Peru travel guide
The name 'Peru' conjures up images of jagged mountain peaks circled by rare condors, the mysterious Nazca lines, sacred Lake Titicaca and its Aymara-inhabited floating islands, and one of the continent's biggest draws: Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. It's easy to view a Peru vacation as a voyage into the lost Inca kingdom of the Andes, whose modern inhabitants - the Quechua - are living descendants of its pre-colonial past.
This epic nation is a South American microcosm, complete with all its most sacred and seductive riches.
But don't underestimate Peru's diversity. Over half of the country is blanketed by the Amazon, hosting some extraordinary species-rich environments, and its coastline is a 2,500km desert, with the highest sand dunes on earth. Its cuisine is influenced as much by its coastline as by its native potatoes and quinoa, and its cities are an energetic mix of the modern and the ancient, with Spanish architecture perched on top of Inca stonework, and glass-fronted buildings overlooking colonial plazas. Read on in our Peru travel guide.
much more than just the Inca Trail. There are deserts, beaches and jungles...
for anyone who feels queasy at the sound of panpipes
What we rate & what we don't
Fake Peruvian culture
The “poor man’s Galapagos”
If you'd like to chat about Peru or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Food, shopping & people
Eating & drinking in Peru
Try a tangy Pisco Sour, made with Pisco, lemon juice and egg white.
Quinoa is a tasty, protein-packed grain. The staple, sacred food of the Incas, it is native to the Andes.
Ceviche is Peru's most famous dish. Fresh, raw fish is marinated in lime juice and spiced with chilli and onions. Don't make the Gringo mistake of having it for dinner - true Peruvians only eat this at lunchtime.
Cuy is a Peruvian staple that may be less appetising to visitors - it's guinea pig. And it's usually served whole.
People & language
If you knock on a Quechua door, you may hear "Haykuykuy!" - Come in!
Peruvian culture varies by altitude. The highlands are the stronghold of the Quechua - descendents of the Inca - while the lowland forests have many smaller native groups. Peru's official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara, but at least a dozen more languages are spoken in the Amazon.
You'll see the word "Inti" a lot. It means 'sun' or 'Sun God' in Quechua.
Lateness is a national trait - to try and encourage punctuality, emphasise the "hora inglesa" - 'English time'!
The great Inca Empire was actually a mere blip on the continent's 5000-year cultural history - their rule lasted barely a century.
Gifts & shopping
Alpaca wool hats, jumpers, scarves, ponchos and blankets are ubiquitous in Peru. Knitted items here are high quality and wonderfully warm, but you get what you pay for - a "bargain" may well be fake.
Colourful textiles handwoven on traditional backstrap looms capture the vibrant spirit of Peru's indigenous people. Try and buy direct from craft cooperatives. Cheaper items on markets will be mass-produced, and possibly imported.
Peru's jewellers use intricate filigree techniques, weaving and soldering thin gold and silver threads to create beautifully detailed earrings, bracelets and necklaces.
The humble potato originated in Peru - hence the local expression of national pride: 'I'm more Peruvian than the potato!'
How much does it cost?
Standard train journey from Machu Pichcu to Cuzco: £55
A whole, roasted guinea pig: £10.50
Ceviche in a restaurant: £5-£12
Large bottle of Cuzqueña beer: £1.40
Real alpaca shawl or jumper: From £40
More Peru articles
Peru has a climate that varies significantly with its altitude. Our rainfall and temperature charts offer a useful guide.
Here are the classic highlights, including Inca trekking, and combining Andes and Amazon...
Machu Picchu is the most famous, man-made archaeological site in the Americas.
Peru’s Inca Trail is just one tiny section of over 40,000km of trails that crisscross the former Inca Empire.
The Nazca Lines in Peru remain one of the country’s great mysteries. Find out how to see them by land or air.
Community homestays, brightly woven handicrafts and spectacular island hikes are Lake Titicaca’s calling cards.
There are several alternative Inca trails that lead to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu will delight children as much as parents, as will long-lashed llamas.
Cross the border at Lake Titicaca and see Bolivia and Peru together.
This guide is for you if you want to rediscover Machu Picchu, explore the Amazon or get off the beaten track.
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Find all of our Peru guides in one place, for particular places such as Machu Picchu, and different vacation types.