Travel to Peru

Travel to Peru

This mountainous marvel features an ancient Incan citadel and a stately capital whose gastronomic culture is centuries in the making.

You’ll sense amazing sweeps of time when you travel through Peru, home to vanished civilizations of amazing sophistication and complexity. Its modern cities dazzle, from the cathedrals, plazas, and skyscrapers of Lima to Cusco’s magical, up-and-down neighborhood of Barrio de San Blas. Mouthwatering flavors—seafood, tropical fruit, grilled meat, the ancient (and now internationally popular) quinoa grain—await in trendy restaurants and street markets alike. Meanwhile, archaeological sites of global significance pepper both the Peruvian cityscapes and countryside. None is more celebrated than Machu Picchu, the magnificent high-elevation ruin of an imperial Incan estate. To reach it, you can walk the fabled Inca Trail or take an unforgettable rail journey.

Almost half of the population is indigenous, with another forty percent mestizo, a combination of Indian and Spanish descent. Peru has two official languages - Spanish and Quechua, the latter spoken by the indigenous population. Another Indian language, Aymara is also spoken. The influence of the Andes can be felt in the music of the country. The charango, an instrument that resembles a mandolin and the zampona, a type of pan pipe gives native music its recognizable sound.

As in most of South America, soccer is the most popular sport, followed by volleyball. In recent years tennis and basketball has been gaining in popularity. The topography of the country lends itself to the pursuit of activities such as fishing, mountain biking, white water rafting, mountaineering and surfing.

Peruvian cuisine is fortunate to benefit from the availability of ingredients from the Pacific Ocean, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin. The bounty of the sea means that three out of the five most popular Peruvian dishes are fish based: ceviche, tiradito and causa. Ceviche is a dish made from raw fish which when marinated in acidic lime juice cooks the fish. Other ingredients include peppers, corn and onions. Tiradito is comparable to ceviche, but does not contain onions and the marinade can contain olive oil. Served as an appetizer, causa is a pie of mashed potatoes filled with seafood.

Andean food staples are potatoes, corn and beans which has been the case since Incan times. In fact, most meals seem to include a potato dish. Adventurous eaters might sample alpaca meat or guinea pig. From the jungle come freshwater fish as well as a variety of fruit such as camu camu a cherry like fruit extremely high levels of vitamin C. The cherimoya fruit was regularly depicted in Incan ceramic art and tastes like a creamy strawberry.

A surprising recent trend in Peruvian gastronomy is the Asian influence; Peru has the most Chinese restaurants in all of Latin America. Japan is also having an effect on the cuisine of the country.

The most popular cocktail in Peru is a Pisco Sour; Pisco is combined with lemon juice, egg whites and sugar. However, Inca Kola is the top non-alcoholic beverage, it even outsells Coca-Cola!

Peru shares its borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile and has access to the Pacific Ocean on the western side of the country. There are few places where one can experience such a wide range of climate and geographic features. Peru boasts a remarkable environmental diversity that includes 56 nature reserves which are home to more than 400 species of mammals, 1700 types of birds and more than 50,000 categories of plants.

The country is divided into three regions: the coast, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon basin. The coastline is where over half of the population is concentrated. The mountains are where travelers can immerse themselves in the history of the Incan culture. The Amazon region makes up sixty percent of the country, but is sparsely inhabited except for the native tribes who lead traditional lifestyles.

Lima is a major city with a variety of cultural, social, and recreational attractions, as well as unique shopping and fine dining opportunities. A dramatic coastline offers sun lovers the choice for leisure or surfing, windsurfing and scuba diving. Not far from Lima sightseers might want to visit the islands and nature reserve of Parancas. Depending on the season, adrenalin fans can try white water rafting on the Chillon River in Lunahuana. Even if it's not the right season for rafting, horseback riding and hiking opportunities abound in this area.

The trail to the remarkable ruins of Machu Picchu begins in the town of Cusco approximately 40 miles away from the remnants of the mysterious Incan empire. The town itself is worth seeing for its colonial architecture, though visitors should give themselves a chance to adjust to the high altitude before setting off to explore.

Lake Titicaca was also considered sacred by the Incas since the first Incan king was purportedly born here. Located on the border of Peru and Bolivia, today tourists worship the largest lake in South America sitting 12,500 feet above sea level. There are Indian communities that still make their living off the lake's resources fishing and catching birds. Puno, a lakeside town, is considered the folk capital of the area because of its music and over 300 different dances.

Arequipa, the second largest city in the country, is located in the south. It's known as the 'White City' because its colonial buildings were made out of sillar, a type of white volcanic stone. Another unusual feature of the city is its proximity to three volcanoes and the biggest convent in the world. The Convent of Santa Catalina housed cloistered nuns for over 400 years and is now open to the public. There are additional churches and cathedrals worth a visit. From Arequipa a visit can be made to Colca Canyon, renowned for its condors.

Most visited cities: Lima, Cuzco, Nazca, Arequipa

Even before the Incas, various indigenous cultures existed in what is now present day Peru. The Nazca gained fame via the enigmatic Nazca lines, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which viewed from the air can be recognized as the shapes of animals or people. However, it is the Incas which so capture the imagination of travelers. The Incas were a fierce tribe of warriors whose empire held large deposits of silver and gold, which made it a target for Spanish conquerors. The Incans were already weakened by internal strife and were easily conquered by Pizarro and his men. Disease decimated those who had survived the fighting. Under colonial rule the Incas were poor, harshly treated, and without power of any kind leading to resistance and uprisings which the Spanish quelled. Finally, Peru's independence was proclaimed in 1821. However, independence did not lead to better conditions for the indigenous population as power simply transferred from the Spanish born elite, to people of Spanish descent born in the country. After authoritarian rule, followed by military rule, in recent decades there has been a movement toward 're-democratizing' the country.

Peru Vacations

Lima & Cusco with Machu Picchu Day Trip

Not Included