A local's guide to Peru
Colca Canyon is a must-see on your trip to Peru. Photo: saiko3p / Shutterstock.com
When should we plan our holiday to Peru and why?
You can visit Peru all year round, but keep in mind that Peru is a large country with diverse geographies, including beaches, desert, mountains, and rainforest – each with its own climate, flora, fauna, and weather conditions. Therefore, temperatures can vary hugely across the country. This makes it difficult to determine a 'specific' time of year to travel, if you are visiting several places during your trip. Instead, submit a trip request online now with your preferred activities and I can recommend a more precise time of year for you.
For example in the highlands, the rainy season technically runs from November through to April. February is the wettest/muddiest time of year, so you won’t want to go trekking during this month, however, you can still have a great trip exploring Inca ruins (and you won’t be sharing them with all the crowds).
My favourite months to travel in Cusco are April/May and October/November; although there’s some chance of rain, it’s generally very clear, a bit warmer, the landscape is lush and green (especially in May), and you’ll miss the June-August crowds.
Where would you recommend we stay?
From simple hostels to five-star hotels and jungle lodges, Peru has plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets.
Belmond's luxury properties in Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, without a doubt, are great stays for those looking for unique experiences. The Belmond Miraflores Park in Lima is actually included in Insight Guides' Peru Express holiday, which I created the itinerary for.
Starwood also has a collection of unique resorts throughout the country, including a luxurious three-pool beachside retreat in Paracas and an elegant hotel in a five-century-old mansion in Cusco.
Inkaterra hotels are found in several locations in Peru; they were built with just one idea, to be eco-friendly resorts that offer true luxury with the best of Peruvian culture and service.
If you want to visit Colca Canyon on your holiday (and we recommend you do!), without a doubt Colca Lodge is the best place to stay. Surrounded by pre-Inca agricultural terraces, the riverside lodge is made of area stone, mud, and straw. The style was inspired by ancient Inca buildings, though the feel is country elegant rather than wildly rustic. Both Colca Canyon tour and a stay at the lodge are included on Insight Guides' Peru Explored trip: explore the itinerary online now.
Where is a great place for dinner in Lima?
More than 40,000 restaurants are scattered throughout Peru, all combining traditions from Europe, Arabia, Asia, Africa, Japan with local specialities. Traditional ingredients combined with the fresh style of the country's modern chefs and techniques produces a delicious, memorable cuisine. The result: you'll find unique flavours that make Peruvian cuisine one of the best and most varied in the world.
Proof of this is Central Restaurant by Virgilio Martinez, which was won fourth place in the World’s Best 50 Restaurants in the World Awards this year. Featuring contemporary Peruvian food, it also nabbed first place in Latin America’s Best 50 Restaurants Awards.
Alternatively, Maido by Mitsuharu Tsumura won the title of fifth-place in Latin America's Best 50 Restaurants, offering Nikkei cuisine: a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavours. The very well-known Astrid y Gaston by Gaston Acurio serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine that honours ancestry and tradition while blending it seamlessly with modern styles and trends.
Ceviche is Peru's national dish and something you must try on your trip. Photo: The Magical Lab / Shutterstock
Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in the country?
Without a doubt, the must-try is ceviche: Peru's national dish. Traditionally made from only five simple ingredients: sea bass (corvina) marinated for just minutes in lime juice, onion, salt and, of course, hot chillies (aji). The tenderness of super-fresh fish is heightened by crisp onion, and sides of starchy boiled corn (choclo) and creamy sweet potato (camote) to balance out the texture of the dish. Dry-roasted corn kernels (cancha) sprinkled on top add a pleasing crunch.
Almost as popular as ceviche is the lomo saltado: a dish that represents a fusion of Chinese stir-frying and classic Peruvian ingredients. Juicy strips of soy-marinated beef (or alpaca), onions, tomatoes, aji chillies, and other spices are stir-fried until the beef is just cooked and the tomatoes and onions start to form a robust, meaty gravy.
Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in Peru too?
Do not miss the sun rising over Machu Picchu (usually around 6-6:30am). You will have Machu Picchu almost to yourself. At this time of day, you'll be there before the crowds have arrived. Stay in Aguas Calientes the night before and be on one of the first few buses up to the iconic ruins.
Where is the most romantic spot in Peru?
Undoubtedly, Amantica Lodge: an exclusive two-suite property on the shores of Lake Titicaca. It offers stunning views of the lake and the Andes mountain range beyond. Its cosy, comfortable beds will ensure you have a restful sleep surrounded by some of the most amazing landscapes in the world.
Where can we hang out with locals?
Take a free salsa class at Mama Africa bar in Cusco city and have a fun night with locals and travellers alike.
Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?
Experience a hands-on cooking lesson with a local chef who will also take you to a traditional market to buy all the ingredients you will need to prepare a typical Peruvian dish. This can be included on your trip to Peru with Insight Guides: submit a trip request today and let us organise your holiday from start to finish with only the activities you want to include.
What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?
While you travel in Peru, especially in the countryside of Cusco and Puno, it´s very common to see on the roof of almost all houses two small bulls made of clay placed side by side accompanied by a ladder and a cross. It’s believed by the locals that they keep the house safe with a blessing to the “Apus” (the Inca mountain gods) and ensure health, wealth, and unity for the occupants of the house. Toritos de Pucara or Pucara Bulls are souvenir examples that represent part of our cultural heritage. You can find these nice bulls in different sizes and prices in the markets and handicraft shops during your trip to Peru.
Ready to take your trip to Peru?
Let Faride create your trip itinerary and organise your holiday from start to finish: browse suggested itineraries online now or submit a trip request today
Looking for more information?
Top 5 sights not to miss in Peru
Walking the Inca Trail and other top things to do in Peru
Lima: the gastro-capital of South America
Peru's wildlife: do you know your llamas from your alpacas?