Machu Picchu

If you wish finally say: I’ve been to Peru. I’ve seen the glorious Incan ruins of Machu Picchu and I’ve scaled the steep stairs in the heart of Cusco. Here’s everything you need to know!

Visas Peru is basically a country of open doors. The entry into Peru for Citizens of most American and Western European countries does not require a tourist visa. The maximum period of stay granted by the authorities is 183 days (cannot be extended). For longer periods of time for other purposes (business, study, work, etc.) it is necessary to apply for the corresponding visa at a Peruvian consulate.
In order to enter Peru it is indispensible to carry a valid passport. Citizens of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile may enter with their valid national identification document.

There are no mandatory vaccines for entry into Peru. Should you wish to visit the Amazonian region of the country, the Ministry of Health recommends vaccinations against yellow fever.

Language The great culture of ancient Peru is also expressed by a legacy of wide variety of native languages that co-exist in its territory. Spanish is the official language and is used in most of the country. Other languages have been recognized by the Constitution, such as Quechua, which is spoken in many Andean regions in different varieties, and Aimara, the predominant language of the southern Andes.
Shipibo, Ashaninka and Aguaruna, used by Amazon communities, are just some of the country's 43 native languages.

Religion Freedom of religion is a fundamental right in Peru’s culture, although Catholicism is the main religion, another legacy of the Spanish. Religious festivals have strong Spanish influence, but they are also an example of how different beliefs and religions of Peru's pre-Hispanic cultures coexist.

Best time to Go Though travellers visit Peru year-round, the best time of year to visit is the dry season, which runs from May-October. If you plan to visit Peru during this time and wish to hike (there are some great day hikes aside from the 4 day Inca Trek), be sure to book in advance as permits book out 6 months in advance.

Where to Go: Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley and finally Machu Picchu. You might have heard from other travellers that Lima isn’t worth visiting. Sure, Lima is not as impressive as Rio de Janeiro or as charming as the European streets of Buenos Aires, but it certainly has enough charm to keep you busy for a couple of days. The food alone is reason enough to visit as Lima is the gastronomic capital of South America! Regardless, you’ll be passing through Lima in transit so why not stay a couple nights to rest before your adventure in the Andes.

After Lima, you’ll catch a flight to Cusco, the region in which you will find the renowned Machu Picchu – Peru’s biggest draw card for international tourism. While most travellers choose to stay here overnight upon arrival (as it is cheaper to stay in Cusco than the hotels nearer to Machu Picchu), it is a long day if you choose to visit Machu Picchu by train in just one day. Besides, you will have to leave Machu Picchu to return to Cusco on the train before 4pm, of which is the perfect time to take photos because most of the tourists have gone (be aware that Machu Picchu closes at 5pm – so you have an hour to yourself for photos).

Then there’s the Sacred Valley to consider, which has many great points of interest to stop along the route to Machu Picchu. If you decide to journey by bus (as I did with the tour group) or by car, there are many great places to stop to view Llamas, traditional handicrafts, and exceptional views.

Machu Picchu is an Incan city surrounded by temples, terraces and water channels, built on a mountaintop. It was built with huge blocks of stone joined to each other without any mortar. Today it has been designated cultural heritage of humanity in recognition of its political, religious and administrative importance during the age of the Incas.

Machu Picchu means Old Mountain, taking its name from the location of the Incan citadel. According to historians, the architectural complex was built in the 15th century, approximately, by the Inca Pachacutec. Its exact location is in the Machu Picchu district, province of Urubamba, 70 miles northeast of the city of Cusco. Machu Picchu was linked to the entire Inca Empire via the Qhapaq Ñan, the famous roads of the Incas. The citadel is divided into two areas: the agricultural area consisting of the terraces, and the urban section, which served administrative purposes.

A note on Altitude If you’re worried about altitude — don’t be. Most people are fine and do not feel the effects of altitude at all, especially if you drink plenty of water. If you do start to feel dizzy or short of breath, a great solution is to sip coca tea throughout the day (it is served everywhere). To alleviate symptoms further, eat lights meals, avoid cigarettes and alcohol, and eat a few hours before bed to allow for digestion.

A note on Health (water, bugs, etc.)
The most obvious tip: drink plenty of water. How much is plenty? At least 2-3 bottles per day.
Never drink the tap water – don’t even risk brushing your teeth, especially in the Andes.
Bring sunblock, the UV rays are strong – especially up at Machu Picchu!
Bring bug spray – you’ll thank me later. Machu Picchu is crawling with little flies.
Avoid street food and instead opt for decent restaurants – where you can still sample great regional cuisine.

A note on Food What should you try in Peru!? Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t try a lot of the local delicacies. I could however sample a little potato here and there (there are over 3,000+ different types in Peru), as well as sampling chicha, a regional drink in Cusco made of corn. You might also like to try Pisco Sours in Peru, and if you have a sweet tooth grab an alfajor on-the-go.

For the meat lovers, local delicacies include ceviche and cuy (aka guinea pig).

A note on Safety Safety is hit and miss in Peru – but just like anywhere else in the world, you should always take precautions. To be safe, do the following: 

Leave your valuables in your hotel safe
Beware of overly friendly locals – especially in Miraflores, Lima and Cusco.
Ask your concierge where to exchange money or which ATMs to look out for.

Money & Tipping People often ask what currency you may use in Peru, to which there are two answers. The local currency is Peruvian sol, which is accepted everywhere. You can use US dollars at many vendors’ stalls, but only in small ($1, $5, $10) denominations in good condition. It is better to get some local currency out at the beginning or before your trip. Credit cards accepted: Mastercard and Visa, though many will not. Safer to grab some cash.

Electric Peru's electricity runs on 220 volts and 60 cycles (except for Arequipa where it is 50 cycles)

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