Peru hasn’t been my favorite country ever but it has so many things going for it, it deserves to be recognized for those gems. Usually people either love Peru or they aren’t such big fans. I’m one of those strange breeds that feels a little in-between about it. It was an awesome month but not without many challenges. This post is going to share my favorite things about Peru. And a few annoying things that shouldn’t distract from your visit I hope.
1. It’s diverse
From bustling cities like Lima, to jungles, to beaches of Mancora and Huanchaco, mountains of the Sacred Valley, floating islands of Uros, colonial cities like Arequipa, and the sand dunes of Huacachina, this country has so much diversity. Probably more so than anywhere I’ve been so far. This is very appealing, especially to Europeans who are sick of seeing the same city over and over again. I met more Europeans than Americans or Australians combined.
2. It’s cheap
My accommodations in dorms and privates ranged from $8 to $15 USD. If I opted for the menu del dia at lunch my meals were under $5 USD. If you were to buy food at markets and cook you could easily spend no more than a couple of dollars per meal. Buses from city to city were on average $10-30 USD. I don’t really do the low backpacker budget anymore because I like a little more comfort and tend to splurge on things so a mid-range budget would be $25-30 USD a day. You can definitely do it cheaper.
3. People are kind
Granted I was hanging out mostly with expats who live in Peru or travelers, but I did find locals fairly nice too. Anytime I was lost or needed information for something people were helpful and kind, unlike what I experienced in Colombia. I met up with a local vegan when I was visiting Lima and she was so sweet. She drove me around to some local vegan spots and showed me beautiful street art I had missed in Barranco. Travelers from around South America come to Peru as well so it’s a diverse range of tourists in every city.
4. Machu Picchu
Peru is known for the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu and it does not disappoint. I splurged and had a travel agency organize a day trip for me and 2 other gals from my retreat. It was so much easier than trying to get all the many pieces together myself in advance (you need a train, then a bus, then entry fee, tour guide, bus and train back). We had such a blast and it’s just as magical as you can imagine. Our tour guide explained the history and what each section of buildings was back in the day. We went in October and the weather was perfect.
5. Easy and inexpensive transportation
The buses and trains in Peru are nice. Not what you would expect in South America (and being in Ecuador now as I write this the buses here are crap compared to Peru). Taking overnight buses is very common in Peru because it’s huge and this way you don’t miss a day traveling. You can get VIP service with meals and the seats lay back almost flat. I decided to use Peru Hop for most my travel in the southern region of Peru and it is a great service if you plan to hit all the cities along the Gringo Trail.
6. Vegan food is easy to find
The food is not always that great or unique, but you will not starve in Peru. If you are a high carb vegan even better! Almost every town I visited had at least one vegetarian restaurant, if not many, and a few vegan-friendly choices. Your best deal will always be at lunch with the menu del dia, a 3-4 course meal with a drink that will only set you back 10-15 soles (less than $5 USD). You’ll find vegan versions of traditional Peruvian dishes like the lomo saltado pictured above using seitan instead of beef.
The only thing I couldn’t find is plant milks at coffeeshops or grocery stores (except a few places in Cusco and Arequipa). This is my litmas test to determine how vegan-friendly a country really is and Peru failed. South America fails. As a digital nomad I want to sit at a good coffeeshop with a latte to work on my computer. Needless to say I got used to drinking Americanos black.
7. The markets
The mercados are incredible and everything is super inexpensive. The fruit is some of the best I’ve tasted in the world. The mangoes and avocados made me cry. If you are itching for some home cooking visit the markets and cook your own meals. I did that throughout my month in Peru and it was lovely. You can get everything in the open markets from grains, legumes, spices, and of course fruits and veggies. The quinoa is cheap because it’s coming straight from the source. Be sure to haggle a little; I’m pretty sure I was being upcharged for being a gringa (tourist).
Have you been to Peru? What were you favorite things about it? Tell me in the comments!