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Looking for a new, exciting and affordable destination? Welcome to Peru, the archaeological, cultural and ecological jewel of Latin America. From the Inca splendor of Machu Picchu, to the verdant jungle waterways of the majestic Amazon River, to the rich artistic expressions of its people -- Peru has something for everyone.
Families will want to spend time in the Andes, where Quechua natives dressed in bright, hand-woven garb still walk their herds of llamas to graze on the mountainsides as they have done for thousands of years.
History buffs can explore the pre-columbian ruins and colonial Spanish architecture that cover the country. And nature lovers will find an abundance of flora and fauna in the depths of the virgin rainforest.
Located on the Pacific coast of South America -- just five hours by plane from Miami -- today Peru offers visitors a unique mix of historical and natural wonders, with modern infrastructure and facilities, in a safe and prosperous environment.
Talk to any scientist and she'll tell you that Peru is one of the most exciting destinations in archaeology today. From the mysterious Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, to the spectacular gold, silver and jewel encrusted artifacts recently uncovered in the tombs of the Lords of Sipan, to ongoing digs along the Northern coast and highlands, Peru is an ever-expanding open-air museum. And for tourists, that's a treat! Right now a number of digs sponsored by organizations including National Geographic, The Discovery Channel and top universities are underway --and curious visitors are always welcome to both observe and lend a hand.
With 84 of the earth's 104 known life zones, Peru is a natural paradise. Spend time in the Amazon basin, home to pink dolphins, jaguars, giant river otters, primates, 4,000 types of butterflies and one-third of the world's 8,600 bird species. Visit the Andes and see soaring condors as well as native llamas, alpacas and vicuñas amid an endless variety of wild orchids and Peruvian lilies. Or check out the coast where the icy Pacific waters are a perfect home for Southern fur seals, sea lions, Humboldt penguins and Peruvian boobies.
If you're looking for adventure -- Peru has everything to offer! River rafting, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, cross country motorcycling, windsurfing, sand sledding, parasailing, surfing, jungle trekking and ballooning all are available to travellers. And for tourists with special interests, fishing for record-sized Black Marlin, searching for endangered species, walking the ancient Inca Trail or spotting the elusive Cock-of-the-Rock, will make for an unforgettable vacation.
For thousands of years, indigenous Peruvians have believed in the spiritual forces of nature and today the country has become a world center for healing and personal growth. From the enigmatic Nasca Lines etched in the desert sand, to the herbal lore of the Amazon, to ancient religious rituals in the Andes -- Peru resounds with spiritual history and power.
If you like fine dining, you're in for a treat! Peru has the most celebrated cuisine in the Americas. A blend of Spanish, African and oriental flavors seasoned with local flair, Peruvian food has been written up from Manhattan to Paris. There's succulent shellfish and fresh cebiche on the coast, freshwater shrimp, Andean trout and an infinite variety of corn and potatoes in the highlands, delicate hearts of palm in the Amazon and exotic fruits and rich desserts throughout the country.
From the handmade pima cotton sweaters found in the Neiman Marcus catalogue to polo shirts by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, Peru is an export capital and a great place to go shopping. In outdoor markets or indoor malls, look for cotton clothings, alpaca sweaters and rugs, silver and gold jewelry, religious and indigenous artifacts, traditional weavings and fine ceramics. All are beautifully made and surprisingly inexpensive.
The diversity of Peru's people and cultures is reflected in a rich tradition of festivals, dance and music. In the Andes, the plaintive wail of the flute and beat of the drum accompany songs depicting indigenous life while dancers masked as devils and spirits are a marriage of pagan and Christian beliefs. In the jungle, ceremonial music and dance are a window into tribal life. And along the coast, a blend of elegant Spanish sounds and vibrant African rhythms reflect the Conquest and later slave labor of the New World.
If Peru and all its wonders sound like a great vacation, here's even better news: It's an incredible value too! From airfare, to fabulous hotels, to great cuisine, sights, souvenirs and adventures, Peru is one of the most reasonable vacations anywhere.