Escape on vacation and get lost in bustling native marketplaces and centuries-old abandoned cities in the hills of Peru. Pulsing metropolises like Cusco and Lima offer history in crumbling convents and winding streets. You can peel back the layers of Cusco's history from early Inca buildings to baroque mansions that sprang up during colonial times. When you leave the cities, trek through the exotic rain forest. Wherever you go in Peru, an organized tour will ease your journey with safe, scenic routes.
In Lima, many tours visit the intricately designed Lima Cathedral with exotic trees out front, as well as the rest of the colonial city that UNESCO has declared a World Heritage site. In Cusco, Frommer's recommends Qoricancha -- an Inca temple and astronomical observatory -- and the Convent of Santo Domingo, the Spaniard church built beside it. Many day tours let you take a train or hike the Inca Trail to the secluded terraces and massive stone structures of Macchu Pichu, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains meeting the clouds.
Off the Beaten Path
Some tours will whisk you away from the major tourist destinations to view the history of Peru, even as it continues to unravel. You may visit native markets in Urubamba Valley, or step into the mystical Manu rain forest. While you're bound to spot many of the rain forest's 1,000-odd types of birds and 300-odd species of trees, you'll also walk in the footsteps of the Inca people who once called the rainforest home. Meanwhile, tours such as Peru Gateway Travel's (peru-explorer.com) five-day Inca Empire tour will take you to the mountain opposite Machu Picchu to view the site from a rare, stunning vantage point.
Organized tours give you the luxury of paying attention to the sites instead of transportation woes, ticket queues and pickpockets. Experienced tour guides enhance your travels by educating you about Peruvian history and culture, helping you feel the heartbeat of the Inca Empire and other sites. Some tours also give you a hands-on Peruvian experience; for instance, Peru Gateway Travel offers complimentary aromatic coca tea upon arrival at the hotel. When ticket and transportation prices -- as well as some meals and accommodations -- are thrown into the overall cost of the tour, it takes the mystery out of the price of your trip. Unless you book a private tour, you'll also meet a host of fellow adventurers.
Types of Tours
Though Peru's explorer tours take you to all the main hot spots, these tours are far from identical. If you want a tour that caters to your personal interests, you can choose a themed tour, such as Adventure Life's (adventure-life.com) sports-themed tour that includes mountain biking, hiking and whitewater rafting. Choose a singles tour with Singles Travel International (singlestravelintl.com) if you want to meet new people. Amazing Peru (amazingperu.com) sometimes offers escorted Christmas tours, with Christmas lunch overlooking Machu Picchu.
Expert Travel Tips
Wherever you travel, Frommer's warns you to guard your personal belongings and stay alert. Joining an organized tour can help you avoid some of the tourist cons and pickpockets that harass lone travelers -- especially the ones busy staring at the sights instead of keeping a watchful eye on their money. As long as you stay with the group and stay alert, you're bound to enjoy the safety and surprises of your Peru vacation.