Aerial view of Peru coastline with waves crashing along the beach with cliff and skyscrapers

Travel Guide: Peru, a Place of History and Mystique

Peru is a country in South America that’s home to a section of Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu. It is an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains.

The region around Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, the Inca Trail and the colonial city of Cusco, is rich in archaeological sites. On Peru’s arid Pacific coast is Lima, the capital, with a preserved colonial center and important collections of pre-Columbian art.

Peru was home to the Norte Chico civilization, the oldest civilization in the Americas and one of the six oldest in the world, and to the Inca Empire, the largest and most advanced state in Pre-Columbian America.

The name Peru is derived from a Quechua Indian word implying land of abundance.

Ancient people, called the Chimú and the Nasca, first inhabited this region thousands of years ago. In 1542, Spain created the Viceroyalty of Peru, comprising most of South America except Brazil.

History of Peru

From as far back as civilizations that predate the Inca Empire to events in the more recent centuries, the timeline of the history of Peru shines as a colorful one.

Pre-Columbian Peru

Much of Peru’s coast is arid desert, but many of its valleys are watered by glacial rivers and streams flowing down the western slopes of the Andes.These valleys between the coast and the mountains nurtured the earliest human settlements in Peru and South America.
Other cultures flourished in the Andean highlands and in the Amazon.
The list of ancient Peruvian civilizations is long and includes (in order of development):
Norte Chico Caral-Supe, El Paraíso, Chavín, Paracas, Moche, Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Wari, Chimú, Inca.
There are also the longstanding cultural groups (that did not form states but sometimes overlapped with them), the two main groups being the Quechua and Aymara, as well as countless other smaller groups.

Many developments which are attributed to the Inca Empire in areas can actually be traced to previous cultures.
None of Peru’s pre-Columbian cultures developed a writing system, but they did leave behind a wealth of artifacts, temples, and infrastructure such as roads, terraces, and irrigation channels.

*Chavin de Huantar
*Nazca Line
*Chan Chan
*Tihuanaco (Bolivia)
*Kuelap

Inca Empire

Before the Inca Empire became an empire, they migrated into the fertile.Manco Capac became the first Inca king sometime in the 11th century.But it wasn’t until 1438, under the reign of Pachacutec, that the empire began to expand on a larger scale with new areas incorporated through conquest, coercion, or alliance. Machu Picchu was constructed in 1450 as a royal estate for Pachacutec and his lineage.

By 1500, an extensive road network called the Qhaqaq Ñan (Royal Road) enabled communication and distribution of resources.
The arrival of Spanish conquistadors to the shores of Peru in the 1530s.

The Conquest & Spanish Colonial Period

Beginning in 1532, Spanish soldiers under the command of Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru. The intent was to conquer an empire rich in gold and silver, in much the same way Hernan Cortes had toppled the Aztec Empire (1519-21).
Pizarro devised the capture of Atahualpa in Cajamarca in 1532, and then executed the Inca king. Spanish troops finally arrived in Cusco in November 1533 and installed Manco Inca Yupanqui (son of Huayna Capac) as the new puppet ruler.

In 1535, Pizarro founded the city of Lima as the capital of his newly conquered territories.
In Cusco, Manco Inca escaped and organized a siege of Cusco which lasted several months but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Independence

For the vast majority of Peru’s people, independence brought few changes. Political and economic positions of power were still monopolized by a minority of the Spanish-descended elite.
Slavery was not abolished until 1845, as part of the reforms instituted by president Ramon Castilla, which also included the construction of a railway system. Additionally, guano exports revived the city’s coffers and provided funds for the construction of public buildings, markets, hospitals, and prisons.

In 1873, Peru became involved in the War of the Pacific with Chile and Bolivia, each of which claimed nitrate-rich lands in the northern Atacama desert. The war ended in 1883, but not after Chilean troops invaded and occupied the capital city of Lima.

Today

In the 21st century, Peru has enjoyed a long period of political and economic stability with approximately 32.5 million population.
The country has developed tourist attractions and places too, which is the positive point of it. It is not like a hidden country anymore.

Places to visit in Peru

The Inca Trail

The famous Inca Trail is a four-day hike which terminates at Machu Picchu, and is regarded by many as the highlight of their trip to Peru.
This scenic trail is often more demanding than what many people expect, but also more rewarding.

A couple of different starting points for the Inca Trail exist, but the traditional four-day hike begins at km 82 of the Cusco – Aguas Calientes rail line. From this point, the trail passes more than 30 Inca ruins and traverses through spectacular scenery. The most difficult portion of the trail is the second day of the hike, with a climb of 1,200 meters in elevation gain and two high passes.

Credit:https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/hiking-the-inca-trail/

Machu Picchu

Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River, the majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city anywhere in the world. Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the spectacular backdrop of steep, lush, and often cloud-shrouded mountains.

Standing near the caretaker’s hut, looking out over Machu Picchu. The jungle-covered mountains,and the river far below.
You can imagine why the Incas chose this place to build their city.

As of January 2020, new admission rules are in place for Machu Pichu. You must tour with a guide, you must follow a set tour route, and you must enter the park at a designated time.

Credit: https://br.pinterest.com/pin/AckaQjqOjSEpHwpMxcl5IwHKwjHAuJiRSSvHu55m_IWRf6xZ1QQ7I_I/

Lake Titicaca

Credit: https://www.pachakutiktours.com/en/bolivia/

The sparkling blue water of Lake Titicaca is surrounded by rolling hills and traditional small villages. The lake area is a mix of beautiful scenery and culture that sets it apart from other regions of the country. Sitting at 3,820 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca is known for being the highest navigable lake in the world.

A boat trip to the islands and surrounding villages is the best way to appreciate the lake.The floating islands are only one very small part of Lake Titicaca’s attraction.
The main gateway to Lake Titicaca is the city of Puno, where you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies. There are trains and buses to Puno and flights in and out of the nearby city of Juliaca.

Nazca Lines

The mysterious Nazca lines are an unusual sight that will leave you with a sense of awe.
These huge images on the desert floor were relatively undiscovered until planes flew over the area in the 1920s.
It saw the lines from the air and realized they formed distinct patterns and images.

The Sacred Valley

Less than an hour’s drive north of Cusco is the beautiful Sacred Valley and the towns of Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo. This fertile valley has many Inca ruins worth exploring but is also a peaceful area to spend some time wandering through markets or soaking up local culture.

The main highlights in the valley are the Pisac Ruins, the Sunday Marketin Pisac (smaller market days are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and the ruins and fortress at the beautiful little town of Ollantaytambo. A little out of the way but worth the trip is the town of Moray with circular terracing used as an agricultural testing area by the Incas, and the salt mines at Salinas, which have been in use since the time of the Incas.

Arequipa’s Historical City Center

Arequipa, at more than 2,300 meters, is often regarded as Peru’s most beautiful city. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the city center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arequipa’s main claim to fame is the old architecture constructed of sillar stone, a volcanic rock that radiates a bright color in the sunlight. Most of the colonial buildings in the historic city center are made from this stone, giving rise to its nickname of the “white city.”

Arequipa is also often a stopping-off point for those looking to visit the Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca), which is about a four hour’s drive from the city.

Puerto Maldonado and the Amazon

Just a half hour flight from Cusco, Puerto Maldonado is a key jumping-off point for tours of the Amazon. This is a completely different experience than what you will find in other parts of Peru, with hot humid jungle and a chance to see all kinds of unique wildlife. Caimans, capybara, monkeys, parrots, turtles, and piranhas are what you can expect to find in this part of the country.

The Reserva Nacional Tambopata and the Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene are the two main attractions, and they are well serviced by a number of jungle lodges. The Reserva Nacional Tambopata jungle lodges are approximately a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene is across the river from the Parque Nacional Madidi in Bolivia and takes about four hours to reach by boat. Tours typically range from a couple of days to week-long adventures.

Ica and the Sand Dunes at Huacachina

For the sporting type looking to try something a little different, the oasis resort of Huacachina on the outskirts of Ica has just the answer. This picture-perfect, palm-fringed resort town just west of Ica is situated around a lagoon surrounded by huge sand dunes, some of which reach 1,000 meters in height.

People come here to try out the sport of sandboarding. Similar to snowboarding, sandboarding involves surfing down the sand dunes on specially made sand-boards, which can be rented in the area. For the less coordinated, renting dune buggies is another great way to get out and enjoy the landscape.

Ica is slightly higher than the ocean and consequently is not affected by the usual coastal mist like other towns along this stretch. The town has a year-round sunny and dry climate, making it a good place to visit at any time.

Sillustani

Sillustani, outside the city of Puno and not far from Lake Titicaca, is the site of some of the area’s most impressive funerary towers (chullpas). Standing as high as 12 meters, these structures were built by the Colla people around AD 600 to bury their nobility. Entire families, along with food and personal possessions, were buried in these cylinders.

Most of the towers are set in a scenic area along the bank of Lake Umayo, just walk up a hill from the parking lot to the plateau above. The towers stand at the far end of the field with the lake behind. Below the parking lot is a small marshy lake where locals can be seen poling along in their boats, harvesting reeds.

Last but not least

Peru is a place which is not well known but obviously the place which everyone wants to visit once in a life! So start your journey sometimes with this type of country to explore more and more. Till then, I will travel the world, but take care of safety. Will meet you at another place, activity or history which surely encourage you to visit the place.

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