Introduction to Peru

The best time to go to Peru (and the high tourist season) is from June to September when the mountainous areas are often sunny during the day but cold at night.

Don't miss a trip to capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco with a fascinating mix of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture.  It is also called "the Archaeological Capital of America". Cusco is a popular base to explore nearby famous ruins like Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Did you know that traditional Peruvian dishes are called Comida Criolla (Creolle Food)?

Do not be surprised if you do not understand Peruvian Spanish as it has four dialects: ecuatorial (Equatorial), ribereño (Riverside), andino (Andean) and amazónico (Amazonian).

To find out more about Peru, its culture, food and must-see places, read the section below!



Country local name: Republica del Peru
Government type: Constitutional republic
Capital: Lima
Time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 28th July 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 28th July
Population: 30,147,935 (July 2014 est.)
Ethnic groups: Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%
Languages: Spanish (official) 84.1%, Quechua (official) 13%, Aymara (official) 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages) 0.7%, other (includes foreign languages and sign language) 0.2% (2007 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 81.3%, Evangelical 12.5%, other 3.3%, none 2.9% (2007 est.)
Terrain: western coastal plain (coast), high and rugged Andes in center (mountains), eastern lowland jungle of Amazon Basin (jungle)
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Nevado Huascaran 6,768 m
Natural resources: copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash, hydropower, natural gas
Agriculture – products: asparagus, coffee, cocoa, cotton, sugarcane, rice, potatoes, corn, plantains, grapes, oranges, pineapples, guavas, bananas, apples, lemons, pears, coca, tomatoes, mangoes, barley, medicinal plants, palm oil, marigold, onion, wheat, dry beans; poultry, beef, pork, dairy products; guinea pigs; fish
Industries: mining and refining of minerals; steel, metal fabrication; petroleum extraction and refining, natural gas and natural gas liquefaction; fishing and fish processing, cement, glass, textiles, clothing, food processing, beer, soft drinks, rubber, machinery, electrical machinery, chemicals, furniture
Exports: copper, gold, lead, zinc, tin, iron ore, molybdenum, silver; crude petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas; coffee, asparagus and other vegetables, fruit, apparel and textiles, fishmeal, fish, chemicals, fabricated metal products and machinery, alloys
Shopping hours:  Shops mostly: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 3 p.m. to 8 p.m Monday to Saturday; Banks: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; some banks open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever, malaria, and Bartonellosis (Oroya fever) (2013)
Climate: varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west; temperate to cold in the Andes
Natural hazards: earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, mild volcanic activity


The weather in Peru varies a lot, depending on the altitude and area. 
On the coast the winter season lasts from June to September. It is cloudy but rarely very cold. Most of the coast is dry, as it hardly ever rains  in this region (in Lima too), only Tumbes and Piura have tropical climates.

The best time to go (and the high tourist season) is from June to September when the mountainous areas are often sunny during the day but cold at night. The rainy season starts in September in the Andes, with peak rainfall from January to March, its advised to avoid hiking at this time.

The main and traditional ingidients in Peruvian cuisine are corn, potates, Amaranthaceaes (Quinoa, Kaniwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lupines). Traditional Peruvian Dishes are called Comida Criolla (Creolle Food), for example:
·    Ceviche - uncooked fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and hot chilli pepper.
·    Cuy - roasted guinea pig, a Peruvian speciality; served complete with head, teeth, claws and whiskers.
·    Causa relleña - potato cakes with chicken in the centre, but also cooked with avocado or crabmeat.
·    Tamales - boiled corn dumplings filled with meat and wrapped in a banana leaf.
·    Mazamorra morada - purple maize and sweet potato starch jelly cooked with lemons, dried fruits, cinnamon and cloves.
·    Salchipapas - particularly popular in Chiclayo, this sausage and chips dish is eaten as an evening snack in many fast food-style restaurants.
·    Papas a la Huancaína - boiled sliced potatoes served on lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce, and either a piece of hard-boiled egg or olives; popular in Lima and along the central coast, and often part of menus of the day.
·    Pollo a la Brasa - chargrilled chicken which has been gutted and cooked over a flame; served with chips and salad with sauces.
·    Chicharrones  - salted pork fried in its own fat.
·    Tacu Tacu - a mixture of rice, beans, bacon, onions and spices is formed to a thick pancake and stir-fried.
Peruvian Desserts:
·    Picarones - these look like thin donuts (with a big hole in the center);  they are sweet, but not overly so, and are a filling dessert or snack.
·    Lucuma – this 'nutty' flavored, orange colored fruit can frequently be found in Peruvian desserts.
·    Mazamorra Morada - a purple jelly-like dessert that gets its color from one of its ingredients, maiz morado or purple corn.

Regional drinks:
·    Pisco – the national spirit, a brandy distilled from grapes.
·    Pisco sour - the national cocktail, a bittersweet pisco-based drink made with lime juice, egg white and sugar. Other pisco-based drinks are algarrobina (pisco and carob syrup), chilcano (pisco and ginger ale) and capitán (pisco and vermouth).
·    Chicha de jora - a strongly alcoholic drink made of fermented maize.
·    Chicha morada - non-alcoholic purple corn juice.
·    Beers: Cuzqueña from Cusco and Arequipeña from Arequipa, along with Pilsen and Cristal.

Peruvian Spanish has four dialects: ecuatorial (Equatorial), ribereño (Riverside), andino (Andean) and amazónico (Amazonian).
Quechua is famous for being the language of the Inca Empire of Peru. There are more than 25 variations of Quechua in Peru which means dialects can only be understood by locals or immediate neighbours. As well as Quechua, there are many other indigenous languages, such as Arawak and Pano.


·    Alucina  - can you believe it?
·    Jarana - party with folk music.
·    Juerga - party.
·    Wayki or waykicha – friend
·    Yusulpayki / sulpa / añay - thank you
·    Ama hina kaychu - please (literally, "don't be like that")
·    Masi / kumpa - friend
·    Manan - no
·    Manapuni - not at all!
·    Arí - yes (the stress goes in the last particle)
These ones apply for Cusco dialect, and are intelligible also with Ayacucho, Huancavelica, and some Arequipa dialects.

·    As a mark of respect, Peruvians should be addressed as usted (the polite form of tú) unless they indicate otherwise.
·    Politeness is very important. Shaking hands is the customary form of greeting. Kissing on one cheek between women and between women and men is common in coastal cities.
·    If you deal with some travel problem, do not lose your temper as Peruvians are not confrontational people. Better stay patient, keep smiling and someone will help you eventually.
·    Like most South Americans, Peruvians have a very relaxed approach to time; both business and social meetings regularly start half an hour late. Also deadlines are fluid in Peru.
·    Interpesonal relations are very important, so cultivate them as more important is “who you know” than “what you know”. Relationships are more important than business documents.
·    As this is hierarchical society, managers should not consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

Lima, the capital of Peru founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, is a great metropolis and offers a rich history as well as exceptional food, a vibrant culture and lively nightlife. Lima is the entrance door to the country.

Don't miss a trip to capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco with a fascinating mix of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture.  It is also called "the Archaeological Capital of America". Cusco is a popular base to explore nearby famous ruins like Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The awe-inspiring Inca city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 and is arguably the most famous archaeological wonders. It is located 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) above sea level in the Andes Mountains. The “Lost City of the Incas” is invisible from the Urubamba Valley below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs.

If you still have an appetite for Incan ruins, Sacsayhuamán is a great place to explore on horseback.

Visit Manu National Park, which is home to around 2,000 plant species, 1,200 butterfly species, 800 bird types and 200 different mammals, including monkeys, tapirs, sloth, jaguar and capybaras.

Arequipa, widely known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) for its beautiful colonial style (homes, churches and monasteries constructed of a white ashlar), is surrounded by three picturesque volcanoes in the country’s Southern Coastal region. Arequipa is also the gateway to Peru’s most visited natural attraction, the Colca Canyon, which is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Trujillo, known as the City of Eternal Spring”, was the capital of the Chimu Nation XII Century) and is one of the biggest cities build with mud in the world. It was declared Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Trujillo is close to the pre-Columbian site of Chan Chan, the largest adobe (mud) city in the ancient world and the beach resort of Huanchaco. It is estimated that around 30,000 people lived in the Chan Chan.

Chiclayo, located on Peru's northern coast, is in the centre of a Pre-Incan archaeological area and became Peru's second destination, after Cuzco, in terms of archaeological and historical interest.

Take a cruise on Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, surrounded by ancient ruins and home to several small island communities, including the Uros islands.

Beside the Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world inhabited by the Uros people is Puno, located in the Andean highland. It is the folkloric capital of Peru.

If you look for a place to chill out for a few days, visit Huacachina, a tiny oasis town in the Peruvian desert near Ica surrounding a small natural lake and itself surrounded by towering sand dunes.

The Nazca Lines are a unique place in the world, full with mystery and mysticism, wonderful forms of immense figures and lines, of spectacular perfection, work of a very old Peruvian civilization.

When looking for a stopover, go to Mancora – one of Peru’s best sandy beaches, located on the northern coast of the Pacific. It is popular particularly among surfers.

Everybody who wants to feel intimate contact with the nature of the Amazon rainforest should visit Iquitos, which is  inaccessible by roads and is the gateway to exploring the Amazon, the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Also the Paracas National Reserve can be a paradise for the nature lovers and birdwatchers as it is situated at shore of the pacific Ocean.

Check our volunteering programmes in PERU here!

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