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Peru

When it comes to nature's gifts, Peru seems to have stolen the lion's (or perhaps jaguar’s) share

Tailor-Made Holidays
To Peru

When it comes to nature’s gifts, Peru seems to have stolen the lion’s (or perhaps jaguar’s) share. Peru possesses the world’s most bio-diverse rainforests, breathtaking mountains, highest altitude lake, plunging canyons, vast deserts and a long Pacific coastline. When combined with such cultural treasures as magical Machu Picchu, glorious Cusco and a host of other pre-Columbian sites and Spanish colonial cities, it is easy to understand why Peru is one of South America’s most appealing and popular destinations.

Wildlife-wise, the rainforest reserves of southeast Peru are considered the most species-rich in all Amazonia. Parrot clay licks provide an awesome avian spectacle; oxbow lakes hold families of giant otter (some six feet long); towering jungle platforms afford unrivalled views over verdant rainforest canopies. In addition, Peru’s high Andean peaks reveal stunted paramo habitat and the mighty condor in flight, and the Pacific coast’s Paracas Marine Reserve has been likened to a mini-Galapagos.

An image caption based on something written in the destination intro. E.g. wonderful shot of an inquisitive young Gorilla in Nyungwe park

Photography by Reef & Rainforest

Best Time To Visit Peru

It is the dry season in the Peruvian highlands and in Peru’s south-eastern Amazon between May and October.

The overriding influence of the Andes causes the climate of Peru to vary widely from region to region. However, the dry season for both the Andes and the Amazon basin normally lasts from May to October. Mean temperatures differ according to altitude.

Peru Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

Approximately 14 hours’ flying time from London to Lima (plus stops).

Time Zone

GMT -5

Language

Spanish

Population

30.38 million

Highlights

What To See

The Ballestas Islands

Dubbed the “poor man’s Galapagos”, the Ballestas Islands are an important breeding ground for sea birds including the guanay cormorant and Peruvian booby, found in huge colonies. The islands are also home to large numbers of sea lions, pelicans and penguins. Dolphins and small whales can be seen swimming in the bay, and sea lions hauling themselves up the beach. From February to March condors feed in the area, and from April to December flamingos are present in Paracas Bay, which also has a mysterious candelabra etched into the hillside, thought to pre-date the Incas.

Tambopata National Reserve

The 3.7 million-acre reserve, a diverse mix of rainforest, oxbow lakes, palm forests and savannah, contains a wealth of plants, insects and animals, and the world’s largest macaw clay lick.

Alto Purus National Park

East of Manu, the Las Piedras River winds its way through some of the most remote and pristine rainforest in the world. At its head, the 6.7 million acre Alto Purus National Park and Communal Reserve was set up to protect a huge area of forest, home to the nomadic Mashco-Piro tribe. Shunning strangers, little is known about their customs and lifestyle and they remain one of the world’s last ‘uncontacted’ peoples.

Manu Biosphere Reserve

Established in 1973, Manu was so feted by the world’s scientists and conservation organisations that in 1987 it was gazetted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There are three vegetation zones within the reserve: lowland rainforest, mid-range cloud forest and the high Andean puna, all with their own distinctive plant and animal life. Regarding fauna, the reserve contains around 1000 bird species including 28 parrots, giant river otters, 13 species of monkey including the rare woolly monkey, and cats such as ocelot and jaguar among the approximately 200 mammal species found there.

Mancora

Located on the northern Pacific coast, Máncora boasts some of the best beaches in the country and a vibrant nightlife. It is the ideal place in Peru to try your hand at surfing, or simply relax and enjoy the seaside.

Chachapoyas

East of Chiclayo, a day’s journey travelling deep into the interior take you to the town of Chachapoyas. The civilisation of the same name fought the Incas from high forest strongholds and the whole area is littered with ruins, tombs and mummies. The most spectacular site is the fortress of Kuelap, perched on the shoulder of a 3,000-metre mountain. Dating from the 9th century the citadel houses a complex of more than 400 homes, palaces and temples protected within a 20 metre-high wall.

Chaparri Conservation Area

This community run reserve lies around 45 miles north-east of Chiclayo. It supports 214 bird species, 21 mammals and 20 reptiles and amphibians and the excellent wildlife viewing opportunities include good chances of wild spectacled bears. In addition to spectacled bears, which can also be seen at a rehabilitation project, the list of wildlife includes the sechuran fox, pampas cat, king vultures, 50 Tumbesian endemic bird species and, though harder to see, Andean condor, guanaco and (very occasionally) a puma.

Chiclayo

Chiclayo is located about four hours by road north of Trujillo. It is a major commercial hub servicing a large agricultural hinterland and a strong Afro-Amerindian influence is reflected in its distinctive music and cuisine. The city’s well-known witchcraft market sells a variety of potions and remedies to satisfy even the most confirmed hypochondriac.

There are a number of important archaeological sites in the area. At the Moche tombs of Sipan some of the world’s finest pre-Colombian artefacts were uncovered in 1987. Many of these are housed in the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in the nearby town of Lambayeque – a must on any visitor’s itinerary. Other sites include Tucume – ‘The Valley of 26 Pyramids’ – which was once a thriving city of temples and squares built by the Lambayeque culture in the 11th Century.

Trujillo

One hour by air north of Lima, Trujillo has an attractive colonial centre, important pre-Inca Moche and Chimu archaeological sites, and some of the best surfing beaches in Peru.

The archaeological sites include the exquisitely decorated Moche temples of Huacas del Sol and de la Luna, and Chan Chan, once the capital of the Chimu empire and the largest adobe city in the world.

Nazca Lines

The small desert town of Nazca hosts the world’s largest sand dune and a series of markings in the desert that have baffled scientists since 1941. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covering a huge area, the Nazca Lines are a mysterious collection of geometrical lines and shapes resembling, among others, a killer whale, hummingbird and monkey, and so large that they can only be appreciated from the air. The function of the ancient artworks, which pre-date the Incas by thousands of years, is still a mystery: some theorists talk of ancient running tracks or even landing strips for extra-terrestrials.

Lima

Peru’s capital is a typical modern city, yet its Spanish colonial past is well reflected in various buildings mainly centred around the Plaza de Armas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as interesting museums and galleries, Lima has some good beaches , a lively clifftop entertainment complex, and some excellent world class restaurants.

Colca Canyon

Over millions of years, the Colca River carved its way through the Altiplano creating the world’s second deepest canyon, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Farmers still tend their crops on ancient terraces built in the 5th Century, a marked contrast to the otherwise stark and arid landscape. The canyon’s Cruz del Condor viewpoint is one of the best places in the world to see that magnificent bird, which boasts the largest wing area of any bird. On sunny mornings, ten to twelve condors can be observed close by, soaring on thermals and creating fantastic photo opportunities.

Arequipa

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the splendid colonial city of Arequipa is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes and famed for its white stone buildings, historic churches and cathedral. Santa Catalina Convent is a walled citadel of more than 20,000 square metres which for four centuries has served as the home of several
generations of cloistered nuns.

Lake Titicaca

Occupying a great swathe from Ecuador to Argentina, the vast Altiplano is the largest high plateau outside Tibet. One of the world’s great rail journeys traverses the plateau from Cusco to Lake Titicaca which, at 4000m in altitude, is the world’s highest navigable lake. Titicaca is home to alpacas, llamas and the Uros and Aymara peoples with a long history predating the Incas by thousands of years. Many still live on floating reed islands and travel by reed boat. Day trips can be arranged by boat to the Uros and Taquile Islands, and for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture, overnight stays with families on Amantani Island are also possible.

Machu Picchu

Kept hidden from the Spanish conquistadors, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu remained undisturbed until its rediscovery in 1911. Justly deserving its UNESCO World Heritage status, the site occupies a breathtaking position on a limestone ridge overlooking rainforested mountains and the Urubamba River some 600 metres below. Having evaded Spanish destruction, the buildings are in remarkable condition with many plazas, temples and altars providing an unparalleled glimpse of the Inca past. As well as being the stunning finale to the Inca Trail, the site can be reached via a picturesque train and bus journey from Cusco.

The Inca Trail

Snaking high above the Sacred Valley the popular Inca Trail leads hikers to Machu Picchu – the fabled Lost City of the Incas. During a four- of five-day trek, hikers traverse a variety of microclimates from arid cactus zone through native Polylepis forest and bleak high altitude grassland, to bromeliad and moss-festooned cloud forest, all set against a backdrop of stunning snow-capped peaks. Scattered along this ever-changing landscape are intricate ceremonial settlements including the magnificent temple of Winay Wayna.

Cusco

The World Heritage Site of Cusco was founded around 1100AD and for over 400 years served as the capital and spiritual home of the Incas. Largely destroyed and rebuilt by the conquering Spanish, the city is now a vibrant mix of Inca architecture, Spanish colonial buildings, museums, galleries, restaurants, hotels and small boutiques. At an altitude of 3300 metres, the city has a pleasant, sunny, cool climate. At its heart is the Plaza de Armas, flanked by the cathedral of La Compañía de Jesus built on the visible foundations of an Inca palace. One of the best preserved Inca buildings is the Temple of the Sun, now forming part of the 17th Century church of Santo Domingo. Overlooking the city to the north is the Inca ceremonial centre of Sacsayhuaman with some very impressive Inca stonework, the temple and amphitheatre of Qenqo, and the nearby spring shrine of Tambo Machay.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Flanked by Andean peaks and rising to an altitude of over 3000m (10,000ft), the fertile valley of the Urubamba River was the bread basket of the Inca empire as well as providing safe passage from high mountain passes to the jungles of the Amazon basin. Today it is a patchwork of farming terraces, small villages, stunning scenery and small Inca ruins. Popular visitor sites include the town of Pisac with its colourful market on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Inca town and temple fortress of Ollantaytambo.

Featured

Wildlife Holidays

Accommodation

Featured Places To Stay

Colca Lodge

Perfect base for exploring the pre-Inca history of the valley and for viewing th...

Sol y Luna Hotel

Set within a 25-acre estate just one kilometre from the town of Urubamba in the ...

Tambopata Research Centre

A rainforest lodge in the middle of the uninhabited portion of the Tambopata Nat...

Refugio Amazonas

Located in a 200-hectare private reserve surrounded by the community of Condenad...

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Destination Map

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Peru: -7.362467, -71.191406

Your Very Own

Peru Specialist

John Melton

Area Specialist

If you want to see condors, the best place is Cruz del Condor in the Colca Canyon, near the beautiful colonial town of Arequipa.

If you have any questions regarding travel to Peru, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965