High on the itinerary of any traveler to South America is Peru, the third largest country in the continent. Peru is the home to several ancient Andean civilizations — most notably the Incas, who ruled until the Spanish invasion in 1533.
Even at the simplest cultural level, it’s an inspiring country — few places captures the imagination more than the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu; but then so do any of the colonial cities making it a land equally as influenced by indigenous people as by the succeeding invaders.
The delightful part of Peru is that the country is populist but also untouched. By being on the “gringo trail”, a traveller will at times be over-immersed with fellow tourists. The ancient capital of Cusco can be a circus amid its beauty — yet the beaten track isn’t too far away — there is even a less-well-known known Inca ruin in Keulap — the so-called Machu Picchu of the north. Equally, the north eastern jungle towns, is perfect for the off-track traveler –while the large jungle town of Iquitos can be accessed by plane as well as boat, there are other settlements where boat is the only option. The mountains offer hiking and rock climbing in abundance, allowing you to go for days and meet no one but locals. Peru also hosts the two deepest canyons in the world, both twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and favoured spots to witness the flight of the condor. In Peru, it’s still possible to feel as if you are in a world still inhabited by Incas.
Traveling in Peru
Bus is the most successful way to travel in Peru — comfortable and inexpensive; you’ll be surprised at the quality of the buses. But be warned, it can vary. Due to the size of the country, journeys can go over the 20 hour mark, so night buses are common and sometimes the only choice, although it’s not recommended to travel at night. Occurrences of thieves taking off with your possessions as you sleep and tales of snoozing bus drivers can make night travelling less appealing. Having said that, bus allows you to take in the superb scenery Peru has on offer, and with several bus companies usually setting off at similar times, prices are always negotiable.
Trains are less common, but when found, worthy as they tend to be slow mountain trains, allowing time to soak in the view without risk of falling into mountain ravines. Internal air travel is an excellent option, and a good investment, especially when weighing up the cheapness of the flight compared to the toll of bus travel!
Weather in Peru
As with neighbouring Ecuador and Bolivia; Peru is subject to the three distinct regions, and the climates that come with them — the jungle, the mountains and the desert. More so than any other South American nation, the Peruvians define themselves by region.
Along with these regions, Peruvian weather varies according to season, which is either wet or dry. Wet season runs from January to April and dry season from June to November. Still this varies, so an unofficial guide for travelling in Peru is to rely on layers with the top coat being waterproof. The mountains tend to be cold, the jungle hot and humid. The coast varies and can experience dense fog rolling off the Pacific. Equally some parts miss rain completely, so much so that drizzle in Lima makes headlines. Don’t underestimate the risk of the sun at altitude, without sunscreen you’re toast.
496,000 square miles (1.28 million sq km)
Caracas (pop 4,608,934)
Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara, and a large number of minor Amazonian languages
Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%
Roman Catholic 90%
petroleum, fishing, textiles, clothing