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Clinging to the Andes, Peru is shrouded in a veil of mist and mystery epitomized by the famous site of south Peru's lost Inca city, Machu Picchu, and the enigma that is the Nazca Lines. But don't be fooled, Peru is much more than a destination for archaeological buffs: it offers spectacular and varied scenery from the parched coastal desert to the lush expanse of the Amazon rainforest; a rich history dating some 5000 years; and a vibrant, traditional culture that is alive and well. Millions of handsome broad-faced Indians still speak their ancient tongue and wear brightly coloured wool dress topped off with bowler hats. It is a land of colour, history, and lamas, so photographers should be at the ready – a trip to Peru is full of 'Kodak-moments'.

The capital; Lima is the oldest continuously inhabited capital in South America and is renowned for its beautiful pre-Hispanic and colonial architecture. With plenty of museums, a thumping nightlife and some of the nation's best food, it is the ideal starting point for visitors to Peru.

Peru's most enchanting city; Cusco is a treasure trove of history with magnificent buildings from the Inca, Colonial and Republican eras. An evening stroll around the markets bordering the beautiful Plaza de Armas makes for an atmospheric distraction while pondering the many great restaurants on offer. Cusco is also the gateway to numerous well preserved Inca ruins including its most famous, Machu Picchu. Discovered by an American historian in 1911, this stunning mountainside ruin earned its name as Lost City of the Incas as there is no definite explanation as to where its population went. Preserved by the protective clutches of the jungle, it is in mint condition with only its original thatched roofs having deteriorated. Accessed by a mountainside railway or notoriously-gruelling four day hike, it is the cherry on top of most visitors' trip. Those who endure the hike are rewarded with an early morning arrival to the majestic site and some quiet time to contemplate its mystery (before the train-travellers descend en-masse).

In the south is the stunning colonial city of Arequipa. Watched over by the active El Misti volcano, it is surrounded by some of Peru's wildest terrain including the world's deepest canyon, Colca Colyon, where condors soar gracefully on thermals of rising from the canyon's deep ravines. The Colca Valley is a colourful Andean valley with towns founded in Spanish colonial times, inhabited by people of the Collaguas and the Cabanas cultures. The local people continue ancestral traditions and maintain cultivation along pre-Inca stepped terraces.

Further inland is the town of Puno which, at 3860 meters above sea level, slopes down steep Andean hillsides to the shores of Lake Titicaca. It is known as the folklore capital of Peru where Quechua and Aymara women wear traditional garb and bowler hats, with ninos swaddled in bright, woven blankets slung across their backs. Every February, Puno hosts an 18-day festival that commemorates the city's patron saint with exciting fireworks, parades, costumes, street murals, and brass bands – it is an exciting time to visit! Lake Titicaca, which covers some 8300 square kilometres and is shared with neighbouring Bolivia, is the region's number one tourist drawcard and the most sacred body of water in the Inca empire. Its shores are the ancestral land to numerous pre-Hispanic peoples whose traditions are ever present today. A must for visitors to Lake Titicaca is a boat trip to the Uros floating reed islands, named after the Indians who inhabit them. These islands are made and re-made from the totora reeds which provide home, sustenance and transportation for their residents.

Interestingly, the Amazon rainforest covers 60% of Peru's territory although only 5% of the population reside within her dense forests. The protected areas of the Manu Biosphere Reserve and the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve can be found in Peru's southern jungle while the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve can be found in the northern jungle with access from Iquitos. Tour operators provide a blend of jungle lodging, camping, and jungle trekking to pride enthusiasts with the opportunity to observe pink dolphin, giant river turtles, the manatee, black caiman, black spider monkeys, and many other Amazon species. Passengers embarking on a vintage paddle steamer cruise along the world's mightiest river have the luxury of taking in the dramatic scenery from the comfort of a deck chair or their very own cabin.

Peru's peak tourist season is from June to August, coinciding with the cooler dry season of the Andean highlands - making it the best and the busiest time to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. While the mountains can be visited all year around, visitors should expect a muddy experience during the wet season; especially from December to March. At sea-level, Lima averages temperatures in the low 20°sC from May to November, and high 20°sC from December to April. Peru's eastern rainforest experiences heavy bursts of rain from December through to May. Even so, visitors can expect a fair share of sun, with the rains usually lasting only a few hours.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year