Peru is a large country on the Pacific coast of South America,encompassing a desert coastline, tropical rainforest, and soaringmountains, each with distinct environments. These dramaticlandscapes offer an exceptional opportunity for travellers toexperience a variety of adventures, an abundance of wildlife, arich history and archaeological heritage, and the vivaciouscharacter of durable native cultures, all within one nation.
Fishing villages, fine beaches, agricultural lands, and Peru'smajor towns and cities, including the capital of Lima, areinterspersed along the narrow belt of desert coastline thatstretches the length of the country. The lush Amazon Basin takes uphalf of Peru and is an ecologically rich area of tropicalrainforest that encompasses some of the world's most remote andleast explored areas, sparsely populated and for the most part,inaccessible. Separating the coastal desert from the jungle is thesplendid Andes mountain range, an endless chain of soaring peaksover 22,000 feet (7,000m) high, and home to millions of indigenoushighland people, speaking the ancient Inca language of Quechua, andliving in traditional villages with steeply terraced agriculturalfields, with their wandering herds of llamas and alpacas.
An interesting history of ancient civilisations, tales of lostcities, undiscovered treasures, and unsolved mysteries make Peruone of the most exciting countries in the world. Travellers canmarvel at the sophistication of pre-Colombian cultures and explorethe many legacies left by the Inca Empire, particularly the ancientInca capital of Cuzco. Hiking along the legendary royal Incahighway brings visitors to the awesome, majestic 'Lost City of theIncas', Machu Picchu. Boats transport tourists to the uniquefloating islands and the traditional world of the island people onLake Titicaca. Travellers can wander around splendid colonialcities that have preserved their Spanish architecture, look intothe depths of the world's deepest canyon, and contemplate theintriguing mystery of the Nazca Lines.
Peru, 'Land of the Incas', offers a stimulating and rewardingtravel experience and is one of the most diverse and exhilaratingof the South American destinations.
If there's one place in South America brimming with fascinatingand awe-inspiring attractions, it's Peru. With wonders such asMacchu Pichu, the Colca Canyon, the mysterious Nazca lines, theCoricancha Inca Ruins and Pisco, it's no wonder Peru is one ofSouth America's most popular tourist destinations. The country is afavourite with backpackers and budget travellers and it is possibleto travel cheaply if necessary. However, Peru's most famous touristactivity, hiking the Inca Trail, is expensive and must be organisedin advance as permits are required and very limited.
Cities like Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa are charming andatmospheric, if a little shabby, with lots of colour and run-downcolonial buildings. Peru has an interesting and refreshingly uniquecuisine and the restaurant scene in places like Lima is fun toinvestigate. Lima also has a vibrant nightlife and some decentmuseums.
Getting around Peru is fairly cheap and easy with plenty ofinternal flights operating on an almost daily basis and anaffordable and reasonably reliable public transport system. It'sadvisable to fly between cities when possible or rent a car andexplore all this mystical country has to offer, although long-haulbus trips are also an option.
Shoppers, vendors and sightseers crowd the long pedestrianstreet that connects the striking Plaza Mayor to Lima's other mainsquare, Plaza de Armas. Visitors will find the heart of the oldtown in these two locations, and invariably begin their sightseeingat one of them. Plaza de Armas' bronze fountain and old streetlamps give it a gracefully colonial feel. Indeed, its storystretches back to the era of Spanish rule, when it was the centralmarketplace and the venue for bullfights. Today, several notablebuildings surround the square, including the grand Spanish BaroqueCathedral, which occupies the site of an ancient Inca temple andhouses the Museum of Religious Art and Treasures, and theimpressive Government Palace, where the changing of the guard takesplace. The Archbishop's Palace is also in the vicinity. Touristsshould take in the Plaza San Martin as well. The square is a hiveof activity, where shoe-shiners, street artists, and soapboxspeakers surround its central fountain. On a cautionary note,visitors should avoid the usually peaceful and jovial Plaza SanMartin when political protests and rallies are underway, as thesecan occasionally turn violent.
Located in Lima, the anthropological and archaeological museum'sexhibits trace the history of Peru's ancient civilisations. All inall, they provide an outstanding overview of the country'sarchaeological richness. The museum's chronological layout guidesvisitors through the complicated ancient history, highlighting themany conquering cultures and their achievements. Among otherthings, visitors can view the art and history of the originalinhabitants, and the Inca Empire. Regarding more recent history,one of the museum's highlights is an exhibition on Peru's internalconflict (1980 - 2000). Visitors can enjoy guided tours for a smallfee, and will marvel at the size of the collection, which spans afew floors.
The Museo de Oro del Peru showcases several centuries ofPeruvian gold craftsmanship. Its safe-rooms are housed in afortress-like building and are crammed with treasures from theIncas and their predecessors. In fact, most of the artefacts arepre-Incan. The massive collection of jewellery, weaponry, gleaminggold statues and ceremonial objects has been exhibited around theworld and is truly outstanding. Visitors will also see many othercultural artefacts, such as masks, clothing, mummies, woodenstaffs, pre-Incan weapons and exquisite tapestries. Regardingaccess, travellers should note that the museum is in a residentialarea beyond the normal tourist route. It's well worth seeking out,though.
The museum houses a world-class collection of ancient ceramicitems, with thousands of pre-Columbian clay pots on display. Mostof its pieces come from the Moche Dynasty, whose people lived alongPeru's northern coast between 100 and 700 AD. The Moche culture isrecognised as having accomplished one of ancient Peru's mostimaginative languages through the use of creative pottery. Indeed,their work provides wordless clues to all aspects of theircivilisation. Visitors can learn about their dance, music,transport, religion and agriculture through their ceramic shapesand designs. The Moche are also renowned for their fascinatingerotic pottery. Museum visitors will find examples on display inthe separate 'Erotic Hall', and they depict ancient Peruvian sexualpractices in a lifelike, explicit and often humorous way. Beyondpottery, the museum's collection includes crowns, masks, garments,statues and jewellery from around 4 000 years of pre-ColumbianPeruvian history. The Larco Museum is housed in an 18th-centurymansion and is surrounded by a beautiful, award-winning garden. Itremains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lima.
San Francisco is the most spectacular of Lima's colonialchurches. Thankfully, locals and visitors can still enjoy itsstriking white and yellow towers and stone façade, as its one ofthe few buildings to survive the earthquake of 1746. Its famousunderground catacombs contain the bones and skulls of around 70 000people, while arches, columns, mosaic tiles and a Moorish-styleceiling decorate its exquisite interior. The Baroque church alsohas a superb 17th-century library full of antique texts, and a roomof painted masterpieces by Flemish greats Rubens, Jordaens and VanDyck. Visitors must take a guided tour if they want to explore thechurch and catacombs. Tours are available in English. The Church ofSan Francisco is located just one block away from the Plaza Mayor,which is a UNESCO-listed site.
The Plaza de Armas is Cuzco's graceful main square, and is linedwith colonial-style covered walkways, and houses that containsouvenir shops. Visitors will also find bars, restaurants andtravel agencies. A large cathedral is the most prominent structureoverlooking the square. Its elaborately carved wooden altar iscovered in gold and silver plate, and its carved wooden choirstalls are regarded as Peru's finest. Cathedral visitors usuallylinger over The Last Supper painting, which portrays Jesus Christand his disciples gathered around a table, which presents a platterof the local Inca delicacy, cuy (roasted guinea pig). La Companiais also on the plaza. It's one of Cuzco's most ornately decoratedchurches and is often floodlit at night. History lovers should makea point of walking the alleyway of Loreta, as it's lined with Incanstone walls.
The sacred complex of Coricancha was considered the centre ofthe Inca world. Its name means something like 'Golden Enclosure',though Inca stonework is all that remains of the ancient Temple ofthe Sun. The walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solidgold, and the courtyard was filled with golden statues. Spanishreports tell of opulence that was 'fabulous beyond belief'. Spanishcolonists constructed the Church of Santa Domingo on the site,destroying the temple and using its foundations for the cathedral.Major earthquakes have severely damaged the church, though the Incastone walls still stand, and are a testament to their superbarchitectural skills and sophisticated stone masonry. Visitors willfind an underground archaeological site museum nearby. It containsa number of interesting pieces, including mummies, textiles andsacred idols. Tourists will have the best experience if theyexplore the site with a guide, as good tours provide context andbring the place to life.
Of the four ruins near Cuzco, Sacsayhuamán is the closest andmost remarkable. Spanish conquistadors used it as a quarry duringtheir day, given its proximity to Cuzco and the dimensions of itsstones. Indeed, the site provided many of the materials for thecity's colonial buildings. The Spanish destroyed the originalcomplex to such an extent that little is known about the actualpurpose these magnificent buildings once served. That said, thecomplex is usually referred to as a fortress because of its high,impenetrable walls. Some believe it may just as easily have been areligious or ceremonial centre. The ruins cover an enormous area,but only 40 percent of the original complex remains. History loversmust visit, as the site offers a fine example of the Inca'sextraordinary stone masonry. According to estimates, the complextook about 100 years to build, requiring thousands of labourers.The massive blocks of stone fit together perfectly without the aidof mortar. Each one weighs between 90 and 125 tonnes, and standsaround 16ft (5m) tall.
History buffs will note that the Inca and Spanish fought at thecentre during the infamously bloody battle of 1536. The conflictleft thousands of native people dead, providing food for circlingcondors. Since then, Cuzco's Coat of Arms has featured eightcondors in memory of the event. Today, the site holds the annualcelebrations of Cuzco's most important festival, Inti Raymi: thesun festival. Tourists should attend the colourful and spectacularaffair if at all possible.
History lovers should make a point of visiting Chan Chan whilethey're in Peru. Once the Chimu Kingdom's capital, it was home toaround 60 000 inhabitants, and was wealthy in gold, silver andceramics. Most of its treasures disappeared with Spanish lootersgenerations ago, though it remains the largest pre-Columbian cityin the Americas, and the largest adobe city in the world. Today, itis considered an endangered UNESCO site, given that its adobebuildings are sensitive to time and the elements. Indeed, only oneof the site's nine palaces has been properly excavated and openedto the public. Visitors will still see more than enough to paint apicture of what the city must have looked like. Highlights includethe intricate depictions of birds, fish and otters on the walls,which add mesmerizing details to the massive site. Travellers willhave the best experience if they visit with a guide.
The Santa Catalina Monastery is an enormous complex of rooms,chapels, plazas, ornate fountains, narrow cobbled streets, andbeautifully decorated archways. High walls enclose these marvellousfeatures. The thick and brightly painted walls also contain anumber of cells, which once housed over 200 members of the femalenobility. These women chose to shut themselves away from the worldand devote their lives to prayer. The monastery opened its doors tothe world some 400 years later, allowing visitors to wander throughits exquisitely finished gates and admire its valuable collectionof Spanish American religious art. Today, about 30 resident nunslive out of sight in the northern part of the complex. Visitorsshould make a point of seeing the monastery's Orange Tree Cloister,which is painted sky-blue and has wonderful murals on its vaultedarches. The huge 17th-century kitchen is another highly recommendedsight.
Tourists should walk along the narrow street known as CalleToledo as well. It is the oldest part of the monastery and leads tothe open-air laundry, where nuns washed their clothes in large jugsfilled from the canal. Unlike any other church compound, SantaCatalina is a masterpiece of colonial architecture, and is the mostfascinating religious complex in Peru.
This small museum's most famous attraction is the 600-year-oldfrozen body of a young Inca girl named, Juanita. It was discoveredin near-perfect condition on the top of the Ampato Volcano in 1995.She was sacrificed to the mountain gods and buried in a tomb with anumber of funeral offerings - which are also on display. The bodywas encased in ice and preserved by the freezing temperatures forhundreds of years. It was found along with other ice mummies aftera volcanic eruption melted the ice and exposed the tomb. The IceMaiden is displayed in a refrigerated glass case, and analysis ofher DNA has afforded great insights into the Inca culture. Aninteresting video documents the discovery and is included as partof the compulsory tour. Visitors will encounter other interestingartefacts from archaeological sites in the surrounding mountains.The museum is located very near the Plaza des Armas in Arequipa, inthe historic area of the city.
The Colca Canyon is the most popular excursion from Arequipa,and the world's second deepest canyon. Culture lovers will relishthe extremely picturesque valley, which is home to huge mountains,grand churches, lively market places and herds of wandering llamas.The Crux del Condor Lookout is the region's most popular viewingpoint, and the best place to see giant condors soaring above thedramatic depths of the canyon below. Many people stay in the quaintmarket town of Chivay, which is some three hours from Arequipa. Itoffers a good range of restaurants, bus services and accommodation,and is an excellent base from which to explore the area. Hikerswill find many trails in the surrounding hills. They can alsoventure down to the bottom of the canyon and overnight in one ofthe tiny Indian settlements below. Travellers can choose from anumber of tour operators, whose packages range from hikes tomulti-day adventures. Visitors can set off alone and enjoyself-guided tours too.
Peru has three climate zones, one of which governs the coastalregion. Its desert landscape is caused by the cold HumboldtCurrent, which prevents cloud formation over the land. Lima isgenerally sunny and humid, with next to no rainfall, though itexperiences heavy sea mists from April to November. The northerncoast has hot, sunny summers, with occasional rain showers. Thecoast gets less arid farther north, as the effect of the HumboldtCurrent decreases.
The Andes region is cool, and its wet season runs from Octoberto April. Its dry season lasts from May to September. During thedry season, days in the highlands are clear and sunny, thoughnights become very cold - especially at altitude.
The forested region of the Amazon Basin has an equatorialclimate, where conditions involve hot weather and frequent rainthroughout the year.
The peak tourist season runs from May to October, particularlyin July and August. Winter (June to September) is the best time towalk the Inca Trail, given the wonderful visibility travellers canexpect during the clear, sunny days. This is also a good time tovisit the jungle basin, as there are fewer mosquitoes.
The official currency is Sol (PEN), divided into 100 céntimos.Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all majorinternational credit cards are accepted in many, but not all,establishments. Outside of big cities, facilities may be morelimited. US Dollars are the easiest currency to exchange and plentyof restaurants, hotels, and shops in the main cities accept dollarsfor payment. Casas de cambio (exchange bureaux) often give betterrates than hotels and banks and can be found in any town on thetourist circuit. ATMs are available in the main cities.
Spanish is the official language. In areas where they arepredominant, Quechua, Aymara and other aboriginal languages alsohave official status. English is spoken only in major touristcentres and hotels.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-prongedplugs with flat blades as well as plugs with two round prongs arein use.
US nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival date isrequired.
British nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays ofup to 183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival dateis required.
Canadian nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays ofup to 183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival dateis required.
Australian nationals do not require a visa for touristic staysof up to 183 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards validatedfor travel to Peru do not require visas for stays of up to threemonths. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival date isrequired.
South African nationals do not require a visa for touristicstays of up to 183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from thearrival date is required.
Irish nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays of upto 183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival date isrequired.
US nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to183 days. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival date isrequired.
New Zealand nationals do not require a visa for touristic staysof up to 183 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards validatedfor travel to Peru do not require visas for stays of up to threemonths. A passport valid for 6 months from the arrival date isrequired.
All travellers require passports, return or onward tickets, alldocuments required for onward travel and proof of funds. Iftravelling for business purposes, a visa is required. Visas cannotbe obtained on arrival. It is highly recommended that passportshave at least six months' validity remaining after the visitor'sintended date of departure from the travel destination. Immigrationofficials often apply different rules to those stated by travelagents and official sources.
Travellers heading to Peru will need a yellow fever certificateif they're entering from an infected area. They should alsoremember that Peru experiences some outbreaks of the disease.Travellers will need to receive vaccinations for certain regions,though not for Cuzco, Lima and Machu Picchu.
They won't officially need any other vaccinations, but areadvised to take precautions if travelling to jungle regions.Immunisation against typhoid is sensible. Malaria is a year-roundrisk in the lowland areas (except Lima and the coastal regions tothe south), and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations forhepatitis A and hepatitis B are recommended as well, and incidentsof bat-bite-transmitted rabies have been reported in the Puno andMadre de Dios provinces, and near the border with Ecuador. Visitorsshould have a course of rabies injections and not sleep in the openif they plan to spend time in these areas.
Diarrhoea and altitude sickness are the most common ailments forvisitors. As precautionary measures, travellers should only drinkbottled water, avoid drinks with ice, and be wary of street-vendorfood. Healthcare is good in the major cities, particularly atprivate clinics rather than public hospitals. It's expensive,though, and health insurance is essential. Screening for HIV isinadequate and visitors should avoid blood transfusions.
The zika virus is a factor, though rarely at elevations above2000 metres (6500 feet). For this reason, Cuzco and Machu Picchushould be zika-free. Travellers should still protect themselvesfrom mosquito bites.
Most restaurants add a service charge of 10 percent, which willbe indicated by the words propina or servicio near the bottom ofthe bill. Even if a service charge has been added, the waiter canbe offered an additional 10 percent for exceptional service; thisis also the going rate for tipping where a service charge has notbeen added. In hotels, porters expect about US$1 per bag. Taxidrivers are not tipped (the fare should be set before departure).Tour guides are customarily tipped.
Most visits to Peru are trouble-free and the usual sensibleprecautions should be enough to keep travellers safe. That said,thieves remain a problem. Travellers should be especially cautiousin crowded areas, on public transport, at bus and train stations,and in the centre of Lima at night. Visitors should take extra carein Lima and Cuzco, where there's a risk of street and violentcrime.
Foreigners have also been attacked while trekking in theHuayhuash region near Huaraz and should seek safety advice beforesetting out. Thieves and muggers operate in Huaraz and Arequipa aswell.
Women in particular should only take taxis that have beenpre-booked by a hotel or an official company. Travellers arrivingat Lima International Airport should be wary of thieves posing astaxi drivers or tour operators.
Visitors should avoid all political gatherings anddemonstrations, as these have the potential for violence.
Visitors should not take photographs of anything relating to themilitary. Many locals will ask for a tip in return for being thesubject of a photograph. In some places, this is the primary sourceof income. Homosexuality, although legal, is frowned upon. Gaytravellers should keep a low profile outside gay clubs. Visitorsshould avoid wearing any native Indian clothing as this will beseen as insulting, regardless of their intentions.
Business centres on the capital, Lima, and is usually conductedin a formal and somewhat conservative manner. It's worth notingthat foreigners will need a business visa from a local PeruvianConsulate.
Dress should be formal, with suits and ties being the norm.Titles and surnames are usually used upon greeting, and handshakesare standard for men and women. Business cards are usuallyexchanged and it is useful to have them printed in Spanish on oneside, though English is fairly common. In fact, any effort to speakSpanish will be well received.
Women may encounter sexism. Punctuality is important, thoughmeetings are not likely to begin on time. Business hours can varybut are usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Some businessesclose for a siesta from 1pm to 3pm.
The international access code for Peru is +51. Wifi access isavailable in most hotels, modern restaurants and cafés.
Travellers over the age of 18 do not have to pay duty on 400cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 3 litres of alcoholicbeverages; and gifts to the value of US$500. Items such assausages, salami, ham and cheese may only be brought in ifaccompanied by an original sanitary certificate. The import of hamfrom Italy and Portugal is prohibited. The export of cultural orartistic items from the country is not permitted.
PROMPERU (Commission for the Promotion of Peru), Lima: +51 1 6167300 or https://www.peru.travel/biddingbook/home_en.html
Peruvian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 8339860.
Peruvian Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible forIreland): +44 20 7235 3802.
Peruvian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 1777.
Peruvian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 440 1030.
Peruvian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 7351.
Peruvian Consulate, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 567 6951.
Peruvian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 213 8943.
United States Embassy, Lima: +51 1 618 2000.
British Embassy, Lima: +51 1 617 3000.
Canadian Embassy, Lima: +51 1 319 3200.
South African Embassy, Lima: +51 1 612 4848.
Australian Embassy, Lima: +51 1 630 0500.
Irish Honorary Consulate, Lima, Peru: +51 1 222 5252.
New Zealand Embassy in Chile (also responsible for Peru): +56 22616 3000.
Pisco is a small port and fishing village, and is best known forits fiery white-grape brandy of the same name. One of Peru's majorancient civilisations, the Paracas, established their culture inthe area. They left an astounding collection of antiquities, whichtravellers can see in Lima's museums. The area's main appeal is asa base from which to explore the nearby Paracas National Reserve,where visitors can view an incredible variety of birds and marinelife. Boat tours of the Ballestas Islands are another of the area'sdrawcards. The islands are off limits to people, but the boat toursafford spectacular close up views of the wildlife. Visitors willsee thousands of resident and migratory birds, including terns,penguins, cormorants, flamingos, pelicans and red boobies. Hugecolonies of sea lions line the shores, and dolphins, turtles andwhales populate the surrounding waters. Boats also pass the famousCandelabra on their way to the islands. The pre-historic drawing isetched into the sandstone cliffs overlooking the bay.
Nazca is a small desert town in southern Peru. Named after theNazca civilisation, the area is famous for the mysterious lines anddiagrams etched into the surrounding desert floor. Visitors willalso find some interesting museums and archaeological sites,including the Chauchilla Cemetery, where 12 exposed undergroundtombs contain skeletons and preserved mummified forms. That said,the town's main attraction is an aerial flight over the NazcaLines, which are spread over miles of the region's vast desertterrain. The dimensions of these enormous figures, spirals andgeometric designs are so large, the only way to view them is fromthe air. Pilots will point out the outlines of intriguing bird andanimal representations, such as the Condor, Monkey, Spider,Hummingbird, and the unusual cartoon-like character known as theAstronaut. These figures were made by removing sun-darkened stonesfrom the desert floor to expose the lighter coloured stones below,and were created over a thousand years ago.
Experts have not discovered why they were created, nor how theywere designed. For tourists, the Nazca Lines are among thestrangest and most unforgettable sights in the country. They're alegacy of the ancient Nazca culture and one of South America'sgreat mysteries.
Known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, this breathtakinglybeautiful and fertile valley stretches between the villages ofPisac and Ollantaytambo. Travellers will navigate it on the windingUrubamba River, with ancient Inca ruins watching from the hilltopsabove. The river's course also passes a sprinkling of small,traditional settlements. Visitors should note that the centrallysituated Urubamba town has a decent tourist infrastructure, and isbecoming a popular base from which to explore the valley. Theregion's most-visited sites are the citadel above Pisac and thefortress of Ollantaytambo. Culture lovers will enjoy the quaintvillage of Pisac, which is known for its interesting Tuesday,Thursday and Sunday morning markets. Agricultural terraces flankthe steep sides of the mountain and have seen many centuries ofuse. Alarmingly narrow trails lie above them and lead to thecliff-hugging citadel. Visitors will find massive stone doorwaysand stairways cut into the rock.
The road terminates at the far end of the Sacred Valley, wheretravellers will encounter the ancient traditional town ofOllantaytambo. Its temple-fortress clings to the nearby cliffs.Originally developed as an Inca administrative centre, the town'slayout is one of the few remaining models of an Inca grid plan, andthe existing town lies on the remaining Inca foundations. The ruinsinclude the Royal Chamber, the Princess Baths and the Temple of theSun.
The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is regarded as the mostsignificant archaeological site in South America, and one of thefinest examples of landscape architecture in the world. It is themost enthralling of the region's citadels, and lies high in theAndes. Fortunately, Spanish colonists didn't discover and destroythe structure, as it's completely concealed from below. In fact,the western world didn't find it until an American explorerstumbled across its thickly overgrown ruins in 1911. The site issurrounded by grazing llamas and steep agricultural terraces, andconsists of a central plaza, towers, palaces, water canals, ornatefountains, food storehouses, perfectly balanced archways and asacred ceremonial area of royal tombs and intricately carvedtemples. The sacred Temple of the Sun is one of the site'shighlights. Another is the mountain called, Huayna Picchu, whichforms a dramatic backdrop to the city. All told, 'The Lost City ofthe Incas' has an abiding sense of majesty and mystery, despite itspopularity among tourists.
Located in Peru's central highlands and crossed by two mountainranges, Ayacucho has much to delight history lovers. Indeed, theregion is home to some of the country's most significantarchaeological attractions, as well as gorgeous, pastel-colouredcolonial buildings. An ancient capital city, some of the oldestpre-historic remains found in America, and richly decoratedchurches are all part of the destination's inheritance. Ayacucho isa relatively unknown tourism gem, though, due largely to politicalunrest. That is, as the capital of an isolated and traditionallypoor department, it allowed Professor Abimael Guzman to foster theSendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist Revolutionary movement,causing thousands of deaths in the region during the 1980s and1990s. Fortunately, travellers are rediscovering Ayacucho. The besttime to visit is around Easter, when the city's carnivalcelebrations are in full swing.
Marcahuasi is a plateau in the Andes. Travellers who areinterested in the mythical side of Peruvian culture will find it awonderful excursion from nearby Lima. The mountains are home tosome massive and remarkable rock formations of mysterious origin,which seem to depict various animals, human faces, and othersymbols. There is debate about whether the formations are naturalor man-made, and theories abound as to how the sculptures couldhave been made and why. Visitors will also see ruins on the northside of the plateau, where more than 50 structures stand in varyingstates of dilapidation. Some locals view the plateau withsuperstitious awe, and consider it a spiritual site of great power.The dramatic landscape doesn't see many tourists. Marcahuasi hascamp sites and the views from the plateau are breathtakinglybeautiful. Nights can be freezing cold, though. Visitors can renttents, mattresses and other equipment in the village of San Pedrode Casta, which is the gateway to Marcahuasi. Local guides are alsoavailable.