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From towering Andean peaks to sunny beaches, sweeping deserts and verdant Amazonian jungles, Peru has a natural setting to please any traveler, whether you are an avid trekkers or a sand-seeking beach bums.
You will be mesmerized by ancient sites like Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines. Discover the depths of the Colca Canyon or the heights of Lake Titicaca and the natural diversity of the Manu National Park. Sink your teeth into the culinary delights that have made Peruvian tables famous throughout the globe. Rest your head at some of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious hotels and resorts. Explore Peru’s ancient mysticism and healing traditions, or indulge in more modern and cosmopolitan retail therapy.
With so many daily flights from destinations all around the United States and Europe, it has never been easier to access Peru.
The country sits on the western coast of South America, bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and the Pacific Ocean. The main port of entry into Peru is the capital of Lima, where you will fly into the Jorge Chavez International Airport.
It is not necessary for tourists from North America to obtain a visa to travel to Peru. Only a valid passport is required. You will also receive a departure ticket wchi you must keep until you leave Peru. Before leaving the country visit the emigration office for an exit stamp.
Depending on where you want to travel in Peru, getting around is quite easy. A variety of domestic airlines, as well as a rail system make it possible to experience all the different corners and climates that this diverse country has to offer.
The Spanish architecture throughout the country is some of the most beautiful in all of Latin America. The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin in Cusco is a classic example of Spanish architecture situated on the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city. Architectural highlights in Lima that are vestiges of Peru’s Spanish Colonial past include the Municipal Palace, the Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor, and the Walls of Lima.
Though Peru is steeped in centuries of tradition and history, Lima, the country’s capital is as vibrant and energetic as any top cosmopolitan destination of the 21st century.
Lima will without a doubt be your first stop in modern Peru. The city has a population of almost 10 million, making it the third largest city in the Americas after Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Lima is naturally chock full of historic sites and architectural marvels as well as world class museums, but its gastronomy, hotels and nightlife allow it to compete on a scale with Latin America’s other major urban destinations. And with its location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, travelers have a taste of both city and sea.
Lima has rose through the ranks of the culinary world, gaining attention from publications like Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and the Economist, all of which have named Peru a rising star in the world of gastronomy, at which Lima is the epicenter. Whereas in the past, travelers would head straight for Cusco to begin their historic journey, now thousands of travelers visit Lima every year purely to explore its cuisine.
Though Cusco is the jumping off point for visiting Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and numerous other Incan sites in the area, the city itself can be a destination all its own. The city has numerous museums and galleries, showcasing everything from indigenous to modern art.
While visiting Cusco, tourists can purchase a Boleto Turistico, or a tourist ticket that will give them access to archaeological sites, museums and monuments in Cusco and around the city, well into the Sacred Vallay (towns of Chinchero and the sites of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Tipón, and Pikillacta).
One of the most important cities in southern Peru is Arequipa, a coastal city surrounded by three volcanos. The city is part of the “Southern Peru Tourist Corridor,” together with Nazca, Puno and Cusco. While there are no Inca archeological sites in Arequipa, the city still manages to showcase the unique juxtaposition of indigenous and Spanish cultures. Found more than 450 years ago, UNESCO has added the city as a Human Heritage site.
While in town be sure to stroll the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Arequipa, fringed with buildings made of white, volcanic stone called sillar. It is due to this color that Arequipa is often called “the White City”. Three blocks from the square sits the San Camilo Market, which is one of the oldest in the country. Perhaps the most visited building in Arequipa is the Convento de Santa Catalina, which is often described as a city within a city. This historic building is a true step back in time.
Peru’s highlands cover about 30 percent of the country, and are where 36 percent of the population lives. This area includes the mountainous region of Peru, where the Andes mountain range dominates the landscape and contains various ecological regions and altitudes.
The highlands or “sierra” have two seasons:
The highlands are characterized by breathtaking, rugged scenery. Peppered with Andean villages, this is the prime destination for adventure travelers who want to experience the culture and authenticity of indigenous Peru.
Highlights include the Cordillera Blanca mountain range and Huascaran, Peru’s highest mountain that towers more than 22,000 feet above sea level.
Any first-time visit to Peru would be incomplete without a trip the country’s undeniable symbol, Machu Picchu. This 15th-century Inca site sits 7,970 feet above sea level, against the iconic backdrop of a moss-covered peak, Huayna Picchu, rising into the clouds. It is Peru’s most visited attraction and a bucket list item for any avid traveler.
Machu Picchu is an epic sight to behold as travelers literally step back into time to discover this ancient wonderland. Perfectly preserved stone structures lay history out in front of your eyes as you wander the rooms and farming terraces, all with the magnificent setting of the towering Andes around you. Built on a mountain ridge overlooking the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu is just 50 miles from Cusco.
One of the most popular and rewarding ways to visit Machu Picchu is to hike the Inca Trail, a historic mountain trail that leads from Cusco into the heart of the Andes. The historic link between the city of Cusco and the “Lost City of the Incas” slips you out of this world and entirely into another, along a journey deep into the heart of the Andes, the culmination of which is a magnificent entrance through the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu Mountain.
The Inca Trail as it exists today consists of three overlapping trails; the Salkantay, Classic and One-Day. Most tourists will hike the Classic Inca Trail, a four-day trek that traverses through local settlements, Incan archaeological sites and into high altitudes with nothing but sweeping views of iconic, moss-covered peaks. A shorter option is available over two days and one night. The Salkantay Trek is the longest of the three routes, and by far the most challenging with the highest mountain pass. But whichever path you choose, it is sure to sweeten an already epic experience at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Hikers do not have to be avid adventurers to complete the trail, but it helps to be in shape.
If you wish to see Machu Picchu in a day, there are trains that leave from Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, either as a day trip or with an overnight in nearby Machu Picchu Pueblo.
IMPORTANT: Passports are required for entry into Machu Picchu.
With more than 100 mountains, at least a dozen national parks and the Amazon Rainforest that covers more than half of the country, Peru is a veritale playground for hikers and trekkers.
With more 60 percent of Peru blanketed by Amazon rainforest, Peru is highly concerned with keeping its natural environment preserved.
Peru's sandy beaches, pristine lakes and coursing rivers leave little to be desired among water sports seekers. Whether it's sunbathing, diving, surfing or windsurfing, Peru is just waiting for your to dive right in.