Peru destinations

about Peru is as complex as its most intricate and exquisite weavings. Festivals mark ancient rites, the urban vanguard fuels innovation and nature bestows splendid diversity.

All Things Ancient

Visitors flock to the glorious Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, yet this feted site is just a flash in a 5000-year history of Peruvian settlement. Explore the dusty remnants of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian ruins in all the Americas. Fly over the puzzling geoglyphs etched into the arid earth at Nazca. Or venture into the rugged wilds that surround the enduring fortress of Kuélap. Lima’s great museums reveal in full detail the sophistication, skill and passion of these lost civilizations. Visit remote communities and see how old ways live on. Immerse yourself, and you'll leave Peru a little closer to the past.

Pleasure & the Palate

One existential question haunts all Peruvians: what to eat? Ceviche with slivers of fiery chili and corn, slow-simmered stews, velvety Amazonian chocolate – in the capital of Latin American cooking, the choices dazzle. Great geographic and cultural diversity has brought ingredients ranging from highland tubers to tropical jungle fruits to a complex cuisine with Spanish, indigenous, African and Asian influences. The truth is, fusion existed here long before it came with airs and graces. Explore the bounty of food markets. Sample grilled anticuchos (beef skewers) on the street corners and splurge a little on exquisite novoandina (Peruvian nouvelle cuisine).

Oh, Adventure

From downtown Lima to smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, this vast country is a paradise for the active traveler. Giant sand dunes, chiseled peaks and Pacific breaks lie just a few heartbeats away from the capital’s rush-hour traffic, and all the usual suspects – rafting, paragliding, zip-lines and bike trails – are present. Spot scarlet macaws in the Amazon or catch the sunset over ancient ruins. Take this big place in small bites and don't rush. Delays happen. Festivals can swallow you whole for days. And you'll realize: in Peru the adventure usually lies in getting there.

Life is a Carnival

Welcome to a place of mythical beliefs where ancient pageants unwind to the tune of booming brass bands. Peru's rich cultural heritage is never more real and visceral than when you are immersed streetside in the swirling madness of a festival. Deities of old are reincarnated as Christian saints, pilgrims climb mountains in the dead of night and icons are paraded through crowded plazas as once were the mummies of Inca rulers. History is potent here and still pulsing, and there is no better way to experience it.

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When fog shrouds its colonial facades and high-rises, Lima's enchantments come across as all too subtle. After Cairo, this sprawling metropolis is the second-driest world capital, rising above a long coastline of crumbling cliffs. To enjoy it, climb on the wave of chaos that spans high-rise condos built alongside pre-Columbian temples and fast Pacific breakers rolling toward noisy traffic snarl-ups. Think one part southern Cali doused with a heavy dose of America Latina.

But Lima is also sophisticated, with a civilization that dates back millennia. Stately museums display sublime pottery; galleries debut edgy art; solemn religious processions recall the 18th century and crowded nightclubs dispense tropical beats. No visitor can miss the capital’s culinary genius, part of a gastronomic revolution more than 400 years in the making.

This is Lima. Shrouded in history, gloriously messy and full of aesthetic delights. Don’t even think of missing it.

Sights

The city’s historic heart, Lima Centro (Central Lima) is a grid of crowded streets laid out in the 16th-century days of Francisco Pizarro, and home to most of the city’s surviving colonial architecture.

Bustling narrow streets are lined with ornate baroque churches in Lima's historic and commercial center, located on the south bank of the Río Rímac. Few colonial mansions remain, as many have been lost to expansion, earthquakes and the perennially moist weather. The best access to the Plaza de Armas is the pedestrian-only street Jirón de la Unión.

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Sleeping

From family pensións to glass towers, Lima has every type of accommodations. Though it's one of the most expensive destinations in the country, an overflow of lodgings means there's some good value, particularly in the midrange.

If arriving at night, it’s worth contacting hotels in advance to arrange for airport pickup; even budget hostels can arrange this – sometimes for a few dollars less than the official airport service.

Entertainment

Some of the best events in the city – film screenings, art exhibits, theater and dance – are put on by the various cultural institutes, some of which have several branches. Check individual websites or newspapers. Lima Agenda Cultural (www.enlima.pe) has event listings.

Eating

The gastronomic capital of the continent, Lima is home to some of the country’s most sublime culinary creations: from dishes served at simple cevicherías (restaurants serving ceviche) and corner anticucho (beef skewer) stands to outstanding molecular cuisine. It has staggeringly fresh seafood, while its status as a centralized capital assures the presence of all manner of regional specialties.

Drinking & Nightlife

Lima is overflowing with establishments of every description, from rowdy beer halls to high-end lounges to atmospheric old bars.

Shopping

Clothing, jewelry and handicrafts from all over Peru can be found in Lima. Shop prices tend to be high, but bargain hunters can haggle their hearts out at craft markets. Credit cards and traveler’s checks can be used at some spots, but you’ll need photo ID.

Travel with Children

The good news is that Lima is full of families and locals are very welcoming toward children. Streets have a fair amount of chaos; if your family isn't used to navigating a busy city, you might find refuge in LarcoMar mall. Look for ludotecas (educational centers) that can provide indoor fun for a few hours. Kids can enjoy Parque del Amor, Circuito Mágico del Agua, chocolate-making workshops at Choco Museo outlets and beach time just outside the city.

Strollers can be more of a frustration than a help, unless you are staying fairly close to Miraflores' cliff-top trails, which can be excellent for strolling.

LGBT Travellers

Like in other Latin American countries, the LGBT+ community in Lima does not have a substantial public presence. While social acceptance has grown exponentially, Peru is a conservative Catholic country and the generational gap in acceptance is palpable.

Thousands participate in the city's Gay Pride march, Marcha del Orgullo Lima, at the end of June or beginning of July. Gay Lima (http://lima.gaycities.com) lists the latest LGBT+ and gay-friendly spots in the capital and social media apps can prove helpful for meeting locals.

What to do in Lima

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Welcome to the navel of the world. The undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and the gateway to Machu Picchu. Cosmopolitan Cuzco (also Cusco, or Qosq’o in Quechua) thrives with a measure of contradiction. Ornate cathedrals squat over Inca temples, massage hawkers ply the narrow cobblestone passages, a rural Andean woman feeds bottled water to her pet llama while the finest boutiques sell pricey alpaca knits.

Visitors to the Inca capital get a glimpse of the richest heritage of any South American city. Married to 21st-century hustle, Cuzco can be a bit disconcerting (note the McDonald's set in Inca stones). Soaring rents on the Plaza de Armas and in trendy San Blas are increasingly pushing locals to the margins. Foreign guests undoubtedly have the run of the roost, so showing respect toward today’s incarnation of this powerhouse culture is imperative.

Sights

The Incas were the only culture in the world to define constellations of darkness as well as light. Astronomy wasn’t taken lightly: some of Cuzco’s main streets are designed to align with the stars at certain times of the year. Understanding their interest is a cool way to learn more about the Inca worldview. We recommend a visit to the Cuzco Planetarium before you head out trekking and watching the night sky on your own. Think of how clever you’ll feel pointing out the Black Llama to your fellow hikers. Reservations are essential. Price includes transfer from Plaza Regocijo.

Activities

Scores of outdoor outfitters in Cuzco offer trekking, rafting and mountain-biking adventures, as well as mountaineering, horseback riding and paragliding. Price wars can lead to bad feelings among locals, with underpaid guides and overcrowded vehicles. The cheaper tours usually take more guests and use guides with a more basic skill set.

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Sleeping

Cuzco has hundreds of lodgings of all types and prices, with some of Peru's highest room rates. Book ahead in peak season (between June and August) especially the 10 days before Inti Raymi on June 24 and Fiestas Patrias (Independence Days) on July 28 and 29.

Eating

Cuzco's restaurant scene caters for a wide range of tastes and budgets, thanks to its international appeal. Thanks to its location, Cuzco has access to diverse crops from highland potatoes and quinoa to avocados, jungle fruit and ají picante (hot chiles).

Drinking & Nightlife

Cuzco has some lively nightlife offerings, ranging from the tame dinner show to late-night clubs. Bars are plentiful and cater to a spectrum of tastes. The European pubs are good places to track down those all-important soccer matches, with satellite TVs more or less permanently tuned to sports.

Entertainment

Clubs open early, but crank up a few notches after about 11pm. Happy hour is ubiquitous and generally entails two-for-one on beer or certain mixed drinks.

In popular discotecas, especially right on the Plaza de Armas, both sexes should beware of drinks being spiked and of phones and wallets disappearing.

Shopping

The neighborhood of San Blas – the plaza itself, Cuesta San Blas, Carmen Alto and Tandapata – offers Cuzco’s best shopping. Traditionally an artisan quarter, some workshops and showrooms of local craftspeople still remain here. Jewelry shops and quirky, one-off designer boutiques are a refreshing reminder that the local aesthetic is not confined to stridently colored ponchos and sheepskin-rug depictions of Machu Picchu.

Travel with Children

Traveling to Peru with children can bring some distinct advantages. It is a family-oriented society, and children are treasured. For parents, it makes an easy conversation starter with locals and helps break down cultural barriers. In turn, Peru can be a great place for kids, with plenty of opportunities to explore and interact.

LGBT Travellers

Peru is a strongly conservative, Catholic country. While most believe that legalizing same-sex civil unions will happen soon, the initiative has met resistance from the Peruvian Congress in the past, despite the adoption of similar measures in neighboring countries in the Southern Cone. While many Peruvians will tolerate homosexuality on a ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ level when dealing with foreign travelers, LGBT+ rights remain a struggle. As a result, many Peruvians don’t publicly identify.

Public displays of affection among homosexual couples is rarely seen. Outside gay clubs, it is advisable to keep a low profile. Lima is the most accepting of gay people, but this is on a relative scale. Beyond that, the tourist towns of Cuzco, Arequipa and Trujillo tend to be more tolerant than the norm. Social media platforms Tinder and Grindr can connect travelers to the gay scene.

FYI: the rainbow flag seen around Cuzco and in the Andes is not a gay pride flag – it’s the flag of the Inca empire.

What to do in Cuzco

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Shrouded by mist and surrounded by lush vegetation and steep escarpments, the sprawling Inca citadel of Machu Picchu lives up to every expectation. In a spectacular location, it’s the most famous archaeological site on the continent, a must for all visitors to Peru. Like the Mona Lisa or the pyramids, it has been seared into our collective consciousness, though nothing can diminish the thrill of being here. This awe-inspiring ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century.

In the most controversial move in Machu Picchu since Hiram Bingham's explorations, the Peruvian authorities changed entries from daily visits to morning and afternoon turns in 2018. Visitors must plan more carefully than ever to seize the experience. Though an expanded limit of 5940 people are now allowed in the complex (including the Inca Trail) daily, demand remains insatiable.

Sights

Inside the complex

Unless you arrive via the Inca Trail, you’ll officially enter the ruins through a ticket gate on the south side of Machu Picchu. About 100m of footpath brings you to the mazelike main entrance of Machu Picchu proper, where the ruins lie stretched out before you, roughly divided into two areas separated by a series of plazas.

Note that the names of individual ruins speculate their use – in reality, much is unknown. To get a visual fix of the whole site and snap the classic postcard photograph, climb the zigzagging staircase on the left immediately after entering the complex, which leads to the Hut of the Caretaker.

Inca Drawbridge

A scenic but level walk from the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock takes you right past the top of the terraces and out along a narrow, cliff-clinging trail to the Inca drawbridge. In under a half-hour’s walk, the trail gives you a good look at cloud-forest vegetation and an entirely different view of Machu Picchu. This walk is recommended, though you’ll have to be content with photographing the bridge from a distance, as someone crossed the bridge some years ago and tragically fell to their death.

Wayna Picchu

Wayna Picchu is the small, steep mountain at the back of the ruins. Wayna Picchu is normally translated as ‘Young Peak,’ but the word picchu, with the correct glottal pronunciation, refers to the wad in the cheek of a coca-leaf chewer. Access is limited to 400 people per day – the first 200 in line are let in at 7am, and another 200 at 10am. A ticket which includes a visit to the Temple of the Moon may only be obtained when you purchase your entrance ticket. These spots sell out a week in advance in low season and a month in advance in high season, so plan accordingly.

At first glance, it would appear that Wayna Picchu is a difficult climb but, although the ascent is steep, it’s not technically difficult. However, it is not recommended if you suffer from vertigo. Hikers must sign in and out at a registration booth located beyond the central plaza between two thatched buildings. The 45- to 90-minute scramble up a steep footpath takes you through a short section of Inca tunnel.

Take care in wet weather as the steps get dangerously slippery. The trail is easy to follow, but involves steep sections, a ladder and an overhanging cave, where you have to bend over to get by. Partway up Wayna Picchu, a marked path plunges down to your left, continuing down the rear of Wayna Picchu to the small Temple of the Moon. From the temple, another cleared path leads up behind the ruin and steeply onward up the back side of Wayna Picchu.

The descent takes about an hour, and the ascent back to the main Wayna Picchu trail longer. The spectacular trail drops and climbs steeply as it hugs the sides of Wayna Picchu before plunging into the cloud forest. Suddenly, you reach a cleared area where the small, very well-made ruins are found.

Cerro Machu Picchu is a very good alternative if you miss out.

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Sleeping

The only lodging onsite is the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Most people either arrive on long day trips from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo or stay in nearby Aguas Calientes.

Eating

The only onsite dining is at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge at the entrance to the ruins. There's plenty of restaurants in nearby Aguas Calientes.

Getting There & Away

From Aguas Calientes, frequent buses for Machu Picchu (S80 round-trip, 25 minutes) depart from a ticket office along the main road from 5:30am to 3:30pm. Buses return from the ruins when full, with the last departure at 5:45pm. There's a proposal for a tram to eventually replace the bus system, still in the preliminary stages of consideration.

Otherwise, it’s a steep walk (8km, 1½ hours) up a tightly winding mountain road. First there’s a flat 20-minute walk from Aguas Calientes to Puente Ruinas, where the road to the ruins crosses the Río Urubamba, near the museum. A breathtakingly steep but well-marked trail climbs another 2km up to Machu Picchu, taking about an hour to hike (but less coming down!)

What to do in Machu Picchu

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Other Peruvians joke that you need a different passport to enter Peru’s second-largest city. One-tenth the size of Lima, Arequipa is its pugnacious equal in terms of cuisine, historical significance and confident self-awareness. Guarded by three dramatic volcanoes, the city's resplendent setting makes an obvious launchpad for trekking, rafting and visiting the Cañón del Colca. The Unesco World Heritage–listed city center is dressed in baroque buildings carved from white volcanic sillar stone, giving Arequipa the nickname 'Ciudad Blanca' (White City). Its centerpiece, a majestic cathedral with the ethereal El Misti rising behind it, is worth a visit alone.

Pretty cityscapes aside, Arequipa has played a fundamental role in Peru’s gastronomic renaissance and dining here – in communal picantería eateries or tastebud-provoking fusion restaurants – is a highlight.

The headstrong city has produced one of Latin America’s most influential novelists, Mario Vargas Llosa. Juanita, the ice-preserved, sacrificed Inca mummy, is another Arequipan treasure.

Activities

Arequipa is the center for a slew of outdoor activities dotted around the high country to the north and east of the city. Trekking, mountaineering and river running are the big three, but there are plenty more.

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Sleeping

Stay near the Plaza de Armas for convenience, though away from the bars of San Francisco on weekends if you want quiet. Many accommodations inhabit attractive sillar (white volcanic rock) buildings, whose thick walls often weaken wireless signals. Cable TV and free wi-fi are pretty much a given, as is breakfast – usually merely bread, jam and coffee at cheaper joints. Prices can fluctuate greatly even during high season (June to August).

Eating

Arequipa has a reputation for tasty local dishes like rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy red peppers), best enjoyed in the traditional, communal picantería restaurants. Trendy upscale spots line San Francisco north of the Plaza de Armas, while touristy outdoor cafes huddle together on Pasaje Catedral. Good, local eateries are in the busy Mercado on San Camilo southeast of the plaza.

Drinking & Nightlife

The nocturnal scene in Arequipa is pretty slow midweek but takes off on weekends, when anyone who’s anyone can be seen joining the throng on the corner of San Francisco and Ugarte sometime after 9pm. Many of the bars there offer happy-hour specials worth enjoying. The 300 block has the highest concentration of places to compare fashion notes.

Shopping

Arequipa overflows with antique and artisan shops, especially on the streets around Monasterio de Santa Catalina. High-quality leather, alpaca and vicuña (a threatened, wild relative of the alpaca) goods, and other handmade items, are what you’ll most often see being sold.

Travel with Children

Arequipa overflows with antique and artisan shops, especially on the streets around Monasterio de Santa Catalina. High-quality leather, alpaca and vicuña (a threatened, wild relative of the alpaca) goods, and other handmade items, are what you’ll most often see being sold.

LGBT Travellers

Peru is a strongly conservative, Catholic country. While most believe that legalizing same-sex civil unions will happen soon, the initiative has met resistance from the Peruvian Congress in the past, despite the adoption of similar measures in neighboring countries in the Southern Cone. While many Peruvians will tolerate homosexuality on a ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ level when dealing with foreign travelers, LGBT+ rights remain a struggle. As a result, many Peruvians don’t publicly identify.

Public displays of affection among homosexual couples is rarely seen. Outside gay clubs, it is advisable to keep a low profile. Lima is the most accepting of gay people, but this is on a relative scale. Beyond that, the tourist towns of Cuzco, Arequipa and Trujillo tend to be more tolerant than the norm. Social media platforms Tinder and Grindr can connect travelers to the gay scene.

FYI: the rainbow flag seen around Cuzco and in the Andes is not a gay pride flag – it’s the flag of the Inca empire.

Information

Gay Lima (http://lima.gaycities.com) A handy guide to the latest gay and gay-friendly spots in the capital, along with plenty of links.

Gay Peru (www.gayperu.pe) A magazine-style website covering news, fashion and events.

Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com) Excellent, country-specific information about Peru’s gay scene and politics, with links to international resources.

Purpleroofs.com (www.purpleroofs.com) Massive LGBT portal with links to a few tour operators and gay-friendly accommodations in Peru.

What to do in Arequipa

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Huaraz is the restless capital of this Andean adventure kingdom and its rooftops command exhaustive panoramas of the city's dominion: one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. Nearly wiped out by the earthquake of 1970, Huaraz isn’t going to win any Andean-village beauty contests anytime soon, but it does have personality – and personality goes a long way.

This is first and foremost a trekking metropolis. During high season the streets buzz with hundreds of backpackers and adventurers freshly returned from arduous hikes or planning their next expedition as they huddle in one of the town’s many fine watering holes. Dozens of outfits help plan trips, rent equipment and organize a list of adventure sports as long as your arm. An endless lineup of quality restaurants and hopping bars keep the belly full and the place lively till long after the tents have been put away. Mountain adventures in the off-season can be equally rewarding, but the vibe is more subdued and some places go into hibernation once the rains set in.

Activities

Trekking & Mountaineering

Whether you’re arranging a mountain expedition or going for a day hike, Huaraz is the place to start – it is the epicenter for planning and organizing local Andean adventures. Numerous outfits can prearrange entire trips so that all you need to do is show up at the right place at the right time. Many visitors go camping, hiking and climbing in the mountains without any local help and you can too if you have the experience. Just remember, though, that carrying a backpack full of gear over a 4800m pass requires much more effort than hiking at low altitudes.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is one of the Cordillera Blanca’s biggest pastimes and its popularity is growing. Huaraz is an ideal place to plan excursions, rent gear and set off from on day trips. There are good climbs for beginners at Chancos, while the Los Olivos area has the most varied routes and is located conveniently close to Huaraz. Avid climbers will find some gnarly bolted sport climbs at Recuay and Hatun Machay, located 30km and 70km south of Huaraz respectively. For some big-wall action that will keep you chalked up for days, head to the famous Torre de Parón, known locally as the Sphinx. Most trekking tour agencies offer climbing trips, for both beginners and advanced climbers, as part of their repertoire. Many also rent gear. No serious climber should leave base camp without a copy of Huaraz: The Climbing Guide (2014) by David Lazo and Marie Timmermans, with detailed descriptions of over 1000 climbing routes backed up with photos and color-coded maps.

Volunteering

Agencies specializing in community and sustainable tourism may also be able to help you arrange different kinds of volunteer activities in the region. It's best to arrange volunteering activities in advance although agencies sometimes take short-term applicants. For the latest on volunteering, check out the community notice boards at popular gringo cafes and hangouts around Huaraz.

The Mountain Institute, which promotes environmental awareness in the Cordilleras, may have some volunteering opportunities depending on your expertise.

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Sleeping

Hotel prices can double during holiday periods and rooms become very scarce. Perhaps because Huaraz is seen as a trekking, climbing and backpacking center, budget hotels predominate. Hostels employ individuals to meet buses, but beware of overpricing – don’t pay anybody until you’ve seen the room.

Eating

Restaurant hours are flexible in Huaraz, with shorter opening times during low-season slow spells and longer hours at busy times.

Dining is casual – think hiking boots and fleeces. There is a plethora of international places offering filling pizzas and burgers for exhausted hikers.

Drinking & Nightlife

Huaraz is the best place in this part of the Andes to take a load off and get pleasantly inebriated. Craft beer has made a recent appearance and there are a couple of local microbreweries.

The best area for nightlife is Parque del Periodista and the adjacent Parque Ginebra.

Shopping

Inexpensive thick woolen sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, gloves, ponchos and blankets are available if you need to rug up for the mountains; many of these are sold at stalls on the pedestrian alleys off Luzuriaga or at the feria artesanal (artisans’ market) off the Plaza de Armas. A few shops on Parque Ginebra, plus several rental agencies, sell quality climbing gear and clothes.

What to do in Huaraz

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Linked to the outside world by air and by river, Iquitos is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road. It’s a prosperous, vibrant jungle metropolis and the northern Amazon Basin's chief city, teeming with the usual, inexplicably addictive Amazonian anomalies. Unadulterated jungle encroaches beyond town in view of the air-conditioned, elegant restaurants that flank the riverside; motorized tricycles whiz manically through the streets yet locals mill around the central plazas eating ice cream like there is all the time in the world. Mud huts mingle with magnificent tiled mansions; tiny dugout canoes ply the water alongside colossal cruise ships. You may well arrive in Iquitos for the greater adventure of a boat trip down the Amazon but whether it’s sampling rainforest cuisine, the buzzing nightlife or one of Peru’s most fascinating markets in the floating shantytown of Belén, this thriving city will entice you to stay awhile.

Sights

Iquitos’ cultural attractions, while limited, dwarf those of other Amazon cities: especially boosted by the arrival of two new museums in the period between 2013 and 2014. The cheery Malecón (riverside walk) runs between Nauta and Ricardo Palma: perhaps the most diverting sight of all!

Remnants of the rubber-boom days include azulejos, tiles imported from Portugal to decorate the rubber barons' mansions. Many buildings along Raimondi and Malecón Tarapaca are decorated with these tiles.

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Activities

Cruising the Amazon is an expensive business: the shortest trips can cost over US$1000. It’s a popular pastime, too, and advance reservations are often necessary (and often mean discounts). Cruises naturally focus on the Río Amazonas, both downriver (northeast) toward the Brazil–Colombia border and upriver to Nauta, where the Ríos Marañón and Ucayali converge. Beyond Nauta, trips continue up these two rivers to the Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. Trips can also be arranged on the three rivers surrounding Iquitos: the Itaya, the Amazonas and the Nanay. Operators quote prices in US dollars. A useful booking website is www.amazoncruise.net.

Sleeping

The range of accommodations here is broad. Basic budget to five-star luxury are catered for, with a plethora of enterprises attempting top-end and failing. The best hotels fill fast at weekends and on major festivals. The busiest season is May to September, when prices may rise marginally. Due to the competition, even budget hotels have quite decent standards. Mosquitoes are rarely problematic in town, but be aware that mosquito netting is not always provided.

Eating

The city has excellent restaurants. However, many regional specialties feature endangered animals, such as chicharrón de lagarto (fried alligator) and sopa de tortuga (turtle soup). More environmentally friendly dishes include ceviche made with river fish, chupín de pollo (a tasty soup of chicken, egg and rice) and juanes (banana leaves stuffed with chicken or pork and rice).

Drinking & Nightlife

Iquitos is a party city. The Malecón is the cornerstone of the lively nightlife scene and you can dance until dawn and beyond at the discos just outside the center.

Shopping

There are a few craft stands along the Malecón selling jungle crafts. Another good place for crafts is Mercado de Artesanía San Juan, on the airport road. Don’t buy items made from animal bones and skins, as they are made from jungle wildlife. It’s illegal to import many such items into the US and Europe.

Travel with Children

Traveling to Peru with children can bring some distinct advantages. It is a family-oriented society, and children are treasured. For parents, it makes an easy conversation starter with locals and helps break down cultural barriers. In turn, Peru can be a great place for kids, with plenty of opportunities to explore and interact.

What to do in Iquitos

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Stand in the right spot and the glamorous streets of old Trujillo look like they’ve barely changed in hundreds of years. Well, there are more honking taxis now, but the city still manages to put on a dashing show with its polychrome buildings and profusion of colonial-era churches. Most people come here to visit the remarkable pre-Incan archaeological sites nearby, spending just a short time wandering the compact city center.

The behemoth Chimú capital of Chan Chan is nearby. It was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas, making it the top attraction in the region. Other Chimú sites bake in the surrounding desert, among them the immense and suitably impressive Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon), which date back 1500 years.

Beach bums may consider staying in the laid-back surfer village of Huanchaco, just 20 minutes up the road.

Sights

Plaza de Armas

Trujillo’s spacious and spit-shined main square, surely the cleanest in the Americas and definitely one of the prettiest, hosts a colorful assembly of preserved colonial buildings and an impressive statue dedicated to work, the arts and liberty. Elegant mansions abound, including Hotel Libertador.

On Friday mornings from 10:30am to 11:30am there are 'marinera para todos' events where participants can take marinera classes (a typical coastal Peruvian dance involving much romantic waving of handkerchiefs), while on Saturday evenings performances of traditional dances from Trujillo and other departments are held.

North & West of Plaza de Armas

There are several interesting churches near the Plaza de Armas that are well worth viewing from the outside on a walking tour of the city even when they are not open for visitors: Iglesia de la Compañía, now part of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo; Iglesia de Santa Ana; Iglesia de Santo Domingo and Iglesia de Santa Clara.

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Sleeping

Some travelers prefer to stay in the nearby beach town of Huanchaco. Many budget and midrange hotels can be noisy if you get streetside rooms. For a city of its size and history, Trujillo lags way behind when it comes to design and boutique hotels.

Eating

The 700 cuadra (block) of Pizarro is where Trujillo’s power brokers hang out and families converge, and they’re kept well fed by a row of trendy yet reasonably priced cafes and restaurants. Some of the best eateries in Trujillo are found a short taxi ride outside the town center.

If you're here on Monday look out for shambar, a traditional soup made with wheat, legumes, onions, pork and herbs and served all over town.

Drinking & Nightlife

Trujillo has the best nightlife in the region, with loads of interesting bars in and around the center and some happening clubs a bit further afield.

Entertainment

Trujillo’s local newspaper, La Industria (www.laindustria.pe), is the best source for information about local entertainment, cultural exhibitions and other events.

What to do in Trujillo

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