Tourist's thoughts of travelling to Peru is primarily to see Machu Picchu. If this is all you think Peru is, I can assure you your wrong. Rainbow mountains, sacred valleys, colca canyon, surf beaches, historic, indigenous cities and a true culinary experience are a few that come to mind. Check out 21 facts and tips, Peruvian edition!
1) If your a foodie like me and want delicious, healthy food, you will love Peruvian cuisine. Peruvians put a lot of value into eating well and do they ever! Vegans, vegetarians and even meat lovers will like the simple spices and flavours.
2) I'm sure all the natural, healthy and clean eating has something to do with the fact that one of the world's highest population of super centenarians (people living over 110 years old) come from the highland areas of Peru.
3) This next fact might make your cringe if you own or have owned a cute, little Guinea pig. Cuy or Guinea pig is a traditional dish eaten in Peru. Some say it taste like chicken but a bit chewier. Others say it reminds them of duck.
4) Pisco sour is Peru's national alcoholic drink. It is made using Pisco brandy, limes, sugar water or syrup, egg whites, ice and finished with bitters.
5) The most cost effective accommodations in South America for us was in Peru. It didn't matter if it was a hostel or renting a room in a home-stay. Some were quite nice for such a discount from what we were use to paying in neighbouring countries such as Brazil.
6) If your looking for quick, hassle-free border crossing in Peru, use an English speaking bus and tour agency called Peru Hop. Additionally, you will get discounts on hostels, sites and more if you want to use them throughout Peru and Bolivia (Bolivia Hop).
7) Bus terminals in Peru are pretty much like airport terminals in North America. They are widely used and some companies like Cruz Del Sur have VIP seating rooms.
8) Want to travel Peru by bus in luxury for an affordable cost? Stick to the reliable, safe and class bus service, Cruz del Sur. They have individual TVs, food, drinks and staff on board.
9) Huge tip on how to save money when booking Cruz del Sur online. Did I tell you yet that most, if not all South Americans if they hear you speaking English they will assume your well off. The same goes with Cruz del Sur. Keep the language on the site set to Spanish, use google to translate the page to English if necessary and it will reveal special discounted tickets for you.
10) Almost every local we came across in southern Peru would remind us how dangerous and ugly their capital city Lima is. Actually, we found neither to be true. We stayed in both the historic district and the popular tourist area of Miraflores. The later of the two, is built up along the coastline and is full of restaurants, cafes, parks, and many things to do. It is definitely worth a visit!
11) Want to trek Machu Picchu? If you do, please do not book in advance online. The walking or adventure tours don't sell out. Booking online will run you 3-5 times the cost. You should wait to you arrive in Cusco, Peru to shop around for the best price. The going rate was around $160-$220 USD for a 5 day trek with food, guides and accommodations included.
12) If your anxious to book anything online, you should book Huayna Picchu Mountain as this viewpoint overlooking Machu Picchu sells out quickly. Don't worry, there is an alternative viewpoint called Machu Picchu mountain which will be available to book in person.
13) Similar to neighbouring South American countries, you will find stores with extremely tiny locked doors when they are closed. When I say tiny, like under 5 feet high!
14) Taxi's were cheap in Peru but for a set fee. Negotiate a rate with the driver, especially in the city of Lima to avoid being ripped off!
15) When withdrawing cash use Banco de le Nacion as they charge NO FEES from their atm's.
16) The north coast of Peru is kind of a hidden gem to locals and tourists alike. It is still underdeveloped and a nice place to visit if travelling up or down from Ecuador. Check out the surf city of Mancora.
17) Peru is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the world. "Cerro Blanco" located in the Sechura Desert measures 3,860 feet (1,176 meters) from the base to the summit.
18) The potato is originally from Peru. There is over 3,000 different varieties. Yumm!
19) Ollantaytambo is a magical, historic town surrounded by ancient ruins. This became are special place of tranquillity, with the indigenous communities, food, buildings and soothing sound of streaming water which interlaces all around this compact town. One of our favourite towns in Peru and a MUST SEE in our opinion.
20) In case you can't afford the Machu Picchu trek (there are very affordable ways to do it), you can always try the Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain) hike. It is absolutely beautiful and still a hidden gem. Not too many people know about it yet. It is also a TOUGH hike, mostly because of the altitude (over 5000m/16,000ft), but it's so worth it. If you are a very experienced hiker, try out the Ausangate Trek!
21) Attention thrill seekers and bucket listers! 400 feet high protruding from the rocks just outside of Ollantaytambo and Cusco is a transparent sleeping capsule. Within a few hours with your personal climbing guide you will reach the Skylodge which will set you back about only $300 USD per night ; )