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The Rough Guide to Peru Paperback – 1 Jul 2009
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About the Author
Dilwyn Jenkins has been visiting Peru most years since his first trip in 1976. During his time living in South America, he has worked as a journalist, teacher, film-maker, tour leader, fundraiser and rainforest development consultant. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Where to go
With each region offering so many different attractions, it's hard to generalize about the places you should visit first: the specific attractions of each part of Peru are discussed in greater detail in the chapter introductions. Apart from the ostensibly unattractive capital, Lima, where you may well arrive, Cusco is perhaps the most obvious place to start. It's a beautiful and bustling colonial city, the ancient heart of the Inca Empire, surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain landscapes and palatial ruins in Peru and magnificent hiking country. Yet along the coast, too, there are fascinating archeological sites - the bizarre Nazca Lines south of Lima, the great adobe cities and ceremonial centres of Chan Chan, Tcume and Batan Grande in the north - and a rich crop of sea life, most accessible around the Paracas National Park. The coastal towns, almost all of them with superb beaches, also offer nightlife and great food. For mountains and long-distance treks there are the stunning glacial lakes, snowy peaks and little-known ruins of the sierra north of Lima, above all around Huaraz, Cajamarca and Chachapoyas. If it's wildlife you're interested in, there's plenty to see almost everywhere. The jungle, however, provides startling opportunities for close and exotic encounters. From the comfort of tourist lodges in Iquitos to exciting river excursions around the Manu reserved areas or Puerto Maldonado, the fauna and flora of the world's largest tropical forest can be experienced first-hand perhaps more easily than in any other quarter of the Amazon.
When to go
Picking the best time to visit Peru's various regions is complicated by the country's physical characteristics. Summer along the desert coast more or less fits the expected image of the southern hemisphere - extremely hot and sunny between December and March (especially in the north), cooler and with a frequent hazy mist between April and November. Sometimes though, in the polluted environs of Lima, the coastal winter can get cold enough to require a sweater. Swimming is possible all year round, though the water itself (thanks to the Humboldt Current) is cool-to-cold at the best of times, except for the most northern beaches. To swim or surf for any length of time south of Mncora, you'd need to follow local custom and wear a wetsuit. Apart from the occasional shower over Lima it hardly ever rains in the desert. The freak exception, every ten years or so, is when the shift in ocean currents of El Ni-o causes torrential downpours, devastating crops, roads and communities all down the coast. It last broke in 1998, and previous to that in 1983, both times bringing with it the devastation to crops, bridges and any houses constructed in or too close to apparently dry river beds.
In the Andes, the seasons are more clearly marked, with heavy rains from December to March and a relatively dry period from June to September, when, although it can be cold at night, it is certainly the best time for trekking and most outward-bound activities. Some of the mountain rivers go up a few levels for rafting and canoeing in the rainy season, but anyone serious about this should contact the experts in the field for advice on planning an itinerary. And of course, there are always a few sunny weeks in the rainy season and wet ones in the dry. A similar pattern dominates much of the jungle, though rainfall here is heavier and more frequent, and it's hot and humid all year round. The lowland rainforest areas around Iquitos have a fairly consistent pattern of rain and sun all year, but they are affected by rising or dropping water levels, according to the rainy season or dry season in the mountains where the headwaters starts. This means that water levels are higher between December and January, which offers distinct advantages for spotting wildlife and access by canoe to remote creeks. At the risk of over-generalizing then, the coast should be visited around January while it's hot, and the mountains and jungles are at their best after the rains, from May until September, except for the Iquitos region. Since this is unlikely to be possible on a single trip, there's little point in worrying about it - the country's attractions are invariably enough to override the need for guarantees of good weather. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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