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This week's question:My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Peru for two weeks. We don't want to do organised excursions but would like to sightsee at our own pace, go on public transport and see parts that aren't so touristy. Can you help us with any advice, suggestions, places to start from etc?
I'm Peruvian and have lived here all my life, so I think I could pass on some advice!
For starters, wandering around in Lima (and most big cities in Peru) without prior knowledge of the city or at least the language can be pretty dangerous so I wouldn't advise you take public transport. Peru's public transportation network is a complete mess - well below the levels of efficiency and security of neighbouring countries such as Chile and Ecuador. There are virtually no instructions on buses on how to get from anywhere to anywhere, there is no subway nor any kind of mass transportation networks and interurban bus companies are insecure and chaotic. So if you want to go on your own, try calling a cab. Most cities have private taxi services which are far safer and effective than public transportation. They are also pretty cheap, for a foreigner at least.
Most tourists coming into Peru opt to bypass Lima and go directly to Cuzco or other cities. I'd strongly advise you not to do this, as Lima is an interesting city with lots of things to do. The historical downtown area is one of the nicest in South America. Try bohemian neighbourhoods such as Barranco and Miraflores, where you can watch public shows and art demonstrations in public parks. Also, try visiting the beaches in Sur Chico (specially in the summer), which are among the best beaches on the Pacific coastline - way better than California!Ronald
Two weeks is not a lot in Peru - it's big and bus trips take time. Go and see the candelabra near Nazca as a quieter alternative. If you want to see the rainforest, go to Pilcopata from Cusco and organise a trip from there. You can walk to an indigenous village in a couple of hours and they can then show you around their forests and you can sleep in a hut with no other tourists.Charles
To discover the real Peru, start with the local gastronomy. It's the most democratic and delicious culture. By eating you will discover a lot of other things. Here some tips:
1. Bar Queirolo de Pueblo Libre. There you can eat the most wonderful butifarra (the local sandwich) and the traditional pisco. Try the 'capitan': pisco and vermouth.
2. La Gloria. Considered the best restaurant in town. It has a country version in a place outside the city called Pachacamac.
3. La Gran Fruta. If you want to discover the delicious fruits of Peru, here you have a lot of different juices. Ideal for breakfast!
4. Mercado de Surquillo. You have to go. It's a beautiful mix of peruvian products and people. Here you can smell the country.
5. Pescados Capitales. The best 'cebiche' ever! And it's right next to an interesting art gallery.
Chicha is the new restaurant of our star chef Gaston Acurio. It's
located in the Plaza de Armas. Here you can discover the local food with a lot of sophistication.
Otherwise, to know Peru you have to see the local artists. Here is some advice for Lima:
(Art Museum of Lima). Here you will see contemporary artists and traditional ones. It`s located in the chaotic and wonderful "centro de Lima".
2. Lucia de la Puente gallery. This gallery has young artists like Sandra Gamarra (The Museum of Modern Art
in New York has just bought some of her work). Also this gallery is located in Barranco, one of the most traditional and beautiful districts of Lima.Diana
While I understand why you want to avoid tourist traps, part of me wants to ask - why go to Peru and miss Machu Picchu or the Nazca lines? Yes, they are popular sites and will be busy, but that's because they're so fantastic. There are plenty of countries that don't get hordes of tourists every summer, but are still worth visiting. If you really want to get off the beaten track for a couple of weeks, why not consider going somewhere different this year?S Pinna
The first thing to remember is that Peru is a large country. In order to see anything more than the typical highlights, two weeks isn't really going to do it. Before going you have to decide whether you are going to go on the typical gringo loop, which is very interesting but also very popular. Usually it involves landing in Lima then travelling south by bus, stopping on the way at places like Pisco (to see the Ballestas Islands) and Nazca (to see the Nazca Lines) and then onto Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. This last stop will help you to acclimatize before going on up in altitude. This is why flying directly to Cuzco isn't necessarily a good idea if you get sorroche - altitude sickness - which could knock 10-20% off your holiday as you're being sick in a hotel. The next popular stop is Lake Titicacaby by train or a short flight. Definitely go to one of the islands of Taquile or Amantani, then on to Cuzco and of course Machu Picchu - often the culmination of many people's trip to Peru. It's worth spending several days here, then maybe a day or two at the Tambopata rainforest reserve in Puerto Maldonado. Then fly back to Lima to return home.
I used to manage the South American Explorers' Club in Lima and I would recommend you joining what has now become the South American Explorers
as they can provide lots of up to date information. Also look at the Footprint Peru handbook (or the continent-wide South American Handbook), and a couple of others to see where you want to go.
The best way to get off the beaten track is by going North to Cajamarca, Trujillo and Chachapoyas. You might have to choose whether you want to see more archaeology, mountains, rainforest or desert. And don't forget the food either - although I'm slightly biased, I think Peruvian food is the best in South America, with Brazil a close second!
In two weeks, I would recommend going to the following places:
- Casma, to see the ruins of Sechin.
- Huaraz for some beautiful mountains.
- Chachapoyas for some amazing ruins including Kuelap, a huge fortress that the Inca never managed to take.
- Cajamarca for los Ba–os del Inca - the town where Atahualpa was captured, and where you can enjoy some lovely hot springs.
Make sure to eat some guinea pig while you're up in the mountains. You might also want to go to Trujillo and even to the surf town of Huanchaco. If you don't like the smell of fish factories avoid Chimbote but if you take mostly buses (they are very comfortable if you go with some of the major companies) and just the odd flight you could do it, and make it feel like a real adventure into the bargain by avoiding the gringo trail to some extent. If you want to go into the rainforest in the north, you can do so by going to Tarapoto and then onto Yurimaguas.
However, there is one piece of advice that is imperative - learn some Spanish if you don't already have some. Your time on public transport will be much, much more enjoyable if you can speak, even if only with some words, with your fellow travellers.
It's an amazing country. Try to go for a month instead!Richard
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