Discover the true magic of Peru
When to visit Peru
The lands of Peru stretch over a great distance from north to south, meaning the country has a wide variety of climate zones. There is also a big difference in altitude between the Andes region and the coastal areas. Expect contrasts in temperature and weather depending on where you holiday!
- The perfect time to visit coastal Peru is during the summer months from December to March, which sees ideal temperatures that stay in the mid-to-high 20s (°C).
- While the coast can get cold from June to September, you don’t have to avoid the beach! The southern coast sees a more moderate and pleasant 15°C in winter, compared to the colder north.
- Vastly different from the coast, the Peru highlands experiences a dry season and a rainy season. The dry season falls between May and October and guarantees clear skies for Machu Picchu, Arequipa, and Cusco. Remember to bring a warm jacket for chilly evenings.
- For the most verdant scenery in the highlands, visit during the shoulder month of April, when rains start to retreat. If you don’t mind the tail-end of the wet season, you’ll get to see Cusco at its greenest.
- If you’re after some water activities in the capital city of Lima, warm and sunny conditions prevail in November, and December marks the official start of beach season.
- If you’re planning to visit the Peruvian Amazon, the region experiences high humidity levels year-round. It’s best to explore the jungles between May and November for the driest weather and the highest visibility for wildlife spotting.
Highlights of Peru
Undoubtedly one of the most famous sights in South America, the majestic “Lost City of the Incas” is tucked away in the Andean hills, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff. Shrouded by the mysteries of its archaeological heritage and spiritual history, Machu Picchu certainly deserves its title as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and should be added to anyone’s travel bucket list. Perhaps most interestingly is the way the city was built. Using an ancient Incan technique called ashlar, blocks of stone were cut so precisely that they fit together perfectly without the need for mortar. These walls have withstood centuries of Andean wind, rain, and even earthquakes — a real testament to this impressive construction technique.
The ancient city itself is made up of more than 150 buildings, including temples, sleeping quarters, and bathhouses. Discover the emblematic Temple of the Sun, one of the most prominent buildings here, and make your way to the Sun Gate viewpoint, a panoramic spot from which to admire the ruins. The truly adventurous may want to attempt the famous Inca Trail hike, a multi-day journey through the mountains that many consider one of the best ways to arrive at Machu Picchu. Other trails include the hike up Huayna Picchu and the moderate Salcantay Trail that connects the ancient capital of Cusco to Machu Picchu.
At a dizzying elevation of 3,400 meters in the Andes Mountains, you will find Cusco. The captivating former capital of the Inca Empire, it is often known as the launching point for travelers to get to Machu Picchu and the gateway to the Sacred Valley. But don’t write Cusco off as merely a short stop on your Peruvian journey! This city is an alluring mix of cobblestone streets, striking colonial-period architecture, and important landmarks that define its long and enduring history. There is much to see as you make your way through Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, the cultural center of the city lined with excellent restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, many of them boasting amazing views of the city.
Poke around the hilly streets and hidden gems appear. Many travelers who find themselves in Cusco will no doubt gravitate toward the artisan neighborhood of San Blas, its delightful blend of architecture and charming craft shops worth peeking into. The San Pedro Market is a great place to spend a morning perusing open-air stalls piled high with fresh produce and getting your fill of empanadas and tamales from the local vendors. On the outskirts of Cusco, you’ll encounter the Inca ruins of Tambomachay, believed to have once been a sacred water temple or Inca spa. Plenty of other ruins are scattered around the city, including the tiered fortification of Sacsayhuaman and the vast stretch of Pisac perched on a steep hillside. Take your pick!
Lima, the capital of Peru, is situated on the country’s arid Pacific coast, nestled in the idyllic valley of the Chillón and Rímac River. The city is special for a few reasons. For one, it is the only capital in South America that faces the sea, and for another, almost everyone agrees that Lima is the gastronomic capital of South America. This is a city that embraces an extraordinary range of sensations, flavors, colors, and activities.
For your first taste, discover the historic heart of Lima as you stroll up the pedestrian-only Jiron de la Union, past 200-year-old colonial facades, and emerge in the main square to come face-to-face with some of the city’s finest architecture. Tour the Lima Cathedral on the eastern edge or venture a couple of blocks northeast to see the Church of San Francisco and its network of catacombs. Away from the city center but sitting right next to the beach is the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores. As one of the most affluent districts in Lima, you will find no shortage of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars here. Stroll the scenic Parque Kennedy, pick up some freshly-made picarones from a street food vendor, and observe the dozens of stray cats that call the park home. Museums are aplenty in the city, from the Lima Art Museum to the Museo Pedro de Osma with its extensive private collection of colonial Peruvian artworks housed in a stately mansion.
Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
This is yet another iconic treasure in Peru, one that sits in the Cusco region and makes for an adventurous travel destination. You may have seen pictures of this incredible marvel as it is often raved about by Instagrammers and visitors who’ve seen it first-hand. The geological wonder of Vinicunca — also known as the Mountain of Seven Colors (or, more simply, Peru’s “Rainbow Mountain”) — was discovered when the snow covering it melted to reveal its natural beauty. The mountain’s bizarre marbling effect, the result of centuries of weathering, is a striking sight to behold. Waves of gold, red, lavender, and turquoise hues layered across the undulating landscape make for a surreal panorama.
If you’re not afraid of a moderate-to-challenging hike, this is the perfect adventure for you. A trek up the Vinicunca will require you to climb to high altitudes — the mountain stands 5,200 meters above sea level. Plenty of tour guides and accompanying horses will be happy to take you there, and as you make the journey, you’ll catch sight of resident alpacas and llamas along the way.
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