"Land of the Incas" is a title given Peru, yet it could be called the "Land of the Moche" or the land of several other Peruvian civilizations spanning thousands of years prior to the Incas.
The Incas are best remembered as they formed the greatest empire on the continent. The ruins of many of these other civilizations can be visited as well as the mysterious Inca cities, such as Machu Picchu.
Yet, there is so much more to this mysterious and exotic country. The Peruvian Andean mountains are the most beautiful and accessible on the continent and home to millions of highland Indians who still speak their native tongue and preserve much of their traditional life-style. The Amazon Basin, accessible often only by air and water, is where exotic plants and animals will amaze those who observe them. The third region, the entire coastal strip is desert, where rivers from the Andes flow through this desert to the Pacific Ocean and have created small oases that have supported, through the ages, a variety of civilizations.
Why take an incentive group to Peru?
Visitors will be impressed by Peru's variety, culturally and geographically. Planners will be excited by the travel possibilities within a country unequaled in South America for its archaeological wealth.
For those seeking adventure it can be accomplished through trekking, hiking and mountaineering among the glacier-clad mountains with peaks of over 6000 meters and its high valleys, home of many rarely seen animals. For those wanting a less strenuous adventure the tropical rainforest on the eastern edges of the Andes houses the greatest variety of birds, an easy journey of wonder. Then there are the wonders of the coastal desert - the greatest adobe city in the world, Chan Chan, and the giant stylized animal shapes etched into the desert, visible only from the air and shrouded in mystery. Food adventurers will enjoy the exquisite regional cooking of Peru. One of the specialties is the Pachamanca, a festive meal for which the food is cooked in a large hole in the ground while it is covered with stones and leaves.
World Incentive Nexus can recommend a company to handle all details of a program in Peru. For a recommendation, more information or a request for proposal, use the form found below.
Peru is 1,285,216 sq km (496,225 sq miles) and is the third largest country in South America. Located on the Pacific coast of South America, Peru is a large, mountainous country. It is bordered on the north by the countries of Ecuador and Columbia, to the east by Brazil, to the south by Bolivia and Chile, with the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Three natural zones run north to south; Costa (Coast), Sierra (Highlands), and Selva (Amazon Jungle).
The coastal region is a narrow coastal plain with large tracts of desert broken by fertile valleys. The Sierra contains the Andes with peaks of over 6000m (20,000 ft). The Selva is an area of fertile subtropical uplands between the Andes and the jungles of eastern Peru. The capital of Peru is Lima with a population of about 8 million people.
Peru had many pre-Columbia cultures, some preceding the Incas by many centuries. The Inca Empire lasted for barely a century and in 1532 the Spanish captured the Inca emperor, which effectively put an end to the Inca Empire. The city of Lima was founded in 1535 and became the effective capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, established seven years later. Peruvian independence was declared in 1821. For the rest of this century a series of governments struggled to maintain the economy and unity of the country. From 1919 until the mid 1990s the country experienced a number of governmental changes and crises. Inflation has dropped recently, the country is back into the international financial community and an agreement with Ecuador put an end to 50 years of disputes between the two countries. The future of Peru looks promising and it has become one of the most important destinations in Latin America.
Areas and Cities of Peru
Lima, known as the "City of Kings", is the capital of Peru. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, this ancient Spanish city is located in the center of Peru's desert coastline. Within the City are a number of splendid museums and galleries. These include Museo de la Nación (Peruvian archaeology heritage),
Museo de Oro del Peru (Gold Museum & Arms Museum), Museo de Arte (Art Museum), Museo Pedro de Osma (Colonial art, furniture, sculpture, metalwork). There are also a number of historic churches in Lima: La Catedral which houses the remains of Francisco Pizarro; San Francisco, (church and monastery), is famous for its catacombs; San Pedro is considered by many experts to be one of finest examples of early colonial architecture. Other interesting features of Lima include its many plazas, colonial houses and archaeological sites.
The South Coast
The desert coastal lowlands of Peru are interspersed with oases clustered around the rivers, which flow down the western slopes of the Andes. The main towns of this region follow:
Pisco is the first port south of Lima and shares its name with the white grape brandy produced in this region. Most visitors use Paracas, near Pisco, as a base to see the wildlife of the nearby Islas Ballestas and Peninsula de Paracas.
There is also considerable historical and archaeological significance in this region. The Peninsula de Paracas and Islas Ballestas make up the La Reserva Nacional de Paracas, the most important wildlife sanctuary on the Peruvian coast, which is known for its bird and marine life. Birds and sea lions nest on islands offshore from Islas Ballestas. The only way to visit these colonies is through an organized boat tour. En route to the islands visitors can view a giant Candelabrum etched into the coastal hills. The origin and significance of this figure is unknown. Flamingos can be viewed during a trip to either of these sanctuaries.
Ica is a pleasant colonial town founded in 1563 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera. Located 420 meters above sea level, it is above the sea mist where the climate is dry and sunny. There are huge sand dunes in the desert surrounding this quaint town with colonial churches, excellent museums, and several annual fiestas. Within this community are thriving wineries and distillers of pisco (grape brandy), many which can be visited.
Nasca is a small town frequently visited by travelers interested in Nasca culture, pre-Incas, and the world famous Nasca lines. This culture was forgotten and buried in the desert sand until 1901 when the Nasca sites were excavated. The Nasca lines are huge geometric designs drawn in the desert and visible only from the air.
Some designs represent giant animals and others simple yet perfect triangles, rectangles and straight lines running for several kilometers across the desert. The questions: Who constructed the lines and why? And how did they know what they were doing when the lines can only be properly appreciated from the air?
The Arequipa Area
The city of Arequipa is known as the white city because much of it is built of ashlar, the smooth white building stone carved from volcanic lava quarries. It is located in the mountainous desert of the western Andes, 2359m (7740 ft) above sea level in what is called the Highlands. It is a beautiful city surrounded by spectacular mountains, the most famous of these is the volcano El Misti. Both Spanish colonial and Andalusian influences are visible everywhere. Sites of interest include the Santa Catalina Convent, a beautiful city within a city, the Casa del Moral mansion and the Goyeneche Palace.
Yanahuara and Cayma are worth visiting for their churches and the beautiful surrounding countryside with attractive villages. For the adventurous there are several excursions from Arequipa to consider: a tour of the Cañón del Colca., which might be the deepest canyon in the world; climbing the volcano El Misti and other mountains; hiking in the Valle de los Volcanes.
The Lake Titicaca Area
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The local people, Uros, who live and work around the lake are decedents of the original inhabitants. Two islands in the area, Taquile and Amantaní, are of social, ethnic and archaeological importance and can be visited by motorboat. Puno, on the shores of the lake, at 3,800 mts (12400f) and the surrounding countryside are the craddle of the Aymara civilization. It is noted for their traditional dances, the wildest and most colorful in the Highlands.
The Cuzco Area
The city of Cuzco was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Remains that can still be seen are the walls of the Inca Palace and temples. The most remarkable temple is the Koricancha, the Sun Temple. The most interesting churches representing a blend of colonial and Indian architecture are La Merced and its Monastery San Francisco Belen de los Reyes, Santa Clara and San Blas. Nearby ruins of interest are Sacsayhuaman, an immense fortress, which overlooks Cuzco and the Inca sites of Puca Pucara, Kenko and Tambomachay. On market days the colonial village of Pisac comes alive with traditionally dressed locals from miles around.
The Inca Trail is the best-known and most popular hike on the continent. It is a wonderful trip with views of snowcapped mountains and a high cloud forest while walking from one beautiful ruin to the next. At the end of one of the trails is Machu Picchu, South America's best known and most spectacular archaeological site. Train or helicopter can also reach the site.
The North Coast
Worth visiting for its mansions and archaeological areas is Trujillo known as the "City of the Eternal Spring". Near Trujillo is Chan Chan; the large ruined capital of the Chimu Empire built around 1300 AD, which is also the largest pre-Inca clay city. The fishing village of Huanchaco has the best beach resort in the Trujillo area, yet retains its fishing village ambience. Here you can see fishermen still using their ancestral reed boats. Fishermen ride on these boats called caballitos de Totora (little horses made of totora reed) instead of in them.
The coastal city of Chiclayo and other towns in Northern Peru are centers of witchcraft. Around Chiclayo are a few interesting archaeological places. The most important archaeological discovery in Peru in the last 50 years is at Sipán where the tomb of a royal ruler was discovered. At Túcume can be found crumbing walls and plazas and 28 pyramids. Huaca Rajada is home to a 40-meter high adobe pyramid, which can be climbed via a series of zigzag slopes. Batan Grande is also a major site where about 50 pyramids have been identified and several burials have been excavated. At the Brüning Museum some of the artifacts unearthed from the tomb in Sipán can be viewed.
Piura and Tumbes are two major beaches with surfing, sporting and deep-sea fishing activities. Piura is the oldest colonial town in Peru. The center of the Vicus culture, which existed around the time of Christ, is nearby and the tombs of the area have yielded a great number of ceramics that can be seen in the museums of Piura and Lima.
The Huaraz Area
This area is the center of climbing, trekking and backpacking in Peru. Huaraz is known as the "Peruvian Switzerland" since the country's loftiest peaks are situated here, including the highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán. The mountains offer a range of attractions from permanently glaciated peaks to glacial lakes and hot springs.
There are pre-Inca and Inca ruins also in this area including the 3,000 year-old Chavín de Huántar ruins. The flora and fauna is very fascinating; the 10 meter high Puya Raymondi, the tallest flower spike and bromeliad in the world and the largest flying birds on earth, the Andean condor.
The Northern Highlands
Cajamarca and the surrounding area is steeped in history and played an important role in the Spanish conquest of the Incas. It has attractive colonial architecture, a number of traditional churches, a beautiful countryside and medicinal hot springs.
From the quiet, pleasant little town of Chachapoyas can be reached the village of Tingo and the important ruin of Kuélap. Kuélap is an immense ruined city in the mountains and the best preserved. It is an oval city with a massive wall around it 6 to 8 meters high.
The Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin covers more than half of Peru and is mostly inaccessible. There are a few cities within the Basin. They include:
Iquitos is the largest jungle city that can be reached by air and the Río Amazonas. This city is used as a base for excursions into the jungle or to wait for riverboats to travel along the Amazon.
The ACEER Lab is one excursion from Iquitos. ACEER is a non-profit foundation whose main goal is to preserve the rainforest habitats. The highlight is the canopy walkway to view the many plant and animal species that spend their whole life in the canopy of the rainforest. This is a hanging walkway going almost half a kilometer through the canopy, reaching a height of 35 meters about the ground. This excursion requires staying in a jungle lodge.
Puerto Maldonado is known for its national parks and reserves. It is also a starting point for excursions into a different jungle area. The best trips are to the nearby jungle lodges. With a guide, visitors will see a large variety of the local natives, tropical plants, insects and birds. This town is most easily reached by air.
Healing Arts are widely practiced in the jungle region and it is possible to have tours with the native guides to learn about the various jungle plants that are used for health and healing. There are also certain skilled persons, known as "shamans" who have learned over many years of training which plants to use on various ailments. Some shamans are willing to perform healing ceremonies for outsiders for physical, spiritual and psychological purposes. The use of any jungle plants should be undertaken only with a highly experienced guide.
Recreation & Sports
- Mountain biking
- River running
- Art Galleries
- Handicraft Markets
- Performances by folklore groups
- Visiting archaeological Sites
- Wildlife viewing
Accommodations vary according to region. Hotels are classified by a star system, the highest and most luxurious being 5 stars. Hotels of higher quality might also add 1-13% service charge. All places that provide accommodations must have a plaque outside bearing the letter that applies to their accommodations H (hotel), HR (hotel residential), or P (pension).
The weather varies greatly depending on the geographical region. The best weather in the coastal region is January to March. The sky is clear and the weather hot and sticky. The rest of the year there is gray coastal mist. The inland areas above 600 meters are hot and sunny for most of the year. In the Andes there are two seasons - a dry and wet season. The dry season is from May to September with sunny days. The wet season in the mountains is from October to May with really wet weather at the end of January. Going down the eastern slope of the Andes it gets wetter. The driest months are the same as in the highlands with the wet season being more pronounced. The wettest months are from January until April. The roads on the eastern slope of the Andres are often closed during the wet season due to landslides or flooding. A similar weather pattern exists in the Amazon lowlands.
Telephone service, facsimile, telex, telegrams, radio and television are all readily available. Internet access is available in the better hotels.
Ecology & Environment
Peru's three regions, coastal desert, Andean highlands and the Amazon Basin define the ecological habitats of Peru. There are serious efforts to maintain the ecology of the busiest tourist regions, and yet it is a challenge to provide amenities for guests in the remote areas without impacting the environment.
220 volts AC, 60Hz.
Food & Beverage
Typical Peruvian dishes are tasty, varied and regional. The food is hot and spicy through the use of hot pepper and garlic. Rice and potatoes accompany just about every dish. Peru has a wide variety of vegetables; there are over 2000 kinds of indigenous and cultivated potatoes alone. Tropical fruits and avocados are also abundant.
The national drink is pisco, which is a potent grape brandy. Pisco sour is a cocktail made from pisco, egg white, lemon juice, sugar, syrup, crushed ice and bitters. Imported spirits are expensive and not very good if made locally. Cuzqueña and Arequipeña are considered the best beers in Peru. Peru has a thriving wine industry and produces acceptable wines. The best wines are from the Tacama and Ocucaje wineries.
The government consists of a president, two vice presidents and a cabinet of 12 members. The congress is unicameral and consists of 120 members. Voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 to 70 years and is optional for older people. Peru is divided into 11 regions, 24 departments and the constitutional province of Callao. The departments are further divided into 155 provinces and the provinces subdivided into 1586 districts.
Health and Safety
Please see Travel Advice Contacts below for more information. These websites are provided as basic guidelines. Please refer to the State Department of your home country for more details and current information.
Jan 1||New Year's Day|
Feb 2 ||La Virgen de la Candelaria, a colorful fiesta in the highlands|
February-March ||Carnaval, held on the last few days before Lent|
March-April ||Semana Santa, Holy Week associated with Easter|
May 1 ||Labor Day|
June ||Corpus Christi, the 9th Thursday after Easter|
June 24 ||Peasant's Day|
Inti Raymi, the Sun Feast
June 29 ||St Peter & St Paul's Day|
July 16 ||La Virgen del Carmen|
July 28-29 ||Independence|
August 30 ||Santa Rosa de Lima, patron saint of Lima and of the Americas.|
Oct 8 ||Combat of Angamos|
Oct 18/28 ||El Señor de los Milagros, the Lord of the Miracles|
Nov 1 ||All Saints' Day|
Nov 2 ||All Souls' Day/Día de los Muertos|
Nov 5 ||Puno Day, to celebrate the legendary emergence of the first Inca|
Dec 8 ||Feast of the Immaculate Conception|
Dec 25 ||Christmas|
Spanish is the official language. Quechua is the most important native language and is spoken in the majority of the Andean cities. English is spoken in major tourist areas.
New Sol (S/.) = 100 céntimos.
In the major towns and resort areas there are many good bars, pubs, discotheques and casinos. Nightlife also includes performances by the national ballet and symphony orchestra. Peñas are bars that serve food and where folk music can be heard and danced. Theatre is popular in Lima and less frequent outside of the capital. Only visitors who speak good Spanish would be interested in these performances. Theatre bars are also found in Lima. Major cities have cinemas screening imported films with Spanish subtitles.
Passports & Visas
Tourists who are citizens of most Western European nations, the USA and Canada do not need a visa and can enter Peru with a valid passport. Australians, New Zealanders, Spanish citizens and some other nationalities do need visas. Passports should be valid for at least six months after arrival date. A tourist card is given to everyone on arrival in Peru. Immigration retains one copy and the visitor the other. The card is required for passport checks and to leave the country. Since there are numerous document checks, visitors should carry their passports and tourist card whenever leaving their hotel, or at least a photocopy of these documents.
Health and Safety
Please see Travel Advice Contacts below for more information.
See holidays above.
Local fiestas and festivals are held somewhere in Peru every week.
GMT - 5 hours
Daylight Savings Time begins on the first Sunday in April and ends the last Saturday in October.
In some better restaurants a 10% service charge is included, if the service is good give the waiter an extra 5%. At restaurants without a service charge, tip the waiter up to 15%. Give the tip directly to the waiter and do not leave the money on the table. Taxi drivers are not tipped. Negotiate a fare with a taxi driver beforehand and stick to it. Tip bellhops or porters about US$0.50 per bag.
The narrow coastal strip is mainly desert, merging at the southern end into the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. At the northern end, near Ecuador the strip becomes a mangrove swamp. Rivers running down the western slopes of the Andes cross the desert forming about 40 oases that are agricultural centers.
The Andes, the second greatest mountain chain in the world, reach heights of 6000 meters and do not end at the coast. 100 km offshore there is an ocean trench, which is as deep as the Andes are high. This is a young range still in the process of being uplifted. The Andes on the western slop are rugged with jagged ranges separated by extremely deep and vertiginous canyons. The eastern slopes are rugged and less precipitous. These slopes receive more rainfall than the western slopes and produces a mantle of green cloud forest. At lower elevations the cloud forest becomes the rainforest of the Amazon Basin.
Travel into and within the country
Travel to Peru
Air Travel to Peru
Peru can be reached from anywhere in the world. American Airlines and United have direct flights from cities in Canada and the USA. There are few direct flights from Europe. They include Aeroflot from Moscow, AOM from Paris, Iberia from Madrid, Lufthansa from Europe and KLM from Amsterdam. From Australia and New Zealand Qantas and United have flights to the USA with connections to Peru. Flights from Asia by Nippon Airways and Korean Air have flights to the USA with connections to Peru.
Sea Travel to Peru
Ocean liners arrive at the Port of Lima on an infrequent basis.
River Travel to Peru
It is possible to travel from the mouth of the Amazon at Belém in Brazil to Iquitos in Peru. Since there is not one boat that travels the entire distance the journey will be broken into several stages.
Rail Travel to Peru
There are two daily trains between Tacna and Arica (Chile)
Travel within Peru
Aero Continente, Aercondor, Taca, Tans and Lan Peru handle virtually all domestic air travel linking many of the cities in Peru.
Transportation is available between Pucallpa and Iquitos and from Iquitos to the border with Brazil.
Rail travel is available among limited cities in Peru. Rail connections between some cities are only scheduled weekly.
Travel Advice Contacts (Information on health issues, safety, visas, etc.)
These websites are provided as basic guidelines. Please refer to the State Department of your home country for more details and current information.