- Location: Western part of South America.
- Capital: Lima.
- Currency: Nuevo sol (PEN).
- Language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara.
- Best time to Visit: June to August
- Time Zone: UTC — 5.
- Calling Code: +51
- Major Airports: Jorge Chí¡vez International Airport (LIM), Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ).
Jutting into the Pacific on the western coast of South America, Peru is a beautiful country filled with breathtaking historical sites and bustling cities. With glorious beaches separated by Amazon jungle by the massive Andes Mountains, you can be sure to experience a wide variety of natural scenery and unique cultural heritage. Once home to the Incan civilization, the country’s highlands have many thriving Quechua villages serving as the lone link between ancient tradition and modern society. Whether you are in the mood for a journey into the past or in search of a cosmopolitan vacation, you can find what you are looking for within the borders of this South American jewel. As you begin planning your trip, here are some of the best places to visit in Peru:
Lying at the confluence of the Chillon, Rimac, and Lurin Rivers on the Pacific coast, the capital of Peru is a large financial center. More than 9 million residents call the metropolitan area home, a far cry from the humble “City of Kings” founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Much like the country itself, the city is a conglomeration of archaeological sites and contemporary cuisine. The Historic Center is a favorite, as it exemplifies colonial architecture – the Palace of Torre Tagle stands out with its bright pink exterior and glowing yellow courtyard. There are museums and clubs, but the food is the main attraction. Thanks to its position as a hub for the Spanish government in the past and an economic powerhouse today, a wide range of ethnicities intermingle within its 43 districts. The native culinary style blends with European, Chinese, Japanese, and African methods to produce a phenomenal number of options – bring your appetite!
It is almost impossible to schedule a Peruvian vacation without a trip to the ancient Incan city in the clouds. Adventurous hikers will follow the legendary trail for days to reach it as the natives would have, then climb the well-preserved steps to view the magnificent Urubamba Valley. Once home to the emperor Pachacuti, it is now one of the most revered archaeological sites in the world. The manmade structures are breathtaking on their own, but the scene takes on a grander scale with the jagged Andean peaks as its backdrop.
Not too far from Machu Picchu, the former capital of the Incan Empire is a thriving city of more than 350,000 now – more than three times its size just two decades ago. Known as the gateway to several ancient ruins, the architecture, and altitude (over 11,000 feet above sea level) gives it the air of an Italian village high in the Alps. The area was first built on by the indigenous Killke peoples over 900 years ago, but the Incans took over just a century later. More than a dozen sites draw tourists in, but a tour of old Old Vilcabamba and Barrio San Blas will provide the most well-rounded experience of the building before and after colonization, with the latter being a popular site for souvenirs as it is home to many artisans and craftsmen.
Ancient stories say Viracocha, the creator god, rose up from the Isla del Sol in this striking lake on the border with Bolivia to bring the universe into form. Regardless of your beliefs, you will find the area offers tremendous insight into the origins of native culture. Indigenous tribes still occupy parts of the various islands, attempting to maintain customs as much as possible amid the rush to modernity. To this day, you can see smoke rise from the temple for sacrifices made to the goddess Pachamama on Isla Taquile.