Peru is an incredible country with a fascinating history and culture, stunning natural landscapes, and delicious cuisine. From the iconic Machu Picchu to the Amazon Rainforest, the Nazca Lines, and the world’s highest navigable lake, there are countless reasons why Peru is a top tourist destination. In this article, we’ll explore 13 of the most compelling reasons to visit Peru, including unique experiences, affordable travel, and some of the best food in the world. Whether you’re interested in history, adventure, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature, Peru has something to offer everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover this amazing country!
All About Peru
History and Culture of Peru
Peru has a rich history and culture that dates back to pre-Columbian times. The first major empire in Peru was the Inca Empire, whose civilization thrived from the 13th to the 16th century. The Inca Empire was known for its impressive architecture, including the iconic Machu Picchu. The Spanish arrived in Peru in the 16th century and colonized the country for almost 300 years, leaving a lasting impact on Peruvian culture. Today, Peru is a melting pot of different cultures and traditions, with vibrant music, dance, and religious festivities. Visitors can also admire the colonial architecture and archaeological sites that showcase the country’s rich history.
Geography of Peru
Peru is a country in western South America that borders Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. The country is home to diverse geographical features, including the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Pacific Ocean coastline. The Andes Mountains run through the country, creating some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, is situated on the border between Peru and Bolivia. The Amazon River, the world’s second-longest river, flows through the eastern part of Peru, where visitors can explore the Amazon Rainforest, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.
Economy of Peru
Peru has a rapidly developing economy, one of the fastest-growing in Latin America. The country’s economy is diverse, with industries ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to mining and tourism. Peru is the world’s largest producer of silver and the second-largest producer of copper. Its tourism sector has also been growing, with international visitors drawn to the country’s natural beauty and rich culture. Peru has made significant efforts to reduce poverty levels and improve access to education and healthcare for its citizens.
People of Peru
Peru is a country with a population of around 33 million people. The majority of the population is of indigenous or mestizo (mixed indigenous and European) descent. The country has 24 official languages, with Quechua and Aymara being the most widely spoken indigenous languages. Spanish is the official language of Peru. Peruvians are known for their warm and hospitable nature, welcoming visitors from all around the world.
Language and Customs of Peru
Spanish is the official language of Peru, but visitors will also hear Quechua and Aymara spoken in some parts of the country. The customs of Peruvians are heavily influenced by their history and religion. Catholicism, introduced by the Spanish, is the dominant religion in Peru, and Catholic traditions such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Corpus Christi are celebrated with great zeal. Visitors should be aware of local customs, such as greeting people with a kiss on the cheek, and respecting traditional dress codes when visiting indigenous communities.
Top Reasons to Visit Peru
Machu Picchu: The Iconic Inca Citadel
Machu Picchu is undoubtedly Peru’s star tourist attraction and one of the world’s most iconic historical sites. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, this ancient citadel of the Inca Empire stuns visitors with its unique architecture and stunning views. Exploring the ruins, hiking the Inca Trail, and watching the sunrise over the mountains is an unforgettable experience.
The Amazon Rainforest
The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and a must-visit destination for nature lovers. The jungle is home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, from rare animals like jaguars and giant otters to exotic birds and monkeys. Visitors can take a guided jungle tour or go on a wildlife expedition, spotting exotic species hidden deep within the forest.
The Nazca Lines: Ancient Geoglyphs
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert plains of southern Peru. These enigmatic lines and drawings were created by an early Andean culture thousands of years ago and have remained a mystery to scientists and archaeologists. Visitors can take a scenic flight over the lines to get a bird’s eye view of the intricate and enigmatic markings.
Lake Titicaca: The World’s Highest Navigable Lake
Lake Titicaca is a stunning natural wonder straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, and the largest lake in South America. The lake is dotted with traditional islands inhabited by the indigenous Uros people, where visitors can learn about their culture, history, and unique way of life. The incredible scenery, calm waters, and surrounding mountains make this lake an important destination for any traveler.
Colca Canyon: One of the Deepest Canyons in the World
The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons, nearly twice as deep as the famous Grand Canyon in the United States. The canyon’s impressive depth and stunning beauty attract thousands of visitors each year to admire the majestic Andean condors soaring through the canyon walls. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, rafting, and other outdoor activities in the area.
The Sacred Valley: The Heartland of the Inca Empire
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a magnificent valley located in the Andes, near the city of Cusco. The area was once the heartland of the Inca Empire, and is home to many of its most impressive ancient ruins, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Moray. Visitors to the valley can explore these ruins, learn about Inca history and culture, and immerse themselves in the stunning natural scenery.
The Andes Mountains: The Spectacular Mountain Range
The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest mountain range, stretching over 4,500 miles along South America’s western coast. The Peruvian section of the Andes is particularly breathtaking, with towering peaks, picturesque valleys, and colorful indigenous communities. Visitors can hike, trek, and climb the mountains, or simply admire their beauty from the valleys below.
Rainbow Mountain: The Natural Wonder
Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, is a natural wonder located deep in the Peruvian Andes. This magnificent mountain is famous for its stunning multicolored stripes, which are caused by layers of sedimentary rock. The hike to the summit of Rainbow Mountain is challenging but rewarding, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Paracas National Reserve: The Most Beautiful Beaches
Paracas National Reserve is a beautiful natural reserve located on the Paracas Peninsula, south of the capital Lima. The area is known for its stunning beaches, unique wildlife, and spectacular ocean views. Visitors can take a boat tour of the nearby Ballestas Islands, observe sea lions, penguins, and other coastal wildlife, or simply relax on the beach.
The Gocta Waterfall: The Third Tallest Waterfall in the World
The Gocta Waterfall is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, almost twice as tall as the Niagara Falls. The stunning waterfall is located in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation and exotic wildlife. Visitors can hike to the base of the waterfall, swim in the nearby lagoon, or simply enjoy the spectacular views.
The Best Food in Peru
Peruvian cuisine is one of the world’s finest and most diverse, offering a unique blend of indigenous, Spanish, and Asian flavors and ingredients. Visitors to Peru can savor local delicacies like ceviche, lomo saltado, and causa, or indulge in high-end gourmet cuisine in Lima’s world-renowned restaurants. Peru is also famous for its Pisco, a potent liquor made from grapes.
Unique Experiences in Peru
Peru offers a wealth of unique experiences for visitors, from trekking through the Andes to exploring ancient Inca ruins, from learning about traditional weaving techniques to visiting local markets and festivals. Visitors can also participate in voluntourism programs, which offer opportunities to support local communities and conservation efforts while experiencing the country’s rich culture and scenery.
Affordable Travel in Peru
Peru is a highly affordable travel destination, offering a range of budget-friendly accommodations, transportation, and dining options. Visitors can travel by bus, train, or domestic flights to explore the country’s diverse regions. Additionally, the country offers a range of free and low-cost activities, from hiking to exploring local markets, making it an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers.
Travel Tips to Peru
Best time to visit Peru
Peru is a country that can be visited throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Peru is during the dry season which runs from May to October. This is the peak season for tourism; therefore, expect an increased number of crowds in popular destinations like Machu Picchu and Cusco. Shoulder seasons, which include the months of April and November, can also be a good time to visit Peru since the weather is still favorable, and there are fewer tourists. If you are looking for a more affordable trip to Peru, the rainy season from December to March can offer lower prices but expect rain and some closures of tourist attractions.
Visa and entry requirements for Peru
Most visitors to Peru do not require a visa unless they plan to stay for more than 183 days, in which case they will need to apply for a tourist visa. Visitors should have a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Ensure that you check the visa and entry requirements for your country of origin before your travel.
Health and safety tips for traveling in Peru
It is always important to consider health and safety when traveling to any foreign country, and Peru is no exception. Visitors should obtain travel health insurance to cover any medical emergencies that may arise. Altitude sickness is a concern when visiting areas like Cusco and Machu Picchu, so gradually acclimatize yourself and drink plenty of water. Visitors should also be cautious of petty theft such as pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas like markets and public transportation. Research local customs and laws before your trip to avoid any misunderstandings.
Transportation in Peru
Transportation options in Peru include buses, trains, taxis, and domestic flights. Bus travel is an affordable and popular way to get around, but can be uncomfortable for longer distances. Trains offer a more comfortable, although more expensive option for some routes, such as the famous train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Taxis are widely available, but it is recommended to use only licensed taxis and agree on the fare before getting into the car. Domestic flights are an efficient way of traveling long distances between major cities in Peru.
Accommodation in Peru
Peru offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and travel styles. Hostels, guesthouses and shared apartments are popular and affordable options for backpackers and budget travelers. Mid-range travelers can find comfortable three-star hotels, and luxury travelers can enjoy five-star hotels with amenities like spas and fine dining.
Money and currency exchange in Peru
Peru’s official currency is the Sol. Visitors can exchange their currency for Peruvian soles at banks, exchange offices, and hotels. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in major cities in Peru, but visitors should carry cash for smaller purchases and in rural areas where cards may not be accepted.
Food and drink in Peru
Peru is famous for its diverse and flavorful cuisine, which blends local and international influences. From the ceviche to lomo saltado, visitors can enjoy an array of delightful dishes. Visitors should be cautious when drinking tap water, and it’s recommended to stick to bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Also, be careful consuming street food which can upset sensitive stomachs. When dining out, it is customary to tip around 10% of the bill.
Planning Your Trip to Peru
Itineraries for Visiting Peru
Peru is a huge country with many incredible destinations to explore. Planning your itinerary can be overwhelming, so it’s important to do your research and prioritize the places you want to see most. A popular route is to start in Lima, explore the coastal towns, then make your way to the mountains where you’ll find Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley. If you’re short on time, consider doing a whirlwind tour of the main highlights. A 7-day itinerary could include Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca. For a more leisurely trip, plan for 2-3 weeks, so you can visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and really soak up the culture.
How to Get to Peru
The easiest way to get to Peru is by flying into Lima, as it’s the main international airport. Direct flights are available from many cities in North America, Europe, and South America.
Getting Around Peru
Peru has a variety of transportation options, including buses, taxis, trains, and domestic flights. Buses and taxis are the most common and affordable ways to get around. Buses are comfortable and offer routes to nearly every city in the country. Taxis are a good option for short trips around town but be sure to negotiate the price upfront. Trains are a great way to experience Peru’s beautiful landscapes, with routes such as the famous Andean Explorer that takes passengers from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. Domestic flights are also available between major cities, but can be more expensive than other options.
Packing Tips for a Trip to Peru
Peru has a wide range of climates, so it’s important to pack for both hot and cold weather. Depending on the season, you’ll want to bring lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing for the hot coastal regions, and warmer layers for the Andes Mountains. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, especially if you plan on doing any hiking. Don’t forget to pack insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, and a reusable water bottle.
Volunteer and Internship Programs in Peru
If you’re interested in giving back while you travel, Peru has a variety of volunteer and internship programs available. From teaching English to working in eco-tourism, there are opportunities to suit every interest. A few notable organizations include Peru Volunteer and Travel and Maximo Nivel.
Spanish Immersion Programs in Peru
Immersing yourself in the local language and culture can greatly enhance your trip to Peru. There are several reputable Spanish immersion programs available, including those offered by Maximo Nivel, Proyecto Peru, and Peruwayna Spanish School. These programs typically offer one-on-one or group classes, homestay options, and cultural activities to help you improve your language skills and gain a deeper understanding of Peru’s rich culture. In conclusion, planning a trip to Peru can be both exciting and overwhelming. By researching your options and prioritizing your must-see destinations, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the best that this country has to offer. Whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, or just a relaxing vacation, Peru has something for everyone.