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Peru Travel Guide

The land of the Incas
Peru, the land of the fabled Incan empire inspires wonder and fires the imagination, with its blend of ancient mysteries and alien theories, treasure rooms awashed in gold, and temples hidden away on mist-veiled mountains. 

This is a country ripe for exploration. From visiting the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu to strolling Cusco’s cobblestone streets,  flying over the Nazca Lines to sailing the penguin-inhabited islands of the Ballestas, with a carefully chosen group travel package, you can enjoy all these experiences and more with the right company. 

Throughout, you will also get a first-hand glimpse into the legacy of the Incans and the daily lives of Peruvians: learning to weave from native Quechua, shopping in local markets, drinking pisco sours and tangoing the night away.
Read more
Peru, the land of the fabled Incan empire inspires wonder and fires the imagination, with its blend of ancient mysteries and alien theories, treasure rooms awashed in gold, and temples hidden away on mist-veiled mountains. 

This is a country ripe for exploration. From visiting the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu to strolling Cusco’s cobblestone streets,  flying over the Nazca Lines to sailing the penguin-inhabited islands of the Ballestas, with a carefully chosen group travel package, you can enjoy all these experiences and more with the right company. 

Throughout, you will also get a first-hand glimpse into the legacy of the Incans and the daily lives of Peruvians: learning to weave from native Quechua, shopping in local markets, drinking pisco sours and tangoing the night away.

Location

Peru is located in the central and western part of South America. It is bordered by Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Bolivia and Brazil to the east, and Chile to the south. This South American country is a perennially attractive holiday destination; flights from India to Peru take around 21 hours.

When to go

While you can absolutely visit Peru at any time through the year, different seasons offer different experiences. As Peru encompasses different ecosystems, there are regional differences in weather during the year. In general, the driest season is considered the best time of year to travel. In the northern part of the country and Lima, it’s usually dry from December to March. Cusco is best visited from May to October, while the Amazon can be visited during the low-water season from June to November.

Where to go

You’re spoiled for choice in Peru. The country has plenty of captivating cities, a coastal desert, exotic jungles to jaguar-toothed peaks in the Andes, each offering boundless potential for adventure- trekking the hallowed Inca Trail, paddling in a dugout canoe through the Amazon, or even swimming with pink dolphins, to name just a few things you could do in Peru.

Your travels will always be brightened by the vibrant Andean culture. During market days, the towns explode in bright colour; and during small festivals and holidays, you’ll see locals celebrating with unbridled enthusiasm. 
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At a glance

Weather

Peru has three climate zones. The coastal region, is mainly dry and warm during most of the year, intensifying between December and April. In the Andes highlands, the dry season runs from April to November, and a wet season from December through the end of March. Peru’s tropical jungle region is humid throughout the year, with rain and humidity intensifying from December to March.

Currency

Peruvian Sol
Currency in use in Peru is the Peruvian Sol. The Peru currency to INR conversion at the time of posting, is 1 Peruvian Sol = 21.01 INR.

Language

Spanish
The main language spoken in Peru is Spanish - a result of Peru being annexed by the Spanish Empire that established a Viceroyalty in this country, with its capital in Lima. Approximately 80% of the population speak Spanish,  but other indigenous languages like Aymara and Quechua are spoken too.  In areas with many international visitors, English is quite common. But to be on the safe side, learn a few Spanish phrases before you go.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Spot penguins and pelicans at the Ballestas Islands   

Recommended by Backpack Adventures

“These islands are a dream for biologists due to its rich biodiversity of marine life and birds...The birds are everywhere and the rocks are covered in their poo. I got really excited when our guide pointed out three small penguins among the pelicans. A moment later I spotted my first sea lion sleeping on a rock and soon we saw several groups of them lying around.”

Ellis, the mind behind Backpack Adventures, is a cultural anthropologist from the Netherlands who has travelled for more than 20 years to over 50 countries. She shares her stories as an independent budget traveller with you to make travel on and off the beaten path easier for others.

Spend a day in lively Lima!   

Recommended by Goats On the Road

“Just think about the diversity of activities on offer in the City of Kings. In one day, you can visit ancient ruins, go paragliding above the ocean, see a magic water fountain show, eat some of the best food you’ve ever had, wash it all down with a few Pisco Sours.”

Nick & Dariece are a 30-something couple from Canada who have been travelling for 8 years. They have visited more than 60 countries around the world. Goats On The Road is a very popular resource for travellers, and has been featured on CNN, National Geographic Traveller, NBC and more.

Explore Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire   

Recommended by Passion Passport

“Just think about the diversity of activities on offer in the City of Kings. In one day, you can visit ancient ruins, go paragliding above the ocean, see a magic water fountain show, eat some of the best food you’ve ever had, wash it all down with a few Pisco Sours.”

Nick & Dariece are a 30-something couple from Canada who have been travelling for 8 years. They have visited more than 60 countries around the world. Goats On The Road is a very popular resource for travellers, and has been featured on CNN, National Geographic Traveller, NBC and more.

Marvel at Machu Picchu   

Recommended by NOMADasaurus

"There’s few things quite as overwhelming as finally seeing a place that you have wanted to visit for your whole life. When we walked up the steep stairs, passed the watch tower, and finally arrived at the terraces that give the iconic view of Machu Picchu that everybody knows, we were stunned. It was just as beautiful as we imagined it would be. The perfectly-placed walls stretching along a narrow stretch of land, positioned impossibly between two steep mountains really does take your breath away.”

: Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog run award-winning travel writers and photographers Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem. They specialise in adventure travel, sustainable tourism, detailed travel guides, off the beaten path destinations, photography and creating a lifestyle around travel. They’ve been featured on Buzzfeed, BBC Travel, the Daily Mail, and other publications.

Fly over the Nazca Lines   

Recommended by Travel? Yes Please

“As our journey continues, so does the excitement, as flying over the Nazca Lines is no ordinary flight...After the monkey, the geoglyphs start to appear in close proximity with each other. The dog is next, swiftly followed by the spectacular hummingbird...While we many never know the secrets behind the Nazca Lines, I am certain of one thing- flying over the Nazca Lines is a fascinating excursion in Peru!”

Rhonda and Mike are a Canadian couple who founded the award-winning Travel? Yes Please blog. They share photos, stories to inspire others to travel and make the planning process easier.

Incredible places to visit in Peru

Lima

Peru’s capital is usually the first stop on most Peru travel packages, and serves as a great introduction to the rest of the country. The city’s lineage and heritage can be seen everywhere in the city, and yet, it is so very sophisticated. Stately museum showcase edgy art, crowded nightclubs keep the energy going, and the city’s culinary scene is unparalleled.

Santo Domingo Convent

This bright-yellow convent is one of the oldest churches in Peru. Thanks to its simple facade, the building is often ignored on Lima group travel packages. But it is deceptive; inside, you’ll find stories of intrigue. The chapel murals narrate San Martín de Porres’s miracles. He is the saint who served the convent and the church.  As the illegitimate child of a Spanish noble and an ex-slave, San Martín de Porre is the first black saint of the Americas, and considered the patron of those of mixed race.

The Catacombs

The San Francisco Convent is also famous for its bone-lined catacombs, which contains an estimated 70,000 remains. The larger bones (forearms, femurs, and skulls)of the deceased have been artistically arranged in a circular pattern for them to be aesthetically pleasing to visitors. The site is quite interesting from both a modern and historical sociological, religious and ethical standpoint.

Larco Museum

Founded by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1926, the museum contains among the finest archival collections devoted to the pre-Columbian era. Its artefacts represent a variety of ancient indigenous cultures, including Cupisnique​, Chimú​, Chancay​, Nazca and Inca, which span three millennia - indeed, you will half expect to see the Ark of the Covenant nestled in some corner.  There is Wari weaving, art about  human sacrifice, gold and jewellery, as well as a display of erotic pottery (yes, you read that exactly right).

Party at peñas

Peñas are Peruvian bar and restaurants that serve up traditional live music performed with guitars and percussion, and folk dancing. It’s one of the best ways to experience local Peruvian culture. Some of the best penas in Lima are found in Miraflores and Barranco.

Machu Picchu

As peak experiences go, there are few that beat Machu Picchu.  It is the ultimate symbol of the Inca Empire at the peak of its power. Bookended by two immense forested peaks that spike up from the deep green valley, it is a truly spectacular sight. The ruins in the site - temples, stables, servants quarters, royal bedrooms, craft workshops and halls made entirely of stone - all have stories to tell, a potent mix of history and mythology.  It is one of the best places to see in Peru, indeed the world.

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is a small town at the bottom of the valley in Machu Picchu, and it is the principal access point to the site. Most travellers planning to visit Machu Picchu often spend the night in the town.

Vistadome train ride

The Vistadome is a special train you can board from Aguas Calientes. Not only will you avoid the hundreds of tourists who hike the crowded trail up to the famous Inca ruins, but every seat on the train boasts a full window view of the countryside and snow-capped Andean mountains playing peekaboo with each turn and bend.

The Citadel

The Citadel is one of the most visited sites in the world. Besides the vista,  exploring the ruins of the Lost City of the Incas such as the elegant Sun Temple, the surreal Royal Mausoleum, and the shrines of the Sacred Plaza is a thrill in itself. No form of cement was used for the buildings, yet each cut stone fits together so tightly that its cracks still can’t be penetrated by a credit card! Note: Keep an eye out for the mysteriously carved mortars in the middle of the Acllahuasi; its purpose, still baffle archaeologists. The latest theory is that they were filled with water to reflect the stars.

Huayna Picchu

If you’ve ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu, you would have seen the mountain peak in the backdrop overlooking the ruins. This is Huayna Picchu. It takes about 50 minutes to reach the mountain peak, and the view from its summit is spectacular. You can see the Urubamba canyon, the main Machu Picchu ruins and a patchwork of jungle spread around.  The hike is quite challenging and should only be attempted by seasoned trekkers. You must purchase a Huayna Picchu Mountain ticket to enter the trail.

Paracas National Reserve

Paracas is a small town located four hours south of Lima, and is home to the Paracas National Reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its rare natural diversity. The name ‘Paracas’ is derived from two Quechua words para (‘rain’) and acca (‘sand’), thus meaning ‘rain of sand’ or ‘sandstorm.’ The aged terra-cotta-colored desert floor is studded with sea-snail shells, shark’s teeth and the bones of giant penguins - fossils from the ocean floor fifty million years ago. There are very few people who can boast of having seen that!

The Ballestas Islands

The Ballestas Islands, found off the south coast of Peru is famed for the abundant marine life of the region. Here, you can see flocks of cormorants, Peruvian pelicans and Inca terns hover in the air and plummet below the waves to catch fish swimming near the surface. Nearby, hundreds of barking sea lions and fur seals lounging on the rocks, taking a nap under the sun. And, keep an eye out for waddling Humboldt penguins looking dashing in their tuxedos, who nest in the crags of the rocks on islands.

Cusco

Cusco was once the capital of the Incan empire.  And today, travellers to Cusco will still be able to see the incredible blend of Inca and Spanish styles in the city’s architecture - there’s even a McDonald’s set in Inca stones! Travellers will find colonial-era mansions, courtyards, museums, and boutiques shops to explore.

San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market is lined by ladies selling nuts, popcorn and other small bags of dried foods on the sides of the streets. Here, you’ll be able to snack on nectarines, Peruvian doughnuts made from pumpkin and sweet potato, and salchipapas (fried sausages and potatoes) in between shopping for alpaca jumpers and pachamama dolls. While the market doesn’t often feature on Peru group travel packages, make sure you set some time to visit; this is, after all, why you kept aside that extra suitcase space. 

Sacsayhuaman ruins

As the New World Stonehenge, Sacsayhuaman must make it on the itinerary for your solo trip or group travel package. This ancient fortress is made of megalithic blocks of limestone rock, finely cut and assembled to perfection. How the Incans managed to cut, lift, transport and place them in position is an archaeological marvel.

Tambomachay

This archaeological site, also called the Inca Baths, is believed to be a place where Incas worshipped water. It has a complex system of aqueducts and channels and waterfalls for this end. Aside from being an important archaeological site, it’s also a lovely spot for a leisurely stroll.

Cusco Planetarium

The planetarium in Cusco is one of the most original in the world, as it gives travellers an insight into Inca astronomy. Here, you can learn about Andean constellations (such as the dark llama) and the deep veneration the Incas had for the sky, using it as a compass to build their mighty sites and grow potato and corn. And then, put your eye to a telescope, and look up at the night sky, the stars and planets.

The Nazca Lines

The mystery that has enveloped the Nazca Lines for decades has attracted curious travellers for decades. The lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs— motifs or designs etched into a coastal plain of 400 kilometres south of Lima. Created by the ancient Nazca, the motifs depict individual figures, perfectly straight lines, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and lizards. 
The mystery about how and why they were created has been debated for decades, with some people believing they were made as an appeal to the gods to bring rain, and others stating that they were a landing strip for returning aliens. Either ways, it’s one of the most incredible sights on the planet.

Top things to do & experience in Peru

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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