I wanted to visit a land where I’d never been.
My Portuguese coworker had recently come back from his first trip to Brazil. As he speaks the native European version of the same language, he’d had a wonderful time. He also had a Brazilian friend who ran a travel agency. Through this friend, I was able to secure a round-trip ticket from Boston to Rio for a mere $400. My next travel target was a no brainer.
Upon returning from 15 days in Brazil, I was buzzing from the experience. I was enamored with the giant land and its people.
Shortly after being back from Brazil, a friend from college, my current editor called me:
“I’ve just gotten my passport. I wanna go somewhere out of the US. You’ve travelled abroad. Where do you think I should go?”
As his last word was uttered, I automatically responded:
Flash forward more than 12 and a half years. I’ve just returned to the US after spending two months in Perú. Now, if someone were to ask me the same question that my friend asked back in the day, my instant response would be:
What makes Perú a Great Travel Destination?
Budget Opportunities: Although the capital Lima seemed to be at least twice as expensive as the rest of the country, it can still be very affordable. Outside of Lima’s mega spread I managed to secure private rooms with cable TV, wifi, a desk or table with a chair, and attached bath with hot water for anywhere between $7 and $16. In two cities on the north coast, I had a ceviche lunch for around $1. Bus or minivan transportation tends to cost around $2 per hour. Like most places in the world, you can still manage to spend a ton of money if you want to and are able to. There are all ranges up to expensive, plush hotels. The four-day guided Inca trail hike now has a big ticket price tag of about $600. I paid $70 back in ’99, and there were way less people on the trail then. If you want to take a 30 minute plane ride to get a view of the Nazca Lines, it’ll set you back around $90. But, if you want to get by on the cheap and still live semi comfortably, you can easily.
Diverse and Gorgeous Landscape: Perú has a long Pacific coastline. It’s tropical in the north and temperate on the rest of the coast. Much of the coastline is complimented by desert. Go inland beyond the desolation and you have la sierra or Andean mountain range. Go beyond the Andes and you’re in the Amazon jungle. I have yet to visit the the jungle but I I’ve found the desert and mountains to be stunning.
Easy Transportation: At the time of writing, I’m sitting in the Orlando, FL Greyhound bus station. I’m working offline with a three hour wait due to misinformation from telephone customer service. In Perú, as in many developing countries, transportation options are abundant. I seldom needed to plan what time I was going somewhere. Instead, I’d show up at a station and visit a ticket office. Most of the time, I was on the road within a few minutes to a half an hour. There are very comfortable buses with virtual beds, some are double-deckers and have panoramic views. In most cities it’ll take you just seconds to find a rickshaw or taxi.
Fantastic Food: Many epicures claim that Peruvian cuisine is ranked within the top five on earth, and number one in the Americas. I can’t agree or disagree; but I do concur that there’s a great variety of healthy and tasty food. Like most of Latin America, they love their meat and organs. But as a semi vegetarian, I still managed to eat very well. Exotic fruit is everywhere. Fresh veggies can be found somewhat easily. In touristy areas there are vegetarian restaurants. If you like fish and seafood, you’ll be in heaven. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you won’t be able to walk by pastry shops without popping in to check out an often wide selection of cakes and other goodies. You feel the European influence.
Peruvian People: Peruvians are generally warm. I got asked where I’m from daily. After saying Estados Unidos, or United States, I was always given optimistic responses. They like the United States. I sometimes think: It’s very healthy for a society to like and welcome foreigners, as these outlanders provide an enhanced variety to daily life. Peruvians enjoy conversing with foreigners and will often help you to find your way. They’ll tell you to watch out for ladrones, or thieves, but I never came across one. TIP: Don’t appear to be flaunting wealth and you’ll more than likely be fine. This holds true for most parts of the world.
Pre Columbian Archaeological Sites: If you’re an aficionado of ancient civilizations, then Perú is the place for you. In the Andes there are ruins and ancient cities. Along the coast there are a number of archeological sites, including Chan Chan.
Street Eats Galore: I’m a street food junkie. One of my favorite things to do while drifting is to eat off the street and interact with the vendors. You’ll find exotic fruit, freshly squeezed juices, and therapeutic drinks. People bake chocolate cake, apple pie and lemon meringue pie at home and then bring it out to the street to sell. These dessert items are often much fresher than in the ubiquitous panaderia or bakery. You’ll find Anticuchos or grilled cow hearts, ceviche, beef and chicken skewers, and chicken sandwiches. Street food is abundant and varies from city to city.
Spanish Language Acquisition: Many younger Peruvians like to attempt to speak English. Some speak it well. But it will benefit you greatly to be equipped with at least some Spanish. Because you’ll be forced to use it every day, it will improve quickly. If you don’t know any Spanish, learn the numbers and the phrase: How much ‘Cuanto vale’, before you go.
People have asked:
“Off all the places you’ve been to, what’s your favorite country?”
At this moment, I’d probably say: It’s a tossup between India and Perú.
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After reading this article, would you like to visit the land of the Incas? Feel free to comment below.