living in caves and hunting fearsome (and now extinct) animals such as giant sloths, saber-toothed tigers and mastodons. Hunting scenes were recorded in cave paintings made by Peru's early inhabitants at Lauricocha near Huánuco and Toquepala near Tacna.
Domestication of the llama, alpaca and guinea pig began by about 4000 BC, though some sources claim that it may have begun as early as 7000 BC. Around the same time, people began planting seeds and learning how to improve crops by simple horticultural methods such as weeding.
The coastal strip of Peru was wetter than today's desert, and a number of small settlements were established, thus changing the way of life of people living there from nomadic hunters and gatherers to settled agriculturists and fisherfolk. The inhabitants fished with nets or bone hooks, sometimes using rafts, and collected food such as shellfish, sea urchins, seabird eggs and even sea lions. Various forms of the Andean staple, the potato, began to be grown as a crop around 3000 BC, along with beans, quinoa, cotton, squashes and corn. Cotton was used to make clothing, mainly by using simple twining techniques and, later, by weaving.
Manioc (also called cassava) and sweet potatoes appeared on the coast early on, indicating trade links with the Amazon basin. Trade occurring between the Andean and Amazon regions was evidenced also by the use of the coca leaf for ritual purposes and the introduction of exotic rainforest bird feathers. Ceramics and metalwork were still unknown during this period in either area, although jewelry made of bone and shell has been found.
The coastal people lived in simple one-room dwellings, lined with stone or made from branches and reeds. These early Peruvians also built many structures for ceremonial or ritual purposes. Some of the oldest - raised temple platforms facing the ocean and containing human burials - date from the third millennium BC, indicating a prosperity based on the rich marine life of the coast. Some of these platforms were decorated with painted mud friezes. The more complex coastal ruins of Caral are unique: dating from as early as 3000 BC, they are evidence of the oldest civilization in South America, contemporaneous with more-famous ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and China. More recently the ruins of the oldest astronomical observatory in the Western Hemisphere were discovered on the coast just north of Lima.
Roughly contemporary with coastal settlements of the later Preceramic Period, the enigmatic site of the Temple of Kotosh near Huánuco is one of the earliest ruins in highland Peru. Little is known about the people who lived there, but their buildings rated among the most developed for that period, and pottery fragments found here predate those found in other parts of Peru by several hundred years.
This period, so named for the initiation of ceramics production, extended from approximately 2000 to 1000 BC. What is known about it today has been gleaned from remains found in the Virú valley and Guañape area, just south of Trujillo on Peru's north coast. More recently, large ceremonial temples from this period have been discovered in the Rímac valley above Lima and other coastal sites. Funerary offerings were made at many of them. During this time, ceramics developed from basic undecorated pots to sculpted, incised and simply colored pots of high quality. Weaving, fishing and horticulture also improved, the latter particularly through the development of irrigation. Toward the end of this time, agricultural terraces were first constructed in the highlands.
Lasting roughly from 1000 to 300 BC, this period has also been called the Chavín Horizon, after the site of Chavín de Huántar, east of Huaraz. It's termed a 'horizon' because artistic and religious phenomena appeared, perhaps independently, within several cultures in different places at about the same time, indicating some kind of interchange of ideas and increasing cultural complexity. This horizon extended throughout much of the highlands and the coast.
The salient feature of the Chavín influence is the repeated representation of a stylized feline (jaguar or puma) face with prominently religious overtones, perhaps symbolizing spiritual transformations experienced under the influence of hallucinogenic plants. Other animal faces, some mythical, and human faces are also found. Most importantly, this period represents the greatest early development in weaving, pottery, agriculture, religion and architecture - in a word, culture.
During this time, methods of working with gold, silver and copper also developed on the north coast.
Early intermediate period
Around 300 BC, the Chavín culture inexplicably lost its unifying influence. Over the next thousand or so years, several cultures became locally important, of which the best known is the unusually named Paracas Necropolis (named after the burial site discovered south of Lima), which produced cotton and wool textiles considered to be the finest pre-Columbian textiles of the Americas - with up to 398 threads per linear inch!
From about AD 100 to 700 pottery, metalwork and weaving reached a pinnacle of technological development in several regions. Two distinct cultures are particularly noted for their exceptional pottery: the Moche from the Trujillo area produced pottery from press molds, and the Nazca from the south coast introduced polychrome techniques. Both of these cultures recorded their life in intricate detail on their ceramics, leaving archaeologists with plentiful clues about this period.
These cultures also left behind impressive sites that are worth visiting today. The Moche built massive platform mounds (popularly called 'pyramids') such as the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon), which are located near Trujillo. Sipán, another Moche site situated near Chiclayo, contains a series of tombs that have been under excavation since 1987 and may be the most important archaeological discovery in South America since Machu Picchu. The Temple of the Moon is currently under excavation, and amazing friezes have been uncovered. Most recently, the elaborately tattooed mummy of a female Moche leader was discovered in 2006 at another coastal site.
The Nazca made enigmatic giant designs in the desert, known as the Nazca Lines. At the turn of the 20th century, it was Peruvian archaeologist Max Uhle who first realized that the drifting desert sands hid remnants of a culture distinct from other coastal peoples. Soon huaqueros (grave robbers) came to plunder many of the most fascinating sites and sold their finds to individuals and museums. But you can view Nazca mummies at the Chauchilla Cemetery, and also visit the pyramids of Cahuachi, which are still undergoing excavations.
Most of the latter half of the 6th century was marked by a catastrophic drought along the coast, contributing to the otherwise mysterious demise of the Moche.
From AD 600 to about 1100, the Wari (or Huari) emerged as the first expansionist peoples known in the Andes. Unlike the earlier Chavín, expansion was not limited to the diffusion of artistic and religious influence. Based in the Ayacucho region of the central highlands, the Wari were vigorous military conquerors who built and maintained important outposts throughout much of Peru. The sprawling ruins of their ancient capital can still be visited outside Ayacucho.
The Wari attempted to subdue the cultures they conquered by emphasizing their own values and suppressing local oral traditions and regional self-expression. Thus from about AD 700 to 1100, Wari influence is noted in the art, technology and architecture of most areas in Peru. More significantly, from an archaeologist's point of view, any local oral traditions that may have existed were discouraged by these conquerors and slowly forgotten. With no written language to study either, archaeologists must rely entirely on the examination of excavated artifacts to gain an idea of what life during this period was like.
The Wari too, in their turn, were replaced by other cultures.
Late intermediate period
Because of their cultural dominance and oppressive rule, it is not surprising that the Wari were generally not welcomed by other cultures, despite the improvements they made in urban development and organization. By about AD 1000, their governance had been replaced by individual groups in local areas. These separate regional states thrived for the next 400 years. The best-known is the Chimu kingdom in the Trujillo area. Its capital was Chan Chan, famed as the largest adobe city in the world.
Several other cultures existed around roughly the same time as the Chimu. The cloud-forest-dwelling Chachapoyas warrior culture erected Kuélap, one of the most intriguing and significant of the highland ruins, and reasonably accessible to travelers. Back on the coast, the Sicán were descendants of the Moche culture. They were also excellent metalsmiths who actively traded with other tribes in the regions of present-day Ecuador, Chile and Colombia. Also contemporary with the Chimu were the Chancay people just north of Lima. The best collection of Chancay artifacts is at the Fundacion Museo Amano in Lima. Further south were the Ica and Chincha cultures, whose artifacts can be seen in the Museo Regional de Ica. At this time there were also several small altiplano (Andean plateau) kingdoms situated near Lake Titicaca that frequently warred with one another. They left impressive chullpas (funerary towers) dotting the bleak landscape - the best remaining examples are at Sillustani and Cutimbo. Last but not least, the formation of chiefdoms and social development in the Amazon jungle had already begun by the end of this period.
For all its glory, the Inca empire really only existed for barely a century. The reign of the first eight incas (kings) spanned the period from the 12th century to the early 15th century. But prior to 1438, the Incas, a small tribe who believed themselves to have descended from the ancestral sun god Inti, ruled over only the valley of Cuzco.
It was the ninth inca, Pachacutec, that gave the empire its first bloody taste of conquest. A growing thirst for expansion had led the neighboring highland tribe, the Chankas, to Cuzco's doorstep around 1438, and Viracocha Inca fled in the belief that his small empire was lost. However, his son Pachacutec rallied the Inca army and, in a desperate battle, he famously routed the Chanka. This marked the beginning of a remarkably rapid military expansion.
Buoyed by his victory in Cuzco, Pachacutec promptly bagged much of the central Andes over the next 25 years. The Inca empire, known as Tahuantinsuyo (Land of Four Quarters), conquered most of the cultures in the area stretching from southern Colombia to central Chile, including also the Andean regions of Bolivia and northern Argentina. It was also during this time that scores of fabulous mountaintop citadels were built, including famous Machu Picchu.
Like the Wari before them, the Incas imposed their way of life on the peoples they conquered. Thus when the Spanish arrived, most of the Andean area had been politically unified by Inca rule. This unification did not extend to many of the everyday facets of life for the conquered, and many of them felt some resentment toward the Inca leaders. This was a significant factor in the success of the Spaniards during their invasion of the New World.
When Europeans 'discovered' the New World, epidemics, including smallpox, swept down from Central America and the Caribbean. In 1527, the 11th inca Huayna Capac died of such an epidemic. Before expiring, he divided his empire between his two sons, Atahualpa, possibly born of a quiteña (inhabitant of Quito) mother, who took the north, and the pure-blooded native cuzqueño (inhabitant of Cuzco) Huascar, who took Cuzco and the south. Civil war promptly ensued, and the slow downfall of the Inca empire began.
After Columbus' first landfall, the Spanish rapidly invaded and conquered the Caribbean islands and the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Mexico and Central America. By the 1520s, the conquistadors were ready to turn their attentions to the South American continent. In 1522 Pascual de Andagoya sailed as far as the Río San Juan in Ecuador. Two years later, Francisco Pizarro headed south but was unable to reach even the San Juan. In November 1526, Pizarro again headed south, this time with more success. By 1528 he had discovered the rich coastal settlements of the Inca empire.
After returning to Spain to court money and men for the impending conquest, he returned. Pizarro's third expedition left Panama late in 1530. He landed on the Ecuadorian coast and began to march overland toward Peru. In September 1532, Pizarro founded the first Spanish town in Peru, naming it San Miguel de Piura. He then marched inland into the heart of the Inca empire. Pizarro succeeded in reaching Cajamarca in 1532, by which time Atahualpa had defeated his half-brother Huascar.
This meeting between Incas and Spaniards was to radically change the course of South American history. Atahualpa was ambushed by a few dozen armed conquistadors, who succeeded in capturing him, killing thousands of unarmed indigenous tribespeople. In an attempt to regain his freedom, the Inca offered a ransom of gold and silver from Cuzco, including that stripped from the walls of Qorikancha, the most glorious temple in the Inca empire.
But after holding Atahualpa prisoner for a number of months and teasing the Incas with ransom requests, Pizarro murdered the Inca leader anyway, and quickly marched on Cuzco. Mounted on horseback, protected by armor and swinging steel swords, the Spanish cavalry was virtually unstoppable. Despite sporadic rebellions, the Inca empire was forced to retreat into the mountains and jungle, and never recovered its glorious prestige or extent.
The Inca capital of Cuzco was of little use to the Spaniards, who were a seafaring people and needed a coastal capital to maintain communication with Spain. Accordingly, Pizarro founded Lima as the 'City of Kings' on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, 1535, and this became the capital of the viceroyalty of Peru, as the colony was named.
The next three decades were a period of great turmoil, with the Incas fighting against their conquerors, and the conquistadors fighting among themselves for control of the rich colony. The conquistador Diego de Almagro was assassinated in 1538 and Francisco Pizarro suffered the same fate three years later at the hands of Almagro's avenging son. Meanwhile, Manco Inca tried to regain control of the highlands and was almost successful in 1536, but he was forced to retreat to Vilcabamba in the jungle, where he was killed in 1544. Succeeding Incas were less defiant until 1572 when the last ruling Inca, Túpac Amaru, organized a rebellion in which he was defeated and eventually beheaded by the Spaniards in front of the cathedral in Cuzco's main plaza.
Things were relatively peaceful, however, during the next 200 years. Lima became the main political, social and commercial center of the Andean nations. Cuzco became a backwater, its main mark on the colonial period being the development of the Cuzco school of art, the escuela cuzqueña, which blended Spanish and indigenous influences. Cuzco school canvases can be admired now in Lima's museums and in the many colonial churches that were built in the highlands during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The rulers of the colony were the Spanish-born viceroys appointed by the Spanish crown. Immigrants from Spain held the most prestigious positions, while Spaniards born in the colony were generally less important. This is how the Spanish crown was able to control its colonies. Mestizos were placed still further down the social scale. Lowest of all were the indigenous peoples, who were exploited and treated as peones (expendable laborers,) under the encomienda system. This feudal system granted Spanish colonists land titles that included as property all of the indigenous people living within that area.
This finally boiled over into the 1780 indigenous uprising, led by Túpac Amaru II. Educated by Jesuits, this cuzqueño of royal Inca descent served his Spanish colonial masters at first while working to improve conditions for indigenous workers, especially in Peru's mines. As his politics grew more radical, Túpac Amaru II adopted his great-grandfather's Incan name and staged an all-out rebellion. When that struggle was quashed by the Spanish, the indigenous leaders were cruelly executed in Cuzco. Túpac Amaru II himself was drawn and quartered in Cuzco's main plaza, the same place that his great-grandfather had been executed. No one knows whether any of the Inca royal line survived past this date.
By the early 19th century, the inhabitants of Spain's Latin American colonies were dissatisfied with their lack of freedom and high taxation; South America was ripe for revolt and independence. In Peru's case, what paved the way toward independence was the discovery and exploitation of a variety of rich mineral deposits, beginning with the seemingly inauspicious guano (seabird droppings) used for fertilizer.
The winds of change arrived in Peru from two directions. José de San Martín liberated Argentina and Chile, and in 1821 he entered Lima and formally proclaimed independence. Meanwhile, Simón Bolívar had freed Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
In 1822 San Martín and Bolívar met privately in Guayaquil, Ecuador. What transpired during that heart-to-heart conversation is still a mystery, but afterward San Martín left Latin America altogether to live in France, while Bolívar continued with the liberation of Peru.
The most decisive battles for Peruvian independence were fought at Junín on August 6, 1824 and Ayacucho on December 9. But it wasn't until 1826 that the Spanish finally surrendered.
Disorder at the borders
Unfortunately, independence didn't spell the end of warfare for Peru. A brief war broke out with Spain in 1866, which Peru won, and was followed shortly by a longer war with Chile (1879-83), which Peru lost. The latter was over the nitrate-rich areas of the northern Atacama Desert and resulted in Chile annexing a large portion of coastal southern Peru. The area around Tacna wasn't returned until 1929.
Peru went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute in 1941. A treaty drawn up in Rio de Janeiro in 1942 gave Peru jurisdiction over the northern sections of the departments of Amazonas and Loreto, but Ecuador disputed this border, and deadly skirmishes occurred between the two countries every few years. Finally, in 1998, the border issue was resolved, with Peru granting Ecuador access to the Amazon and leaving a tiny area in Ecuador's control. Essentially, the 1942 border remains almost intact and the two countries are now at peace, although much unexploded ordinance (UXO) is waiting to be cleaned up.
Varies according to area. On the coast winter lasts from June to September. During this period, the mountainous areas are often sunny during the day but cold at night. Heavy rains in the mountains and jungle last from December to April. It hardly ever rains in Lima nor most of the coast, except for Tumbes and Piura, which have tropical climates.
Lightweights during summer with much warmer clothes worn in upland areas, especially at night. Medium weights are advised during cooler months.
New Sol (PEN; symbol S/.) = 100 céntimos.
New Sol notes are in denominations of S/.200, 100, 50, 20 and 10.
Coins are in denominations of S/.5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 céntimos.
Only a few bureaux de change in Lima will exchange currencies other than US Dollars. Outside Lima, it is virtually impossible. US Dollars can be exchanged everywhere and banks, hotels and many shops also readily accept US Dollars (although very old, torn or damaged notes are usually rejected). It is not recommended to exchange money from street vendors.
Credit / Debit Cars
All major credit cards are accepted, but usage may be limited outside of Lima. ATMs are now generally regarded as one of the best ways to obtain money in Peru.
Banks will exchange traveller's cheques although it can be a slow process outside Lima. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars. The ability to use traveller's cheques is also quite limited in some areas so you should check whether or not they will be accepted in the area you are visiting prior to travel.Currency restrictions
Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat 0900-1300 (may vary during the summer).
Food and Drink
The hot and spicy nature of Peruvian food, created by ají and ajo (hot pepper and garlic), has become celebrated at home and abroad. Peruvians enjoy a wide variety of vegetables; there are over 2,000 kinds of indigenous and cultivated potatoes alone. Table service is the norm in hotels and restaurants and many also offer buffet-type lunches.
Ceviche (uncooked fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and hot chilli pepper)
Chupe de camarones (chowder-type soup made with shrimps, milk, eggs, potatoes and peppers)
Causa relleña (potato cakes with chicken in the centre, but also cooked with avocado or crabmeat)
Tamales (boiled corn dumplings filled with meat and wrapped in a banana leaf)
Mazamorra morada (purple maize and sweet potato starch jelly cooked with lemons, dried fruits, cinnamon and cloves)
Pisco sour (bittersweet cocktail made from a potent grape brandy)
Other pisco-based drinks are algarrobina (pisco and carob syrup), chilcano (pisco and ginger ale) and capitán (pisco and vermouth)
Chicha de jora (fermented corn juice) and chicha morada (non-alcoholic purple corn juice) are popular drinks dating from Inca times
Peruvian beers and wines are good
Service charges of 10% are added to bills. Additional tips of 5% are expected in better restaurants.
There are many good bars, pubs, discos and casinos in the major towns and tourist resorts. Peñasalways serve snacks and some serve full meals. Here you can enjoy criolla or folk music, especially at weekends. Nightlife in Lima and Cusco has a wide array of choices. Most discos, peñas, pubs and karaokes are open until 0300 or 0400 in the morning.
1 Jan New Year's Day; 1 Apr Maundy Thursday; 2 Apr Good Friday; 1 May Labour Day; 29 Jun St Peter's and St Paul's Day; 28-29 Jul Independence Day Celebrations; 30 Aug St Rosa of Lima Day; 8 Oct Angamos Battle; 1 Nov All Saints' Day; 8 Dec Immaculate Conception; 24 Dec Christmas Eve (half day); 25 Dec Christmas Day.
Things to Do
Fly above the ancient Nazca Lines, vast and spectacular geoglyphs etched into the desert 420km (265 miles) south of Lima. The most notable designs represent animals (birds, felines and reptiles), and date back to between 200BC and AD600.
Puff your way around one of the world's most famous mountain treks, the (literally) breathtaking Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This ancient trail passes through snow-capped mountains, cloud forest and a string of 12 Inca ceremonial centres, including Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna.
Explore the magnificent Incan ceremonial centre Sacsayhuamán on horseback. This is the most impressive of Cusco's four neighbouring Inca ruins (the others are Puca Pucara, Qenko and Tambo Machay). On 24 June, thousands celebrate the Inti Raymi festival here.
On 30 August, marvel at the religious processions honouring Lima's patron saint, Santa Rosa de Lima. Later, on 18 October, a purple haze descends upon the city as the faithful march in purple robes to praise El Señor de los Milagros.
Browse for exquisite handicrafts in areas like Ayacucho (specialising in pottery, leatherwork, textiles and jewellery) or Cajamarca. There is also a colourful daily market in Lima's Chinatown district that should not be missed.
Go to Cajamarca's Carnival, famous throughout Peru for its annual celebrations that last for an entire month. One word of warning - try to avoid getting soaked with water, since it is the traditional Cajamarca Carnival greeting!
Trek around glacial lakes and spectacular snow-capped peaks near Huaraz, in the central Andes. It is also possible to ski on the Pastoruri Glacier, see giant bromeliads (up to 15m/49ft high) and wildlife like the viscacha, puma, vicuña and the rare spectacled bear.
Hike the extraordinarily beautiful Cordillera Blanca trail, a 180km- (112.5-mile-) long paradise of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, emerald-green lakes and archaeological sites, containing a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Take your pick of more world-famous treks, including the Olleros-Chavín Llama Trek to the impressive archaeological site Chavín de Huántar; the Cordillera Huayhuash (Huaraz); the deep Colca Valley; and the demanding Mount Ausangate trek.
Things to See
Ascend to Peru's top attraction, the awe-inspiring Inca city of Machu Picchu, perched atop a remote mountain northwest of Cusco. This World Heritage Site, rediscovered in 1911, is arguably the most important archaeological site in South America, not to mention the most dramatically located.
Don't miss a trip to capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco. This World Heritage Site, founded in AD1100, is a fascinating mix of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture. Murals depicting historical scenes splash across walls and local women still wear traditional dress.
Trawl through five centuries of colonial history in Lima, admiring the handsome plazas and opulent mansions with their Moorish latticed wooden balconies. The main square, Plaza de Armas, is home to the impressive 18th-century cathedral and the lavish Government Palace.
See one of the few buildings to withstand Lima's 1746 earthquake, UNESCO-listed Church of San Francisco. Inside are an extraordinary domed roof, a vast library, masterpieces by Jordeans, Rubens and Van Dyck, and catacombs complete with ghoulish circular displays of the bones of some 70,000 souls.
Drift out upon Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, and visit the unique waterborne reed islands and boats of the native Uros people. Covering 8,379 km² (3,235 sq miles), Lake Titicaca is surrounded by ancient ruins and is home to 19th-century steamship, the Yavari.
Delve into Manu National Park, Peru's greatest treasure in biodiversity. Covering 20,000 km² (7,722 sq miles) of tropical rainforest, this World Natural Heritage Site is home to around 2,000 plant species, 1,200 butterfly species, 800 bird types and 200 different mammals, including monkeys, tapirs, sloth, jaguar and capybaras.
Visit the 5,000-year-old city of Caral, near Lima. Caral was discovered in 1994 and has recently opened to tourists following years of excavation.
Discover more of Peru's countless archaeological treasures, including UNESCO-protected Chan Chan, the largest pre-Inca mud city (20 km²/8 sq miles) and the nearby huacas (religious centres) of the Sun and the Moon. The beautifully restored Huaca Arco Iris is covered with pre-Inca hieroglyphics.
Venture into the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone, 45km (28 miles) from Puerto Maldonado by river, which specialists say contains the largest and richest biodiversity of the world. The flora and fauna within includes more than 2,000 flower varieties, 1,000 birds and 900 butterflies and dragonflies.
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|All travelers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times. Citizens of Canada can refer to www.passport.gc.ca for forms and instructions for new passport applications and Canadian passport renewals.||All travelers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times.|
5 city stop over(s) and 19 itineraries are available for Peru
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