The Three Perus


Any trip or tour package to Peru should come with a “Three for the Price of One” tag. That’s because the Peruvian landscape is marked by three major climates: the coastal desert, the high Andes, and the Amazon rainforest. Each locale is uniquely dramatic in its own way and contains must-see tourism attractions that are not to be missed. Where else can you from one of the driest places on earth (the desert coast) to one of the wettest (the Amazon)?

But how does one plan a trip to all three of the Perus? Here is our guide to help.

*The Coast*

The Peruvian coast seems almost like an extended beach, in that the land is arid and sandy up to the base of the mountains.

*Places to Visit*: Mancora, Chiclayo, Huanchaco, Lima, Asia, Tacna

Signature Cuisine: Mostly seafood. You can find dishes like ceviche, arroz con mariscos, chicharron de pescado and the like. If you’re in the northern regions, you can also sample the comida norteña, which includes slow-cooked stews like seco a la norteña, made of either beef or goat and served with beans on the side.

*Things to Do*: Besides visiting the beach, you can also try out any number of water sports or just relax in the sun. Some regions, such as the areas around Chiclayo and Trujillo, have incredible ruins belonging to ancient civilizations that predated the Incas. Notable sites include Chan-Chan and the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Trujillo, and the Sipan tomb in Chiclayo.

*The Mountains*

*Places to Visit*: Cusco, Ayacucho, Huancayo, Huaraz, Cajamarca, Arequipa, Puno

*Signature Cuisine*: Many of the menu items you’ll find in this region are created to stave off the chilly weather and give energy to tired hikers. Therefore, expect to find hearty, meat-based soups and stews, as well as dished made with potatoes and other hearty vegetables. One classic Andean dish is pachamanca, which consists of meat and potatoes cooked in a hole in the ground so that everything takes on a smokey, earthy flavor. Other notable Andean dishes include chicharron, which is deep-fried pieces of pork or sometimes alpaca, and stews made from cuy or alpaca meat.

*Things to Do*: Hiking! The Peruvian Sierra offers some of the most famous trekking opportunities in the world, such as the Inca Trail in Cusco and the Santa Cruz Trek in Huaraz. The Andean region is also home to ruins like Machu Picchu, Saksayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, the Baños del Inca in Cajamarca and Vilcashuaman in Ayacucho. Finally, there is also one of the highest lakes in the world, Lake Titicaca, near the city of Puno.

*The Jungle*

*Places to Visit*: Iquitos, Pucallpa, Yurimaguas, Puerto Madonaldo

*Signature Cuisine*: Jungle cuisine is as varied as the flora and fauna that call this area home. The heavy tacacho con cecina, fried salty pork with mashed banana, is tasty but in rather small doses, unless you’re particularly hungry. River fish like paiche are plentiful, as well as the various types of fruit. If you’re feeling brave, try suri, the grilled coconut worm.

*Things to Do*: While it’s not recommended to explore the jungle alone (for obvious reasons), you can go jungle-hiking, boating, and wildlife spotting. You can see local wildlife like sloths, pink dolphins, and many different types of birds.

*Bonus: The High Jungle*

Picture the jagged peaks of the mountains covered with lush, green jungle. This is the border area where the mountains start to give way to swampy lowland. It’s in this unique area where you will find the massive ruins of Kuelap and the Gocta Cataracts, as well as the prime coffee-producing area.

In fact, as each of the three dramatic landscapes transition, you’ll find all sorts of other interesting areas with unique climates and ecology. No matter where you go in Peru, you are certain to find something intriguing! Three staggeringly different landscapes inside one country