Latin America today is an appealing, diverse and exciting region which is emerging as an important and fashionable destination for travellers. Peru and Brazil have been leading the way for some years, closely followed by Argentina and Chile.
The last couple of decades have seen extraordinary economic and social development and progress throughout Central and South America. The old image of the region, of civil wars, military governments, inefficient economies, the threats of coups, counter-coups and cocaine production, is at last beginning to disappear. Concerns and worries remain, of course (the drugs wars in Mexico and the destruction of the rainforest, to name but two) but on the whole Latin American countries are now generally regarded positively.
Indeed, some of the most innovative and original ideas in design, technology, marketing, gastronomy and management are coming from the vibrant, robust and dynamic economies of Latin America. This trend is expected to continue.
Tourism plays is an important part in the Peruvian economy. It helps to drive growth and development and has a significant role in the improvement of infrastructure. Tourism also provides jobs, creates economic opportunities and encourages respect, tolerance and understanding between individuals and nationalities.
The best time to visit Peru is probably April-May or September-October, the changeover between wet and dry seasons. In July/August it is dry, but temperatures can fall dramatically at altitude in the Andean winter. December/January is warm but wet. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed in February.
Wet Season: October – May
Dry Season: June- September
Official Name: Republic of Peru
Size: 496,225 sq miles (1.28 million km2) – over 5 times the size of the UK
Population: 29.4 million (UN 2011)
Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
Currency: Nuevo Sol
Exchange rate: £1 = $/4.4995 (7 Jan 2015)
Time Zone: GMT -5hrs
GNI (per capita): £3,450 (US$5,500) (World Bank (2011)
President: Ollanta Humala (elected June 2011)
Prime Minister: Juan Jimenez Mayor (appointed July 2012)
Exports: Copper, zinc, gold, lead, coffee, sugar, cotton, fish and fishmeal
Major religion : Christianity
Up-to-date visa and entry requirements for Peru can be found at: http://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/peru/entry-requirements
British nationals can generally visit Peru for up to 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is stamped on entry as lack of proof of entry can result in a fine and/or imprisonment.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Peru.
Travelling with children
A parent travelling on their own with children under the age of 18 may be required to provide notarised documentary evidence of parental responsibility, or consent to travel from the other parent (or guardian or from those with parental responsibility). Such documentation is often required before being allowed to enter Peru and, in some cases, before permitting children to leave the country.
Local airport taxes
International and Domestic taxes may be payable locally if such taxes are not already included with your transatlantic and domestic flight tickets.
It is advisable to check your immunizations for Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A. If you have been anywhere where Yellow Fever is endemic within 3 months of arriving in Peru you may need to provide proof of vaccination. If you are travelling into the Amazon basin it is better to take precautions against malaria unless there are medical reasons for not doing so.
For up-to-date advice on any vaccination requirements and any health risks associated with visiting Peru, please contact your doctor or GP.
Additional useful information is also provided at http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations/south-america–antarctica/peru.aspx an NHS web site specialising in providing health information to travellers from the UK.
For up-to-date UK government advice concerning travel to Peru please see: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/peru
You can generally travel throughout Latin America using US dollars (to change into local currency) and a debit card for taking out cash at bank ATM machines. The local currency is the Nuevo Sol (frequently referred to as the sol or soles in plural). If you are travelling in remote areas (such as the jungle) ATMs are not available and you should ensure you have sufficient cash on you to cover the days you are away. You should note that ATM machines may have an option to dispense cash in US dollars or in soles. It is advisable to take a supply of cash in US dollars. The exchange rates are fairly flat across all the banks but the hotel rates are considerably poorer. Dollar notes should be clean and undamaged. Notes which have been torn, scribbled upon or which have had a staple through them may not be accepted.
Credit cards (Mastercard, Visa) are commonly accepted in the better class hotels, restaurants and shops, but do check first. Credit card charges are onerous on businesses so do not expect a discount unless offering to pay by cash.
Exchange Rates are subject to change at any time but the following table gives indicative rates for countries in Central and South America:
When travelling in the Andes you should bear in mind that you will be at fairly high altitude. So if you have a heart condition or are very asthmatic you should check with your doctor. You should advise your travel insurers of any pre-existing medical condition.
Colca Canyon: 2800-4825m
Lake Titicaca: 3825m
Inca Trail: 2600-4200m
Machu Picchu: 2380m
The history of Peru is a sorrowful tale of conquest, struggle, bloodshed, boundary disputes, dictatorships, coups, counter-coups and corruption.
The Republic of Peru, the third largest country in South America, takes its name from the Inca language of Quechua, a word suggesting land of abundance. But the Incas arrived quite late in the day. Settlement in Peru dates back some 13,000 years and several advanced cultures pre-dated the Incas. Around 1250 BC groups such as the Chavín, Chimú, Nazca, and Tiahuanaco migrated into the region from the north. The Chimú built the city of Chan Chan about AD 1000, ruins of which were declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
The Incas, like the countries of Europe and unlike most indigenous peoples, recounted their history through the reigns of their emperors and kings. Even their legends do not go further back than 1200 AD. It is generally agreed that the Incas had 13 emperors, or Sun Gods, and for the most part, from 1200 to 1438, they were a small tribe – one of many – and their power did not extend more than a few miles from their base at Cuzco. It also seems that they were constantly at war with neighbouring tribes.
The rapid expansion of the Inca Empire began in 1438 with Pachacuti, the son of Viracocha, regarded as one of the greatest men in the history of Latin America. As every Peruvian schoolboy knows, in less than 100 years, until conquest by Francisco Pizarro in 1533, the Inca Empire stretched from the modern Ecuadorian-Colombian border to central Chile and as far as northern Argentina. They started by defeating the Colla and Lupaca tribes based around Lake Titicaca, turned west and defeated the Chanca, moved north and took over the Chimu. Pachacuti’s son, Topa Inca, continued the expansion of their empire, moving south and conquering all of Northern Chile.
The beginning of the end of the Inca Empire started with the arrival of Pizarro and just 187 Spaniards, mainly from Extremadura in South-West Spain. With better weaponry and horses the Spanish defeated an army of some 80,000 Incas (who, it has to be said, were not expecting a battle).
Lima became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru which extended from the Caribbean to La Plata (Argentina). During the seventeenth century Peru was the second most important producer of silver (for 20 years it was the largest producer). Indians who attempted to rebel against exploitation and forced labour by the Spanish were executed.
The establishment of the viceroyalties of New Granada (1739) in the north and La Plata (1776) in the south greatly reduced the extent and power of the colonial administration centred in Lima. But it was the revolutions in the United States and in France that were the catalyst for the independence movements across Latin America.
Peru declared its independence on 28 July 1821.
A short confederation with Bolivia (1836-1839) was broken by rebellion. Then, in 1879 Peru together with Bolivia fought a disastrous four-year war with Chile over possession of the nitrate-rich northern part of the Atacama desert. The defeat of the Peruvian army led to the occupation of Lima by the Chilean army and to loss of territory for both Peru and Bolivia. It still hits a raw nerve in both Peru and Bolivia.
In 1911, an American explorer and archaeologist Hiram Bingham searching for Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Incas, rediscovered Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu, in fact, is not the site of Vilcabamba. Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that it was a mountain retreat of the Inca leader Pachacuti Yupanqui, who ruled from 1438-1471. Investigators have suggested the site may have served as a religious sanctuary and that the masonry windows at two of its monuments may have been aligned for the June and December solstices. In the last few years it has finally been established that Vilcabamba itself is located some 22 miles away.