Information About Peru
Discover South America has assembled Basic Information about Peru. We have Travel Information divided into several sections for easier viewing. This sections are: Summary, Cuisine, History, Culture, Weather, Natural Aspects and Travel Tips.
Peru – with destinations like Lima, the huge and busy Peruvian capital; Huaraz and Ancash, a paradise for climbing and trekking in a beautiful mountain area with glaciated valleys and incredible snowcapped scenerie; Ica, Pisco and Nazca, where you can discover the famous Nazca Lines; Cuzco, the old pre-Colombian capital and embarkation point for the Inca Trail; Machu Picchu, one of the most extraordinary examples of landscape architecture in the world; Puerto Maldonado, a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and Peru’s Amazon River and Amazon Rainforest; Arequipa, the charming “white city”, surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes and beautiful mountains in a picturesque valley; and Lake Titicaca, shared with Bolivia, is the highest navigable lake in the world close to the lively city of Puno.
We hope you enjoy all the information about Peru, its Cities and Tourism Destinations that we put together for you.
About Peru – Summary
Peru – the legendary gold country with the prehistoric spirit of the Inca Empire.
Peru with its exceptional character fascinates every visitor who enters the country the first time. Its not only the pure beauty of the landscape but the strong and colorful spirit of the people which combines a unique experience for every visitor.
The variety of Perus attraction is impressive and includes numerous spectacular sceneries, wide range of ecosystems, large quantity of wildlife and as well as vast areas of volcanoes, tropical rainforest, snowcapped mountains and a desert coastline.
If you would like further information please click on the links above.
Peru is the third largest countries in South America, covering 1,285,215 sq. km with approximately 24 million inhabitants. Geographically Peru is divided in three main zones: the rain forest zone, the narrow Pacific coastal desert and the delightful Andean highlands.
For more information on the most breathtaking places in Peru please click on the links below.
- Amazon Basin and Iquitos – the most famous jungle region of the world, with an unmatched biological variety, wealthy in rivers, cloud forests and wildlife.
- Trujillo – the historical important city with charming colonial architecture and impressive archaeological wealth of the pre-Inca cultures of the “Chimu” and “Mochica” culture in its environment.
- Cuzco – old pre-Colombian capital, where Spanish and the Inca cultures has emerged into a distinct local; embarkation point for the Inca Trail; and the Urubamba Valley (“Sacred Valley”).
- Machu Picchu – one of the most extraordinary examples of landscape architecture in the world.
- Manu National Park and Puerto Maldonado – included in UNESCO’s list of Mankind’s Natural Heritages in 1987, it is Perus greatest natural hotspot where you will experience the amazing Amazon River and Amazon Rainforest.
- Arequipa – the charming “white city”, surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes and beautiful mountains in a picturesque valley.
- Lake Titicaca – the blue-colored, highest navigable lake in the world close to the lively city “Puno”.
- Lima – the huge and busy Peruvian capital – a unique mixture of decaying beauty, poverty and dynamism of its intellectual life- Huaraz and Ancash – a paradise for climbing and trekking in a beautiful mountain area with glaciated valleys and incredible snowcapped sceneries.
- Ica, Pisco and Nazca – discover in this desert region the famous Nazca Lines, the impressive Inca cemetery of Chauchilla and the beautiful National Reserve of “Paracas”.
Peru boasts one of the finest cuisines in Latin America. Recipes such as cebiche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked underground), chupe de camarones (shrimp soup), ají de gallina (spicy chicken) and juane (cornmash pastries) are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes served up in Peru. The quality and variety of dishes in Peru are due to several reasons.
First, Perus ecological and climactic diversity (Peru is home to 84 of the 104 eco-systems existing on Earth) has given rise to a major supply of fresh produce, which any chef would be ecstatic about. The rich Peruvian fishing grounds abound in fish and shellfish species, the heart of the succulent coastal gastronomy; rice, fowl and goat, meanwhile, are the key ingredients of Perus north coastal cooking.
In the Andes, meanwhile, delicious ingredients such as the potato and sweetcorn in all its varieties, plus cuy (guinea pig) and ají chili pepper are the basis of highland cooking and are to be found across the country.
The jungle adds its own touch, wild game with a side serving of fried banana and manioc root. Local fruit varieties such as chirimoya (custard apple) and lucuma produce incomparable deserts.
The jungle adds its own touch, wild game with a side serving of fried banana and manioc root. Local fruit varieties such as chirimoya (custard apple) and lucuma produce incomparable deserts.The second reason is the rich mix of Western and Eastern cultural traditions.
Over the course of centuries, Peru has felt the influence of Spain in stews and soups, Arab sweets and desserts, African contributions to Creole cooking, Italian pastas, Japanese preparations of fish and shellfish and Chinese culinary methods which have given birth to one of the most popular gastronomic traditions in Peru: chifa. But the originality of Peru’s cuisine does not stem just from its traditional cooking, rather, it continues to incorporate new influences, preparing exquisite and impeccable dishes that have been dubbed the New Peruvian Cuisine.
It is a veritable privilege to experience Perus cooking. Bon appetit.
Peru is best known as the heart of the Inca empire, but it was home to many diverse indigenous cultures long before the Incas arrived. Although there is evidence of human habitation in Peru as far back as 8000 BC, there is little proof of organized village life until about 2500 BC. It was about this time that climatic changes in the coastal regions prompted Perus early inhabitants to move toward the more fertile interior river valleys. For the next 1500 years, Peruvian civilization developed into a number of distinct cultures. For example, the Chavín are best known for their religious iconography, which included striking figurative depictions of various animals (the jaguar in particular) and which exercised considerable influence over the entire coastal region.The Sechín are remembered more for their military strength than for their cultural achievement.
The decline of these two cultures around 500 BC gave rise to a number of distinctive regional cultures. Some of these, including the Chancay and Paracas, are celebrated for artistic and technological advances such as kiln-fired ceramics and sophisticated weaving techniques. From the Paracas arose the Nazca culture, whose legacy includes the immense Nazca Lines. 15th century AD gave rise to the mightiest culture of them all, the Inca.
By 1500 AD the empire of the Incas stretched from the Pacific Ocean east to the sources of the Paraguay and Amazon rivers and from the region of modern Quito in Ecuador south to the Maule River in Chile.
This vast empire was a theocracy, organized along socialistic lines and ruled by an Inca, or emperor, who was worshiped as a divinity. Because the Inca realm contained extensive deposits of gold and silver, it became a natural target of Spanish imperial ambitions in the New World.
In 1532 the Spanish soldier and adventurer Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru with a force of about 180 men. In an astonishingly short period of time, the entire Inca empire fell to the Spaniards. Pizarro founded the city of Lima in 1535. In 1780 a force of 60,000 Indians revolted against Spanish rule under the leadership of the Peruvian patriot José Gabriel Condorcanqui, who adopted the name Inca Tupac Amaru. Although initially successful, the uprising was crushed in 1781, and Condorcanqui was tortured and executed, as were thousands of his fellow revolutionaries. Another revolt was similarly put down in 1814.
Freedom from Spanish rule, however, was imposed on Peru by outsiders. The Argentine soldier José de San Martín, who had defeated the Spanish forces in Chile, landed an invasion army at the seaport of Pisco. On July 12, 1821, San Martín’s forces entered Lima, which had been abandoned by Spanish troops. Peruvian independence was proclaimed formally on July 28, 1821. The struggle against the Spanish was continued later by the Venezuelan revolutionary hero Simón Bolívar, who entered Peru with his armies in 1822. In the battles of Junín on August 6, 1824, and Ayacucho on December 9, 1824, Bolívar’s forces routed the Spanish and secured Perus independence once and for all.
The latter part of the 19th century saw two wars; a brief one with Spain in 1866 which Peru won and the other against Chile from 1879 to 1883 which Peru, allied with Bolivia, lost.
Peru and Bolivia went to war with Chile in 1879 until 1883. The War of the Pacific, as it is known, developed over the disputed, nitrate-rich Atacama Desert. Neither Peru, nor Bolivia had been able to solidify its territorial claims in the desert, which left the rising power of Chile to assert its designs over the region. Chile chose to attack Bolivia after Bolivia broke the Treaty of 1866 between the two countries by raising taxes on the export of nitrates from the region mainly controlled by Chilean companies. In response, Bolivia invoked its secret alliance with Peru, the Treaty of 1873, to go to war. Peru was obligated, then, to enter a war for which it was woefully unprepared. The Treaty of Ancón in 1883 ceded to Chile in perpetuity the nitrate-rich province of Tarapacá and provided that the Peruvian provinces of Tacna and Arica would remain in Chilean possession. In 1929 both countries agreed to a compromise brokered by the US; Tacna would be returned to Peru and Chile would retain Arica.
In 1941, Peru went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute. The following year, in Rio de Janeiro, a treaty was written giving Peru the vast majority of the disputed territory. Ecuador disapproved of the resolution, and as a result, the two countries engaged in “military actions” every few years. It all came to a head in January of 1995 when both nations were on the brink of a declared war. Fortunately, in 1998, an official peace accord was accepted by both Peru and Ecuador ending over 50 years of tension.
In May of 1970, an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter Scale devastated north central Peru, killing a total of 80,000 people. This is considered the worst natural disaster the western hemisphere has ever seen.
On May 17th, 1980, five members of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) burned ballot boxes in the Ayacucho village of Chuschi. This was the first act of a revolutionary group who years later would come dangerously close to overthrowing the government and turning Peru into Marxist state. As the 80s progressed, so did armed conflict between the rebels and the military. By the time SL leader Abimael Guzman was captured on September 12, 1992, almost 30,000 people had died.
In the 1990 presidential election, Alberto Fujimori, an agricultural economist of Japanese descent, defeated Mario Vargas Llosa, in what was considered a major upset. In April 1992, Fujimori, alleging that congress and the judiciary had blocked his efforts to suppress the drug trade and Sendero Luminoso, as well as being extremely corrupt, suspended the constitution, dissolved congress, imposed censorship, and had opposition politicians arrested. Fujimori won the presidential election again in 1995, defeating formal Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar.
In December 1996, another guerrilla group called the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) captured the residency of the Japanese ambassador in Lima and kept 71 hostages from December of 1996 to April of 1997 when Peruvian commandos stormed the residency, killing all 14 terrorists in the process.
In July 2000, Fujimori once again won the presidency, although the opposition along with a large part of the international community disputed the results. The public release of a video in which his right hand Mr. Vladimiro Montesinos was shown bribing a congressman from the opposition to change position, caused Fujimori to resign in September of 2000. Peru will hold new elections in April of 2001. Until the new head of state is voted in, former congressman Valentín Paniagua is serving as interim President.
From the bowler hats worn by women of the sierra to the beautiful geometric designs of Shipibo indian crafts in the central jungle, Peru is a country full of diverse traditions from one corner to the other.
The Island of Taquile on Lake Titicaca is a wonderful example of local tradition, which has persevered many hundreds of years. The tip of a males wool cap (chullo) signifies his marital status: white means single and red specifies that he is married. Men are the wool spinners on the island, not the women. A man will pass many hours spinning wool as he walks, chats with a friend or simply sits on a hill alone taking in the beauty of his island. The boys of Taquile are taught very young how to weave and by the age of ten, can weave their own chullo. There are many places on the island that sell crafts made by children.
In the opposite corner of the country, in the north coastal departments from La Libertad to Tumbes, there is a completely different tradition: the Peruvian Paso horse. The rider of this graceful animal, called a chalan, is never without his white poncho and sombrero (hat).
In the central highlands, you’ll no doubt find people dancing to huayno music as they drink and party until dawn. In the Huancavalica department, the Baile de las Tijeras (scissor dance) is a sight not to be missed.
The entire Amazon basin is home to many tribes all with very different customs, traditions, culture and language. Some are very much involved in the expanding tourism industry while others prefer to remain isolated.
From the modern streets of Lima to the most remote jungle village, Peruvian culture and tradition add so much to the experience of visiting this extraordinary Latin American nation.
Official languages: Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. Aymara is spoken in some areas of the Puno department. Many other dialects exist in the Amazon region. English is usually spoken in major tourist areas.
Due to the effect of the cold Humboldt current in the Pacific ocean and the presence of the Andes to the east, the coast from Ecuador to Chile is mostly barren. The southern region is part of the Atacama desert, the driest spot on the planet. In Lima from May through September, the city experiences what is known as the garúa, a thick layer of cloud which blankets the city accompanied by drizzle and very low temperatures. Once out of Lima the weather changes drastically. Up to the Ecuadorian border and down to Chile, the sun shines bright and temperatures often top 30ºC. October to May is Summer. Lima becomes hot and humid while everywhere else on the coast suffers from a relentless sun that shows no mercy.
The mountains have two seasons: dry and wet. From May to October rain is sporadic and sunshine fills the sky daily. During the months of November through April, rainfall is heavy and temperatures plunge drastically once the sun sets.
The jungle is divided into the cloud forest (above 700m) and lowland jungle (below 700m). The cloud forest features a subtropical, balmy climate, with heavy rainfall between November and March, and sunshine from April to October. It is always cool at night.
The lowland jungle regions experience two extremely different seasons, which accentuate depending on its proximity to the equator. The dry season from April to October is marked by sunshine-filled days and high temperatures, often over 35ºC. During these months, the water level of the rivers drops and roads are in decent shape. The rainy season, however, which runs from November to March, features frequent downpours (at least once a day), and muddy roads which make traveling difficult to impossible.
Humidity is high in all jungle regions throughout the year. In the north the jungle is hot all year round whereas in the south the jungle is sometimes hit by cold winds, known locally as a friaje, a front that moves north from the far south of the continent between May and August, when temperatures plunge to 8-12ºC.
Peru Natural Aspects
Protected Natural Areas
Peru, in a bid to conserve its natural surroundings, flora and fauna, has designed a series of mechanisms aimed at conserving the country’s biological diversity. These efforts are channeled through the National System of Natural Protected Areas (SINANPE) and the state natural resources entity (INRENA). To date, Peru features a total of 56 natural areas or conservation units, covering approximately 13% of the country’s territory. These areas are in turn split up into a variety of categories governing their use: parks, reserves and national sanctuaries, historic sanctuaries, reserved zones, game preserves, protected forests and communal reserves. The most important of these are the first five mentioned.
Rivers and Canyons
Perus rivers are a source of life, beauty and fun. There is a river for everyone, Dry riverbeds which only receive water during the El Niño phenomenon; there are rivers that are black, ruddy, white and cloudy; salty and bitter; navigable and torrential; tranquil and romantic, or sweeping like the Ucayali and the Amazon Rivers; and even sacred rivers like the Vilcanota, which flows through the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Many of Perus rivers are born in the Andes. Water trickles down from the glaciers and frigid highland plains, swelling into streams and rivers as it flows ever further from its source. The water that brings life to Perus territory flows down to the two oceans that surround South America.
Before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, some rivers link up with the Amazon River, which features the worlds greatest flow-rate (over 170,000 cubic meters per second) and the greatest diversity of fish species (over 2,000 species).The beauty of Perus river waters can be found in the canyons they have carved out over the course of centuries, in the waterfalls, in the teeming surrounding plantlife and the variety of fauna species that thrive in their waters.
Lakes and lagoons
Perus geography is reflected in its thousands of lakes and lagoons, which,according to the environment, feature their own particular characteristics.
The inter-Andean lakes are usually of tectonic or glacial origins. One superb tectonic lake is that of Lake Titicaca, which thousands of years ago formed a vast inland sea together with the lakes of Arapa and Yapupampa. Tectonic lakes often teem with life forms. Lake Parinacochas, in the department of Ayacucho, is famous for the pink flamingoes which thrive there, while Junín is home to Lake Paca and Lake Junín, in addition to the picturesque towns steeped in history. The most stunning of them all are the Llanganuco Lakes in the department of Ancash, which split the imposing peaks of Mount Huascarán and Huandoy.
The waters of the jungle lagoons in the Amazon are dark due to the amount of life forms and high temperatures. Many of these jungle lakes have formed in riverbeds and are fed by rainfall. The largest of them is Rimachi, a surprisingly lovely lake featuring floating islands and treetrunks which shift during the day. The only tectonic lake in the jungle is that of Sauce, in the department of San Martín, which exposes fertile land for local farmers when waters recede.
Perus waters also boast medicinal properties. The seven lakes at Las Huaringas (“sacred lakes” in the Quechua language) have been used since pre-Hispanic times for magical and healing ceremonies. Peru, after all, has been blessed with hot springs and mineral baths which are visited with fervor by the local population.
The most famous of Perus hot springs are the Inca Baths in Cajamarca, in the northern Andes, where temperatures can reach 74°C. The hottest springs, however, are found in Tacna to the south, which the local townspeople have dubbed Caliente (Hot) as it can reach a temperature of 98°C.
From the Andes down to the river, sea or lake into which Perus rivers flow, the waters cascade down cliffs and mountainsides, forming spectacular waterfalls. Some of these lie near roads, while others take hours of hiking to reach amidst dense forest.
Huánuco is famed for its beautiful landscapes, and largely so for its waterfalls. At Pichgacocha (Five Lakes), the stream tumbles down two waterfalls with 30 and 60-meter drops between one lake and another. Other well known falls are the Velo de Angel (25-28 meters), the Sirena Encantada (70 meters), on top of Pacsapampa, and which its owes its name to the charming surrounding landscape, and San Miguel (100 meters), where one can swim in the pools formed nearby.
In the department of San Martín, nature has been prodigious: Ahuashiyacu is a 35-meter waterfall which is easily reached, while Huacamaillo is made up a set of seven impressive falls. Other waterfalls include the Gera and Tunun Tunumba, which only be reached with the help of guides.
Near the capital city of Lima lie the waterfalls of Pala Cala and Zárate. The town of San Jerónimo de Surco is the gateway to the twin waterfalls of Pala Cala, with 15 and 20-meter drops.
Zárate, near the town of Llancha, is a 40-meter waterfall, and visitors will need to be in shape to be able to reach it. The 30-meter-high waterfall at Huallhua is found in the department of Lima, but is reached via the town of Pachacayo in the department of Junín, which is also home to the waterfalls of Tirol (35 meters), at the gateway to the jungle, and Parijaro, without a doubt the most impressive falls in Peru, as the waters drop 297 meters in the area of Cutivireni, the refuge of the Asháninka jungle tribe.
Flora and Fauna
Peru is doted with a rich diversity of animal and vegetal species, and Man has lived alongside them in a harmonious co-existence for thousands for years.
Species such as the condor, serpent and puma were worshipped by the ancient highlanders, who crafted their images into pottery and monuments during the rise of early civilizations, in homage to their beauty and power.
Other species served as food or as raw materials for Mans creations. Some animals even forged a relationship of interdependence that has lasted for thousands of years, a relationship maintained by Peruvians living outside the major cities.
Perus territory has also long kept hidden thousands of species that continue to amaze scientists from all over the world. The most startling are the native species, due to their unique characteristics and beauty, and above all the way they have managed to adapt to Perus difficult climate and geography.
*Source Prom Peru
Peru Travel Tips
Consular Travel Visas
- Check with the Peruvian consulate in your country for visa requirements. Passports must have more than six months left of validity.
- Visas NOT required – Consular visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days by tourists from:
- South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guiana, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela.
- North America: Canada, United States of America, Mexico
Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.
- Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, San Christ and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Gra, Trinidad and Tobago.
- Europe: Germany, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom and N. Ireland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Santa Sede, Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Russia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, Serbian Republic and Montenegro.
- Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Korea republic, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong.
- Oceania: Australia, Fiji Islands, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
- Africa: South Africa Republic
- Consular Travel Visas Required – People of other nationalities not mentioned above require consular visas to enter Peru.
- Foreign tourists may stay a maximum of 90 days in any one year. All nationalities need an embarkation card or tourist card, valid for 60 days for US people. You can obtain this card on board before landing in Peru.
Getting there and getting around
- Most of the American airlines companies offer flights to Peru via Miami. One exception is Continental Airline that flies directly to Lima from Newark. Lan Peru, Peruvian airline, has daily non-stop flights from Miami to Lima also.
- From Europe, there are a few options to fly directly to Lima: flights from Amsterdam, Madrid or Frankfurt, with KLM, Iberia and Lufthansa companies. There are a lot of flights from Europe via US, with connection in Miami.
- There are few domestic flights within Peru. Lima is two hours flight of most cities and the itineraries available are: Lima – Cuzco, Lima – Arequipa, Lima – Puno, Lima – Puerto Maldonado, Lima – Iquitos and Cuzco – Puno. Airlines in Peru: Lan Peru and Lan Chile. Most of the Peruvians use bus and train to get around the country. Booking the best flights to suit your schedule is a service that Discover Peru provides. Transfer services in air-conditioned vehicles, taxis, bus services and car rentals are also services we provide.
Tips before traveling
- Check with the nearest Peruvian consulate in your area for visa and vaccination requirements before traveling. If you are a US citizen, you will not need a visa to get in.
- Regulations and requirements may be subject to change on short notice and it is advisable to contact your doctor well in advance of your date of departure. If you are going to the Andes region it is wise to check your blood pressure.
- Recommended vaccinations are: Yellow Fever, Cholera, Typhoid, DTP and Hepatitis
- When visiting the southern rainforest a Yellow Fever vaccination is obligatory. Malaria exists in the rural areas below 1.500-m (4.992 ft), mainly in the northern part of Peru, almost exclusively in the benign vivax form.
- The official currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol. Changing currencies other than US dollars is very difficult. Dollars are easily accepted in all cities throughout the country.
- Credit cards and travelers checks: Access / Master card, Diners Club and Visa are all used in Peru with Visa being the most widely accepted. Note that credit card use becomes more limited outside the main cities. American Express travelers checks are the most widely accepted. It is not recommend using any other kind.
- Take out medical and travel insurance. Make sure it covers all eventualities especially evacuation to your home country by a medically equipped plane, if necessary.
- Most upscale restaurants automatically add a 10% tip (service charge), so tipping is not obligatory. The normal tip rate is about 5-10% of the amount consumed. Porters should be tipped around 3-4 soles per service. Taxi drivers usually don’t expect a tip.
- Objects of archaeological or historic value may not be taken out of the country. Peru has international agreements with most nations for the confiscation and return of stolen objects.
- In all dealings with the police be formal, and polite. Always carry your passport while traveling in Peru or at least a photocopy when walking around a town or city.
- Take clothes suitable for the climates you are planning to visit.
- Drinking bottled water is recommended. Eat well-cooked meat, chicken and fish. Pork, raw salads and homemade mayonnaise may be risky. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. Avoid eating food from street vendors.