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Best known as the home of the ancient Incas but visitors would be delightfully surprised at the diverse culture, climates and landscapes that Peru has to offer. Over half of the country is blanketed by lush green Amazon forest, has a desert coastline that stretches over 2,500km and has some of the world’s most pristine unspoilt virgin land. Peru’s cities are a perfect balance of modern without losing its ancient heritage and maintaining its Spanish influences.
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When to go
Much of Peru’s climate varies upon the different altitudes throughout the country which means despite being next to each other; places can have varying temperatures and rainfall. As a general guide the best time to visit Peru can depend on which sites you specifically want to visit.
Visiting the highlands home of the Andes and the Inca Trail
Visit during the dry season between May and October. During the day the temperature is mild and much cooler at night due to higher elevations, particularly between June and July. It can get very wet between January and February – February being the wettest month and thus, the Inca trail is closed for maintenance. Machu Picchu remains open daily during this month.
The Amazon Jungle
The Amazon areas remain hot and humid all year round though slightly cooler with temperatures between 30-38 degrees between May and October.
Lima and the desert coast
The summer months between December and March it is generally hot and sunny with temperatures around 25 degrees. Generally dry weather can be experienced all year round with coastal temperatures rarely dipping below 15 degrees.
Getting around Peru
Thanks to frequent internal flights, an excellent bus network and trains can be a superb way to see the Andes and other major attractions throughout this vast country. If you head to the Amazon, the only way around is by boat. Due to the high altitudes, travelling can even be more exhausting so it is recommended to allow for extra time to enjoy the local surroundings rather than rushing ticking off major attractions such as Machu Picchu or Colca Canyon.
As the final stop before reaching Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes has become a busy tourist hub. You can expect crowds as travellers stay here before their ascent to Machu Picchu. Here you will find thermal springs, museum, Quechua craft stalls and restaurants.
Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and only one-tenth the size of the country’s capital Lima. Its beautiful white volcanic walls, known as sillar stone, have earned its name as the ‘White City’ situated at the feet of three conical volcanoes of Mount Chachani, Mount Misti and, the snow-covered peak of Mount Pichu Pichu.
The city-centre is UNESCO World Heritage with baroque churches carved from sillar stone and mansions of colonial style architecture. Aside from the colonial cityscapes, there are deep canyons to explore such as Cotahuasi and Colca, gastronomic dining, pockets of small coves and stunning beaches.
Although coined as ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’, the Ballestas Islands is one of Peru’s hidden gems and one of the country’s least known highlights. These groups of rocky islands are located just off the Pacific coast near the town of Paracas, three hours south of Lima. They are a birder’s paradise and home to a variety of wildlife including sea lions, penguins, dolphins, Inca terns, pelicans and turtles to name a few.
The Colca Canyon is known for its extreme topography surrounded by Andean peaks with a plunge of over 4km deep – more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, and is the world’s second deepest Canyon. Considered by many, the best place to observe the Andean Condor with its massive three metre wingspan.
Situated 3,400 metres (11,200 feet) high up in the Andes and was once the heart of the Incan empire is the city of Cuzco. ‘Cuzco’ translates to ‘Centre of the World’ in the native tongue of Quechua and is a melting pot of different cultures, pre-Inca, Inca, Colonial and Republican. Visit this city to experience rich tapestry, indigenous Quechua culture, and of course Inca and Colonial heritage throughout.
Iquitos embodies an ‘urban jungle’ surrounded by small rivers and canals and accessible only by plane followed by a boat ride deep into the Amazon. Take a slow cruise through the Amazon for a scenic view of the thick jungle and observe the thriving wildlife.
Etched in the parched coastal plain of Peru are a series of mysterious lines believed to be over 1000 years old. Created by the ancient prehistoric Nazca people who left no written records as why these lines were built. They include animals, plants, oddly shaped figures and geometric designs covering an estimated 450 square kilometres (170 square miles).
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