Peru Tours & Holidays
Full of mystery and culture dating back millennia, Peru is an indomitable land of deserts etched with ancient geoglyphs, rainforests teeming with wildlife, and soaring peaks harbouring secret cities.
While many travellers come to visit one of South America's most famous sites, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the real Peru lies within its warm, proud inhabitants – many of whom can trace their bloodlines back to the Incas. What you might not expect is the foodie bonanza found in Lima or the adventures that await you in the ancient capital of Cusco. Whether you’re exploring the cobbled streets of Arequipa, bobbing on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca or uncovering mummies in Nazca, our Peru tours will have you feeling like a modern-day Indiana Jones. Just don’t forget to pack your fedora.
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Inca Trail Express
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Peru at a glance
Lima (population 8.2 million)
Peruvian Sol (PEN)
(GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin) Type C (European 2-pin)
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Best time to visit Peru
Peru is a fascinating country with four distinct geographical regions. Not many countries can offer beaches, mountains, rainforests and deserts on one visit. These distinct regions offer something for everyone, which is why most Intrepid tours operate all year round.
June, July and August are considered the driest months in the Highlands and Amazon basin and are optimal for hiking and river journeys. However, even during the rainy season in the Amazon, the rains only fall for a few hours at a time. In the Andes, the rainy season can sometimes just mean a bit of overcast weather. The advantage to travelling in these areas at this time is that many other travellers make the mistake of postponing their plans until the dry season, leaving you with more of Peru to yourself.
The best time to visit the infamous Nazca Lines or the coastal areas is from December to April, although the other months of the year are perfectly good times to visit as well. Remember that the Inca Trail is closed for cleaning during February, although there are other treks to Machu Picchu which are available at this time.
Culture and customs
Like many other South American nations, contemporary Peru is a rich mix of the modern and the ancient. In the highlands, where most of the population is Quechua or Aymara (descendants of the Incas), people speak their local language, wear traditional clothes, follow Inca traditions and chew coca leaves. Most lead agricultural lives and there is a great deal of poverty.
This is a stark contrast to the European-influenced coast, which is considerably wealthier and mixed with Europeans, Mestizo (mix of Spanish and indigenous), Afro-Peruvians and Japanese and Chinese immigrants. Cultural festivals offer fascinating insights into the ancient customs of Peru that have been carried on from Inca times, with centuries-old food, clothing, song and dance playing an integral role in these celebrations. What unites the country is a reverence for religion and family, as well as a love for soccer, or futbol, as it’s called here.
Eating and drinking
Peruvians take their food seriously. Whether you’re in a village or a large city – your taste buds will thank you for visiting this South American nation. Peruvian cuisine is a mix of Andean, Spanish, African and Asian influences. Stews and soups made with different kinds of potatoes (Peru grows more than 3,800 different kinds!), corn and quinoa are common, particularly in the highlands. Japanese-inspired seafood dishes as well as chifas – Peruvian-Chinese fusion restaurants – are more popular along the coast.
Although many dishes tend to feature meat, vegetarian options aren’t hard to come by. For avocado lovers, Peru is a dream come true. If you want to know about South American food in general, check out our South American food guide.
Foods to try in Peru
Fish and seafood marinated in lime juice, onions, salt and chilli peppers, typically served with chunks of corn on the cob and sweet potato. A national dish in Peru – cevicherias in Lima do it best.
Adventurous eaters should add cuy (guinea pig) to their must-try list. Roasted and usually served whole, it’s a popular staple in the highlands.
3. Lomo Saltado
This beef or alpaca stir-fry is a popular chifa dish found across Peru.
4. Pisco Sour
Made by mixing pisco, the national brandy, with lime juice, egg whites and sugar, this creamy and zesty cocktail goes down a treat.
5. Coca Tea
Rumoured to help with altitude sickness, this tea made from coca leaves is drunk by locals all over the Andes region and is hailed for its 'medicinal' properties.
Learn more about Peruvian cuisine
Geography and environment
Sharing borders with Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, Peru also has a long stretch of coast along the Pacific Ocean. The country is home to a diverse range of landscapes, including parts of the Amazon Basin, Andean mountain range and Lake Titicaca. Not to mention areas of tropical savanna, desert, cloud forest, mangroves and beaches. The Pacific coast alternates between narrow bands of desert and fertile valleys, while the Andes cuts through the centre of the country, separating the coast from the jungle. Machu Picchu, Cusco and Puno are all located in the Highlands region.
History and government
Archaeological evidence indicates that early life in Peru started up to 11,000 years ago, with nomadic people living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Organised civilisations based on land cultivation appear to have been established sometime around 6000 BC. Over the centuries, Peru has seen many different civilisations rise and fall, grow and decline and evidence of these ancient civilisations can be found all around the country today, with the Nazca Lines being one of the most enigmatic examples.
However, the Incas can lay claim to being one of the most famous and revered empires of all. Spanning from 1438 to 1532, the audacious Inca Empire was responsible for one of the world's most impressive archaeological ruins - Machu Picchu. While certainly a scene-stealer, there are also many other reminders of the Inca throughout Peru, with the ruins at Sacsayhuaman also holding much significance. The decline of the Incas began around 1532, with the arrival of Spanish colonisers, civil war and the devastating smallpox virus contributing to the instability of the once-great empire. The indigenous population was decimated by infectious diseases brought from Europe, for which they had no immunity.
By 1542, the Spanish Crown had created the Viceroyalty of Peru yet over the years various indigenous uprisings and rebellions indicated the level of dissatisfaction the original population felt at having their traditional way of life, identity and land interfered with by foreigners. These disputes finally led to the War of Independence, which lasted from 1810 to 1824, when Spanish troops were defeated in the Battle of Ayacucho. Peru's independence was finally officially recognised in 1879.
Peru's more recent history has been dominated by military coups and regional disputes with the years between 1960 and 1990 being a time of political instability and economic difficulty. With world commodity prices levelling out, Peru's agriculture-based economy suffered, as did its population who were largely reliant on farming.
New leadership in the 1990s and beyond has led to economic reforms and trade promotion, which has driven economic growth for the country. With a focus on mining, construction, tourism and private investment, Peru withstood the Global Economic Crisis of 2008 considerably well and managed to avoid the high inflation and economic uncertainty that plagued many other nations. Celebrating the centenary of the re-discovery of Machu Picchu in 2011, Peru continues to enjoy widespread international attention for its cultural and historical riches.
Must-visit places in Peru
Peru isn't short of bucket list-worthy natural wonders and historic sites. Here are just a few must-visit places to experience on your trip:
1. Machu Picchu
No matter how many photos you've seen, nothing can prepare you for seeing Machu Picchu in the flesh. Time slips away as you try to uncover the ruins' secrets and marvel at how such grandeur is possible in a place so remote.
History comes to life in Cuzco. You can't turn a corner without coming across another reminder of its Inca past. Ruins are everywhere, and even elegant colonial buildings have been built upon old Inca temples, houses, and markets.
3. Sacred Valley
This fertile valley is packed with Inca sites including the massive fortress of Ollantaytambo. Be sure to come on market day when the laidback villages come to life. The cobbled streets fill with every colour, produce and animal imaginable.
4. Amazon Jungle
Spend mornings watching colourful macaws and monkeys, the afternoon learning about traditional plant usage or spotting crocs in oxbow lakes. Then, at night, get your torch ready to seek out some of the jungle's larger creatures.
Peru's capital is home to unexpected treasures. Dig beneath the city's surface to uncover pre-Columbian temples, a touch of colonial elegance and a huge dose of modern distractions; like the cafe-rich district of Miraflores.
The White City, as it's affectionately known, is spectacular. Surrounded by canyons, volcanoes and deserts, the location is perfect for exploring Peru's wild side. But the true beauty of the city is in its elegant buildings, built from white volcanic rock.
7. Colca Canyon
While the canyon is a dramatic sight (it's twice as deep as the Grand Canyon), it's a glimpse of the elusive Andean condor that will really get your heart racing. With a wing span of 3.2m this bird doesn't just glide, it soars.
8. Lake Titicaca
Big enough to house countless island communities, coca smugglers and the entirety of Bolivia's navy, Lake Titicaca is massive. Remnants of ancient cultures are everywhere and many communities live on reed islands as they have done for hundreds of years.
9. Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are one of the world's great mysteries. Shapes of spiders, monkeys and birds are drawn into the desert landscape over 500 sq km. The most amazing part? They are only visible from the air.
10. Aguas Calientes
Whether you've just trekked the Inca Trail or travelled by train through the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes is the perfect place to stop, soak in a steaming thermal bath and reflect on the adventure so far.
Vendors selling colourful Peruvian handicrafts can be found at tourist spots across the country. When possible, try to carry small bills and coins, as it can be difficult for vendors to make change for large bills, especially in remote areas.
Things to buy in Peru
1. Alpaca Wool Clothing
As one of the largest alpaca wool producers in the world, travellers will be able to find alpaca wool clothing almost everywhere in Peru. Beautiful shawls, ponchos and jumpers are the perfect way to keep warm, as Peruvians have traditionally done for centuries.
The classic hallmark of any backpacker who has travelled through South America - the chullo (knitted hat with ear flaps) might be a bit of a travel cliché but will be a well-received as a gift back home.
Good quality gold and silver earrings, rings and bracelets are widely available throughout Peru, with classic Inca-style designs proving popular.
Highlights you'll see on our trips
1. Machu Picchu
However you get to Machu Picchu – whether it’s through spectacular scenery on the classic Inca Trail, through small Andes villages on the Inca Quarry Trail, or over mega mountain passes on the Choquequirao Trail – the feeling of reaching this otherworldly archaeological site will stay with you for a lifetime. This ancient 15th-century citadel is a spectacular reminder of the ingenuity of the Inca civilisation.
Be dazzled by the 'White City' of Arequipa. Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Wander the famous Plaza de Armas and while away the days in cosy cafes, admire the city's beautifully built churches and the iconic Basilica Cathedral, or learn about ancient mummies in the Andean Sanctuaries Museum.
Premium Peru in Depth with Ica Valley
Shrouded in mystery, the Nazca Lines is one of the world’s most intriguing archaeological sites. Thanks to dry desert conditions, these geoglyphs – which date back to the 2nd century BC – and the mummies, textiles, ceramics and other relics that have been discovered here, offer a rare glimpse into pre-Inca life. Climb to the viewing platform, or perhaps take a flight over the lines for an epic view.
4. Puerto Maldonado
Experience the magic of the Amazon rainforest on an enthralling jungle adventure. Hike beneath cool, leafy canopies while looking for monkeys, parrots and otters; cruise along the Amazon on a canoe; learn about the healing properties of native plants with a local guide, and swap your alarm clock for the ambient songs and croaks of toucans and other tropical birds.
Welcome to the capital of Peru. Lima is one of the most up-and-coming foodie destinations, so the best way to explore is through your tastebuds! Be sure to sample ceviche (the country’s national dish), or perhaps take part in a cooking class with a local. You might also want to drink pisco sours in the bustling Barranco neighbourhood, stroll through the beautiful Lima Cathedral, or swing your hips to folk music at a peña (a traditional Peruvian music venue).
Galapagos & Inca Trail Adventure
6. Lake Titicaca
Defy logic while standing on Lake Titicaca’s famous floating islands, which are made entirely out of reeds by the Uros people (who still live on them!). Surrounded by striking peaks on the border of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is one of the highest lakes in the world. Dive into learning about the history of the lake and its communities, or simply enjoy the bliss of being immersed in nature.
Cusco is South America's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Inca for two centuries before the Spanish arrived. Today, it’s a fascinating combination of both cultures. Tour the Coricancha Temple, wander the World Heritage-listed Cusco Cathedral, peruse the colourful San Pedro market, or do the incredible Inkilltambo trek on the city’s outskirts.
8. Sacred Valley
Treasured for its climate and fertile land, Sacred Valley has long been the main source of food in the high Andes. It’s also home to the remarkable ruins of Sacsayhuaman, another site that will show you how incredible the Inca civilisation was. Take part in an ancient cooking ritual known as pachamanca with the Chichubamba community; do a traditional chocolate and corn beer workshop, or climb the steep terraces to Ollantaytambo – a village with amazing Inca ruins and views over the valley.
Festivals and events in Peru
Festivals are an important part of Peruvian culture. If you're lucky (or very organised), your trip may coincide with one of these lively fiestas:
1. Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of the Candlemas)
The city of Puno celebrates its patron saint with an epic, two-week party each November. Join in the revelry as performers parade the streets in elaborate costumes and masks.
2. Mistura Culinary Festival
Mistura is a massive event held in September where thousands of Peruvians and tourists come together to celebrate the country’s cuisine in Lima.
3. Cusco Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun)
Every year on June 24, Cusco celebrates the winter solstice with street dances, parades and a re-enactment of the Inca winter solstice festival at the Sacsayhuaman ruins.
Each year before Lent cities across Peru host Carnaval celebrations, but the festivities in Cajamarca are known for being the wildest – and wettest. Visitors flock to the city for nine days of dancing, partying, parades and water fights.
Learn more about festivals in Peru
We have a variety of similar destinations, trips and routes that you could consider! Tie another trip into your holiday, or, see how we can help you get from A to B. We have tours departing from a range of locations across South America. If you want to base your tour around Lima we have tours from Lima and tours to Lima. If you want to base your trip around the Andes we have tours to Cusco or even combine both on our Lima to Cusco trips. If you fancy a trip across the border, discover our Lima to La Paz trips.
|The Last Days of the Incas||Kim MacQuarrie|
|The Conquest of the Incas||John Hemming|
|Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter||Mario Vargas Llosa|
|American Chica||Marie Arena|
|Touching the Void||Joe Simpson|
Peru travel FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Peru has visa-free travel agreements with most countries, and foreign nationals including those from the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and Canada do not require a visa for tourism purposes.
Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. You can also check the Essential Trip Information section of your itinerary for more information.
While tipping isn't mandatory in Peru, it's customary to add spare change or a small amount to restaurant bills. Although most restaurants and bars may already include a 10% service charge within the bill, feel free to add more if the service was really good. Taxi drivers generally don't expect tips.
Internet can be accessed at hotels and internet cafes in large cities, but is quite limited in rural and remote areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Peru’s cities, but may not be available in more remote and mountainous areas. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home. You could also buy a local SIM card when you arrive.
Peru has a mix of both squat toilets and western-style flushable toilets. It’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser, as they are not always provided. Some public toilets charge a small usage fee. Expect to use squat toilets if travelling on the Inca Trail.
Prices in restaurants and stores are generally listed in Peruvian nuevos soles (PEN). Below are the average prices you can expect to pay for everyday items and services:
- Short ride on a public city bus = 2 PEN
- Bottle of beer = 8 PEN
- Street cart snack/lunch = 1-8 PEN
- Lunch in a café = 15-20 PEN
- Dinner at a nice restaurant = 40-80 PEN
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Peru. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader or the hotel where you’re staying where filtered water can be found. It's advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Most hotels, large retailers and tourist attractions accept credit cards but will usually charge a fee (about 7%) for using them. Make sure you carry cash for when you're dealing with small vendors, family-run restaurants and market vendors.
ATMs can be found in most of Peru's major cities and tourist areas. ATMs are far less common in rural areas and small villages so have enough cash to cover purchases when travelling away from the larger cities.
- 1 Jan: New Year’s Day
- 19 April: Good Friday
- 1 May: Labour Day
- 25 June: Inti Raymi
- 29 June: Feast of St Peter and St Paul
- 28-29 July: National Independence Days
- 30 Aug: Feast of Santa Rosa de Lima
- 8 Oct: Battle of Angamos Day
- 1 Nov: All Saints Day
- 8 Dec: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- 25 Dec: Christmas
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Pedal along Lima’s incredible coastline, making your way through local areas and go on a cycling adventure to the epic Sacred Valley.
Spot exotic flowers, birds and mammals while enjoying a canoe ride down the mighty Amazon River.
Everyone gets a window seat while riding on the Vistadome train. The clear roof and windows allow maximum viewing for all.
Experience home-grown hospitality and food while staying with a local family who live right on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
- Jungle Lodge
Stay close to the wildlife action in a lodge located within the leafy wilds of the awesome Amazon Jungle.
Camping along the Inca Trail is one of the world's most sought-after travel experiences. Bond with new friends over delicious local food and rest up before another day of trekking.
No vaccines are required in order to enter Peru but some are recommended for protection against disease. Visit your doctor or travel clinic for advice and make sure to schedule vaccinations 4-6 weeks before your departure date, as some require time to become effective.
Recommended travel vaccines for Peru
1. Hepatitis A (transmitted through contaminated water)
2. Typhoid (transmitted through contaminated water)
3. Yellow Fever (transmitted by mosquitos): This vaccination is recommended if you’re visiting Puno or the Amazon. Some countries require a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry after visiting Peru. Do your research before leaving home to see if you require this vaccine.
Most people can start to feel the effects of altitude at over 2000 m (6561 ft) regardless of age, gender or fitness level. While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. It’s important to take it easy, drink plenty of water and speak to your group leader at once if you feel unwell.
We recommend seeing your doctor if you have any health concerns before undertaking the trip. Particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or take any medication.
While it might be common to see rainbow flags displayed throughout the Andes, this is in fact the flag of the Inca Empire and not a gay pride flag. Peru is a conservative, Catholic country where LGBTQI-rights are still developing. Many members of the LGBTQI community don’t publicly identify themselves and generally Peruvians will tolerate homosexuality on a ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ basis. While Lima may be more tolerant towards LGBTQI-travellers, it’s advised that you should exercise discretion when travelling in country areas.
For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or ILGA before you travel.
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Go to: https://travel.gc.ca/
From the UK?
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/
From the US?
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
The World Health Organisation also provides useful health information.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or you’re about to embark on your first trip, travelling can be as intimidating as it is exciting. That's the beauty of a small group tour. From handling the logistics and organising amazing cultural activities to local leaders who know each destination like the back of their hand (like which street has the best markets and where to get the most authentic food), travelling on a small group tour with Intrepid will give you unforgettable travel experiences without the hassle that comes with exploring a new place. Plus, you'll have ready-made friends to share the journey with. All you have to do is turn up with a healthy sense of adventure and we’ll take care of the rest.