Peru

Peru’s appeal is endless, with a range of natural and man-made wonders. The highlands, home to the condor and countless indigenous communities, were the heartland of the ancient Inca Empire and alongside the colonial gems of Cuzco and Arequipa, Machu Picchu is the most famous example of the extraordinary architectural legacy that was left behind. To the east the mountains shelve away and give in to the dense vegetation and rich fauna of the Amazon Basin, a must on any visit to Peru.

Peru is most famous for the sacred archaeological site of Machu Picchu – visited each year by scores of intrepid hikers who brave the Inca Trail’s arduous slopes to explore the age-old ruins. But the country’s attractions extend far beyond the mystical allure of this legendary location, and include palm-fringed beaches, quaint Andean villages and archaeological treasures that predate Machu Picchu by hundreds of years – all imbued with the nation’s rich melange of indigenous and colonial cultures. Equally enticing are the exotic reaches of Peru’s Amazon rainforest, Lima’s superb eateries, exquisite architecture and effervescent nightlife, the glittering, mountain-ringed waters of Lake Titicaca, and the vibrant city of Cusco, referred to by the Incas as ‘the centre of the world’.

What’s on offer in Peru?

Iquitos - Peru

Iquitos

The remote city of Iquitos lies on the banks of the Amazon River in North East Peru, and is only accessible by plane or a mammoth 3600-kilometre boat journey up the river. As a result of the rubber boom in the 20th century, it is a melting pot of ethnicities, culture and architecture, surrounded by unadulterated rainforest on all sides. The town is considered one of the best places to experience the adventure of an Amazon River cruise, and for jungle treks that allow visitors to observe the colourful fauna and flora.

Machu Picchu - Peru

Machu Picchu

Located more than 6000 feet above sea level in Peru’s mountain peaks, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites. This legendary lofty city was abandoned by the Inca Empire, reclaimed by the jungle and lost to humanity until its rediscovery in 1911. Built by the Incas on the summit of “Machu Picchu” (Old Peak), in the middle of a tropical montane forest overlooking the canyon of the Urubamba, the ‘Lost City of Machu Picchu’ is a site of extraordinary beauty and enormous archeological significance.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Also known as Urabamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is located in the Peruvian Andes, beneath the world famous site of Machu Picchu and not far from Cuzco, the unofficial Inca capital. This fertile valley is fed by a network of waterways and encompasses a wealth of archaeological sites, including Ollantaytambo, renowned for its extensive Inca ruins; Tipon, which features ancient agricultural terracing and a working irrigation system; and Pisac, with its ancient vestiges and colourful weekly market.

Cuzco - Ollantaytambo - Peru

Cusco

Once called the ‘Navel of the World’ by the Incas, Cuzco remains a city that blends colonial Spanish charm with older, more austere remains of pre-Columbian glory – one can still see the foundations of Inca structures on many of its city streets today. Cuzco’s most important landmarks include sites from both Inca and colonial times, such as the Korikancha (the ancient Temple of the Sun), the Inca street of Loreto with its 12-cornered stones, the cathedral, the Museum of Colonial Art, the archaeological park of Saqsaywaman (the fortress-temple), the nearby funerary shrines of Kenqo, and the water-worship site of Tambomachay.

Lima - Miraflores Park

Lima

Peru’s capital is a fantastic city to tour, dotted with a multitude of cultural sites and beautifully preserved architecture. Founded by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima was first named ‘City of Kings’ – a biblical reference to the ‘Three Wise Men of the East’ – before its name was changed by the Spanish colonialists. The most significant historical buildings are located around the Plaza Mayor, the most notable being the Government Palace, where one can still observe the changing of the guard performed by the Húsares de Junín. The beautiful Cathedral and the various small palaces and colonial balconies also play also their part in the beauty of the city.

Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon

Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon

The Sun and the Moon pyramids, constructed from millions of earthen bricks, are the largest pre-Columbian structures in South America. Large-scale human sacrifice at Huaca de la Luna became evident when archaeologists uncovered the remains of at least 34 sacrificed adult male individuals in the soft clay of the southeastern court, at the foot of the mountain. They had been bound, and judging by the type of wounds that had been inflicted, had probably been captured in battle. The sacrifice represents a single ritual event linked by archaeologist Steve Bourget to a season of torrential rains caused by an extreme case of the maritime El Niño phenomenon, which may have caused the final abandonment of this site.

Nazca - Spider - Peru

Nazca

An ancient city on the southern coast of Peru, Nazca was named after the culture that flourished there between 100BC and 800AD. After the fall of their first capital, Cahuachi, Nazca became their new home. Not far away in the Nazca desert, the Nazca Lines are evidence of a developed culture. This series of ancient geoglyphs depict hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, and lizards etched into the earth, some of the largest figures stretching over 200m. Due to the plateau’s arid, windless, and stable and climate, as well as its remote location, the lines have been remarkable well preserved over hundreds of years.

Arequipa - Peru

Arequipa

The gorgeous city of Arequipa is a perfect blend of ancient architectural treasures and modern buildings, blessed with an average of 300 days of sunny weather a year. It is also known as ‘The White City’ – a nickname that stems from its numerous white buildings, which form a striking contrast with the beautiful green country surrounds. It is Peru’s most elegant city and the best place to visit if you’re a foodie on the hunt for fine dining opportunities, with an array of fabulous traditional restaurants offering spicy local specialities such as rocoto relleno, chupe de camarones and ocopa. This city has an illustrious history and its distinctive traditions make it a truly unique Peruvian destination.

Fortress of Kuelap

Fortress of Kuelap

The Fortress of Kuelap was built and inhabited by the Chachapoyas between 1000 and 1400 AD. Built up in the high mountainous Peruvian jungle, it is one of the country’s most important archaeological complexes open to visitors, who never fail to be surprised when visiting for the first time. Surrounded by cliffs and precipices, it is like an unconquerable palace where the walls and circular houses are covered by the cloud forest which conceals many ceremonial sites and aqueducts.

Peru

Ica

The city of Ica, known by Peruvians as the ‘Land of the Sun’, lies on the southern desert coast of Peru on the border of the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. With a population of a little over 220 000, Ica is Peru’s ‘agricultural miracle in the desert’, known as one of the region’s leading producers of fine wines. Nestled nearby, in the dunes, is the Huacachina Oasis, where visitors can enjoy sand boarding or dune buggying, and finish the day with spectacular sunsets over the golden dunes.

Fast Facts

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Lima and the desert coast are generally dry, with around 28°C during summer (Dec-Apr); coastal mists can bring this down to 15°C in winter (Jul-Sep). In the Andean region (especially Cuzco), the wet season runs from Nov – Mar; in the dry season (Apr-Get), night time temperatures can drop to freezing. Jun-Sep are the best months for hikers.

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT -5 hours.

VISAS: Visa not required by UK Citizens for tourist stays of up to three months.

LANGUAGE: Official language is Spanish. English is spoken in hotels.

CURRENCY: Nuevo Sol.

FLIGHT INFORMATION: Major airlines to Peru include Iberia and LAN, TAM, KLM, or Delta and United Airlines via the US.

FLYING TIME FROM UK: Approx. 14 hours to Lima.


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