Submitted by Heather Demars on August 1, 2016
Located in the Pacific Coast of South America, Peru, known as the “Land of Incas” is an astonishingly varied country. It has a desert coastline, rich rainforests and towering mountain peaks. The country gives a new and interesting adventure with its various magnificent landscapes and rich cultural history.
Half of Peru is occupied by the rich Amazon Basin which is an area of lush rainforest that includes unexplored and inaccessible areas in the country. The spectacular Andes Mountain Range is also seen in a distance. The endless strings of peaks will surely stimulate even the sleeping hearts. Within these ranges you will meet indigenous people still speaking the ancient Incan language of Quechua, living in traditional villages and herding alpacas and llamas just as their ancestors did.
Woven with rich history, sprinkled with different tales of lost cities and enigmatic treasures, Peru’s magic never cease to enthrall thousands of tourists coming from different parts of the globe. Discover the mysteries behind the Nazca Lines, learn the heritage of the Incan Empire and trudge along the ancient Incan roads to the legendary “Lost City of the Incas” Machu Picchu. Experience for yourself the unique beauty of the floating islands and wander in the streets of colonial cities with stunning Spanish architectures.
Wherever you go and whatever you do in Peru, you are given a peek of ancient Incan while also enjoying the benefits of modern time. Archaeological wonders, eco-adventures, great sports and activities, plus a humble and friendly locale, a Peruvian adventure is surely unforgettable.
When to Travel
Peru’s climate is favorable all throughout the year. There are two main seasons – the wet and dry season. Weather varies depending on the regional location and temperature is influenced by elevation. The higher you go, the cooler the temperature becomes.
It is best to time your visit depending on what you want to do. The cool, dry season from June to August is the best time to visit the country for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain climbing and mountain biking. This is also the time when tourists from North America and Europe crowd the country to enjoy their summer vacation. Trekking the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu is the ultimate experience you can do during these months.
And who says the wet season cannot be enjoyed? December to March although wet, can still be fun since major fiestas are often held and celebrated between these months. Don’t miss the La Virgen de la Candelaria, Semana Santa, and Carnaval. Visiting the beaches is a popular pastime from late December to March especially in the northern coast which sees more sun. It rains in the eastern rainforest but it rarely lasts long. Briefly take cover when it rains because you will have more sunshine to enjoy after that.
Peruvian Cuisines and Drinks
Peruvian cuisine is probably one of the most varied in the world. Due to the country’s rich history as a Spanish colony, the cuisines and dishes are influenced by Spanish, American Indian, Asian, African and even Italian way of cooking. The country grows a variety of different fruits and vegetables all year round.
Rice is a staple food and is included in most dishes. Corn and potatoes are prevalent in the Sierra and in the jungle, yucca is the standard ingredient. Meat is also common in most Peruvian dishes. Aside from pork, chicken, beef, and sheep, the locals are fond of using various animal organs in their dishes. Most popular is the anticuchos, a kebab made from a marinated spicy beef heart, and is a common sight in street food stalls.
Fish is abundant, not only in coastal areas, but also in the jungle. Ceviche is a very common dish, it is raw fish prepared by marinating it in lemon juice. Another version also includes some shell fish. This is a must taste meal, especially during summer.
Potato dishes are also common across the country, particularly in the Andean region. The Papa a la Huancaina is definitely worth a try, which consists of potato slices and diced boiled eggs usually topped with a creamy sauce and some lettuce leaf or olive. There’s also the causa, a mashed potato layered with a mayonnaise-based tuna salad dressing and mixed with hot peppers. Remember that some dishes in the country are very hot and spicy so better ask before ordering.
Peruvian desserts are something they are proud of, especially in the capital city of Lima. Again, ask before ordering as you might find some dishes are extremely sweet. Best to start with mazamorra morada, a purple custard together with arroz con leche which is rice with sweet condensed milk.
Try also the picarones, a donut-like pastry often served with sugarcane syrup called chancaca. Their sweetest dessert ever is suspero limeño. Try this if you are only desperately in need of glucose.
You will find yourself with few international fast food chains in the country. You don’t normally find them anywhere. You can find some in the larger cities, but often with uniformly high prices. The locals typically eat in small restaurants where a cheap, complete menu can be found.
Fresh fruit drinks are served almost anywhere. Peru is one of the largest coffee producing countries and also has a lucrative wine cultivating industry especially in the Pisco-Nasca region. The beers are excellent and are usually made by Backus, which is owned by SAB Miller. The Peruvian equivalent for Coca Cola is the Inca Kola. It was recently bought by Coca Cola, but unlike the usual coke,
it has a bubble gum flavor. When visiting the country, do not forget to try the main drink in Peru which is the Pisco Sour and the popular street drink Emoliente.
Popular Sights of Peru
Machu Picchu- The ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu is regarded as the most remarkable archaeological site in South America. This World Heritage site is dramatically located, perched atop the towering Andes Mountains northwest of Cusco. As Peru’s top attraction, tourists will not be disappointed with its beauty as well as the scenic agricultural terraces surrounding it.
Nazca- See for yourself the mysterious Nazca Lines located in a small desert town of Nazca. Take a bird’s eye view from atop to see the enormous figures and geometrical designs of animal representations such as the monkey, hummingbird, spider and condor. These extraordinary figures left by the ancient Nazca people is said to be one of the most unforgettable and great mysteries of South America.
Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin- Dig around centuries of colonial history in Lima and appreciate the attractive plazas and magnificent mansions. The main square, Plaza Mayor also known as Plaza de Armas is a sight to behold with its bronze fountain and old street lamps. Surrounding the square are also significant buildings including the impressive 18th century Spanish Baroque Cathedral, Museum of Arts and Treasures, Town Hall and the lavish Government Palace. There’s also the Plaza San Martin with its spectacular central fountains surrounded by hive of activities.
Colca Canyon- The most popular excursion is to the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. Tourists will enjoy the charming Colca Valley with its little villages surrounded by enormous mountains. Walk around the lively market places and see the agricultural terraces with its herds of wandering llamas.
Lake Titicaca- The world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca promises a good trip. Visit the reed islands and the boats of the native people and come aboard the fully restored Yavari steamship located at the Puno Bay.
National Museum- Visit the superb Museo de la Nacion for a peek in Peru’s history of ancient civilization. The museum houses archaeological exhibits that briefly show how rich is the country’s past.
Church of San Francisco- Famous for its underground catacombs containing thousands of bones and skull, the Church of San Francisco is the most spectacular of Lima’s colonial churches. The building is in white and yellow with twin towers and a stone façade. The interior is as splendid as the outside with its Moorish designed wooden ceiling and decorated columns. The church also houses a fantastic 17th century library containing thousands of antique texts.
The country’s official currency is Nuevo Sol (S/.) which is divided into 100 centimos. New Sol notes are circulating in denominations of S/.10. 20, 50, 100 and 200. Coins are in denominations of S/.1, 2 and 5 and 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimos.
The US dollar has also been adopted and is widely accepted for payment especially in areas where tourists always gather around. Though this is convenient, it is still best to carry some cash in local currency to pay for small purchases and fees like taxi fares. ATMs (cajeros automaticos) are seen anywhere in the main cities, major airports and bus terminals. Networks that are linked to these ATMs include Visa/Plus, Cirrus/Maestro/MasterCard and American Express. Note that your home bank may charge additional fees for every transactions made abroad.
Exchange bureaus at Lima and Cusco seldom exchange currencies aside from US dollars. Outside these cities, changing money is almost impossible. Currencies can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaus, hotels, restaurants and some shops. There are also cambistas (money changers) that hang out on street corners outside banking hours. They give competitive rates but are not always trustworthy.
Tarjetas de credito (credit cards) are very much accepted in the country though there might be some limitations outside the capital city of Lima and other tourist areas. Additional fees are charged per transaction. All major credit cards are accepted particularly Visa and MasterCard. Cheques de viajero (traveler’s checks) may be difficult to exchange in remote areas. American Express is the most widely accepted brand, followed closely by Visa and Thomas Cook. If lost or stolen, traveler’s checks are refunded.