Peru travel guide

The name 'Peru' conjures up images of jagged mountain peaks circled by rare condors, the mysterious Nazca lines, sacred Lake Titicaca and its Aymara-inhabited floating islands, and one of the continent's biggest draws: Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. It's easy to view a Peru vacation as a voyage into the lost Inca kingdom of the Andes, whose modern inhabitants - the Quechua - are living descendants of its pre-colonial past.
This epic nation is a South American microcosm, complete with all its most sacred and seductive riches.
But don't underestimate Peru's diversity. Over half of the country is blanketed by the Amazon, hosting some extraordinary species-rich environments, and its coastline is a 2,500km desert, with the highest sand dunes on earth. Its cuisine is influenced as much by its coastline as by its native potatoes and quinoa, and its cities are an energetic mix of the modern and the ancient, with Spanish architecture perched on top of Inca stonework, and glass-fronted buildings overlooking colonial plazas. Read on in our Peru travel guide.
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Peru is/isn't

Peru is...

much more than just the Inca Trail. There are deserts, beaches and jungles...

Peru isn't...

for anyone who feels queasy at the sound of panpipes

What we rate & what we don't

UNDERRATED

New-look Lima

When a city grows in popularity based on its culinary …

Pearly white Arequipa

It's worth spending a couple of days of your Peru …

Slow travel

If you rush to tick off Peru's biggest sights you'll …

Exotic wildlife

Peru's wildlife is much more than condors and llamas. There …
RATED

Lake Titicaca

The highest navigable lake in the world, at a breathtaking …

Taste explosion

Influenced by the Andes, Amazon and Pacific, as well as …

The Andes

A mythical world of snow-capped peaks, smoking volcanoes, swirling condors …

Machu Picchu

It's an obvious one, but no one is ever disappointed …
OVERRATED

Fake Peruvian culture

Any successful tourist attraction runs the risk of losing its …

Aguas Calientes

Originally a remote railroad town without electricity, Aguas Calientes now …

The “poor man’s Galapagos”

The Ballestas Islands are rather wonderful, with basking fur seals, …

Nazca lines

One reason the creation of these vast glyphs remains a …

Food, shopping & people

Eating & drinking in Peru
Try a tangy Pisco Sour, made with Pisco, lemon juice and egg white.
Quinoa is a tasty, protein-packed grain. The staple, sacred food of the Incas, it is native to the Andes.
Ceviche is Peru's most famous dish. Fresh, raw fish is marinated in lime juice and spiced with chilli and onions. Don't make the Gringo mistake of having it for dinner - true Peruvians only eat this at lunchtime.
Cuy is a Peruvian staple that may be less appetising to visitors - it's guinea pig. And it's usually served whole.
People & language
If you knock on a Quechua door, you may hear "Haykuykuy!" - Come in!
Peruvian culture varies by altitude. The highlands are the stronghold of the Quechua - descendents of the Inca - while the lowland forests have many smaller native groups. Peru's official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara, but at least a dozen more languages are spoken in the Amazon.
You'll see the word "Inti" a lot. It means 'sun' or 'Sun God' in Quechua.
Lateness is a national trait - to try and encourage punctuality, emphasise the "hora inglesa" - 'English time'!
The great Inca Empire was actually a mere blip on the continent's 5000-year cultural history - their rule lasted barely a century.

Our top Peru Vacation

Hiking the Inca trail vacation

Hiking the Inca trail vacation

An unrivalled combination of history and spectacular scenery

From US $1705 to US $1825 9 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 24 Oct, 7 Nov, 28 Nov, 19 Dec, 26 Dec
2019: 27 Mar, 3 Apr, 10 Apr, 17 Apr, 27 Apr, 1 May, 9 May, 15 May, 23 May, 29 May, 6 Jun, 12 Jun, 15 Jun, 20 Jun, 4 Jul, 10 Jul, 13 Jul, 18 Jul, 24 Jul, 1 Aug, 7 Aug, 10 Aug, 15 Aug, 22 Aug, 29 Aug, 4 Sep, 7 Sep, 12 Sep, 18 Sep, 21 Sep, 26 Sep, 2 Oct, 10 Oct, 16 Oct, 23 Oct, 30 Oct, 6 Nov, 13 Nov, 4 Dec, 18 Dec
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Peru or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Gifts & shopping
Alpaca wool hats, jumpers, scarves, ponchos and blankets are ubiquitous in Peru. Knitted items here are high quality and wonderfully warm, but you get what you pay for - a "bargain" may well be fake.
Colourful textiles handwoven on traditional backstrap looms capture the vibrant spirit of Peru's indigenous people. Try and buy direct from craft cooperatives. Cheaper items on markets will be mass-produced, and possibly imported.
Peru's jewellers use intricate filigree techniques, weaving and soldering thin gold and silver threads to create beautifully detailed earrings, bracelets and necklaces.
The humble potato originated in Peru - hence the local expression of national pride: 'I'm more Peruvian than the potato!'
How much does it cost?
Standard train journey from Machu Pichcu to Cuzco: £55
A whole, roasted guinea pig: £10.50
Ceviche in a restaurant: £5-£12
Large bottle of Cuzqueña beer: £1.40
Real alpaca shawl or jumper: From £40
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: ] [Lima: ] [Slow travel: ] [Lake Titicaca: ] [Taste explosion: ] [The Andes: ] [Fake Peruvian culture: ] [Aguas Calientes: ] [The "poor man's Galapagos": ] [Nazca lines: ] [Eating & drinking: ] [People & language: ] [Quote 1 (ancient Peru): ] [Gifts & shopping: ] [How much does it cost?: ]