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Holidays to Peru

If you could pick one single image that says "Peru", it would undoubtedly be the fabled Inca city of Machu Picchu. It is guaranteed to be a highlight of any Explore holiday to Peru but it’s not even half the story.

Peru has more ancient archaeological sites than any other country in South America, and often forgotten, northern Peru hides archaeological sites to match the south. Chachapoyas, the “Land of the Cloud people” is one of Peru’s least frequented and under-rated areas – the ruins of Kuelap are simply staggering.

There's much more to Peru than old stones. Whilst visiting Peru with Explore you can see life zones from mangroves to cloudforest, mist-fuelled oases in the desert to glacial lakes. Jungle covers 60% of the country, and in the reserve of Tambopata you can see a long list of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and even plants that have not as yet been fully catalogued.

Hiking in the magnificent Andes is one of the main draws for visitors, and on an Explore trip to Peru you can walk the iconic Inca Trail, taking your first glimpse of the ethereal Machu Picchu shrouded in mist, through the famous Sun Gate. Seeing Machu Picchu for the first time in this way transports you back through history to the Inca times. Machu Picchu’s neighbour, Cusco, is the gateway to this history, as well as providing endless sporting possibilities such as hiking to ruined cities, whitewater rafting or biking in the mountains. Explore trips to Peru also give you the chance to visit the porters community of Misminay and learn about the Andean way of life.

Moving south from Cusco you find the islands of Taquile and Amantani, in the sparkling waters of Lake Titicaca, where communities preserve ancient traditions. Towards the magnificent city of Arequipa, you can hike along pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces in the Colca Canyon, a remarkable chasm twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and look for mighty condors circling above you.

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Walking the Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu often features on must-do travel lists and it is little wonder why. Machu Picchu is named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site - but words on paper can't do justice to the unbelievable feeling of seeing the site for the first time. Machu Picchu truly is one of the world's greatest feats of construction, and our Explore travel tips below aim to give you more information on how to enjoy your trip to Machu Picchu to the fullest.

Best times to hike the Inca Trail

Peru’s dry winter season runs from May to September, making this an ideal time to trek the Inca Trail. June to August is particularly cold at night, especially at altitude, and lots of layers are essential for taking you from day to night. March, April, October and November are warmer months but there may be some rain. Many people say that September and October are the best months to travel to Machu Picchu - there are fewer tourists, but the weather is warm and mild.

Altitude

The Inca Trail starts at an altitude of about 2,800 metres and ends four days later at Machu Picchu, at 2,500 metres. You'll hike over the notorious ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, which at 4,200 metres is the highest point of the trek. The Inca Trail is justifiably famous for its spectacular Andean scenery, with the mountain tops usually snow-capped between June and October. Altitude sickness is something a lot of people worry about, however by walking steadily, keeping well hydrated and drinking coca tea, most people encounter no problems.

Fitness and training

Trekking the Inca Trail requires a good level of fitness but with a little pre-tour training it should be well within the capabilities of anyone who leads an active and moderately healthy lifestyle. Endurance training is essential - walking up hills and climbing stairs are both great ways to get your lower body in shape, and as you will need to carry a daysack each day on the trail, we'd also recommend that you add weight to your hikes to get used to it.

Permits and the 'alternative Inca Trail'

Only about 200 trekkers per day are given permits to walk on the trail, so popular dates sell out months in advance. We recommend that people book the year preceding their preferred trip. Fear not, however, as Explore also offers an 'alternative' Inca Trail route. The Salkantay hike is located in exactly the same beautiful mountainous location as the Inca Trail, but there are fewer tourists and you'll often get the spectacular Andean scenery all to yourself. However, no permits are necessary and you still visit Machu Picchu at the end of the hike.

Visiting Machu Picchu without walking!

If the idea of walking and camping doesn't do it for you, we have plenty of non-hiking trips to Peru, which all involve a visit to Machu Picchu. There are plenty of options to hike with the site itself - including summiting the vertiginous peak of Huayna Picchu.

A tailor-made holiday to Peru allows you freedom to design the perfect itinerary for you. Whether that means hiking on the iconic Inca Trail, cycling in the Sacred Valley or exploring the archaeological sites in Cumbemayo and Chiclayo in the north.

Tailor-make your holiday to Peru to include the indulgent overnight Andean Explorer train, a luxury cruise boat along the Amazon River or get back to basics with a local family in Misminay Village in the Sacred Valley. Our Explore Tailormade Regional Specialists can arrange those little extra moments to create the ideal holiday to Peru - a cookery class in Lima, a hike to see condors in the wild or a fantastic lunch with Paso horse demonstration at Wayra Lodge.

Call the Tailormade team today on 01252 883 184 for help, advice and to get a quotation.

All of Explore's trips to Peru can be paired with a 3 night extension to the Amazon jungle, which is a perfect way to round off your time in this varied country. After you spend much of your time in the mountains throughout most tours to Peru, it can be a shock to the system to go from the vast open valleys and jagged peaks of the Andes to being enclosed by thick, dense, leafy jungle.

A massive 60% of Peru is comprised by the Amazon, and the Peruvian Amazon is the second largest section of the Amazon Rainforest after Brazil. With Explore you'll generally be discovering the Tambopata ecological reserve, only 30km from Puerto Maldonado on the Madre de Dios River. All journeys into the Amazon start with a boat or canoe trip from Puerto Maldonado town, which is an adventure in itself.

The remote locations of the Amazon lodges mean that electricity is usually provided by a generator, and only available for certain hours of the day. This just adds to the sense of being in the middle of nowhere, and it's a great place to go without technology for a few days.

Part of the joy of an Explore Amazon trip is simply observing the local flora and fauna close up. Caiman spotting by night, observing macaws and parrots at a clay lick, spotting giant river otters and learning about the indigenous uses of the many plants found in the forest are just some of the many wildlife opportunities that you'll have during your jungle experience.

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