Here you will find basic facts and information about Peru. Everything from suggestions of the best time of year you go, to information about Peruvian history and culture, which gives you an idea of the country you are visiting and to be well prepared.
Most visitors to Peru do not need a visa, you are assigned upon arrival a 90-day tourist visa. In the aircraft before landing in Peru you fill in a card to enter the country (tarjeta de embarque) that you store together with your passport during the journey, to show in hotels and when you leave the country.
Altitude sickness is common in the Andes, especially if you arrive by flight, but is avoided by relaxing, resting and drinking water. You can buy medicine to prevent altitude sickness in almost all pharmacies.
There is very little risk of cholera, hepatitis and malaria in low-lying areas by the Pacific Ocean. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended if you visit the jungle areas to the east of the Andean mountains, although the risk of infection is very low on a shorter tourist visit. If you are travelling from a neighbouring country in South America, where yellow fever is present, however, you have to have vaccination. Vaccine should be taken at least 10 days before arrival.
Time Difference: GMT – 5 hours
El: 220V, 60 Hz
Pickpockets are quite common in Lima, but Peru does not really deserve their poor reputation when compared with Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. When it comes to violence and assault you are probably safer than in many of the world's biggest cities.
However, we recommend precautions with valuables and many parts of Lima you should not visit on your own, and not in the night. Keep passports, money, credit cards and travel documents close hidden to your body near or leave them in the hotel's security cabinet.
What you as a visitor needs to concentrate on more for your own safety is the traffic. You do not meet with the same consideration and caution as you are used to. The traffic is dangerous!
When shall we go to Peru
Choosing the right time for your trip to Peru depends on which parts of Peru's climate areas you are going to visit.
The desert areas by the Pacific coast have very warm and sunny weather from December to March, especially in the northern parts of the country, cooler and often foggy from April to November. In the northern desert areas it almost never rains.
The seasons in the Andes are more distinct, with rain from December to March and relatively dry weather from June to September. Although it may be cold at night June to September is the best time for hiking and outdoor activities in the mountains.
In the jungle the seasons are separated in a similar way as in the Andes, however, the rain is cooler and more frequent. Here it is very warm and humid all the year.
In the rainforest areas around Iquitos, water levels in the rivers are much higher in December and January, making it easier to see and experience the wild animal life.
The Peruvian people love every reason to celebrate an event and there is a wide range of religious ceremonies, festivals and other local events. Carnivals are held in towns and villages throughout the country, and “fiestas” are celebrated very often. The time for the carnivals is mainly at the end of February.
Agenda for major festivals
Carnivals are celebrated wildly throughout the country before the fasting time.
Easter week – fantastic processions in most major cities and towns.
Inti Raymi – the great and famous celebration in Cusco, celebrated since before the Incas on the occasion of the winter solstice, when it is prayed for the Sun to come back from the north.
Peru's national day (28 June) - general holidays with school- and army processions.
The Arequipa week – processions, fireworks, dance, folklore and handicrafts markets.
At the end of the month "Spring Festivals" are celebrated, particularly in Trujillo with a focus on dance.
Local religious processions in honour of "The Lord of Miracles".
All Saints Day.
Above has been mentioned just a portion of the approximately 3000 festivals that are celebrated in Peru each year, most with religious background.
The currency in Peru is “Nuevo Sol”, and is called Sol (S/.). In Lima and also in most other cities you also may use Euros or US Dollar to change to Soles. To change small amounts of money, you get the best rate from “Cambistas”, authorized persons with specially designed vests, who are standing in the street corners and on the sidewalks or in special change offices. Check the amount of money you get before handing over your Euros or US Dollars.
Many traveler though feel more comfortable with using a credit card, VISA, Master Card, etc, and cash machines are available in all bigger cities. The maximum amount to withdraw is usually limited to 400 US Dollars.
To change a bigger amount of money, maybe you feel safer to go to a bank, but also there you have to be careful, as criminal gangs may have people in the bank, who give a sign to others outside the bank, telling that someone has withdrawn a bigger amount of money. The hotels also have service for change of money, but they often charge a high fee for the change.
The first inhabitants in Peru were hunters and nomads, who lived in caves by the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The eldest place known, Pikimachay, is dated to about 12 000 B.C. Crops like cotton, beans, squash, chili pepper began to be used about 4 000 B.C. Later on more developed cultures like Chavin, started to use the art of weaving, agriculture and religion in their daily lives.
About 300 B.C. the Chavin culture suddenly disappeared for reasons nobody has been able to explain, but was followed by other cultures like Salinar, Moche, Chimu, Nazca, Paracas and Wari.
In the beginning of the 15th century the Inca culture had control over large parts of the western South America, and had influence and power in all or parts of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
1532 the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro arrived to northern Peru, and managed by deceit together with his 160 soldiers to capture the Inca leader Atahualpa and paralyse his army of many thousands of soldiers. Pizarro marched south with his prisoner before he executed the Inca leader 1533.
Rebellions against the Spanish invaders constantly took place until 1572, when the last Inca emperor, Manco Inca, was executed by beheading. The following 200 years went on in peace until the Spanish tyranny of the Indians lead to a rebellion 1780, led by the Inca Tupac Amaro II. The rebellion was crushed and the leaders were executed.
The Peruvians continued to be loyal to the Spanish king until the declaration of independence 1821. Real independence was not achieved, and the state totally liberated until 1824, when the country got its freedom by two foreign freedom fighters, Simón Bolivar from Venezuela and José de San Martin from Argentina.
Through the years Peru has had minor conflicts with Spain, Chile and Ecuador. In the war against Chile 1879 – 1883, Per had to give up some land in the south, and since then there are tensions between the countries now and then until today.
1965 started a rebellion by a Cuba inspired guerilla led by “The National Liberty Army”, but it was crushed in a short while. However a number of national strikes followed, which in combination with the violent Maoistic guerilla “Sendero Luminoso”, laid waist during the 1980th and created great politic instability by bomb attempts and assaults. This obstructed the development in the country to a very large extent.
1990, Alberto Fujimori was elected president in Peru, and he not only succeeded in making peace in the country by capturing and imprisoning the leader Guzman, but also to create economic development, which until today still is going on. Recently he was imprisoned and sentenced to jail for corruption and crimes against humanity.
In the election 2011 the controversial left-winged ex army officer Ollanta Hummala was elected president. He is known for his close relations to the presidents in Venezuela and Bolivia, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales.
The biggest problem in Peru though is, despite a very fast growing economy, the wide-spread poverty.
The Peruvian art before the colonization of the Spaniards consisted of pottery, metal works, handicraft in stone and textile.
Then the Spaniards introduced their culture of city-planning and built mansions, churches and monasteries, ornamented in Spanish renaissance – or early barock style. As time went by the Indian culture got more influence and was mixed up to something called “Mestis Style”.
The painting also was influenced by Europe, but by time the local artists got more and more self-confidence and a new distinct style was developed and was called “The Cusco Style”, where the artists turned themselves away from “the visible world” and instead concentrated on myths and fables as motives. You can see influences from this style in paintings of Paul Gaugain, who had his childhood in Lima.
The music in Peru almost solely consists of folk-music and the literature mostly consists of liberty-inspired polemic and anarchistic individualism. The most known writer is Mario Vargas Llosa who received the Nobel Literature Price 2011.
The main religion in Peru is Catholicism, even though many Peruvians with Indian origin mix it with traditional believes.
Spanish is the main language, but inside the country the people often are bilingual and use Quechua as mother tongue. Totally there are about 70 different languages in Peru. English can be understood and spoken at bigger hotels and air-lines.
The Peruvian “cuisine” has lately been internationally recognized, with its mix of European, Japanese, Chinese, African and domestic origin. For natural reasons there are many fish- and shellfish dishes, “ceviche” (raw fish marinated in green chili-pepper and lemon) is the National dish of Peru and has been eaten by the people for thousands of years. Otherwise chicken is the dish that is met with in hundreds of recipes.
Peru is situated by the coast of the Pacific Ocean and border to Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. The country is made up of three regions with big differences in nature and climate.
The coast area with desert, where the big cities and the best infrastructure are situated. The area has a rich bird- and marine life with sea-lions, seals, penguins, flamingos, dolphins, etc.
The Andes with its high mountains and summits, the highest is Huascarán (6 770 m). Here lives the condor (the worlds´ biggest land-bird), hummingbirds and many other species.
Among the animals you can see llama, alpaca, guanaco, vicuña, etc., and on the mountain-side to the jungle, jaguars, bears and tapirs.
In the east is the Amazon jungle from where the water is coming via the Maranon- and the Ucayali rivers in northern Peru to become the Amazon river. Here you will find all tropical animal- and bird species.
Peru consists of several different climate zones, and the best time of the year to make your trip depends on which places you want to visit.
The coast area
The coast region with its long and dry desert is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. Here it is temperate climate with warmer weather in the north and somewhat cooler in the middle and south. It almost never rains, except for in the areas up north, especially during December – March.
Even if Peru is situated very close to the equator with its warmth, this is compensated by the Humbold current in the Pacific Ocean with water from the areas around the South Pole which lower the temperature.
During the summer in the southern hemisphere the temperature is +25 - +35 C in daytime, and sinks during the night to +17 - +20 C. During the winter in Lima (summer in the northern hemisphere) the city is often covered with a light fog and the temperature may fluctuate +14 - +23 C during day and night, with high humidity. The coast up north is not affected by this fog though, and it is mostly warm and sunny even in the winter.
The Andes is normally cooler because of the altitude. The best time to visit the Andes is during the winter (summer in the northern hemisphere), April – October, when it is dry and sunny. The height of the season for tourism in the Andes is between May – September. During this period the weather is warm, dry and sunny with temperatures +20 - +25 C in daytime. In the night it gets cold though and the temperature may fall down to freezing-point.
The rainy period, November – March is milder with temperatures +18 - +20 during the day and down to +15 during the night. In this season also heavy rain occurs in the afternoons.
The Amazon is warm and humid and has its rainy period during the summertime in the Andes, December – March), heavy showers that lasts for a couple of hours each time make the water in the rivers rise.
April – October is the “dry” period in the jungle, even if it rains then also, just no so much. The average temperature during the day is +30 - +35, and during the night +16 - +22 C.