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Cultural and Historical Holidays South America

Cultural and Historical Holidays South America

Once home to the largest empire in the world, Peru boasts a rich historical past complete with awe-inspiring ruins, stunning scenery and a vibrant culture. Trek the scenic Peruvian highlands or cruise the tropical Amazon River. Discover the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, explore ancient ruins in the lost city of Machu Picchu and reflect on the mystery of the Nazca Lines.

Peru boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in South America, from the breathtaking peaks of the Andes mountain range to the immense desert coastline and the vast tropical rainforest of the Amazon.

Make time to experience Peru's fascinating culture, with its unique cuisine, haunting music and friendly people.

Highlights

Cuzco Built by the Spanish on the remains of Inca temples, Cuzco is the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. Dominated by the imposing fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Cuzco's unspoilt whitewashed, stone-walled streets and red-tiled roofs are home to a wealth of traditional culture, from Quechua-speaking Incan descendants who still crowd the centuries-old streets to fascinating museums, walks and tours. The mountainous region around Cuzco boasts some of the country's best trekking and to the west lie the Sacred Valley of the Rio Urubamba and Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail Beyond the ancient town of Ollantaytambo at the end of the stunning Inca Trail- a 33km hike over three Andean passeslie the most famous ruins in South America. Clinging to sheer cliffs, the awe-inspiring city of Machu Picchu is believed to have been an important ceremonial centre or possibly a royal retreat abandoned at the time of the Spanish invasion.

Nazca Lines One of the world's great archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines form a series of geometric figures, straight lines and spectacular animal and plant drawings spread across 500km of dusty and stony ground. Almost imperceptible at ground level, the lines can only be viewed from above. For an unforgettable sight join an afternoon or morning flight, lasting 30 minutes, from the town of Nazca. (Entry on foot is prohibited).

Museo de la Inquisiciun Discover creepy dungeons and torture chambers at the former headquarters of the Spanish America Inquisition (1570 to 1820 AD).

Lake Titicaca At 3825m, Lake Titicaca is known as the world's highest lake. It covers 10,000km and shares a border with Bolivia as well as Peru. Take a boat ride and float around the unique man-made floating islands in the lake, home to the Uros Indians, who believe they are the direct descendants of Inca royalty.

Cruz del Condor Discover a breathtaking view in the Colca Canyon, as condors fly below, around and above you in one of the world's deepest canyons; also home to traditional Indian villages.

Pacaya Samiria A remote and stunningly beautiful rainforest, home to the Cocoma tribe.

Parque Nacional Manu A Unesco World Heritage Park that covers almost 20,000km of the Amazon Basin. Remote and relatively inaccessible, it is one of the best places in South America to see an amazing variety of wildlife. Don't miss Cocha Salvador, one of the park's largest and most beautiful lakes.

Sechin One of Peru's major archaeological sites, dating from around 1600 BC and built by a people who remain shrouded in mystery. While you can't go inside the main temple, the outside walls show carvings of warriors and captives in grisly detail, and fascinating monoliths form the outer walls of the Stone Temple.

Ceviche Savour Try this classic Peruvian seafood dish of fish, shrimp, scallops or squid, marinated in lime juice and chili peppers, then served raw with corn and sweet potato and onions.

Best time to go

Highlands Peru's peak tourism season is from June to August, during the dry season in the Andean highlands. It's also the best time to go hiking or mountain climbing.

Cuzco - Best during the dry season when it's warm, with clear sunny skies. However it still gets cold at night. The wet season consists of infrequent but heavy rain.

The coast- At its best during the sunny, hot months from December to March.

Rainforests- It rains a lot, but rarely for more than a few hours at a time, with plenty of sunshine in between. The wettest months are between December and May.

Parque Nacional Manu- The best time to go is during the dry season from June to November. Much of Manu is inaccessible during the rainiest months of January to April. It is illegal to enter the park without a guide.

Peru's climate consists of two seasons: wet from May to September and dry from October to April. Inland temperatures average at 21 degrees celcius throughout the year but winter nights are chilly, particularly at higher elevations. On the coast you can expect hot, humid days of around 29 degrees celcius, with cool nights around 20 degrees celciusduring summer from January to March. The coast is generally sunny and hardly receives any rain, but from April to November it is covered with a sea mist. The highlands have a wet season (October to April) and a dry season (May to September), when the days are clear and sunny and the nights are very cold, especially at altitude.

Shopping

Lima offers the greatest variety of shopping in Peru, from boutiques to artisan and antiques shops. Best buys include attractive Peruvian handicrafts such as Indian masks, alpaca wool sweaters and rugs (best around Cuzco, Puno, and Arequipa), llama rugs, woolen goods, crafts, gemstones, antiques and silver jewellery. Bargaining, known as regateo, is expected with beach vendors and in markets.

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