An Insider’s Guide to Peru, South America

Bordered by Brazil in the East, and the Pacific Ocean in the West; Peru is home to both sugar-white sand beaches and the largest stretch of the tropical Amazon rainforest outside of Brazil. So, whilst everyone may come for Machu Picchu, there’s so much more to this South American country than most first think.

“Peru is a destination that truly has it all. Whether you are learning about the ancient history, canoeing down a peaceful river in the Amazon or hiking the iconic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, this colourful country will take your breath away.” – Black Tomato’s Travel Expert Tom

When to go

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most renowned trekking trails in the world and is one of the many reasons people visit Peru.  If looking to hike the trail then we advise you go between  June and August when it’s most dry (however it’s worth noting that the trail can get busy with locals at end of July as it’s a national holiday).  Be sure not to travel to Peru (if wanting to visit Machu Picchu) in February though as the Inca Trail closes for a month.

There’s so much more to Peru than Machu Picchu though and therefore your options of when to visit this magical country do depend on what you’d like to experience and see.  To put it in perspective – there is no country on earth that is more diverse than Peru.  Quite literally.  With 11 ecological regions and 84 of the world’s 117 different types of “life zones” (desert, desert scrub, dry forest, rainforest, woodland, tropical forest etc) it offers incredible diversity and therefore weather.

But on the whole, Peru has two distinct seasons. The dry season starts in mid April and ends mid November. Rainy season really does tend to dominate much of December – March but when we say rain it can just be a quick spell then great weather for the rest of the day.

Whatever time of year you go, keep in mind Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu are high in elevation, and the weather can change at any time.

So we’ve basically covered it all here but from personal experience – you should always be prepared for hot sunshine, cold rain, and everything in between.

What you should experience

Famous ceramics and cooking alongside a Michelin-starred Chef

Most trips tend to start in Lima as it’s the only international airport in Peru and there are two things we always suggest to any traveller.  Museo Larco and Central.

Why?  Well, Museo Larco is one of the most iconic museums in Lima – a privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art, located in the Pueblo Libre District of Lima.  It presents one of the best ceramic displays in all of Peru and perfectly transports you through the many centuries of the country’s history, giving you a fantastic sense of place and understanding to kick off your Peruvian travels.  With ceramic works from the Cupisnique, Chimú, Chancay, Nazca and Inca cultures it is truly mesmerizing to see it all side by side and get a fantastic historical lesson to set the scene of everywhere you’ll travel to from Lima.

Sometimes a slow walk through a museum just gets you craving pisco, or is that just us?  Either way, we highly recommended a visit to the on-site Café del Museo whilst there.  Set in a private garden draped in bougainvillea it’s a perfect spot for ceviche.  And a pisco, naturally.

A morning (or afternoon) spent understanding the country’s history is then complimented by a one-of-a-kind culinary feast at Central restaurant in Barranco.  Masterminded by Virgilio Martinez (see below)  this 16 course tasting menu takes you on a sensory journey through the multiple climates, altitudes and coastal lands of Peru – truly no better way to try the many iconic, and lesser known, ingredients that you will no likely see and potentially taste again on your travels beyond Lima.

Or take it a step further and join our dear friend Virgilio on a culinary experience around Peru with Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martinez – an experience very few can offer other than Black Tomato and one not to be missed. The mastermind behind the fifth best restaurant in the world takes a lucky few up into the Andes to teach them authentic pachamanca cooking techniques. Loosely translated as ‘earth oven’, Virgilio will show you how to create an Andean oven using only heated stones, grass, soil and banana leaves to transform foraged ingredients into a traditional Peruvian dish.

Follow Virgilio in search of ingredients and learn how he forages his country’s different altitudes. From the 4000 different types of potato that are grown tens of thousands of feet above sea level in the Andes to the hot peppers indigenous to the lowlands of the Amazon rainforest.

Virgilio tells us, “it’s not just about the mountains, the jungle, and the sea. It’s about the different types of mountain, jungle and sea. Each region is unique and has a biodiversity of its own. There are always new ingredients to discover”.

Visit the Largest Lake in South America

Lake Titicaca, a lake 12,500ft up in the Andes Mountains, is the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake on Earth. Lying on the border of Bolivia and Peru, the lake is home to the ‘Floating Islands’ of the Uros people who pre-date the Incan civilisation.

3,700 years later and the Uros people are still living out on the man-made totora reed islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca. Hop into a kayak (or one of their reed boats) and paddle from island to island visiting the local people and staying in their thatched homes. They’ll teach you the ancestral reed-weaving techniques that they use to keep their islands afloat and cook you a traditional Peruvian Uros meal.  They are truly some of the most hospitable people and are so proud of their heritage so enjoy a couple of hours with them learning how they’ve kept this tradition alive for millennia.

Boasting an unbeatable panorama of the lake and bursting with endless cultural excursions is hotel Titilaka. Nestled on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the hotel is in prime position for trekking the Colla Trail, strolling across the Altiplano, and of course, meeting the Uros people on their Floating Islands.

Taste the World’s Best Chocolate

We aren’t exaggerating when we say the world’s best chocolate… Peru’s very own Cacaosuyo Piura Milk Chocolate has won the title of World’s Best Chocolate time and time again at the International Chocolate Awards. Who’d have thought it?

Visit Cusco’s ChocoMuseo and take part in what is much more than just a workshop. Travel to the world-famous Machu Picchu, passing through the homes of families from the Cusco jungle that produce cocoa, and pick your very own cacao fruit. Back at the museum, try your hand at transforming the cacao into a chocolate bar. Learn all about making chocolate – from the seed, to the plant, to the process – and then have a go at roasting and grinding cacao beans, making your very own chocolate tea.  In summary you’ll create enough chocolate to last you a lifetime.


The Geography

Peru is situated on the west coast of South America and is an extremely biodiverse destination. In the North, Peru borders with Ecuador which is home to the Galapagos Islands. In the East, lies the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, parallel with Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In the South, trek the world-famous Inca Trail to one of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. And in the West, you’ll find the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the capital city, Lima.

The North/East

The North of Peru borders with Ecuador, home to the remote and undisturbed Galapagos Islands. Sail around the 80 paradisaical islands and swim with sea turtles, penguins and chocolate chip starfish.  If time is limited, save the Galapagos Islands for another time and head straight for the Amazon.

Occupying 60% of the country, the Peruvian Amazonia can be found in the North Eastern region of Peru and is the second largest portion of the Amazon rainforest after the Brazilian Amazon.

Our in-house Latin America travel expert, Tom, recommends delving deep into the jungle and staying at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica where you’ll swim with pink Amazonian dolphins, venture out on nature walks in search of boa constrictors and poisonous dart frogs, and visit the indigenous Amazon villages.

Where to stay: Reserva Amazonica Inkaterra


The Mountains of the Southern Region

In the South, you’ll find the Cusco Region; the perfect base for those wanting to make their way to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is a true marvel. The 15th-century Inca citadel sits 8000ft above sea level on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley and leaves curious travellers speechless time and time again. The impressive fortress, built by the Inca civilisation in around 1450 and abandoned a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest, was left unscathed by the Spanish and stands today to tell us the tales of time.

For the ultimate experience, hop on the Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu and travel through the Andes Mountains. Once there, climb Machu Picchu instead of Huayna Picchu. You’ll have a higher up view of the ruins, be closer to the clouds, and best of all, you’ll be almost entirely alone. On return, trek the world-famous Inca Trail and bathe in hot springs and camp close by canyons along the way.

Where to stay: Sol y Luna


The West

The Andes Mountains cross Peru from North to South, separating the coast from the Amazon rainforest. For those that love an unbeatable view, the Andes is not to be missed.

The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the Western edge of South America. The range is about 7000km long, about 200 to 700km wide, and is an average height of about 4000m. Impressive, right?

Experience the Andes Mountains the most unique way we know how and saddle up and horse-ride along the highland plateau of the second deepest ravine in the world, the Colca Canyon, from your very own lodge tucked away in the mountains at Colca Lodge Spa and Hot Springs.

Where to stay: Colca Lodge Spa and Hot Springs