A travel guide TO PERU

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Situated on the western edge of South America, Peru clings to the continent preventing it from being sucked into the Pacific Ocean. It is a country full of great culture and history, and is home to the great Incan Empire city Machu Picchu. The ancient city alone is worth visiting the South American country. Yet, travellers that go solely to see the ancient sites are struck by the beauty and wonder that Peru possesses.

According to world tourism rankings, Peru ranks ninth in the Americas and hosted 3.5 million international tourists in 2015. The country still holds plenty of magic and compared to other South American travel destinations, is just off the beaten path enough to provide an exciting budget travel adventure. The Land of the Incas is a perfect budget traveller holiday and one that will leave you with plenty of great memories of ancient Inca ruins and beautiful South American cities.

Culture

When the Spanish conquistadors explored, some might say conquered, the Americas, it quickly changed the landscape of what was to come. From the every day life of the indigenous people to the fabric of their society, everything changed forever.

Today's Peruvians are a mix of that change, and the country's culture is a mix of indigenous people and Spanish ways. Thanks to the rugged landscape of Peru and the isolation of some groups, there are cultures that have persevered and now co-exist with the more uniformed one that was created when the Spanish arrived.

The larger cities have experienced Spanish colonialism and those remnants can be seen today in the buildings and houses of Peruvian cities. Peru's citizens are proud of who they are, where they have been and where they are going. It is a country that enjoys hosting visitors, and teaching them about their country and its history.

Places to visit

Machu Picchu

Most travellers who descend on Peru go for Machu Picchu. The ancient Inca city has been declared one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. From atop the mountain where Machu Picchu is located, you will be able to see the jungle

covered hills and valleys below. A world of life untouched by the rest of the world awaits.

You can either take the train to the site or walk the Inca Trail. Either way, it is an overwhelming experience due to the beauty, simplicity and majesty of it all.

Cusco

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco is often described as a living museum. Incan ruins live side by side with Spanish built cathedrals in the town. The Plaza de Armas is a great place to start any trip to Cusco. You will be able to find restaurants in the square and begin a tour of the town before ending back where you started for an afternoon cocktail.

Lima

Located between the Pacific Ocean and the inland hills of Peru, the country's capital is a modern South American city with a healthy dose of Spanish influence. Compared to what you will see in the smaller towns of Peru, Lima is much different with its large buildings, beautiful plazas and fascinating cathedrals. Many visitors will begin and end their trips to Peru in this beautiful city, and it is a perfect place to spend a few days after budget travelling around the rest of Peru.

Food

The basis of Peruvian cuisine are the flavours and cooking practices of the indigenous people. Peru's cooking also shows influence from the Incas, but in more modern times, it has been further developed with the help of other cultures.

Spanish, Italian, German and Asian immigrants have all helped to develop modern Peruvian cuisine. These recipes and foods from other countries have given Peru a style uniquely its own.

Ceviche is often called Peru's unofficial national dish. Made from raw fish soaked in citrus juice, it is a refreshing meal to have after a hot Peruvian day. Cuy is another favourite of the country, although travellers may be a bit squeamish eating it. Made from guinea pigs, this is a dish that reflects the country's rural past; but it remains a staple today. There is a good chance you will see guinea pigs being raised in some Peruvian houses.

What to see?

It may be difficult to narrow down a list of things to do in Peru, especially if you are short on time. Making a plan of must-see attractions is important if you want to experience the best of the South American country. One place not to miss is Lake Titicaca. The large mass of water touches gently rolling hills and small Peruvian villages. Puno is the nearest town with restaurant and hotels, but you will find better culture escapes then it at the other nearby villages. Take a boat ride out into the lake or just relax on its shores as you experience the surroundings of Lake Titicaca.

Colca Canyon is the second biggest canyon in the world and twice as deep as the United States' Grand Canyon. A former home to the Incas, you will see terracing that was built into the canyon's walls by those that lived below.

The Nazca Lines are a mystery and the unusual shape they make has attracted visitors to them for decades. In some cases, the lines stretch for 10 kilometres and can be made out clearly from the air. At ground level, you will be able to see some drawings and images, but once up high, it all comes into focus.

If you want to do something completely unforgettable then you must hike the Inca Trail. The four-day hike will take you to Machu Picchu and past some of the most gorgeous scenery you will have ever taken in. Starting at Cusco, you can pass over 30 Inca ruins on your way to the granddaddy of them all, Machu Picchu.

Nightlife

As Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru, the best nightlife is located within its borders. The city's bars and clubs are thriving as many Peruvians enjoy getting out after dark.

The weekend usually starts on Thursday nights and steam rolls through until Sunday's wee hours. Miraflores has some of the best restaurants, clubs and bars to visit. Some of the best budget traveller hotspots can be found in Parque Kennedy, but if you want to spend a little more cash, Larcomar has everything you need.