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    Holidays to Machu Picchu

A journey to mysterious Machu Picchu

Shrouded in mystery and tucked away in a tropical mountain forest, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most incredible sights, and was almost forgotten, a lost relic of the Incas, until the 20th century.

Even today it holds its secrets, and experts are still unsure what the 150 buildings, three temples and 3,000 stone steps were built for. Discover this mysterious ancient site for yourself on one of our exciting tours of Peru.

 

Board a narrow-gauge train

Board a narrow-gauge train

Boarding the narrow-gauge PeruRail Vistadome train you journey along the Sacred Valley. As the valley narrows the train goes deep into the jungle, and you follow the fast-flowing Urubamba River.

On your Vistadome train the large panoramic windows ensure you don’t miss the incredible scenery along the way to this sacred site.

You can even enjoy a snack made from local ingredients and traditional entertainment during your journey, such a show of the typical Andean Saqcra dance from Paucartambo.

Spotting llama and alpaca

Spotting llama and alpaca

During your visit to Machu Picchu you will see the many llamas and alpacas which thrive in this high altitude environment. These endearing and comical-looking creatures are used for carrying heavy loads and also for their incredible soft wool.

Llamas have long banana-shaped ears, while alpacas have shorter spear-shaped ears and are smaller than Llamas. They both roam freely about Machu Picchu eating the grass, so you will get some great photo opportunities, but remember not to feed them.

Delicious Peruvian cuisine

Delicious Peruvian cuisine

Andean cuisine is made up of hearty comfort food – meaty stews and soups slow cooked in a traditional earthen pot over a wood fire. The Peruvian highlands offer an abundance of nutritious ingredients, and meats, tubers, herbs and grains are the staples.

Pachamanca is a traditional dish of marinated beef, lamb, pork or guinea pig meat cooked with fava beans, potatoes and steamed corn cakes called humitas. You may also come across ceviche, raw fresh fish cured in citrus juices such as lemon and lime and spiced with chilli pepper.

How can you experience all this?

For something more active, see our Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands tour

For something more active, see our Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands Tour

Culture and history

Peru is a melting pot of cultures with the heart of the ancient Inca Empire at its root. This enchanting country is peppered with archaeological sites and lost civilisations, leaving a legacy on the country’s traditions and customs of today.

In 1532, Spain defeated and captured the Incan Emperor, and officially established Peru. For hundreds of years Peru was under the control of the Spanish, heavily influencing the Peruvian way of life, from their language and cuisine to their music, art and religion.

Although Catholicism is predominant – another legacy of the Spanish – Peru’s culture allows for freedom of religion among its people. A traditional way of life is still practiced by the highland Indians who live in the Peruvian Andes, arguably the most spectacular mountains on the continent.

Local specialities worth tasting include ceviche – seafood cooked in lemon or lime juice and lechón – suckling pig, all washed down with a zingy Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink made using brandy, lemon juice, egg whites and sugar.

You may, however, wish to avoid the traditional dish, cuy (‘coo-ee’) which is better known as guinea pig. Amazingly, an estimated 65 million are consumed annually in Peru.

Paddington Bear aside, there may not be many famous Peruvians that spring to mind, although renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino – who’s captured the likes of Diana, Princess of Wales and Kate Moss on camera – was born in Peru.

Taking a look back at Peru’s past, the earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, with coastal settlements beginning to take shape in around 3,000 BC. Archaeological evidence reveals that sophisticated civilisations developed from around this time, with temples and agricultural finds still being excavated to this day. In around AD 100 the Moche civilisation came to power in the North, and later the Chimu, but all the while Peru was split into various tribal chieftains.

It was not until the dawning of the most famous of Peru’s pre-Columbian civilisations – the Inca Empire - that expansionism really took hold in Peru. Yet despite all their fame, the Inca’s were only actually in power for less than a century.

The Cusco region of the Andes was their initial stronghold, and from the mid 15th century they expanded their empire rapidly, battling as far north as Colombia and as far south as central Chile, as well as conquering much of the Andean regions of Bolivia and Argentina. It was during this time that they built a network of mountaintop citadels – most famously, Machu Picchu.

After invading the Aztec and Mayan lands of Central America, the Spanish turned their attention to Peru in the early 1500s. Arriving in the midst of civil war, and with far superior military clout, they quickly drove the Incas into the mountains and seized power. Spain went on to found Lima, and from there they controlled Peru for the proceeding centuries.

In 1780 an indigenous uprising was brutally quashed by the Spanish and Túpac Amaru II, the last known royal Inca, was executed. In the early 19th century, much of Spanish-ruled South America began to demand independence, and in 1826 Peru joined them. It wasn’t all plain sailing from there, and in the years that followed there was war, dictatorships and military coups to endure.

Today though, the country is at peace and optimistically looks to the future.

Things to do

Take a narrow-gauge railway journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, explore the beautiful city of Arequipa or cruise enchanting Lake Titicaca – our escorted tours take in all the highlights and then some! For a high-altitude experience, book our Andes Active Explorer holiday and travel from the Peruvian Andes into Bolivia and Chile.

Discover both ancient and modern culture on city tours of Lima and Cusco, or combine a trip to Machu Picchu with a holiday in the Galapagos Islands. Peru is also a stop on several of our cruises - explore South and Central America and the Caribbean by boat, or book a berth on our epic Around the World cruise.

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

This is the heartland of the Inca Empire and everywhere you look you’ll see evidence of this remarkable kingdom. Perched among the peaks of the high Andes is the famed Machu Picchu, and in the surrounding Urubamba River valley (the Sacred Valley) you’ll find a whole host of archaeological treasures, from the Inca citadels of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, to the impressive concentric circles of Moray.

Cusco is the main base for travellers in the region – as such it has many lively streets and bars, as well as museums showcasing indigenous crafts. There are lots archaeological sites to explore too.

Puno

Both a province and a city, Puno lies in the high Andean plains at an altitude or more than 13,000 feet above sea level – take deep breaths! The city of Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca and is a fun, if somewhat ramshackle place, from where travellers gaze out across the impossibly blue lake and take boat trips to discover the fascinating indigenous cultures on the islands of Taquile and Amantani, as well as the famed floating reed islands of Uros.

Lima

This sprawling city stretches along the Pacific coastal desert and is fast becoming a foodie mecca. Far and away the culinary capital of South America, Lima is the place to be when it comes to fine dining. Feast on the fresh flavours of ceviche, Asian fusion and Andean fare, then sip a pisco sour or three and catch a live folk music show in the lively neighbourhoods of Barranco or Miraflores.

Northern Coastal Peru

As well as being popular with Pacific coast surfers, the north is home to many of Peru’s less famous pre-Columbian archaeological sites. Explore the sedate and well-preserved colonial city centres of Trujillo and Chiclayo, before taking in the impressive ancient adobe city of Chan-Chan, once the largest city in all of the Americas.

Southern Coastal Peru

To the south, the desert turns into a playground in the oasis town of Huacachina, where the adventurous cruise down giant dunes atop sand boards. The mysterious Nazca Lines are etched into the dry, desert plains here, while the protected Paracas Peninsula is busy with birdlife. Much further south, the delightful colonial town of Arequipa drowses at the feet of three volcanoes, while condors soar through the breathtaking Colca Canyon nearby.

Flight time

From London to Lima takes approximately 13 hours.

Currency

Sol - The local currency in Peru is the sol – a modern relic of the sun worship of the ancient Incas. This is divided into 100 centimos. It is almost impossible to exchange Peruvian currency in the UK, so try to spend all your sols before leaving – perhaps treat yourself to some Peruvian souvenirs such as an alpaca wool jumper, silver jewellery or some of the intricate woven fabrics the country is famous for.

Passports and visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Peru. On arrival, you are normally given permission to stay for up to six months.

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. It’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport showing your passport number and photograph. Bring this with you on holiday, but keep it in a different place form your passport just in case it gets lost.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Spanish is the official language in Peru. Here are some basics to get you started…
Yes – Si
No – No
Hello – Hola
Goodbye – Adiós
Good Morning – Buenos Dias
Good Evening – Buenas Tardes
Good Night – Buenas Noches


Timezone

Peru is five hours behind GMT.

Electricity

Most mains sockets in Peru take plugs with two thin round prongs, so British appliances will require an adaptor. The voltage is 220 volts, 60 Hz. In the Amazon, the electricity supply can be unreliable and sudden power cuts may occur. As such, it’s a good idea to bring a torch.

Language

Spanish; Castilian - The official language in Peru is Spanish. Quechua and Aymara are still widely spoken in some areas, and tribes in the Amazon Basin use many different dialects.

Tipping

The majority of restaurant and bar bills in Peru already include a 10% gratuity. However, if the service has been particularly good, you may like to add an extra 10% on top. Taxis do not accept tips and fares are negotiated prior to pick up.

Climate

The weather in Peru varies significantly. There can be snow in the mountains and beautiful hot sunshine on the coast. The coast itself also experiences great differences in temperature from north to south.

Coastal winters occur between June and September when the weather is overcast, but rarely cold. Rain is rare on the coast, except in the tropical climes of Tumbes and Piura. The Andes have heavy rainfall in September, which then peaks any time between January and March. Rain in the jungle is heaviest between December and April.

Due to the scope of Peru’s climate, you’d be wise to pack for all seasons – and don’t forget some good walking shoes and a waterproof jacket!

Health

Tap water is not generally safe to drink, so please stick to bottled mineral water. Flying insects, including mosquitoes, are a feature of this part of the world and you may find it helpful to wear long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers and to use mosquito repellents on exposed areas of skin.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Peru’s population is 30,147,935, just under half that of the UK.

Peru spans 496,225 square miles, making it about five times the size of the UK. The landscape of this country is varied with the coast to the west, the rugged Andes in the centre and the jungle of the Amazon rainforest to the east, covering two-thirds of the entire country in rich biodiversity.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in all indoor public areas.

Culture and history

Peru is a melting pot of cultures with the heart of the ancient Inca Empire at its root. This enchanting country is peppered with archaeological sites and lost civilisations, leaving a legacy on the country’s traditions and customs of today.

In 1532, Spain defeated and captured the Incan Emperor, and officially established Peru. For hundreds of years Peru was under the control of the Spanish, heavily influencing the Peruvian way of life, from their language and cuisine to their music, art and religion.

Although Catholicism is predominant – another legacy of the Spanish – Peru’s culture allows for freedom of religion among its people. A traditional way of life is still practiced by the highland Indians who live in the Peruvian Andes, arguably the most spectacular mountains on the continent.

Local specialities worth tasting include ceviche – seafood cooked in lemon or lime juice and lechón – suckling pig, all washed down with a zingy Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink made using brandy, lemon juice, egg whites and sugar.

You may, however, wish to avoid the traditional dish, cuy (‘coo-ee’) which is better known as guinea pig. Amazingly, an estimated 65 million are consumed annually in Peru.

Paddington Bear aside, there may not be many famous Peruvians that spring to mind, although renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino – who’s captured the likes of Diana, Princess of Wales and Kate Moss on camera – was born in Peru.

Taking a look back at Peru’s past, the earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, with coastal settlements beginning to take shape in around 3,000 BC. Archaeological evidence reveals that sophisticated civilisations developed from around this time, with temples and agricultural finds still being excavated to this day. In around AD 100 the Moche civilisation came to power in the North, and later the Chimu, but all the while Peru was split into various tribal chieftains.

It was not until the dawning of the most famous of Peru’s pre-Columbian civilisations – the Inca Empire - that expansionism really took hold in Peru. Yet despite all their fame, the Inca’s were only actually in power for less than a century.

The Cusco region of the Andes was their initial stronghold, and from the mid 15th century they expanded their empire rapidly, battling as far north as Colombia and as far south as central Chile, as well as conquering much of the Andean regions of Bolivia and Argentina. It was during this time that they built a network of mountaintop citadels – most famously, Machu Picchu.

After invading the Aztec and Mayan lands of Central America, the Spanish turned their attention to Peru in the early 1500s. Arriving in the midst of civil war, and with far superior military clout, they quickly drove the Incas into the mountains and seized power. Spain went on to found Lima, and from there they controlled Peru for the proceeding centuries.

In 1780 an indigenous uprising was brutally quashed by the Spanish and Túpac Amaru II, the last known royal Inca, was executed. In the early 19th century, much of Spanish-ruled South America began to demand independence, and in 1826 Peru joined them. It wasn’t all plain sailing from there, and in the years that followed there was war, dictatorships and military coups to endure.

Today though, the country is at peace and optimistically looks to the future.

Things to do

Take a narrow-gauge railway journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, explore the beautiful city of Arequipa or cruise enchanting Lake Titicaca – our escorted tours take in all the highlights and then some! For a high-altitude experience, book our Andes Active Explorer holiday and travel from the Peruvian Andes into Bolivia and Chile.

Discover both ancient and modern culture on city tours of Lima and Cusco, or combine a trip to Machu Picchu with a holiday in the Galapagos Islands. Peru is also a stop on several of our cruises - explore South and Central America and the Caribbean by boat, or book a berth on our epic Around the World cruise.

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

This is the heartland of the Inca Empire and everywhere you look you’ll see evidence of this remarkable kingdom. Perched among the peaks of the high Andes is the famed Machu Picchu, and in the surrounding Urubamba River valley (the Sacred Valley) you’ll find a whole host of archaeological treasures, from the Inca citadels of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, to the impressive concentric circles of Moray.

Cusco is the main base for travellers in the region – as such it has many lively streets and bars, as well as museums showcasing indigenous crafts. There are lots archaeological sites to explore too.

Puno

Both a province and a city, Puno lies in the high Andean plains at an altitude or more than 13,000 feet above sea level – take deep breaths! The city of Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca and is a fun, if somewhat ramshackle place, from where travellers gaze out across the impossibly blue lake and take boat trips to discover the fascinating indigenous cultures on the islands of Taquile and Amantani, as well as the famed floating reed islands of Uros.

Lima

This sprawling city stretches along the Pacific coastal desert and is fast becoming a foodie mecca. Far and away the culinary capital of South America, Lima is the place to be when it comes to fine dining. Feast on the fresh flavours of ceviche, Asian fusion and Andean fare, then sip a pisco sour or three and catch a live folk music show in the lively neighbourhoods of Barranco or Miraflores.

Northern Coastal Peru

As well as being popular with Pacific coast surfers, the north is home to many of Peru’s less famous pre-Columbian archaeological sites. Explore the sedate and well-preserved colonial city centres of Trujillo and Chiclayo, before taking in the impressive ancient adobe city of Chan-Chan, once the largest city in all of the Americas.

Southern Coastal Peru

To the south, the desert turns into a playground in the oasis town of Huacachina, where the adventurous cruise down giant dunes atop sand boards. The mysterious Nazca Lines are etched into the dry, desert plains here, while the protected Paracas Peninsula is busy with birdlife. Much further south, the delightful colonial town of Arequipa drowses at the feet of three volcanoes, while condors soar through the breathtaking Colca Canyon nearby.

Flight time

From London to Lima takes approximately 13 hours.

Currency

Sol - The local currency in Peru is the sol – a modern relic of the sun worship of the ancient Incas. This is divided into 100 centimos. It is almost impossible to exchange Peruvian currency in the UK, so try to spend all your sols before leaving – perhaps treat yourself to some Peruvian souvenirs such as an alpaca wool jumper, silver jewellery or some of the intricate woven fabrics the country is famous for.

Passports and visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Peru. On arrival, you are normally given permission to stay for up to six months.

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. It’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport showing your passport number and photograph. Bring this with you on holiday, but keep it in a different place form your passport just in case it gets lost.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Spanish is the official language in Peru. Here are some basics to get you started…
Yes – Si
No – No
Hello – Hola
Goodbye – Adiós
Good Morning – Buenos Dias
Good Evening – Buenas Tardes
Good Night – Buenas Noches


Timezone

Peru is five hours behind GMT.

Electricity

Most mains sockets in Peru take plugs with two thin round prongs, so British appliances will require an adaptor. The voltage is 220 volts, 60 Hz. In the Amazon, the electricity supply can be unreliable and sudden power cuts may occur. As such, it’s a good idea to bring a torch.

Language

Spanish; Castilian - The official language in Peru is Spanish. Quechua and Aymara are still widely spoken in some areas, and tribes in the Amazon Basin use many different dialects.

Tipping

The majority of restaurant and bar bills in Peru already include a 10% gratuity. However, if the service has been particularly good, you may like to add an extra 10% on top. Taxis do not accept tips and fares are negotiated prior to pick up.

Climate

The weather in Peru varies significantly. There can be snow in the mountains and beautiful hot sunshine on the coast. The coast itself also experiences great differences in temperature from north to south.

Coastal winters occur between June and September when the weather is overcast, but rarely cold. Rain is rare on the coast, except in the tropical climes of Tumbes and Piura. The Andes have heavy rainfall in September, which then peaks any time between January and March. Rain in the jungle is heaviest between December and April.

Due to the scope of Peru’s climate, you’d be wise to pack for all seasons – and don’t forget some good walking shoes and a waterproof jacket!

Health

Tap water is not generally safe to drink, so please stick to bottled mineral water. Flying insects, including mosquitoes, are a feature of this part of the world and you may find it helpful to wear long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers and to use mosquito repellents on exposed areas of skin.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Peru’s population is 30,147,935, just under half that of the UK.

Peru spans 496,225 square miles, making it about five times the size of the UK. The landscape of this country is varied with the coast to the west, the rugged Andes in the centre and the jungle of the Amazon rainforest to the east, covering two-thirds of the entire country in rich biodiversity.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in all indoor public areas.