Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Cordillera Blanca, Cuzco and Huayna Picchu are just some of the sites Peru has to offer from its vast repertoire of natural and urban delights. Llamas, Incan burial grounds, Andean peaks, touristy beaches, Spanish architecture, pan pipes, tafetta dresses, lakes and labyrinthine cities, Creole music, skiing and absolutely delightful cuisine, are some others. To get under Peruvian skin, read ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey’ by Thornton Wilder, watch ‘Fitzcarraldo’ directed by Werner Herzog and listen to ‘Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru’ by David Byrne.
Best time to visit: June to August (the dry season). The average temperature in Peru is is 19.1°C. The highest monthly average temperature is 27°C in February and March, while the lowest monthly average temperature is 14°C in June, July, August, September and October.
The depth and diversity of Peruvian cuisine is comparable with that of France. It has influences of Spain, China, Italy, West Africa and Japan and uses corn, potatoes, beans and traditional foods such as quinoa, kiwicha, chili peppers and several roots and tubers.
Alpaca garments, woven tapestries, dolls, masks, reproductions of pre-Columbian ceramics, tribal jewellery, hunting implements, utensils, hunting bags, Peruvian hats, Pisco Sour, baby alpaca sweaters.
The best and easiest way to see the highlights is on an escorted tour, where all your travel, accommodation and sightseeing arrangements are well taken care of. A knowledgeable local guide brings history and culture to life as you travel in the comfort of your deluxe coach.
Probably one of the best connection is via Paris on Air France, or KLM, or any of the American Airlines. However, be prepared for transit stops and transit visas.
Jorge Chávez International Airport, is Peru's main international and domestic airport. It is located in Callao, 11 kilometers from Lima, the nation's capital city.
There's a good domestic air service in Peru these days. Some places in the jungle can only sensibly be reached by plane and Peru is so vast that the odd flight can save a lot of time.
Driving around Peru is generally not a problem outside of Lima, and allows you to see some out-of-the-way places that you may otherwise miss. However, road traffic in Lima is abominable, both in terms of its recklessness and the sheer volume. Traffic jams are ubiquitous between 8 and 10am and again between 4 and 7pm every weekday, while air pollution from old and poorly maintained vehicles is a real health risk, particularly in Lima and Arequipa.
Taxis can be found anywhere at any time in almost every town. Any car can become a taxi simply by sticking a taxi sign up in the front window; a lot of people, especially in Lima, take advantage of this to supplement their income. Whenever you get into a taxi, always fix the price in advance (in nuevo soles rather than in US dollars) since few of them have meters. Taxi drivers in Peru do not expect tips.
Prices depend on how far across the city you're going, how bad the traffic is and how much you're prepared to pay for a more official or stylish vehicle.
Renting a car costs much the same as in Europe and North America. The major rental firms all have offices in Lima, but outside the capital you'll generally find only local companies are represented. You may find it more convenient to rent a car in advance online – expect to pay from around $40 a day, or $200 a week for the smallest car.
International driving licenses are technically only valid for thirty days in Peru, after which a permit is required.
Peru's buses are run by a variety of private companies, all of which offer remarkably low fares, making it possible to travel from one end of the country to the other (over 2000km) for under $35. The condition of the buses ranges from the efficient and relatively luxurious Cruz del Sur fleet that runs along the coast, to the older, more battered buses used on local runs throughout the country.
For intercity rides, it's best to buy tickets in advance direct from the bus company offices; for local trips, you can buy tickets on the bus itself. On long-distance journeys, try to avoid getting seats right over the jarring wheels, especially if the bus is tackling mountain or jungle roads.
Peru's spectacular train journeys are in themselves a major attraction, and you should aim to take at least one long-distance train ride during your trip, especially as the trains connect some of Peru's major tourist sights. At the time of writing, the Central Railway, which climbs and switchbacks its way up from Lima into the Andes as far as Huancayo on the world's highest standard-gauge tracks, only runs about once a month for passengers (see By train).
The trains move slowly, allowing ample time to observe what's going on outside. For all train journeys, it's advisable to buy tickets a week or two before travelling and even further in advance during high season.
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