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South America Destination Specialists 3 months ago

Peru Destination & Travel Guide

  • Machu Picchu panorama

Essential Facts

Currency

The Nuevo Sol is the main form of currency in Peru. The US dollar is also commonly accepted in Peru, but it is recommended to carry Peruvian currency as well if you plan on travelling to more rural destinations within the country, as the US dollar may not always be accepted. It is also more convenient to have Peruvian coins for smaller purchases like snacks or beverages. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, especially in major cities, but they are not as frequently used in more rural areas so being charged an extra fee for use is not uncommon. 

Language

Peru has 47 Indigenous languages, but the most common language spoken is Spanish. 82.6% of the population speak Castilian, which is one of many Spanish dialects. You will encounter other languages such as Quechua (13.9% pop.) and Aymara (1.7% pop.) and other Indigenous  languages as you travel throughout Peru, especially in the more rural areas and in the Amazon region. English is spoken in most tourist areas, but it is not widely spoken throughout Peru, so learning a little bit of Spanish will always go a long way.  

Best Time to Go

The best time to go to Peru is during the dry season between May to October when it is dry in most parts of the country. If you plan on trekking through the Amazon, this is a great time to go as mosquitos are fewer and fauna is abundantly present as they try to stay closer to the river.

Climate

The Peruvian climate is very diverse and the weather is very much dependent on the region. The deserts, jungles, mountain villages, and coastal cities are each under the influence of different natural forces. While it rarely rains on Peru’s coast, this region experiences two seasons: summer and winter. The summer season runs from December to March with temperatures averaging around 27°C/80°F while winter on the coast is from May to November. This time of year can be damp and sometimes chilly with temperatures dropping to 12°C/53°F. The far north enjoys temperatures reaching 35°C/95°F in the summer and has sunshine all year. The highlands also have two seasons: a dry season and a wet season. May to October is considered the dry season with sunny days and cold nights while December to March is the rainy season. Peru’s jungle region naturally experiences a tropical climate that is hot and humid. Summer in the Amazon is from April to October with temperatures above 30°C (86°F). November to March is the rainy season with frequent but short showers and humidity.

Ideal Traveller

Peru has something that appeals to many kinds of travellers with its variety of experiences due to the diversity in its landscape, well preserved history, and acclaimed cuisine. This unique destination is great for foodies, bucket list travellers, adventure and thrill seekers, nature and wildlife lovers, photographers, history buffs, and cultural travellers.


Getting There From North America

Plaza Mayor in Lima

Major Airports

The majority of international flights fly into Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima and from there connect onto various other destinations throughout the country.

Major Air Routes from the United States

In the United States, many airlines have direct flights to Lima from New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston. 

Major Air Routes from Canada

In Canada, Air Canada is the only airline that has direct flights from Toronto. Throughout the rest of Canada, travellers will have to connect via the United States or Toronto.


Essential Sights in Peru

Plaza de Armas in Cusco

Lima

The capital and largest city in Peru, Lima is located along the coast in the central part of the country. A melting pot of cultures, Lima offers a mixture of European, Andean, African, and Asian influences, which have contributed to Lima being named the “Gastronomical Capital of the Americas.” The historic centre of Lima, made up of the districts of Lima and Rimac, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The district houses colonial architecture and many churches that date from as early as the 16th century. Lima is also home to the highest concentration of museums in the country making it the hub of Peruvian cultural activity  

Cusco

The continent's oldest continuously-inhabited city, Cusco is located in southeastern Peru near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range and is the gateway to famous Machu Picchu. Cusco’s centre retains many pre-Columbian and colonial buildings and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Cusco is designated as the historical capital of Peru and has maintained its unique charm and character that continues to enchant visitors from around the world 

Machu Picchu

Often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive historical sites on the planet and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Constructed during the height of the Inca Empire, the citadel sits on top of a mountain deep in the Urubamba Valley of the Andes Mountains. The citadel was never completed before the Spaniards invaded Peru and following the conquest, it disappeared from history and remained hidden until American academic and explorer Hiram Bingham III came across it in 1911 while searching for Vilcabamba. The rediscovery set off a frenzy of interest across the world, which has continued to this day.

Sacred Valley of the Incas

Also known as the Urubamba Valley, Peru’s Sacred Valley runs through the country’s eastern flank in the Andes Mountains. The area encompasses everything between Calca and Lamy, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Formed by the Urubamba River, the fertile valley proved to be an important agricultural centre for the Incas. The Incas built many great estates, temples, and palaces throughout the region, the ruins of which have become popular on Peru tours with tourists around the world. It was given the name Sacred Valley because it contained some of the best land available and was the property of the Inca Emperor.

Titicaca and Floating Islands

Shared with Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake and one of the highest-altitude lakes in the world. It’s a sacred place to the Incas and the birthplace of their legendary leader and founder. It’s also home to the Uros Islands, a series of floating islands with incredible reed constructions.


Other Highlights of Peru Off the Beaten Path

Colca Canyon in Peru

Iquitos (Amazon)

Iquitos is the world’s largest city that is unreachable by road. It’s also Peru’s gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. Take a cruise and travel through the Amazon to see the amazing wildlife and experience the relaxing stillness.

Colca Canyon

Get a true feel for the majesty of the Andes at Colca Canyon. Believe it or not, it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. At Colca Canyon, the locals retain their ancestral traditions and are watched over by Andean Condors.

Ballesta Islands

Experience the stunning Ballestas Islands, often referred to as the "poor man's Galapagos Islands," which is far from the truth. In fact these rocky islets are stunning in their own right and are home to a variety of animals including many birds and an array of larger animals like seals, sea lions, and humboldt penguins. It’s a perfect spot for nature lovers. 

Chan Chan

Chan Chan is the largest American pre-Columbian city and offers a chance for travellers to step back in time while exploring the many buildings and history this amazing place has to offer.


Top Activities and Experiences in Peru

Inca Trail hike

Hiking 

Peru is a hiker’s playground as you can walk the same path as the Incas on the Inca Trail through the Sacred Valley, explore the Salkantay Trek towards Machu Picchu, witness the wonder of Vinicunca the Rainbow Mountain in the country’s east, or discover the hidden ruins of Choquequirao.

Go on a Foodie Adventure

Peru has become a culinary mecca. Lima has several of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world such as Maido, Central, and Astrid y Gaston, while the rest of the country benefits from the rich culinary heritage. Seafood is kind on the coast, with fresh offerings in Lima and Arequipa, while the potato is a staple throughout the country. Peru also boasts a rich fusion culture, with culinary variations on Japanese (Nikkei) and Chinese (Chifa) cuisine in particular.

Explore the Amazon

Visit Manu National Park, kayak the Amazon River, or take a luxury cruise and explore the jungles with its vast array of wildlife, such as pink dolphins and three-toed sloths. You can also experience the amazing sight and sound of the howler monkey.


Essential Peruvian Foods to Try

Shrimp ceviche

Ceviche

Considered the national dish and potentially originating in Lima, ceviche is definitely the most well-known Peruvian dish. The dish consists of raw fish marinated in lime juice with onion, salt, and hot chili’s (aji). It’s often paired with sweet potato or boiled corn (choclo).

Lomo Saltado

This stir fry beef dish is a blend Peruvian cuisine and Chinese influence with strips of beef marinated in soy sauce and cooked with onions, tomatoes, aji chilis, and a variety of spices, usually accompanied with potatoes and/or white rice.

Causa (potato casserole)

A native Quechuan dish, causa has countless variations, but the most common or best known is the Causa Limena (from Lima). It comes as a casserole, a terrine or individually portioned. It consists of yellow Peruvian potatoes combined with oil, lime, and spicy aji amarillo sauce, then filled with either shredded tuna, chicken, or salmon blended with mayonnaise, then layered with hard boiled eggs, avocado, and olives, and then covered with more potato mash. This dish is usually served cold as a side dish.


Tips for Sustainable Travel

View of Machu Picchu

Buy local. When in Peru try to buy Peruvian. When dining out try independent local establishments for real authentic Peruvian cuisine or buy from communities where items are handcrafted by local artisans. This way, the money goes back into the community and you're helping local families, but you also get a keepsake with a story to tell as to where and who you purchased it from. Also, make sure the company you are booking your tour or trek with treat their guides and porters fairly and find out how they respect the cultures and environments their tours are based in. Book with tour operators who are dedicated to sustainable travel and are committed to responsible and ethical practices. Rest peacefully and stay in eco-lodges and hotels when possible as they focus on providing sustainable accommodations that reduce the impact on the local environment and the locals living there.


Where to Go Next

With Peru bordering various countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, it is easy for travellers to add stopover trips or add another destination to their holiday itinerary. Travellers can choose from numerous exciting destinations such as visiting La Paz and the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, Iguassu falls and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Quito and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Bogota and Cartagena in Colombia, and the city of Santiago and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.


Most Popular Itineraries for Peru

On the 13-day Essential Peru, travellers will enjoy incredible scenery, bustling colonial cities, and the majestic ruins of ancient empires when they visit the highlights of Peru, which include Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. The 11-day Peruvian Rivers, Jungles and Machu Picchu takes you along the Amazon and through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Start in Iquitos, where you’ll cruise along the Amazon exploring the Maranon River and the Samiria River, visit the town of Nauta along with a manatee rescue center before heading to the Sacred Valley to see all its wonders and explore its Incan ruins. The 7-day Wonders of Peru includes time in the cosmopolitan city of Lima, enjoying the vibrant energy and fantastic cuisine. Enjoy a stop in culture-rich Cusco and then venture through the Sacred Valley of the Incas visiting Chincheros, the fortress ruins of Ollantaytambo, and the breathtaking mountain citadel of Machu Picchu. One of the world's greatest treks, the Traditional Inca Trail offers a 4-day challenging and fascinating hike through the beautiful Andes, concluding with perhaps the world's most awe-inspiring reward: the view over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate at dawn.

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