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Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru Travel Guide

Ancient wonders and breathtaking landscapes await travellers in Peru. Explore the awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu, perched high in the Andes Mountains, and witness the remnants of the Inca civilization. Immerse yourself in the vibrant markets of Cusco, where traditional crafts and local delicacies abound. Trek through the mesmerizing landscapes of the Sacred Valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and terraced fields. Peru's colonial cities, like Lima and Arequipa, offer a fusion of history, architecture, and gastronomy that will captivate your senses.

One of the highlights of travelling in Peru is the chance to discover the incredible biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest. Embark on an adventure deep into the jungle, where you can spot colourful birds, playful monkeys, and vibrant flora. Savour the flavours of Peruvian cuisine, from the famous ceviche to the hearty lomo saltado. Immerse yourself in the local culture, participating in traditional ceremonies and witnessing vibrant festivals. Peru's rich history, natural wonders, and warm hospitality create an unforgettable travel experience that will leave you in awe of this remarkable country.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT-6 

Money

Sol (PEN)

Dialing Code

+51

  • Peru is a mid-size South American country spanning three quite different climate zones: Pacific coastal plains, Andes and foothills, and the Amazon jungle, so there are lots of great things to see.
  • Machu Picchu is the top attraction. The site is home to the remains of an Inca city built as a refuge from the invading Spanish conquistadors, found high up on a mountain, which rises hundreds of metres straight up from the Urubamba River. The ruins are less of a city and more like a village in size, but they are extremely impressive, with ancient stone walls, pyramids and incredible views.
  • The Nazca Lines are another ancient site, but these remain unexplained. They are very long, perfectly straight score lines in the ground, which is mostly solid rock. From the air, they are intriguing, with many different discernable patterns, but from ground level, you can’t make them out, so you really need to take a short flight to see them properly. There are patterns depicting a dog, parrot, monkey and many other familiar things, some of the shapes being over 100 metres long. One is called the Spaceship, and indeed there are suggestions that the long lines were caused by spacecraft landing and that some form of alien species drew the images.
  • Lima is an interesting Spanish colonial city, which has now spread far from its main plaza. In the city, you can visit gold exhibitions and other interesting cultural sites, or head over to the popular beach resort of Miraflores, which is a good place to stay for a few days.
  • Cusco (or Cuzco) is a world heritage site and a ‘must’ if you’re in Peru. Tourists flock to the city to visit its many ruins and beautiful colonial buildings. High in the Southern Sierra Mountain Range, Qoricancha, the sun temple, was an important place for Inca worship and boasts some spectacular views. There are many other temples and historic buildings to see and it’s the base for trips to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of The Incas. You can also enjoy a thrilling white water raft on the Urubamba River.
  • Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The trip takes four days and you carry what you need, although often there are porters to help you out. It is well worth the effort when you arrive at Machu Picchu in the early morning, ahead of the bus crowds.
  • The Amazon rainforest lies in Peru’s eastern part. It’s a jungle with incredible biodiversity, and the murky Amazon River is more than a kilometre wide here.
  • It’s a great place to learn Spanish.

The capital is Lima with a population of 7.5 million. As well as being the administrative and legislative capital, it’s also the most important commercial city. The centre of Lima has a classic colonial look and feel, but outside of that, the city is not memorable, apart from the suburb of Miraflores on the coast.

  • Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and despite its fame is hidden away from the world in a remote location high up in the mountains.  This mystical and ancient city once lay forgotten but is now a must-see on every traveller’s itinerary.  
  • Trek the Inca Trail!  Check out our fantastic tour opportunities to experience this once-in-a-lifetime trek! This is probably the most popular trail in the world, for a good reason – this trek from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu will allow you to follow in the footsteps of the Incas en route to the hidden city. On the way, you will scale amazing Andean heights, see spectacular views and test your endurance levels as you take on this once-in-a-lifetime challenge!
  • Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, at over 3,800m above sea level. The lake itself is immense, with an area of over 8,000 square kilometres, and if it were not for its sky-scraping elevation, could almost be mistaken for the ocean.  A lot of travellers flock to the lake to take a boat ride offering excellent views of the snow-capped Cordillera Real rising over the deep blue waters. A popular activity whilst visiting the lake is to explore some of its islands, as not only are they very beautiful, but they can also provide a unique insight into the traditional life of the inhabitants. Many of the local people live in a similar fashion to their ancestors' hundreds of years ago and have preserved the customs and culture of the time. The most popular islands to visit are the floating islands made from bundles of reeds. These include Uros Islands, Taquile and Amantani. 
  • Explore the cobblestone streets of Cusco.  One of Peru’s top tourist destinations it is an attractive colonial city. Eat at fine restaurants and hunt for a bargain in the charming shops or check out the museums and churches for a cultural twist. 
  • Learn the Spanish lingo in Cusco.
  • Spend a couple of days in Lima and check out its museums and thumping nightlife!  Or travel just outside the city and visit Pachacámac, an important archaeological complex and home to many Incan temples. 
  • Surf the waves, chill out on the beach or party at Mancora.
  • Fly above the mysterious Nazca lines. Located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru, they were declared a World Heritage Site in 1994 and still remain an incredible mystery. Some of the lines form triangular shapes; others are in a zigzag pattern. The unusual artwork includes animal drawings, including a spider, hummingbird and a monkey.  It is thought that the lines originated over 2500 years ago, however, the world only really first took notice of them in 1926 when the first planes flew over this area. These ancient lines remain one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries. There are so many questions about who constructed them and why. How did they know what they were doing when the lines can only be fully appreciated from the air? The debate goes on and probably will for many years to come.
  • Travellers always have a good time in Arequipa - while you’re there check out the nearby volcanoes and canyons. This white stone city is nestled at the foot of the snow-covered volcano of El Misti, once used by the Incas for human sacrifice.  Explore its colonial churches and monasteries by day and go barhopping at night. If you fancy doing something a bit more adventurous, then why not try a downhill volcano mountain biking trip?
  • Colca Canyon – See the world's deepest canyon, and take in its breathtaking views. Located 160km outside of Arequipa, at 3191 metres deep it is more than twice the size of the Grand Canyon! The views are spectacular, but another reason to visit the area is to spot the Andean condors, the largest birds on the planet! These magnificent birds have a wingspan of three metres and are amazing to watch as they glide past on the thermals only metres away.
  • Head on to Chiva and watch the sunset while relaxing in a hot spring. At night, enjoy some folk music and a traditional Peruvian feast. 
  • Have an adventure in the Amazon – visit isolated villages, spot wildlife, hike through rainforests or stay in a jungle lodge.
  • Huacachina – head down to the extreme sports capital of Peru– literally an oasis in the middle of the desert – and try your hand at a spot of sandboarding. If you don’t fancy trekking 15 minutes up a sand dune to spend 30 seconds sliding down, then why not hitch a lift on a sand buggy and let it take you on one of the bumpiest and most exhilarating rides of your life?
  • White water rafting – known as river running – this stimulating outdoor experience is far from a walk in the park. Popular throughout most parts of Peru – although Cuzco probably offers the most variety – booking a trip downriver will ensure that you take in the country’s unspoiled scenery at an adrenaline-pumping speed.

Peru is the home of the potato, with over 5000 different varieties available! A side of potatoes comes with most dishes, and there is often rice on offer too. Coastal menus favour fresh fish, including Peru’s national dish, ceviche. This is a mixture of seafood with lemon, coriander, chilli and garlic and is a wonderfully fresh and delicious treat. 

In the Andes region, you might sample grilled Alpaca (a small variety of llama) which is a lean meat and a speciality of the region.  If you’re feeling really adventurous you could try a plate of seared guinea pig – although this Peruvian delicacy is not for everyone!

Peruvians love sweet treats and if you’re in Lima you should definitely try the ‘churros’ – a caramel-filled deep-fried doughnut which will give you an amazing sugar rush!

There are three distinct regions in Peru: the Coastal plain, the Andes highlands and the Amazon.

On the arid coastal strip, it is hot and dry from December to March. From April to November it can be misty, as the warmer air from the desert meets cold Humboldt air currents, but is still warm and dry although the sea is very cold.

In the highlands, the winter is dry and cold (May to August) and summer is hot and wet (December to March). In the winter, the temperature can drop down to freezing at night. Top temperatures are in the mid-20s.

It rains all year round in the hot and lush Amazon region. The driest time is June to September. However, even during the wet months, it rarely rains for more than a few hours at a time, although this can be torrential. If you don’t like heat and humidity, avoid the jungle!

Visa

British passport holders don’t need a visa to enter Peru for stays of less than 90 days for tourism purposes, but you’re expected to have a return flight ticket. This applies to USA, Canadian, Australian and EU, and many other nationalities.

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel.

The official language of Peru is Spanish (Roughly 84% of its total population speaks it). Quechua (the Incan language) and Aymara (pre-Incan language) are also spoken, amongst a number of other minor indigenous languages

Finding your way around Peru can be a bit tricky if you don’t know a few handy phrases. You may want to buy a Spanish language CD or perhaps even enrol on our Spanish course.

Peru is largely the same plug type as the USA, 2 or 3-pin flat head type, but in some buildings and towns, the European two-round pin plug is used. You will therefore need your plug adapter.

If you intend on getting a bit snap-happy while away, it’s best that you ask permission before photographing government buildings or people/children in traditional dress, as this can be a sensitive issue.

The majority of the population in Peru adheres to the Roman Catholic faith. If you intend on visiting any churches or places of worship while there then it’s important that you show your respect by dressing modestly, particularly on days of religious significance.

Selling souvenirs made with any animal parts, including condor feathers, is illegal in Peru although these can often be found for sale at tourist markets in Cusco. Do not buy souvenirs made with animal parts.

Although homosexuality is legal in Peru, social attitudes are conservative and same-sex partnerships are not formally recognised. Sex with anyone aged under 18 in Peru is illegal and can incur long jail sentences.

We have selected what we believe to be the key points that you should be aware of when travelling in Peru.

Gap 360 follows advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and we recommend that you frequently check the FCDO for updated travel advice. You can find the website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-development-office

Crime

Street crime such as thefts and muggings can be a problem in urban areas such as Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Take extra care when in public places and if withdrawing cash from ATMs. Do not walk alone at night or in quiet areas.

There have been some reports of tourists being targeted by bogus taxi drivers, especially those offering cheap fares, and they can target travellers arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. We advise that you use one of the three official taxi desks at the airport. At other times, we recommend that you take registered taxis from the bus terminal or book one using a reputable company. Don’t use street taxis. If hailing a taxi, note the registration number before getting in. Avoid using open station wagon taxis if you have luggage as these can be a target for theft.

There have been reports of some robberies and hold-ups on inner-city buses, so keep an eye on your valuables, especially your passport.

Please note: You should keep a photocopy of your passport or a form of identification with you at all times.

Travellers are advised to walk in groups when at Lake Titicaca, as some armed robberies against lone travellers have been reported.

Some cases of rape have been reported, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas and travellers are advised to be vigilant at bus terminals and in taxis. Buy your own drinks and don’t let drinks out of your sight, in case of the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs.

Transport

Peru has poor driving standards and car and bus crashes are common. Avoid travelling overnight and only use reputable transport companies. Always wear a seat belt.

Flying over the Nazca Lines involves serious risks, and there have been a number of fatal accidents involving planes from the Maria Reiche airport, with poor aircraft safety leading to problems.

Unregulated, recreational sand buggies have been involved in accidents, particularly in the sand dunes around Ica and Lake Huacachina.

Ensure that you use reputable companies if river rafting or boating and make sure that your travel insurance covers you for any activities.

Spiritual Cleansing

‘Spiritual cleansing’ is unregulated but is offered to tourists by Shamans, especially in the Amazon and in Cusco, and there have been reports of serious illness and deaths after cleansing ceremonies.

Money

Take care when using ATMs and try to use them during business hours and if possible at a bank or other large commercial site. Be aware that in Peru, some ATMs don’t automatically release your card and you may have to push a button to retrieve it. Only change money at reputable outlets and do not use street money changers who can pass you counterfeit currency. Credit cards are used, but not widely.

Terrorism

Terrorism was a threat in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s from the Shining Path terrorist movement, who are still active in some coca-growing areas in central Peru such as Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia and Apurimac-Ene VRAE river basins.

Demonstrations

There have been occasional political demonstrations in Panama City, mainly around Panama University, the Transistmica main road and the main road from Bocas del Toro. Keep an eye on media reports and avoid demonstrations.

Drugs

Penalties for drug use or trafficking in Peru are severe and conditions in Peruvian prisons are poor. Pack your own luggage and don’t carry anything through customs for other people. It is illegal to import coca leaves or coca tea into the UK. Sex with minors (anyone under 18 is considered a minor in Peru) is illegal and offenders will face long-term jail sentences.

Hiking

Hiking on the Inca Trail should be done as part of a guided group, as hikers must pay a government fee and numbers are restricted in order to protect the trail. Always register on entry to national parks and take care in difficult conditions, steep areas or unfenced or unmarked areas. Climbers have suffered accidents, injuries and death while climbing Huayna Picchu, a peak near Machu Picchu.

Peru’s highest peaks lie in the Huaraz Region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains and several hikers have had serious accidents and have had to be rescued, or have lost their lives hiking in this area, with rescues taking place on foot as helicopters can’t reach the remote areas.

Natural Disasters

Peru is in an active earthquake zone and can experience frequent earth tremors. If you are inside a building during an earthquake, avoid windows and find the building’s ‘safe zone’ (usually marked with an ‘S’ sign). Earthquakes can result in higher tides.

Peru’s rainy season runs from November to April and heavy rain, particularly in the Andes, can cause land, rock and mudslides and cause rising river levels.

Health

You should be in touch with your GP around 8 weeks before you travel for vaccination or health advice. Diarrhoea can be caused by contaminated food or water so we advise you to drink bottled water.

Altitude sickness can be a problem, so take care when staying in high-altitude areas like Puno, Cusco and the Colca Canyon. Don’t drink alcohol for the first couple of days, and make sure you eat only light meals and drink LOTS of water. It is important that you visit your GP before travelling to areas of high altitude if you suffer from either high blood pressure, respiratory problems or a heart condition.

You may need to present a valid Yellow Fever certificate when entering Peru, as a number of areas throughout the Andes Mountains (not including Cusco and Machu Picchu) have been designated as risk areas. Malaria is also common in some of the north and jungle regions of Peru including Loreto, Ucayali, San Martin, Tumbes, Piura, Junin and Madre de Dios and taking anti-malarial medication is recommended.

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