Why Travel To Peru
Since the first explorer Francisco Pizarro came here in 1532 explorers and adventurers alike have been obsessed with the history and ancient riches that this country holds. Take any hike into the Peruvian Andes and you will see that there is plenty of these secrets yet to be found. Peru is home to the famous archaeological sites of Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines and the legendary city of Cuzco. Besides Peru’s rich history; Peru is also home to some of the best hiking and adventure sports in South America. While in Peru you can dune buggy over sand dunes, dine on seafood, hike to extreme altitudes and cut your way through dense Amazonian jungle all while never leaving Peru’s borders. Peruvian culture is also not to be missed. With festivals and a magnitude of different ethnicities, Peru will keep you dreaming of returning to this magical country.
When To Go
(June – August) Dry, cool season which sees many tourists, great for trekking
(December – March) Wet season makes hiking and travel difficult, good for festivals
Language – Spanish
Religion – Catholic/Indigenous beliefs
Visa – Visa free for most nationalities apart from some African and Asian nations
Currency – Peruvian Nuevo Sol PEN
1 USD – 3.46 PEN (Feb 1, 2016)
Typical Costs and Getting Around Peru
Accommodation – Peru has a great hostel scene. Hostels are usually decked out with funky bars and functional kitchens. Most of these great Hostels will set you back only around 4-5 USD for a dormitory and 10- 15 USD for a double private room. In Cuzco and the north you can also find great guest house run by local families for around 20 USD per night. This form of accommodation gives a real “authentic” Peruvian feeling. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, the major centres and more popular tourist towns have boutique hotels that are decked out with Peruvian style. These mid range boutique hotels were around 40 – 80 USD. When you hit the trails, hiking and exploring the smaller communities have very basic to no accommodation so bringing a tent is almost compulsory. If you leave your tent behind this does give you the chance to stay with and experience the “real” Peru with a rural family. Be prepared, there are very few luxuries and you just might have a guinea pig rubbing shoulders with you at night.
Food – The mighty potato is king in Peru. Visit any market and you will see hundreds of different forms of the Peruvian potato. Potatoes can be found in almost every meal from soups to salads and beside a roasted Guinea Pig (Cuy). After potatoes ceviche is thought to be the next most popular dish and rightly so. Ceviche is essentially raw fish salad cooked by the acidity of a lime. It’s a popular street and restaurant food and usually is very cheap and delicious. Eating in Peru will cost as low as 2 – 8 USD depending on the location. Most Peruvian love to drink Mate De Coca (tea made from Coca leaves) at high altitudes and Chicha (fermented corn beer) at almost any time of the day. When invited into a Peruvian home don’t be surprised if they have their own brew of Chicha fermenting just for you.
Transportation – Peruvian buses are the most common form of transport. They come in many classes however. The more expensive private buses (usually called Imperial, business and royal) are the obvious better choice for long distances as they offer comfortable seating, bathrooms and snacks. Some of these buses also offer beds for overnight rides, but be warned it is not uncommon for buses to be hijacked at night in Peru. So limit your nighttime travel and pick a better looking company. Most of the luxury buses will cost around 20 USD for anything over 6 hours. The other option is the Economic bus, which all the locals will be taking. This is a great option for shorter journeys because you get to mingle with the locals. These buses, however, can be very uncomfortable at times and not good for overnight chilly mountain passes. In the Peruvian Amazon the poorly paved roads disappear and are replaced by the dark waters of jungle rivers. To get around traveling by boat is compulsory and an incredible adventure. Peru also has a few budget airlines connecting all corners of the country if the bus is not for you.
My Favourite Places in Peru
Nazca – First arriving in Nazca can be a daunting experience. The town itself is only a few shops and streets but Nazca is not known for its sightseeing on the ground instead you must hop aboard a small plane to see the wonders of Nazca. Nazca’s famous lines run for miles into the desert and for pictures of animals and questionable characters. Nearby to Nazca is home to some of Peru’s largest sand dunes which offer the opportunity for some off road fun.
Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu and the Inca trail hosts thousands of visitors every year. See Machu Picchu yourself and you too will see what all the hypes is about! There is only one way to put it; Machu Picchu is spectacular. It is what explorer’s dream of seeing in their lifetime. Follow the lama infested Inca trail here and it is even more rewarding. Whatever you do, do not miss out on the wonders of Machu Picchu if you visit Peru.
Cuzco – The culture centre of Peru. Cuzco the capital of the Incas and home to some of Peru’s most interesting sights and museums. Visit ancient Incan mummies and see the treasures of ancient empires before digging into a delicious Incan meal at one of Cuzco’s incredibly vibrant markets. If you’re looking to shop then you have come to the right place; Cuzco is a great place to pick up local handicrafts and uniquely Peruvian souvenirs.
Huaraz – I’ll never forget hiking past Peruvian lama herders on route up the painfully difficult Santa Cruz pass. After reaching the pass and taking in some of Peru’s most beautiful mountain scenery we visited small rural communities with guinea pig and lama farms. Huaraz is an adventure centre that gives you the opportunity to see a “off the beaten track” part of Peru.
Flying above Nazca – Packing tight into a sketchy plane in the early morning doesn’t sound appealing but once you take off the flat sandy terrain reveals Nazca’s true wonders. The Nazca lines are out of this world (some actually think they are!). The lines cut into intricate patterns form ants, birds and a strange looking person. Seeing the Nazca lines really brings appreciation to how unique and complex this there history actually is.
Having Machu Picchu to myself – I was lucky enough to visit Machu Picchu right after the floods ended and there were fewer tourist but If you stay all day you will beat the crowds and have Machu Picchu all to yourself (apart from the friendly lamas). Machu Picchu changes face from different times of day bringing a new outlook and great for pictures!
Shopping in Cuzco – Looking for Lama Wool everything? How about creepy witch artifacts from the local witch market? Cuzco has it all. Artisans from all around the country sell their goods here. Whatever it might be you’re looking for I’m sure in Cuzco you will find it.
Hiking in the Peruvian Andes – The Andes are big! So big that people tend to forget that altitude sickness can be a major problem here. So chew on some Coca and hike past rural communities back dropped with incredible white capped mountain peaks. Hiking here also gives you the chance to stay with a local family and try Cuy (roasted Guinea Pig remember?)
Top Travel Tips For Peru
- Chew Coca to beat the altitude, it really helps
- Be careful at night in the cities, Peru has a high crime rate
- Chicha can cause stomach issues, drink it with care
- Have a taste for Peruvian flute music
- Reserve the Inca trail well in advance (6 months to 1 year prior)
- Be aware of fake hiking companies, they make false promises
- Peru’s weather is unpredictable and it gets cold. Bring a jacket
- Avoid night buses
- Avoid Peruvian tap water, best practice is to drink bottled water
- It can rain a lot in the Andes, bring a rain jacket.