♦Currency: Sol (PEN)
♦Zone: -5 GMT
♦Phone Code: +51
♦Best time to visit: April- October
♦Must eat: Pollo a la Brasa
♦Must drink: Pisco Sour
♦Don't miss: Visiting Machu-Picchu
♦Number of times visited: 3
Getting there and transportation: Arriving to Peru is becoming easier now thanks to an increase in air travel to and from the country's main gateway, Lima. Also it means fares have become cheaper as a host or European and American airlines fly there on a daily basis. Peru has many domestic airports but Lima will be your starting point for any journey. Arriving in Lima's Main Jorge Chavez Airport is simple,however if you have a domestic connection, you will need to clear immigration, exit arrivals and then re-enter security to access the domestic flight gates.
Obviously travelling by air is the main way of transportation within the country, Peru has no official airline as during the decades a number or airlines have failed to secure funding and remain competitive. However Lan Peru, now forming part of LATAM group is a major player in the country and flies to both international and domestic destinations. Other airlines in Peru operating domestic routes mainly are Peruvian Airlines, LCPeru and Star Peru.
Within the country there is the option to travel by bus, however this option is not so recommended if you are travelling International. Journey's are several days long, poor road infrastructure and often pickpockets operate on busses making it not a secure mode of travelling.Domestic trips by bus are more popular if you are travelling not more than 12 hours or overnight. Specially to Cuzco or along the coast of Peru trips are more popular.
Tip: Travelling by taxi is often the best option when arriving to any airport, as there is a complete lack of public transportation. Be aware that for tourists, taxi drivers will increase the prices dramatically so always agree a price before going. On average a trip from/to the airport should not cost more than 50 soles, ($15) to/from city centre in Lima.
Weather and Temperature: Peru's climate is very variable depending where you are. At the coast it's very mild whilst in the inland it can be very hot or cold depending on the season. The summer is from December to February where it is often warm and humid. Temperatures on average are 25C. However it can be very cloudy and in the capital it can rain often.The best time to visit Peru is April to October.
Food and Drink: Peru's food has an authentic mixture of cultures cuisines, from mild to spicy and hot. Peruvians enjoy a wide variety of fruit and vegetables They use plenty of condiments, ajo and ají (garlic and hot pepper), to increase the flavour of it's dishes. Many restaurants offer a menú del día (menu of the day) which is a combination of dishes for a set price. Cities will be often more expensive than the coastal regions ,where you will find an array of cheap, delicious and varied fruits available from markets.Popular dishes and products to taste are: Ceviche, raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice, onions and hot chillies. Cuy, roasted guinea pig, served whole, with yucca and potatoes. Causa relleña, potato cakes stuffed with a range of fillings, including chicken, avocado or crabmeat. Tamales, boiled corn dumplings filled with meat and wrapped in a banana leaf. Mazamorra morada, a dessert made with purple maize and sweet potato starch jelly cooked with lemons, dried fruits, cinnamon and cloves. Salchipapas, a sausage-and-chips fast-food snack. particularly popular in Chiclayo. Papas a la huancaína, sliced potatoes served on lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce, and either a piece of hard-boiled egg or olives. Pollo a la brasa, chargrilled chicken, served with chips and salad with sauces. Chicharrones, salted pork fried in its own fat, a popular roadside snack.As for drinks, the nationla spirit is, Pisco, a clear brandy distilled from grapes. Pisco sour, Peru’s most popular cocktail, a bittersweet pisco-based drink made with lime juice, egg white and sugar. Chicha de jora, a potent maize beer popular in the Andes. Chicha morada, A non-alcoholic purple sweet corn juice that dates back to Inca times. Inca Kola: The bottled soft drink of choice; sweet, fizzy and bright yellow.
Also Peru is popular for beer, typically light lagers include Cuzqueña from Cusco and Arequipeña from Arequipa.
Weather and Temperature: Lima's climate is very moderate, with soft winters and humid summers. The summer it from December to February where it is often warm and humid. Temperatures on average are 25C. However it can be very cloudy and in the capital it can rain often.The best time to visit Lima is during the winter from June to September, being dry and temperatures around 15C.
Transportation: Arriving from the Airport, the only option is to take a taxi, till they build the long awaited metro system. The ride will cost $10-15 into the city centre. Agree the fare before you travel and be aware than taking luggage will often cost more.Once in the city if you stay near the Old Quarter there is no need to take public transportation. The most common types of busses you will find are micros and combis. The micro's are small busses whilst the combis are more like vans.The destination of the services is written at the front of the bus or by a number but this being a puzzle to figure out if it goes to your destination.Drivers will not speak any English and drive very quick,starting the journey even when you have just got in. Often being full and having to stand in a reduced space. Clearly it's not recommended for tourists to venture on them unless you travel with the locals. Many pickpockets travel on the combis specially if you going to other poorer districts of Lima. The fares are very cheap (less then $0.25) but it's risky transport.
There is now a Metro system called Metropolitano, consisting of only one line at the moment till more lines are built and completed. However it does not pass by places of interest under a tourist point of view. In the future it will link with the airport which will make the commute a lot easier for visitors.
Culture and History: Coming to Lima is essential to understand how the city started and how the Spanish made Lima it's capital. There are numerous Museums and places of interest which are recommended to visit. The main historical centre is located in the Old Quarter. (Casco Historico)
Plaza de Armas of Lima, is the birthplace of the city of Lima. Convento de San Francisco, Saint Francis Monastery. Palacio del Governador, Government Palace also known as House of Pizarro, it's the executive branch of the Peruvian Government and the official residence of the President of Peru. Basilica Catedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor, first constructed in 1535. Palacio de la Unión, inaugurated in 1942 and considered a Monument of National Heritage. Plaza San Martin,surrounded by governmental buildings and nearby shopping streets. Torre Tagle, is a Spanish Baroque palace located in the Old Quarter, home to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Museo de la Nacion, Museum of the Nation is the largest of the two major museums of Peruvian history.
Other areas of interest include El Barrio Chino, China town, Peru has strong Asian influence from both China and Japan, many restaurants and shops selling authentic Asian products can be found. Miraflores and Larcomar, is a shopping center in the Miraflores district of Lima.It is the high end of Lima with numerous residential apartments.It attracts most tourists and locals for it's peaceful walks along the cliffs overlooking for Ocean.The shopping centre includes a cinema, bowling lanes, a food court, museum, tourist shops etc. It's a safe area and where all the night life takes places as well with many clubs and restaurants opening late.
Recommended Duration: Lima is a huge city in size, but despite this, the tourist safe areas are all within the city centre and Miraflores where most sites, museums and points of interest are located. Staying in the city for a couple of nights is enough and then travelling onwards to other cities like Cuzco.
Accommodation: Hotel's are cheap in Lima, staying in the city centre is most recommended although there are plenty of Hotels in other districts offering very good prices.However you are left stranded further out, unless you want to venture on the local busses to the city. Hotels in the city can be as little as €20 a night. If staying in Hostels or sharing rooms, its advised always to lock your luggage and don't expose any valuables.
Weather and Temperature: The best time to visit Arequipa is during the winter season between the months of May to September. The temperature is mild and days are often sunny. However it can get very busy at July-August and expensive. Also other months are good to visit though it can be more cloudy. Summer is December to February, it's hot and dry and should be avoided.
Transport: Arriving in Arequipa by air is the obvious option. It has many daily flights from Lima as well as other cities like Cuzco. From the airport there is no public transportation options to the city centre, therefore a taxi is the only option, but they are cheap and the ride will not be more than 30 min. The town lies 19km away from the airport.
Once in the city there is no public transportation, useful at least for visitors. Staying in the city centre where the Old Town is located will be easy to walk to all the central areas and visit the city.
However there is a railway network system that has been operating in Arequipa since 1871, it connects Cusco-Puno-Arequipa and Arequipa-Mollendo. Also you will find a Bus Station serving domestic and international destinations.
Culture and History: The historic centre of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of historic buildings, interesting streets to walk around with natural scenery making the the city a major tourist destination. Its religious, colonial, and republican architectural styles blend European and native characteristics.
Renowed buildings and places to see include: Monasterio de Santa Catalina, it's a monastery of nuns, open to the public and made into a museum. PLaza de Armas, the centre of Arequipa where the governmental institutions are located and the cathedral. La Catedral,the cathedral of the city,of a Renaissance Revival architecture style, reconstructed after several earthquakes. Palacio de Goyeneche, Palace or Casa Goyeneche is a 17th-century manorial house out of the city centre, famous for it's colonial architecture. Casa del Moral, mansion house with Spanish colonial era furnishings and art, with courtyards.
Tips: It's worth visiting the Museum hosted inside the Cathedral and take a walk to the top of the Cathedral and admire the impressive views and learn via a tour the history and the restoration that took place after many earthquakes that struck the city. As well it's highly recommended to take a bus tour around the city to Yanahuara and the outskirts to visit some of the historic buildings not accessible by foot. You will find many tour operators around the main square offering these packages which include half day tours to full day including many more sights and activities.
Accommodation: Staying in Arequipa is essential to sleep within the city centre, or old town, where all the tourist attractions are located and it's as well safer. Not that Arequipa has a high crime volume, nevertheless you have to be always careful and not expose your belongings if travelling beyond the city centre. There are plenty of Hotels and Hostels around the old town, prices on average good about €20-30 per night.
Recommended duration: It's a small city and very tranquil, coming for tourism would not take long to discover the city and visit museums within a couple of days including a half day tour. 2 to 3 nights would be enough.
Transportation: Most travellers will come by air, taking only 1 hour away from Lima and flights being cheap. Many airlines offer good competition in prices, LATAM and Avianca the most recommended. As you arrive, there is no public transport like in all of Peru airports. A taxi to the hotel in the city is about 15 Soles. (under $4).
Another option which is more adventurous, is taking a bus from Lima to Cuzco taking about 22hours to complete. They will serve you meals during the non stop ride, and seats are big and comfortable. Prices are from 175 Soles one way. However trips can be very treacherous via windy single lane roads. It's not recommended for those with height sickness or who have weak stomachs. Additionally for safety concerns, take care of your belongings, as these trips can be targeted at night with pick-pocketers.
Within the city of Cuzco there are only taxis if you want travel around and see the main interests on the city with many laying at least 30 minutes drive. Getting a tour to the sites is the best option. Tours are cheap, only 20 Soles and take you around then city in 4 hours. But the entrance fees are not included and this could add another 100 Soles to the trip. Ask and enquire properly to know all the tours available as there are many different ones.The offices are all located at the main square of Cuzco.
Weather and temperature: The climate of Cuzco is very different from the rest of Peru, the high altitude being the main reason why visitors should come prepared with warm and water proof clothing. It's located at 3.400 meters making it dry and hot during the hot months, November to February. Therefore the best times are March to October when it's cooler but still temperatures can be around 20C during the day, but at night in can get quite fresh. Strong winds are also common, due to the high terrain, good sun protection is advised and sun glasses. The busiest time of the year is July and August.
Attention!: When going to Cuzco it's advised to be careful of "height sickness", our body can be breath better at a height of 2.000m or less. Therefore when travelling to Cuzco it's recommended not to do things quickly, nor do heavy exercise. Keeping hydrated is also important, but make sure you avoid alcohol.
Culture and history: Not only Cuzco is the gateway to the Machu Picchu but the city itself and its surroundings are also worth a visit. Within Cuzco you will find history and mystique at each corner, each square and nearby valleys. Each of its sites together with nearby archaeological centres like Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay or Qenko, allows you to witness the enormous capacity that the Incas had to build real architectural wonders. Machu Picchu definitely is one of the best representative examples.
Tip: It's most recommended that when visiting the city, you take a tour to discover and understand the beginning of the city and the legacy which the Incas left behind. All tours offices are located at the Plaza de Armas, (Main square) where you can arrange the itineraries. The tours mainly offer just the transportation and the guide, (cost of 20 soles) however the entrance fees to each stop are not included. There is a pass-ticket which allows you to access all sites of the itinerary and it can be found in two different formats.
A day access pass which includes basic sites closer to Cuzco, or the general pass which includes all other sites and is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase.Tourists always pay a higher price, so take this into account. A day pass is 70 Soles and the general one is 130 Soles. (prices may vary)
In Cuzco the main sites to see are: Cusco Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church located at the main square. Igelsia de la Compañía de Jesús, The Church of the Society of Jesus is a historic church also at the main square. Qorikacha,(Convento de Santo Domingo) originally named Inti-Kancha, was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. (the temple is mainly restored and transformed into a monastery but has many original walls and items from the Inca era).
Out of the city you will find the following important archaeological sites which you will need to access by tour as they are all out of the city:
Machu Picchu: It's one of the Worl's most famous Wonders of the World, and it's listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Machu Picchu is 2,430 m above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock formations.
From Cuzco there are infinite possibilities of arranging a tour to the peak of Machu Picchu and they range from basic transportation costs to all inclusive and private guided tours. The trip can be completed within a day, but the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) is very interesting to visit in the evening with many restaurants, markets and shops open late.Staying one night could be the best option.You can arrange your own trip,on a budget,following these steps:
Tip: When you retun you can walk instead of taking the bus, it's all down hill and the walk takes no more than one hour at a comfortable speed. The scenery is breath-taking!
- Buy online the train ticket from Cuzco to Machu Pichu at Perurail.com (Departing station is called Poroy actually) arriving by 12pm the latest for you to have time to go up and see all the sights once you arrive.Trains have different classes from regular ticket to a more luxury first class. All include a good service, luggage storage and comfortable trains. The trip takes 3.5 hours. Tickets range from $50 up to $350 depending on season and service class.
- Take a taxi to Poroy station, it costs about 35 Soles and takes 30min from Cuzco city centre. Make sure you arrive within 30min also from the train departure.
- Once you arrive to Machu Pichu station go towards the main square (Plaza de Armas), and at Ave Pachacutec walk a few meters up the road where you will find where to buy the entrance to the Machu Pichu site, it costs about 130 Soles.
- Buy the bus transfer from the town to the entrance of the Machu Picchu site. It costs $12 one way and it's bought a few meters up the road from the bus stop (paradero). The stop is located next to the train bridge so it can't be missed.
Accomodation: there are plenty of options to stay at, for all budgets. From comfortable stylish hotels to shared dormitory hostels. Many travelers come to Cuzco and book on the day, in which you can find local hostels at cheaper rates than online. Try to stay near the main square within walking distance as all tours operate from there. Prices can be found from $15 a night in a hostel and $30 for hotels.
Recommended duration: Including Cuzco and Machu Pichu staying one night in each is enough to see the sites . Another option is two stay two nights in Cuzco and completing the trip to Machu Pichu on the second day.