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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.

6 days

Classic Peru & Machu Picchu

The classic route to Peru's most popular highlights
Lima (1 days) Cusco (2) Sacred Valley (1) Machu Picchu (1) Lima (1)
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9 days

Machu Picchu & Amazon cruise

Small-ship luxury cruise with Machu Picchu
Lima (1 days) Iquitos (3) Cusco (2) Sacred Valley (1) Machu Picchu (1) Lima (1)
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9 days

Machu Picchu & Amazon lodge

See Peru from rainforest eco-lodge to mountain empires
Lima (1 days) Puerto Maldonado (3) Cusco (2) Sacred Valley (1) Machu Picchu (1) Lima (1)
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12 days

Highlights of Peru

A grand tour of Peru's mountain civilisation
Lima (1 days) Arequipa (2) Colca Canyon (1) Lake Titicaca (2) Cusco (2) Sacred Valley (1) Machu Picchu (1) Lima (1)
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12 days

Qhapaq Ñan trek to Huanuco Pampa

Explore Peru's grand route of the Incas
Lima (1 days) Cusco (1) Sacred Valley (1) Machu Picchu (1) Cusco (1) Huaraz (5) Huaraz (1) Lima (1)
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8 days

Active Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu trek

Explore Peru's grand route of the Incas
Lima (1 days) Sacred Valley (1) Sacred Valley (1) Peru (1) Machu Picchu (1) Machu Picchu (1) Cusco (1) Lima (1)
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15 days

Iguazu Falls & Andean Highlights

A grand tour of Peru and Brazil
Lima (1 days) Puerto Maldonado (3) Sacred Valley (2) Machu Picchu (1) Cusco (2) Iguazu Falls (2) Rio de Janeiro (3)
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  • Lima

    Lima

    Peru's unfairly overlooked capital
    Peru's sprawling capital city is often overlooked by time-poor visitors en route to more photogenic locations, but dwell a while and you'll find a complex city with onionskin layers of history and excellent museums, a proud contemporary culture, genuinely diverse neighbourhoods, and a world-leading food scene...
  • Cusco

    Cusco

    Capital of the Inca
    Seat of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the epicentre for Peru's tourism industry, drawing millions of visitors en route to Machu Picchu and adventures in the Sacred Valley...
  • Sacred Valley

    Sacred Valley

    Peru's spiritual heartland
    As the Urubamba River descends from Cusco, eventually connecting with tributaries of the mighty Amazon, it has carved out a sweep of valley whose beauty defies imagination...
  • Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu

    Peru's archaeological rock star
    If you're coming to Peru you'll almost certainly visit the ruins that have come to define the entire country...
  • Arequipa

    Arequipa

    Peru's elegant White City
    Peru's second city is an elegant, refined counterweight to Lima's unbridled freneticism...
  • Colca Canyon

    Colca Canyon

    Flight of the condor
    Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon but a fraction of the width, the Colca Canyon cuts a dramatic scar across Peru's southern Andes...
  • Lake Titicaca

    Lake Titicaca

    Shimmering heart of the Andean universe
    A tranquil expanse of turquoise water seemingly at the roof of the world, Lake Titicaca was revered as the birthplace of Peru's original civilisations and the centre of the indigenous cosmos...
  • Puerto Maldonado

    Puerto Maldonado

    Accessible Amazonian adventures
    Puerto Maldonado, in Peru's southern Amazon, is the most accessible entrance to the jungle...
  • Iquitos

    Iquitos

    The jungle city
    Famous for being accessible only by air or boat, Iquitos lies in Peru's distant north-eastern Amazon with a distinct frontier vibe to match...
  • Manú National Park

    ...
  • Chavín de Huántar

    Chavín de Huántar

    "Birthplace of South American culture”
    If you have an interest in Andean civilisation, Chavín de Huántar is vastly more significant than the famed Machu Picchu, but with a fraction of the crowds...
  • Choquequirao

    Choquequirao

    Machu Picchu without the crowds (for now)
    Machu Picchu 2...
  • Trujillo

    Northern historical heartlands
    ...
  • Chiclayo

    ...
  • Huaraz

    ...
  • Arica

    ...

Historical Peru

Alternatives to Machu Picchu

Mysterious archaeological sites, Amazonian cloud forests, desert coastlines and the world’s tallest tropical mountains — Peru is a complex and diverse place full of surprises.

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When to go to Peru

The best time of year to visit Peru & Machu Picchu

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.

When to visit Machu Picchu

Timing your visit to Machu Picchu is about making trade-offs: the drier months bring more crowds, while wetter weather means fewer crowds but potentially worse visibility.

During the dry season skies are mostly clear and free from heavy cloud and mist, and the likelihood of intense rain is low–although still entirely possible!

The downside to the more agreeable climate is that it brings heavy demand, particularly for the peak months between June and August. Travelling during this period necessitates early bookings and advance reservations, particularly when securing the all-important Inca Trail permits.

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Time your visit carefully for uninterrupted views

November to March is the rainy season with heavy rainfall, plenty of cloud cover and muddy trails. But the rainfall is rarely disruptive. There will be heavier cloud cover but it’s the wisps of fog over Machu Picchu that make the classic postcard shot. And then there’s the dramatically lower footfall during this period–incomparably quiet compared to peak season with lower prices and higher availability to match.

For many, the ideal zones are around early May and late September when nights are a bit warmer but you’ll still have a good chance of staying dry. These are also outside of the peak season so the trails and Machu Picchu itself will be that bit quieter.

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 Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias) 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.

Peruvian cuisine — like its climate — can be divided into three geographical branches: mountains, seaside and rainforest. Its influences are many, from the indigenous crops of the Inca through to Spanish colonisation and recent Asian immigrants. Known for its use of local ingredients, expect meals in Peru to come with one of the four staples — beans, quinoa, corn and the ubiquitous potato, of which more than 3,000 varieties are grown.

Food-4

What to eat and drink

Peru has more than 500 national dishes, so it isn’t an easy cuisine to pigeon-hole. However, Peruvian food and flavours focus on fresh, local ingredients. So, in coastal towns, expect to find ceviche (raw fish cured in lime juice), while in the colder, wetter highland, sopa a la criolla (creamy noodle soup with beef and vegetables) will warm you up.

Breakfast in Peru is normally a simple affair of coffee and bread, with lunch considered the main meal of the day and lasting several courses. Dinner tends to be smaller and eaten later.

The basics

Potatoes are everywhere and served with every meal. Peru has a frankly astonishing number of dishes related to the humble tuber, from cold salad dishes like papa a la huancaina (potatoes covered in a creamy cheese sauce) to papa rellena (a deep-fried mince and potato mash).

Less appetising to western palates (but no less tasty) is roasted cuy (guinea pig). Stuffed with herbs and roasted until the meat is succulent and the skin crispy, think of it as a mini suckling pig.

Meat and fish

Both seafood and meat play a huge part in Peru’s culinary scene. With fish, expect numerous variations on traditional ceviche, but also frito (fried), al ajo (cooked with garlic) and as part of a seafood sauce. Crabs, clams, mussels and prawns are also all popular. Avoid ceviche from street food stalls, where the fish isn’t always the freshest.

One of Peru’s most popular culinary exports is lomo saltado (beef stir fry), which mixes traditional and Chinese influences. It’s also worth trying anticuchos de corazon (grilled beef heart skewers marinated in cumin and garlic) and the Latin American staple of arroz con pollo (chicken with rice).

Fruit and vegetables

Alongside the potato, corn is the main vegetarian staple of Peru. Forget the bland imitations you might have encountered — corn comes in many varieties and flavours in Peru. Try roasted choclo, which makes the crispy cancha snack.

Vegetarians are surprisingly well-catered for in Peru. Try tortilla (Spanish omelette with veg), tacu (a bean and rice mix) or ask — most restaurants will make a vegetarian meal to order.

Peru is also home to many unusual fruits. Try lucuma (a flavour mix of maple and sweet potato) cakes, pitihaya (dragon fruit) and camu camu juice (an acidic mix of sour cherry and lime) — you’ll find many more along your journey.

Food-5

Sweets and desserts

Peruvian desserts are often very sweet and sugary. The most well-known is suspiro limeno (a sweet, thickened cream made with almonds and topped with meringue). For something different, try mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding) topped with fruit — it tastes like a sugary cough syrup.

What to drink

Peru’s national drink is a grape brandy called pisco, served at all times of day and occasion. It’s most popular form is the pisco sour, when it’s served with bitters, lime juice and egg white. Local beers are good and generally light lagers, although darker beers are served in some cities. Homemade chicha (corn beer) is popular in the Andes, but is perhaps best avoided by those with a delicate stomach.

For soft drinks, try the neon yellow local Inca Kola, herbal teas and mate de coca (coca leaf tea), which is excellent for high-altitude acclimatisation. Don’t drink unpurified tap water — it’s likely it will make you sick. Stick to bottled water.

Peru travel FAQs

All you need to know to begin planning your trip to Peru

How easy is it to exchange money in Peru?
The currency of Peru is the sol. It is possible to exchange money at airports, banks and even supermarkets in Peru. While street money changers (cambistas) offer some excellent rates, its advisable to avoid changing money in the open. US dollars are also widely accepted in Peru.

Do I need a power adapter in Peru?
Peru uses 220 volt, 60 cycle electricity. Plugs are typically the two-pronged flat pins used in the US, although some places also use two-pronged round pins. You’ll need a power adapter to fit European and British plugs.

What should I buy in Peru?
Peru is known for its textiles, so look for Andean garments made from alpaca wool such as chullos (hats), scarves, rugs and artisan clothing. Clay bowls were a staple of Inca culture, so look for those painted with geometric designs.

Do I need vaccines for Peru?
All travellers should visit their doctor before choosing to travel to Peru, as they will have the most up-to-date information on vaccinations and any health issues. As of 2019, yellow fever is known to be endemic to certain regions of Peru, while the country is also designated as having a Zika virus risk.

Is travel in Peru safe?
The threat of violent crime in Peru is no greater than anywhere else in the world and the Peruvian government has done much to improve security for tourists. Despite this, Peru does experience low-level petty crime, such as pickpocketing. Take the usual precautions, such as making copies of your passport and bank details, keeping cash and bank cards close to your body and packing your camera away when not in use.

Credit card fraud can also be an issue. Be aware if a shop assistant takes your card out of sight or the transaction takes longer than usual to process.

Do I need a permit for the Inca Trail/Machu Picchu?
Since 2002, all travellers wishing to hike the Inca Trail have required a permit. Only 500 people per day can hike the trail and permits must be booked in advance. Book a minimum of six weeks in advance, although for the peak months of June, July and August, several months notice is advised.

For Machu Picchu, you must purchase tickets prior to arriving at the site. This can be done online, or on the ground in Cusco or Aguas Calientes. Tickets give you a date and entry time. You cannot enter before your entry time, but you can enter after.

How long does it take to walk to Machu Picchu?
The classic Inca Trail takes between 4-5 days to reach Machu Picchu, but other routes exist. Depending on the trek you choose, your walk can take between 3-13 days to complete. It is also possible to take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (3 ½ hours), before using a shuttle bus to reach Machu Picchu.

WIll my cellphone work in Peru?
The easiest way to use your cellphone in Peru is to purchase a local SIM card on a pay as you go contract and swap it into your phone. This avoids high roaming charges and also improves you connectivity. You’ll also have a local Peruvian number.

How much should I tip?
Although tipping is customary in restaurants and hotels in Peru, it isn’t necessary to tip taxi drivers. How much you choose to tip waiters depends on the level of restaurant, but 10% is an accepted baseline.

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Where to go in Peru

Our recommended places

Lima

Lima

Peru's sprawling capital city is often overlooked by time-poor visitors en route to more photogenic locations, but dwell a while and you'll find a complex city with onionskin layers of history and excellent museums, a proud contemporary culture, genuinely diverse neighbourhoods, and a world-leading food scene.

Cusco

Cusco

Seat of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the epicentre for Peru's tourism industry, drawing millions of visitors en route to Machu Picchu and adventures in the Sacred Valley. With layers of archaeology built on top of each other (often literally), Cusco and its surroundings can keep you occupied for several days. Ignore the tourist traps and see Cusco for the living, breathing, contemporary city it is.

Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

As the Urubamba River descends from Cusco, eventually connecting with tributaries of the mighty Amazon, it has carved out a sweep of valley whose beauty defies imagination. Little wonder then that the Inca chose this stunning and fertile location as their spiritual and agricultural heartland. Scattered with ruins, towns and villages where Quechua is still commonly heard, the Sacred Valley is much more than a mere stop-off before Machu Picchu. Spend some time here and get a real understanding for Peru's origin story.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

If you're coming to Peru you'll almost certainly visit the ruins that have come to define the entire country. Despite now drawing millions of visitors a year, the crowds can't dent the ruins' sheer scale and undeniable magnificence.

Arequipa

Arequipa

Peru's second city is an elegant, refined counterweight to Lima's unbridled freneticism. A colonial-era city constructed from white volcanic stone, Arequipa is home to some outstanding architecture, fantastic cuisine, and a fiercely independent spirit. The year-round sunshine makes it very tempting to linger.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon but a fraction of the width, the Colca Canyon cuts a dramatic scar across Peru's southern Andes. Well known as a habitat for the condor, indigenous settlements and remote trekking and whitewater rafting. Most visitors make a flying visit from Arequipa, but stay a while and get to know a different side of Peru's Andean civilisation.

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

A tranquil expanse of turquoise water seemingly at the roof of the world, Lake Titicaca was revered as the birthplace of Peru's original civilisations and the centre of the indigenous cosmos. Puno, on the lake's western shores, is a functional but pleasant enough city and makes a good springboard for the islands that dot the shimmering waters. Some of these islands are overdone tourist traps, but get further afield and explore the birthplace of an entire civilisation.

Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado, in Peru's southern Amazon, is the most accessible entrance to the jungle. The town itself is nothing to write home about, but it's the best way of reaching one of the many lodges found deeper in the interior. Some lodges are more luxurious than others but all include guided nature and bird-spotting excursions, delicious meals and the unforgettable experience of drifting asleep to the cacophonous sound of the jungle at night.

Iquitos

Iquitos

Famous for being accessible only by air or boat, Iquitos lies in Peru's distant north-eastern Amazon with a distinct frontier vibe to match. The city itself is a lot of fun to explore, particularly the floating markets and ramshackle neighbourhoods. But its main draw is as the departure point for trips to remote jungle lodges and luxurious river cruises on the mighty Amazon River .

Chavín de Huántar

Chavín de Huántar

If you have an interest in Andean civilisation, Chavín de Huántar is vastly more significant than the famed Machu Picchu, but with a fraction of the crowds. Situated in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, some 160 miles north of Lima and within easy reach of the trekking hub of Huaraz, the site was once the most important pilgrimage destination in the Andes. Due to their extreme age, with portions dating as far back as 1,000 BC, the ruins don't look like much from the outside. But get inside -- and underground -- and you'll discover an eerie world of subterranean passageways, sunken courtyards and carvings that help explain the origins and rituals of the original Andean civilisation.

Choquequirao

Choquequirao

Machu Picchu 2.0: so rave visitors to this mountaintop citadel in Peru’s rugged Vilcabamba region. And indeed, if any Inca ruin can give the more celebrated site a run for its money, it’s this one. Choquequirao is situated on a levelled hill saddle some 60 miles as the crow — or condor — flies from Cusco. The site occupies seven square miles, three times the size of Machu Picchu, with well-preserved walled terraces, plazas, and a variety of temples, halls and other buildings, all set against a backdrop of simply incredible views over the thundering Apurimac River below.

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