Cuzco is located in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of about 11,150 ft (3,400 m), amongst towering holy mountains, ancient temples, high mountain altars, colonial architecture, and a complex history. This is one of the oldest, cities in the Western Hemisphere. It was the capital of the Inca Empire, until the early 16th century, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro captured the city in 1533. Cuzco really has it all for sightseeing. It is also the gateway for a trip to Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas". The altitude may take a little getting used too, so do not rush seeing it all.
Facts about Peru:
There are 4000 native varieties of potatoes
Guinea pigs are a culinary delicacy
The city of Cuzco was originally built in the shape of a puma. The body of the puma contained the most important palaces, temples and governmental buildings. The square between the legs of the puma is the Plaza de Armas.
Tour conditions: Cuzco – 11,400 elevation, high 60's day, low 50's night. Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu – 8,400 elevation, high 60's to 70 day, high 40's to 50's night
"Since it is impossible to know what's really happening, we Peruvians lie, invent, dream and take refuge in illusion. Because of these strange circumstances, Peruvian life, a life in which so few actually do read, has become literary." - Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian Novelist.
1. Responsible Tourism:
Take advice from your guides on how to respect the social, cultural and religious beliefs of local communities. We believe in putting money directly into the communities we visit by using locally owned accommodations, and giving fair payment for services.
A valid passport is required for entry into Peru, and a 90 day visa is given to US citizens automatically upon entry. For US Citizens, you can go to the Travel.State.Gov web site. Make sure to renew your passport months in advance. And always carry a second form of photo ID, such as a driver's license, and have a photocopy of the personal data page of your passport. Your photocopy of your passport is the easiest way to prove your identity, in case you were to lose your passport.
You will need to book an international flight to Lima, we recommend an overnight flight so you will avoid an unnecessary overnight stay in a hotel in LIMA. We typically fly from Lima to Cuzco on LAN airlines.
4. Airport Taxes:
All Peruvian airports charge "Exit Taxes", to be paid in cash before entering the departure section of the airport. Please budget $34 each way internationally, and $6 for each internal flight.
5. Travel Insurance:
We recommend purchasing travel insurance, which will refund lost costs if you need to cancel your trip due to extenuating circumstances. Check your travel insurance carrier, for many you must purchase your insurance within Three Weeks after you pay your deposit for your trip, in order to get the best coverage. Also check with your existing health plan to make sure they cover your medical costs in a foreign country, and check with your credit card company, which may include baggage insurance or other features.
6. Food and Water:
Drink only bottled water, and only use bottled water for brushing your teeth. Bottled water is readily available. It does not take much contamination to make you sick, and some diseases can be severe enough to ruin your trip. Do not use ice cubes unless you know them to be safe.
7. Food Safety:
Local tap water in Peru is not considered potable. Only bottled water should be used for drinking. For the same reason, eat only cooked foods, since lettuce and other foods can be washed in non-bottled water. Eat only fruits with peels for the same reason. In Cuzco and by Machu Pichu, you can find many fabulous restaurants that have excellent hygiene and food preparations, cater to travelers and clean their vegetable with filtered or bottled water. But always ask first, and only eat at reputable vendors. You can also read our guide to The Best Restaurants in Cuzco. Never eat food from sidewalk vendors. Many hotels have breakfasts that is healthy for travelers, include granola, cereals, yogurt, bananas, oranges, scrambled eggs or omelets, and breads. If you are a vegetarian, you will have plenty of food selections to choose from.
For information on the vaccines, medications, and other measures necessary to prevent illness and injury during international travel, 1) See a Travel Health Specialist and Clinic, and 2) you can visit the CDC web site for US government information about traveling internationally at, www.cdc.gov/travel/tropsam.htm, and read the section specific to Peru http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/peru.aspx#vaccines.
Some people have received the following shots from their doctors: Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus. These vaccinations can take months to complete! Yellow Fever and Malaria are for Amazon areas mainly. It is best to consult with your own physician, who knows your medical history and can better advise you. Bring proof of your immunizations on the trip.
If you take any prescription medicines, containers should be clearly labeled with prescription labels to avoid problems at Customs. A standard first aid kit is advisable, as well as bringing your own favorite personal "remedies" for the common possibilities. These might include a remedy for headaches, bacterial infections, stomach, colds, and dehydration. Remember, you are responsible for your own health. The local pharmacies have common pharmaceutical products also, but they are very expensive.
10. Altitude Sickness Prevention:
Diamox® is a medication your physician can prescribe to prevent altitude sickness. It can make some people drowsy and/or dehydrated. I like to take half a dose the first 2 nights in Cuzco to help me adjust to the altitude and to get a good night of sleep. Most people manage without the medication. If you are experiencing sleeplessness, you might be dehydrated and you want to drink more water immediately! Hydration is the key to avoiding altitude sickness. We recommend you drink two full liters of water per day. Drinking wine or beer will dehydrate you quickly, so avoid alcohol.
Consider exchanging $300 dollars at the airport. At that time, also get 20-30 coins (soles). Also bring one and five dollar bills to tip the hotel staff and taxis. There are several types of ATM Machines in Peru. You will want to call your bank ahead of the trip to make sure that you will have access to ATM's in a foreign country and which ATM's will work for your cards. Make sure that your PIN number will work in a foreign ATM. Traveler's checks are accepted in very few places. When you bring dollars into the country of Peru, they must be new dollars with no tears or rips. Damaged dollars are not accepted in Peru.
12. Internet Access:
Internet cabinas are everywhere Cuzco, and inexpensive.
Bring gifts for the Peruvian children you might meet along the way. Peruvian children love pads of paper, pens, pencils, Magic Markers, or crayons.
Many travelers bring gifts to the shamans also. Your presence with them in Peru is the best gift you could give them, as their greatest wish is to share their medicine teachings with others.
14. Luggage and Packing:
Please use your daypack as your airplane carry-on. Everything else should fit inside your main, checked suitcase. Leave some space in your main bag (or bring an extra duffle bag) for souvenir purchases.
Your trip will be more enjoyable if you're not bogged down by unnecessary packing and luggage. There are laundry facilities available at hotels. They are quite good at getting your clothes back to you quickly, and are inexpensive. Pack what you feel you absolutely NEED… but LESS IS MORE!
17. What to bring:
Sunglasses, Sunhat, Sunscreen–the sun is very strong at high altitudes.
Lightweight hiking boots
Tevas or strapped hiking sandals (optional).
Thongs are great for the shower and to walk to and from breakfast.
Electrolyte packets & granola bars, nuts, trail mix, etc.
Layered clothing for day hiking. Zip-off pants are great.
Blue jeans or comfortable hiking pants. You only need three pants total.
Three pairs of Good hiking socks
Two-three Long-sleeved lightweight shirts (the ones that wick away moisture are worth the extra expense).
Daypack and Money belt for cash and passport.
Warm jacket for nighttime.
Camera, film, digital cards and extra batteries.
Items of a personal nature & toiletries. Bring Kleenex, wet wipes and zip-lock bags for day hikes. Ladies, be prepared with feminine hygiene products.
Bug Spray/Mosquito Repellent
For some hotels you may need a 110 volt electric socket converter for South America
If you must have a blow-dryer, then bring it. However, the hotels usually have one in each room.
If you need gear and do not have a local store, try REI.com
18. On Arrival:
Eat light food, the first days. One have to be careful, to avoid breathing problems or discomfort because of the altitude.
If you're planning on visiting Peru, you're probably thinking of all the amazing historical sites you can see. From the capital city of Lima, to the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco, to Machu Picchu, you will have lots of fun things to do. Before you travel to Peru, consider these must not miss sites and things to do.
Traveling to Peru
LAN Airlines offers a wide variety of flights to Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport. The airport offers many direct flights from U.S. and Canadian cities. If you're trying to travel from an international US destination always think LAN Airlines.
Things to Do In Lima
One of the best things to do in Lima is eat. The locals love their food and it shows in the many restaurants you'll find throughout the city. In between meals, though, consider visiting the Aliaga House. This is the oldest house throughout the entire Americas. Eighteen generations of the Aliaga family have lived in the house, though the current generation lives in a modern annex. If you're interested in taking a tour of the home, be prepared because they aren't exactly cheap. Visitors need to book tours at least 24 hours in advance, so realize this isn't something you can just drop into.
If historic churches are more your style, consider visiting the Church of San Francisco. The church was built in the 1600s and is known for its catacombs. The catacombs reportedly house 75,000 bodies and many of them have exposed remains so a tour is not for those who are easily queasy.
Visiting Cuzco and Machu Picchu
Cuzco is a fast-growing city in Peru. It's also a big tourist destination, thanks to the efforts of a former mayor. Many people visiting Cuzco take a day trip to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is only about 50 miles northwest of Cuzco and was recently named as one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World.' Visitors to Machu Picchu can visit the historic buildings to see what they originally looked like back in the 1400s. Although restoration isn't complete, visitors can get an idea of what life was like when the city was abandoned in the 1500s.
Other things to do in Cuzco include hiking through the ruins at Sacsayhuaman, visiting the town's cathedral and exploring the Inca Museum.
These are only a few of the things you can explore if you have the opportunity to travel to Peru. If you're interested in making your dream a reality, get out that passport and start looking into flights.
With its white washed buildings made from sillar, a local volcanic stone, Arequipa, second largest town of Peru, is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and home to many fascinating remnants of Inca history. Most Peru packages will take you to this wonderful place, where it is truly a pleasure to stroll down the shaded streets and admire the delicate architecture. History enthusiasts will delight in the countless attractions of this city, among which the Juanita Mummy, also known as the Ice Maiden, which you cannot miss on your Arequipa explorations.
Juanita is the frozen body of an Inca girl, believed to have lived the 15th century between 1450 and 1480. She was discovered on Mount Ampato in the nearby Colca Valley by anthropologist Johan Reinhard in 1995. Also known as the Frozen Lady or the Lady of Ampato, Juanita is remarkably well preserved which made her an important discovery, even ranked among the top 10 world discoveries of 1995.
The Ice Maiden was discovered following a series of volcanic eruptions in the regions which melted the ice on top of the mountain and allowed her grave to be uncovered. She was luckily found before her body started to degenerate, allowing for great conservation.
The excellent preservation of the body allowed for several biological tests that gave new and fascinating insights into the Inca way of life. Juanita is believed to have been between 14 and 15 years old when she was sacrificed to the gods, as next to her body were found several ceremonial offerings also very well preserved. You can admire her alpaca shoes together with fine ceramic items as well as gold and silver idols dressed in feathers. The meaning of these offerings has yet to be established.
The Museum holding Juanita is located on Arequipa's main square, Plaza de Armas. Learn more about the great Inca Empire by paying a visit to this fascinating Museum, and if you are not too frightened, step into the temperature controlled room to take a look at Juanita's body.
As you prepare your exciting Peru vacation, you will notice that there are a lot of details to take into account to make sure that everything goes smoothly as you travel across the country. To avoid being taken by surprise, make sure you do your research and plan your trip accordingly. To help you do so, here is a guide to transports in Peru, with insider tips that will help you decide on the best ways to travel around.
All international flight to Peru will land in Lima, at the Jorge Chavez International Airport. The airport is modern and small enough to go around easily. Once you disembark the plane, you will pass through immigration then be directed to the luggage pick-up space. Make sure you fill out all your forms correctly, and especially the customs one which you will be asked for at the exit. If you are only staying in Lima for a few hours but still want to get out of the airport to explore the city, there are lockers where you can leave your luggage near the domestic departure exit.
Be aware that all airports in Peru have departure taxes. You have to pay the tax at a separate counter-service before boarding your flight. The international tax is $31 (s/.86.55). Domestic taxes are between $11 and 19$ depending on your destination. There are safe 24h ATMs and Currency Exchange offices in the airport.
Domestic flights are usually relatively inexpensive in Peru, and generally the best option to travel across the country in terms of time-consumption. Cheap and secure airlines in Peru include LAN, Peruvian Airlines and Star Peru, which all have websites where you can book your tickets online.
If you are on a budget, or for shorter distances, buses are an excellent way to travel through Peru. There are several good companies which offer transportation to all the main destinations. Taking the bus in Peru can be a really nice experience as they are well-equipped and come with all kinds of services such as bathrooms, meals, drinks, and movies. Depending on the distance and length of your journey, you have several options between regular, semi-cama and cama buses, with variations in the comfort level. For an overnight trip, semi-cama and cama are recommended as you can incline your seat the most and seats are a bit larger. Oltursa and Cruz del Sur are among the best known and most secure bus companies riding in Peru.