Five Things First Time Travellers To Peru Should Know
- The tap water isn't safe to drink. Despite being a developed country, you'll need to stick to bottled water if you want to avoid getting sick. It's also wise to take other precautions like keeping your mouth closed when you shower and making sure the ice in your drink isn't made from tap water.
- Keep small change in your purse or wallet. Public bathrooms in the cities and at historical sites all charge a fee. It's also a good idea to keep some toilet paper in your bag in case there isn't any and you don't want to buy a ration.
- Tips are customary in Peru. A good rule of thumb is to tip 10% of your total to the waiter. But if the service is exceptional, a few extra bucks will be appreciated.
- Peru uses two different currencies. The main currency is the Peruvian sol which is accepted everywhere. But if you have small denominations of US dollars you can use these at most vendor stalls around the country.
- If you're at a market, don't forget to haggle. Haggling is a part of Peruvian culture and is expected. Generally, vendors will start at an inflated price with tourists. Cut the amount in half and work on a price from there.
Best Time To Visit Peru
The best time to visit Peru is during the dry season. From May to October, the weather is perfect for the country's most popular hike, the Inca Trail. If you're planning on doing this activity, permits are often booked out at least six months in advance.
As it is the busiest time of year, expect flights to be more expensive and rates of hotels to skyrocket. It's also a good idea to book your room a few months in advance to beat the rush.
Peru's summer months (December to March) see the most rainfall. During this low season, The Inca Trail closes, but the high temperatures make it a popular time to visit Peru's beaches. Another upside to the rainfall is that the landscape will be lush and the colourful orchids and wildflowers are in full bloom.
It's also not a bad time to visit if you want to have the most popular attractions all to yourself. Room rates and flights will also be significantly lower, and you'll have an easier time finding deals.
Peru's shoulder season is from September to November and March to May. It's a great time to visit if you want to escape the crowds and do some rainforest trekking.
Lima is the capital of Peru and the most visited city in Latin America. Established in 1535, the town is full of interesting attractions and deserves a stop before you move on to your next destination.
Lima is home to a vibrant culture, some of the country's best restaurants and a lively nightlife. But its real star is its historical attractions. Make sure you spend some time exploring the old Spanish palaces, churches and monasteries.
Cusco is Peru's top tourist destination. Each year more than one million visitors use the city as a base to explore the famous Machu Picchu ruins and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
But the city itself has a lot to offer as well. It features many ancient buildings dating back to the Inca and Spanish colonial times. The most well-known is Sacsayhuaman, an enormous walled complex made from limestone boulders.
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru. It's surrounded by three volcanoes and is known for its beautiful pink or white buildings made from volcanic ash found in the region.
The city's top attraction is the Santa Catalina Monastery. The 20,000 square metre complex is a city within a city and is full of colourful buildings and streets.
Located on the banks of the Amazon River, Iquitos is the largest city in the world that's unreachable by road.
However, that doesn't stop the city from being one of Peru's most important tourist destinations. It's used as a starting point for many excursions into the forest as well as mystic tourism and river cruises.
Top Attractions in Peru
Located on a ridge, 300 metres above the Urubamba River, is the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Built in the 15th-century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers some of the most dramatic views in South America.
Whether you decide to hike the Inca Trail or visit the ruins by train, it's impossible not to be inspired by the scenery.
To avoid the crowds, arrive in the early morning or late afternoon when the trains from Cusco drop off and collect the daytrippers. And for the best weather with fewer people, visit during the shoulder months of May or September.
The Inca Trail
Beginning in Cusco and finishing at Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail is one of the world's most famous hikes.
While it is demanding, the 4-day journey is equal parts rewarding. You'll trek past more than 30 Inca ruins and wind your way through some of the country's most spectacular scenery.
Hikes cannot be done independently, and you'll have to book through an agency. Permits for the trek also need to be booked well in advance, especially for the high season of June and August.
You'll also need to acclimatise before the hike, as the trail takes you 4,200m above sea level. Plan to spend a day or two in Cusco before you leave to reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
The Colca Canyon is one of Peru's most impressive natural wonders. The canyon reaches a depth of 3,400 metres, making it the second deepest in the world. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stone terracing on the walls dating back to 800 AD.
It's easily reached as a day trip from Arequipa, but it's worth spending at least two or more days exploring. There are a few multi-day hikes to choose from, and you can stay overnight in the nearby villages.
Besides the canyon itself, there are also Inca ruins, churches to see as well as the majestic Condor vultures that call the region home.
Discovered in the 1920s, the Nazca lines are one of Peru's greatest mysteries. From the air, there are 70 different plant and animal drawings and hundreds of other geometrical shapes.
Some spread over hundreds of square kilometres, and it's not known how or who made these distinct patterns and images.
The most famous drawings are a 180-metre long lizard, a condor with a 130-metre wingspan as well as a whale, spider, monkey and hummingbird.
While some of the lines are visible from the ground, the site is best appreciated from above. Flights can be booked in advance or on a first come first serve basis.
No visit to Peru would be complete without exploring the Peruvian Amazon. It covers more than 60% of the country and is one of the most biologically diverse in the world.
One of the best ways to get up close with the jungle's wildlife is on a guided night walk. You'll be able to see a variety of animals including massive tarantulas and the adorable kinkajous.
And if you really want an adventure, go on the canopy walk. It's one of the longest in the world with 16 platforms that take you as high as 37 metres above the ground.
Just be sure to pack plenty of insect repellent.
Major International Airports in Peru
- Jorge Chávez International Airport
- Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
- Rodríguez Ballón International Airport
- Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport
- FAP Captain Guillermo Concha Iberico International Airport