Peru’s culture is a combination of ancient Andean civilizations and Spanish colonialism. Geographically, you’d be hard-pressed to find another country with as much variation as Peru. Peru has stretches of Andes Mountains and Amazon rainforests. It also boasts coastal deserts, highland plains, alpine lakes, and cloud forests. Northern Peru has fascinating archaeological sites, and all over Peru you’ll find fresh, cutting-edge cuisine.
Peru is located in western South America, between Chile and Ecuador. It also shares borders with Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia, and the Pacific. The country’s total size is 496,230 square miles (1,285,220 sq km), which is about three times the size of California. Peru’s diverse landscape includes lush river valleys and arid deserts, snow-capped mountains, and colorful cloud forests and rainforests.
From the well-known Inca and Nazca (the cultures responsible for Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines,) to the lesser known Moche, Chavín, Caral-Supe, Paracas, Wari, and Chimu cultures, Peru has produced a stunning range of civilizations. And for better or worse, the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century changed the cultural fabric of Peru for good. All of these cultures produced fascinating art. Meanwhile, Peru’s landscape and immigrant cultures create an eclectic palette for Peruvian chefs. From sampling fresh ceviche along the coast to visiting Inca ruins in the highlands, your trip here is sure to be one of your most memorable.
The climate in Peru is dependent on the landscape, as well as the Humboldt Current and northwest jet stream. The arid Peruvian coast runs some 1,500 miles (2,400 km), from Ecuador to Chile. Along the southern section of the coast is the Atacama Desert, one of the planet’s driest places. Peru’s coastal regions see very little rain, although it does drizzle from time to time. Coastal cities also get hit with fog, which is known locally as garúa and is the result of cold coastal air trapped between warmer currents. This fog typically happens from April to September. The hottest months along the Peruvian coast are from December through March.
The Andes run down the center of the country, forming the second highest mountain chain on earth. The tallest mountain in Peru is Huascarán, which tops out at an elevation of 22,205 feet (6,768 m). In the Andes, the weather can be cold and chilly, with overnight lows well below freezing. The dry season lasts from June to August, and the rainy season lasts from December to March.
Between the Andean mountain ranges are fertile valleys where about half of Peru’s food is produced. This is the area that was terraced and irrigated by the Inca to grow crops like corn, quinoa, and potatoes. These highland areas have similar seasonal shifts to the Andes.
On the eastern side of the Andes is the Amazon Basin. At high elevations, misty cloud forests form some of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems. As you go lower, you hit lowland rainforests and huge, muddy rivers. The Amazon can see rain throughout the year, but the rain usually only lasts for a few hours at a time. The rainiest time of the year is from December to April. The driest months are from June to September. Read More
Peru was once the seat of several indigenous civilizations, most notably the Inca. The Spanish arrived in the 16th century and conquered these local civilizations. Nearly three hundred years later, in 1821, Peruvian independence was declared.
Military rule took place during some of the 20th century, but the country eventually formed a democratic leadership in 1980, although insurgencies and economic downturns continued to haunt Peru throughout the 80s. In 1990, President Alberto Fujimori was elected and ushered in a decade of economic progress, alongside some authoritarian measures. Recent elections in Peru have seen democratic, market-oriented policies return to the forefront. Read More
Peru’s population, which hovers around 30 million, is fairly diverse. Just under half of the population is Amerindian, around 37 percent is mestizo (any Amerindian and white), and 15 percent is white. Japanese, Chinese, black, and other ethnic groups make up around 3 percent of the population. Urban and coastal communities have experienced reaped more economic benefits than have rural and indigenous groups in the Amazon and Andes.
Peru has a stable, democratically elected government and a strong economy. All Peruvians are required to vote from ages 18 to 70 — in fact, people that don’t vote can be fined. The weakest part of the Peruvian government has traditionally been the judiciary branch, which has been charged with widespread corruption.
The Peruvian economy is strong. In 2013, the economy grew at a rate of 5.1 percent and the GDP was $210 billion; it’s also had low inflation for several years running. The Peruvian economy owes its strengths to natural resources, most notably mining. Large-scale mining projects have, however, been met with widespread local opposition from groups who claim to receive little benefit from the mines. Other important aspects of the Peruvian economy include manufacturing, agriculture, banking, and retail services. Read More
Peru is in the Peru Time (PET) zone and is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). There is no daylight savings in Peru, so the time difference with U.S. destinations changes by an hour during daylight savings time.
Earthquakes are a fairly common occurence in Peru, especially in the area around Lima. That's because Peru is situated along the boundary between two tectonic plates. The boundary between the plates - which include the Nazca Plate and South American plate - is near the coast of Peru. The South American Plate is moving towards the Pacific Ocean over the Nazca Plate, and the pressure between these two plates is periodically released and an earthquake ensues.Earthquakes are hard to predict, but Peru will probably continue to experience earthquakes in the future. If you're traveling in Peru during an earthquake, try to follow these basic guidelines:
Don't use elevators and avoid using the stairs (stairs move differently from the rest of buildings and are therefore dangerous).
If you are indoors, drop to the ground and take cover under a table or other piece of furniture. Hold on until the shaking stops. Stay away from windows and anything that could fall on you.
If you are outside, move away from buildings, street lights, power lines, and anything that could fall on you. Walk to the closest safety areas. Safety areas are marked with signs that have a big "S" or a yellow circle on the street with the letter "S". These areas have been designated as safe.
If you're at the beach during an earthquake, immediately seek higher ground. A tsunami can sometimes follow an earthquake.
Hurricanes rarely hit Peru. That's because the waters off the coast of Peru are cooled by the cold waters of the Humboldt Current. Hurricanes tend to form in areas with warmer water.
Yes. Peruvians enjoy children, and having kids with you often makes it easy to strike up conversations with locals and have cross-cultural connections.Traveling with your children opens them up to different sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. A lot of education can come out of a trip to Peru — your kids can learn about Inca culture and the Amazon rainforest, among other things. These experiences simply cannot happen in a classroom.
Peru's hotels often have accommodations with multiple beds, as well as playgrounds and other activities that children are likely to enjoy.
It's important to keep your children healthy while traveling. Make sure they get the correct vaccinations before leaving home and pay attention to the foods they eat while in Peru. Wash their hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
Anytime is a great time to visit Peru! There are all kinds of places to explore and things to do — including...Visiting Inca ruins and going biking — throughout the year.
The weather in Peru varies depending on the region. Many people prefer to come during the dry season, but there are perks to coming in the wet season too, including fewer people and lower hotel rates.
In the Andes and Andean plateau, the dry season lasts from June to August and the rainy season lasts from December to March. From June to September, the highlands see sunny days and chilly nights. These are the best months to hike along the Inca Trail.
In the Amazon Basin, it can rain at any point in the year, although the rain usually only lasts for a few hours at a time. The rainiest time of year is between December and April; the driest time of year is from June to September. The latter is the best time to visit the Amazon, since there are fewer mosquitos and the animals often stay close to the rivers.
Along Peru's dry coastal region, the hottest months are from December through March. From April to November, Lima and other cities near the Pacific Coast can see regular fog, which is known locally as garúa. Typically only the beaches along the North Coast are warm enough for swimming.
The high tourist season corresponds to the driest months, which are from May through October. The largest number of people come in July and August. May and September have good weather but fewer tourists, and as such are a great time to visit Peru.
No. It is illegal to bring authentic archaeological artifacts, animal products made from endangered species, or historic art home from Peru.Peru has ample archaeological and paleontological sites, but it is illegal to remove any artifacts from these sites and attempt to bring them home. If you are caught with fossils or artifacts at customs, you will be arrested and prosecuted. Examples include human and animal bones, ancient coins, and tools.
Sometimes, even bringing souvenirs of these items - for example, a mold of a shark tooth - risks inspection by border officials, which may result in delays and cause you to miss a flight. When in doubt, ask us about the object you want to bring home. Another option is to send souvenirs home using a courier like FedEx or DHL.
Yes, you must pay a departure tax for both international and domestic flights. These are, however, usually included in the cost of a flight. The tax on international flights is about US$30, while the tax on domestic flights is around US$9.
Steve & P.
There are a few things you should know about staying healthy in Peru.