Peru experiences two very distinct seasons, wet and dry - terms that are more relevant than "summer" and "winter." Peru's high season for travel coincides with the driest months: May through September, with the most visitors in July and August. May and September are particularly fine months to visit much of Peru.
Peru is in the same zone as U.S. EST (GMT -5 hours).
Nuevo Sol (S/), divided in 100 cents. Coins come in 5,10,20 and 50 cents. Banknotes are in denominations of 10 20 50 100 and 200. US dollars are welcome at most shops, restaurant and services stations at the current exchange rate.
About Peru Travel
Amazon Jungle: The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse locations left in the world. Traveling along the Amazon and its main tributaries is an amazing adventure. Cruise options include four, five and eight days. Wildlife is abundant, including herons, jacanas, macaws, howler and squirrel monkeys, primates, and sloths. River trips explore the confluence of the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers, and the point where the Amazon River takes its name, 3,862 kilometers/2,400 miles from the Atlantic. Riverbank settlements offer the chance to get acquainted with indigenous people. Daily activities may vary due to season or prevailing conditions for each day, but the list of options includes birding watching treks, boat journeys, swimming, fishing, walking on hanging bridges in the treetops or paddling traditional canoes. Another option is to explore Amazonia from a jungle lodge in the depths of the wilderness. Guests set their own pace – be that a siesta in a hammock, a guided botanical walk, or a nighttime stroll to see caiman and the Southern Hemisphere stars.
Arequipa and Colca Canyon: Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, is often acclaimed as the most beautiful. This “white city” was built using volcanic stone. It sits at an altitude of 2,325 meters/7,627 feet with a backdrop of snowy volcanoes. The Spanish founded Arequipa in 1540. The city’s landmarks include Santa Catalina Convent, dating from the 16th century, and the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by doublestoried, arched colonial buildings and a huge cathedral. Its lovely twin towers collapsed in a 2001 earthquake. Here, too, in the high Andes of southern Peru is Colca Canyon, which reaches staggering depths of 3,353 meters/11,000 feet, making it twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This is the land of the great Andean condor and never-ending vistas.
Cusco and Urubamba (Sacred) Valley: At nearly 3,353 meters/11,000 feet, Cuscobasks in bright, cool high-altitude sunlight. It is masterfully laid out and brimming with Incan and Spanish treasures, cobblestone streets, lovely plazas and small shops offering everything from upscale clothing to traditional crafts. It has fine hotels and excellent restaurants. Urubamba Valley is fed by several rivers that course down through adjoining valleys and gorges. The valley contains outstanding archaeological remains and small villages. It was one of the Incan empire’s primary points for producing maize. Many descendants of the Inca in the area continue to carry on the traditions of their ancestors. The popular Pisaq Indian Market is open daily, but the best day to visit is Sunday when locals go to market. The village of Chinchero is home to local artists skilled at back-strap weaving, a technique handed down through generations. Some designs date back two millennia. Willoq is another small Andean community known for the unique textile designs produced by the women and girls of the village. Ollantaytambo features Incan fortress ruins. The Incan agricultural terraces at Moray are about 50 kilometers/31 miles northwest of Cuzco on a high plateau at about 3,500 meters/11,500 feet. This archaeological site might have been used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. In other words, Moray was perhaps an Inca agricultural experiment station, and, as with many other Inca sites, it also has a sophisticated irrigation system.
Inca Trail: The six-day trek along the mythic Inca Trail travels the Piscacucho/Huayllabamba route along some of the very same trails used by ancient Incas. This high-altitude hike crosses rivers, cloud forest, valleys and mountain passes as high as Warmiwañusqa Pass at 4,199 meters/13,776 feet. The final section of the trail is a stunningly beautiful traverse leading to the Sun Gate, which overlooks the citadel of Machu Picchu. Hiking the Inca trail has become a grand challenge, but its high altitude requires walkers to be in good physical condition.
Lake Titicaca: On the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable body of water at more than 3,658 meters/12,000 feet. In addition to its altitude, this scenic lake is known for its indigenous cultures. This is the home of dozens of the floating reed islands of the Uros people. Established in 1668, Puno is the capital and largest city the region. It spreads along the shores of the lake, and is considered the folklore capital of Peru for its wealth of artistic and cultural heritage, especially in dance. Taquile Island is about 32 kilometers/20 miles from Puno and known for its weavers. It once served as a prison when Peru was a Spanish colony and it remained so even into the 20th century. Pre-Inca ruins are found on the highest part of the island.
Lima: Peru’s capital city stretches along the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1535, it was the seat of Spanish power in the New World for 300 years. In the 17th century, it had a trading network that stretched to Europe and the Philippines. The city center is noted for colonial architecture such as Plaza de Armas, presidential palace, the ornate 16th-century cathedral and the catacombs of the Convento de San Francisco. Lima enjoys a legacy of art from its colonial period. Its museums are bursting with artifacts of gold, ceramic and weavings. The Rafael Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum has a captivating collection of pre-Inca artifacts – pottery, gold and silver works, mummies, and more. It also features a one-of-kind collection of erotic ceramics from the Chimu, Mohica and other Pre-Inca civilizations. Lima’s renowned cuisine fuses Andean and Spanish traditions with influences from many countries.
Machu Picchu: The 15th-century Lost City of the Incas is more than just a place to visit. These stone ruins are as much about an experience as about a destination. Machu Picchu stands at an altitude of 2,430 meters/7,972 feet in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. It was an amazing urban creation with its giant walls, terraces and ramps, which seems as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. For many, it is an extraordinary, spiritual experience; and for everyone, it is dazzling and dramatic. It was built around 1460 AD, but abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers 100 years later during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. It is classic Inca style with polished dry-stone walls. Mysteries still linger such as how the Inca moved the large rocks they used to construct the city. Each stone block was carefully carved to fit with the other stones without cement or mortar. Machu Picchu is quite simply mesmerizing.
Nazca Lines & Paracas: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fascinating Nazca Lines are enigmatic figures in the desert that are 2,000 years old. Many questions remain as to their origins and purpose. The patterns of lines are put into perspective from the air, when they transform into monkey, spider, bird, fish and reptile, ranging in size up to 305 meters/1,000 feet. Scenic flights from Ica (weather permitting) fly above these ancient earth drawings. The resort town of Paracas, nearby, is where the desert and the sea come together. The Paracas culture was an important Andean society between approximately 750 BC and 100 AD. It was known for the high quality of its textiles and weavings. Cliffs that are home to millions of birds rim the town’s beaches. Boats cruise out to see the Islas Ballestas, where the wildlife has been likened to the Galapagos. No boats land on these islands to protect the colonies of sea lion, Humboldt penguin and seabirds.
Northern Peru: Northern Peru boasts a rich array of distinctive and ancient pre-Columbian cultures in Trujillo (Chimú); Chiclayo (Moche) and Cajamarca (pre-Chavin and Inca). Founded in 1536, Trujillo has a cathedral, ten colonial churches, convents and monasteries. It serves as a base to visit Chan Chan, Huanchaco Beach, Huaca del Sol y la Luna and El Brujo. The metropolis of Chan Chan, the ancient capital of the Chimu Empire, was built entirely of mud and adobe bricks. Huanchaco Beach is home to the famous “Caballitos de Totora,” reed watercrafts used by Peruvian fishermen for 3,000 years. Chiclayo was a rural Indian village dating back to the 16th century and has a neoclassical cathedral and a daily market. It became a major regional center, with successive occupations by the Lambayeque/Sican (800-1350 CE), that left behind pyramids and the 2,000-year-old royal tomb of Lord of Sipan, where excavations have yielded fine examples of art. Túcume is south of the La Leche River on a plain around La Raya Mountain and encompasses 26 major pyramids and mounds. Cajamarca in the northern highlands of Peru dates back more than 2,000 years with traces of pre-Chavín and Inca cultures that can still be seen in surrounding archaeological sites such as Cumbe Mayo and Kuntur Wasi. The city of Cajamarca brings together three ingredients that make it an unforgettable destination – magnificent colonial architecture, beautiful landscapes and rich history. Here, the conqueror Francisco Pizarro captured the Incan leader Atahualpa, who, despite complying with the agreed ransom, was killed. The conquerors then laid out the city in the Spanish style – seen today in colonial buildings, monuments, the cathedral, and the churches of San Francisco, Bethlehem and the Recoleta district. In Northern Peru, it is important to note that certain locales, while fascinating, are extremely difficult to reach due to bad roads, weather and other factors. We mention them here because these remote sights are for the true adventure traveler. Chachapoyas, for example, remains largely unknown due to access, but this hidden gem is home to the culture by the same name, which dates back to 750–800 CE. The remarkable Kuelap, near here, has been called the little Machu Picchu. This ancient stone city with walls up to 12 meters/39 feet high, is the largest pre-Inca ruin in South America, yet it remains almost completely unknown to outside visitors. Revash is the site of cliff tombs that look like small houses with many pictographs. The Museum of Leymebamba houses some 219 mummies and thousands of artifacts recovered from cliff tombs such as those of Tajopampa. But nature has also blessed the area with waterfalls such as the Yumbilla Waterfalls, the world´s third highest waterfall; and the Gocta Waterfalls, noted as the world´s fourth highest waterfall. Both require extensive hikes to reach them. Huaraz is home to Huascaran National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and well-known to mountaineers. With a unique biodiversity profile, the park ranges from 3,500 to 6,768 meters/11,483 to 22,205 feet. Northern Peru offers a richness of exceptional off-the-beaten-track charms that most of the world has yet to discover.
Tambopata National Reserve: Tambopata National Reserve is part of the great Tambopata Madidi Wilderness on the Peru-Bolivia border. The Tambopata River watershed is one of the world’s richest ecosystems in terms of biodiversity. The area includes forest species of economic importance such as cedar, mahogany and palm trees as well as endangered giant river otters and vulnerable species such as the anteater, giant armadillo, black spider monkey, jaguar, pink river dolphin, yellow-headed river turtle and the anaconda. Tambopata National Reserve is also strikingly beautiful with lush vegetation, rivers and cascading waterfalls. The reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park have been listed as vulnerable due to threats that include gold mining, illegal logging and excessive extraction of other natural resources.
Undiscovered Peru: Several ancient cultures occupied the areas around Trujillo, Chiclayo and Cajamarca. Trujillo has a cathedral, ten lovely colonial churches, convents and monasteries. It serves as a base to visit Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. Chan Chan was built 850 and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in 1470. Chiclayo, once a rural Indian village, has a neoclassical cathedral and a daily market. Near Chiclayo is the Sipan, an imposing complex where excavations have yielded fine examples of pre-Colombian art. In the most extravagant Moche tomb, some 1800 years old, El Senor de Sipan, a priest, was found clad in gold, and with turquoise and other valuables. The Bruning Museum, north of Chiclayo in Lambayeque, specializes in Mochica, Lambayeque, Chimu and Vicus cultures, and has a fine collection of Sipan and Lambayeque gold. Cajamarca in the northern highlands dates back more than 2,000 years with traces of pre Chavín cultures that can still be seen in surrounding sites. Cajamarca is considered the place where the Inca Empire ended when Spanish soldiers captured and later killed the last Incan emperor.
Suggested Peru Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Lima, Peru
Founded in 1535, Peru’s capital city was the seat of Spanish power in the New World for three centuries.
Day 2: Lima
The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site honored for its exquisite Spanish colonial architecture.
Day 3: Lima / Cusco / Urubamba (Sacred) Valley
Urubamba Valley boasts a wealth of Inca sights.
Day 4: Sacred Valley
The ruins of Moray are ancient agricultural terraces of circular and concentric shape, built by the Incas as a seed-producing area for the principal crops of the empire.
Day 5: Sacred Valley / Machu Picchu
The awe-inspiring fortress of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, rises some 2,408 meters/7,900 feet above sea level and rests within a spectacular framework of jungle and the rugged mountain peaks.
Day 6: Machu Picchu / Cusco
Exploring Machu Picchu, the Indian market in the village of Aguas Calientes and walking cloud forest trails are options today.
Day 7: Cusco / Chalhuanca
The day’s journey travels from the Andes to the Pacific Coast on the new Interoceanic Highway, taking in the Zurite Archaeological Complex, which boasts the largest group of terraced hills fashioned by the Incas.
Day 8: Chalhuanca / Nazca
Caraybamba is, as yet, a largely unknown but the impressive archeological site has terraced slopes that rise from the banks of a river up to the top of the mountains.
Day 9: Nazca / Paracas
The mythic Nazca Lines and Palpa Lines, seen from the air, are a series of ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert with hundreds of figures depicting stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas and lizards.
Day 10: Paracas
The famous Ballestas Islands serve as an important sanctuary for marine life such as the guanay guano bird, the blue-footed booby and the as Humboldt penguin, while Paracas Bay is said to have the greatest concentration of birds in the world.
Day 11: Paracas / Lima / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Amazon Jungle (4, 5 or 8 days)
One of the last true wildernesses left, the Amazon can be explored by cruise or from a jungle resort.
Arequipa, Colca Canyon & Lake Titicaca (6 days)
Arequipa is the gateway to the remarkable Colca Canyon. Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake.
Inca Trail (6 days)
This popular hiking adventure follows in the footsteps of the ancient Inca, and at trail’s end is stunning Machu Picchu.
Nazca Lines & Paracas (3 days)
The 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines still offer countless mysteries. Nearby is the resort town of Paracas.
Tambopata National Reserve (4 days)
The reserve is strikingly beautiful with lush vegetation, rivers and cascading waterfalls.
Undiscovered Peru (4 days)
Ancient cultures occupied Trujillo and Chiclayo leaving behind pyramids and the royal tomb of Lord of Sipan.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$500 per person per day