The Nuevo Sol is the currency in Peru. The US dollar is also commonly accepted, but it is recommended to carry Peruvian currency as well if you plan on travelling to more rural destinations within the country. 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 common.
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.
The Peruvian climate is very diverse and 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. It rarely rains on Peru’s coast, with the summer season running from December to March with temperatures averaging around 27°C/80°F. Winter on the coast is from May to November. It can be damp and sometimes chilly with temperatures dropping to 12°C/53°F. The far north enjoys temperatures up to 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.
Peru's diverse landscape well-preserved history and acclaimed cuisine make it a great destination for a wide variety of travellers. Foodies, adventure and thrill seekers, nature and wildlife lovers, photographers, history buffs, and culture seekers flock to Peru year-round, taking in its many sights, flavours, and traditions.
Getting There From North America
The majority of international flights fly into Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima and from there connect to 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 (JFK and Newark), Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Houston.
Major Air Routes from Canada
In Canada, Air Canada offers direct flights from Toronto and Montreal. From the rest of Canada, travellers will have to connect via the United States, Toronto, or Montreal.
Essential Sights in Peru
Peru's enormous capital city, Lima is located on the coast in the central part of the country. It offers a mixture of European, Andean, African, and Asian influences, all of which have contributed to Lima being named the “Gastronomical Capital of the Americas.” The historic centre of Lima, made up of the Lima and Rimac districts, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The district houses colonial architecture and many churches dating back 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 is the backbone of many short and first-time trips to Peru, with good reason. South America's oldest continuously-inhabited city, Cusco is located in southeastern Peru near the Urubamba Valley, high in the Andes. 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 many aspects of its Inca heritage, bringing history to life in modern-day Peru.
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 at 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 continues 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
Ready to see Peru beyond Machu Picchu? Here are some other top highlights away from the crowd.
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.
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.
The stunning Ballestas Islands are sometimes called the "poor man's Galapagos." The fact that they invite that comparison at all however should tell you how special they are. These rocky islets are stunning in their own right and are home to a variety of animals including many birds, seals, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins. It’s a perfect spot for nature lovers.
Chan Chan is the largest American pre-Columbian city and offers a chance for travellers to step back to (so it's estimated) 9th-century Peru, exploring a land predating colonization, or even the mighty Incas.
Top Activities and Experiences in Peru
Calling Peru a hiker’s playground is an understatement! 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 king on the coast (this is the country that perfected ceviche, after all), with fresh offerings in Lima and Arequipa, while the potato is a staple throughout the country. Peru also boasts a rich fusion tradition, 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 You Must Try
Considered the national dish and supposedly a Lima original, 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).
This stir fry beef dish is a blend of 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
When in Peru try to buy Peruvian. Try to dine at independent local establishments for authentic Peruvian cuisine, and buy any souvenirs from communities where items are handcrafted by local artisans. This way, the money goes back into the community and you also get a keepsake with a story to tell. Also, make sure the company you are booking your tour or trek with treats 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. You can stay in eco-lodges and hotels where possible to help minimize tourism's potential negative impacts on the local environment and people. Finally, Machu Picchu is a massively popular destination. Be sure to stick to the paths and adhere to your allocated time to help prevent overcrowding. Inca Trail permits sell out well in advance so book early if this is your plan.
Where to Go Next
With Peru bordering Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, it's easy to add a stopover or another destination to a Peru itinerary. Visit charismatic La Paz and the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. Combine Machu Picchu with Iguassu Falls and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Quito and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador pair well with Peru, as do the classic Colombian duo of Bogota and Cartagena. You can even fly to Santiago, then on to Patagonia and Chile's Torres del Paine National Park.
Most Popular Itineraries for Peru
The 13-day Essential Peru, brings together the scenery, modern-day urban sophistication, and majestic history of Peru in one amazing package. It includes 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 Incan ruins. The 7-day Wonders of Peru is the ideal quick itinerary for first-timers, starting in cosmopolitan Lima before heading to culture-rich Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You'll visit Chincheros, the fortress ruins of Ollantaytambo, and the breathtaking mountain citadel of Machu Picchu. One of the world's great treks, the Traditional Inca Trail rewards an epic 4-day hike through the beautiful Andes with the ultimate view over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate at dawn.
15 Jul 2020, 3 p.m.