Images of Incas, llamas and deep, dark jungles conjure up a magical picture of Peru. But there is plenty more for you to discover in this diverse and fascinating country, blessed with attractions, activities and culture to rival any other South American destination.
Let’s look at some of the many reasons to visit Peru:
1. Peru’s Pre-Columbian Ruins
Machu Picchu may be the king of Peru's ancient sites, but it is certainly not the only jewel in Peru's archeological crown. A fine selection of fascinating ruins lies scattered around the old Inca capital of Cusco, while many cities have pre-Columbian constructions sitting nearby.
2. Culinary Delights
Peruvian cuisine is rapidly making its mark on the global culinary map, and with good reason. Travelers can indulge in a wide variety of regional delights, including arguably the continent's finest ceviche(raw seafood in a lime marinade), traditional specialties such as alpacasteak and roasted cuy (the infamous guinea pig), and tasty, leaf-wrapped Peruvian snacks like juanes, tamales and humitas.
3. Geographic Diversity
As any Peruvian child will happily tell you, Peru is the proud owner of costa, sierra y selva -- the three geographic regions of coast, highland and jungle. Even during a short visit, Peru's diversity is more than evident. A 14-hour bus ride can take you from the desert coast to the chilly heights of the Andean range, before plunging down into the vast Peruvian Amazon.
4. A Trekker's Paradise
Peru's distinct environmental regions provide excellent trekking options for both experienced hikers and casual trekkers alike. There are plenty of trails to choose from, including multi-day slogs and one-day walks.
5. Vibrant Cultural Festivals
The Peruvian year is dotted with colorful festivals. During Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, religious processions block the streets with a fascinating blend of colonial and indigenous traditions. Cusco celebrates the great Inca festival of Inti Raymi on June 24, making it a popular time to visit Peru and Machu Picchu. In the jungle, the same day marks the Festival of San Juan, a day of wine and relaxation along the riverbanks followed by an epic night of dancing.
6. To meet the people
It’s always interesting to meet new people and to experiment new cultures, but Peruvians make this act an even more interesting and enjoyable experience. Many Peruvians still have a direct link with their Inca ancestors, proudly conserving the Quechua culture that is so important to Peru’s past.
Most people are hard workers, extremely polite, peaceful, helpful, and curious about the interest in their visitors. Many of them have never traveled out of the country or even out of their cities or villages. Sharing stories with them makes for an interesting learning experience about the country and about their tales.
7. To enjoy their handcrafts
Where can you find Peruvian history, culture, art, and exceptional skills all into one? The answer is; in their handcrafts.
Textiles are some of the most famous handcrafts you’ll find in any part of Peru. You can see the women weaving those exquisite patterns that make up a decorative wall carpet, scarf, jumper, or anything in between.
Other great artisanal crafts are found in the form of instruments, wood carvings, canvas paintings, jewelry, and more. Not only do these make great souvenirs and travel mementos, but by buying them you are helping to support their traditions and are giving the opportunity of decent living to a family.
8. To enjoy their drinks!
Great drinks must accompany great food. Right? Peru makes sure that’s the way it’s done. Whether you prefer the bubble gum tasting Inca Kola or the strong beers, Peruvian drinks will make you addicted to them.
Some of the local drinks you will find (and love) are the famous wines from the Ica region, the pisco sours (a sweet, lime tasting, but strong drink containing egg whites – check out this post to learn how to make it), the emoliente, and the coca tea (perfect to prevent altitude sickness).
If you’re like me and love to drink Coca Cola, then you’ll taste the best Cokes in the world while there. They are sweetened with real sugar!
When traveling to Peru you'll most likely fly into Lima, a city rich with Pre-Columbian ruins and enchanting Spanish Colonial architecture.
It was my first time visiting the country, so I was happy to be traveling with Globus, an experienced tour company that focuses on authentic cultural experiences.
10. Mystic Peru
Peru has a rich tradition of healers and spiritual advisors, from Andean curanderos to Amazonian shamans. You can take a spiritual journey with an ayahuasca ceremony, or maybe have a guinea pig rubdown to extract the impurities from your body.
11. Peruvian Hospitality
Whether quietly reserved or smilingly helpful, Peruvians are always happy to welcome tourists to their proud nation. With just a basic command of Spanish, you will never be short of a local or two for a bout of cultural chitchat over a cool beer or a freshly squeezed fruit juice. Peruvians also love to dance, so be prepared to bust out some moves.
- Machu Picchu & Inca Trail, visit the ‘ Lost city of the Inca’s ‘ - Lake Titicaca, a beautiful ale on the border of Peru and Bolivia- Nazca Lines, an archeological mystery
Peru, in western South America, extends along the Pacific Ocean. Colombia and Ecuador are to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Five-sixths the size of Alaska, Peru is divided by the Andes Mountains into three sharply differentiated zones. To the west is the coastline, much of it arid, extending 80 to 160 km inland. The mountain area, lofty plateaus, and deep valleys lie centrally. Beyond the mountains to the east is the heavily forested slope leading to the Amazonian plains.
The people of Peru speak three different languages: Spanish, Quechua (both of these are considered official languages) and Aymara, which although it is spoken widely in Peru, is not considered an official language as such.
Peru is typical of many South American countries in that it effectively operates a dual-currency system. Both the US dollar (dólares) and the Peruvian Nuevo Sol (soles) are in circulation and although the government prefers people to use soles, most sizeable purchases are made in dollarsUSD 1 = 3.07 Soles (February 2015)
Peru’s three distinct regions have very different climates and weather conditions. In fact, they say that of the world’s 103 categorized ecological zones, scientists have identified 83 within Peru’s borders. That should give you an idea of the variety one may find. To start with, the seasons are flipped - December, January and February being Peru’s summer months and June, July and August being their winter. Summer and winter will mean different things in different parts of Peru.The best time to go to Peru’s coast is their summer, and the best time to go to the mountains is September or May when you get a bit of both worlds. The nights aren’t as cold as in June or July but it still tends to be dry.
Typical Peruvian dishes are tasty and vary regionally. Seafood is, understandably, best on the coast, while the Inca delicacy - roast guinea pig - can be sampled in the highlands. Other dishes include: lomo saltado (chopped steak fried with onions); cebiche de corvina (white sea bass marinated in lemon, chilli and onions, often served cold with a boiled potato or yam); and sopa a la criolla (a lightly spiced noodle soup with beef, egg, milk and vegetables).
Peru was once part of the great Incan Empire and later the major vice-royalty of Spanish South America. It was conquered in 1531–1533 by Francisco Pizarro. On July 28, 1821, Peru proclaimed its independence, but the Spanish were not finally defeated until 1824. For a hundred years thereafter, revolutions were frequent.
The religion of Peru is an inheritance of the Spanish conquest, for this reason, it is a mainly Catholic country (more than 75% of the population). Moreover, recently many diverse churches have appeared, the Peruvian population is still very religious and there are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Adventists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Hare Krishnas. Religious activity in Peru is important, and for many people, one of the "centers of energy" in the world is the city of the Cusco.
In Peru about 3000 typical fiestas are celebrated every year. The majority of those are organized to celebrate the day of a saint. A good example of this “cultural syncretism” is the Festivity of Corpus Christi in Cusco. This religious day, originally introduced by the Spaniards, was accepted by the Peruvian inhabitants as for them it had little to do with Catholicism, so much more with an old Inca ritual. Especially in the traditional village high up in the mountains or in the jungle, there are several traditional celebrations, that related to ancient myths and/or important agricultural dates.
Peruvian music is almost entirely folk music, while its literature has many poets. Peruvian music is an amalgamation of sounds and styles drawing on Peru's Andean musical roots and Spanish musical influences. Native Peruvian music is dominated by the national instrument, the charango. The charango is a type of mandolin, and was invented in Bolivia by musicians imitating Spanish lutes and guitars. In the Canas and Titicaca regions, the charango is used in courtship rituals, symbolically invoking mermaids with the instrument to lure the woman to the male performers.
Peru has the greatest bio-diversity in the world, thanks to the presence of the Andes, Amazon and Pacific. There are 53 protected natural areas throughout the country. There are over 1,800 species of birds, hundreds of mammals including rare cats like jaguar and pumas, bears, and river dolphins; the coast is rich in marine life and a great place to see sea-lions and myriad seabirds.The Highlands are famous for the presence of wild camelids alpacas and vicuñas which were hunted for wool and meat. In the Amazon, there is a diverse fauna including monkeys, jaguar, snakes, crocodiles, wild boars, macaws, parrots and hundreds of other kinds of birds. It is possible to watch caiman alligators and turtles in the rivers or fish for piraña. The Pacific region has a lot of seabass, flounder, anchovies, tuna, crustacean and shellfish. It has also sharks, sperm whales and whales. Birds have an economic importance because of the concentrations of guano deposits that are used as fertilizer.
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