Mini Guide to Peru

Peru is one of the fastest-growing economies in South America. Once home to several ancient civilizations — most notably the Incas — the country boasts a diverse selection of natural wonders. This ranges from the Amazon Forest in the north, the excellent beaches on the Pacific coast, and the mountainous region of the Andes.


Most international travelers will fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima. It’s also possible to arrive by boat if you’re coming from the Amazon Forest.

While visitors with time constraints might want to fly out to Cusco or Iquitos, most explore the country by bus, which is comfortable and cheap. Other modes of transportation including taking the train or renting a car, though the roads in the countryside are not in good condition.


The official languages of Peru are Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara. Out of the three, Spanish is spoken by 84 percent of the population Although there were plenty more in ancient times, there are roughly 150 indigenous languages and dialects spoken throughout the country.

If you’re traveling around popular places, English will be more than enough. However, you may need basic Spanish to explore remote regions of Peru.

Main Cities and Towns


Lima is Peru’s capital. As such, the city is super cosmopolitan.

Visitors will find many historical churches and monasteries as the city was under Spanish rule for over 300 years. Also, Peru’s world-class cuisine is on full display by an abundance of restaurants.


As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a backpacker’s paradise. In fact, the city is close to several ancient sites and the main base for those willing to visit Machu Picchu. Travelers will see a mix of colonial architectures, Inca ruins, and many examples of the Quechua culture.


Iquitos is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road. In fact, it can only be reached by plane or boat. Located in the north of Peru, deep inside the Amazon Forest, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for jungle tours.

The city is also known for the shamanic medicine Ayahuasca. This medicine attracts many travelers to take part in the powerful psychedelic retreats.

Interesting Sites and Natural Wonders

Machu Picchu

Arguably the most visited attraction in Peru, Machu Picchu is the ancient city of the Inca Empire. Located at 2,430 meters above sea level, the city is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The site receives nearly 1.5 million visitors a year. Those with plenty of stamina can get there via the famous Inca Trail, which can take around five days. Make sure you climb the nearby Wayna Picchu for amazing panoramic views of the city.


If you’ve ever wanted to explore a desert oasis, then Huacachina is the place for you. Located on the outskirts of Ica, it’s the ideal destination to relax and enjoy the lagoon.

The village is surrounded by massive sand dunes where visitors can go on buggy rides and sandboarding tours. Don’t forget to walk up the dunes to see the amazing sunsets paint the sky.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are massive geoglyphs of animals and other figures made by the ancient Nazca people. Discovered in 1920 by pilots flying over the region, they are now a major tourist attraction.

Travelers can go on a short flight over the geoglyphs. For those on a budget, they can take a taxi to nearby viewing towers and have a glimpse of their beauty.

Lake Titicaca

Considered the world’s highest navigable body of water, Lake Titicaca lies between Peru and Bolivia. It covers an area of 8,372 square kilometers.

Puno is the main base for travelers who want to visit the Uros Floating islands and learn about the day to day life of its inhabitants. It’s also possible to spend the night at Taquile and Amantani Islands.

Safety and Health

You’ll probably need to take the most common travel vaccinations before traveling to Peru, but if you’re going to the Amazon Forest, you should consider taking malaria tablets. It’s also important to acclimatize in the Andes in order to avoid altitude sickness.

Due to the great inequality in the country, big cities can be dangerous. As such, travelers should aware of their surroundings to avoid muggings. When traveling by bus, it’s advisable to keep your backpack with you as it can be stolen during night stops.


Due to the diverse geography of Peru, the climate can vary a lot. The Pacific coast is extremely dry and looks like a desert. The Amazon has heavy downfalls during the summer with moderate temperatures. Finally, the Andes is generally colder and humid with super dry winters.

Food and Drinks

Considering Peru is one of the largest producers of organic coffee, you’ll definitely find plenty in the country. Make sure you don’t leave without trying the dubious-looking Inca Cola and the famous Pisco Sour.

If you’re traveling around the coast, you’ll probably eat the freshest ceviche (marinated fish and seafood). In the mountains, your best bet is the Lomo Saltado (stir fry beef) and Papas a la Huancaina (potatoes with cheese sauce). For the risk-takers, Cuy (guinea pig) is also a local delicacy.


Inti Raymi

Probably one of the most traditional Peruvian festivals, Inti Raymi is the ancient Inca Festival of the Sun. The festival came about because the Incas would honor the sun god Inti and pray for its return during the winter months. As such, it takes place in Cusco during the winter solstice.

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria

Taking place in Puno around February, Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria is Peru’s response to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. 40,000 dancers gather in the margins of Lake Titicaca for two weeks to celebrate the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the city.

Trujillo Marinera Festival

Marinera is a charming traditional couple’s dance that’s supposed to be the reenactment of a courtship, where dancers use handkerchiefs as props. Trujillo is the official national capital of the dance, where the festival takes place every January. It features parades, competitions, and even Peruvian Paso exhibitions, a local horse breed considered a cultural patrimony of the region.

People and Culture

Travelers should be prepared to see extreme poverty when exploring Peru. Despite their hardships, the Peruvian people are extremely welcoming and cherish the presence of visitors.

Although the majority of the people are Roman Catholic, it’s still possible to see pre-Hispanic religions being practiced, particularly within the Amerindians population.

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