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Peru

Peru

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

4.5

Total Stars:

9.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Best liked by all Venturesome personalities; less so by Authentic types

Did You Know … ?

  • Caral, estimated to be 5,000 years old, is the oldest known city in the New World.
  • About a fifth of all Indians in the Americas live in Peru.
  • The desert that abuts Peru’s Pacific coast is drier than the Sahara.
  • Andean farmers devised the first method for freeze-drying potatoes, an indigenous plant.
  • The word jerky, for dried meat, derived from Quechua, one of Peru’s two official languages.

Land of Machu Picchu

Peru is nearly as big as the landmass accounted for by Quebec, Canada’s largest province, and with that size comes enough diversity to satisfy a wide range of interests.

The country’s terrain varies from a Pacific coast with adjacent desert on the west, a central highlands area dominated by the Andes Mountains and, in Peru’s easternmost areas, the rain forests and jungle of the Amazon basin. As a result, this South American country offers surfing, trekking, whitewater rafting and more for active travelers, plus a rich diversity of wildlife to be viewed and appreciated.

More importantly for many tourists, Peru has a compelling and long history. The most recent and best known aspects involve the Incas, who created an empire that extended 2,500 miles along the western coast of the continent, and the Spanish conquistadors who conquered them in the 1530s. The Spaniards then built what became known as colonial cities, exemplified by Lima’s historic center, Arequipa and Trujillo. As for Cusco, it was largely rebuilt to Spanish tastes, but — as architectural evidence confirms — it was Incan first.

Visitors may combine activity and interest by walking the Inca Trail from Cusco, the Incan capital, to the mountaintop citadel, Machu Picchu, or by taking a llama trek on a pre-Incan road.

Indeed, the Incas were latecomers. The oldest ruins at Caral are 5,000 years old, but tourists are more likely to visit those left by the Moche (200 B.C.-700 A.D.) and Chimu (900-1450) on the north coast, and view, by air, the Nasca Lines, left by the Nasca people (200 B.C.-900 A.D.) to the south.

Descendants of defunct civilizations are much in evidence in a country where Indians are 45% of the population and mestizos another 37%. Some 2 million Peruvians speak only Quechua, the language of the Incas, and a smaller number use Aymara, the language of a people conquered by the Incas.

Representatives of considerably smaller minorities also welcome visitors, including the Uros who live on reed islands in Lake Titicaca (accessible from Puno) and any of a number of tribal groups in the Amazon basin. Amazon journeys are also particularly attractive for bird-watchers.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Spend time in a jungle lodge on the Amazon. Take guided walks to view wildlife, and visit villages of the indigenous inhabitants.
  • Walk the Inca Trail and arrive at sunrise at the top of a hill overlooking Machu Picchu.
  • Ride a sand buggy onto the giant dunes found in Peru’s patch of the Atacama Desert; ride down the dunes on a sandboard.
  • Plot an itinerary that lets you visit several archaeological sites connected to any of the several civilizations that predated the Incas.
  • Join a llama trek across the White Mountain range; such excursions ensure the llamas can continue to function in a traditional role as pack animals.
  • Go whitewater rafting on any of several rivers; choices include the Apurimac and Tambopata rivers. Also, the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley near Cusco is an option.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Fly over the Nasca lines. The Nasca people etched an astonishing series of figures into the desert floor, and they are best appreciated from the sky.
  • From Puno, take a boat trip to visit the Uros people on the reed islands in Lake Titicaca.
  • Take the train from Cusco to see Machu Picchu, the citadel abandoned by the Incas centuries ago.
  • Witness an Inca ritual called Warachikuy, now known as the Ritual Festival of Peru’s National Identity, at the Sacsayhuaman ruins outside of Cusco. The event, which celebrates young boys’ passage into adulthood, occurs on the third Sunday of September.
  • Alternatively, in June, attend the colorful Inti Raymi, meaning the Festival of the Sun, in Cusco. Dating from Inca times, it honors the sun god with parties and ritual performances.
  • If you can deal with the crowds, attend the largest religious procession in the Americas in late October in Lima; it is the Senor de los Milagros procession.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Buy examples of locally woven goods as souvenirs. Items can be large and dramatic wall hangings.
  • Stay at the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco. The upscale property pipes oxygen into rooms, which provides some relief from the thin air in high-altitude Cusco.
  • Visit the modern art museum in Trujillo. It opened in 2006.
  • Also, see the ice mummy display in the Museo Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa, the metropolis known as the white city because of its buildings made from white volcanic stone.
  • Take a guided tour to see the best of colonial architecture in any city or cities on your itinerary.
  • Choose a hotel with spa facilities and enjoy a relaxing day between bouts of sightseeing.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Peru Export and Tourism Promotion Board (PromPeru) at www.peru.travel and choose your country and language if necessary.