|Local Peruvian Indians, Cuzco; Machu Picchu; Uros Island, Lake Titicaca; ||
|South American Information|
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Varies according to area. On the coast winter lasts from June to September. During this period, the mountainous areas are often sunny during the day but cold at night. This is high tourist season and the best time to visit most regions. Heavy rains in the mountains and jungle last from December to April. It hardly ever rains in Lima nor most of the coast, except for Tumbes and Piura, which have tropical climates.
Lightweights during summer with much warmer clothes worn in upland areas, especially at night. Medium weights are advised during cooler months. Rain gear is recommended during the rainy season, particularly in the Andes or Amazon.
Western South America.
1,285,220 sq km (496,226 sq miles).
23.2 per sq km.
Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1824, having declared it in 1821.
Peru is a large, mountainous country on the Pacific coast of South America that borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west. There are three natural zones:
The Costa region, which contains Lima (the capital), is a narrow coastal plain consisting of large tracts of desert broken by fertile valleys. The cotton, sugar and rice plantations and most of the so-far exploited oil fields lie in this area, as does the majority of the population. The best roads run along the coast, having straight, flat paths ahead of them, and travel times are usually good.
The highland Sierra contains the Andes, with peaks over 6,000m (20,000ft), most of the country's mineral resources (silver, zinc, lead, copper and gold) and the greater part of its livestock. Roads in this area wind up, down and around mountains, so travelling in this area is often time-consuming.
The Selva (jungle), an area of fertile, subtropical land, lies between the Andes and the borders with Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. The Amazonian jungle has vast natural resources. The absence of land communications, however, left the area largely uncharted until full-scale oil exploration began in 1973. Even today roads barely penetrate the region. Some areas are best reached by small plane.
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages. Aymara is spoken in the Lake Titicaca area. Many other dialects exist in the jungle regions. English is spoken in major tourist areas.
81.3% Roman Catholic, 12.5% Evangelical, 3.3% other denominations, 2.9% unspecified or none.
GMT - 5.
Shaking hands is the customary form of greeting. Kissing on one cheek between women and between women and men is common in coastal cities. Travellers should avoid the scruffy ‘backpacker’ look – it is not admired and considered bad etiquette.
Peruvians (and Latin Americans in general) are not really confrontational people – if you are struggling with some aspect of your travel (uncomfortable rooms, late buses etc), losing your temper will not get you very far. Instead, stay patient, keep smiling and someone will help you eventually, if only to make you go away.
220 volts AC, 60Hz. (110 volts AC is available in most 4- and 5-star hotels.)
Head of Government
Prime Minister César Villanueva since 2013.
Head of State
President Ollanta Humala since 2011.
Alejandro Toledo (in office from 2001 to 2006) was Peru's first indigenous president, but this did not stop his time in government being characterised by street protests, a string of scandals and plummeting popularity. Ex-president Alan Garcia then won the 2006 presidential elections, beating nationalist rival Ollanta Humala, who had received support from Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales. Garcia previously served as president from 1985-1990, but left the country's economy in tatters.
Nuevo (new) Sol (PEN; symbol S/.) = 100 céntimos. Nuevo Sol notes are in denominations of S/.200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of S/.5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 céntimos. Note: US Dollars are also in use and accepted for payment, particularly in tourist areas. While effectively interchangeable, it is best to use local currency wherever possible, and it is always good for tourists to have some local currency in small denominations, to pay for buses, taxis and goods in some small establishments.
Only a few bureau de change in Lima and Cusco will exchange currencies other than US Dollars. Outside Lima, it is virtually impossible. US Dollars can be exchanged everywhere and banks, hotels and many shops also readily accept US Dollars (although very old, torn or damaged notes are usually rejected). It is not recommended to exchange money from street vendors.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
All major credit cards are accepted, but usage may be limited outside of Lima and tourist areas. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted. It is also sensible to carry some cash rather than rely on cards.
Banks will exchange traveller's cheques although it can be a slow process outside Lima. The ability to use traveller's cheques is also quite limited in some areas so you should check whether or not they will be accepted in the area you are visiting prior to travel. The use of ATMs is generally preferable, but if you do decide to bring traveller's cheques, the best currency to bring them in is US Dollars.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency, but amounts exceeding US$10,000 must be declared.
Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat 0900-1300 (may vary during the summer).
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 4.57 PEN 1.00 USD = 2.79 PEN 1.00 EUR = 3.86 PEN 1.00 CAD = 2.64 PEN Currency conversion rates as of 12 December 2013
From ancient cultures to bustling cities to extraordinary landscapes, few destinations have as much to offer visitors as Peru, an astonishingly varied country. Here you'll find panoramic mountain ranges, vast deserts, beautiful beaches and tropical jungle, not to mention fantastically rich history, archaeology, wildlife and enduring indigenous cultures. You can make a trip to Peru whatever you want it to be, whether it is trekking the Inca Trail or heading out to more remote places to explore the little-known areas of the country.
Images of the extraordinary remains of ancient civilisations will inevitably jump to mind. The Inca stronghold Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and photogenic archaeological sites in the world and the mysterious Nazca Lines boggle the brain, but there are hundreds of similarly fascinating and even older sites to discover.
The beautifully excavated ruins of Chan Chan near Trujillo are clues to a culture which presided for 600 years, and these ruins were once the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. Heading off the beaten track, up in the northern mountainous region of Peru you will find Kuelap, an ancient fortress and burial site of the Chachapoyas culture. These remains are far less visited than others and provide the adventurous traveller with a challenge.
All are set in stunning landscapes, whether parched desert coast, soaring sierra or remote rainforest overflowing with wildlife. Such a diverse landscape generates diverse pleasures; you can hike through snowy peaks one day, and relax on the beach the next; paddle a dugout through lowland rainforest or hop on a traditional reed boat on some of the world's highest lakes.
The towns and cities of Peru are equally fascinating. Lima’s shiny and modern Miraflores area and grand and imposing historical centre, which has recently been cleaned up, are an example of the wealth of the country at its height. Contrasting beautifully is the ancient capital of Cusco with its steep, winding, cobbled street and its more than 1,000-year history. In between is everything from established cities to large communities to tiny indigenous villages, at extremes in altitude and temperature.
Peru does not solely involve rushing up and down mountains; if you’re searching for a relaxing destination, there are various beaches on which to perfect your tan while soaking up the local atmosphere. Máncora, in northern Peru, is the surfer and backpacker destination of choice, with good waves and a party atmosphere. A little more subdued but extremely popular is Huanchaco, where you can see the caballitos de totora, the reed canoes used by local fishermen. Locals from nearby Trujillo flock here at weekends, and the waves are excellent for surfers.
Peru is a hiker’s dream, with some of the world’s most picturesque and challenging mountain ranges in the world, including the Cordillera Blanca. The richness of accessible wilderness allows you to really immerse yourself in nature and discover the country for yourself. But there are plenty of other activities on offer, from sandboarding and surfing to extreme mountain biking and rafting. Add to this medicinal hot springs, mesmeric music, well-stocked museums, rich culture and uncommonly friendly people and you have a destination with something for everybody.
From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, December 2013.