Located on South America’s Pacific Coast, Peru is a country of geographic and cultural diversity, natural beauty and historic sites. It offers bustling cities as well as beaches, mountains, rainforests and reminders of ancient civilizations, including Machu Picchu, its most famous. Peru has three distinct geographic regions: The coast features beaches, deserts and river valleys. The highlands consist of the Andes Mountains, with peaks as high as 22,200 feet; canyons, including Colca and Cotahuasi, the two deepest on Earth; high plains, including the Collao Plateau; and the world's highest navigable lake, Titicaca, at over 12,700 above sea level. And Amazonia features lush vegetation and abundant wildlife along the Amazon River and throughout the jungle.
Long before the Europeans arrived, Peru was inhabited by other cultures, including the Inca civilization. Their legacy can be found at the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, now an important archaeological site with temples, squares and royal tombs. Machu Picchu is accessed via the Inca Trail from the city of Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was the capital of the Incan Empire, with its own collection of archeological remains. Visitors also can ride Orient-Express’ Hiram-Bingham, train, which offers guided day trips to Machu Picchu from Cusco.
As Peru’s main gateway, Lima is a metropolis with a vibrant nightlife, a rich cultural scene, colonial buildings in its old quarter (a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site) and ancient ruins like huacas (temples) and the Pachacamac shrine, a major pilgrimage center for the Incas.
Peruvian cuisine includes a variety of local fare from the different regions, all of which are available in Lima. Among the specialties are escabeche (cold fried fish or chicken marinated in vinegar and served with onions) and parihuela (fish and shellfish broth). Most night spots in Lima can be found in the Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco districts. In other cities, they are typically located downtown. Besides discos, pubs and nightclubs, nightlife can be found in peñas (restaurants that offer live music shows).
JorgeChavez International Airport in Lima is served by 25 airlines including American, Continental and Delta. Hotel shuttles, taxis, limousines and major car rental companies are available. In town, taxis charge fixed prices and are inexpensive. Lima also offers El Bussing municipal bus service and privately owned microbuses. In Cusco, Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport served by five South American airlines. In addition, the Southern Railway links Peru with Chile, Bolivia and Brazil.
Peru’s climate varies by region. The coast enjoys warm summers, with average daytime highs reaching 80 degrees from December through March (Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere). Winters are cooler and misty. The highlands are generally dry and temperate, although it’s drier from May through October, with sunny days and cold nights. And the jungle is humid, although less so from April to October, with temperatures topping 85. Peak travel seasons are during the driest months.
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Majestic Machu Picchu
Peru’s top attraction is one of a kind
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