Peru has an exotic and mysterious flavor, a country of contrasts, from the coast to the Andes and from there to the tropics; there is a wide range of possibilities for all types of interests. A few of the destinations in the world can match its archaeological treasures and natural attractions.
With an area of 1,285,215 square km (496,222 sq miles), Peru is the third-largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina, ranking it amongst the world's 20 largest nations. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia on the north, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, and Chile to the south.
Peru also holds sway over the sea up to 200 miles
from the Peruvian coast and has territorial rights to an area
of 60 million hectares in the Antarctic. Peru is divided into
Lima, the major international gateway to Peru, is the country’s present-day capital and was once the center of Spanish power in the New World. Founded by conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, for two centuries thereafter it was the political, commercial and ecclesiastic capital of Spanish South America.
Undoubtedly a privileged country for its great natural, cultural and human legacy, Peru’s “living past” amazes visitors. Here, they will find magnificent testimonies to an ancient civilization that dates back six thousand years, with an unmistakable cultural identity that created wonders such as the Royal Tombs of Sipan, the Nasca Lines, Chan Chan and Machu Picchu. And they will be able to see the best examples – in printing, sculpture and architecture – of the fusion of mainly Hispanic culture. Peru is a nation of mixed ethnic origins. Throughout its history, Peru has been the meeting ground for different nations and cultures. The indigenous population was joined 500 years ago by the Spaniards. As a result of this encounter, and later enriched by the migration of African blacks, Asians and Europeans, Peruvian man emerged as the representative of a nation whose rich ethnic mix is one of its leading characteristics.
Nature lovers will feel gratified by the diversity of environments and scenery. They will be amazed by the sharp contrast between forests and deserts on the coast; deep ravines and towering snow-capped mountains in the Andean highlands; densely forested slopes and huge plains of thick vegetation in the Amazon jungle; and they will be surprised at the variety of flora and fauna, unique in the world, that are characteristic to each of these regions.
Adventure travelers will be able to ride tall waves and go looking for underwater life on the long stretches of natural beaches; climb high mountain ranges, explore deep caves, run the longest and biggest rivers on the continent, trek along ancient paths that wind through different eco-systems; and observe endangered species up close in natural reserves of indescribable beauty.
Cusco and Huaraz are the major departure centers for trekking. Most treks in the Peruvian Andes are simple, extended walks along often-steep paths and can be attempted by any reasonably healthy person who is fit enough to wander through altitudes of 10-16,000 ft. May through October are the finest trekking months, when the days are sunny and the nights are cold.
South America’s most famous hike is the Inca Trail, following some 20 miles in the footsteps of the Inca runners and royalty who walked this track through the mountainous terrain between Cusco and Machu Picchu in the 15th century. In addition to its historical appeal, the Inca Trail features amazing archaeological sites and spectacular mountain and cloud forest vistas. The starting point for the hiking trail is “Kilometer 82” on the railroad line from Cusco to Aguas Calientes; the grand finale is Intipuku, the “Sun Gate,” where one catches the first glimpse of Machu Picchu. The trek can take from two and up to five days. If coming to Machu Picchu by train and staying for a night or two at the Machu Picchu site or at Agua Calientes at the base of the mountain, one can have a more in-depth exploration of the area and its formidable yet subtle power.
When it comes to surfing, the biggest wave comes in at Pico Alto, south of Lima, and the biggest break is at Chicama, north of Lima, near Trujillo. There are more than 30 top surfing beaches along the 1,200-mile Pacific coast, and primetime months are September to February in the north, March to December in the south. Wet suits recommended.
Mountain biking is a fairly new sport in Peru, but not for the recreational biker. Peru has miles and miles of fine trail, dirt road and single track in the Andes. Local guides in Huaraz offer single bike rentals and guided tours. Challenging biking itineraries through the Huascaran National Park are the most popular.
There also will be no lack of opportunities for the most demanding of palates to savor the variety and quality of Peruvian cuisine, which offers the visitor the best combination of flavors in the Americas.
Peru can be divided into three geographical regions: desert coast, highlands and jungle. Although this simple division is a fair portrait of Peru's geography, the reality is much richer and far more complex. In Peru, nature appears to have taken on particular characteristics which have turned its mountains, plains, jungles and valleys into unique habitats. An extraordinary variety of eco-systems shelters a wide diversity of animals and plants. Such as the Amazon River (the world’s second longest with 4,050 miles); Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest navigable lake at 12,725 ft above sea level), Mt. Huascaran (Peru’s highest Andean peak and South America’s second tallest mountain at 22,334 ft); the Cotahuasi (which, with over 11,000 ft, is the world’s deepest canyon); and the Colca Canyon (the second deepest, but each twice the depth of the Grand Canyon) just to name a few.
The Desert Coast
The Peruvian coastline is formed by a long snaking desert hemmed in between the sea and the mountains. The Andes to the east and the cold Humboldt Sea current that runs along the coast are what make this area so arid. From the Sechura desert to the Nazca plains and the Atacama Desert, the dry coastal terrain is occasionally split by valleys covered by a thick layer of cloud and drizzle in the winter.
Humidity in these areas produces a sensation of cold, although temperatures rarely dip below 12°C. During the summer, meanwhile, the sun beats down and temperatures often top 30°C. The central and southern sections of the coast feature two well-defined seasons: winter, from April to October, and summer, from November to March. The north coast, meanwhile, is not touched by the effects of the cold current, which means it enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year and warm temperatures all year-long (as much as 35°C in the summer). The rain season runs from November to March
A mountainous area dominated by the Andes, where Mount Huascaran soars to 6,768 meters. In the Peruvian highlands, there are two well-defined seasons: the dry season (from April to October), marked by sunny days, cold nights and the lack of rain (the ideal time for visiting); and the rainy season (November to March), when there are frequent rain showers (generally more than 1000 mm). A characteristic of the mountain region is the drop in temperature, which commonly ranges around 24°C at midday before plunging to -3°C at night.
The steep slopes of the Andes means temperatures
gradually drop in the highest region, known as the puna, the
The dry and pleasant climate in the highlands makes it possible to grow a wide variety of crops there.
A vast region of tropical vegetation in the Amazon River Basin, home to Peru's largest natural reserves
The vast Peruvian jungle, which surrounds the wide and winding Amazon river, is divided into two differentiated areas: the cloud forest (above 700 masl), which features a subtropical, balmy climate, with heavy rain showers (around 3000 mm a year) between November and March, and sunny days from April to October; and the lowland jungle (below 700 masl), where the dry season runs from April to October and is ideal for tourism, with sunshine and high temperatures often topping 35°C.
During this season, the river levels dip and roads are easy to drive. The rainy season, meanwhile, which runs from November to March, features frequent rain showers (at least once a day) which can damage roads in the area.
The jungle features high humidity all year long.
In the southern jungle, there are sometimes cold spells known
locally as friajes or surazos, cold fronts which drift up from
the far south of the continent between May and August, where
temperatures can drop to 8-12°C
Note: To calculate Fahrenheit temperatures: 9/5 (ºC) + 32
Approximately 27 million inhabitants.
Spanish is the official language, spoken by 80% of the population. Quechua is the main language in the highlands; the people living around Lake Titicaca speak Aymara. The indigenous people living in the Amazon area speak many different dialects
CLIMATE & CLOTHING
In Lima, December to April are the warmest, sunniest months and it seldom rains. The wettest months are June to August. Lightweight clothes are needed from October to May.
In the highlands, the driest months are June to October. Day temperatures range from the high 60ºF/15ºc to the low 70ºF/20ºC, and in the 40ºF/4ºC and 50ºF/10ºC at night. Sweater, jacket and long slacks are necessary. Rainwear is needed from December to March since it is rainy season in the highlands.
In the lowlands, the average temperature is 80ºC/27ºC. Rainfall is most intense from June to November. Clothing requirements are the same all year: light, tropical clothes, long pants and long sleeved shirts for jungle outings.
The official currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol (S/.), which is divided into 100 centimos. The currency includes coins for 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimos and 1, 2 and 5 sol coins. There are bills in the denomination of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Nuevos Soles. (add link to exchange rate)
LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE CODES
Peru : 51, Lima 1, Cusco 84, Arequipa 54, Puno 51, Ica 56, Trujillo 44, Chiclayo 74, Iquitos 65, Puerto Maldonado 84
220 volts. Major hotels have 110-volt outlets
For entry, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for the Amazon rainforest areas. When in Peru, the Peru Tourist Office recommends that you only drink bottled water.
Valid passport. Visas are required for citizens of certain countries. Inquire with the Peruvian consular representation in your country if you need further information. Their addresses and telephone numbers can be found in the web site of the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.rree.gob.pe
New Year’s Day : January 1
Holy Week : Holy Thursday and Good Friday (dates vary)
Labor Day : May 1
Feast of SS. Peter and Paul : June 29
National Days July 28 and 29
St. Rose of Lima : August 30
Battle of Angamos : October 8
All Saints Day : November 1
Inmaculate Conception : December 8
Christmas Day : December 25
Perú: World Heritage
The city of Cuzco, declared a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1983.
Machu Picchu, was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site also in 1983.
The temple or fortress of Chavin de Huantar, declared a World Cultural Heritage in 1985.
The Huascaran National Park, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1985.
Chan Chan is another of the 10 sites inscribed as World Cultural Heritages by UNESCO, this in 1986.
The Manu National Park, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1987
Lima's Historical Centre, declared a World Cultural Heritage in 1991.
The Rio Abiseo National Park, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1990.
The Nazca Lines and the Pampas de Juma were declared a World Heritage site in 1994.
Arequipa's Historical Centre, declared a World Cultural Heritage in 2000.