Peru’s tourism has exploded over the last few years, especially since the Inca site of Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. People from all over the world have flocked to see this Incan ruins site perched high in the Andes Mountains in the highlands rainforest.
We have loved visiting Peru and introducing our travelers to the culture through many of our local friends like Christo, Brisa, and Nacho. Along the way we learn about what it’s like to live in Peru—whether your ancestors are farmers in the Andes or whether your family lives in a beautiful waterfront view apartment in Lima.
One of the realities of life in Peru is managing the growing tourism and responsibly considering what is best to preserve the special place of this land while increasing economic opportunities. We believe in being responsible tourists. There is value in connecting with people from all over the world, sharing experiences and coming together, uniting us over our commonalities and understanding our differences.
Because of that, we want to draw attention to some tips and things to think about when traveling to Peru that we recommend to help you be less of a “tourist” and more of an aware and informed traveler.
Of course, my first recommendation is to join our Taste of Peru Tour on Oct 25-Nov 2, so we can introduce you to our friends. But here are a few other things you should know before visiting this stunning country:
1. Peru is a dietary-restriction dream
One of my favorite parts of Peruvian cuisine is the diversity of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Many of the dishes served in Peru have a focus on vegetables and grains grown locally.
Did you know that Peru has over 3,000 varieties of potatoes? Not to mention quinoa, amaranth, and many other healthy foods. Peruvians eat locally and had ancient trade routes along the Inca Trail, sometimes allowing trade between environments like the Amazon with its tropical fruits to the Andes with potatoes, quinoa and coca leaves.
As I’ve come to embrace my own dietary restrictions and be aware of those of our travelers, we’ve found that Peru is BY FAR the easiest country of our destinations to accommodate dietary needs. And not just accommodate them, but embrace them.
We’ve had previous travelers join us with restrictions like vegan and vegetarian diets to gluten and egg allergies, and not only have our chefs and local in-home cooks accommodated, but they've created beautiful dishes that are still an enriching experience of the cultures' roots
2. There are more ways to get to Machu Picchu than hiking the Inca Trail
Just because hiking is not your forte—and the Inca Trail is noooo walk in the park—does not mean you’ll have to miss out on seeing this stunning Wonder of the World.
On our Peru Tour, we take the train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes, and then a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, the last of which is only a short 6k journey, but we’ve also written about more ways to get to the ancient ruins without breaking too much of a sweat on our blog post “4 Ways to Machu Picchu”.
3. Stay overnight near Machu Picchu
As mentioned above, on our trip we take the train from the Sacred Valley to stay the night in Aguas Calientes before the big day.
We HIGHLY recommend doing this if you take your own trip. Staying in the small town also referred to as “Machu Picchu village” allows us to get up the mountain BEFORE the crowds get in from Cusco, and often in time to catch the sunrise coming over the mountain peaks.
4. Machu Picchu isn’t the only fascinating Inca site
As amazing as this Wonder of the World is, there are plenty more mind-blowingly cool & ancient Incan sites, like the Moray ruins and the Maras salt flats.
Just a bit off the beaten path from Cusco, you’ll find both of these hidden gems.
The Moray ruins are rarely mentioned in guidebooks so you can enjoy this remote area of the Sacred Valley in relative peace.
Though they look a bit like “Signs” and alien crop circles, these circular terraces were not created by extraterrestrial lifeforms (that we know of, at least), but instead constructed by the Incas as probably an agricultural laboratory of sorts. Basically, the Incas were wayyy advanced in science for their time.
The Maras salt flats are another favorite stop on our Peru tour. These 3,000 shallow pools collect the salt from an ancient salty subterranean spring (created when the tectonic plates moved together to form the Andes), and allow the water to evaporate off, leaving the salt to be mined by the families that own it.
And no, that is not them covered in snow—that’s actually the white salt!
5. Mother Earth is sacred to the Incas
Mother Earth, or “Pachamama,” plays an important role in Peruvian tradition - particularly in the Andes Mountains. Mother Earth was a fertility goddess that presided over crops, mountains, and could cause natural disasters like earthquakes. Many Andean people still connect with Pachamama and pay respects to the giving, benevolent goddess.
During your time in Peru, go beyond the ‘ruins’ and see inside the hearts and souls of people and where their beliefs are rooted.
6. Panchamanca is amazing
A pachamanca is a traditional way of cooking and a dish that is comprised of a variety of meats, herbs, and vegetables that are slowly cooked underground on a bed of hot stones. The Andean language of Quechua gave way to this term, the word “pacha” translates to earth and “manka” to pot and the tradition dates back to the Inca Empire and perhaps even earlier.
When visiting Peru, dive into the lesser known food traditions and eat like a local would! The preparation was a way to celebrate life, meant to offer respect to Mother Earth.
7. Lima is worth the stop
When I was planning my first Peru research trip, most people had given me the tip that the capital city was one that was "skippable."
Well...I'm telling you from experience...if you like food, it is decidedly not skippable.
Lima has some of theeee most amazing food in all of South America. In two days, I dined at THREE of the best restaurants in the world. Yes you read that right, Lima, Peru is the ONLY city home to two of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants (and one in the Top 100 list).
Lima is the last stop on our Taste of Peru tour and we make sure to get our foodie on in the city and at two of these top restaurants before sending our travelers on their way. Definitely plan a visit to Lima into your itinerary. (You can read more about my dining at Lima’s world-class restaurants here.)
Whether you’re planning on joining us on our October Taste of Peru tour, or thinking of planning your own Peru trip, we hope you find these tips helpful and that they bring you to find something even greater in your travel experience that gets stored in your memory bank, that roots you to the land and connects you with the people during your time there.
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