Peru

Hidden treasures for those that look

Mention Peru to most and their first response will almost certainly be: Machu Picchu! For better or worse the famed citadel has become virtually synonymous with its host nation. But despite Machu Picchu's unarguable majesty, there is so much more to the rest of the country than these attention-stealing ruins. Pre-Columbian cultures left their indelible mark the length and breadth of Peru while the Incas were still in metaphorically short pants. Beyond archaeology there's world-beating cuisine and a buzzing arts scene in Lima, inconceivably vast Andean landscapes, oh and we haven't even mentioned the Amazon rainforest, which occupies a good two-thirds of the country's territory. Sure, come for the ruins. But leave plenty of time for the rest - you won't regret it.

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Peru travel guides

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Things to do in Peru

Our recommended experiences and activities

Manú National Park

Birdwatching in Manú National Park

Head to Manú National Park for some of the best birdwatching anywhere on earth. Peru’s largest national park is home to around 10 percent of the world’s bird species and is one of the most diverse protected areas on earth.

Typical stay: 5 days
Huaraz

Alternatives to the Inca Trail

Yep, you read that right. Lares, Salkantay and Ausangate are all fine alternatives to the overpopular Inca Trail, but for something completely different look into the Qhapaq Ñan, or head to the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash around the city of Huaraz.

Typical stay: 8 days
Chachapoyas & Kuelap

Visit Peru’s other 'lost city'

While the crowds flock to Machu Picchu take a real adventure to the ruins of Kuélap, in the northern Andes. Predating Machu Picchu by some 900 years, Kuélap offers a glimpse of the diversity of Peru's Pre-Columbian civilisations.

Lima

Explore Lima's arts scene

Frequently seen as little more than a transit hub for Machu Picchu, Lima is in fact one of Latin America's great cities. World-leading gastronomy jostles with a flourishing arts scene, easily filling several days of deep cultural immersion.

Lima

Eat like a king in Lima

Lima’s chefs cook up a storm with the fruits of the sea, mountains and jungle. But it’s not all fine dining and exclusive restaurants: Peru’s is an egalitarian cuisine and you’ll find excellent food at street stalls, local markets and neighbourhood cantinas.

Typical stay: 3 days
Cusco & Sacred Valley

Meet a thriving indigenous culture

Peru is a predominantly indigenous society, which long predates Hispanic influence. Get off the tourist trail and you’ll encounter a distinctive culture of traditional music, festivals and intricate crafts.

Typical stay: 5 days
Arequipa

Explore the White City

Peru’s historic second city, la Ciudad Blanca (the White City) is distinguished by its UNESCO-listed colonial era architecture, fiery cuisine and dramatic setting in the shadow of snow-capped volcanoes.

Typical stay: 2 days
Chavín de Huántar

See the "birthplace of South American culture"

Chavín de Huántar, in Peru's central highlands, dates back to around 1,000 BC and was once one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Andean civilisation.

Typical stay: 1 day
Choquequirao

Hike to Choquequirao

Machu Picchu’s quieter and much harder to reach “sister city” in the rugged Vilcabamba region. Indeed, if any Inca ruin can give the more celebrated site a run for its money, it’s this one.

Typical stay: 5 days
Trujillo

Explore coastal cultures

The Inca steal all the limelight but in historical terms they were mere upstarts. Visit Chan Chan, the Moche Valley and Sipán on Peru’s northern coast for a sense of Peruvian culture before the age of the Inca.

Typical stay: 3 days
Cusco & Sacred Valley

Marvel Cusco's epic architecture

Former capital of the mighty Inca empire, old-town Cusco combines pre-Colombian heritage with colonial-era architecture. Avoid the tourist traps and see Cusco for the living, breathing city that it is.

Typical stay: 5 days
Machu Picchu

The jewel in the crown

Yes it’s famous and busy, but for a perfectly valid reason: Machu Picchu remains one of the world’s preeminent archeological sites. You’re unlikely to catch that classic crowd-free photo, but it doesn’t diminish from the sheer scale and ingenuity of the place.

Typical stay: 2 days
Cusco & Sacred Valley

Delve into the Inca heartlands

The glorious Sacred Valley connects Cusco with Machu Picchu and is dotted with Inca settlements and ruins. Try to get off the beaten path and you’ll quickly encounter a slice of authentic Andean life.

Typical stay: 2 days
Puerto Maldonado

Get wild in the Amazon

Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s southern Amazon basin is a wildlife wonderland. Spend a few nights in a full-service jungle lodge and take guided excursions birdwatching, hiking and canoeing.

Typical stay: 3 days
Lake Titicaca

The lake at the top of the world

Lake Titicaca, on the shores of the town of Puno, is the world’s highest navigable lake. Visit for incredible views and storied indigenous history, but steer clear of the tourist traps.

Colca Canyon

The flight of the condor in Colca Canyon

Head to the second-deepest canyon in the world to see the endangered Andean condor. The Incas thought of the condors as God’s messenger and references to this majestic bird are often found within Incan architecture.

Typical stay: 2 days
Iquitos

Visit the gateway to the Amazon

Iquitos, in the northern Amazon is only accessible by boat or plane. Luxurious jungle lodges offer watery nature-spotting adventures by canoe and boat (look out for the pink river dolphin), and the city itself is a jumble of lively markets and bustling streets with a distinctly frontier vibe.

Typical stay: 4 days
Iquitos

Cruise the Amazon River

From Iquitos board a luxurious river cruise ship for an intimate voyage down the Amazon River to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Swim and kayak from the boat and keep an eye out for macaws, toucans, umbrella birds, monkeys, river otters, river dolphins and more.

Typical stay: 4 days

When to visit Peru

Seasons and climate

Peru’s climate varies depending on where you choose to go, with the country split into three distinct regions: Amazon rainforest, mountainous highlands and the coast. Each region has its own climate, with the rainforest typically hot and wet, the mountains dry and temperate with variations in temperature, and the coast sunny and dry.

While Peru’s seasons can be generally split into wet (October-April) and dry (May-September), the country’s geographical diversity means there’s always somewhere worth visiting no matter the time of year. Just be prepared for the temperature change in the highlands — days can be warm and sunny, but temperatures plummet at night.

Peru_Cusco_weather-chart

Month-by-month

January and February are two of the wettest months to visit Amazonian Peru, with the Inca Trail closing during February for maintenance and cleaning. Instead, head to Peru’s coastal regions or the Chan Chan ruins at Trujillo where the weather is warm and sunny.

March and April see the rains continue across the highlands, but this can be a good time to book permits and treks as travellers wait for the drier summer months. Colonial Arequipa and its smouldering volcanoes in the far south are dry and pleasantly warm around Easter.

The summer months are the peak months for Peru’s historical ruins. Permits for the Inca Trail can book up months in advance as the rains recede in the highlands. Remember that temperatures can drop quickly at night, so pack appropriately.

By September, the crowds are beginning to disperse as the dry season comes to an end. This shoulder season is an excellent time to visit the Amazonian cloud forests around Chachapoyas, with wild flowers in full bloom and an abundance of birdlife. You’ll also find treks less busy — at least until December, when the holiday season brings the crowds back to Peru.

Events and holidays

The wetter months at the start of the year means that celebrations are few and far between until February’s Candlemas, which is especially lively in the mountainous regions. Expect folkloric music and dance over a two-week period.

Peru’s carnival might not be as well-known as Brazil’s, but it is still wildly celebrated across the entire country. Held just before Lent each year, carnival is a riot of parades, costumes and plenty of dancing.

For a taste of an Inca celebration, visit Cusco during June for Inti Raymi (festival of the sun). Held to mark the winter solstice, the Inca festival attracted 25,000 revellers to Cusco. Today, visitors can watch the procession from Cusco to Sacsayhuaman, which culminates in the ritual sacrifice of a llama.

The high season also sees Peru mark its independence day on July 28th and 29th, with festivities in the southern cities beginning earlier than their northern neighbours.

November is Peru’s festival month, with the start of the month celebrating All Saints Day before the world-famous All Souls Day (Dia de Los Muertos on November 2nd). Families take offerings of food and flowers to family graves, with festive parades in Andean towns. Finally, Puno Week (starting November 5th) sees street parades celebrate the emergence of Manco Capac — the first Inca.

Peru recommended routes

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