Culture and Archeology of Peru

10 Days from From $3400

A journey of discovery through the cultural and archeological treasures of Peru—past and present —culminating with Machu Picchu. Suitable for all ages and ability levels.

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Peru is a dream destination for the armchair anthropologist and archeologist. From the colorful dress of the native Quechua to the astounding Inca ruins that abound, the treasures of Peru, both living and ancient, are abundant and fascinating. We invite you to join us on a remarkable journey of exploration, accompanied by bilingual, entertaining, and knowledgeable guides who will proudly share with you the people, culture, and history of their amazing Andean homeland. The trip will begin in Lima—once one of South America’s gems, where the history and the world class cuisine will impress Then, off to Cusco, the center of the Inca civilization, for an in-depth exploration of Inca ruins, Spanish architecture, and thriving modern Quechua culture. The tour descends down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, then by train, to the crown jewel of our journey—Machu Picchu. All accommodations are in elegant, boutique hotels and all tours contain our signature “magic” touches to make for an unforgettable vacation.

Day 1
Arrive in Lima. A Bio Bio Expeditions Perú representative will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel to rest after the long flight.  Most flights from the US arrive in Lima at night.

Overnight at the Hotel Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores.

Day 2
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel we will enjoy a city tour of Lima.  Lima was once a gem of South America – located on the Pacific it was an important part of the Inca empire.  There are fascinating historical districts and buildings from the time of the Conquistadors.  Currently Lima is famous for its delicious, innovative cuisine.  You will have a chance to sample some of Peru’s signature dishes at lunch and dinner.  After lunch, in the afternoon we will visit the Gold Museum, a Peruvian marvel, full of treasures from the Inca Empire.  You are free to choose a restaurant for dinner – anything from traditional Peruvian cuisine to one of the many avant-garde restaurants that serve South American specialties with a modern touch.   Sleep well because the next day we have our flight to Cusco.

Overnight: Hotel Casa Andina PC MIraflores (Lima)
Included Meals: B

Day 3
Short, spectacular flight from Lima to Cusco.  You will be met at the airport and drive by private transport to the Sacred Valley of the Incas – approximately 1 hours drive.  We will have a delicious lunch, check into our beautiful hotel, then enjoy a free afternoon to go for a walk, take advantage of the hotel spa services, or just relax!

Overnight: Hotel Casa Andina PC Valle
Meals: B

Day 4 Maras-Moray tour
In the morning our private transport will pick us up to visit Maras and Moray. Moray is a place of depressions, or, natural gigantic holes up high above the Sacred Valley.  The Incas used these natural depressions to construct farming terraces with irrigation canals.  The fascinating aspect of this deep, circular series of terraces is that the temperature fluctuates as much as 15 degrees Celsius from top to bottom.  So, the Incas used this as an agricultural test site to see what crops grew best at different altitudes and temperatures.  From here we will pass a typical Spanish village,  Maras, and enjoy a delicious lunch.  Towards the northwest of the village of Maras we will explore the famous “salineras” or ” salt pans” that have been in continuous use for centuries.  We will return to our hotel which has a full, upscale restaurant.

Overnight: Hotel Casa Andina PC Valle
Meals: B + Snacks

Day 5 Pisac; Awanacancha; y Mercado
We start the day visiting Pisac, the ruins and also the colorful market. The Pisac ruins give insight into the Inca’s advanced masonry skills.  The stone has the same copper hue as the surrounding land and demonstrates the Inca’s advanced masonry skills.  The views of the Sacred Valley and the towering Andes is amazing.  The market is also a good reason to stop here, where you can find some unique and authentic souvenirs.  After lunch in Pisac we will transfer back over the pass to Cusco and check into our hotel – a centrally located boutique hotel in a beautifully restored colonial building.  You are free to enjoy one of Cusco’s many delicious restaurants.

Overnight: Hotel Casa Andina PC (Cusco)
Meals: B + Snacks

Day 6 City tour and Museum
During our Cusco city tour, we will visit the cathedral – a Spanish colonial monument that was built right on top of an Incan temple, the Temple of the Koricancha (a religious center known as the temple of the Sun), and the  MAP museum of Pre-Columbian Art.

A few words about Cusco:
If the Incas were the Romans of pre-Columbian America, Cusco was their Rome. The Incas built a vast empire that stretched from modern Ecuador and Colombia to southern Chile. The empire, much larger in size than any previous new world empire, was called Tawantinsuyo – the “Four Quarters of the Earth.” Cusco was the heart of the empire, and its exact center was considered to be the main square of the city. Cusco today is still laid out much as it was in Inca times. Seen from above, it takes the form of a puma, with the river Tullumayo forming its spine, the ruins of Sacsayhuaman the head, and the main city center the body. The center, or torso, was a tongue of land bordered on the east side by the Tullumayo and on the west by the Huatanay. These two rivers now run under concrete. Cusco was more than just a capital city to the Incas and the millions of subjects in their realm. Cusco was a Holy city, a place of pilgrimage that was as important to the Quechuas as Mecca is to Muslims.

Cusco is a hustling and bustling marketplace where goods and services of all kinds meet the eye. The city impacts all the senses as the sounds greet our ears and aromas of spicy local kitchens tantalize our noses. Truly colorful people draw our attention as they busily display their wares. Merchants smile and make a sale with characteristic cheerfulness. A good place to take it all in is the central “Plaza De Armas”, where in the second floor restaurants, you can enjoy a beer or a cool drink and watch the thriving city action from the balconied terraces above.

Overnight: Hotel Casa Andina PC (Cusco)
Meals: B + Snacks

Day 7  – 4 Ruins Tour
Today we will enjoy a tour of the amazing ruins that surround Cusco.  We begin with Sacsayhuaman, an impressive site of monumental stones and excellent architecture. We will continue on to visit Quenco, a commercial and ritual center, and Puca Pucara fortress.   Lastly, Tambomachay, a ceremonial center honoring the element of water.   Along the way we will have a gourmet, catered picnic amongst the ruins and overlooking Cusco.  You can expect tables with linens, chairs, gourmet cuisine and fine wines.

Overnight: Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco
Meals: B + snacks + picnic

Day 8 Visit to Chinchero; Ollantaytambo and Train to Aguas Calientes
In the morning we´ll drive to Chinchero, a farming village dedicated to the production of potatoes and magnificent textiles.  Then, to Ollantaytambo, the end-of-the-road.  This is a bustling, fun town that maintains its Inca heritage with its intact streets and houses, the temple made of huge stones found on top of a hillside, and the shrines in the middle of gardens with water dripping into ponds and canals. We will make our way to the train station to board our first class train to Aguas Calientes.  We will stay in a beautiful hotel along the wild Urubamba River canyon.  The Pueblo Hotel is a verdant nature sanctuary featuring a nature trail and hundreds of species of orchids.

Overnight: Pueblo Hotel (Aguas Calientes)
Meals: B + snacks

Day 9 Machu Picchu Tour and Back to Cusco
We will get up early this morning to enjoy a full day at Machu Picchu.  It’s a short, twisty drive up to the Citadel’s entrance. We will spend most of the day at the ruins with our knowledgeable Peruvian guide who will show us all the wonders of Machu Picchu.  There are no words to describe the wonders of Machu Picchu – it must be seen!  In the late afternoon, we climb aboard the train for the beautiful ride through the Urubamba River canyon and back to Cusco for a festive farewell dinner.

Overnight: Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco
Meals: B + snacks

Day 10
Fly to Lima and connect back to the US


Casa Andina Private Collection

A beautifully renovated 18th-century manor house, just 3 blocks from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, replete with authentic colonial character. It offers the intimacy of a boutique hotel but the comforts and services of a much larger property.The hotel is distinguished by its 3 interior patios with wooden balconies. The principal patio, featuring a gurgling stone fountain, is one of Cusco’s emblematic colonial courtyards. In the hotel’s cozy lounge and reading room is a massive stone fireplace that’s always crackling, while the romantic gourmet restaurant invites guests to dine by candlelight in one of 4 connected salons richly decorated with 18th-century Cusco School paintings. Several rooms in the original structure of the hotel feature surviving colonial frescoes unearthed during renovation.



Urubamba Boutique Lodge

They say that the valley, the mountains, the farming terraces and the river were all home to the most important of the Inca heritage, with their magic and mysticism. The valley guards this magical sensation which helps you to relax, sharing its magnificent greenery against a shining sky.

With these pleasures in mind, Urubamba Boutique Lodge has reserved a place on our riverside terrace for you so you may enjoy the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Each of our rooms has a balcony, many overlooking the river, and our dining room offers a panoramic view of the lush surroundings.

Urubamba Boutique Lodge has 20 rooms, including 2 Suites. All of our rooms have been designed and decorated to make you feel at home while still offering a link to Peruvian culture and Inca history. With views of the river, mountains or our surrounding gardens, it´s impossible not to relax and enjoy yourself!

Our rooms include:

– One or two twin, double or queen size beds
– Private bathroom with bathtub
– Room Service
– Local handmade decorations
– Personal balconies for rooms on the second floor.

Casa Andina Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley’s most complete hotel: a mountain chalet-styled retreat with panoramic Andes views from every room and every angle. On more than 8 landscaped acres (3 hectares), it breathes an air of tranquility and relaxation. Unique among Sacred Valley hotels – most of which remain isolated in the valley, offering precious little for guests to do – it contains an extraordinary, full-service “Sacred Spa”, a domed Planetarium & Observatory for stargazing in the massive Southern Hemisphere sky, and gourmet restaurant and bar.

The 85 inviting, spacious rooms overlook the property’s extensive gardens and feature either private balconies or sunny sitting areas. Equidistant between Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of Cusco, the hotel is perfectly positioned for easy access to the valley’s abundant attractions and incomparable Inca ruins, including world-renowned Machu Picchu.


Aguas Calientes

Coming soon…

Trip Length: 10 Days
Deposit: $600.


U.S. citizens are required to have a passport that is valid for 6 months after your travel dates begin.Return to top of page


You are responsible for booking all flights, international as well as domestic.  However, if you need help, please feel free to call or email the Bio Bio office. One travel agent we often use is:Americas Travel, San Francisco

Office Hours: 10-6 pm Mon-Fri (PST), 888-703-9955
Flying In…The tour officially begins in Cusco on Day 1. You will fly into Lima and then transfer to a domestic flight. Please try not to arrive in Cusco before 10:00 AM as your hotel room will not be ready and most things are closed in the city. You may want to fly in the day before and spend the night in Lima.  We can arrange a hotel for that evening if you prefer, or we can arrange extra nights for you in Cusco.
Flying Out…You can fly out of Cusco to Lima and then home all on the last day. We suggest spending a big part of the day in Cusco and then departing Cusco in the early evening. Or you can choose to spend more time in either of these cities and fly home at a later date. We are happy to help you arrange tours and lodging.
When you leave Lima, there is a departure tax of approximately US$30.

Miami to Lima: 5:25 hrs
Lima to Cusco: 1.5 hrs
Cusco to Puerto Maldonado: 1 hr
Puerto Maldonado to Lima: 2.5 hrs

Peru is on Central Standard Time


Baggage Allowance and Suggested Gear

Please see what restrictions your airline imposes, as the rules and allowances are constantly changing. Typically you are allowed two checked bags up to 50 Lbs each, plus one carry on bag and a purse.

You will be provided with one soft duffle bag when you arrive to Cusco to pack all your gear for the Lares Trek. The porters will carry this duffle bag. Your suitcase will be left at the hotel with non-trekking clothes and items – while your suitcases are kept in safe storage we still recommend using a lock on your suitcase.  Keep all important documents, including your passport, with you in your daypack. Please note that your Lares Trek bag with your camping gear will have a weight limit of 18 lbs! This is required by law in Peru to protect the porters. That does not include your tent which will be carried in a different bag.

  • Sleeping bag: A 20 or 30-degree bag is warm enough,  a compression stuff-sack is helpful to save space.
  • Sleeping pad: This is very important, and not something you want to skimp on. Thermarest makes a good inflatable pad. We can rent Thermarest pads for you in Peru if you’d like. Please let us know in advance so we can reserve them.
  • Camp pillow or stuff sack to use as a pillow
  • Travel Clothing: 2-3 pairs of pants and 4-5 shirts that are lightweight and quick drying.  A long skirt or nice pants are also nice for special dinners in towns.
  • A day backpack: We recommend that you carry the following items in your daypack:  water, sunglasses, camera and film, extra layers in case the weather turns cool, flashlight/headlamp/blister kit, any prescription medications you use, your passport, sun hat, warm hat, sunscreen.
  • Flashlight and or headlamp, extra batteries. The days are 12 hours long on the equator so it will get dark around 6:00pm.
  • Toiletry kit, personal medicines – particularly allergy and diabetic prescriptions, shampoo, soap, toothbrush, lotion, bug repellent.
  • Rain jacket and pants– lightweight Gortex or similar.
  • Shoes 2 pairs– One pair for city visits, towns, villages. One pair of lightweight hiking shoes for hiking.
  • 1 fleece light or mid weight – for layering or a lightweight wool sweater.
  • 1 fleece zip up mid weight jacket
  • 2 pairs long underwear – synthetic material both top and bottom
  • 2 or 3 T-shirts
  • Hiking pants of synthetic material or fleece pants: 1 pair of pants that are comfortable to hike in, smart pants by Exoffico or similar that have zip off options.
  • Hiking shorts
  • Down Jacket: The temperature at certain camps can drop below freezing and a warm down jacket as well as multiple layers of fleece are important to have.
  • Wide brimmed sun hat
  • Lotion and sunscreen
  • Insect Repellent – minimum recommended 20%deet (Jungle Juice) please note: no instances of malaria have ever been registered on this trip.
  • Camera, film and batteries – back up memory cards and batteries
  • Personal Snacks- You will be provided with great snacks (energy bars, trail mix, fruits) everyday and delicious food on the Inca Trail. Only bring snacks if you have a have a favorite kind or personal preference.
  • Swim Suit
  • H2O bottle (water bottle or camelback) key item! You should have at least a 2-liter water carrying capacity. Filtered water is provided. You will be able to refill your bottles in the morning, at lunchtime and when you arrive to the camp in the afternoon.
  • 2 heavy duty trash bags to keep your camp gear dry inside your duffel (and later for laundry)
  • Ziplock bags: several sizes to help organize your camp items, lotions, socks, underwear, etc.
  • Moist Towlettes: for personal cleaning
  • Small towel for washing up at camp
  • Trekking Poles (optional) – must have rubber tips on the bottom to protect the trail

*Remember when packing your carry-on bag to bring any medications needed as well as any toothpaste or lotions in a plastic zip loc bag for security.  You may want to bring a toothbrush on your overnight flight as well as a change of clothing.

BioBio Expeditions has partnered with Tahoe Mountain Sports, our local outfitter, to help you collect the gear needed for your upcoming adventure! Use the promo code BioBio1 at checkout and receive 15% off all full priced items in your shopping cart. Click this LINK to see some products offered at TMS that are on your packing list or visit their online store at:



Peru is typical of many South American countries in that it effectively operates a dual-currency system. Both the US dollar (dólares) and the Peruvian Nuevo Sol (soles) are in circulation and although the government prefers people to use soles, most sizeable purchases are made in dollars. In practice, this means that anything costing more than, say, a meal in a nice restaurant, is paid for in dollars. The Nuevo Sol is perfectly stable so you don’t have to worry about inflation problems during your stay!
Extra Expenses

You are responsible for some meals as stipulated in the itinerary. These meals will cost between $5 and $25. And of course, you can go all out at a high-end restaurant. For meals that are included, you will need to pay for your own alcohol. You will also need money for gifts and tipping.

Plus, Cirrus and other networks connecting ATMs are available in Peru. The exchange rates you get when withdrawing from cash machines are standard. This is the approach we usually recommend. Cash machines dispense both dollars and soles and most accept the major debit cards. Be aware of counterfeit currency and avoid being followed to and from an ATM machine! Go in pairs!
Credit Cards

If your credit card has been programmed with a PIN, it’s likely you can use your card at Peruvian ATMs to withdraw money as a cash advance. Always ask your bank before you leave home about the number of withdrawals you may make abroad, the limit each day, and also let them know where you are going so they do not put a hold on your card. You may be charged a fee for each transaction.

Most of the bigger restaurants and shops accept credit cards. If you have American Express, Visa, Master Card and Diners Club, you’re probably equipped for any establishment that takes cards. If you only have one, have VISA. A shopkeeper may require you to pay the credit card fee for purchases, so for the most ease, we recommend you use cash whenever possible.
Banking Hours

Banks are generally open from 9am to 6pm. Some banks close for 2 hours from 1pm to 3pm. Banco de Credito del Peru does NOT close. In Cusco you will find many banks on Sol Avenue, one block from the main square. It is recommended to go to an “exchange office”. You must bring your passport to exchange money. Never change a large sum (more than $100) and again, go in pairs, and avoid being followed by robbers.
Personal Checks

Personal checks are not accepted in shops or at your hotels. It’s a good idea, however, to bring a few for possible emergencies.
Travelers Cheques

Travel checks are less desirable as fewer and fewer places will change them, and you may end up in long bank lines. You will need to show your passport to cash your checks at the bank.

Tipping is, of course, entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received. Typically, you should designate 10-15% of the land cost of the trip for tips. For example, a $4000 trip would mean $400 in tips. This will be split up on 2 different occasions:

  1. At the end of the Lares Trek, each client should tip the porters $75-100. This will be divided up among the 20-30 staff that have made your Inca trek possible.
  2. At the farewell dinner of Day 8 in Cusco, you can give the largest portion of your tip to the trip leader and he will divide it up amongst himself and the various tour guides.

Other smaller tips might be for airport luggage carriers, hotel staff and drivers. This is where $1 bills or single soles come in handy. The norm at restaurants is approximately 5-15%.

For some background information, Peru has a minimum salary of 550 Nuevo Soles (US$170) monthly for a 6-day, 48-hour week. However, in many of the lower paid jobs (e.g. waiters, porters etc) this is not always enforced. 1 Nuevo Sol (soles) is roughly the equivalent of US$30.Return to top of page


Trip Insurance

Bio Bio Expeditions encourages all clients to obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected events such as trip cancellations, trip delay, lost baggage, medical expenses, etc. We will also forward a brochure from Travelex ( Our agent code is 05-8655. They have good rates and excellent coverage for international travel.

Although there are no immunizations required to travel to Peru, it is usually recommended that typhoid and diphtheria-tetanus protection be current. Hepatitis A, taken just before departure, is also recommended. The cholera vaccination is no longer officially required, and cholera can be avoided by practicing strict food and water precautions. In general, we advise that you consult your physician regarding recommended immunizations and other health precautions. Bio Bio Expeditions does not take responsibility for which medications or inoculations you and your physician deem necessary for your safe participation on the expedition in Peru.

For further information, call the CDC’s International Traveler’s Hotline:

Phone: 1-888-232-4636

Although it requires a little extra caution when drinking fluids in Peru, it is essential to stay well hydrated. We advise that you not drink any of the tap water in Peru; this includes no ice in your drink. Bottled water is fine to drink and can be ordered at most restaurants and found in local grocery stores. Ask for “agua mineral, sin gas (non-carbonated) or con gas (carbonated)”. When ordering sodas, it is best to request them without ice (sin hielo), as the ice is usually made from tap water. Additionally, be sure to brush your teeth with bottled water.

The major precaution regarding food pertains to raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables (including lettuce) – avoid them unless you are dining in a high-end restaurant! If you can’t peel it, don’t eat it as it has probably been washed in tap water, or not washed at all, and that can make you sick. The high altitude also affects one’s digestive system so it is recommended to eat in moderation and avoid rich, thick foods (such as mayonnaise). However, don’t be afraid to try new foods and dishes – just be cautious. Peru has some of the finest, most delicious cuisine in the world! We want you to experience the many new flavors and local cuisine, but there are some things to consider when making food choices, especially where you are eating. The more high end restaurants in Cusco are fairly safe bets for trying new things. Street food should generally be avoided. This brings us to our next topic…
Digestive Worries

Traveling to Peru is going to have a notable impact on your body. Despite the many precautions we all take to stay healthy, occasionally one may experience diarrhea. The major problem associated with diarrhea is fluid loss leading to severe dehydration, so it is important to maintain plentiful fluid intake. Avoid milk and avoid caffeine, as it will only further dehydrate you. The best drinks are weak tea, mineral water, and caffeine-free soft drinks. Ideally it is best to let diarrhea run its course, however you may want to bring over-the-counter diarrhea medication to minimize your potential discomfort. We also advise that you carry your own supply of toilet paper, as most of the restrooms in South America either don’t have TP, or they charge you for it. The bottom line (no pun intended) is to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest! Lastly, we encourage that you, and all our staff, practice impeccable hand hygiene – you can’t wash your hands enough! Sanitizer gels are great when hand washing with soap and water is not available.

If you currently take prescription medications, be sure to have a plentiful supply and also the doctor’s written prescription in case you need a refill. It is best to carry medications in your carry-on bag in case of lost luggage. Also, if you wear prescription glasses or contacts, we advise that you bring along a spare set.

Electrical current in Peru is 220 volts AC, and the plugs are different from the USA two prong.

Although the Peruvians are a warm, friendly, fun-loving people, thievery is a common problem. Always keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. When with other people, watch out for each other. Large crowds are prime locations for pick-pocketing to occur. Keep your money in a money belt or hidden pouch around your neck and under your shirt. When purchasing items, do not pull out lots of money. We advise that you leave all valuable jewelry, including watches, at home. Thieves often work in pairs or groups – one tries to distract you (e.g.: by squirting food or paint on your clothing) and in the ensuing confusion, another one makes off with your belongings. The areas around the main square in Cusco are well patrolled by police and tourist police. However, we encourage you to be very cautious and never be walking the streets alone after dark.
Jet Lag Precautions

When you cross several time zones to reach your destination, you often lose many hours of regular sleep. On arrival, your body then must suddenly adjust to new sleeping and eating patterns. The result is jet lag. Its symptoms are fatigue – often compounded by insomnia and restlessness – irritability and vague disorientation. You cannot totally avoid jet lag, but you can minimize it. Here’s how:

  • Start your trip well rested. Try to begin a gradual transition to your new time zone before you leave.
  • Switch to your destination time zone when you get on the plane. Attempt to sleep and eat according to the new schedule.
  • Try to sleep on overnight flights.
  • Avoid heavy eating and drinking caffeine or alcoholic beverages right before and during your flight.
  • Drink plenty of water and or fruit juice while flying. You should buy a large bottle of water at a kiosk right before boarding – once you have cleared inside security and are “inside”.
  • After arrival, avoid the temptation to nap, unless you didn’t sleep at all on the plane.
  • Don’t push yourself to see a lot on your first day.
  • Try to stay awake your first day until after dinner.

Altitude Sickness

Cusco sits at almost 11,000 feet. This is one of the highest places most of us have ever, or will ever, stay for an extended period of time. The altitude can cause some physical reaction in almost anyone. Most people experience shortness of breath, headaches, and some dehydration. We recommend taking it easy your first day and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. If you feel sick, be sure to rest, breathe deeply, drink lots of fluids (bottled water), and perhaps take a mild pain killer for headaches. Locally brewed coca tea also seems to help. True altitude sickness is rare, but if the symptoms become severe, please let a Bio Bio Expeditions representative know. The front desk of the hotel often has spare oxygen bottles if needed.

How well your individual body adapts to the thinner air depends a good deal on innate factors that you have no control over. That being said, people in top shape often acclimate better because they expend less energy hiking, leaving their bodies ready for the task of acclimatization. Proper hydration has also been proven to be essential in this task. There is no substitute for being in top shape and staying hydrated

Many altitude physicians recommend bringing the following medications for prevention and or treatment of altitude related problems:

Diamox: 125 mg, twice a day. Beginning 24 hours before ascent to a sleeping elevation of 8,000-10,000 feet and continuing through duration of climb. Please discuss with your physician.



Almost the same size as Alaska, Peru is the third largest country in South America, covering 496,226 square miles. Peru is divided into three distinct geographic regions: the narrow, dry coastal plain in the west; the high Andes Mountains roughly in the center; and the tropical lowlands of the Amazon Basin to the east. Peru shares with Bolivia the highest navigable body of water in the world – Lake Titicaca. There is little rainfall along the coast, although he winter is foggy, humid and cool. The capital city of Lima, the temperature is moderate year-round, averaging 65*F.

Several of South America’s most advanced cultures lived in pre-Columbian Peru. The last of these groups was the great Incan Empire, which was unsurpassed in the art of stonecutting and also achieved a high degree of economic and political development. Incan and earlier Chimu ruins, notably at Cusco, Chan Chan, and Machu Picchu, make Peru a favorite destination for archaeologists and tourists. In 1532, the Spanish invaded Peru under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro. They conquered the Incas the next year. The area soon became the richest and most powerful Spanish colony in South America because of its location and many mineral treasures.

Under the leadership of South American liberator Jose de San Martin, Peru declared independence from Spain in July 1821. With the help of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan general who liberated several other countries, the fight for full independence was won by 1826. For a century, Peru worked to secure its territory and build its social institutions.

Peru is a republic. It is divided into 24 departamentos (similar to states). The president holds executive power and serves a five-year term. All citizens age 18 and older are required to vote. The unicameral Congress consists of 120 members, who serve five-year terms. Major political parties include the Change 90-New Majority Party, Union for Peru, the Popular Christian Party, and the Popular Action Party.

The population of Peru is approximately 27 million and is growing at 1.75 percent annually. Population density is generally low due to the country’s large land area. Peru’s population is ethnically diverse. About 45 percent is Indian, descendants of the Incan Empire. Many ethnic and linguistic divisions exist among Indians, some of whom are still fairly isolated in the Amazon jungle. Another 37 percent is of mixed European and Indian heritage. Fifteen percent is of European descent (mostly Spanish), and the remaining 3 percent is composed of blacks (descendants of West African slaves), Japanese, Chinese and other smaller groups. About half of the population is younger than age 20. Lima is the largest city, with more than seven million residents.

The official languages in Peru are Spanish and Quechua but Spanish will be your most useful language, even in the highlands. The Spanish spoken in Peru is almost identical to the Castilian Spanish of Madrid, albeit with slightly different pronunciation and a few vocabulary changes. In the high Andes, particularly around Cusco and Puno, many people still speak Aymara or Quechua (the language of the Incas) as a first language, although almost all will also speak Spanish. The good news is that in most places like restaurants, hotels, etc., there is usually someone who speaks English – and, of course, all our representatives and guides speak both English and Spanish.

If you do speak some ‘Spanish’ then you shouldn’t have too many problems speaking with the locals in Peru. The major difference in accent between Peruvian Spanish and Castilian Spanish is that the letters c and z are pronounced like the English s rather than the traditional th. In general, Peruvian Spanish is a little slower and less heavily accented than most Spanish you would hear in Spain.

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