The majesty of the Amazon, the mystery of cloud forests, the beauty of Pacific shorelines. Peru is a land of intricate ecosystems and archeological marvels. Planning a Peruvian adventure is quite a feat, and embarking with a lay of the land can help you make the most of your travels. In this guide, we’ll journey through the destinations, history, and flavors that form the tapestry of Peru.
Discovering Peru’s Flora and Fauna
Pack a field guide, hiking shoes, and a pair of binoculars! Peru is home to vast landscapes and incredible opportunities to observe wildlife. Rainforests, deserts, coastlines, glaciers: no matter where your journey takes you, there’s much to discover.
Along with its Pacific shorelines and the mountainous peaks of the Andes, the Amazon rainforest forms nearly 60% of Peru. You’ll find an abundance of wildlife throughout Peru’s various ecosystems, including jaguars, spectacled bears, and humpback whales. And if you’re a birding enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place! From quetzals and macaws to the Andean condor, keep your eyes peeled! Peru is home to 1,800 species of birds, and over 100 species are endemic.
Peru also celebrates an array of beautiful plant life, from tropical ferns to cacti. The orchid specifically draws visitors from around the world: in fact, Peru is home to about 10% of all the world’s orchid species. In the land surrounding Machu Picchu alone, it’s estimated that over 300 species of orchids bloom. Their gorgeous foliage and colors truly add an enchanting air to the historic site.
There are so many ways to explore Peru, from boat excursions and train voyages to canopy tours and kayaking adventures. Remember that wherever you set off to, you’ll likely encounter challenging terrain, mist, and heavy rainfall (also, remember that in Peru, spring and summer run from September to March, and autumn and winter from March till September!). Among your travel essentials, be sure to pack sturdy walking shoes, a hat, and layers that include weather-friendly garments.
And we must of course highlight the smiling faces you are undoubtedly looking forward to during your trip to Peru: the camelids! Camelids refer to a family of several species, and in Peru you’ll find llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Over the centuries, Peru’s camelids have held an integral role in both commerce and everyday life, providing transportation and fibers for textiles. In addition to many a photo opportunity, you’re sure to find many a souvenir themed around these local cuties.
Peru Dazzles with Design and Innovation
Throughout your travels in Peru, you’re sure to be amazed by Peru’s natural beauty, as well as its architectural jewels and handcrafted artistry. From archeological sites to traditional textiles, you’ll find exquisite design woven into every detail.
The Inca fortress Ollantaytambo, for example, is an archaeological marvel. Located in Peru’s Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is believed to have once been a sanctuary for Inca royalty. You’ll find stones carved with great precision, agricultural terraces and storehouses, and an aqueduct system that still works to this day. Considering the site’s altitude and terrain, the building of this Inca refuge is quite a feat, indeed. Visit the impressive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo on our 10 Day Classic Peru
Then of course, there’s Machu Picchu. This awe-inspiring destination, a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflects the architectural ingenuity of the Inca empire. Machu Picchu’s temples, terraces, and irrigation systems have astounded travelers from all over the globe. With remarkable design, great mystery surrounding the site’s origins, and magnificent scenery, it’s no wonder this wonder tops many a travel list.
And Peru’s design achievements are not only relics of the past. At the Uros Islands, you’ll discover an entire community built on design and creativity. Known as the floating islands, the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca are literally built out of totora, an aquatic plant found in the region. Even the island’s dwellings and fishing boats are crafted from the totora plant. Much of Peru’s historic design seems to seamlessly integrate with the natural landscape, and this fascinating locale reflects that same attention and care.
The artistry of Peru is also beautifully reflected in its textiles. From tapestries to clothing, the vibrant textiles of Peru are truly a sight to behold. At Lima’s National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru, you’ll find thousands of textiles dating back to 2500 BC. And at Awana Kancha in Cusco, you can observe demonstrations of traditional weaving techniques – plus spend time with some very adorable camelids.
Exploring Peruvian Cuisine
Between its coastal locale, abundant rainforests, and rich agricultural history, you can certainly look forward to incredible cuisine in Peru! Here’s a gathering of produce you’ll find integrated throughout every menu, plus beloved local dishes to add to your foodie itinerary:
You must, of course, dive into some ceviche during your travels! Ceviche’s name comes from the Quechua word “siwichi”, which means fresh fish. Peru’s national dish is bright and refreshing, featuring fish marinated in citrus juices and combined with onions, chili peppers, and herbs. You’ll often find ceviche served alongside sweet potato, plantain chips, or corn.
If you’re a fan of the mighty potato, you’ll totally dig Peru’s culinary offerings. Peru is home to over 1,000 varieties of native potatoes in an array of beautiful colors. You’ll find them in dishes like causa – a tiered dish of mashed potatoes with layers that include other delicious ingredients like tuna or avocado. Depending on when you travel, you may also discover local festivities surrounding this acclaimed tuber: in Peru, National Potato Day is celebrated on May 30th. And if you’re all about dessert, here are a couple of iconic sweets to look out for. Suspiro a la limeña is a creamy dessert with notes of vanilla and cinnamon and topped with meringue, while picarones are sure to bring joy to any donut aficionados in your group. The fried, ring-shaped treats can be made from sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, and are served drizzled with honey. Both of these desserts date back nearly 200 years in Peru, and are a delightful finale to any meal.