With breathtaking landscapes all around and a rich colourful history, it’s easy to see why Peru has fast become one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America. Situated in the North of this vast continent, bordering Columbia and Ecuador, the Republic of Peru is has a population of around 30.5 million. Human history in Peru stretches back some 9000 years with the now famous Inca Empire that started in the highlands of the country and branched outwards from the capital of Cusco. July is the best month to visit Peru with average temperatures around 20C (68F) in Cusco. Here’s our guide to the best of Peru.
No guide to Peru could start without mentioning the one place everyone should visit. Built in the 15th Century in the highlands of the Cusco region the remains of this ancient settlement are some 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. Little is known about why the Incas built so high up and it wasn’t until 1911 that the outside world knew of its existence. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site its one of the best known Peruvian tourist attractions. There are a number of ways you can get to the site including a train service, buses and the famous Inca Trail.
Walk the Inca Trail
If you’re looking for a physical challenge with a grand reward then the Inca Trail could well be for you. One of the best ways to get to Machu Pichu is by walking to the sight on the “Classic” once trail route. There are actually 3 routes to choose from but the Classic is by far the most rewarding. Starting either at Cusco or the Urubamba river, you’re already 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) above sea level at the beginning so you’ll need to be fully used to the high altitudes to avoid any sickness. Most people spend a few days in Cusco to adjust first so you’ll be ready to go by around the 3rd or 4th day in Peru. The trek takes around 4 or 5 days to complete and you set up camp each evening with your group, a great way to exchange travel stories and make new friends too. The trail takes you through forest, around lakes and up in to the clouds at the highest point, some 4,200 metres (13,780 ft) above sea level. You then descend into the highlands and camp overnight again before getting up around 2am for the final part of your trek. The early start is well worth it as you watch the sunrise of the mystical landscape of Machu Pichu. An unforgettable experience.
The Capital city of Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco has a lot to offer tourists and is a great place to start your Peruvian adventure. There’s a wealth of Spanish Colonial architecture here that has been well preserved. You’ll often see natives dressed in colourful traditional clothing and if you want a real slice of Cusco life head to the San Pedro Market. This is definitely not a tourist market so you’ll experience the real Peru. There are some great day trips out of Cusco including an animal sanctuary, white water rafting and the ancient site of Moray too. All well worth it and you can also hire bicycles to tour the city a little quicker. Be warned Cusco is 4,200 metres (13,780 ft) above sea level so altitude sickness can be an issue. When you first arrive be sure to take it easy and avoid alcohol, get some rest and let your body get used to the altitude. Hotels usually offer coca tea which helps with altitude sickness. Its always worth carrying some chocolate bars with your especially on the Inca Trail too. If you have prolonged sickness you can call the Hotel Doctor Internacional (+51 17 085586) a very reasonably priced doctor service that will come and treat you at your hotel room.
Don’t Watch the Film, Live it
Check out the latest movie from Marca Peru showing you the beautiful landscapes, historical sites and even the modern side to Peru, too. I think you’ll agree this country should be high on your list of must-see places. I know it’s on mine.