Fun things to do in Peru

  • Changing of the Guard at the Palacio De Gobierno
    Changing of the Guard at the Palacio De...
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    Santa Catalina Monastery
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Peru

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    Arequipa

    by jorgejuansanchez Written Apr 15, 2014

    I visited Arequipa during two days of August 1986 before heading to the Lake Titicaca by train. Arequipa is called la Ciudad Blanca (White City) because the color of many of the walls, while the people are called “characatos” and are known for their aim to get independence as a new country, since many of them do not feel Peruvians. The country they would like to establish would be called República Independiente de Arequipa, and the currency the “characato de oro”.
    Close to Arequipa there is a canyon (Cañón del Colca) deeper than the one in Colorado (USA), but I did not go there. Instead I got to know the downtown on foot well enough during those two days, visiting the Plaza de Armas and, in general, all the tourists’ attractions, such as the Cathedral, the monastery of Santa Catalina, and the most important churches, including the Iglesia de la Compañía.
    The situation of Arequipa is wonderful because of the high mountains around and the volcanic peak Misti, which is the city main symbol.
    The third day I left to Puno.

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    You must try a Pisco Sour...or learn to make one!

    by angiebabe Written Mar 21, 2014

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    Pisco sours are a mixture of spirit, crushed ice, sugar syrup, egg white and lemon juice and maybe angostura bitters - we had a pisco sour making session shortly after arriving in Cusco (yes so much for arriving at major altitude and resting! we rushed off to llama lunch and piscos...that are the right name for it if you drink one too fast, on an empty stomach or at altitude lol!...so i had to wait for another opportunity the next day! or was it that night?!)

    anyway Diego who took me around for the day In Lima said they were invented or first made at Cordano's Bar in Lima....if you look around for the info of where and when its not an easy answer!
    ....other than they are delicious!

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    Sabandia Alpaca

    by p4trizi4 Updated Dec 26, 2012

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    Sabandia is a quiet place, uitside of Arequipa, there is a nice alpaca which is perfect to use as alpaca top model.
    Close to this relax place you will find also good arequipeno restaurants with open areas in contact with nature , The volcan misti looks from here really impresionant.

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    The Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies

    by traveldave Updated Sep 4, 2012

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    I have written tips about the Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies under my "Things to Do" and "Hotels" categories because it is both a research station for scientists and a lodge where guests can stay while exploring the surrounding rainforest.

    Built by CONAPAC, a Peruvian conservation organization, and opened in 1993, the Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies is used mainly as a scientific research station for the study of the Amazonian rainforest. However, guests are welcome to stay in the lodge and participate in various activities. A donation to help maintain the canopy walkway and enlarge the surrounding rainforest reserve is included in the price of a room.

    The Amazon Canopy Walkway (see the tip under my "Things to Do" category for more information) is maintained and operated by the Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies, and is about a five-minute hike from the lodge.

    Guests can hike on the numerous trails through the rainforest (pictured above), visit the nearby canopy walkway, or relax in the hammock house. One of the trails is called the Medicine Trail, and is used to teach visitors about rainforest plants that are used in modern medicine or by the natives as remedies for various maladies. Resident naturalists are available to teach visitors about the local flora and fauna, and about the Amazonian rainforest and its ecosystems in general.

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    The Ruins of Ollantaytambo

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    The Ruins of Ollantaytambo are high up on a steep mountainside above the village of Ollantaytambo. It is a long, difficult climb, especially for those not accustomed to the altitude. These ruins are not as spectacular as those at Machu Picchu, but are impressive nevertheless.

    In the mid-fifteenth century, the Inca Emperor Pachacuti conquered the region, destroyed the town that predated Ollantaytambo, and built a ceremonial center that he named Llacta, later to be called Ollantaytambo. (Ollantaytambo can refer to the town or the Inca ruins. For the sake of clarity, when I discuss Ollantaytambo in this tip, it will refer to the ruins). While constructing Ollantaytambo, Emperor Pachacuti rebuilt the town, terraced the hillsides for agricultural purposes, and started an irrigation system in the river valley. The thriving center that resulted from his construction program became part of the emperor's royal estate.

    At the time of the Spanish conquest, Ollantaytambo was the stronghold and temporary capital of Manco Inca Yupanqui, the leader of the Inca resistance against the Spanish. It was at this time that Ollantaytambo became known as a fortress, but in reality the structures were used only for religious purposes and for the study of astronomy. This "fortress" was the only place where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest of Peru. In 1536, Manco Inca Yupanqui defeated the Spanish forces under Francisco Pizarro. After being showered with arrows, spears, stones, and boulders from the steep terraces, and being flooded when water channels were diverted, Pizarro and his army beat a hasty retreat. However, the following year Manco Inca Yupanqui left Ollantaytambo for the more heavily fortified site of Vilcabamba, and Ollantaytambo was taken over by the Spanish.

    Nowadays, the Ruins of Ollantaytambo are a popular attraction for those visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The ruins are divided into sectors. The Temple Sector contains impressive structures made from cut and fitted stones; the structures in the other sectors were made from uncut field stones and consist mainly of terrace walls. The most noteworthy building in the Temple Sector is the Sun Temple, pictured here.

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    Sacsayhuamán

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    In the hills overlooking Cuzco are the ruins of Sacsayhuamán. Contrary to popular belief, Sacsayhuamán was not constructed by the Incas, but was built by the Killke culture sometime between 900 A.D. and 1200. The Killke culture occupied the Cuzco area before the Incas arrived in the thirteenth century.

    Sacsayhuamán, which means "speckled falcon" or "speckled head" in Quechua, consists of three long, zigzag terrace walls that stretch about 1,312 feet (400 meters) and reach a height of 20 feet (six meters). The walls are made of enormous stone blocks, the largest of which weigh between 128 and 200 tons (116,120 and 272,155 kilograms). Despite the great weight, each block is precisely shaped to fit perfectly in with the other blocks. It is impossible to insert a piece of paper or knife blade between the blocks. To this day, it is not known how the blocks were put into place. Some of the largest and heaviest stone blocks employed anywhere in the Americas are at Sacsayhuamán. A total of about 211,888 cubic feet (6,000 cubic meters) of stone were used in the construction of the site.

    It is unknown what Sacsayhuamán's purpose was. It is widely believed that it was used for ceremonial purposes, and its large plaza, capable of accommodating thousands of people, bears out that theory. Sacsayhuamán is also often referred to as a fort, which may be partly true. It once had tall towers on its summit that overlooked Cuzco, similar to the watchtowers in other forts in the region.

    Despite its impressive size, Sacsayhuamán is only 20 percent of its original size. It used to contain numerous large buildings, towers, and storage facilities that contained various items. After the conquest of Peru, the Spanish tore down all of the buildings and many walls to use the blocks in building their own public buildings and houses in Cuzco.

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    Cyclopean Walls

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    The Incas are noted for the intricate stonework used in the construction of their temples, palaces, and terraces. The most recognizable type of Inca stonework is the Cyclopean walls that are seen in such places as Cuzco, the Ruins of Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu. ("Cyclopean" is a term first applied to Mycenaean architecture in Greece and refers to walls made of large stone blocks). The Incas probably learned their stone-cutting techniques from the Killke culture that occupied the Cuzco area prior to the arrival of the Incas. The Killke culture constructed nearby Sacsayhuamán, which has some of the finest examples of precise stonework anywhere.

    Cyclopean walls are characterized by large oddly shaped blocks of stone, sometimes weighing as much as 200 tons (272,155 kilograms), that were cut like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and fitted together without mortar. They are so precisely fitted together that it is impossible to insert the blade of a knife, or even a piece of paper, between them. The best example of the Inca stonecutter's talent is the "Twelve-cornered Stone" in a wall at the palace of Inca Roca.

    To this day, it is not known how the Incas were able to cut stones with such precision without the use of metal tools. They probably used stone tools, but some types of stone that they used, such as granite, are so hard that not many materials can cut them. The Inca stonecutters may also have split rock using wooden wedges. The wedges would be inserted into a crack in a rock and then soaked with water. As the wood absorbed the water, it would expand and split the rock along a fairly straight line.

    Inca walls were inwardly sloping and became progressively thinner toward the top. This creates a stable structure that is resistant to earthquakes. Most Inca structures have been undamaged by the frequent earthquakes that occur in the Andes, while many Spanish colonial buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Many of the Spanish buildings that have survived earthquakes were constructed on a foundation of Inca stonework.

    Some of Cuzco's colonial buildings were built on top of Inca buildings that were razed after the conquest. Nowadays, especially on many of the side streets in Cuzco, it is possible to see the intricately sized and fitted Inca stonework that forms the foundations of many of these buildings. Some of the streets where Inca stonework can be seen include Callejón Loreto, which runs southeast from the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco; and Calle San Augustín (pictured here) located east of the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco.

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    The Plaza de Armas of Cuzco

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    The Plaza de Armas of Cuzco is the center of modern Cuzco, just as it was once the center of Incan Cuzco, when it was called Huacaypata, or the "Square of the Warrior."

    During Inca times, the square was twice the size it is today. Believed to have been designed by Mono Cápac, the square was the center of cultural life in the Inca capital.

    When Francisco Pizarro finally conquered Cuzco in 1533, he proclaimed the conquest of the city in the square, which he renamed the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco. (Almost every city and town in Latin America has a public square called the Plaza de Armas). Just as in Inca times, the plaza was the center of activity in colonial Cuzco. One of the activities that occured there was public executions. In 1781, the plaza was the site of the execution of Túpac Amaru II, the leader of a resistance movement against the Spanish.

    During their rule of Cuzco, the Spanish reduced the size of the plaza by constructing colonial buildings around the open area, including the Cathedral of Cuzco on the northeastern side and La Compañía de Jesús Church on the southeastern side.

    Nowadays, the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco is a pleasant place to relax after sightseeing. It has grassy areas, flower beds, shade trees, and benches. Facing the plaza are cafes, restaurants, shops, and museums, not to mention the fine colonial buildings and churches.

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    The Cathedral of Lima

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lima is dedicated to Saint John the Apostle, and is the home church of the Archbishop of Lima. The cathedral has been rebuilt several times after earthquakes damaged the previous buildings. The Cathedral of Lima as it appears today is the third version, and was rebuilt in 1746 after the second was destroyed by an earthquake. Due to the various reconstructions over the centuries, today's Cathedral of Lima is an interesting mix of Baroque and neo-Classical architectural styles.

    Construction on the original cathedral began in 1535 when Francisco Pizarro laid the cornerstone. It was completed in 1538, but it was deemed too small. (The original cathedral was a small, rustic adobe building that was inadequate for an important center of the Spanish Empire like Lima). Work on the second cathedral started in 1564. It was incomplete when it was consecrated in 1625, and was not finished until 1649. That building was substantially destroyed by an earthquake in 1746. The original plans for the second cathedral were used in the construction of the third cathedral.

    The coffin and remains of Francisco Pizarro are located in a mosaic-covered chapel just inside the Cathedral of Lima. Other interesting elements inside the building include its 14 side chapels, paintings depicting the Way of the Cross along the side aisles, and a beautiful image in the baptistry of Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza, which is carried in processions during Lent and Holy Week.

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    The Plaza Mayor

    by traveldave Updated Sep 1, 2012

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    The 1,507-square-foot (140-square-meter) Plaza Mayor (formerly called the Plaza de Armas) is the heart of the colonial district of Lima. The plaza is surrounded by some of the most impressive colonial buildings in Lima, including the Government Palace (visible in the background), the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop's Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union.

    The Plaza Mayor was laid out by Francisco Pizarro when the city was founded in 1535. During colonial times, the plaza served as a marketplace, a bull-fighting arena, and the city's gallows where public executions took place, especially during the Spanish Inquisition.

    The plaza's first fountain was built by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1578. It was replaced with a new bronze fountain in 1651 by Viceroy García Sarmiento de Sotomayor, and is the oldest surviving structure in the plaza today.

    The Government Palace takes up one entire side of the Plaza Mayor. Also called the Presidential Palace, the Government Palace was Francisco Pizarro's home, where he spent the last years of his life, and where he was assassinated in 1541. A uniformed presidential guard is on duty all day outside of the Government Palace, and the changing of the guard can be witnessed every day at 12:00 p.m.

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    La Compañía de Jesús Church

    by traveldave Updated Aug 31, 2012

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    La Compañía de Jesús Church is one of two magnificent churches on the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco, the other being the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. The present church is actually the second that was built at this site.

    Construction on the first church started in 1571 on the site of the former palace of Huayna Cápac, the last of the Inca kings. However, the church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1650. Reconstruction started almost immediately, but the Jesuits wanted to make this the most magnificent church in Cuzco. The Archbishop of Cuzco disagreed and decreed that it should not outdo the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. The conflict between the parties became so heated that Pope Paul III was called upon to arbitrate, but by the time the request for arbitration was shipped to Europe and the Pope's decision was returned to Cuzco, La Compañía de Jesús Church had already become more splendid than the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. It was completed in 1668.

    La Compañía de Jesús Church was built in the Baroque style of architecture, and is of of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the Americas. The interior is not as ornate as the exterior, but there are a few noteworthy attractions inside. The golden altarpiece features an image of the Virgin Mary and a panel of the Transfiguration attributed to the Flemish Jesuit Diego de la Puente. There is also a picture of Saint Ignatius de Loyola by local artist Marcos Zapata, and a Crucifixion by Cristo de Burgos.

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    The Santo Domingo Church and Convent

    by traveldave Updated Aug 29, 2012

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    The Santo Domingo Church and Convent (not to be confused with the nearby Cathedral of Santo Domingo) was built on the site of the former Inca temple of Coricancha, and incorporates the foundation and some of the walls of the old temple. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the church is a 20-foot-high (six-meter-high) section of the Inca wall that is visible from inside and outside the church.

    The site was given to the Dominicans by Juan Pizarro, the brother of Francisco Pizarro. The Dominicans started construction of the church and convent in the early seventeenth century, and it was finally consecrated in 1654. The church's design is a mixture of Baroque and Classical styles of architecture.

    The Santo Domingo Church and Convent was destroyed by earthquakes in 1650 and in 1950, and was severely damaged again in 1986. However, the old Inca walls from Coricancha withstood the earthquakes and remained undamaged each time.

    Coricancha, which is Quechua for "Golden Courtyard," was the richest temple in the Inca Empire. Its walls were lined with 700 solid gold sheets, each weighing five pounds (two kilograms). The temple contained life-size gold and silver replicas of corn that were ceremonially planted in agricultural rituals, as well as solid gold altars, llamas, and a replica of the sun. The Spanish looted the temple's gold after they conquered Cuzco, melted it down, and shipped it off to Spain. They then destroyed the temple, leaving only its foundation and a couple of walls.

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    The Cathedral of Santo Domingo

    by traveldave Updated Aug 29, 2012

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    The Cathedral of Santo Domingo (not to be confused with the nearby Santo Domingo Church) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cuzco.

    Construction began on the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in 1559, and was completed in 1654. It was designed by Spanish architect and conquistador Juan Miguel de Veramendi. His design was in the Gothic-Renaissance style of architecture, but he also included some Baroque elements. Many stones from nearby Sacsayhuamán were used in the construction of the building.

    The cathedral was built on the foundations of Kiswarkancha, the former Inca palace of Emperor Viracocha, which was destroyed during the conquest of Cuzco. The placement on the foundations of the former Inca palace was a deliberate act to symbolize the replacement of the native Inca religion with Christianity. However, many of the laborers who worked on the cathedral were Incas, and they got back at their Spanish conquerors by surreptitiously incorporating some of their religious imagery in the building, such as a carving of a jaguar on the cathedral doors.

    Nowadays, the Cathedral is known for its solid silver altar and the María Angola Bell, the largest bell in South America that hangs in one of the cathedral's two towers. The cathedral also contains one of the finest collections of paintings from the Cusqueño school, including an interpretation of The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata which features cuy, or guinea pig, as the main dish. (Cuy is a specialty among the Quechua Indians who live in the high Andes of Peru).

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    The Plaza de Armas of Iquitos

    by traveldave Updated Aug 28, 2012

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    The Plaza de Armas of Iquitos is the center of social life in the city In the evenings, locals gather there to socialize, watch street entertainers, and buy snacks from vendors. On Sunday mornings, there is a flag-raising ceremony and a military parade. And throughout the year, many cultural, religious, and holiday celebrations are held in the square.

    The Plaza de Armas of Iquitos is dominated by a tall obelisque which is a monument to soldiers from Iquitos who fought for Peru in the War of the Pacific in 1879.

    The area immediately surrounding the plaza is one of the better neighborhoods in the city. The city's best hotels and restaurants face the square or are within a block or two of it. There is also a casino, internet cafes, a small museum, and the Iron House, the most popular attraction in Iquitos.

    Many of the buildings surrounding the plaza were built by wealthy rubber barons during the rubber boom. Many are in the Italianate-style of architecture or are covered in colorful mosaic tiles.

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    Pisac

    by traveldave Updated Aug 27, 2012

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    The town of Pisac is located at the east end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas at an altitude of 9,751 feet (2,972 meters). It is famous for its Indian market that takes place every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and draws hordes of tourists from nearby Cuzco. (See my tip on the Pisac Indian market for more information). The town also has many shops that cater to tourists, particularly those that offer locally made handicrafts.

    The area around modern Pisac was first settled by the Incas who established a settlement, called Inca Pisac, on a nearby hillside. That settlement was destroyed by Francisco Pizzaro and his conquistadores in the 1530s. Its ruins are a popular tourist attraction today, but they are not as popular as those at Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu.

    The modern town of Pisac was established by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in the 1570s, and it is now a typical Andean village. The only thing that really distinguishes Pisac from other similar Andean villages (aside from the fact that it can be overrun with tourists) is its huge, spreading pisonary tree in its central square. At Pisac's altitude, trees native to Peru are extremely rare, although the introduced eucalyptus trees survive well around the town.

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