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PERU is the third largest country in South America and has three distinct regions, the coast, the sierra (mountains) and the jungle. There are also 200 miles of Pacific coastline. For the inhabitants of Lima, the summer lasts from December to April and during the other months of the year the capital is covered by a low layer of rain clouds. In the Sierra winter lasts from November to April which is the rainy season, whilst from May to October the sky is clear and the panoramas are splendid. The Peruvian Amazon has a climate that is constantly hot and humid, although the rainfall is more intense and frequent from January to April. In some desert coastal areas there is just one hot and dry season. The best period to visit Peru, therefore, varies depending on the places that one wants to visit. Generally, the months of May to September are advisable for people who want to travel throughout the country.

LIMA, the capital of Peru is situated on the coast. The heart of the colonial city revolves around the Plaza de Armas now called Plaza Mayor. The districts of Miraflores and San Isidro have some of the best restaurants and shopping in the capital.

AREQUIPA is the second most important city in Peru. It lies at the foot of an ice-capped dormant volcano called El Misti. In the south western part of the country, which has long been renowned for having one of the most pleasant settings and climates in Peru, it is known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’. The countryside surrounding Arequipa is varied and lush. Here you find the Colca Canyon which is the deepest in the world, a vast and incomparable place. Its sharp terraces are still home to some traditional Indian villages despite rapidly becoming one of Peru’s most popular tourist attractions. This is where you can see the flight of the Condor and the isolated ‘Valley of the Volcanoes’. The Monastery of Santa Catalina is the most interesting religious complex in Arequipaand is a virtual walled city.

CUSCO, ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is an exciting and colourful city where the streets are bustling with life and live music. The Incas built their capital using hard volcanic rock for their walls and foundations; streets ran straight and narrow with channels to drain off the heavy rains. Much of the current city was built by the Spaniards on the sumptuous and solid remains of Inca temples and palaces. Cusco is situated at around 3,500 metres above sea level, and visitors need to get used to the high altitude before any physical exertion. UNESCO has declared Cusco as a world heritage site, the street markets are full of souvenirs. Cusco is a fascinating place to visit and in addition is the starting point for trips to the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba river with the mystical citadel of Machu Picchu. Just outside Cusco are the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a fortress built by the Incas to guard Cusco. Pisac is some 25Km from Cusco and has a large market every Sunday, where the colourfully dressed locals offer their wares. The road follows along the sacred valley and passes through the small town of Yucay and then on to Ollantaytambo, another well preserved Inca site, which includes a Temple of the Sun, a Royal Hall, and a sacrificial altar. The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu stops at Ollanta station, just outside Ollantaytambo, and from here the journey to Aguas Calientes takes just over one hour, and passes through some magnificent Andean scenery, with many more Inca sites visible along the way.

MACHU PICCHU Travelling direct from Cusco to Machu Picchu takes just over three hours by train, followed by thirty minutes on a bus. Built by the Incas at the edge of the jungle, Machu Picchu is the most dramatic and enchanting of Inca citadels. It is set against a vast, lush, scenic backdrop of dark green forested mountains that rise up from the deep valleys of the Urubamba River and its tributaries. It is now one of the most visited of all the Indian sites. The site remains almost intact, except for the thatched roofs. Adjacent to the citadel is Huayna Picchu, which has a winding stone walkway leading to terracing near the top. The views from the top of the walkway are stupendous, although the climb is definitely not for anyone who fears heights!

THE NAZCA LINES, situated half way between Lima and Arequipa and easily reached by bus, car or plane, They are considered one of the greatest mysteries of Peru. Just three hours drive south from Lima on the Panamerican highway, there are a series of animal figures and geometric shapes all of them different, and some of them up to 200 metres in length. All of these shapes have been drawn across some 500 sq. km of the Pampa of San José. A few of the shapes can be recognised including the Hummingbird, the Monkey and the Spider, all created in a continuous line. These lines remained undiscovered until the aviation era began in Peru when astonished pilots first flew over them. There are now many light aircraft tours on offer. There are many theories about the lines, it has been suggested that they are an astronomical calendar, or even landing strips for past visitors from outer space! However more mundanely scientists believe the lines may mark the channel of water, led down from the Andes to irrigate the waterless plains, whilst some locals believe that the lines were trod by the shuffling feet of The Incas as a symbolic act.

PUNO lies along the eastern banks of Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world, at an altitude of 3,827 metres. The city of Puno was founded in 1668, and was one of the richest centres on the American continent during the Spanish domination, due to the silver mines in nearby Laykakota. Today’s attractions in Puno include its folklore, handicrafts, customs, myths, feasts and most of all the ethnic dances, almost 300 of them. The most famous and interesting is without doubt ‘La Diablada’ which is performed during the festivities for the Virgin de la Candelaria during the first half of February. The vast and magnificent Lake Titicaca is on the edge of Puno. It is 284 metres deep and more than 8,500 sq. kms in area, around 15 times the size of Lake Geneva. It is enclosed by white peaks and dotted with unusual floating islands. These islands are basically huge rafts built out of reeds known as ‘totora’. The native Uros Indians inhabit the largest of these islands, Huacavacani. Two other genuine non-floating islands in Titicaca worth while visiting are Taquile and Amantani, where traditional ways of life still flourish.
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