- 1 Electricity Edit
- 2 Time zone Edit
- 3 History Edit
- 4 Visas Edit
- 5 By plane Edit
- 6 By bus Edit
- 7 By boat Edit
- 8 Times and distances Edit
- 9 In cities and around Edit
- 10 By plane Edit
- 11 By bus Edit
- 12 By train Edit
- 13 By foot Edit
- 14 By car Edit
- 15 Touting Edit
- 16 Natural attractions Edit
- 17 Folklore Edit
- 18 Other highlights Edit
Peru (Spanish: Perú) is without a doubt one of the most captivating countries in South America. Home of the epic lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the mind-blowing Nazca Lines, this country’s unique past awakens the adventurer in travellers of all sorts. Its awe-inspiring scenery varies from the wild Amazon jungles to vast coastal deserts and the icy peaks of the Andes. Peru hosts a biodiversity rarely seen within the limits of a single country, with a list of spectacular wildlife far beyond the well-known llamas and circling condors. On top of all that, Peru’s friendly, multi-ethnic people are a cultural treasure on their own. The enchanting mix of dozens of distinct indigenous groups and mestizos, all with their own colourful traditions and food delicacies, is an encounter you won’t easily forget.
In short, this is a country of unimaginable extremes where choosing your trip destinations may prove a true challenge. Whether you decide to go off the beaten track, follow in the footsteps of thousands of visitors before you who took the Gringo Trail along some of the best highlights, or go experience the jungle through a relaxing multiple-day Amazon boat trip — Peru is likely to amaze you in everything you do.
- Chan Chan — impressive set of ruins of an ancient Chimor mud city, and a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Chavín de Huántar — UNESCO World Heritage Site from the pre-Incan Chavin culture of around 900 BC
- Huascarán National Park — high mountain park in Cordillera Blanca range
- Lake Titicaca — considered to be the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world
- Machu Picchu — this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most familiar symbols of the Incan Empire, and is one of the most famous and spectacular sets of ruins in the world
- Manú National Park — one of the most diverse areas in Peru
- Nazca lines — world-famous for its geometrical figures and giant drawings in the desert sand
- Paracas National Reservation — a popular nature reserve on the Southern Coast
- Río Abiseo National Park
- Máncora — small beach town with the best beaches and great surf, turns into a real party town on weekends and holidays
Despite 23.9% (2014) of the population (mostly Amerindians in rural areas) living under the poverty line, most Peruvians are nationalists and will talk with love and pride about their country. For many of them government, police and political affairs may be distrusted and criticized, as corruption and scandals are all around. However, that is not what makes up their beloved state of Peru. It’s the rich natural resources and strong history as the centre of the ancient pre-Inca cultures, Inca Empire, and later colonial Spanish colony that inspire their nationalist sentiments.
You’ll often encounter the term gringo, which used to refer to all white people who don’t speak Spanish. Now, many people use it for Americans or American look-alikes only, but it’s typically not meant to offend. Peruvians will not hesitate to greet you with «¡Hola, gringo!«, especially if you’re blond.
As in many South American countries, efficiency or punctuality aren’t among Peru’s many qualities. Go with the flow and don’t expect things to be exactly on time or precisely as planned. Take into account that outside of the main tourist spots people will often not speak English, and (trying to be helpful) might give wrong or inexact advice. For some general advice, have a look at our tips for travel in developing countries.
Electricity in Peru is 220 Volts and 60 Hertz. Exceptions are Talara, where a mixture of 110 V, 60 Hz and 220 V, 60 Hz is used, and Arequipa with 220 V, 50 Hz.
Two types of electrical outlets are used: one accepts two-pronged plugs with flat, parallel blades, the other one accepts plugs with two round prongs. Many, but not all outlets accept both. Grounded outlets exist but are uncommon. If you want to use a 110V device, make sure to check if it can take 220V, as you’ll otherwise risk breaking your equipment. If not, bring a power adapter. It’s not recommended to adapt a three-pin plug for use in a two-pin outlet.
Time zone Edit
Peru Time (PET) is 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT). There’s no daylight saving time.
Peru’s oldest complex society called the Norte Chico civilization flourished in 3,000 BC. Early developments were followed by ancient cultures such as Cupisnique, Chavin, Paracas, Mochica, Nazca, Wari and Chimu. In the 15th century, the Incas emerged, becoming the largest civilized empire in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish conquistadores conquered the Incan Empire in the 16th century, but while they wiped out the aristocracy, the peasantry, who spoke Quechua and Aymara, are very much alive today in Peru and neighboring Andean countries.
Tourists from North America, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and the European Union receive a visa upon arrival for up to 180 days. Chinese (including Macau) and India citizens holding US, UK, Canada, Australia, Schengen countries’ visas or permanent residence receive a visa upon arrival for up to 180 days (check with the nearest Peruvian Embassy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for most updated information, although in Spanish).
When entering the country, you need to pass the immigration office (inmigración). There you get a stamp in your passport that states the number of days you are allowed to stay (usually 180 days). You can no longer get an extension, so make sure that you ask for the amount of time you think you’ll need. When those 180 days are up and you would like to stay for longer, you can either cross the border to a neighbouring country (Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia or Chile) and return the next day and obtain another 180 days or simply overstay and pay the fine when you exit. The overstay fine is US$1 per day overage, so if you stay 30 days longer it’s US$30. Many people do this, since it’s much cheaper than leaving the country and returning.
You will receive an extra official paper to be kept in the passport (make sure you don’t lose it!). When leaving, you need to visit the emigration office (migración), where you get the exit stamp. Inmigración and migración are found on all border crossing-points. Travelling to and from neighboring countries by land is no problem.
By plane Edit
The capital city of Lima has Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM IATA ) with frequent flights to/from all over the world. The major airlines at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport are Air Canada, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, American Airlines, Avianca, Copa, Delta, Latam (formerly LAN & TAM Airlines), Gol, Iberia, Copa Airlines, United Airlines, Viva Colombia among others. There are non-stop flights to Lima from Antofagasta, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Caracas, Santiago, La Paz, Sucre, Guayaquil, Quito, Buenos Aires, Saltos, Rosario, etc., in South America, from Toronto in Canada with Air Canada, and from several cities in the U.S. with American, Delta, United, Spirit and Jetblue. There are five additional airlines that offer non-stop service to Europe. Travellers from Oceania or Asia usually connect through Los Angeles (non-U.S.-citizen have to pass immigration even for transfer, consuming 1-2 hours — so ensure your stop-over is long enough!) or through Santiago de Chile.
For example, Iberia flies directly from Madrid to Lima, the trip lasting around 13 hours. However Latam and KLM flights are much better in quality. Latam and Iberia often fly in code share mode (1 plane, 2 flight codes) meaning if you are on a Latam flight, you may have to check in at Iberia service desk or the opposite way, sometimes they send you from one to the next and back, so just queue at the shorter service desk. There is an internal flight tax, around US$6, same conditions as the international one.
When booking domestic flights, Peruvian travel agencies may claim they can get you your plane tickets for the «Peruvian price» for a fee of about US$20. Latam abolished differential pricing in late 2017, however their website does not allow holders of foreign credit cards to buy the cheapest ticket class. You can purchase flights online. The same for Avianca or LC Perú.
Make sure to confirm your ticket 72 hours in advance, as you’ll risk being bumped off your flight if you don’t. Most travel agencies can do it for you, if you want.
For current airline information see the site of the International Airport Jorge Chavez.
Chavez airport is in a dangerous district that means you should avoid using random taxi service. If travelling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima bus to get to or from your hotel, or to book and pay for your taxi at one of the taxi company desks inside the arrivals area. The bus is cheaper than a taxi for solo travellers, has no baggage limit and has free Wi-Fi and USB chargers onboard.
From Ecuador Edit
As Ecuador neighbors Peru to the north, it is easy to find cheap flights connecting Guayaquil and Quito to Lima, (the hub for inner cities of Peru). Or you can travel to Piura or Tumbes by bus and take a flight to Lima.
By bus Edit
Buses are available from neighboring countries.
From Bolivia Edit
Peru Hop offers a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that can take you from La Paz to Lima for US$210-250 (Mar 2018). See #Getting around.
Ordinary buses are also available, and are less expensive, they provide a direct service, without stopping for sightseeing.
By boat Edit
The city of Iquitos in the Amazonas region has connections by boat to Leticia in Colombia and Tabatinga in Brazil (about 10 hours). There are also somewhat expensive cruceros on the Amazon River to enjoy the magnificence of the Peruvian-Brazilian jungle.
Times and distances Edit
Almost all major tourist destinations outside Lima are between one and one and a half hours by plane from the capital. Flying is the most convenient way for getting around Peru. For example, from Lima to Zorritos in Tumbes (beautiful beach with modern resorts), the bus travel time is 21 hours.
- Yurimaguas-Iquitos (water): 2½ days
- Quito-Lima (bus): 27 hours
- Lima-Cuzco (bus): 21 hours
- Lima-Cuzco (plane): 1½ hours
In cities and around Edit
Inside the cities, there is usually no problem getting around on city buses or taxis. Buses cost S/0.70-1.50 (soles) inside a city, taxis S/7-8 in Lima, normally less in other cities. «Taxi» does not necessarily mean a car, the term also refers to bicycles, motor rickshaws, and motor bikes for hire. Taxis are divided between «formal» taxis, painted and marked as such and have a sticker with SOAT, and informal ones, that are just cars with a windshield sticker that says «Taxi». The last ones are better left to the locals, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Apart from the more upscale radio taxi (also the more expensive ones), the fare is not fixed or metered, but it is negotiated with the driver before getting into the vehicle. Ask at your hotel or hostal about the rate you may expect to pay to ride to a specific location to have a point of reference. Tipping is not practiced in taxis.
«Micros» (from microbús), «combis» and «coasters» they have bus stops but might also stop in the middle of the road. The direction is shown by boards in the windscreen or painted on the side. If you want to take a bus, just signal the driver to stop. If the bus is not completely overfilled (and sometimes when it is, too), it will stop to pick you up. During the ride, the ticket collector will ask you for the fee or, if there is not a ticket collector, you pay the driver when you get off. The latter is more common when taking longer trips where most people are going to the last stop, for example from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba. If you want to exit, you should press the button or just say loudly «¡Baja paradero!» or just ¡Bajo! (BAH-ho), and the driver will stop at the next stop (paradero). They are cramped and dirty, and not helpful unless in small towns or during off peak hours. They also stop in the middle of the road, so be careful when getting down.
Micros are very common but known for being quite dangerous, and different government programs are trying to reduce the number of micros. It is advised to not take a micro.
By plane Edit
Because of the distances involved and the conditions of the roads in some remote locales (or lack of) it may be better to fly, which most people do, especially in getting between Lima and Cuzco. To some places such as Iquitos flying is the only way possible due to the lack of roads and limited number (or the lack) of river boats plying the waters to get there. The following airlines offer domestic service within Peru:
- Avianca Peru ( formerly Taca Peru ). The other major carrier offering both domestic and international services to other parts of South America. International flights to/from North America typically connect through El Salvador, Colombia or Costa Rica and to/from Europe via Avianca Colombia. ( updated May 2016 )
- Latam ( LAN Peru ), (Miraflores Sales office) Av. José Pardo 513-Miraflores, , ☎ +51 1 213-8200 . Operates as the ‘national legacy’ carrier with domestic and international services to other parts of South America and beyond. ( updated May 2016 )
The following are smaller carriers that operate mainly within Peru:
- LC Peru ( formerly LC Busre ), (Miraflores Lima sales office) Av. Jose Pardo 269 — Miraflores , ☎ +51 1 204-1313 . ( updated May 2016 )
- Peruvian Airlines, (Mega Plaza Sales office) Av. Alfredo Mendiola 3698, Mega Plaza Shopping Center — 2° nivel, (Miraflores Sales office) Av. Jose Pardo 495 Miraflores , ☎ +51 1 716-6000 . ( updated May 2016 )
- Star Peru, ☎ +51 1 705-9000 . ( updated May 2016 )
- Viva Air Perú, ☎ +51 1 705-0107 (Lima Call Center) , toll-free: 080078200 . An affiliate of Viva Colombia to operate domestic flights within Perú and, at times, with ridiculously low prices. Owned by Ryan Air. ( updated Jul 2017 )
Most of the airlines operate on a hub-and-spoke system via Lima rather than point-to-point. So to get from one city such as Iquitos to Cusco, you may fly to Lima to change planes, even if Lima is off in a different direction from the cities you are travelling to and from. Furthermore, the ticketing system may not offer through ticket either so you may have to book two separate tickets to get to where you’re going. For example, if you want to travel from Iquitos to Cusco there may be no tickets available at anytime. But, if you book one ticket to Lima and another Cusco with the same or different airline more options become available. Just be sure to allow yourself enough time (at least 2 hr) between arrival from Iquitos and departure to Cusco, especially if travelling on two different airlines to avoid missing flights. Some airlines also offer direct flights without flying through Lima such as between Arequipa and Cusco.
By bus Edit
Some main roads, especially along the coastal strip, are paved, but there are still a lot of dirt roads in very poor condition. In the rainy season, landslides may block even major roads.
Inter-city travel is mostly by bus, and some cities have train connections. In contrast to colectivos, buses, and of course trains, start from fixed points, either a central bus terminal (referred to as Terminal Terrestre or Terrapuerto) or the bus companies have their own terminals in different locations. It is a good idea to buy your ticket one day in advance so that you can be relatively sure of finding a seat. If you come directly before the bus leaves, you risk finding that there are no more seats available. In most bus terminals you need to buy a separate departure tax of S/1-1.5.
If you are taller than 1.80m/5 ft 11 in, you will most likely be uncomfortable on the ride since the seats are much tighter than in Europe or some parts of North America. In this case, you can try to get the middle seat in the rear, but on dirt roads the rear swings heavily. In older buses, the seats in the first row are the best, but many buses have a driver cabin separated from the rest of the bus so that you look an a dark screen or a curtain rather than out the front windshield. In older buses, you can get one or two seats beside the driver, which gives you a good view of the passing landscape.
First-class express buses, complete with video, checked luggage and even meal service, travel between major cities, but remember to bring ear plugs as the video on these buses may be played extra-loud for the majority of the trip. You may need to present a passport to purchase a ticket.
Make sure that your luggage is rainproof since it is often transported on the roof of the bus when travelling in the Andes.
Avoid bus companies that allow travellers to get into the bus from alongside the road, outside the official stations. They are normally badly managed and can be dangerous, due both to unsafe driving practices and/or to highway robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This should be heeded especially by female travellers going on their own or anybody traveling overnight. There are many shoddy bus services in Peru, and it’s best to go with one of the major companies such as Cruz del Sur, Oltursa or others. Get information at the hotel, hostel or tourist information booth before catching a ride. The following are the major bus companies traveling around through much of the country, that are more reliable (addresses given are their Lima terminal in/around San Isidro and La Victoria):
- Peru Hop, Lima Office: Centro Comercial «Torre Larco» Av. Larco 812 Oficina 206. Miraflores Lima , ☎ +51 1 2422140 , e-mail: [email protected] . 09:30-19:00 . Peru Hop is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Peru Hop allow you to stop along the way from Lima to Cusco at Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, and Puno. Other stops at interesting places are included, and optional tours are available. Pick-up from and drop-off at your hostel or hotel, and discounts at many hostels and hotels are provided. Buses generally run daily, allowing you to spend as much or little time at each stop as you want. Lima-Cusco costs US$159-199, and Cusco-La Paz costs US$49. Other passes along this route are available in both directions. Every bus is monitored by GPS system and offers on-board bilingual assistance on all passes. ( updated Mar 2018 )
- Civa/Excluciva, Paseo de la República 575, La Victoria ( Corner of Paseo de la República & Av 28 de Julio ), ☎ +51 1 481-1111 . They also have another terminal for their ‘Excluciva’ brand at Javier Prado Este #1155 . ( updated Apr 2016 )
- Cromotex, Av. Paseo de la Republica nro. 659, La Victoria , ☎ +51 1 424-7575 . Travels between Lima, Arequipa, Tacna, Cusco and Trujillo. They also have another Lima terminal at Av. Nicolás de Arriola nro. 898 urb. Santa Catalina, La Victoria. ( updated Apr 2017 )
- Cruz del Sur, Av Javier Prado Este 1109, La Victoria ( Javier Prado Este & Nicolás Arriola in La Victoria ), ☎ +51 1 311-5050 , +51 1 431-5125 , toll-free: 72-0444 (domestic), 0801-1111 (domestic) . Serves Arequipa, Ica, Cuzco, Puno, Chiclayo, Trujillo, Pisco, Arequipa, Tacna, Cuzco, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Cali, Nazca, Guayaquil, Quito, Bogotá and Máncora. ( updated Apr 2016 )
- Transportes Flores, Paseo de La Republica 627 & 688, La Victoria ( Paseo de La Republica & Av 28 de Julio ), ☎ +51 1 332-1212 , +51 1 424-0888 . They also have another station at 28 de Julio No 1246. ( updated Apr 2016 )
- ITTSA, Av. Paseo de la República 809 , ☎ +51 956 487-989 . Goes from Lima only to Chimbote, Chiclayo, Piura, Sullana, Talara and Trujillo in the northern regions of the country ( updated Apr 2016 )
- Movil Tours, Paseo de la Republica 749, La Victoria ( Frente al Estadio Nacional. Front of the National Stadium ), ☎ +51 1 716-8000 . They also have another station nearby at Javier Prado Este 1093, La Victoria in front of the Clinica Ricardo Palma & next to a Kia car dealership. ( updated Apr 2016 )
- Oltursa, Av. Aramburú 1160, San Isidro ( SE of the intersection Av Republica de Panama next to the Derco Center car dealership. ), ☎ +51 1 708-5000 . ( updated Apr 2016 )
- Ormeño, Av. Javier Prado Oeste Nº 1057, La Victoria — Lima 13 , ☎ +51 1 472-5000 , +51 1 472-1710 . ( updated Apr 2016 )
- TEPSA, Av Javier Prado Este 1091, La Victoria ( west of the interesection of Javier Prado Este & Paseo de la Republica. ), ☎ +51 1 617-9000 , +51 990 690-534 (mobile) . ( updated Apr 2016 )
You can find more information on BusPortal.pe that compares the diverse number of companies.
By train Edit
Even when going by train, it’s best to buy the ticket in advance. Buy first class or buffet class (still higher), or you risk getting completely covered by luggage. People will put their luggage under your seat, in front of your feet, beside you and everywhere where some little place is left. This makes the journey quite uncomfortable, since you can’t move any more and the view of the landscape is bad. Currently the following companies operate passenger trains in Peru:
- Ferrocarril Central de Andino (FCCA), ☎ +51 1 226-6363 . The Ferrocarril Central Andino is the second highest railway in the world and the Highest in South America, connecting Lima to Huancayo. The journey on board of the Train of the Andes, through the heart of Peru is simply breathtaking. It is an 11-hour experience where the train reaches an altitude of 4781 m (15,681 ft) and goes through 69 tunnels, 58 bridges and makes 6 zigzags. In 2005, Ferrocarril Central Andino renovated their passenger wagons in a luxurious and comfortable way which puts the railway in the list of the most famous trains. ( updated Jul 2017 )
- Tren Macho. Once or twice daily trains between Huancayo and Huancavelica. In Huancayo, this train leaves from (or arrive to) a different station than the Central de Andino. ( updated Jul 2017 )
- Inca Rail, (sales office) Calle Portal de Panes 105, Plaza de Armas, Cusco , ☎ +51 84 581860 . Trains to Machu Picchu (Aguas Caliente Station) from Cusco and a second route from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente. ( updated Jul 2017 )
- PeruRail, (sales office) Av Vesco Astete s/n, Dist. de Wanchaq ( At the airport ), ☎ +51 84 581414 . Trains from Cusco Wanchaq Station to Machu Picchu (via Ollantaytambo) through the Sacred Valley on the Belmond Hiram Bingham (more luxurious class like the Orient Express) and the Sacred Valley trains , to Puno (by Lake Titicaca) via Juliaca and a third route from Cusco to Arequipa on the Belmond Andean Explorer. They also have a ticket office in Miraflores Lima. Some of variations of the Sacre Valley routes to Machu Picchu originate from Urubamba to Aguas Caliente instead. ( updated Jul 2017 )
By foot Edit
Beside the famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu, you can do a lot of more hikes all along the Sierra, preferably in the dry season. The hiker’s Mecca is Huaraz, where you can find a lot of agencies that offer guided tours and equipment to borrow. The thin vegetation in the higher Sierra makes off-trail hiking easy. Good maps are hard to find inside Peru. It is better to bring them from home. Make sure you have enough iodine to purify your drinking water. When hiking in higher altitude, good acclimatisation is absolutely necessary. Take a good sleeping bag with you, since nights in the Sierra may become bitterly cold (-10°C in 4,500 m altitude are normal, sometimes still colder). Beware of thunderstorms that may rise up very suddenly. Rapid falling temperature and hard rain falls are a serious danger in higher altitudes. Don’t forget that the night lasts for 12 hours year-round, so a flashlight is a good idea. When hiking on higher, but not snow covered mountains, water may be rare. Getting alcohol for stoves is easy: Either buy the blue-colored alcohol de quemar or, better, buy pure drinking alcohol. You can get this in every town for about S/3 per liter (don’t even think about drinking it). It won’t be so easy to find special fuel for gasoline stoves. Gasoline for cars can also be found in many hardware stores (ferreterias) sold by liters, but you can actually buy it directly on gas stations, provided you bring your own bottle.
By car Edit
It is also possible to tour the interior of the country by car. This gives you a chance to get «off the beaten track» and explore some of the areas that haven’t been transformed by tourism. An international driver’s license is needed for driving in Peru.
Peru has three main roads which run from north to south: the fully paved Panamericana Sur/Norte (PE-1S/1N) which passes through the whole country, more to the east there are the partially paved Longitudinal de la Sierra Sur/Norte (PE-3S/3N), Interoceánica Sur (PE-26) as well as the Interoceánica Norte (PE-5N). Most parts of these roads are toll roads in the direction from north to south. The main roads are connected by 20 streets from west to east.
Beware that, aside from a few major roads which are in good condition, most roads are unpaved and your speed on them will be severely restricted. For these roads a 4WD is necessary. This is especially true during the rainy season from November to April. You should travel very well informed about your route. Take a good road map with you (e.g. Waterproof Peru Map by ITMB). On the web, cochera andina provides useful information about road conditions, travel times and distances for more than 130 routes in Peru.
Be sure to bring plenty of gas, as gas stations in unpopulated areas are very rare and will oftentimes be closed. Purchasing gas late at night can be an adventure all its own, as even in more populated areas gas stations tend to close early and the pumps are locked. The owner of the station sometimes sleeps inside and, if you can rouse him, he will come out and let you fill up. Expect higher gasoline consumption in the mountains which often increases to more than 20 L/100 km (12 mpg).
The traffic regulations are almost the same as in Europe and the U.S. But locals tend to interpret them freely. You better honk in unclear situations, e.g. in curves and at crossings to indicate the right of way. Traffic checkpoints tend to be scattered throughout the country and the police may try to extract bribes from foreigners for passage. It would be wise to travel with a native speaker who can navigate the roads and deal with law enforcement.
There is typically a crowd of touts hanging around the airports and bus stations. It is any traveller’s wise decision not to do business with the people that are trying to sell you their stuff on the street, bus station, and airport. First of all, if they would have a decent place, they wouldn’t have to sell it to unsuspecting tourists trying to drag them off from wherever they can find them. More important, it really is not a good idea to hand out money to the first person you meet upon arriving somewhere.
Tip: When you arrive in any town, be sure to have already decided what hotel you will be going to. Don’t mention this or any other information to the touts awaiting you. They will use whatever you tell them to construe lies to make you change your mind and go with them. If you’ve already picked a reasonable hotel chances are that you will be OK there and they will have any (extra) information you’d be looking for, like bookings for tours or tickets.
The official language of Peru is Spanish, as in most South American countries. It’s worth getting familiar with some basic Spanish words, as you’ll need them to make your way around outside the main tourist centres. Although English is spoken by an increasing number of young people in Lima and to a limited extent in the most popular tourist spots, you’ll find English far less commonly understood than you might expect in a country where tourism is such a big industry.
Especially when you’re making your own way around, learning some Quechua or Aymara may open doors, as indigenous people will highly appreciate your effort. Quecha is the language of the Incas and the first language for many indigenous in the countryside of the Sierra. Aymara was the language of the Tihuanacu culture and it’s widely spoken on the Altiplano. In both cases however, people will generally speak Spanish too.
Some slang terms:
chela (cerveza), a beer.
Me llega, it pisses me off.
Loco, crazy person. Usually said in a friendly manner, also means «mate, friend, buddie»
Tombo means «policeman» (and policemen don’t like hearing it).
Bamba/pirata fake, counterfeit goods & products
Some slang terms come from Quechua:
Que piña: means ‘what bad luck’ even though ‘piña’ in Quechua means ‘coraje’ or in English ‘infuriating’.
Tengo una yaya: means ‘I’m injured’. In Quechua, ‘yaya’ means injury. And ‘yawar’ means blood.
Arranca arranca no mas: means ‘get the hell out’
Forgotten temples in dense Amazon jungles, lost Inca cities, fabulous wildlife and extra-ordinary folklore. Peru holds all the stuff adventure movies are made of.
Many of the best Inca sites are in the Inca Highlands, around the beautiful city of Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca Empire and now a World Heritage Site itself, as well as a bustling city. Book at least half a year in advance if you want to walk the famous 4-day hike Inca Trail, which commonly starts at the 15th century Inca dwellings of Ollantaytambo. Your imagination must be on its A-game to see past the large crowds at the end destination, Machu Picchu, but it’s worth your trouble. Wait for the biggest crowds to leave, find a quiet spot away from the tourist hassle and contemplate your view of one of the most famous and spectacular archaeological sites in the world. Many other sites are in the neighboring Sacred Valley.
The list of great Peruvian ruins from Pre-Columbian times is long, and not all of them are of Inca origin. A World Heritage Site, the ancient adobe capital Chan Chan, built by the Chimú culture, was conquered in the 15th century. Other popular sites are the tombs of Sipán, the ruined fortress of Kuelap, the pre-Incan burial grounds of Sillustani, and Caral, the most ancient city in the Americas. Particularly well-known are the spectacular Nazca lines, which you should see from the air, even if it’ll take some haggling to get your ticket for the right price.
Natural attractions Edit
Home to 84 out of the 104 recognized ecological zones in the world, Peru is incredibly rich in biological diversity. Benefiting from a broad array of landscapes and ecosystems, this country is an extraordinary place for anyone who loves wildlife. It’s condors, llamas and jaguars that Peru is famous for, but almost a third of the bird species in the world and no less than 4000 butterflies live here too.
One of the best places to see all of this natural beauty is Manú National Park. This World Heritage Site boasts over 15,000 plant species, a 1000 different birds and some 220 mammals, including pumas, Giant anteaters and many monkeys. Disputably called the «world’s deepest canyon», the stunning Colca Canyon is Peru’s third most-visited destination, just a stones-throw out of the beautiful city of Arequipa. Get close to the celebrated Andean Condors as they fly along the high canyon walls or buy a colourful handmade souvenir from one of the indigenous people that populate the picturesque Colca Valley. Of all the peaks in the Peruvian Andes, the 6768m Huascarán in Huascarán National Park is the highest of all. This 3000-km² World Heritage Site holds 663 glaciers, 296 lakes and 41 tributaries of three major rivers. The large city of Iquitos is a popular starting point to discover the mystic Amazon River, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s also the capital city of the Charapa culture. Just a few other great picks out of the long list of protected areas in Peru are Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, Rio Abiseo National Park and Cutervo National Park (with many caves).
The diversity of Peru’s people and cultures is reflected in a rich tradition of festivals, dance and music. In the Andes, the plaintive wail of the flute and beat of the drum accompany songs depicting indigenous life while dancers masked as devils and spirits are a marriage of pagan and Christian beliefs. In the jungle, ceremonial music and dance are a window into tribal life. And along the coast, a blend of elegant Spanish sounds and vibrant African rhythms reflect the Conquest and later slave labor of the New World.
One of the shows you can not miss it is the Caballo de Paso Peruano in Lima and the north coast of Peru. The Concurso del Caballo de Paso Peruano is in april and it is a mix between the caballos and the dance called «marinera» which is the coastal cultural expression in Peru.
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Make your way to the blue waters of Lake Titicaca for an enchanting, high altitude encounter with local peasant women wearing bowler hats and join in the celebrations of their ancient communities. Puno is a good place to start, also for a laid-back boat ride to the various islands and Altiplano towns on and around the lake, all with their own character and historic remains. If you’re craving perfect beaches and a sunburn, head to the crowded sands and resorts of Piura/Tumbes. Spend a day in one of the many excellent museums in Lima and dance until the morning in one of the cities popular clubs. Buy shamanistic herbs at the market of Chiclayo and see the dozens of tombs around it.
Trekking is a great way to see the country. The most widely known route is the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Other popular routes include Cordillera Blanca, Colca Canyon, Ausangate Trek and Salcantay (also spelt Salkantay) Trek.
Trek prices can vary considerably between companies, as can their respective porters’ working conditions (no pack animals are allowed, hence equipment is carried by human porters). Although there is a minimum porter wage (S/42 a day) and maximum load porters can carry (25 kg/55 lb), not all companies keep to their claims!