Updated: Feb 23
Peru is not only one of the most popular countries in South America, it is one of the most diverse countries in the world, featuring desserts, beaches, temples, mountains, snow and jungle. Peru was also the home of the Ancient Inca empire so the country is full of some of the coolest ruins and ancient architecture in the world.
Featuring the Nazca Lines lie in the south west of the country, the surfy town of Mancora lies in the far north along the coast, hiking trails through snow capped mountains last the length of the Andes along with ice-climbing up the glaciers, visiting the flaoting villages on Lake Titicaca, sandboarding and buggy rides through the dunes at the oasis in Huacachina, boat or trekking trips through the Amazon and last but not least Machu Picchu - Peru has it all!
History of Peru
Peru is a country in South America with a rich and complex history that dates back thousands of years. Here are some key highlights of Peru's history:
Ancient civilizations: The first known civilization in Peru was the Norte Chico civilization, which emerged around 3000 BCE. They were followed by other major civilizations, including the Moche, Nazca, and Chimu, before the Inca Empire emerged in the 15th century.
Inca Empire: The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, and at its height, it stretched from modern-day Ecuador to Chile. The Incas are known for their impressive engineering feats, including Machu Picchu and the extensive road network that connected the empire.
Spanish colonization: In 1532, Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru and conquered the Inca Empire. The Spanish established a colonial government and exploited Peru's resources, particularly gold and silver.
Independence: Peru gained its independence from Spain in 1821, led by liberator José de San Martín. Peru went through a period of political instability and economic decline in the 19th century, before stabilizing in the early 20th century.
20th century: In the mid-20th century, Peru experienced significant social and political upheaval, including a military coup in 1968 led by Juan Velasco Alvarado. In the 1980s and 1990s, Peru experienced a violent conflict with the Shining Path insurgency, which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Modern era: In the 21st century, Peru has experienced economic growth and political stability, although corruption and inequality remain major challenges. Peru is known for its rich cultural heritage, including its traditional music, dance, and cuisine.
Today, Peru is a diverse and vibrant country with a unique blend of indigenous, Spanish, and other cultural influences. Its rich history and natural beauty continue to attract visitors from around the world.
Best things to do in Peru
Peru is a country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. Here are some of the best activities to do in Peru:
Visit Machu Picchu: This iconic Inca site is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites and a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Peru.
Explore Cusco: The ancient capital of the Inca Empire is a vibrant city with a mix of colonial and Inca architecture, as well as many museums, galleries, and shops.
Hike the Inca Trail: This famous trek takes visitors through breathtaking mountain scenery and leads to Machu Picchu.
Visit the Amazon Rainforest: Peru is home to a significant portion of the Amazon Rainforest, which offers visitors the chance to see a diverse range of wildlife and experience indigenous culture.
Take a food tour: Peru is renowned for its delicious cuisine, which blends indigenous and Spanish influences. Visitors can take a food tour to try local dishes and learn about Peru's culinary traditions.
Visit Lake Titicaca: This high-altitude lake is the largest in South America and is home to traditional communities that have lived on the lake for centuries.
Explore the Colca Canyon: This stunning canyon is one of the deepest in the world and offers visitors the chance to see Andean condors soaring overhead.
Visit the Nazca Lines: These mysterious geoglyphs in the desert of southern Peru have puzzled researchers for centuries.
These are just a few of the many activities that Peru has to offer. Whether you're interested in history, culture, adventure, or natural beauty, there's something for everyone in Peru.
Culture of Peru
Peru has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that reflects the influence of indigenous, Spanish, and African traditions. Here are some of the key aspects of Peruvian culture:
Indigenous culture: Peru has a large indigenous population, with more than 50 different indigenous groups that speak a variety of languages. These groups have their own unique traditions and customs, which are often celebrated in colorful festivals and ceremonies.
Spanish colonial influence: Peru was colonized by Spain in the 16th century, and the Spanish colonial legacy is still visible in many aspects of Peruvian culture, including architecture, religion, and cuisine.
Music and dance: Peruvian music is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences and includes styles like huayno, cumbia, and salsa. Dance is also an important part of Peruvian culture, with traditional dances like the marinera and the huaylash.
Art and craft: Peru has a rich tradition of art and craft, with many indigenous communities known for their weaving, pottery, and textiles. Peruvian art also includes the famous Nazca Lines, a series of ancient geoglyphs in the desert that have puzzled researchers for centuries.
Cuisine: Peruvian cuisine is renowned for its diversity and unique flavors, which blend indigenous and Spanish influences. Some of the most famous dishes include ceviche, lomo saltado, and rocoto relleno.
Religion: The dominant religion in Peru is Roman Catholicism, which was introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period. However, indigenous beliefs and practices also continue to play an important role in Peruvian culture, particularly in rural areas.
These are just a few of the many aspects of Peruvian culture. Despite centuries of colonialism and social inequality, Peru has managed to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, making it a fascinating destination for travelers interested in history, culture, and tradition.
Getting into Peru
Peru is a popular tourist destination and there are several ways to get there, depending on where you are coming from. Here are some common options:
By air: Most travelers arrive in Peru by air, with the main international airport being Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport. There are also several regional airports throughout Peru, which can be useful for traveling within the country.
By land: If you are traveling from neighboring countries like Ecuador or Bolivia, you can enter Peru by land via bus or car. There are also several border crossings between Peru and these countries.
By sea: If you are coming from a nearby coastal country like Chile, you can travel to Peru by sea. There are several ports in Peru, including the Port of Callao in Lima.
By train: If you are traveling from Bolivia or within Peru, there are several train routes that can take you to popular destinations like Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Once you are in Peru, there are several domestic airlines, buses, trains, and taxis that can take you to different parts of the country. It's a good idea to research transportation options and book in advance, particularly during peak tourist season.
Getting around Peru
Peru is a large country with diverse landscapes and transportation options. Here are some ways to get around Peru:
Domestic flights: Peru has a well-developed domestic airline network, making it easy to travel between cities and regions. Some of the main airlines operating domestic flights in Peru include LATAM, Avianca, and Sky Airline.
Buses: Buses are a popular and affordable way to get around Peru. There are many bus companies offering both local and long-distance routes. Some of the popular bus companies in Peru include Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, and Movil Tours.
Trains: Trains are a scenic way to travel in Peru, particularly for tourists. The most popular train routes are the Cusco to Machu Picchu route and the Puno to Cusco route.
Taxis: Taxis are a convenient way to get around cities and towns in Peru. In larger cities, it's best to use registered taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber and Cabify for safety.
Rental cars: Rental cars are available in major cities and tourist areas in Peru, but may not be necessary for all travelers. Keep in mind that driving in Peru can be challenging, particularly in larger cities.
Bikes: Biking is a popular way to explore cities like Lima and Cusco, and some companies offer bike tours in rural areas as well.
When traveling by any form of transportation in Peru, it's important to keep your belongings safe and secure. Petty theft can be a problem, particularly on buses and in crowded areas. It's also important to keep your travel documents and cash in a secure place.
Paying for things in Peru
The official currency of Peru is the Peruvian Sol (PEN). Here are some common ways to pay for things in Peru:
Cash: Cash is the most widely accepted form of payment in Peru, especially in smaller towns and villages. You can withdraw cash from ATMs, which are widely available in cities and tourist areas. It's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases or in case you encounter a place that doesn't accept credit cards.
Credit cards: Credit cards are widely accepted in Peru, especially in larger cities and tourist areas. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted, while American Express and Discover may be less widely accepted. It's a good idea to carry a credit card as a backup to cash.
Debit cards: Debit cards are also widely accepted in Peru, but may come with higher transaction fees than credit cards. Check with your bank to see if they have partnerships with banks in Peru to avoid or reduce ATM fees.
Traveler's checks: Traveler's checks are not widely accepted in Peru, and can be difficult to cash. It's better to stick with cash or credit/debit cards.
Mobile payment apps: Mobile payment apps such as Yape, Tunki, and BIM are becoming increasingly popular in Peru, especially for small transactions. These apps allow you to pay for things using your smartphone, and may be a convenient option if you have a local SIM card.
It's always a good idea to carry some cash in small denominations, as many smaller vendors may not have change for larger bills. Be sure to keep your money and cards in a secure place, and be mindful of your surroundings when making purchases.
Backpacking in Peru
Peru is a popular destination for backpackers, with its stunning natural landscapes, fascinating culture, and affordable prices. Here are some tips for backpacking in Peru:
Plan your itinerary: Peru is a large country with a lot to see, so it's a good idea to plan your itinerary in advance. Some popular destinations include Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon Rainforest. Make sure to factor in travel time and allow for some flexibility in case you want to change your plans.
Budget: Peru is generally an affordable destination, but costs can vary depending on your travel style. Hostels, street food, and public transportation are good options for budget travelers. Keep in mind that attractions like Machu Picchu can be expensive, so plan accordingly.
Pack appropriately: Peru has a diverse climate, so pack clothing that can handle both hot and cold weather. Comfortable shoes are a must, particularly if you plan to do any hiking or trekking.
Learn some Spanish: Spanish is the official language of Peru, so learning some basic phrases can be helpful, particularly if you plan to travel off the beaten path.
Be cautious: Like any destination, Peru has its share of safety concerns. Stay alert and be cautious in crowded areas or at night, and keep an eye on your belongings. It's also a good idea to avoid drinking tap water and stick to bottled water or water purification tablets.
Get off the beaten path: While popular destinations like Machu Picchu are must-see attractions, don't be afraid to explore some lesser-known areas of Peru. There are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Overall, backpacking in Peru can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience. With a little planning and preparation, you can make the most of your time in this incredible country.
In saying that, most young travellers want to know about the nightlife in Peru, and Cusco in particular. There are two massive party hostels in Cusco, both are rated in the top ten in the world (The Loki and The Wild Rover), although there are plenty of quieter and less know hotels and hotels, I have found that it is best to base yourself here and organise tours throughout the area. The two hostels are listed below and you can party and one or the other - there are no rules! Dorms are about $10 a night or you can stay in a private room for about $20 each per night.
Ayahuaca in Peru
Ayahuasca is a traditional medicinal plant that has been used by indigenous communities in Peru and other parts of South America for centuries. Ayahuasca ceremonies have become increasingly popular among spiritual seekers and tourists in Peru in recent years.
Ayahuasca is a powerful hallucinogenic brew made from the ayahuasca vine and other plants. It is typically consumed in a ceremonial setting under the guidance of a shaman, who serves as a spiritual guide and healer.
If you are interested in experiencing ayahuasca in Peru, it's important to do your research and approach the experience with respect and caution. Here are some things to keep in mind:
It is actually illegal in most countries, so participate at your own risk.
Find a reputable shaman: There are many ayahuasca retreat centers and shamans in Peru, but not all of them are reputable or safe. Do your research and look for a shaman who has a good reputation and comes recommended by others.
Prepare yourself: Ayahuasca is a powerful medicine that can bring up intense emotions and experiences. It's important to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually before participating in a ceremony.
Follow the guidelines: Ayahuasca ceremonies often come with strict guidelines around what you can eat or drink beforehand, what you should bring with you, and how you should behave during the ceremony. It's important to follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and respectful experience.
Respect the culture: Ayahuasca ceremonies are a deeply spiritual and cultural practice. It's important to approach the experience with respect and openness to the traditions and beliefs of the indigenous communities who have been using ayahuasca for centuries.
Consider the risks: While ayahuasca can be a transformative and healing experience, it also carries risks. It can be physically and emotionally intense, and some people may experience negative side effects. It's important to weigh the risks and benefits and approach the experience with caution.
Overall, ayahuasca can be a powerful tool for personal growth and healing, but it's important to approach the experience with respect and caution. If you're considering participating in an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, do your research and choose a reputable and safe shaman.
Is Peru Safe?
Peru is generally considered a safe country for tourists, but like any country, it's important to take precautions and be aware of potential risks. Here are some safety tips for travelers in Peru:
Keep your belongings secure: Petty theft is a common problem in Peru, particularly in tourist areas and on public transportation. Keep your belongings close to you and be aware of your surroundings.
Use registered taxis or ride-hailing services: In larger cities like Lima and Cusco, it's best to use registered taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber or Cabify for safety.
Avoid certain neighborhoods at night: Some neighborhoods in Lima and other cities can be unsafe at night. Ask locals or your hotel staff for advice on which areas to avoid.
Be cautious when withdrawing money: ATM fraud and theft can be a problem in Peru. Try to withdraw money during the day and use ATMs located in safe areas, such as shopping malls or banks.
Take precautions when hiking or trekking: Peru is home to many beautiful hiking and trekking routes, but it's important to take precautions to avoid accidents or getting lost. Always hike with a partner or group, bring plenty of water and snacks, and research the route beforehand.
Be cautious of altitude sickness: Many of Peru's popular destinations, such as Cusco and Machu Picchu, are at high altitudes. Take time to acclimatize and drink plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness.
By following these safety tips and using common sense, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to Peru.
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