Few places on earth are mystical as Peru. With its Inca and pre-Inca archaeological remains hidden beneath misty Andean clouds, dramatic mountain views, and rolling countryside, it is a revered destination for the iconic Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, and Lake Titicaca. However, we believe the true delight of Peru is its people and colorful culture that extends beyond the popular landmarks.
With Adventures Unbound, itineraries blend renowned archaeological, religious, and astronomical landmarks with a cultural people-to-people experience. We kayak to man-made islands on Lake Titicaca, taste authentic Peruvian cuisine, and trek the ancient steps of Machu Picchu. There are endless opportunities for cultural enlightenment and exploration by vehicle, train, bicycle, foot, and kayak off the tourist path in Peru, and Adventures Unbound will take you there!
Peru's Ancient Peoples
Peru boasts evidence of ancient groups of people dating back more than 11,000 years ago. Over the next 3000 years, it is thought that the people became more sedentary and established a farming lifestyle, with the start of the domestication of animals such as the ancestors of the llama, the alpaca, and the guinea pig. As they became sedentary, they built settlements, and new societies.
Ancient Cities and Cultures
The most ancient known city in the Americas is Caral located in the Supe Valley north of modern day Lima, and built around 2500 BC. It is thought to have accommodated over 3,000 people. All that remains of Caral are about 30 pyramidal structures built up in receding terraces ending in a flat roof.
North of Lima in the Andes is the site Buena Vista. An observatory was discovered here that dates back 4,200 years. It is believed that it was related to the society’s reliance on agriculture and understanding of the seasons. The oldest three-dimensional sculptures in South America have been found here.
Many other civilizations such as the Paracas, the Moche and Nazca developed and were absorbed by larger, more powerful groups.
The Inca Empire
The Inca Empire grew out of a tribe originally based in Cusco. At its strongest, the empire stretched 2,500 miles from Quito, Ecuador, to beyond Santiago, Chile. It covered the rich coastal settlements, the high mountain valleys, the rain-drenched tropical forests and the driest deserts. There was an impressive transportation system in place, with roads to all points of the empire. It’s thought that the Inca controlled 10 million people who spoke a hundred different languages. It was the largest empire on earth at the time.
The Inca Empire collapsed after Spanish conquistadors killed the last Inca Emperor. The people of the Andes showed allegiance to a new Christian god and adapted as they had for thousands of years. The most well-known, pre-Columbian Inca ruin is Machu Picchu. It’s located 7,711 feet above sea level, on a high mountain ridge about 44 miles northwest of Cusco.
Wildlife of Peru
Peru is home to more than 1,800 bird species. 120 of these species are found nowhere else in the world. Some of the most emblematic being the Andean Cock of the Rock, the Andean Condor, the Harpy Eagle, the Macaw, the Blue-Footed Booby and the Toucan.
Peru’s coastal belt is huge for commercial deep-sea fishing. Peruvian waters normally abound with marketable fish like bonito, mackerel, drum, sea bass, tuna, swordfish, snchoveta, herring, shad, skipjack, yellowfin, pompano, and shark.
More than 50 species are caught commercially. The Peruvian coast has over 40 fishing ports. Paita and Callao are the two most major ports. The fishing industry in Peru is among the
largest in the world. Peru also has excellent fresh water fishing. Over 20 different species will take a fly or lure on any given day.
Try your hand at fishing for these tropical fish on a Peruvian adventure tour.
In Peru, the geography is so diverse, spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Rainforest. Animals have adapted to the wide range of different altitudes and climates in order to survive in this environment. Home to more than 500 species of mammals, Peru has 70 endemic and close to 100 threatened, vulnerable or endangered species. Scope the many landscapes of Peru with the whole family in seach of its vast wildlife on our Peru Family Magic Tour.
Peru has around 300 species of reptiles of which around 100 are endemic. Peru's reptile fauna includes spectacular species like giant anacondas and caimans, as well as many other snakes, lizards and turtles. Raft through the Apurimac Canyon in hopes of catching a glimpse of some of Peru's iconic reptiles on our Peru Tour.
The Peruvian sea is inhabited by 33 species of marine mammals who live in different areas along the coast. Try and spot a sea lion on one of our many active tours in Peru.
The coast of Peru is usually barren apart from some cacti. In the highlands above the tree-line are found bushes, cactus, and drought resistant plants extend up the zone of snow-capped mountains. The very wet Amazon Rainforest has a wide variety of strange canopy plants and palm trees. On the lower slopes of the Andes are found moss, orchids, and bromeliads.
Peru has several national parks which serve to protect the delicate ecosystem of the amazon rainforest.The latest national parks formed will protect over 3.3 million acres of Amazon rainforest in Peru and will protect wildlife and indigenous communities.
Peru’s conservation efforts also include restrictions on commercial fishing to prevent the collapse of an important global fishery. The government has decreed a large strip of Peru's coastal waters off limits to industrial fishing in a bid to ensure future generations of anchovy, which reproduce and spawn in shallow waters.
Volcanism and the Andes
The Andes are a major geologic feature of Peru. They were formed from a couple of tectonic events. Volcanism started in the Triassic period and the back-arc basin development in the late Jurassic period. Deformation and closure of the back-arc basin began in the Jurassic period and extended from both extremes toward the center. The youngest deformation is observed in the central Chile-Argentina segment, while older sections are found toward the northern and southern ends of the Andes.
Fuel your knowledge of geology by embarking on a Peruvian adventure
Peru’s culture is a mix of several different peoples and customs. There are beliefs that have carried over from the native Incas and some that have seeped in from the Spanish conquistadors as well as other settlers. There is a real blend of cultural influence from immigrant groups like Africans, Japanese, Chinese, and Europeans. But all Peruvians agree on the basic importance of family and religion.
Peruvian food is different in each region. What they eat depends on where they live.
The coastal cuisine is based on seafood. Amazonian cuisine relies heavily on the fish available in rivers as well as an abundance of tropical fruits. Andean cuisine is based on meat and potatoes.
Art in Peru has been a defining part of the culture for thousands of years. Many forms of art dates clear back to pre-Inca times. Today, craftsmen still continue many of these ancient traditions. It’s not hard to find modern craftsmen that still spin cotton, llama, alpaca, and sheep wool into yarn.
Music and Dance
Andean music is famous for the sweet sounds of flutes and panpipes. The Spaniards introduced string instruments such as the charango. Harps and violins complement the sounds of native drums, brass, and wind instruments creating a sound that is uniquely Peruvian. Andean people have at least 300 different dances, but the most popular is the huayno which is danced with vigorous stomping of feet and very colorful costumes.
In every city in Peru, where there is a plaza, there is a church. Christianity was brought to Peru 500 years ago and today more than 90% of the population consider themselves Catholic.
Children begin preschool when they are 5 years old. There are 6 grades in primary school and 5 grades in secondary school. After that they can choose to go to university or learn job skills at a technical school. Public school is free in Peru but not all attend or those who attend drop out early.
Peru is located in the west of South America. It shares borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. It is the third largest country in South America and one of the 20 largest countries in the world. The Andes run the full length of the country, rising to almost 23,000 feet. The mountains separate the arid coastal strip from the lush Amazon rainforest. This provides a diverse range of travel experiences.
Ecological & Regional Zones
The coast runs alongside the Pacific Ocean. Fertile valleys spring from the rivers that flow down from the Andes. The coast has a warm climate, without extreme heat or cold. It has high humidity which can make it feel cold in the winter. In the summer temperatures reach 85°F.
In the mountainous region of Peru, the northern Andes are lower and more humid than the rest, while the central Andes are the tallest and steepest. The southern Andes are wider, and are also known as the altiplano. There are two seasons: summer (April to October) with sunny days, cold nights and little rain. This is the perfect time to visit. And winter (November to March) is when it rains heavily.
The jungle region is located in the east. This is a vast region of plains covered by vegetation in the Amazon River basin. It is Peru’s largest region and is characterized by its cloud forests and lowland jungle. It has two distinct seasons: from November to March it rains frequently, while from April to October it is fairly dry, making this the ideal time to visit as the rivers subside and the roads are easily accessible. There is high humidity all year round.
Money in Peru
Peru's currency is Nuevos Soles.
Ask for small bills (billetes pequeños) for easier change, and keep in mind that many Peruvians will not accept torn money.
Many places in Peru accept US dollars. If you want to exchange money, we recommand doing so in foreign exchange bureaux (Casas de cambio), as it is faster, more convenient and give better exchange rates than banks.
In Peru shops occasionally refuse MasterCard of Visa even though they display signs advertising them. Watch out for credit card fraud; as a precaution, inform your bank about your upcoming Peruvian vacation and then use your card wisely.
Peruvians like their soles in small denominations. A fifty (roughly $20) is ok, but denominations of twenty and under are better to ensure merchants can make change.
They also put great stock in U.S. dollars, so even if you see an establishment doesn’t take credit cards and you don’t see an ATM, you may still be able to buy dinner. Make sure your U.S. currency is in pristine shape as they will reject torn or overly worn bills.
Tipping Guides & Porters
Tipping depends on the quality of the service provided. As a good guide the tip should be around $10-20 a day for the guide and $5-10 for the porters. This is an average and is also per person.
Health & Safety
Before You Go
Plan to visit a physician 4-8 weeks before your planned eparture. Ask your doctor for an International Certificate of Vaccination which lists your received vaccinations.
Based on the itinerary, travelers may be required to be vaccinated for yellow fever.
For travelers who plan to visit Peru's jungle regions, recommended vaccinations include many mosquito-borne infections, including: malaria, cholera, typhoid, and dengue fever.
The CDC and WHO also recommends travelers be vaccinated with: Routine Vaccinations, Hepatits A & B, and Rabies. For more information, visit the CDC's website.
You have to handle heights if you’re going to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and other landmarks of Incan culture. To prepare is to drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. You can also consume stimulating coca leafs in tea or by chewing them. Altitude sickness can strike anyone regardless of age or fitness level. We advise acclimatizing gently and gradually.
Peruvian plumbing doesn’t handle toilet paper, so expect to see trashcans next to the toilet.
The Inca Trail is genuinely difficult. It consists of stone stairs that feel quite high for average people. Depending on what guide service you have on the trail, there are some companies that will offer porters to carry your tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. Porters race ahead to the night’s camp and assemble everything before parties arrive.
To enter Peru, travelers must have a valid passport and evidence of return or onward travel.
Travelers entering Peru on a U.S. passport receive a card and an entry stamp from Peruvian Immigration upon arrival stating the length of approved stay. Visit the Embassy of Peru website for the most current visa information.
Peru does not require any immunizations for entry, although it recommends vaccination against Yellow Fever.
Internet & Phone Service
Public pay phones can occasionally be found still, mostly in small towns. Public pay phones accept coins or phone cards.
Travelers can purchase or even rent cell phones and prepaid SIM cards in Lima and other larger cities. However, reception may be limited in remote areas.
They are widely available with some cards specifically designed for international calls.
Wi-fi coverage is largely widespread throughout Peru. Hotels, hostels and ldoges often have wi-fi available and internet cafes can be found throughout most of Peru's cities. However, remote areas may have limited internet access.
Peru operates at 220V/60Hz. Peru's standard outlets accept the Type C two round prong model, though some have dual-voltage outlets which take the Type A two flat prong model. It's helpful to travel with an adapter which comes with a built-in surge protector.
Peru (mainly Lima) has direct flights to and from cities all over the Americas as well as continental Europe. Other locations require a connection. Cusco has the only other airport with international services.
The international departure tax is included in ticket costs.