Images of Incas, llamas and deep, dark jungles conjure up a magical picture of Peru. But there is plenty more for you to discover in this diverse and fascinating country, blessed with attractions, activities and culture to rival any other South American destination.
Let’s look at some of the many reasons to visit Peru:
1. Peru’s Pre-Columbian Ruins
Machu Picchu may be the king of Peru’s ancient sites, but it is certainly not the only jewel in Peru’s archeological crown. A fine selection of fascinating ruins lies scattered around the old Inca capital of Cusco, while many cities have pre-Columbian constructions sitting nearby.
2. Culinary Delights
Peruvian cuisine is rapidly making its mark on the global culinary map, and with good reason. Travelers can indulge in a wide variety of regional delights, including arguably the continent’s finest ceviche(raw seafood in a lime marinade), traditional specialties such as alpacasteak and roasted cuy (the infamous guinea pig), and tasty, leaf-wrapped Peruvian snacks like juanes, tamales and humitas.
3. Geographic Diversity
As any Peruvian child will happily tell you, Peru is the proud owner of costa, sierra y selva — the three geographic regions of coast, highland and jungle. Even during a short visit, Peru’s diversity is more than evident. A 14-hour bus ride can take you from the desert coast to the chilly heights of the Andean range, before plunging down into the vast Peruvian Amazon.
4. A Trekker’s Paradise
Peru’s distinct environmental regions provide excellent trekking options for both experienced hikers and casual trekkers alike. There are plenty of trails to choose from, including multi-day slogs and one-day walks.
5. Vibrant Cultural Festivals
The Peruvian year is dotted with colorful festivals. During Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, religious processions block the streets with a fascinating blend of colonial and indigenous traditions. Cusco celebrates the great Inca festival of Inti Raymi on June 24, making it a popular time to visit Peru and Machu Picchu. In the jungle, the same day marks the Festival of San Juan, a day of wine and relaxation along the riverbanks followed by an epic night of dancing.
6. To meet the people
It’s always interesting to meet new people and to experiment new cultures, but Peruvians make this act an even more interesting and enjoyable experience. Many Peruvians still have a direct link with their Inca ancestors, proudly conserving the Quechua culture that is so important to Peru’s past.
Most people are hard workers, extremely polite, peaceful, helpful, and curious about the interest in their visitors. Many of them have never traveled out of the country or even out of their cities or villages. Sharing stories with them makes for an interesting learning experience about the country and about their tales.
7. To enjoy their handcrafts
Where can you find Peruvian history, culture, art, and exceptional skills all into one? The answer is; in their handcrafts.
Textiles are some of the most famous handcrafts you’ll find in any part of Peru. You can see the women weaving those exquisite patterns that make up a decorative wall carpet, scarf, jumper, or anything in between. Other great artisanal crafts are found in the form of instruments, wood carvings, canvas paintings, jewelry, and more. Not only do these make great souvenirs and travel mementos, but by buying them you are helping to support their traditions and are giving the opportunity of decent living to a family.
8. To enjoy their drinks!
Great drinks must accompany great food. Right? Peru makes sure that’s the way it’s done. Whether you prefer the bubble gum tasting Inca Kola or the strong beers, Peruvian drinks will make you addicted to them. Some of the local drinks you will find (and love) are the famous wines from the Ica region, the pisco sours (a sweet, lime tasting, but strong drink containing egg whites – check out this post to learn how to make it), the emoliente, and the coca tea (perfect to prevent altitude sickness).
If you’re like me and love to drink Coca Cola, then you’ll taste the best Cokes in the world while there. They are sweetened with real sugar!
When traveling to Peru you’ll most likely fly into Lima, a city rich with Pre-Columbian ruins and enchanting Spanish Colonial architecture. It was my first time visiting the country, so I was happy to be traveling with Globus, an experienced tour company that focuses on authentic cultural experiences.
10. Mystic Peru
Peru has a rich tradition of healers and spiritual advisors, from Andean curanderos to Amazonian shamans. You can take a spiritual journey with an ayahuasca ceremony, or maybe have a guinea pig rubdown to extract the impurities from your body.
11. Peruvian Hospitality
Whether quietly reserved or smilingly helpful, Peruvians are always happy to welcome tourists to their proud nation. With just a basic command of Spanish, you will never be short of a local or two for a bout of cultural chitchat over a cool beer or a freshly squeezed fruit juice. Peruvians also love to dance, so be prepared to bust out some moves.