Cusco is at 11,089 feet/3380 meters so if you are or think you are susceptible to altitude sickness please be sure to arrive 2-3 days prior to your trek, rest the first few days in Cusco, drink plenty of water (and coca tea, a local remedy), and eat lots of carbohydrates. These three things help prevent and combat altitude sickness. Please consult your doctor if you have concerns about being at altitude. There are many medications that they can provide (example: anti nausea medication, diuretics, etc). Machu Picchu is actually lower (8,000 feet/2430 meters), but if you choose to trek there, the mountain passes can go up to over 17,000 ft/5200m.
Are tour dates flexible?
YES. Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers (less ok with extra fee).
Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Absolutely!! Our tours tend to attract a great mix of solo travelers, families, friends, etc. We can often match you with a roommate if desired, to save on single supplement costs or you can request a private room if you prefer.
Can I drink the water in Peru?
The tap water is not safe to drink in Peru. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, local shops, and restaurants. Don’t forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well! Ice is not always made with boiled/ bottled water. Order your beverages without ice (“sin hielo”) or ask your tour leader if the ice is safe in a particular restaurant. You can also bring iodine tablets or other filtration systems if you like, though on the trek we provide filtered/boiled water for you to drink.
Can I extend or change my stay?
Absolutely! You can arrange this on your own or we can help you book extra days in Cusco. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Weather varies a lot and changes quickly, the dry season (winter) is from the end of April to beginning of November (hot, dry days, cold, dry nights) and the wet season (summer) is from November to April (most rain Jan/Feb). Temperatures don’t vary too much between these seasons but the amount of precipitation does. If the sun is out it can be quite warm, but in the shade it gets rather cool very quickly. Temperatures change rapidly and you will need layers as you hike during the day. At night it is cool in the city and quite cold in the mountains, often below freezing especially on the higher altitude treks. Bring layers, a warm jacket, a warm sleeping bag and/or liner, and rain jacket/gear. You can still get rain/snow in the mountains in the dry season, especially if there is an el niño storm on the horizon. Weather has been changing a lot the past few years so come prepared as mountain conditions are always unpredictable .
Peruvians tend to be hospitable and strong willed. Families are very important and tend to be the focus of social life and women traditionally stay in the home. Official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara, but there are over 40 local ethnic languages. Most people speak Spanish and one native language. You will find more English speakers in the educated classes. Most city-dwelling Peruvians are catholic. The indigenous people have mixed beliefs of Christianity and native religions. Peruvian culture has a strong mix of Spanish colonial residual factors and a recognition and pride with local cultures.
In terms of greetings, people will shake hands and/or kiss on the cheek for the first time. When people get to know each other better, men often pat each other on the back, and women kiss each other on one cheek. If you do not know someone really well or are first meeting them, you should address them by “Señor” or “Señora” and their last name. Ask before using first names. Professionals are addressed by their titles and last names.
Peruvians tend to gesture a lot when communicating and conversations can become very lively and animated when they get really into something. People tend to stand close to each other and maintain strong eye contact. In the city they usually wear well put together western style clothing out in public. It is considered sloppy to wear dirty or old clothing outside the house. Guides tend to wear hiking gear.
There is a strong difference between the rural and urban lifestyles in Peru. In the countryside, people heavily depend on what season it is, and they typically perform manual labor (farming, etc). Many of the people who live in the rural parts of Peru have farms and herd llamas or alpacas (occasionally cattle). All types of festivals (there are many of these), like religious holidays and weddings, are communal celebrations that are shared with entire villages. Peruvian meetings don’t tend to start on time, and their overall sense of time is different. They are less hurried in general, especially compared to the United States.
Do I need a visa/passport?
Travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart. Currently, citizens from the US, Canada, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Japan, Latin America, South Africa, South Korea, and the Caribbean (except Cuba) do not need a visa. Australians and New Zealanders do need a visa. Travelers from other nationalities should check with the Peruvian Embassy for visa information. Entry requirements change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler’s responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa information.
Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. We can help you arrange these flights with various airlines.
Flights/Getting to Cusco
Peru might seem like an exotic destination, but it is closer than you think! Only a 5 hour flight from Miami to Lima, 6 hours from Atlanta, 7.5 hours from NYC and 8.5 hours from Los Angeles. There are no direct flights from foreign countries into Cusco City. You can fly from another major hub (example: Lima, Buenos Aires, etc) or take a bus. The four airlines that fly to Cusco from Lima are Lan, Taca, Peruvian Airlines, and Star Peru. Customs: No visa required for Americans, Europeans, Australians, and Japanese citizens visiting Peru, however you must present your valid passport to be stamped (good at least 6 months beyond your travel time for US), along with immigration paperwork you get on the airplane. You need not declare anything unless you are bringing something weird in like livestock or things to sell. Explain that you are a tourist visiting for 30-90 days (for example) and they will stamp your passport accordingly. DO NOT lose your little white immigration slip, keep with passport, or else you will have to pay a fine when you leave. For other countries, please consult the Peruvian Embassy for travel visa requirements. Some knowledge of Spanish is usually helpful. See this link for travel Spanish phrases: http://www.travelphrase.com/EnglishSpanish.htm
Electricity in Peru is 220 Volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. In some places they have 110v, 50 cycles but not everywhere and there are often power surges for any outlet. If you travel to Peru with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 60 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in Peru generally accept 2 types of plugs: If your appliance/device plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. It is not a bad idea to also have a surge protector if you plan to bring expensive electronics. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
Food - Is the food safe to eat in Peru?
Food in Peru, when prepared correctly is not only safe but delicious too! They have some of the world’s most beautiful and delicious produce ever! That being said, Peru carries a host of germs that foreign travelers are not used to. It is generally advisable to avoid eating street food and eat fruit you can peel and fruits and veggies that you know have been washed well in boiled/filtered water or peeled in a hygienic kitchen. Nicer restaurants do a good job of food preparation but it is often a good idea to still avoid salads. On the trail we make sure that all food is prepared in a hygienic manner and wash all fruit/vegetables in boiled/filtered water. In case you do end up with stomach upset from eating something on the streets or in a restaurant it is a good idea to stay hydrated and bring medicine with you such as antacids, indigestion pills, and antibiotics for travelers diarrhea. Talk with your doctor prior to your trip to discuss the best medications to bring with you if you choose to do so.
Vaccinations – recommend bringing all boosters up to date (MMR, tetanus, etc)
For Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu there are generally no vaccinations required. If you are going to the jungle or any other higher risk area you may need: yellow fever vaccine, medicine for malaria, typhoid vaccine, etc.
Click here for updated info: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/peru.aspx
Common problems might include upset stomach, diarrhea, or rarely travelers diarrhea. Be careful what you eat and only drink bottled or boiled/filtered water.
Altitude sickness is also something to watch out for, see more info under Altitude above.
How concerned should I be about the altitude?
Altitude affects each traveler differently and until you have visited an area with high altitude, it is impossible to predict how your body will react. For this reason, we recommend having at least 2 or 3 days to acclimatize in Cusco before beginning your trek. Starting off with an acclimatizing hike to the ruins above Cusco or a tour of the Sacred Valley is often very helpful as well. This time allows your body to begin acclimatizing (though full acclimatization would take several weeks) and provides travelers a good indication of how they will feel once they begin hiking. Travelers commonly report mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, or light-headedness during their first day or two at elevation. Many Cusco hotels have oxygen available for travelers feeling the effects of the elevation. Severe altitude sickness is rare. In this case, the best treatment is to go down to lower elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated to low altitude. Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. It is important to ask your doctor whether or not travel to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about prescription diuretics that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude more readily.
How far in advance should I book?
You can book your tour at any time but generally the earlier you book, the better. Booking early (4 months or more recommended) is especially important for travelers visiting during the height of the dry season, June to August, as many of these departures fill up months in advance. Travelers visiting outside of these busy months can often book a bit more last minute, though 2-3 months notice is still recommended. For the Inca trail it depends on permit availability and currently it is recommended to book 4-6 months in advance. Further, we usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available. We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice may not be available for your selected dates, but we can recommend some other similar options that would be equally interesting! Since airlines usually require a passport number to book internal flights, have this number ready to speed up the booking process.
How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary in Latin and South America to offer a tip for exceptional service. Guides, porters, horse handlers, cooks, and other trekking staff all work for a set wage per trip. They are not on salary and many of these employees have families back home and travel great distances to get to work. Many have farms that they tend to in the off season, working on treks only to help their families financially. While tipping is not required, it is highly encouraged, as these dedicated professionals work very hard to bring you a pleasant, culturally and historically interesting experience. Your guide will explain the typical tipping system should you choose to partake in it.Tipping amounts vary widely, though some travelers report that ~$5-$10/ day for your guide and ~$1-$3/ day for your driver is common. Other travelers tip their guides 10% of the trek cost and chip in $5-10 dollars each for the staff. Still other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers or local children along the way. And sometimes trekkers end up leaving their gear with guides if they wish.
How safe is Peru?
Peru has a stable government and tourism has boomed in recent years. With the added tourist dollars, the government has made a concerted effort to keep travelers and their valuables safe. There have been no terrorist attacks in Peruvian tourist areas in over a decade and the activities of the Shining Path are generally assumed to be isolated to a remote area of the Department of Ayacucho that most travelers would never visit. Travelers should take the same precautions that they would in a major city in the US. Pay attention to the advice of your tour leader and hotel reception and take common-sense precautions such as not going into unfamiliar areas alone, especially at night. Petty theft is common in busy tourist areas such as airports, markets, and other tourist sites so be aware of your valuables and don’t leave them unattended. Monetary scams also sprout up occasionally so beware of any offers that sound too good to be true. Your tour leader is from the local area and is an excellent source of information and advice. Check out the US State Department travel advisories for the latest information at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_998.html
Inca Trail Permits
The Classic 4 Day Inca Trail, or Camino Inca, is the most popular of all treks to Machu Picchu. It can be hiked year round, except in February when it is closed for repairs. It ends at the Sun Gate, the Incan built entry into Machu Picchu, on the fourth day. This trail is part of the Machu Picchu UNESCO World Heritage Site (so named in 1983) and is protected by the Peruvian Government as it is threatened by over-hiking. Because of this there is a limit of 500 trekkers per day (this includes trek staff) and horses are not allowed on the trail. Due to its popularity and permit limitations, this trek sells out well in advance. All companies are subject to the same permit restrictions so once it is sold out for one company, it is sold out for them all. We recommend booking at least 6 months in advance, keeping in mind that once you choose a date, the permits and other associated tickets are non-transferrable and non-refundable. If you miss out on this trek or don’t fancy a crowded trail, we offer many other stunning alternative treks to Machu Picchu. Some of the most popular include: 6 Day Rainbow Trek, 5 Day Ancascocha Trek, 7 Day Ausangate Trek, 5 Day Salkantay, and 4 Day Lares Hot Springs Trek.
Is travel insurance recommended?
Absolutely!!! In fact we require it – with a minimum of $500,000.00 USD medical evacuation coverage. There are many companies that provide reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. Please be sure to arrange for trip cancellation/medical insurance coverage as Killa Expeditions is not responsible for these problems or costs incurred. Be aware that many insurance companies only cover trips before you have left and they only cover trips where you are returning to your country of residence within a specified time frame. Check their policy prior to purchase. Once you have this insurance please email us a copy of the policy and coverage.
List of Local Activities
Carnivals take place in the different Cusco villages, where locals dance and drink. The city of Qoya celebrates Carnavalesco.
Holy Week: People honor Holy Week by processing in the streets with various religious iconography. El Señor de los Temblores (The Lord of Earthquakes), the city patron, is also taken out in procession on Holy Monday.
Second Week in May: Vigil and Adoration of the Cross.
Last week in May – first week in June: the International Beer Festival. Famous national/international artists participate.
June 1: Corpus Christi, another Catholic procession.
June 18 and 19: Qoullurity and Quispicanchis, Catholic Festivities
June 24: Inti Raymi, The ancestral Fiesta del Sol (sun festival) in gratitude for having had a good harvest.
July 15: Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo. This town celebrates by honoring mamacha Carmen (mama Carmen).
July 28: Independence Day in Peru (Everything is closed and quiet on this day). Marches/parades occur a few days prior.
November 1: All Saints Day. Small religious procession.
November 2: Day of the Dead. To the rhythm of bands of musicians, families visit the cemeteries to recall their dead. They take with them a home-made bread for the occasion, guaguas, shaped as baby dolls.
December 24: Santuranticuy. A popular fair where artisans from various regions exhibit and sell their works in the plaza.
Machu Picchu Tickets and Hikes
Machu Picchu is the highlight of any trip to Peru. It was named as one of the 7 Man-Made Wonders of the World via online poll in 2007. Machu Picchu has undergone many changes as it’s popularity has grown in the past 30 years. The Peruvian Government has now limited the number of people who can enter Machu Picchu per day (Limit: 4,000 per day), restricted entry to the daytime (Hours: 6 AM to 5 PM daily), and limited the number of people who can hike Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains within the ruin site (200 for each mountain at 7 AM and 200 for each mountain at 10 AM). This means that tickets sell out quickly (especially Wayna Picchu) and we now recommend booking your Machu Picchu tickets several months in advance if you want to hike Wayna Picchu in particular. These extra hikes are add-ons and cost $25 USD per person, per hike if trekking on an alternative trek. If you are hiking the Inca Trail (Classic or Short Inca) the cost is $75 USD per person per hike. These prices are set by the Peruvian government.
Main Attractions in Cusco
Plaza de Armas known as Huacaypata, means to cry. Tradition says that it was designed by its founder, Inca Manco Cápac, as the symbolic center of the empire. There, Túpac Amaru and his wife, Micaela Bastidas and their children were executed for fighting against Spanish oppression.
The Temple of Sacsayhuamán: within walking distance (uphill) from the center, it has big walls of monumental stones distributed in zigzag formation and in three platforms that have an average of 360 meters (1,181 ft). There are stones of as much as 9 mt (30 ft) long and 5 mt (16 ft) wide and from 1 ton to 300 tons in weight.
Tambomachay: known as the Baños del Inca (Baths of the Inca). Clear running water still flows through the stairways, and it is said to have been a sanctuary for water worship.
Puca Pucará: Red Fortress formed by terraces, stairways, turrets, urns, vaulted niches and platforms.
Q’enko Ceremonial Spot: Built in rock, it is said to have been an Inca worship site. There are passages, canals, and stairways with stone engravings representing the puma, a sacred animal.
Barrio de San Blas: The quarter of San Blas is located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas. It is well-known for housing the workshops of the most important Cusqueño artisans, such as, the Mendivil family, Olave and Mérida. The local church has a famous 400 year old pulpit, beautifully carved from one solid piece of wood.
Qoricancha or The Temple of The Sun: constructed during the rule of Inca Pachacutec. This is where Inti Raymi begins.
Churches and monasteries: the Cathedral, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Santa Catalina, San Pedro, Santa Clara, La Compañía, San Cristóbal and La Merced are the most important.
La Merced houses a famous 1720 gold monstrance weighing 22 kilos, encased with 1,805 diamonds and other 615 precious stones, such as rubies, topazes, and emeralds.
Among the mansions, the most outstanding are, Casa de los Cuatro Bustos, Casa de los Marqueses de San Juan de Buena Vista y Rocafuerte, Palacio del Almirante, and Casa Solariega, where the Inca Garcilazo de la Vega was born.
Sacred Valley: The sacred Valley is a lush agricultural valley. It is a pleasant and peaceful place with a very nice climate. Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables sold in Cuzco come from the Sacred Valley. There is also a wonderful selection of ancient Inca sites, colonial villages, and the salt mines. Some of the sites in the Sacred Valley include: Pisac (which has ruins and a wonderful market), Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Chincheros, Maras, Moray, Salineras (Salt Mines), and further south Andahuaylillas, Tipon, and Pikillakta. The real charm of this location lies in the rugged mountains which surround this fertile ground. The valley has the Urubamba River running through it which further adds to its rustic beauty.
Main attraction in Peru. 70Kms Northwest of Cusco and is actually lower than Cusco. Constructed around 1450 in the Inca empire and abandoned less than 100 years later. Multiple theories prevail but the presence of so many temples and ritual structures indicate it had spiritual significance. It was mostly lost to the world because of jungle overgrowth. In 1911, American historian, Hiram Bingham discovered it again with the help of locals and brought this lost city to the worlds attention. He thought it was a temple for girls but now is seen as a royal retreat. It was constructed in classic Inca architectural style of polished dry stone walls of regular shape. Temples were more carefully constructed using the quarry on site and no mortar (technique called imperial). They still don’t know how they moved and placed these enormous stones. There are more than 100 flights of stone steps, many carved from one block of granite.Their Khipus (writing/counting system) has not been translated. Llamas roam freely over the site and have ear tags with names on them and are there to keep the grass short. Machu picchu is in the middle of a tropical mountain forest and is high above the Urubamba valley and river. It is set on a precipice with a 600 meter drop There is an urban sector and rural sector. The site has 140 constructions (temples, sanctuaries, parks, residences, guard house, agriculture storage and it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Currency in Peru is Nuevo Sol. US and Euro money is widely exchanged. Travelers checks are less prevalent these days. Please beware that US $100 dollar notes of the series CB-B2 are not always accepted in banks and businesses because of a high risk of being counterfeits. Also, avoid bringing dollar notes that have tears (no matter how small they are), fold marks, and ink marks. Businesses will reject them because the Banks do not accept them.
Exchange rates vary with the market and banks. Certain areas are known for better rates. Try changing money on Avenida el Sol by the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. Do not change money with individuals on the street, they could have counterfeit bills. Check the going rate first as one store might offer a better exchange rate. Taking money out of ATMs in Peru usually results in a 3-5 dollar charge in addition to your withdrawal charge. Using credit cards in Peru often results in a 3% charge by your card in addition to any commission charged by the store. Ask first! Most major credit cards are accepted, Visa being the most widely used. For the current exchange rate use the currency converter to the right (change the currency menu for your country).
Packing - What to Bring (for your trek, tour, and Peru in general):
What to bring for your trek: The weather varies a lot in Peru, having 28 climates and 84 of the worlds 104 ecosystems. Cusco is set high up (3,380 m, 11,089 ft) near the Andean Mountain Range and the dry season (winter) is from April/May to October/November with the wettest part of the year (summer) being January through March. Temperatures don’t vary too much between these seasons but the amount of precipitation does. If the sun is out it can be quite warm, but in the shade it gets cool fast. Temperatures change quickly and you will need layers as you hike during the day. At night it is quite cold in the mountains (usually near or below freezing) and most people will need long underwear and layers to sleep in, nice warm socks, gloves, and a hat. Everything you need for the day should be kept in your daypack that you carry because all the items you leave with your porter will not be available to you until the evening at the campsite. It is recommended not to hike in cotton or jeans in the event of rain as cotton takes a very long time to dry. It is also recommended to bring true hiking boots or trail running shoes as regular running shoes do not get very good traction especially when it has rained
- Sleeping bags and walking poles (poles must have intact rubber bottoms)
- Sleeping bag liner (for your sleeping bag if you wish)
- Mattress pad – while we provide an extra thick foam mattress pad, being rested is essential for a great hiking experience and we find that sleep habits are very individualized. Therefore we recommend bringing your own pad that you know you are comfortable sleeping on, as well as any other sleep items you might want to have (camp pillow, etc).
- Sunscreen: the sun is very strong in Cusco
- Sun hat
- Lip balm
- Hiking shoes/boots
- Hiking pants and shirts (layers)
- Layers – long underwear and/or warm sleep pants for cold nights
- Hand warmers if you wish
- Warm hat, gloves, scarf and thick warm socks (or you can buy a traditional Peruvian hat and scarf – they are beautiful!)
- Daypack and rain cover
- Rain gear – rain jacket and rain pants (optional for the pants), can buy an inexpensive poncho before the trek
- Cash for tipping porters, cooks, horsemen, guides, buying items along the trail, for in town, emergencies, etc. Note: Cash should be in perfect condition (ripped, damaged soles are NOT accepted anywhere in Peru)
- Swim suit, flip flops, towel for the hot springs in Aguas Calientes if you wish to go
- Sandals/flip flops
- Torch/flashlight/headlamp (and batteries)
- Insect repellent
- Extra snacks if you wish (beyond snacks provided by us)
- First aid kit, including blister protection (though your guide will have one, you may wish to carry one of your own)
- Personal medication and toiletries you might want
- Camera, extra memory cards, batteries
- Water bottle or water bladder to refill
- Passport (must be valid 6 months past your travel dates for most countries)
- Copies of passport (keep copies separate, give to travel friends to keep, etc)
- Power adapter/converter (outlets/powerpoints are different in Peru and they use 220V)
- Travel lock(s) approved by TSA (or they cut them off – US only)
- Tickets, itinerary, emergency contact information
- Any medications you currently are taking or need/may need (see suggestions below)
- For specific tips on things to bring see our blog post on Trekking in Peru: What to Bring, Part 1: Personal Clothes/Gear
What to bring: medications – medications are optional and depend on your specific needs
- Antibiotic for travelers diarrhea or UTI
- Antibiotic for a severe bacterial infection
- Medication for upset stomach/indigestion
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Anti-nausea medication for motion sickness/altitude sickness if needed
- Cold/flu medication
- General pain killer/fever reducer
- Vaccinations – recommend bringing all boosters up to date (MMR, tetanus, etc)
View latest travel advisories and recommended vaccinations and medications for the regions you plan to visit. For Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu there are generally no vaccinations required. If you are going to the jungle or any other higher risk area you may need: yellow fever vaccine, medicine for malaria, typhoid vaccine, etc. Click here for updated info: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/peru.aspx NOTE: Please visit your doctor several weeks before your trip to discuss any health restrictions you may have, medications he/she might recommend for you personally, and to seek more information about any vaccinations or medications recommended for Peru (or any of your other destinations). Additionally: speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter and/or prescription medications alone or combined.
What to bring on the Trail
On our treks we provide a drybag and horses/porters to carry your overnight gear. During the day, you’ll want to have a few items with you as you hike. On the trail you should carry a day pack with your camera, water bottle or bladder, snacks, cold weather clothing and rain gear or poncho in case of rain (unlikely in dry season – May to October) and anything you will need before dinner as horses/porters do not walk alongside you. Your bag will be waiting for you at every campsite.
Peru covers 1,285,220 km2/496,226 square miles (approximately the combined size of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado), and borders Ecuador and Columbia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, and Chile to the south. It’s coastline is along the Pacific Ocean. It has over 50 mountains over 18,000 feet and over 1600 glaciers, 12,000 lakes, and 262 river basins. Many of these places have not yet been explored. Peru is considered one of the top five most biologically diverse nations in the world. Peru has 84 of the 104 life zones in the world and nearly all the climates (28). It’s always a great time to visit Peru because it has so many different climates (from desert to tropical rainforest to snow capped mountains) that there is always a destination to be visited year round. Peru’s coastline (12% of the country) has many secluded natural beaches that are great for surfing. In the highlands (28% of the country), the Andean mountains, you can find Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world, and of course numerous treks, many of which end at Machu Picchu. The Amazon rain forest covers nearly 60% of Peru and it’s headwaters originate in Peru. Peruvian Amazon is home to the rare pink river dolphin (boto). Poverty evel in Peru is around 36% with main economic activities including agriculture, fishing, mining, textiles and tourism. The Peruvian population, estimated at 29 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music. People in Peru drive on the right side of the road. There were several prominent Andean civilizations in Ancient Peru; Mochica, and Chimu in the north, Tiahuanaco, Wari and Paracas in the south and most notably, Inca, whose empire (‘Tawantinsuyo’ – ‘Four Regions Sun Empire’) was captured by the Spanish conquistadores in 1533. Peruvian independence was declared in 1821, and remaining Spanish forces were finally defeated in 1824. Much of post-independence political life in Peru has been dominated by traditional ruling elites and military rule. In 1980, a democratic government, led by Alan García Pérez, came into power. However, after an ambitious economic plan failed, Peru experienced many financial problems and there was a growth of violent rebellion. After Alberto Fujimori’s election as President in 1990, there was a dramatic improvement in the economy and progress in curtailing terrorist activity. In 1995, he was re-elected for a second term as President with a resounding majority. However, his increased reliance on authoritarian measures and an economic slump in the late 1990s saw his popularity decrease. He won a third term of office in the elections of 2000 amidst much controversy – 3 consecutive terms as president is not permitted – and there were also accusations of fraud. He was finally ousted as leader in November of that year due to corruption allegations and international pressure. A caretaker government oversaw new elections in 2001 and Alejandro Toledo was elected as President. Read more about Peru here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peru
Lima Francisco Pizarro founded Lima on 18 Jan 1535 at the banks of the Rimic River. The name “Lima” comes from the native language Quechua and means “that who speaks”. The city grew in size and importance as the Conquistadors conquered the region. It was the commercial and cultural center of South America in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The silver mines were established in the 17th century. Political upheaval resulted in an independent Peru in 1821. Peru has had an uninterrupted republic since that year. Lima is one of South America’s most interesting cities. It is the capital city of modern Peru. There are over 8 million inhabitants (29% of the total population) and the government is working on a 30% unemployment rate among the populace. Like Mexico City, many of the rural dwellers have moved to the city hoping for jobs, education for their children, and a better future. And, like Mexico City, none of these are available for the most part. The crime rate is high, pollution is significant, and poverty abounds. Miraflores, Barranco, and San Isidro are some of the nicest suburbs of Lima and popular destinations for tourists. These areas are very metropolitan with big buildings, fancy restaurants and are sprinkled with icons from the USA (McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and even Kentucky Fried Chicken). Miraflores is right on the beach and there are large and well-maintained parks along with a large local market.
The beautiful city of Cuzco is located in the legendary Huatanay Valley. It has a history of human inhabitants for several thousand years. This city is tucked away high in the Andes at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. This was the location of the administrative, cultural, and military headquarters for the vast Inca Empire. This empire stretched across much of modern Lima and included lands in Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, and Columbia. No one could match the Inca power or culture. Several Inca Temples and very large administrative buildings were located in Cuzco. Their unequaled ability to work with stone is evident throughout the city.
The Spaniards came to Cuzco and conquered the local Incas over 10 to 15 years. This was accomplished in part by use of “advanced” weapons and the use of body armor brought from Europe, new diseases introduced by the Spanish, and civil war that broke out amongst the Incas. The Spaniards wanted to establish their religion and acquire as much gold and silver as possible. They did this and also destroyed the Inca temples, using the stones to make their churches. Usually, they built the churches on the Inca foundations. It is interesting to note that when earthquakes came, the Spanish built buildings collapsed while the Inca buildings and foundations stood solid. Modern Cuzco is a thriving tourist community. There are approximately 500,000 inhabitants plus the very active tourist trade. There are several tourist companies, new age spiritual centers, and Spanish language schools located in Cuzco.
The Inca leaders designed Cuzco to be in the form of a puma. The puma represents one of the three Inca laws – (1) the snake (don’t steal) , (2) the puma (don’t lie), and (3) the eagle (don’t be lazy). Murdering someone was not against the law. The snake also represents the underworld from where all mankind came. The puma represents this earthly life, and the eagle represents the upperworld or after life. The head of the puma is up on the hill in Sacsayhuaman. One jagged wall represents the puma’s teeth.
After each trip or tour, your guide will provide you with a survey report to fill out about your overall satisfaction. Please be honest and make suggestions where you feel they are warranted, but please do be realistic and keep in mind you are in a foreign, developing country with different cultural values and not everything you have grown accustomed to and expect in your country is available here. If you have questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Cusco is a safe city, but keep in mind that Peru is a third world country and tourists attract attention so keep your personal belongings and valuables secured in your bags in your hotel or keep your purse, wallet, etc in front of your body, especially in crowded places. Do not flash your money around after changing money, going to an ATM, or when paying for something. As is the case in most cities, it is best not to walk alone at night. Take only marked taxis, and remain alert when walking on the streets, as it is best to remain vigilant. For more information, visit your country’s government updates on travel abroad. For more general safety advice visit this website:http://www.andeantravelweb.com/peru/tips/security.html. Additionally please be aware that cars/buses have the right of way at all times on the streets in Peru. Always look both ways and be careful when crossing the streets as they will not slow down for you.
Peru tends to charge a 19% tax for Peruvian Citizens. If you are staying in Peru for more than 60 days you will be subject to this tax as well. Not every hotel, store, etc charges this even with the extended stay.
Airport Taxis or City Taxis: If you are taking a taxi anywhere in Peru by yourself or with others, agree on the price beforehand and tell the driver to bring you straight to your hotel/hostal or other destination because you already have a reservation/appointment. Tourist information booths at the airport and independent taxi drivers receive commissions to persuade you to go elsewhere by using any means. This is especially true in Lima. In Lima, it is best to have a hotel pre-booked for this reason and to only take taxi’s that have been sent by your hotel. In Cusco make sure the car is marked as a taxi. ALWAYS arrange the fare before getting into the taxi.
Guides, porters, horse handlers, cooks, and other trekking staff all work for a set wage per trip. They are not on salary and many of these employees have families back home and travel great distances to get to work. Many have farms that they tend to in the off season, working on treks only to help their families financially. While tipping is not required, it is highly encouraged, as these dedicated professionals work very hard to bring you a pleasant, culturally and historically interesting experience. Your guide will explain the typical tipping system should you choose to partake in it.
Peru is five hours behind GMT (same as EST). They do not observe daylight-savings time so during these months (April-October), Peru is on Central standard time so no jet lag from the US!!!
Interestingly, most businesses in Cusco will not allow you to use their restrooms. Keep this in mind as you are walking around. You must buy something at a restaurant if you want to use their bathroom. There are a few public toilets in local markets, on the streets, however most of these require a small fee (50 cents in soles) and some give you some toilet paper but others do not. It is best to bring some toilet paper and kleenex with you at all times. Be advised that many toilets in Peru do not have toilet paper, soap, or paper towels available (mostly in local places). Please carry hand sanitizer or wipes with you at all times as well. Your hotel and more touristy places will have these items, as will fancier restaurants.
Tourist Ticket or Boleto Turistico:
The Cusco City tourist ticket can be purchased as a day pass for a certain site or set of sites or as a 10 day pass that includes most of the main sites located in the Cusco region. All of our tours/treks include the entrance fees to any sites visited, however, you can also opt to upgrade to the 10 day tourist ticket and explore the other sites as well! It works out much less expensive this way. If you plan to stay in Cusco for several days and/or plan to do several tours you can upgrade to the 10 day tourist ticket when you book your tour.
The 10-day tourist ticket includes the following sites:
- Puca Pucara
- Pisac Ruins
- Ollantaytambo Ruins
- Cusco Center of Native Art (Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo)
- Inca Pachacuteq Monument/Museum (Monumento Pachacuteq)
- Qoricancha Museum (Museo de Sitio de Qoricancha)
- Contemporary art museum (Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo)
- Popular Art Museum (Museo de Arte Popular)
- Regional History Museum (Museo Historico Regional)
Note that this ticket does not include:
- Qoricancha aka the Santo Domingo Complex (10 soles entry fee)
- Main Cathedral (25 soles entry fee)
- Maras (10 soles entry fee)
- Andahuaylillas (10 soles entry fee)
- Salineras aka Salt Mines (10 soles entry fee)
Typically people visit these sites in specific groupings, for example:
- Cusco Four Ruins: Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puca Pucara, & Tambomachay
- Sacred Valley Tour: Pisac, Chinchero, & Ollantaytambo (plus Urubamba which does not require an entry fee)
- Maras, Moray & Salineras Tour
- Tipon, Pikillacta & Andahuaylillas Tour
- Cusco City Tour: San Pedro Market, main plaza, some of the above museums, and our city tour also includes Qoricancha and the Main Cathedral.
What age is appropriate?
We have had travelers age 6-90 on our Peru tours. However, we often encourage families traveling with young children to book private departures so our most common travelers are age 20s-60s. We tend to get a wide variety of ages on most of our departures.
What immunizations are recommended/ required?
No immunizations are currently required for visiting Peru. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers to the Peruvian Amazon. This vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in Peru. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. However, those who are only visiting the highlands do not need this vaccination. Please note that some countries, such as Costa Rica, require a yellow fever vaccination if traveling directly from Peru. Please check with the Center for Disease Control for information for your onward travel from Peru. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended on most of our Peru excursions. Malaria preventatives are also recommended on our Amazon journeys. For the most current information, please consult your doctor and/or check out the Center for Disease Control web-site at www.cdc.gov.
When to go
High season is May – September (the busiest months being June to August), which corresponds with the dry season here in Cusco and the summer holidays in North America. You will encounter tourists from all over the globe. Low season is November through mid-April and the trails (particularly the Inca trail) are less crowded. However, be prepared for rain and potential snow/hail. Depending on the severity of the weather, some roads may be impassable, train tracks may be damaged, and/or landslides may occur that make your previously booked trip impossible. The company is not responsible for inclement weather or other unforeseeable circumstances (strikes, landslides, etc) but we’ll do all we can to arrange another trip.