14 Apr Peru Field Guide
In the world of travel, there is Peru, and then there is everywhere else. The reason? Simple. No place on earth offers such a spectacle of culture and natural wonders. The Atacama Desert. The Nazca Lines. Lima. Machu Picchu. Cuzco. Floating villages. Mummies. The Andes. The Amazon River. The Food—oh the food. Any one of these, on their own, would be reason enough to jump on the next plane. Selfishly, Peru has them all!
Peru has the propensity to taunt those travelers who consistently crave more out of their next adventure. Forever presenting the next challenge; the more boldly you dare, the more provoking Peru becomes.
So visit Machu Picchu. See Lima. No visit to Peru would be complete without them. But also make your way to places like Iquitos. Sleep under the stars on a boat on the Amazon and witness the side-show that is the Belen Market. Visit the people of Via El Salvador who, despite having nothing, greet every visitor with kindness and a sense of humor. See it all! You will find, that with an abundance of everything, Peru is the perfect place to get lost. Here is our Peru field Guide.
Dorm Room $5 to $18 USD
Private Room $18 to $40 USD
Budget Hotel $30 to $80 USD
Bottle of Beer
$.50 to $1.75 USD
Currency – Peruvian Nuevo Sol (sol/soles)
Current Exchange Rate (USD to PEN)
Peru Travel Tips
Spirit Airlines : Travelers to Peru from the United States are encouraged to check out Spirit airlines. Spirit Airlines is an ultra-low cost carrier which flies from many U.S. cities to Lima. It may not be the best flight you take, but if you’re willing to watch for their deals and work within their pricing structure they have incredibly cheap flights to Peru.
Wait to Book Your In-Country Flights : If you plan on flying within Peru, wait to book your domestic flights until you are already in Peru. You can save a tremendous amount in taxes and fees.
Eat a Set Lunch : Many Peruvian restaurants offer a Menu Del Dia, or meal of the day, which is a set lunch menu. If you’re willing to be adventurous, most are very good.
Skip Machu Picchu : Crazy, I know. But visiting Machu Picchu is a considerable financial commitment unlike anything else in Peru. Do not let me discourage you if the site is a must see on your bucket list. However, for the casual traveler, other parts of Peru offer similar cultural experiences without the lines and inflated costs.
Peru Field Guide: Best Things to Do In Peru
Via El Salvador : Initially settled in the 70’s by 7,000 Inca refugees fleeing violence in the mountains, this area on the South-side of Lima has grown to nearly 500,000 people. Astoundingly, this was all done without government assistance. The entire neighborhood is mostly self-governing and until relatively recently, was not even recognized by the government of Peru. Via el Salvador is now one of the largest Shantytowns in Latin America and an incredible place to visit.
Machu Picchu : Said to be the Holy Grail for travelers to Latin America — there is no doubt this place is breath taking. Having been paraded across the cover of every South American and Peru field guide, blog, and book for the last decade — Machu Picchu needs no introduction. It is widely regarded as one the of the top “Must See” places on the planet. However as the popularity of this place has surged, the visitors’ experience has become a bit more like a theme park than a temple.
The Food : Did I mention the food? Peruvian cuisine is among the best in the world. Made from a kaleidoscope of ingredients, which are mostly unknown to western travelers, Peruvian food draws on a patchwork of indigenous, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese cuisines. From the street food to the fine dining—this place is a foodie’s paradise. #foodporn
Belen Market : There are some places in this world one cannot describe with words. While what you witnessed may still haunt your senses, you find yourself unable to find a worthy adjective, quip, or anecdote worthy. The market in Belen is one of those places.
The market is located on the edge of Iquitos in the District of Belen. There in the muddy road covered by hundreds of make-shift tents lies the Belen Market. A monument to all of the abundance that the Amazon has to offer. Most of which, is likely being butchered in the streets so it can be displayed for would be buyers. Snakes, Caimans, Piranha, turtles, jaguars, and sloths. It is all for sale. Want roasted monkey on a stick? This is the place to get it. Caiman heads? You’re in luck!
The rest of the market is comprised of Shaman’s Alley and fruit vendors. Shaman’s Alley, more aptly, Shaman’s Pharmacy is the place where the local doctors pick up their medicine. Oils, herbs, roots, and nearly everything else you could imagine. The fruit vendors, as you might expect, actually do sell local fruits.
The Belen Market is as fascinating as it is foul. Which is perhaps why a visit there is so unforgettable.
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve : Located deep in the rain forest, this National Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Peru. Visiting this vast expanse is like nothing else. Floating down the various waterways of this dense jungle will satisfy the Indiana Jones in all of us. Visitors have the opportunity to see a variety of exotic plants and wildlife along with villages from a forgotten era. Tours to this remote reserve can be arranged from Iquitos and are worth every penny.
Lima : Peru’s capital city is an absolute must see. With its culture, cuisine, and diverse neighborhoods, Lima has something for everyone. Be sure to check out the Colonial Plazas, Pacific Coast, Parque Kennedy (Yes that Kennedy) in Miraflores and the Barranco District.
The Nazca Line : The Nazca Lines are a series of enormous drawings made on the desert floor over 2,000 years ago. They have stood the test of time largely due to a stable climate. Best seen from the air, these curious figures will stoke your imagination. If flying with a suspect Peruvian pilot is not your thing, find solace in knowing that some of the famous drawings can be seen from roadside miradors. Another can be seen from the ground in nearby Paracas.
Hike the Inca Trail : The Inca trail is arguably the best way to visit Machu Picchu. This multi-day hike follows the original route of the Incas through the mountains and jungle of the Peruvian countryside. The trail fills up quick—so be sure to book a few months out.
Islas Flotantes de los Uros : The Uros people live on floating islands in Lake Titicaca. Remarkably, the islands are man-made using bundles of dried totora reeds. The islands vary in size with the smaller ones housing two or three families and the larger holding up to ten.
The Colca Canyon : Two times deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is spectacular. The canyon is located in Peru’s Southern Sierra region, near the city of Arequipa. While known for its vistas and wildlife, the area is also riddled with historical and cultural sites—along with adventure attractions.
Lake Titicaca : Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America. At 3,800 m (12,500 ft), it is also considered the highest navigable lake in the world. Records aside, this sacred lake was home to many pre-Columbian cultures, including the Inca who believed it was the birthplace of the sun. As a result, the lake’s shores and numerous islands are riddled with culture—past and present. Natural beauty and cultural attractions put Lake Titicaca on every visitors list.
Cusco : Once capital of the great Inca Empire, Cusco sits high in the Andes Mountains and is the gateway to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites. Visitors to Cusco can enjoy a unique mix of Inca, colonial, and modern culture at 3,400 m above sea level. While Cusco is rich in historical value, it has lost much of its cultural integrity since becoming a staging point to the masses on their way to Machu Picchu.
Iquitos : There are few places in this world that can be so invariably offensive—yet offer such a unique experience that it makes the visit well worth the unpleasantries. Iquitos is one of those places. Set deep in the Amazon River basin it is not accessible by road. Rather, the trek must be made by boat or plane. Visitors are quickly welcomed by sweltering heat and intense humidity. The silver lining? The offensive climate traps exhaust from local motorbikes enough to stave off the swarms of mosquitos that are forced to live on the city’s periphery. Spending time in Iquitos not only allows travelers to visit the Amazon and see the Belen market, but also gives you the feeling that you have visited a place unknown to most travelers. On your journey out, you will feel overwhelmed by the opportunity to put a proverbial notch on your belt for having endured such a unique destination.
Huacachina : Set outside Lima, this resort town is worth the trip. It is a great place to regroup before or after a journey to Chile. It is also a great staging point to see the Nazca Lines.
Paracas/ Ballestas Islands : Paracas is a lazy seaside fishing town south of Lima. It is generally used by travelers to reach the Ballestas Islands—otherwise known as the poor man’s Galapagos. The city is pleasant enough and riddled with great ceviche restaurants.
Arequipa : Arequipa is a city in the southern region of Peru. The city sits at 2,300 m above sea level and is surrounded by three imposing volcanoes. Known for its white buildings, cuisine, and eclectic mix of Spanish and indigenous culture, it holds the title of Peru’s second largest city.
Huaraz : Located in the Valley of Callejon de Huaylas, Huaraz is great for adventure travelers. The incredible mountain scenery is great for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing and rafting. The surrounding areas also offer quaint villages and vibrant local markets.
Peru Travel Safety
Traveling to Peru is relatively safe. The people you will encounter in those places listed in our Peru field guide are warm, friendly, and very hospitable. If you would like more information you can visit the US State Department’s website on Peru travel safety.