Peru is a really varied country. Peru has one of the most diverse geographical features on the planet, with few areas in the world capable of rivaling it. Peru contains the Andes Mountains, which soar 20,000 feet above sea level and are home to some of the world’s oldest and most well-preserved mountain cultures, histories, and people. The Amazon rainforest, which teems with life of all kinds and beckons visitors to brave its heat and humidity to see some of earth’s unique natural wonders. It even contains one of the driest deserts in the world, as well as Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in the continent and purported birthplace of the Incas and many of their gods. The Spanish and European influence is apparent, and there’s a small yet significant population of immigrants from Japan and China, who continue to bring their unique, vibrant cuisines to the nation. A marriage between the Chibcha and Muisca cultures has produced one of Latin America’s most fascinating, gratifying, and culturally interesting societies. Welcome!
The Incas, one of the indigenous Peruvian peoples, are mentioned in almost every Peru travel guide, but they were actually the final of many pre-Columbian civilizations that called Peru and the Andes Mountains home. In reality, human habitation in Peru dates back 9,000 BC. The numerous archeological ruins (ruins, villages, agricultural terraces, temples and mysterious places like Machu Picchu) are a testament to these civilizations’ long history. Many of these locations can be found on Backroads’ Peru itineraries.
After the Incas’ rise in the 13th century and their prominence for approximately 400 years, they were conquered and colonized by the Spanish conquistadors, who invaded in the mid-16th century. Spain maintained control of the territory until Peru’s formal declaration of independence in 1821. However, it took a few more years and numerous conflicts with their neighbors, as well as the Spanish, before Peru was truly free.
More recently, in Peru during the second part of the 20th century, a number of coups d’état occurred. These decades of economic instability and the formation of antigovernment insurgent movements like Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a terrorist organization that used force to achieve its aims and ultimately inflicted enormous upheaval and disruption on the country in the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1990s, stronger centralized leadership helped Peru’s economic problems be resolved and its severe inflation be controlled. The insurgent movements were also suppressed, paving the way for more economic growth. Increased stability followed, and Peru has benefited from it ever since.
The history of Peru is a rich blend of influences, both ancient and modern. It’s a mix of indigenous traditions and more recent Spanish and European influences. The textile, ceramic, sculpture, and jewelry industries are among the oldest in pre-Incan civilizations. These customs are represented in the craftsmanship, artwork, and handmade goods available for purchase, especially when going to marketplaces or real boutiques. The Andean cultures combined a variety of creatures into their spiritual practices, and as a result, they appear in their artwork. Hummingbirds, condors, llamas, serpents, and pumas are just a few of the animals that may be found in textiles and artwork. Architectural marvels like Machu Picchu (outside Cuzco), Saqsaywaman (outside Cusco), Pisac (in the southern desert), and the Nazca Lines (variously shaped geoglyphs located in the Peruvian deserts) offer sightseers and tourists some of Peru’s most unforgettable experiences.
Although the country is largely Catholic, many Peruvians incorporate remnants of their Andean forefathers into their Christian beliefs. You’re more likely to encounter this unique mix of religious and cultural traditions in places with a stronger indigenous presence, such as Cusco, Puno, and Lake Titicaca. It’s not unusual for a Peruvian to pray to an animal god in Quecha (one of the country’s three official languages, which is still widely used in indigenous regions) as they travel to attend a Catholic Mass on Sunday. Peru is one of the more culturally diverse countries on the continent because of these characteristics.
WHEN TO VISIT PERU
Peru’s climate is influenced significantly more by its location than by seasonal changes. Because of its proximity to the equator, most of Peru experiences little variation in temperatures throughout the year. Instead, the weather is determined more by geography. Because visitors will spend a large portion of their time visiting Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and other stops along the route, it’s vital to understand that December through March are the rainy season when there is a lot of rain, which may affect travel and outdoor activities. TThe drier, yet somewhat cooler and sunnier months of May through September are the best time to visit. Because so much of the important sights are at high altitudes (Cuzco sits more than 11,000 feet above sea level), it does get chilly at night, especially in late spring and early fall. Temperatures do rise quickly once the morning sun rises. As anticipated, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are not quite as dependable due on to the possibility of being dry and bright or rainy like winter.
Lima is Peru’s capital and the location of most international arrivals. It is located on the coast and home to around one-third of Peru’s 30 million people. It’s a large city known for its distinctive and creative cuisine.
The second-largest mountain chain in the world runs north to south through the center of the country, with enormous peaks, ancient ruins, numerous historical places and spectacular beauty.
Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is now a vibrant metropolis with numerous hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls of all types that range from budget to luxury. It has a number of magnificent and beautiful ruins, temples, museums, and historical sites within the city and immediately surrounding it. It is also a popular vacation destination with many hotels, eateries, and business establishments spread across different price ranges.
Puno is a high-altitude (12,500 feet) city with a long history and cultural richness. It has many tourist facilities and access to Lake Titicaca, as well as other historical places.
A beautiful, high-altitude lake with a long and illustrious history and spiritual significance. The Incas regarded the lake as the source of the sun, moon, and life and there are islands where tourists may go on excursions to observe people continuing ancient customs.
Although this city lacks pre-Columbian history like Cusco and Puno, its colonial architecture and rich blend of indigenous and Spanish cultures make it a worthwhile and pleasant destination.
The Peruvian Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, yet it may be difficult to comprehend that it lies a few hours’ flight from the 20,000-foot peaks of Peru’s Andes. This region has vegetation and animals unlike any other to see.
Iquitos, the gateway to Peru’s Amazon region, offers a variety of excursions throughout the area, including riverboat trips, jungle excursions, and wildlife viewing.
HOW TO GET TO PERU
A passport is required to enter Peru, but a visa is not necessary for a North American visitor if you are not staying for an extended period of time. At the time of entry, border officials will figure out how long you may stay in Peru and this can range from 30 to 183 days.
Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport is the largest airport in Peru and serves as a major transportation hub for most of the country. Lima’s airports are connected by shuttle buses, which run frequently throughout the day and night. The majority of international flights arrive at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, where you may connect to domestic destinations or other South American cities. Many international flights to Lima land in the evening, and there are no overnight flights to Cusco. As a result, you may be required to spend the night in Lima before boarding your next flight to Cusco.
GETTING AROUND – TRANSPORTATION
By air, the best way to see Peru’s most notable sites is without a doubt. Even though distances between places are not that far apart, the hilly terrain makes bus and automobile travel cumbersome. That said, for short trips in comparable locations such as Cusco to Puno, there are several tour buses with first-class or at the very least comfortable seats available.
Spanish is the primary language spoken in Peru, with Spanish being the most common language at all levels of society. (Quecha and Aymara are the other two.) Peru’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and in major cities and tourist destinations, you can anticipate to hear minimal English. Still, it’s a good idea to learn a few Spanish expressions since locals appreciate learning new words.
- Hello: Hola
- Good morning/day: Buenos dias
- Good afternoon/evening: Buenas tardes
- Please: Por favor
- Thank you: Gracias
- See you later: Hasta luego
- Good-bye: Adios
FOOD AND DRINK
In Peru, there are over 4,000 distinct potato cultivars (they originated here), as well as 55 different corn types. It’s home to quinoa, which is grown in the Andes; a variety of tropical fruits; plentiful seafood from the seas, rivers and lakes; and some of the best overall cuisine on the continent. Lima is a culinary center of innovation that has some of South America’s finest chefs and restaurants. The combination of unique ingredients from all across the country, as well as the craftsmanship involved in transforming them into meals and cocktails, is what sets Peruvian cuisine apart. Ceviche is another Peruvian dish that has become increasingly popular around the world. Make sure to sample Peru’s indigenous version, which includes local chili peppers (known as aji) as well As well as sweet potatoes and/or corn to absorb the delicious liquid.
You’ve come to the right place if you enjoy coffee or chocolate. Peru is one of the world’s biggest producers of both. Locals are increasingly aware of Peru’s wealth of globally renowned cuisines and are responding by opening new restaurants and goods that allow tourists to sample the finest that Peru has to offer. Not only that, but Peru’s large Chinese and Japanese communities have given a distinct flavor to the cuisine. Lomo saltado is one of Peru’s national dishes, and it displays this influence most obviously. This delicious favorite can be found all over Peru and is made with delicate beef chunks, onions, and bell peppers stir-fried in soy sauce and served over steamed rice and French fries. Yummy!