Photos of the Incas, llamas and deep, dark jungles create a magical image of Peru. But there is much more for you to discover in this diverse and fascinating country, with sights, activities and culture that more than competes with all other South American destinations. Whether you are looking for a luxury tour, a family holiday or a back-packer trip, there are many reasons to visit Peru.
Peru has a unique and stunning geographic diversity to offer through its three regions: the Pacific coast, the Andean highlands and the Amazon jungle. Even during a short visit, Peru's diversity is more than obvious. A 14 hours bus ride takes you from the desert on the coast to the cool heights of the Andes, before it takes you down to the great Peruvian Amazon jungle.
Tours of the Amazon can then take you even further into the jungle, or you can hop on a passenger ferry and travel on the Amazon River all the way to the coast of Brazil.
Peru's distinct regions provide excellent trekking options for both experienced and occasional hikers. There are plenty of trails to choose from, ranging from one-day to multi-day treks with overnights. Some of the most popular hiking spots are:
Machu Picchu may be the "jewel" among Peru's historic sites, but it is certainly not the only one in Peru's archaeological diversity. A large selection of fascinating ruins are scattered around the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, but also many other places have pre-colonial buildings in its vicinity. Highlights:
• The mysterious Nazca Lines
• The impressive Inca ruins near Cusco - Saqsayhuamán
• Moche ruins near Trujillo
• Ancient tombs near Chiclayo
• Kuelap fortress near Chachapoyas
The Peruvian cuisine has quickly made its mark on the global culinary map, and with good reasons. Travellers can enjoy a wide range of regional delicacies, including the continent's finest ceviche (raw seafood in a marinade), traditional specialties as alpaca steak and grilled Cuy (guinea pig) and tasty, leaf-wrapped Peruvian snacks as Juanes, tamales and humitas.
For samples of oddities in the menu, dip in a pot of roasted ants or close your eyes before forcing down a juicy jungle worm.
With eight national parks, nature lovers have more than enough reasons to visit Peru.
The Peruvian year is full of colorful festivals. During the "Semana Santa", the week leading up to Easter Sunday, religious processions are blocking the streets with a fascinating blend of colonial and indigenous traditions. Cusco celebrates the great Inca festival Inti Raymi on June 24, making this a popular time to visit Peru and Machu Picchu. In the jungle, the festival in San Juan marks a day of wine and relaxation along the river followed by an epic night of dancing.
Do not forget Peru's Independence Day on July 28. Military parades are marching through the streets in day-time and endless festivities and fireworks will ensure a long and lively night.
Whether they are quiet and reserved or smilingly helpful, Peruvians are always happy to welcome tourists to their proud country. With just moderate basic knowledge of Spanish, you will never get away from a little small talk in a bar or restaurant over a beer or freshly squeezed juice. Peruvians also love to dance, so be prepared to be invited to the dance floor when you visit a place with music and dance.
Keep in mind that people rarely speak English, especially in the provinces. It may seem like a tough task, but learn some Spanish words and you will reap the rewards when you put your foot on Peruvian soil.
Peru has a rich tradition of healers and spiritual advisors, from the "curanderos" in the Andes to the Amazon "shamans". You may take a spiritual journey with an ayahuasca ceremony, or perhaps let a guinea rubdown clean impurities from your body.
Budget backpackers can live very cheaply and take advantage of the low prices. With simple lunches for less than 3 USD, 10 USD for a night at a hostel and cheap long-distance buses, you can easily cope with a "low" budget from the Pacific coast to the depths of the Amazon jungle.
Those seeking adrenaline rushes will not be bored in Peru. There are lots of things to do:
• Paragliding by the coast in Lima
• Sandboarding on the dunes close to Huacachina
• Take a sand buggy for a ride in the desert
• Surf on the waves along the Peruvian coastline
• Mountain and ice climbing in the Cordillera Blanca range
• River-kayaking in the Amazon
• Rafting in the Sacred Valley
• Mountain biking in the Andes on winding paths