Scenically awe-inspiring, Peru is undoubtedly one of the highlights of South America. It is known as the “Egypt of South America” due to the large number of historical sites and ruins from ancient cultures that span from the Norte Chico to the Inca Empire. Most famous of all is of course Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. Then there is the vast ancient city of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian ruins in the Americas. Also fascinating and still an unsolved mystery are the Nazca lines etched into the desert. There are colourful markets such as Pisac to explore and of course Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. The lake is home to the Uros people who have lived on the lake for centuries, making their homes out of the otora reeds that grow in the lake. For wildlife viewing there is the Amazon rainforest, the Ballestas Islands and the Colca Canyon where the majestic Andean condors soar.
Did you know?
The ultimate source of the Amazon River is in Peru at 5,316 metres above sea level.
Lima is the 2nd largest capital to be located in the desert (after Cairo).
Peru is famous for the spirit Pisco and the cocktail Pisco Sour.
A pre-arranged visa is not required to enter Peru for citizens of the following countries:
The United States
For other nationalities please visit the website of the relevant consulate.
Vehicle Access in Cusco
Please note that large buses are not allowed into the centre of Cusco which may result in vehicle changes being necessary on your tour.
Visiting Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is one of South America’s major tourist attractions and in 2007 it was given the title of one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It was the American explorer and politician, Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas in 1911 and brought its attention to the rest of the world.
Before visiting Machu Picchu you are advised to spend a few days acclimatising in Cusco, the legendary capital of the Inca Empire at 3,400m. You then have the option to trek all or part of the way to Machu Picchu, or alternatively take a train. There are several options for trekking to the ruins. The Inca trail is the most popular option as it is the only trek in the area that enters the ruins through the famous “Sun Gate”. This trek has options for a 4-day or shorter 2-day hike and must be booked far in advance to guarantee availability. There are 500 permits issued per day for the trek and once these have been sold out, they do not come back on sale. Other alternative treks include the 4-day ‘Lares Trek’ or the 5-day ‘Salkantay Trek’ and although they do not arrive into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate they are still great options for trekking in the area. For both of these alternative treks you would catch the train for the final part of the journey to the ruins.
On a day trip visiting Machu Picchu from Cusco, you will be met early in the morning and transferred from your hotel to Poroy railway station to board the train towards Machu Picchu. After an impressive train ride through mountain valleys, cloud forest and high rainforest (approx. 3-4 hours) you reach the town of Aguas Calientes from where it is a short bus ride to this wonder of the world. You will have a guided tour of the site, as well as some free time to appreciate this amazing place.
For the energetic, there is the chance to climb the emblematic Huayna Picchu (Little Mountain) at an additional charge. This must also be booked in advance – see notes below.
At the end of the day you descend by bus to the small town of Aguas Calientes to take the train back to Cusco or you have the option to overnight there.
Please note: Machu Picchu is open daily from 7.00am to 5.30pm. There are no time limits for your visit to the ruins but if you are going back to Cusco the same day you will need to leave in time to pick up your train. Usually the train departure from Aguas Calientes to Cusco is at 6.45pm and it is necessary to get down to Aguas Calientes at least one hour before the train leaves. Also be aware that toilets (small charge) and food stalls are outside the check point. You can re-enter the sanctuary the same day but bringing food and drinks with you inside the sanctuary is also permitted and recommended by us.
Also note: There is now an entry fee for everyone wanting to trek up Huayna Picchu - $25 when booked at same time as the entrance to Machu Picchu on a day trip, Lares or Salkantay Trek (if booked after the initial booking it increases to $70). If trekking the classic Inca Trail the additional cost is $83 if not booked in conjunction with the Inca Trail. Please let us know at the time of booking if you would like to hike this mountain. Spaces are extremely limited and first come - first served applies!
Please refer to your Inca Trail, Lares Trek or Salkantay Trek information sheet for more detailed information.
Luggage Restrictions on Trains to Machu Picchu
Please note: If you are taking the train to Machu Picchu, you are only allowed to take one carry-on bag with you. Your bag must weigh no more than 5 kgs and must measure no more than 157 linear cms (height + length + width)
Excess luggage can be stored at your hotel in Cusco. If you are transferring directly to the Sacred Valley from Cusco Airport, there are 2 options for excess luggage.
1. After checking into your hotel in the Sacred Valley, the driver will transfer your excess luggage to Cusco for safe storage either at your Cusco hotel or at Chimu’s office.
2. Excess luggage may be stored at your hotel in the Sacred Valley. The driver will make a stop to collect the luggage on the way back from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
Additional costs will apply for either option - please check with your travel consultant.
The unit of currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN).
Please check websites such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date exchange rates prior to your departure.
ATMs are abundant in all major cities and so withdrawing money is not a problem within the country. ATMs generally allow you to withdraw cash in either Peruvian Soles or US dollars and instructions can be accessed in Spanish as well as in English. The US dollar is widely accepted in many stores throughout the country and prices are often given in both US dollars and Soles.
Major currencies can be exchanged in a variety of places such as banks, foreign exchange bureaux (casas de cambio) and hotels, although the rate in hotels is generally lower. The rate depends on the amount of money to be exchanged and can often be higher mid-week rather than at weekends. Foreign exchange bureaux tend to have longer opening hours than banks and are generally faster. Most banks are closed on Saturday afternoons from 1.00pm and on Sundays.
Do not accept torn money as it is likely not be accepted by Peruvians. You are advised not to change money on the street as counterfeits are a problem.
Debit and credit cards are also widely accepted in Peru and can often be used in major hotels, restaurants and shops.
LDD, Emergency Numbers, Internet
Country code: + 51
Most regions of Peru have excellent internet connections and internet cafes are common, even in smaller rural villages and charge reasonable prices. Many hotels and hostels now offer Wi-Fi as do many cafes and restaurants.
The weather and climate in Peru varies greatly depending on the region. Along the Pacific coast, including Lima, there is a very temperate climate. The average temperature is around 24°C (75°F), but can get as high as 30°C (86°F) but generally no lower than 15°C (59°F) in the summer.
In the high Andean climates of the areas around Cusco and Lake Titicaca the climate is colder with rainy summers and dry winters. Here the average temperature is around 12°C and although it can get quite warm during the day, the temperature at night drops to below freezing regularly.
Peruvian cuisine is very diverse with regions and some cities even having their own specialities depending on geography and climate that in turn dictates available ingredients. Today Peruvian cuisine combines pre-Inca and Inca staples and food with the cuisines that the immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia brought with them. This has resulted in a unique fusion of foods and flavours.
The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and other tubers, Amaranthaceaes (quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lupins). The Spanish introduced rice, wheat and meats (beef, pork and chicken).
Over recent years, some traditional foods such as quinoa, kiwicha and chilli peppers have increased in popularity leading to a revival of interest in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques. Gastronomists around the world now rate Peruvian cuisine as the best cuisine in Latin America.
If you have the opportunity, we recommend that you sample some Peruvian food prior to departure so you have a better idea of some of the native dishes when you arrive in Peru. In Sydney we recommend “La Cocina Peruana” and in London we recommend “La Fina Estampa” or “Titos” at London Bridge.
The Peruvian diet is mainly based on chicken, beef and seafood and can sometimes be quite spicy. Regional dishes vary, and aji (chilli) is often used.
Typical dishes include:
Lomo Saltado (Saltadito) – Stir fried sliced beef, tomatoes, onion, garlic and cumin, fried French cut potatoes and accompanied with rice.
Aji de Gallina - Chicken strips in a yellow chilli sauce served with rice.
Empanadas – Pastry cases filled with chicken, beef or cheese.
Pollo a la Brasa - Roasted marinated chicken.
Ceviche – Raw fish marinated in lime juice with chilli and onion.
Cuy – Guinea pig, a highland dish – usually roasted or barbequed.
Papa a la huancaina (Huancayo-style potatoes) - Sliced boiled potatoes, served on a bed of lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce with olives.
Avoid drinking tap water at all times. Please note that many fruit juices may be mixed with unboiled water and some fruit may be washed in it.
For alcoholic beverages, the traditional spirit of Peru is Pisco, a grape brandy. The famous Pisco Sour cocktail is made from Pisco, egg white, bitters and lime juice. Some regional beers are also worth trying, including Cusqueña and Pilsen Callao.
Spanish is the official language of Peru but there are many indigenous languages as well including Quechua and Aymara.
The Spanish spoken in Peru has some regional variations in pronunciation, accent and in some expressions. The variations correspond with the geographical regions of coast, rainforest and mountains.
City map - Lima
City map - Cusco
City map - Puno