Together with its diverse and interesting landscape of Andean colonial villages, fairy-tale Inca Ruins and rich natural biodiversity, Peru’s melting pot of ethnicity could be considered its greatest treasure. The ethnic blend in Peru has given rise to unparalleled regional cuisine rated the best in South America by some and amongst the best in the world by others.
Peru also offers magnificent history stretching back to thousands of years BC, from the numerous Pre-Incan dynasties to the most recent Conquest and subsequent Colonial years. The majestic mountains, unspoiled beaches, pristine Amazon jungle truly make Peru a land of extremes. Add to this geographical diversity the proximity of the Equator and the cold waters of the Humboldt Current and you get a series of micro-climates unparalleled in the world. (Return to top)
* AAA: Andes, Amazon & Atacama
* World Heritage Sites
* Archaeological heritage
* Nature and Landscapes
* Rivers and Canyons
* Lakes and Lagoons
* Flora & Fauna
* Adventures Sports
Andes, Amazon, & Atacama
It is difficult to think of any country on the planet that has a destination with the magnetic pull of Machu Picchu, the legendary lost city of the Incas discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Visiting the Andes Mountains and the Inca Citadel Machu Picchu is an essential part of any Peru trip. Located only fours hours by train from the nearby Inca Imperial Capital city of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is until today, the best example of how the Incas built in harmony with the extraordinary natural settings.
Just 250 miles south of Cuzco, also located in the Andean Mountain Range, is the city of Puno. Also known as the folklore capital of Peru, Puno lies on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest tropical lake in the world and an area of astonishing beauty. To many in the region, the Ancient Lake is considered the mythical ‘Cradle of Civilization’, having given birth to the once mighty Tiahuanaco pre-Inca culture and several other Andean cultures. Lake Titicaca is a must when visiting Peru.
While Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Lake Titicaca remain the primary destinations for most travelers to Peru, the Peruvian Amazon Jungle makes up 2/3 of the country is also surprisingly accessible. In as little as 2 hours after boarding a flight in Lima we can have you cruising down the chocolate colored rivers enclosed by thick fauna in search of monkeys, alligators, birds and numerous other Amazonian creatures. The Peruvian Amazon basin is also unusually cooler than the rest of the Amazon jungle and for the most part malaria-free. With the new generation of stylish well-run eco-lodges offering fantastic regional food, visiting the Peruvian Amazon can also be comfortable.
The third region in Peru is the mysterious Atacama Desert coast. Two thousand kilometers of isolated and unspoiled coastline is the third geographical region in Peru. Centuries ago, countless Pre-Inca societies made the fluvial coastal valleys home. Today, Peru’s coastline is riddled with the relics of these cultures and is a hot bed for Peruvian archeology. The desert coast also offers numerous marine reserves, the mysterious Nazca Lines, and more than a few aquatic adventure sports such as surfing, kite boarding, wind surfing, fishing, and snorkeling. The southern sand dunes around Nazca are optimal for sand boarding and multi-day desert buggy safaris. If you visit Peru you will most likely pass through this region, as the capital city Lima is situated on the coast. (Return to top)
Peruvian World Heritage Sites
The city of Cuzco, declared a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1983.
Cuzco, which in the ancient Quechua language means “navel of the world”, was an important hub in Inca times that connected all of South America, from Colombia to the north of Argentina. Today, centuries later, Cuzco continues to be the center of attention, not only for our neighboring countries but also for the whole world. In its streets, historical centers, churches, pubs and cafés you can hear not only Quechua and Spanish spoken, but such diverse languages as English, French, Japanese and Hebrew. All of them, united by the same experience, found in the charming and fascinating “belly button” of the world.
Machu Picchu was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983.
There is a great deal to be said about this archaeological site, which was hidden for centuries until it came to light in the early 1900s, but it is difficult to describe in words what one feels when the Citadel suddenly appears, like a challenge to the imagination and to engineering, between the mountains that mark the beginning and the end of the Andes and the Amazon Basin
The temple or fortress of Chavin de Huantar, declared a World Cultural Heritage in 1985.
I could tell you of the gusts of air that brush your face almost like a sigh when you walk through its sophisticated underground galleries. Known as the “castle”, Chavin and its intricate passageways is believed to be one of the oldest constructions in the Americas.
The Huascaran National Park was inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1985.
We can tell you about the turquoise color of its lakes that contrast with the snow-capped peaks of the highest tropical mountain range in the world. The Huascaran National Park is a paradise and a challenge to nature and adventure sports lovers alike. It has more than 600 glaciers, close to 300 lakes, and 27 snow-capped peaks that reach heights of over 6,000 meters, such as Huascaran which rises to 6,768 meters above sea level.
Chan Chan is another of the 10 sites inscribed as World Cultural Heritages by UNESCO, this in 1986.
Known as the largest city of clay in pre-Columbian America, Chan Chan is texture, it is form, it is desert sand made into art. The birds that decorate the walls of Chan Chan seem almost to fly in the strong breeze that blows through this ancient Chimu site.
The Manu National Park, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1987.
Manu is the feast of life and diversity, with more than 1,000 species of birds, 1,200 types of butterflies, over 20,000 varieties of plants and an unknown quantity of reptiles, insects and amphibians.
Lima’s Historical Center, declared a World Cultural Heritage in 1991.
Lima is a sum of colors, textures and sounds. It is a cosmopolitan capital par excellence where the taste is acquired from the flavor offered by its street-side cooks frying anticuchos (beefheart kababs) or soft picarones in syrup against a backdrop of colonial balconies, old houses, and churches with secret tunnels.
The Rio Abiseo National Park, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage in 1990.
Because geographical location and the fragility of the archaeological sites within the park, Rio Abiseo remains closed to tourism since 1996. Today Peruvian and foreign scientists travel through the park to continue studying the flora and fauna and the remains of pre-Inca culture.
The Nazca Lines and the Pampas de Juma were declared a World Heritage site in 1994.
Close to the other natural jewel that is the Paracas National Reserve, these lines and figures of different animals, drawn on the Peruvian desert and seen properly only from the sky, were considered a mystery for decades because it was not known if they were a calendar or a form of communication with outer space.
Arequipa’s Historical Center was declared a World Cultural Heritage in 2000.
The city of Arequipa is, precisely, an example of how culture in Peru is constantly a brew. Arequipa is known as the White City because of the volcanic rock, or “sillar”, with which its churches and homes are built. Arequipa is the land of passions and contrasts, of the hot rocoto pepper and the magnificent condor, which can only be seen flying over the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. (Return to top)
Ten thousand years of history are relived through 180 museums and historical sights. While Peru inevitably evokes images of Machu Picchu and the Inca Empire, the country is also riddled with archaeological sites, which are a result of even more ancient times, when great civilizations bequeathed a legacy of their art, customs, rituals, wisdom and skills.
More…While Peru inevitably evokes images of Machu Picchu and the Inca empire, the country is also riddled with archaeological sites which are a legacy of even more ancient times, when great civilizations bequeathed a legacy of their art, customs and rituals, their wisdom and skills.
The Inca Empire is now considered a relatively recent period of cultural development in the Andes during the pre-Hispanic era, and the history of the Inca accounts for less than a century. Humans are known to have occupied Peruvian territory 20,000 years prior to the Incas.
Before the Incas and while civilizations like the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese (3000 and 2000 B.C.) flourished, the city of Caral, located 150km north of Lima, was built. Caral is the oldest expression of a Pre-Ceramic urban settlement in the Americas, qualified by monumental architecture in an area greater than 10 hectares. Later, in the northern highlands, the Chavin (800 – 200 B.C.) achieved significant advances in architecture, engineering, and agriculture.
The Chavín civilization (1500-400 BC) achieved considerable expertise in architecture, engineering and agriculture in the northern highlands. Along the north coast, the Moche civilization (200 BC-700 AD) is famous for its realistic pottery (portraits carved into pots and gourds) and its pyramid-shaped temples. The same area was later controlled by the Chimú kingdom (900-1450 AD), which built Chan Chan (central coast), an immense mud-brick citadel featuring 12-meter-high walls and superb architectural work.
To the south, the Nazca culture (200 BC-900 AD) carved an impressive series of figures into the desert floor known as the Nazca Lines. Also to the south, graves belonging to the Paracas culture (800 BC-600 AD) revealed weavings depicting a magical and religious vision that governed the lives of this ancient civilization.
Centuries later, the Incas (1300-1500 AD) made Cuzco (Navel of the world) the center of their empire, constructing major sights such as Sacsayhuaman, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Koricancha (Temple of the Sun). It is in Cusco that myth and history merge. It is where the Inca roads, the towns, people and traditions are a living example of the once great Inca Empire. (Return to top)
Nature and Landscapes
Peru is home to 84 of the 104 life zones that exist on our planet, making Peru a privileged destination for nature lovers.
Close to 20% of the worlds birds and 10% of the world’s reptiles live here.
Peru has converted 13% of its territory into Protected Natural Areas.
More…. Peru, in a bid to conserve its natural habitats, flora and fauna, has designed a series of mechanisms aimed at conserving the country’s biological diversity. The National System of Natural Protected Areas (SINANPE) and the state natural resources entity (INRENA direct these efforts). To date, Peru features a total of 60 natural areas or conservation units, covering approximately 14.80% of the country’s territory. (Return to top)
Rivers and Canyons
Due to the Andes range, Peru is abundant in slow moving streams, fast flowing rivers and deep etched canyons, carved out over the centuries. In many areas these bodies of water are very accessible, making them ideal spots for swimming, resting and adventure sports such as rafting.
More…Peru’s rivers are a source of life, beauty and pleasure. The variety is endless; Dry riverbeds which only flow during the El Niño phenomenon; rivers that are black, muddy, white and cloudy; salty and bitter; navigable and torrential; tranquil and romantic, or sweeping like the Ucayali and the Amazon Rivers; and even sacred rivers like the Vilcanota, which flows through the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Nearly all of Peru’s rivers are born in the Andes, including the well-known Amazon River that features the world’s greatest volume (over 170,000 cubic meters per second) and the greatest diversity of fish species (over 2,000 species). Water trickles down from the glaciers and frigid highland plains, swelling into streams and eventually rivers as it flows ever further from its source. The water that brings life to Peru also irrigates other countries in South America, and then eventually arrives to either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. (Return to top)
Lakes and Lagoons
Part of Peru’s geography is reflected in its thousands of lakes and lagoons and depending on altitude and size vary greatly.
More…. The inter-Andean lakes are usually of tectonic or glacial origin. One superb tectonic lake is that of Lake Titicaca, which thousands of years ago was part of a vast inland sea together with the lakes of Arapa and Yapupampa. Tectonic lakes often teem with life. Lake Parinacochas, in the department of Ayacucho, is famous for the pink flamingoes that thrive there, while Junín is home to Lake Paca and Lake Junín. The most stunning of them all are the Llanganuco Lakes in the department of Ancash, which split the imposing peaks of Mount Huascarán and Huandoy.
In the Amazon basin the lakes are murky in color due to the sheer variety of life, algae and warm temperatures. Many of these jungle lakes have formed in riverbeds and are fed by rainfall. The largest of them is Rimachi, a surprisingly lovely lake featuring floating islands and tree trunks that shift during the day. The only tectonic lake in the jungle is that of Sauce, in the department of San Martín, which exposes fertile land for local farmers when waters recede.
Oxe bow lakes on the other hand are the most common. Formed over hundreds of years, these lakes are essentially curves in the snaking rivers that are slowly severed from the flow of the main river, eventually disconnecting it altogether.
Peru’s waters also boast medicinal properties. The seven lakes at Las Huaringas (“sacred lakes” in the Quechua language) have been used since pre-Hispanic times for healing ceremonies. Peru, after all, has been blessed with hot springs and mineral baths, which the local population visits often. The most famous of Peru’s hot springs are the Inca Baths in Cajamarca, in the northern Andes, where temperatures can reach 74°C. The hottest springs, however, are found in Tacna to the south, which the local townspeople dubbed Caliente (Hot) as it can reach a temperature of 98°C. (Return to top)
From the Andes to the Amazon Peru’s rivers will always flow. During its journey the waters cascade down innumerous cliffs and mountainsides, forming spectacular waterfalls. Some of the falls are accessible by car, while others take hours of hiking through dense cloud forest.
More… Huánuco is famous for its beautiful landscapes and not to mention its waterfalls. At Pichgacocha (Five Lakes), the stream pours down two waterfalls with 30 and 60-meter drops between one lake and another. Other well known falls are the Velo de Angel (25-28 meters), the Sirena Encantada (70 meters), on top of Pacsapampa, and which its owes its name to the charming surrounding landscape, and San Miguel (100 meters), where one can swim in the pools formed nearby.
In the department of San Martín, nature has been prodigious: Ahuashiyacu is a 35-meter waterfall that is easily reached, while Huacamaillo is made up a set of seven impressive falls. Other waterfalls include the Gera and Tunun Tunumba, which only be reached with the help of guides.
Near the city of Chachapoyas is the waterfall of Gocta, located at the village of Cocachimba. At 772mts, it is the third highest in the world, and reachable only with the help of an experienced local guide. (Return to top)
Flora and Fauna
Peru’s astounding variety of climates and eco-systems ranks the country amongst the world’s top eight nations in terms of biodiversity, where one can find 84 of the 104 life zones existing around the planet. The country is home to more than 400 species of mammals, 300 reptiles, 1,700 birds and more than 50,000 plants registered to date.
More… Peru is doted with a rich diversity of plant and animal species, and Man has lived alongside them in harmonious co-existence for thousands for years. We at Adventures to Peru want to keep it that way.
Species such as the condor, serpent and puma were worshipped by the ancient Andeans, who crafted their images into pottery and monuments during the rise of early civilizations, in homage to their beauty and power.
Other species served as food or as raw materials for Man’s creations. Some animals even forged a relationship of interdependence that has lasted for thousands of years, a relationship maintained by Peruvians living outside the major cities. Specifically, two South American camels, the Llama and Alpaca where deemed crucial to the survival of the Andean people. See below
Peru’s territory has also long kept hidden thousands of species that continue to amaze scientists from all over the world. The most startling are the native species, due to their unique characteristics and beauty, and above all the way they have managed to adapt to Peru’s difficult climate and geography.
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Adventure lovers will find the Andes ideal for trekking, camping and mountaineering. The highlands are riddled with more than 15,000 lakes, snow-capped peaks soaring over 6,000 meters, the world’s deepest canyons and picturesque villages. The entire Andean chain offers unparalleled opportunities for whitewater rafting, superb trails for mountain biking and gusting winds for fans of hang-gliding.
The beaches of Paracas (south of Lima) and along the north coast near Mancora are ideal for sports such as surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, sand boarding, buggy trips and fishing. The Amazon jungle offers jungle treks like nowhere else in the world. Birdwatchers will also have a field day. Whether trekking in the Andes, paragliding in the Sacred Valley or rafting the Apurimac, Peru is the ideal place to enjoy your adrenaline packed adventure sport.
Hiking and trekking, rafting, high altitude kayaking, paragliding, bungee jumping, sand boarding, mountain biking, dune buggy excursions, surfing, kite surfing, jungle excursions and more are all readily available in Peru. (Return to top)
* Independent travel in Peru can be complicated
* A guided small group tour will give you a deeper understanding of Peru’s turbulent history and dynamic present day society
* Convenience — an organized tour of Peru will take the hassle out of travel
* Local Expertise
* Conditions in Peru change frequently and guidebooks go out of date quickly
* Freedom and flexibility
* Great companionship
Independent travel in Peru can be complicated
Even if you speak Spanish, Peru is one of the more unpredictable countries in which to travel independently. Accurate and impartial information on available activities, cool things to do, and places to go in Peru can be difficult to obtain. This is party due to the lack of infrastructure in rural hard to reach areas.
Local tourist agencies that organize day trips and activities can be useful to an extent, however they mainly only promote tourist activities that will earn the agency income and that are already part of their routine visits.
As an independent traveler looking for interesting things to do in Peru, asking a Peruvian often doesn’t lead you to the information you are after. Many Peruvians want to assist you in your search, so much that even if the don’t have correct information they will give you ANY information just to save face. Fortunately most Peruvians don’t try to lead you astray and are genuinely warm, friendly and delighted to share their country with you.
As our small group tour hosts live in Peru, they will be more than willing facilitate building these important cultural bridges. You will be introduced to families, artists, musicians, and dancers that the local tour leader knows well, and knows he can trust to treat his foreign guests with respect.(Return to top)
Peru’s history is one of the more intriguing and fascinating in South America. From its innumerable Pre-Inca cultures to the more recent post conquest and Colonial years, Peru has an embattled history of conflict. Most think that the once grand Inca Empire was the backbone to Andean culture. But the truth is that the Inca did almost nothing. Their knowledge and technology were inherited from numerous Pre-Inca kingdoms infinitely more important historically than the Inca. We will help you decipher present day Peruvian customs as well as its deep history. At Adventures to Peru, we will help clarify the vague and sometimes muddled pre-colonial past.
Many independent travelers come away from Peru enchanted and enriched, but confused about the history and present day culture. Our team of local tour guides has fielded these questions from many curious travelers. Your tour host and local guides, who have lived many years in Peru and traveled the entire country, will be able to give you a much deeper understanding of the past and current situations in Peru than most. Your visit to Peru will be much enhanced with a qualified person to answer all the questions and curiosities you may have, and you will come away from Peru enriched with a first hand understanding. (Return to top)
Convenience – a small group tour takes the hassle out of travel in Peru
If you have accommodation and transport already arranged, and a tour host to help organize activities, this can take a lot of the hassle out of travel. You won’t have to wait in long ticket lines, lug around your backpack looking for a hotel, or wait two days for a train. You’ll avoid sometimes frustrating price negotiations assuring you are not getting ripped off. Everything is taken care of for you. Better still, the price is comparable to doing it on your own. What you will see and experience in two weeks on this tour of Peru may take you up to double this time to achieve on your own.(Return to top)
Apart from acting a source of information to answer the many questions you will have about the region, the tour host has an expert local knowledge about interesting things you can see and do in Peru. He knows the places you visit like the back of his hand and can show you to the coolest hidden corners and out of the way places that you won’t find in any guidebook. He can take you to the country’s natural highlights, introduce you to his friends, and maybe even find a local ‘fiesta’ or street party that few tourists will ever have the privilege to attend. If you have a special interest, such as adventure sports, art, architecture, soccer, music, dance, religion etc, he can help you find ways to explore your interest, and put you into contact with local people who are involved. (Return to top)
Conditions in Peru Can Change Quickly
Peru is known to have what is called rubber time. ‘Rubber time’ means that life is lived at a different pace, time is flexible and things usually don’t happen as programmed. As a result, it becomes very difficult to predict public transport departure times and travel times.
Additionally, one must be aware of a dubious, but presently safe political situation. Public demonstrations and transportation strikes are commonplace in Peru, which for the unprepared traveler, can contribute to frequent hassles.
One must also be informed on weather situations in the Andes and Amazon jungle. Due to unpredictable weather and consequences thereof, alternate routes and contingency plans are a must while visiting these regions. At Adventures to Peru, we continuously keep up to date on all local conditions so you can rest assured you’ll be in good hands. (Return to top)
Freedom and Flexibility
At each destination on the tour in Peru, you will be offered an assortment of optional activities, given recommendations on what we anticipate you might enjoy, and supply you with all the information you need to explore your interests. Some groups enjoy sticking together and hanging out as a team, however it is entirely up to you, and it is perfectly acceptable to take off, do your own adventuring, and make your own discoveries.
Because you’ll be traveling as a small group in Peru, travel plans can be more easily changed or altered en route if the group decides so. If the group discovers a special event or festival that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original itinerary, it is possible for the group to change the itinerary, given the condition that the group can come to a unanimous agreement and reservations can be changed. We are not about imposing a strict, old school adherence to the itinerary. After all, we are fully aware that one of the main purposes of the tour is for fun and adventure and therefore we are willing to offer the group as much flexibility as practical to achieve this end. (Return to top)
Our groups are made up of like-minded English speaking travelers from all over the world, who are ready for some fun, adventure, and to explore this fascinating destination. They are therefore very social occasions where the group is often bonded by the common adventurous experiences. The friendships formed on our tours can last a lifetime. (Return to top)
* Individual attention
* Low impact
* Authentic Experience
The small group size means that group members will receive a more personal treatment by the tour host and local guides, who can more thoroughly cater to each member’s personal preferences and interests, helping to arrange activities and excursions better suited to the individual taste. Small groups are also more mobile and can be easily integrated into a social scene where the traveler is more likely to be treated as an individual rather than a tourist ready to be exploited for their money.
On our Peruvian Adventures we strictly adhere to a ‘maximum of 10 travelers’ policy, plus the tour host. The groups are small and low impact, and are made up of like-minded English speaking travelers from all over the world, ready for some fun, adventure and to explore this fascinating Andean treasure.
Small groups are more flexible as travel plans can be more easily changed or altered in route. If the group discovers a special event or festival that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original itinerary, it is possible to change the itinerary. As a small group it is easier for the group to come to an agreement and for the tour leader to alter the reservations.
Small groups are low impact because they don’t introduce a large number of foreigners to a local scene where they can have adverse impacts on the local society and other travelers. For example a large group can take up all the seats on a local bus, or book out an entire restaurant forcing locals and other travelers away from their preferences.
Large groups are less able to integrate into a society and generally have less authentic contact with the locals. The more people in the group, the more the group experiences their own culture rather than the one of the country they are visiting.(Return to top)
While Adventures to Peru highlights a diverse and interesting landscape of colonial villages, fairy-tale Inca Ruins, rich natural biodiversity, magnificent history, majestic mountains, unmatched cuisine, unspoiled beaches and multitude of adventure sports, our greatest appeal may be ‘What you get for the money’.
People often ask us
– “How are your tours so affordable?” The answer is can be broken down into two parts:
First, we are a small company with low overheads. We keep advertising to a minimum and we rely on our travelers to recommend the tour to their friends. We also use tour hosts that live in Peru, so we do not have to pay the costs of flying around a foreign tour leader and training them on each new destination.
If you have looked at other organizations selling tours of similar length and included activities in Peru, you will notice that Adventures to Peru is very reasonable. Its not because we cut corners or compromise on quality, but rather we reap the benefits of being a small, local, efficiently run company with small overheads. We manage all of our own local operations, helping tremendously to eliminate the ‘middle-man’ and the high commissions that they harvest.
Second, when traveling anywhere in the world daily operational expenses can be a gigantic factor, and being local helps us vastly in maintaining these costs in check. One must keep in mind that in Peru, the cost of public transport, food, drink and optional excursions is generally low. It must also be noted that in Peru there are a variety of options to choose from so knowing where to go and who to go with, is critical to a successful experience. At Adventures to Peru, we know how to get most bang for your buck!
These savings are passed onto you.
Also while on the tour — unlike in most group tours in Peru — the tour host is prohibited from taking any form of currency commission from restaurants, handicraft shops, or from arranging optional activities for you. This means you pay the net price for local meals and excursions in Peru. In this way, the tour leader’s advice is not compromised and he will recommend and help you choose activities that you will get most enjoyment from, rather than recommending activities that will earn him extra money on the side.(Return to top)