Most importantly bring your adventurous spirit, an open mind and a desire to experience some very unique cultures Cusco, navel of the Inca world, is now South America's gringo hangout, with its access to Machu Picchu and a buzzing nightlife. Not far away is magical Lake Titicaca birthplaces of the Inca myth. The adobe cities of the north coast, the mysterious cloud people of the northern highlands, the giant figures etched on the desert by the Nazcans, are just a few of the Pre-Inca cultures Peru has to offer. You can trek for ever amid high peaks and blue lakes, cycle down remote mountainsides, or surf the Pacific rollers. Eat of the Andes the jungles stretch towards the heart of teh continent with some of the richest biodiversity on earth. And, should you tire of nature, there is always Lima, loud and brash, but with some of the best museums and liveliest nightlife in the country.
Lima the sprawling capital, is daunting at first sight, but worth investigating for its museums, colonial architecture and nightlife. Routes radiate in every direction and great steps have been taken to improve major roads linking the pacific with the highlands.
North of Lima it is only seven hours to Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca, the country's climbing and trekking centre. Mountaineering and hiking can be easily linked with the archeological site at Chavin, east of Huaraz, or with the pre-inca cities Sechin and Chan Chan,the latter close to the colonial city of Trujillo. Heading up the coast, there is plenty of evidence of precolumbian culture, particularly around Chiclayo, beaches for surfing (eg Chicama) or watching traditional fishing techniques, and wildlife parks in the far north near Tumbes. (Tumbes and the nearby Piura-Sullana route are the gateways to Ecuador) In the northern highlands, Cajamarca is a pleasant base for exploring more archeological sites, thermal baths and beautiful countryside. From here, or by a route from Chiclayo, there is access to the remote Chachapoyas region where a bewildering number of prehispanic citires and cultures are beginning to be opened up to visitors. Going east from here is one of the less travelled roads into the jungle lowlands.
South of Lima are Peru's most deservedly famous tourist destinations. The chief focus is Cusco, where spanish colonial and Inca architecture are unted, and the Sacred Valley of th Incas, with the mountain top city of Machu Picchu as the highlight of a historical and cultural treasure trove. Regular trips from Cusco extend to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (on the overland route to Bolivia), in which islands are frequently visited to see a unique way of life.
Arequipa, a fine city at the foot of El Misti volcano, gives access to the canyons of Colca and, for those with more time, the even deeper Cotahuasi. A lunch-travelled railway links Cusco, Puno and Arequipa, but the Cusco - Puno road is a good paved road, offering new opportunities for exploring these high altitude regions.
On the southern coastal route is the Paracas Peninsula (near Pisco), reputed to be home to the largest sea-lion colony on earth, and offshore Ballestas Islands, one of the best places to see marine birdlife in the world. The mysterious Nazca line, whose meanings still stir debate, etched in the stony desert, should not be missed if you are on the Lima - Arequipa road or taking the Pan- American highway south to Tacna and Chile.
The central highlands can be reached by roads from Lima, Pisco and Nasca, the main center being Huancayo, Huancavelica and Ayacucho. There is much of historical interest here and the Mantaro Valley, near Huancayo and Ayacucho are good areas for buying bus. Roads in this part of the Sierra are being improved considerably, but check conditions if going far off the beaten track
Another route into the Peruvian jungle runs from the Central Highlands to Pucallpa, but the most popular journeys are by air to the Amazon city of Iquitos, from where boat can be taken to Brazil, or from Cusco to the spectacular Manu Biosphere Reserve and the Tambopata area (accesed from Puerto Maldonado). This has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, providing wonderful opportunities for watches of birds, butterflies and animals and for plant lovers
The most popular and by far the most comfortable journeys are by air to the Amazon city of Iquitos or from Cusco to the spectacular Manu biosphere and the Tambopata area accessed by air to Puerto Maldonado. This has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, providing wonderful opportunities for animal, butterfly, and plant lovers. bird watchers. Just spending time hiking or sitting in a hammock outside your hut in the Amazon jungle feed the body, mind and soul with a green intensely vibrant natural world in a way no other place compares.
After you have decided to go to South America for a vacation, always research which countries you are drawn to. Not just the political situation, but whether it is necessary to get a visa beforehand.
Vaccinations eg typhoid or yellow fever for the Amazon jungle are often required. Travel insurance is strongly advised. Anything could happen from and accident to a missed flight and can cost big money sometimes.
It's advisable to have photocopies of passport and other valuable documents. Don't forget your student ID is can save you money on entrance fees and other discounts.
Money pouches/belt under clothes are also recommended. Bring Us dollars or Euros. Travel cards are excellent and work like a debit card at ATMs . Emergency money funds can come in very handy and save the stress of worrying about whether you will be able to have a stress free trip, without cutting out special places you may want to stay longer or buying something special for yourself or someone else.
Personal first aid kit and personal medications you may use. Pharmacies are everywhere, but don't presume your brand will be in South America
Take time to learn some Spanish. It will make a big difference when interacting with South American cultures and also not getting ripped off.
Electrical adaptors are handy if wanting to use your personal appliances. Don't bring valuable jewellery it is too easy and obvious for thieves to see.
Most importantly bring your adventurous spirit, an open mind and a desire to experience some very unique cultures