Peru is firmly planted on the “gringo trail” through South America, and for good reason. Peru offers a cornucopia of landscapes, cultures, history, and experiences. With one foot firmly rooted in the past, Peru is one of the few places remaining in the world where you can visit a bustling city and still see indigenous people wearing their traditional clothes and keeping their traditions alive.
Peru is a land of contrasts. From arid deserts, to lush mountain valleys. From villages still practicing a traditional lifestyle, to the ultra modern urban life of Miraflores. Peru is the birthplace of the Incas, but it is much much more than the Incas. It is home to the Mochi, the Sican, the Paracas and the Nazca to name a few. Peru is as varied now as it was thousands of years ago.
In a country as varied and rich as Peru, it is no wonder that we experienced both dizzying highs and lows on our six weeks in the country. The following best and worst roundup is from our own particular experiences, as we worked through Peru from south to north with two little kids in tow.
The Best of Travel in Peru
Bucket List Ticking
When it comes to bucket list items, Peru is full of them. I ticked two major bucket list items during my trip to Peru, and there are another two which I was not able to realize (due to altitude concerns with the children). The two which I was able to fulfill was visiting Machu Picchu, which was relatively easy to do with kids as we visited by train instead of by hiking the Inca Trail. Hiking the Inca Trail is sort of on my bucket list, but I won’t be devastated if I don’t fulfill it. Seeing Machu Picchu is incredible enough whether you arrive by train or on foot.
Read about our experience visiting Machu Picchu with two kids here.
The second big bucket list experience for me was flying over the Nazca lines. I have been fascinated by the mystery around the Nazca lines for as long as I can remember. No one knows exactly when they were built, or exactly why. But they are beautiful. I was really nervous about flying over the Nasca lines, as Peru has only recently cracked down on the terrible safety record of the planes that were taking tourists up. In the end, I decided to do it, and it was incredible.
Read about my experience flying over the Nazca lines here.
Peru has a reputation throughout South America for it’s incredible cuisine, and for good reason. The food here, particularily in the coastal regions, is incredible. The peice de resistance in Peruvian cuisine is without a doubt, ceviche. Ceviche is made from marinating raw fish or seafood in lime juice to cure it, and then combining it with fresh herbs and vegetables and other garnishes. It is fresh and definitely delicious. While we had some incredible ceviche in Peru, our best ceviche experience was actually in Ecuador.
But there is more to Peruvian cuisine than just ceviche. There is also beautiful organic chocolate products, the national drink of Pisco, and the exotic Cuy (guinea pig). Peruvian food is simple, but the freshness and purity of the ingredients is what makes it stand out.
Incredible Living Cultures
We were blown away by the persistent evidence of the original culture that we saw all over Peru, but particularly in the highlands. Street vendors hawking their products while in traditional dress, ladies doing their shopping wearing some of the wide varieties of wonderful traditional hats, mothers carrying their children on their backs wrapped up in colourful traditional textiles…. everywhere we looked we saw the traditional Andean culture flourishing.
Now that we have traveled the entire west coast of South America, from south to north, I can saw without hesitation that Peru has the best preserved and accessible living culture.
The Worst of Travel in Peru
There is always another side to the story…..
Mixed Reviews on Transport Safety
Planning our trip through Peru was not without headache. When I first mapped out the rough itinerary, I had us taking buses throughout much of Peru. I tend to prefer taking overnight buses over other forms of transport as it saves me both time and money. We took several overnight buses throughout Chile with no issue, but when I started looking up overnight buses in Peru I started to find very mixed opinions on blogs and in forums in regards to the safety. The concern in particular was the Cusco – Ica (Huacachina) route, which crosses through the Andes. According to the internet, even though the buses have a GPS link up with their home base, there is a point during the mountain crossing where they lose signal. Apparently this is the spot where hijackings and robberies typically occur. We decided that although the occurrences were rare, that we would fly anyway as we didn’t want to take any chances when travelling with our two young children.
Read more about how to get from Cusco to Ica (Huacachina) safely here.
We have a nickname for Peru. It’s poo poo Peru. You can probably guess what led us to come up with such an original moniker. We all got sick in Peru… multiple times. Even Z who is exclusively breastfed managed to get sick. Simon was even particularly unlucky and not only got sick twice while in Peru, but also had a nasty run in with a metal stair which required a hospital visit.
Read more about getting stitches in regional Peru here.
A Huge Range of Climates
Having a wide variety of climates isn’t really a bad thing, but trying to pack for it can be a nightmare. Peru’s main tourist attractions range from the middle of the desert, to hot tropical climates, to cold and crisp Andean temperatures. Packing can be a challenge. Throw in the wide range of activities; like hiking, surfing, and hanging out in chic urban neighborhoods… well I think you can see where I am going with this. I pretty much spent the entire trip alternating between our summer clothes and our winter clothes. If you are planning to travel in Peru, make sure you bring more than just your summer clothes, it can get really cold up in the Andes. Or else be prepared to buy some cool alpaca woolies… which to be honest… is pretty tempting.
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