Peru is the fourth most populous country in South America and also one of the safest. It has wonderful cultural and ecological diversity and these are just some of the reasons it is such a popular gap year destination.
Of course, highlights such as the former Incan citadel of Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca are sure to feature on many travellers’ wish lists but a roll call of Peru’s “greatest hits” is a long and varied one. Peru has a very low cost of living, a rich and varied cultural hotchpotch of Hispanic, Quechua and Aymara influences and a diverse mix of ecosystems including rainforests, cloud forests, mountains and beaches.
All in all it is easy to see why so many people put Peru at the heart of their gap year.
Peru isn’t a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the unofficial list of “first world” or fully developed countries. However, it is often classed as a “middle power” and economic and social development has been fast-paced during the current millennium.
That said, many of the volunteering options that exist in the lowest GDP countries are also available in Peru. Teaching and especially teaching English, is a popular choice for those visiting Peru, whilst jungle conservation, childcare and medical opportunities also exist. Helping those in smaller communities is usually at the core of many projects, although some volunteers may be based in and around Lima or Cusco.
If your time in this captivating country is more of touristic or travelling nature, again, there are many options. Aside from the obvious must-sees already mentioned, the Nazca Lines, the soaring condors of the Colca Canyon and Sacred Valley are all well worth visiting. Nature lovers are sure to be amazed too by the birds and mammals of the Tambopata Reserve, the pumas, sloths and monkeys of Manu National Park and penguins, marine life and boobies of the Ballestas Islands.
If all the adventuring makes you hungry then why not indulge in a local cookery course? Peru’s unique cultural melting pot has created a style of cuisine that is arguably the hippest in the world right now. In 2017 three of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America, including those in top spot (Maido) and second place (Central) were in Lima. If you don’t have time to learn how to cook Peruvian food, make sure you get to sample plenty of it - even the national delicacy of guinea pig, if you’re feeling brave!
Peru is a safe country with the vast majority of residents being warm, friendly and helpful towards visitors. It is a tolerant society and few gap year visitors will suffer any crime or other unpleasant experience. Indeed, heavy rains and dangerous roads may be your biggest concern.
Information on the various risks, as well as pointers for medical concerns and visa requirements is best obtained via the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) website.
Visitors should be aware of the risk of altitude sickness and also take the usual precautions with regards water and food. Malaria, Dengue fever, yellow fever and other such viruses are also risks so plan to visit your doctor or local travel clinic at least two months before your trip.
In terms of a visa things are rather simpler, with tourists to Peru usually granted 183 days on arrival. Depending on what work, volunteering or internship you intend to undertake you may need a visa prior to arrival. Check with the Peruvian authorities to be sure.