Is Peru on your travel bucket list? If not, it should be. Peru is a vibrant explosion of culture, flavor, history, and art with people who are equally as warm and inviting. Home to the Amazon and tens of thousands of different species of plants, animals, and ancient ruins, Peru is a beautiful destination where you can catch a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, marvel at ancient relics from the Incan empire, and gaze in wonder at the peaks of the Andes.
Whether you’re looking for unforgettable sights, a thrilling adventure, or fresh-caught fish, Peru is a truly unique treasure trove that has it all. Follow our Peru Travel Guide for the best sites to see and things to do during our tours to Peru.
Currency: Sol, but some places will accept USD, too.
Language: Spanish is the national language and the most popular language spoken in Peru. Quechua and Aymera are native languages you may hear while in the Sacred Valley.
Getting around: There are so many things to see in Peru. Our tours give you the chance to take in plenty of Peru’s beauty on foot, but we also offer transportation to many experiences via bus, and our Grand Tour of Peru even gives you the chance to take in the beauty of the Amazon as you cruise down the Amazon River before grabbing a bite to eat at the rainforest lodge.
“All the drivers and boat captains were very nice and professional. All the buses were also very comfortable, clean, and pretty new,” said traveler Sabrina. Additionally, flights are available within the country for swift travel from one destination to the next. Our experts can arrange your fights to make getting from Lima to Cuzco and beyond a no-brainer.
Phrases to know: If you know a little bit of Spanish, then you’re well on your way to knowing the important phrases you’ll want to use during your trip.
The standard greeting in Peru is “hola” and “gracias” is one way to say thank you. “Soroche” is another important word to know, especially when visiting the Andes. Hopefully you won’t have to say it as “soroche” is the Peruvian word for altitude sickness.
When to go to Peru
Generally speaking, Peru’s climate is mild all year round, so you really can’t go wrong with any time you choose to visit. But if you’re looking for local culture without all the crowds or you want to attend festive celebrations, these are the best times to visit Peru.
- April is a great time to visit if you are trying to avoid the peak-season crowds.
- November through February is when Lima is glorious, hot, and sunny.
- If you want to go big to ring in the new year, Lima guarantees a memorable experience with salsa clubs and fireworks throughout the city. Thinking about spending your New Year’s Eve in Peru? Take a look at our New Year’s Eve in Lima tour.
What to pack for a trip to Peru
From the heat of the Amazon to the crisp, chilly air in the Andes, there’s a lot to keep in mind when packing for your trip to Peru. Here are some things our staff recommends bringing.
- Layers. When you’re planning your trip to Peru, don’t forget that you’ll experience a variety of climates! Whether in the Andes, the Amazon, or coastal deserts, lightweight layers will help you stay prepared for all the different types of weather you may encounter throughout Peru.
- A jacket. Temperatures can even drop down to freezing during June–August in the Andes, so bring a warm jacket that can help you stay comfortable on nights when the air gets cool.
- Sun protection. Bring long sleeve shirts, pants, and maybe even a hat. You won’t be able to spray sunscreen or bug spray when you visit Machu Pichu as it’s harmful to the environment, so you’ll want to keep yourself covered.
- A raincoat and umbrella. When you visit the Amazon, you’ll encounter quite a bit of rain.
- Comfortable walking shoes. Keep your feet happy as you wander through cobblestone streets and uneven sidewalks to explore Peru’s breathtaking scenery.
- Crisp USD in small denominations. Most places in Peru accept USD and smaller bills will come in handy while shopping at outdoor markets, eating at restaurants, and more. Just make sure your bills are nice and crisp as vendors may not accept bills that are torn.
- A water bottle. You can help make a big difference in a small way by bringing your own reusable water bottle and cutting down your carbon footprint. You can find out more about how we’re protecting the environment, supporting local communities, and promoting animal welfare through our responsible travel initiative.
How to avoid getting altitude sickness in Peru
Be sure to pack some altitude sickness medication if your doctor recommends it. Consult with your physician or a travel clinic before you leave to get altitude sickness medicine in advance.
Tour Director Edwin also suggests the following natural remedies and travel tips for Peru to help reduce the effects of altitude sickness:
- Rest at your hotel for a bit once you arrive to get acclimated
- Walk slowly to get used to less oxygen at the high elevation
- Eat something light, like soup, your first night in Cuzco, as digestion can be more difficult at high altitudes
- Potassium helps, so eat bananas!
- Stay well hydrated at all times
- Replace any sugars or electrolytes you lose by sipping sugary drinks like Gatorade or the locals’ favorite soda, IncaCola
- Try Andean mint tea, called Muña tea
- Sip coca tea (but not too much, as it’s a diuretic)
- Rub a few drops of Florida water into your palms and inhale the smell (Tour Director Edwin swears by this stuff, and it’s very easy to buy some cheaply when you arrive in Cuzco!)
The best things to do in Peru
Peru offers more amazing experiences than you can fit into one lifetime, but our Peru travel guide has you covered with these top things to do:
- Tour Machu Picchu. This majestic archaeological site is one of the top attractions in Peru and offers some unforgettable views.
- Watch a local dance. “Take in a traditional performance in the form of the flirtatious and fun Marinera dance, which is performed with a female on foot and a male on horseback,” said staffer Lindsay.
- Learn about local wildlife in the Amazon rainforest. Your naturalist guide will tell you everything you could ever want to know about the wide variety of local plants and animals. Many of our travelers said this experience was one of their favorite things to do in Peru.
- Explore the Museo Larco, a privately owned museum packed with all kinds of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, from elaborate terra cotta vessels to ornate tribal masks. And make sure to give yourself enough time to have lunch at the museum’s café. Grab a seat on the patio where you can sip a glass of chilled chincha morada and enjoy its secret-garden-like ambiance.
- Take a walk along the Malecon at the edge of the Miraflores district. You’ll get an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.
- Stroll through the Barranco district where you’ll find yourself immersed in a kaleidoscope of colorful street art.
- Browse a local market in Parque Kennedy (named after U.S. President John F. Kennedy). Here you’ll find a small market with local artisans and in the evening you may even catch some live music and dancing!
- Adventure to Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain), just two hours outside of Cuzco.
- Visit an active archaeology site, Huaca Pucllana, and get a guide that introduces you to Lima’s culture, which pre-dates the Incas.
What to eat and drink in Peru
The food Peru offers is as magnificent and diverse as the country’s stunning landscape. Peru’s dishes use thousands of varieties of potatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood sure to satisfy every appetite. Here are some of the tasty, can’t-miss dishes in Peru to give you a true experience of local cuisine.
- Ceviche. One of our top tips for visiting Peru is to try ceviche when you’re visiting Lima. It’s a traditional Peruvian dish made from super-fresh raw fish that’s marinated in lime juice and sliced onion. “If you do expect to order ceviche while visiting Peru’s inland cities like Cuzco, be sure it’s trout as that will be the freshest and tastiest option in those locations,” said staffer Jamie.
- Pisco sour. The Peruvian drink contains lime juice and egg whites and the liquor is made from distilling fermented grape juice. “Every hotel we stayed at on our Grand Tour of Peru offered us a complimentary pisco sour when we arrived,” said staffer Jamie. “It was such a nice way to welcome us and share the Peruvian food culture.” Plus, learning how to make the drink is one of the top things to cross off your solo travel bucket list.
- Causa. Causa is a delicious traditional dish made of mashed potatoes, layered with tuna or chicken. You can even learn how to make it during our cooking lesson in Cuzco!
- Aji de gallina. The aji are mild, yellow peppers, dried and ground to make a beautiful deep yellow color. They’re added to sauces or potatoes to make causa.
- Sandwiches and fries. Lima offers amazing sandwiches that pair wonderfully with a side of fries. Lots of places make their fries using Peruvian huayro potatos.
- Alfajores. These are delicious cookies sandwiched between a caramel center.
- Potatoes. “Peru is known for their thousands of varieties of potatoes, and we ate many different, delicious types on tour,” said staffer Jamie.
Where to eat during free time
One of the most exciting things to do in Peru is sample local dishes amid vibrant scenery. Whether you love organic dishes, savory ham sandwiches, or fresh entrees, here are our top picks for places to eat while you have some free time.
- La Lucha. According to staffer Jamie, this restaurant in Lima offers a large selection that includes butifarra (country ham with onion relish) and chicharrón (fried pork with sweet potatoes).
- La Bodega 138. If you’re craving amazing pizza, this is a great spot in Cuzco to grab some slices with your fellow tourmates.
- El Albergue. Looking for fresh, organic food? This restaurant in Ollantaytambo has its own organic garden and makes its own distilled liquor and pasta.
- Chuncho. A high-end restaurant in Ollantaytambo, known for its exceptional drinks and desserts.
- La Esquina. A great spot for savory sandwiches, baked goods, and hot coffee in Ollantaytambo.
The best Peruvian souvenirs
Bring home more than just pictures from your trip to Peru. These special souvenirs will remind you (and your loved ones) of your epic adventure.
- Weavings and tapestries. You can purchase these from local artisans at markets. “I purchased a beautifully made wall hanging from the local women on the floating islands on Lake Titicaca,” said staffer Jamie.
- Alpaca sweaters, blankets, and scarves, which can range in softness (baby alpaca is super soft and the most high-end).
- Silver jewelry can make a great gift and you’ll have plenty to choose from since Peru is known for its silver.
- Colorful textiles. Our staffers mention the vibrant colors in Peru as one of the most memorable aspects of their trips. That’s why learning to spin and dye alpaca yarn with textile artisans is one of the top 5 cultural moments to experience on tour.
- Pisco. Grab a bottle of pisco so you can still sip pisco sours long after you return home.