Peru is a country situated in the central part of South America. It is a unique destination in the region, known for its myriad natural attractions and ancient monuments. Travelers visit this country for its stunning beaches, towering mountains, enigmatic lakes, impenetrable jungles, and hidden Inca cities. The people of Peru, while distinct in many ways, share a common trait of being open, friendly, and independent. Welcome to Peru; the country eagerly awaits your arrival!
Peru on the Map
The Republic of Peru is located along the Pacific Ocean in the central part of South America. Although it lies entirely in the Southern Hemisphere, the equator line nearly touches Peru’s northernmost point, near the border with Colombia. It shares its borders with Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Brazil to the east, and Chile and Bolivia to the south, with a total land border length of 5,500 kilometers.
Peru’s coastline meets the waters of the Pacific Ocean, characterized by steep cliffs and spanning 2,400 kilometers in length.
The country is typically divided into three geographical regions. The coastal region along the ocean is known as the Costa Coast, a narrow coastal lowland primarily evident in the northwest.
Moving inland from the coast is the Sierra, a region of mountains encompassing the Andes, one of the world’s grandest mountain systems. The Sierra occupies nearly one-third of the country’s territory, gradually expanding further south. The Peruvian Andes are distinguished by their height and snow-covered peaks, with Mount Huascarán standing as the country’s highest point at 6,768 meters.
Beyond the Sierra, the Selva region begins, characterized by humid equatorial forests that cover almost 60% of Peru’s territory. The largest expanse of Selva lies in the northeastern part of the country, where the Amazon lowland commences. Peru’s most significant rivers, the Ucayali and the Marañon, combine to form the Amazon River within this region.
Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in the country, is situated in the mountains on the border with Bolivia.
Safety for Tourists
Peru is ranked 74th in the Global Peace Index, which considers various factors, including the overall state of peace, attitude towards tourists, and more. This ranking is only slightly better than its northern neighbor, Ecuador.
The level of safety in Peru is primarily influenced by the domestic political situation, which had been quite unstable for an extended period. However, recent years have seen a decrease in unrest.
Instances of pickpocketing and street robbery are relatively common, particularly in major cities. These criminals sometimes operate in organized groups. Tourists are often targeted in public transportation and crowded areas. Kidnappings and extortion involving bank cards also occur occasionally.
Traffic conditions in the country can be described as chaotic, with lax enforcement of traffic rules. Furthermore, many mountain roads, winding through precipitous terrain, pose significant dangers.
Sanitary and hygienic conditions in Peru may not meet high standards, resulting in frequent cases of intestinal infections. The most perilous disease transmitted by mosquitoes in the region is yellow fever, and vaccination against it is highly recommended for tourists.
Travelers visiting Peru’s mountainous regions should carefully monitor their health and, whenever possible, undergo preliminary acclimatization at lower altitudes.
Peru’s wildlife includes large predators, poisonous insects, amphibians, and snakes. Therefore, extreme caution is advised when exploring the Amazon jungle.
In summary, the overall safety level in Peru can be considered average, comparable to other Latin American countries. By adhering to straightforward safety and hygiene guidelines, tourists can mitigate most potential risks and enjoy a wonderful experience in this diverse country.
Public Holidays in Peru
Peruvians, for the most part, are open and jovial people who cherish a variety of holidays, both national and local, steeped in traditions of the past.
Official holidays in the country are categorized into religious and secular festivities. The former include Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and All Saints’ Day. Secular holidays encompass various commemorative dates like Flag Day, Independence Day, Labour Day, and others.
Religious ceremonies also pique the interest of tourists. For instance, in Lima, on October 18th, the Procession of the Lord of Miracles takes place in honor of an image of Jesus Christ. In Cusco, an annual procession features 16 statues of saints during Corpus Christi, celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi.
Many Peruvian holidays are intertwined with the country’s historical heritage, particularly Inca culture and traditions. For example, on the summer solstice, the Inti Raymi festival is celebrated, dedicated to the Inca mythology’s “Day of the Sun.” This occasion involves costumed processions and rituals devoted to sun worship.
In addition, similar to other Latin American countries, Peru enthusiastically embraces carnival celebrations, referred to as “fiesta.”
Best Activities in Peru
In recent years, Peru has witnessed a continuous growth in tourist arrivals, and local authorities have made significant efforts to enhance the corresponding infrastructure. Presently, Peru offers visitors not only stunning natural beauty but also comfortable recreational conditions. Tourists can enjoy a multitude of activities to suit diverse preferences. Here are the top 10 experiences that every tourist should consider in Peru:
1. Beach Holidays: Peru boasts numerous stunning beaches, though the cold ocean limits the ideal beach days. Popular spots include Lima’s beach, which extends alongside the city’s skyscrapers, and more secluded options such as Punta Sal and Playa de la Mina.
2. Diving: Despite the cold water, diving in Peru offers unique attractions, including observing sea lions, exploring extensive algae forests, and diving near abandoned oil platforms.
3. Surfing: Peru is a surfer’s paradise with constant winds from the Pacific Ocean generating excellent waves, suitable for surfing throughout the year. Huanchaco beach is renowned as one of South America’s top surf destinations.
4. Rafting: Peru’s mountainous terrain provides ideal conditions for rafting, with thrilling rapids in upper reaches and stunning Amazonian nature in the lower regions, replete with wild animals and vibrant flora.
5. Kayaking on Titicaca: The famous high-altitude Lake Titicaca is an irresistible attraction, where visitors can paddle in distinctive Indian boats and immerse themselves in local traditions.
6. Ecotourism: A trip to the Amazon jungle is an enthralling experience in Peru. It offers encounters with indigenous tribes, river journeys on rafts or boats, and access to the Manu National Park or Tambopata Reserve from Puerto Maldonado, deemed the Gateway to the Amazon.
7. Hiking and Trekking: Peru’s Inca Roads, ancient stone paths established by the Incas to connect their cities, are now a significant tourist draw. The trail to Machu Picchu is among the most popular routes.
8. Mountaineering: Peru provides excellent opportunities for various forms of climbing, including rock climbing, glacier trekking, and mountain trails, with routes suitable for climbers of all skill levels. Acclimatization is crucial at higher altitudes.
9. Architectural Sights: In addition to the Inca heritage, Peru boasts more recent architectural gems, such as the cathedral founded by conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, symbolizing Lima. Cusco, the former Inca capital, has transformed into a city with numerous historical buildings and monuments.
10. Mysteries and Historical Secrets: For those intrigued by the enigmatic and unexplained, Peru offers excursions to the Nazca Plateau, renowned for its geoglyphs, visible mainly from an aerial perspective. Over 140 drawings exist, the purpose of which continues to baffle scientists.
What You Need to Know About Peru
If you’re planning a visit to this country, here are some essential things to know:
The official language in Peru is Spanish. Additionally, Quechua, the indigenous language of the country, holds official status. In certain regions, local Indian languages are also spoken.
The country’s current population is slightly over 32 million people. Approximately 80% of the population resides in urban areas, with the proportion of rural inhabitants steadily decreasing. Peru is a multi-ethnic nation, with nearly 60% of the population being mestizos, the descendants of mixed marriages between Europeans and Indians. Pure-blooded Indians make up about 26%, with the majority belonging to the Quechua, the descendants of the Incas. There are also individuals of pure European, African, and Asian descent, with a significant number of Japanese and Chinese heritage.
- For more intriguing details about Peruvians, their character, and local customs, you can refer to this article.
The national currency is the Peruvian sol, referred to as the “nuevo sol” following the denomination in 2015. One sol is divided into 100 céntimos. Currently, banknotes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles are in circulation, along with coins in values of 10, 20, 50 céntimos and 1, 2, and 5 soles. Tourists often use U.S. dollars, which are widely accepted, and you’ll receive change in soles. Currency exchange can be done at any bank or special exchange points. The approximate exchange rate is 3.87 soles per 1 U.S. dollar.
The majority of the country’s population practices Christianity. Among Christians, Catholics make up the largest group, accounting for approximately 75% of the population. Protestants make up about 14%, while around 5% of the population identify as atheists.
Peru’s territory spans various climatic zones, including subequatorial and tropical climates as well as different altitudinal zones.
The tropical climate prevails along the coast.
The Amazon region experiences a subequatorial climate.
In the Sierra region, the climate varies with altitude, with icy deserts beginning around the 5,000-meter mark.
The cold Peruvian Current, which flows along the entire coast, significantly reduces precipitation levels in these areas. Some regions may receive no rainfall during the winter, making southern Costa somewhat desert-like with temperatures around +24 degrees Celsius in winter and +21 degrees in summer.
In the Selva region, winter is the wet season, and the area enjoys a perpetual spring with an average annual temperature of around +28 degrees Celsius. The Selva receives up to 4,000 millimeters of rainfall annually.
Sea Water Temperature
The average sea water temperature off the coast of Peru experiences slight annual fluctuations. However, due to the influence of cold ocean currents along the coast, the sea may not always be suitable for swimming. The prime time for beach and sea tourism in Peru is during the winter months, which align with the local summer, typically from January to March.
- Water temperature in winter (December-January): +18 to +22 degrees in February.
- Water temperature in spring (March-May): +18 to +21 degrees in March.
- Water temperature in summer (June-July): +16 to +17 degrees Celsius.
- Water temperature in autumn (September-November): +17 to +18 degrees.
The main natural hazard in Peru is earthquakes. The country is located in a zone where the South American and Pacific plates collide, leading to the formation of the Andes mountain system. Peru experiences approximately 200 small earthquakes each year, with significant ones occurring every 5-6 years. The most catastrophic earthquake in the country’s history happened on May 31, 1970, resulting in about 100,000 casualties. Earthquakes with their epicenters in the ocean can trigger tsunamis, but the mountainous coastline helps mitigate their impact.
Floods are the second major threat in Peru, particularly affecting the highlands and the jungle. These floods are usually triggered by heavy rainfall, which can also lead to landslides and avalanches in mountainous areas.
While there is a potential risk of volcanic eruptions in the country, there have been no major eruptions in recent history.
The El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean has varying effects on Peru’s climate, leading to both drought in the mountains and heavy rainfall in regions that typically receive little or no rain during other years.
Wildfires are common during the dry season, especially in the Sierra. For example, in June 2022, a fire engulfed 12,000 hectares of forest, coming dangerously close to the city of Machu Picchu.
- For more information about the most devastating disasters in Peru’s history, you can refer to this article.
Peru operates as a presidential republic. The president, who appoints the prime minister, serves as the head of state. The country’s legislative power is vested in a unicameral Congress.
Administratively, the country is divided into 25 regions, which are further subdivided into provinces and districts. Notably, the capital province of Lima does not belong to any specific region. The largest region in the country is Loreto, located in the northwest.
The capital of Peru is Lima.
Major Cities and Resorts
Lima is the country’s capital and its largest city, founded in 1535. It is currently home to 9.5 million people, which is almost a third of the country’s total population. Tourists are drawn to Lima by its historical center, featuring numerous architectural monuments from the colonial period such as the cathedral, the archbishop’s palace, catacombs, and various museums including the Gold Museum, the Inquisition Museum, and many others.
Cusco, the oldest city in the country and once the capital of the Inca Empire, was founded in 1100. It currently has a population of 400 thousand people. Tourists visit Cusco for its Inca ruins, temples, and walls, as well as the Church of Compania and geoglyphs found on surrounding rocks.
Arequipa, the country’s second-largest city, was founded in 1540 and has preserved many colonial-era buildings. It is home to 1.1 million people. Arequipa attracts tourists with its historical monuments and renowned local cuisine, earning its reputation as the unofficial capital of Peruvian gastronomy. Excursions to the Colca Canyon, where the world’s largest condor nests are located, can be organized from here.
Iquitos, the capital of the Amazonian region Loreto, is a city of 400 thousand people founded in 1757. It is home to a unique Indian village that can only be reached during the rainy season by water.
Symbols of Peru
Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca city that was named one of the New Wonders of the World in 2007.
Vicuña, a relative of the llama, is a small animal used for various domestic purposes by the Incas.
Cantua, a national plant with tubular bright red flowers, is also known as the Inca flower.
Rock cockerel, a beautiful bird of the passerine family, has become a national symbol.
Inca Cola is a soft drink made from yellow-colored lemon verbena. It was created in 1935 and has gained extraordinary popularity in Peru.
How to Get to Peru
European or Asian tourists can access the country almost exclusively by airplane. Peru has 12 international airports, but Jorge Chavez Airport in the capital city is considered the central air gateway. It is one of the busiest airports in South America, annually serving 23 million passengers. There are regular flights from all South American countries, Madrid, Paris, London, New York, and many other world capitals.
Peru’s other international airports primarily offer connections to neighboring countries and provide domestic flights. There are regions in Peru that can only be reached by air or water, like the city of Iquitos.
How Much Does a Holiday in Peru Cost?
The cost of a holiday in Peru can vary greatly depending on whether you plan to venture on your own or utilize the services of a travel company and trusted guides.
Peru is located on the west coast of South America, which is quite distant from Europe. Therefore, for tourists from the EU, the flight here won’t come cheap. For instance, a round-trip ticket to Lima from Paris will cost at least $800-1000, depending on the season.
The most affordable tours to the country start at $1800 to $3000 for 7 days, excluding the flight. These tours offer an extensive itinerary, allowing you to explore the country’s main attractions.
In the country itself, tourists can expect the following expenses:
- Food: Prices for food here are much lower than in Europe. For example, lunch at an average restaurant will cost $20-30 for two people, while in a local snack bar, it’s only $3-6. For instance, a cheeseburger costs $1.5, and a cup of cappuccino is about $2.
- Accommodation: The average price for a double room in a three-star hotel is $40-50, but in a hostel, you can find a room for as low as $25. The most comfortable hotels offer rooms starting at $170.
- Sightseeing: Beach services are typically free when staying at a hotel, except for extras such as diving. Many historic buildings and churches can be visited for free, but you’ll need to pay for entrance to museums. Themed tours can cost anywhere from $30 to $300. For example, a visit to Machu Picchu will cost about $500 for two people, and a simple sightseeing tour of Lima costs only $23 per person.
- Souvenirs: From Peru, tourists often bring back woollen clothes from local manufacturers (ponchos starting at $60, jumpers from $10), T-shirts featuring local attractions, amulets, and antique-style silverware, such as the Inca cross, bracelets, and pendants. Popular ceramics from Cuzco are also popular. As for food items, people often bring back mate tea, local coffee, cacao paste, and Pisco brandy. The costs of souvenirs are individual and can vary significantly.
- Transport: It is often easier and sometimes safer to move around cities using public transport like buses and shuttle buses. A ticket costs about 30 cents. The cost of boarding a taxi is $1.6, with a subsequent charge of $1.3 per kilometer.
In summary, considering a reserve for unforeseen expenses, a holiday for two people in Peru for 7 days, including the flight, will cost between $2500 and $5000. Of course, the total cost can be much higher.
If you’ve already visited Peru, please share your impressions in the comments. We’d greatly appreciate it if you could write a few words about what you liked most, the moments that left a lasting memory, and any recommendations you might have for other tourists. Your insights are invaluable!