Peruvian Culture

Peruvian Culture

Starting with the legendary Incas, countless indigenous tribes have woven the culture of Peru with golden knots throughout the centuries. The result is a patchwork of art, custom, religion, and tradition. Mystery and earthbound worship dominated the many ancestors of the Inca, from the Nazca to the Paracas, who have left their masterful artisanship as a legacy. Today, the accumulation of this ancient history constitutes a binding element of Peruvian culture and society.

Modern Peruvian culture revolves around the ethnic diversity of the country and the concept of collectivism. The community always comes first and individuals are often altruistic in their motives. Hospitality comes from the warm and sincere communities of the Andes to the cities, and so do sharing and forgiveness. As more rural inhabitants are migrating to central locations, Peruvian culture is evolving into a more complex structure. Unexpected nods to agricultural cycles are still present in a lifestyle more dependent on technology and modern-day renovations.

The spirit of Peruvian culture is a harmonious marriage of different ethnicities, traditions grown in incredibly diverse environments from the Sacred Valley to the Amazon, and a speck of chill vibes generated by the coastal culture. You will find this unique combination delightful to explore.

Eating & Drinking

“Peruvian cuisine is undergoing a revival, as staple ingredients like quinoa and kiwicha have become highly valued in the world’s gastronomy scene. ”

The diversity of Peru’s landscape is what defines the versatile character of its cuisine. Common ingredients in all culinary traditions are potatoes, corn, and tubers. Apart from these, Peruvian cuisine is known and cherished for its multicultural history. Immigrants from around the world adapted their local techniques to the ingredients found on the Peruvian land. As a result, it represents the best qualities of fusion cuisine. Divided into three sections based on the geographical regions of the country, the traditional foods of Peru are hearty and recognized all over the world for their highly nutritious properties.

On the Pacific coast, fish-based recipes have been cooked since ancient times, making dishes such as the plentiful ceviche a staple on every Peruvian table. Ceviche also has significance in Peruvian culture, used by locals as a hangover cure and valued for its appetible character. The influences of Spanish cuisine are also not to be overlooked, and rice is the most distinct addition. In the valleys of the Andes, an incredible rural cooking culture prevails. Meat, especially that of the alpaca and guinea pig, is at the forefront of the culinary scene, while freshwater trouts are also common. As for the colorful Amazon, the blessings of the rainforest constitute the heart of most dishes. Locals cook exotic animals like the piranha and paiche in a variety of recipes from soups to grilled vegetables.

Corn is more than a culinary ingredient, constituting a symbol of Peruvian culture that locals love to use in every important ceremony. From light yellow to burning burgundy, colorful corn is best when you consume it directly. Another cultural symbol is Pisco, Peru’s one and only national drink and cocktail staple. No trip to Peru is complete without a sip of the frisky Pisco Sour.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

The traditional arts and crafts of the Inca largely dominate the shopping scene in Peru. Bright colors and handwoven textiles are the most distinct feature of this long-running heritage, appearing in various useful items from handbags to authentic shawls. You will find the best pieces in the energetic Peruvian markets, where shopping is not only a tourist activity but a cultural engagement. The best things to buy in Peru are anything of Alpaca wool, handwoven textiles, chullo hats, and a bottle of Pisco, the country’s national drink.

When in Lima, a mix of upmarket and budget shops is available to satisfy all your needs. Head to Larcomar, the most iconic shopping spot in the city’s trendy Miraflores district. If you are looking for a more authentic experience, Mercado’s Inca is the place to be, where all sorts of Peruvian crafts adorn the stalls. Keep in mind that the vendors will claim most of the woven goods are pure alpaca wool, but it is hardly the truth. The Sacred Valley is the center of authentic alpaca wool crafts. Fashionable knitwear from sweaters to socks are the best things to buy. Along the Inca Trail, make sure you get some dried sweetcorn for your loved ones. A bottle of the exquisite Chica Morada will also do the trick. In Cusco, you will come across wonderful antique stores where you can buy iconic Andean pottery items.

  • Takeaway: Bargaining is common in the markets of Peru, as long as you play it by the rules. Try not to be too insistent and make sure you check a few stalls before coming to a decision about where to buy.

Religion & Etiquette

Christianity is the dominant religion in Peru, with approximately 60% of the population identifying as Catholics and 10% as Evangelical. While this is the profile of modern-day Peru and Christianity is not the official state religion, ancient Peru consisted of religious cultures that had different practices of faith, mostly revolving around syncretism and pantheism. Cycles of the earth played an important role in the organization of rituals as well as daily life. Today, these beliefs still have a place in local customs and traditions. Some Incan ceremonies paying tribute to the gods are still common all across the country.

Personal space is somewhat redefined in Peru, which means you may find people standing close to you in public places. A neat appearance is important for Peruvians, so you may wish to avoid wearing sloppy clothes, especially when visiting churches and other religious sites. Time is relative and being late is not a big issue. Some matters that require caution when mentioning are drugs, politics, and stereotypes of Inca culture. Drugs are a very serious problem in the country, so jokes may receive a negative reaction. Preserving face is very important for Peruvians in social interactions. Saying something that will make the other person lose face is best avoided. You may not call native Peruvians indios, which is a very offensive term, but bear in mind that you, as a traveler, will often be addressed as gringo. This is not an insult but a common nickname used for foreigners.

Festivals & Events

“With colorful traditional costumes, intriguing musical instruments, stimulating tunes, and vibrant dances, Peruvian festivals are verging on epic, uplifting the spirits of every traveler. ”

There are thousands of festivals taking place in different regions of Peru throughout the year. And, it is most likely that you will find a joyful event to witness if you look for it. Celebration is a pivotal part of Peruvian culture since ancient times, most forms having roots in the indigenous heritages scattered across the Amazon and the Andes. Cusco and Puno are two of the places where the events concentrate. Check the festive calendar of Peru before your trip and experience the most captivating side of the unique Peruvian culture through fascinating celebrations.

One of the most famous holidays in Peru is the Festival of the Sun, or as locals call it, Inti Raym. During this special time, locals repeat the rituals of the ancient Incan ceremony of worshipping the Sun God and winter’s end. You won’t witness any animal sacrifices or mummy parades, but unforgettable performances of costumed local artists and dancers are true spectacles. Peru Independence Day is a modern event taking place annually in July, during which extravagant celebrations are taken to the streets. Consider yourself lucky if you are in Lima at this time of the year—the Peruvian capital experiences the climax of a series of frenzied parties. Another signature event held in Lima is the Mistura Culinary Festival, the ultimate festival for the Peruvian culture of food and a world-famous foodie haven.

Most festivals in Peru take place in the form of large street fairs full of dances, performances, fireworks, and boundless partying. Famous ones such as Fiesta de la Candelaria and El Señor de Los Temblores pay tribute to important figures or events in the country’s history. Still, you may come across smaller yet much more intimate celebrations of Peruvian culture as you travel across the Amazon and the Andes.

Peruvian culture

Peru Food Guide

Check out our Peru Food Guide for the tasty local dishes and drinks you must try.

Peruvian culture

Peru Travel Advice

Everything you need to know about traveling to Peru is in our Peru Travel Advice guide.

Peruvian culture

Solo Travels

Are you traveling alone? Check out our Solo Travels page for detail.

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