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Peru is a land of lush jungles and soaring mountain peaks located on the western side of South America. As a tourist nation, it is remarkable for its archaeological significance with regards to the relics of the Inca empire, its comprehensive ecotourism, its delicious food, and its imposing and beautiful colonial architecture. The mark of history is indelible here, from the mysterious Nazca lines to the elegant decay of Inca ruins.

The diversity in both animal and human life in Peru is stunning. Eighty-four of the planet’s one hundred and four life zones are found here. Four thousand species of butterflies alone make their home in Peru, as do a full third of Earth’s known bird species. Wealth disparities in Peru lead to a striking difference in lifestyle and culture between the cities and the more remote parts of the country. As one people, however, Peruvians adore their country and have great national pride. Things are laid back and unhurried here, and the locals are helpful and accommodating.

 

Machu Picchu is by far Peru’s most popular and stunning attraction, although it is far from the only one. From enormous, fast-developing Lima to the shores of Mancora, from the Andes mountains to the Amazon rainforest, Peru abounds with places to explore! 

Top Sights in Peru

Cusco

Lovely, well-preserved Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire. Today, soaring 3,400m above sea level in the Southern Sierras, its rich history is evident in everything you encounter. The Plaza de Armas is the central square, a stone arcade of churches and shops. Duck into a local bar and ask any one of the friendly old gentlemen the secret of Sapo, a traditional bar game. Not only will they be tickled to show you, but a great conversation is bound to ensue! Pisaq, the local market, is your one-stop shop for mouthwatering treats, handicrafts, and traditional art… not to mention a brush with the locals. On Sundays you can catch a glimpse of the devout coming through in church processions, all draped in customary garb. Machu Picchu is the best-known nearby Incan ruin, but Moray, Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, Q'enqo, Puca Pucara, and Templo de la Luna are all close by as well. If you fancy a good hike, you can trek up Pukamoqo Hill to the enormous Cristo Blanco, a white statue of Jesus that’s visible from all of downtown Cusco. For some reason, the pizza in Cusco is nothing short of sublime. Hole-in-the-wall eateries with wood-fired ovens tend to have raving customer testimonials taped to the door in an assortment of languages. The boasts don’t lie.

Machu Picchu

The enigmatic ruins of Machu Picchu are undoubtedly Peru’s chief attraction. Named one of the new seven wonders of the world, this once-lost city was a historic retreat for Incan rulers and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is situated seven thousand feet up on a hilltop in the Andean Mountains, and offers spectacular views of the verdant valleys below. The Machu Picchu ruins are some of the most famous and breathtakingly beautiful in the world, and are very popular with visitors. Most arrive through the city of Aguas Calientes and hoof it up to the city, as no vehicles are allowed. Guided tours offer more thorough insight into the history and geography of the ruins, taking tourists on a voyage through the Sun Gate to the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana sun dial, and beyond to the Temple of the Condor where cruel justice was carried out. Climbing nearby Wayna Picchu is an additional adventure for the intrepid. Take your time wandering Machu Picchu and soak up the beauty and unbelievable history. It truly is a world-class marvel.

Lima

Lima is a mega-capital, a sprawling city of nine million spread among forty-three districts. Technically located in a desert, Lima is nonetheless called the “Garden City” for its lush parks. Lima residents place a premium on enjoyment. A golf course is located in the midst of the financial district, and it’s not a novel sight to see businessmen catching some surfing before board meetings. Locals are crazy about food here! Farmers’ markets on the Boulevard of Gastronomy tout the highest-quality ingredients, and the annual food festival is among the biggest celebrations of the year! The ceviche is legendary, and you can wash it down with a cocktail featuring pisco, the grape brandy for which Lima is renowned. In terms of sightseeing, be sure to check out the historic Aliaga House, the Government Palace on Cristobal Hill, the gorgeous colonial churches, and the Larco Museum. Then, of course, there is the famed Inca Trail. The stone steps wind up the Andes towards Machu Picchu. The altitude will leave you breathless, and the steepness will challenge even the fittest. Conquering this trail is a genuinely difficult physical endeavor with a genuinely gorgeous payoff.

Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located in the Southern Sierras. Considered the best land of the Inca empire, it was named for having been the exclusive property of the Emperor himself. Within it is Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire, and untold beautiful ruins. The small town of Aguas Calientes is the traditional gateway to Machu Picchu. Take a soak in the hot springs for which the town was named, get a relaxing massage, or explore the Butterfly Gardens. Ollantaytambo was one of the last Inca settlements, and remains organized the same way it was before the fall of civilization there. Tipón is notable for the extraordinary examples of agricultural terracing that still remain as proof that the Incas were superb at water management. Water still rushes through the channels today, and much of the terrace walls remain in perfect shape.

Amazon Rainforest

While Brazil claims the lion’s share of the Amazon rainforest, thirteen percent of it is in Peru. That relatively small percentage accounts for sixty percent of the country! The famed biodiversity of the Amazon makes it a tremendous favorite for tours, despite hot temperatures and high rainfall. Regardless, a visit to this lush, wild paradise is a thrilling adventure. Listen to the music of the canopy: frogs, bugs, monkey calls, and more. Exotic animals, breathtaking views, and a taste of completely untouched nature are all attractions that await in the rainforest. Cozy lodges will safeguard you from the elements while educating you about preservation efforts and giving you a primer on the thousands of species you’ll encounter on your trip.

Trujillo

This moderately-large city is known for the stunning beach resort of Huanchaco, as well as the Chan Chan ruins. Situated near the Pacific Coast, the seafood is delicious here as well—the ceviche is decadent. Surfing reigns supreme in Huanchaco, but catching a ride on a caballito, or traditional fisherman’s reed boat, is a must-do. Spanish teachers abound, affording you the chance to brush up on your mastery of the language. El Muelle, the historic pier, is perhaps the best-known landmark in the area. The eroded adobe waste of Chan Chan is all that remains of Peru’s largest pre-Inca empire, and tours are popular. Within the city itself, check out Trujillo’s colonial center and be sure to take in the beauty of the mosaic walls of the university, where the history of northern Peru is told in colored glass and stone.

Quick Facts

Capital: Lima
Primary Airports: Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ), Rodríguez Ballón International Airport (AQP)
Government: Constitutional Republic
Currency: Nuevo Sol (PEN)
Population: 27,956,000 (2006 est.)
Language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
Electricity: 220V/60Hz (North American plug)
Time Zone: UTC -5
Peru & Machu Picchu

Peru & Machu Picchu Travel Reviews


Peru: A trip of a lifetime

W.D. Geiger

I would highly recommend Condor Travel to those who want to travel to Peru. In March 2015 a one week tour to Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco went unbelievably smooth...no guessing or panicking with our day to day itinerary. From the time we arrived in Lima, until our departure from Cusco, an agent from Condor Travel was always waiting to greet us ( easily spotted wearing a maroon top ) and guide us to our next destination. Messages were left the night before on when and where to meet the next morning for our daily adventures. English speaking guides were requested and provided for the tours as requested, all were very knowledgeable, very friendly and very helpfull. This was truely a trip of a lifetime made so simple by the excellent planning and service provided by Condor Travel.

I have sent along a few pics of our trip to Machu Picchu. Picture 1 was taken from the Guard House on day one. Picture 2 is the view from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain on day two after a 1 hour and 45 minute hike of exhausting step after step climbing. Pictures 3 and 4 are some of the steps you will come across to reach the summit, well worth the effort as a breath taking view awaits.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu
Tour Operator: Condor Travel

A Peruvian Perspective

Anonymous

A trip to Peru can be an eye-opener of epic proportions if one allows the culture and history to guide the experience. Tourists have been making the pilgrimage to the home of the Incas for a long, long time and for good reason. Local residents and native Peruvians are a welcoming and hospitable group of people. Some Spanish would certainly be beneficial and an effort to communicate in the native language will not go unappreciated. Nighttime in Cusco offers a variety of entertainment options in the city center, Plaza de Armas. The picturesque scene is a wonderful sight in the daylight or moonlight alike. There are many vendors lined along the streets of Cusco throughout the day selling comforts and souvenirs for all the passersby. Be sure to bargain (this is where Spanish can really come in handy).

Cusco is a popular draw for tourists, not only for its unique and charming culture, but also due to its proximity to Machu Picchu, Peru’s national treasure and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Tours are easy to arrange in town. After a bus and train ride, you’ll find yourself in a lovely town called Aguas Calientes. From here, there’s one more bus ride to the peak of the mountain, where the ancient abandoned city rests. The view from the top has an ability to put life below in perspective. Peru is a developing, yet naturally beautiful country. It’s easy to understand why the residents foster traditions that honor and revere such a powerful lay of land.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Return Trip To Peru

Eileithyia Zakaria

I traveled to Cuzco, Lima, and several other areas of Peru during a college study abroad program. During the day, I volunteered at a daycare center operated by a local church and in the evening, I explored the area with other students. The host family offered tours throughout the area from a unique perspective that could not have been achieved through a mainline tour company. We did use a Peru Tourism guide to study the ruins and obtained premier access to Incan trains, Mayan ruins, and other places archaeological interest.

Because I fell in love with Peru during my first visit, I quickly began planning a second trip to include a more intimate view of the countryside. There are so many local hostels that it is quite simple to backpack through the area without any advanced lodging plans. The twenty hour bus ride from Lima to Cuzco travels along rugged hillsides, steep cliffs, and unsteady terrain. Although it was terrifying at times (no guardrails!), the local bus route was definitely one of the best ways to see Peru.

Overall, I rate Peru with five solid stars. The people are extremely hospitable and eager to share their experiences, food, and culture with visitors. They warmly welcome newcomers and make accommodations readily available when necessary. I learned so much about the Peruvian people and made lifelong connections with my host family, hostel owners, and random people I met along the way. We still keep in touch, send care packages, and swap recipes online.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Hiking Machu Picchu

Brittany M

We hiked Machu Picchu in July of 2009. The weather was perfect: it was sunny every day and so clear at night that the stars were truly breathtaking. The hike itself wasn't too difficult and it was really beautiful along the way, and had a few stops at some interesting ruins. The meals were also very good. Really substantial and fresh, including the vegetarian option that I chose. You got a hot breakfast, a pretty large "snack" meal a couple hours later (freshly cooked popcorn, tea, nuts, etd.), a large hot lunch, and then hot dinner again. We made it to the main site for sunrise, which was amazing, and then we were left on our own to spend the day there, which was really nice. My husband and I found our own small spot where we could take in a great view and not see anyone else and had lunch in the sun. The price tag might be a little daunting at first, but if you consider it's 3 nights of lodging, all of your meals, entrance to the park, and a guided tour, it's reasonable. You do need to arrive in Cuzco a couple days ahead of your hike in order to acclimate to the altitude.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Touring Peru

Bre Mapston

I spent a summer semester studying abroad in Peru. We spent several days by the shore in Lima and in the mountains of Cusco. Lima, the country’s capital, is a mecca of museums, cultural tours, and eateries. Be sure to try the famous, fresh ceviche at a local restaurant. A bus tour is a great way to see all parts of the city and learn about the up and coming country. If you’re an animal lover, Kennedy Park is a necessary stop on your trip. The park is home to dozens of free-roaming cats, which locals feed, relax with, and can adopt. In Cusco, the culture of Peru becomes immediately apparent. Walk the cobblestone streets to really get a feel for life in Peru; the people are all incredibly friendly and the street merchants sell the best souvenirs. Of course, a visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is a must. Take a guided tour to learn about the Incan way of life. Hike the trails less traveled to see gorgeous scenery and ancient Incan architecture. Be sure to also tour Saksaywaman, a lesser known Incan city where you can experience the underground tunnels used to connect the whole civilization. Wherever you go in Peru, stick to smaller shops and restaurants. The authentic, family owned establishments are by far the best.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Family Adventure in Peru

Elizabeth Prentiss

My family and I embarked on our Peruvian adventure in late Summer. The country was unlike anything I had ever seen, with ancient structures around every corner, rich culture, and inviting people. We traveled from Lima to Huancayo, and on to Cusco by bus so we could experience many areas along the way. The local people were so warm and welcoming, always excited to offer unmatched hospitality. We walked everywhere in each city, really getting a feel for the dynamic. Plazas were hubs of activity and market day is a must see! Be sure to try some of the street food and leave plenty of room in your luggage for amazing finds. The mix of cultures was obvious with the urban business men and women, native people, and fellow travelers. Food in Peru was unbelievable. Prepare to find yourself on a gastronomical exploration and seek out local spots that are off the beaten path. Americanization was really only apparent in Cusco where English was spoken by many and more amenities existed. Two very remarkable attractions are the Saksaywaman ruins and the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. Our family braved the Inca trail which is a 4-day hike that is a great bucket list item to check off. Be prepared though, it is quite a trek, but you will be so glad you did. Peru is truly a land of many wonders.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

An Exhilarating Week in Peru

Alex Jensen

In the summer of 2014 I had the good fortune to have a relative pay for an all expenses paid vacation to the South American nation of Peru. Like many Americans or "gringos" I had little idea what to expect other than the fact that I could enjoy a guinea pig at a fine restaurant, legal coca leaves and the fact that one of the world's great rooftop cities- Machu Picchu was in country. I ended up having the time of my life all throughout the country of Peru.

Our family flew into the capitol and largest city of Lima, Peru. The city is especially famous for it's overcast skies- during the entire 4 days we spent there we were unable to see the sun, moon, or much of anything other than an omnipresent grey sky. While one typically does not associate Lima, Peru with high fashion or high culture we were pleasantly surprised by the posh shopping district of Largo Del Mar which was sunny, gorgeous, and right on the coast. This was the only destination we were able to get a clear view of the sunshine. We also has some fantastic ceviche on the beach which many parts of Peru are famous for.

After our foray in Lima we ended up flying up through the mountains through a scary but exciting pass to the high altitude city of Cuzco which is famous for being the launching ground for Machu Picchu. This city caters to many foreign tourists as well as a sizable local population who has built their livelihood around the tourist trade. We found some fantastic souvenirs as well as got to visit the famed mountain city of Machu Picchu- which was lost to the world until European explorers rediscovered the city in 1911.

All in all I would have to say that Peru was a unique and welcoming destination. Considering that our family is from California (which is quite a ways a way) I can say that Peru is a world destination worth traveling to no matter where you are from. All in all I would give a full 5 stars for a wondrous adventure to Peru.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Peru: Land of Extremes

Joshua Nelson

Anyone who loves to behold natural beauty in all its extremity and incredible variety should plan on going to Peru. It was an easy flight down from Houston straight to Lima, the capital. Lima is a huge metropolis set on a narrow desert strip that straddles the whole Peruvian coast. Some of the sights I saw in Lima include: the remains of the 17th-Century Walls of Lima, the Museum of the Nation, the Peruvian National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History, and the Museum of Italian Art, which features artworks from every region of Italy. My next flight took me soaring over the majestic, snow-capped Andes to the old Inca capital of Cuzco. From there, I accessed the Inca Trail about 50 miles outside of town. The trail took me through a "cloud forest," past various small Inca ruins, through high alpine passes, and finally to Machu Picchu. There I laid eyes on the palace on a hill that was the last holdout of a forgotten civilization. The hike is done on stone pathways largely built by the Inca themselves, and no one should go to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu. Next, I flew to the Amazonian region in eastern Peru, to Iquitos. There I saw the stick houses still in use along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. There I saw an abundance of native wildlife, including on the Island of the Monkeys and at the Amazon Rescue Center.

I can honestly rate Peru as a five-star experience, and I would recommend it to anyone as a wonderful vacation option.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu

Trip on the Bucket List that was more than amazing!

J. Walling

Stay in Cusco as it is an enchanting town. It is colorful and surrounded by gorgeous mountains. The food is unbelievable with so many flavors and fresh food to choose from. It's a relaxed yet energetic feel. The people are wonderful and helpful. The trip to Monchupiccu by bus was easy but next time I will want to hike the trail. Minchupuccu and the history is truly fascinating. This must be on your bucket list!

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu
Tour Operator: Doctors without borders

Amazing Trip

Tara

My trip to Peru was the best trip I have been on by far. I consider myself quite the traveller and have been to many different countries. Cusco is home to Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the ancient world. The tour of the ruins was amazing. The food was delicious and the people were so friendly. Besides the ruins the city offers great restaurants, wine bars and has quite the nightlife! The main square, which was walking distance from my hotel, was a one stop shop. There were cathedrals, restaurants and bars right at my fingertips. The culture and overall atmosphere of the city was very different from New York. It was amazing to tour the market for local goods, talk to locals peddling their wares and sample local cuisine such as guinea pig! While there, I also visited Lima and Iquitos, a small town in the Amazon! I would absolutely recommend this trip to everyone!

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Peru & Machu Picchu
Tour Operator: Viator Tours

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