When travellers are backpacking around South America, Peru is usually pretty near the top on the ‘must visit list’. Peru owns bragging rights to many of South America’s best-known attractions such as The Amazon Rainforest, The Andes mountain range, and Machu Picchu (The Lost City of the Incas) just to name a few! When Backpacking in Peru, travellers will experience the hustle and bustle of Peru’s capital, Lima, taste incredible Peruvian cuisine, take in the stunning and diverse mountainous landscape and of course learn about the ancient Incan civilisation.
Most travellers come to Peru having already heard of the wonderful and captivating city, Machu Picchu. Built around 1450 whilst the Incan empire was at its height, Machu Picchu managed to miraculously escape the tyranny of the Spanish conquest and was unknown outside of Peru until the early 20th century.
In 1911 American historian Hiram Bingham brought the ancient Incan citadel into the public eye and nowadays, many backpackers in Peru take a six-day Inca trail through the Peruvian mountains and past the Urubamba river to visit The Lost City of the Incans. It’s recommended that all backpackers who want to attempt the route are at a good level of fitness as the altitude and terrain can be particularly demanding.
Once you have arrived at Machu Picchu, you will see why the trail was worth the effort. Arriving just in time to catch the sun rising over the ruins from Intipunku, the experience is a truly magical and one you will not be forgetting in a hurry!
If all that strenuous effort is all a bit much for you, don’t panic. Travellers also have the option to catch the Hiram Bingham train all the way to Machu Picchu just in time for Sun Rise. The train is based around an English Colonial style and gives the slightly more ostentatious traveller the chance to peer out the window at the picturesque scenery whilst enjoying breakfast and champagne.
The nearest city to Machu Picchu is Cuzco, a magical city dating back to the Incan empire and it’s well worth spending a few days or weeks exploring its winding streets. Market days can be particularly popular in Cuzco, and those backpacking in Peru should not miss the opportunity to try local Peruvian foods.
If you have time whilst in Cuzco, visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas on a guided tour where you will be taken around the markets of Pisac and visit the ancient Incan village and fortress of Ollantaytambo, Other popular sights and attractions in Peru include the Colca Canyon. Twice the depth of The Grand Canyon in Central America, the Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world and tours run from nearby Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city.
Peru doesn’t just offer backpackers stunning scenery and ancient ruins though. Peru is also famous for it’s delicacy of the Guinea Pig. Eaten for thousands of years, the Guinea Pig is said to taste like rabbit and often served up with potatoes, peppers and an assortment of Peruvian spices. Known in Peru as Cuy, it’s available all over Peru and is without doubt worth trying if you get the chance!
On average, travellers backpacking in Peru should be able to survive on $40 per day, including food and accommodation. When choosing places to eat, try and seek out where the locals go and eat as these will be the cheapest and generally the best places to eat giving you the best Peruvian experience.
Be aware that tipping is a custom in Peru and whilst it’s normal for locals to tip around 10%, there are many scams where backpackers are treated unfairly and guilt tripped into tipping for unclear reasons. These often include taxi rides, taking photos or asking someone to take a photo of you or helping you with your luggage. If these situations do occur, it’s always best to politely decline the proposal.
Plan as much of your trip to Peru as possible to avoid disappointment when you arrive. This applies to all guided tours and hostels if you know which days you’re travelling where. If possible, also try and book your transport in advance to save money, this will also avoid complications if the bus is full, broken down or simply doesn’t turn up!