Peru map

Region by Region

The Desert Coast:
The long desert coastal strip from north to south varies from 10 to 100 miles in width. Along this narrow ribbon are some of Peru's most fascinating areas starting with: Lima: Capital of Peru founded in 1535 by the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, Lima was the center of the Vice-Royalty of Spain in South America until the early 19th century. Built on both sides of the Rimac River, Lima is a combination of colonial buildings sprinkled with modern skyscrapers. The Plaza de Armas retains its colonial grandeur and there are excellent museums, including the famed private gold collection of the Mujica Gallo family. Equally famous is the extensive collection of pre-Inca ceramics (including erotic masterpieces) at the Larco Herrera Museum. Lima has excellent hotels, restaurants and shops both downtown and in the modern suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro. Nearby on the coast are the ruins of Pachacamac, the largest Inca coastal citadel when the Conquistadors arrived.

Trujillo: Eight hours by road or one hour by air from Lima, Trujillo is located in a green oasis with a background of Andean foothills and peaks. Founded by Pizarro in 1536 (and named after his birthplace in Spain), the city has many graceful old churches, colonial balconies and windows overhanging its modern streets. Nearby is Chan Chan, the imperial city of the Chimu civilization. Also near Trujillo is Huanchaco where fisherman surf and fish the Pacific using the traditional, long narrow boats called caballitos (little horses) made of totora reeds.

Sipán & Tucumé: Newest major archaeological discoveries in Peru located in the northern desert near the city of Chiclayo. At Sipán one may peer down into graves now being uncovered by archaeologists where the richest tomb of Inca gold ever excavated in modern times was uncovered. The nearby museum at Lambayeque displays a great deal of the treasure uncovered at Sipán. Also nearby is Tucumé, a vast adobe complex of pyramids, where the explorer Thor Heyerdahl maintains his home Casa Kon Tiki. Paracas: Three hours south of Lima on the Pan American highway, Paracas Peninsula has a National Park and marine preserve with the world's highest concentration of marine life. A small resort style hotel serves as a base to visit the area, which also includes a museum with mummies and ceramics. From Paracas Bay one can see the mysterious Candelabra ground drawing etched into the northern face of a mountain overlooking the sea.

Ica: Thirty minutes inland by car from Paracas one reaches the vineyards of Ica, home of Peru's pisco, the popular grape brandy. Ica is a lush oasis in the midst of huge rolling sand dunes along the desert coast. Ica has accommodations and a local museum with artifacts from civilizations between the early Paracas and Inca period. The surroundings feature olive and jojoba groves, plus ranches where Peru's famed paso horses are bred. Easiest way to overfly the Nazca lines is from the small airstrip in Ica located adjacent to the oasis-style Las Dunas hotel.

Nazca: An eight-hour drive south of Lima, the small town of Nazca is beside the famous lines that are one of the world's great enigmas. With several hotels, Nazca serves as the base from which to overfly the lines. Mystery ground drawings cover the desert floor in a collection of gigantic designs and figures, some dating before Christ. Often made of one continuous line, drawings are as large as two football fields, and some lines are 40 miles long! From the air one can make out the figures of a whale, dog, monkey, iguana, spider, flowers, lizards, and many birds (one with a wing span of 300 ft.). There are also intriguing spirals and geometric shapes. Full-day air excursions highlighted by Nazca overflights are also available directly from Lima.

The High Andes:
The Andes range from North to South along Peru like a backbone covering 26% of the country. Their soaring peaks and green valleys provide spectacular scenery. Nestled within are some of Peru's most popular and legendary destinations:

Cuzco: Ancient capital of the Incas, Cuzco is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Western Hemisphere. At 11,444 ft., it's best to rest upon arrival. Cuzco offers a wide variety of hotels from tourist to deluxe, quality restaurants, and several nightclubs with folklore shows. The city tour of Cuzco includes the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Kenko and Tambo Machay. Cuzco is also the starting point for excursions into the Sacred Valley of the Incas to visit towns like Pisac - famed for its Sunday morning Indian market, the mountainside city of Ollantaytambo, and highland Chincheros.

Machu Picchu: The fabled "Lost City of the Incas." Set atop a mountain peak three hours by train from Cuzco, a visit to Machu Picchu is one of South America's most outstanding excursions, and requires a minimum of a full day. Here are the remains of a city never discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors - ancient staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, fountains, and the famous Temple of the Sun. A small hotel at the ruins provides hot lunches for day visitors and comfortable overnight accommodations. Advance reservations are required. An overnight here is an unforgettable experience.

Kuélap & Chachapoyas: In Northern Peru, near the town of Chachapoyas (capital of the State of Amazonas), a great many pre-Inca ruins and sites are now accessible to visitors. The most imposing of all is Kuélap, a titanic citadel or fortress that is being called the "second" Machu Picchu. Here there are far more questions than answers. A new road now links the vast complex with Chachapoyas, and a trip to the site can be made in a full day. Also near the neighboring small town of Lamud, treks are now offered to view Easter Island-like statues containing mummies that amazingly stand imbedded in towering canyon walls.

Puno: At 12,500 ft., Puno stands upon the shore of the world's highest navigable lake - Titicaca. Legends say the first Inca arose from its' depths and went on to found his empire. Most travelers reach Puno by train from Cuzco. Hotels provide comfortable overnight accommodations while exploring the area. Boat excursions visit the floating islands of the Uros Indians, the ancient mystery towers of Sillustani, and the legendary Island of the Sun. From here one can continue across the lake via scheduled hydrofoil service to Bolivia.

Arequipa: Called the "White City" because of many striking colonial buildings made from pearly white volcanic sillar. Arequipa sits at the base of towering El Misti volcano's snow-capped, nearly perfect cone that reaches 19,000 ft. Highlight is the Convent of Santa Catalina which was closed to outsiders for over 400 years. The walled convent is now open as a museum that exposes the once cloistered world.

Huaraz: Eight hours by road from Lima, Huarás is located in the mountainous heart of the Callejon de Huaylas region. Here a spectacularly beautiful valley runs between the snowless Cordillera Negra, (rising to 13,000 ft.), and the snow-covered Cordillera Blanca whose highest peak soars to 22,205 ft. Many colorful villages dot the valley. With no less than 23 peaks visible on clear days, Huarás is gateway to some of Peru's most scenic and inspiring trekking. From here one may visit the Chavin de Huantar ruins, a fortress temple built around 600 BC. One may still see marvelous carved stone heads, designs in relief on symbolic stone figures, and the famed dagger-shaped monolith.

Huancayo: In the Andes east of Lima, Huancayo is reached by one of South America's great train rides. Reaching an altitude of 15,800 ft., the train traverses 66 tunnels, 59 bridges, makes 22 zigzag switch backs, and passes the highest standard gauge rail station on earth at Galera! A Sunday Indian market specializes in food, fresh produce, textiles and handicrafts including carved gourds, ponchos and alpaca goods.

The Peruvian Amazon:
The selva or Peruvian jungle covers nearly 60% of the country and is sparsely populated with only 5% of the country's inhabitants.

Pucallpa: Five hundred thirty three nautical miles from Iquitos (there is no road), Pucallpa is a rapidly expanding jungle town and capital of the Department of Ucayali. Accessible by plane from Lima (1 hr.) and Iquitos (20 min.), there are several well run jungle lodges nearby which offer a close up look at life in the Amazon. Most popular excursion is to Lake Yarinacocha and the Moroti-Shobo Indian market.

Iquitos: Located on the Amazon 2,300 miles from the Atlantic, Iquitos is Peru's second largest port. Several hotels in town provide accommodations while a variety of jungle lodges are one to four hours downriver. The jungle accommodations range from cabanas with private bath to more rustic shelters offering camping-style facilities for one or more nights. Camping treks can be arranged, and expedition-style boats for 4-12 persons provide multi-day in-depth visits to many Amazon tributaries. Visitors may easily reach the Yagua Indian tribe who lives near Iquitos. Deeper in the jungle excursions can contact the Huitotos and Shipibos.

Puerto Maldonado: On the Andes eastern slopes, Puerto Maldonado is reached by plane from Lima via Cuzco. Puerto Maldonado is gateway to three superb jungle preserves - Manu National Park, Tambopata Wildlife Reserve, and Rio Heath Pampas Sanctuary. Within the Tambopata Wildlife Reserve two jungle lodges provide an opportunity to view the 547 species of birds, 1,100 species of butterflies, 150 species of dragonflies, and mammals including the giant otter.

Country Overview Travel Facts