Ultimate trip to Peru
November 12, 2009 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan the ultimate trip to Peru!!!!!!!!

Ok here is the deal: a buddy of mine is Peruvian and we're looking into going to Peru beginning of June next year. Just me and two of my friends. The closest I've been is parts of Mexico for spring break but I want something more substantial for a trip and want to journey through south america. Three things that have always drawn me to Peru:

1) Machu Picchu - it's just so mysterious and ancient. kind of feel like I lived there in a past life and want to go home
2) Nazca Lines - mysterious and beautiful. taking a plane ride over the Nazca desert would be absolutely amazing
3) Ayahuasca - I work in a cubicle where my soul is slowly dying. I would love to take some Ayahuasca tea with a Shaman and take a spiritual journey

I'm 6'2" and your typical white guy from Boston. I would be so out of my element it's not even funny. Help me plan the ultimate trip:

1) what should I watch out for/avoid? I want this to be a safe trip as in coming home alive with all of my organs intact
2) what should I absolutely see/do before I come back home.
3) how should i prepare?
4) what should i not bring home with me (other than illegal drugs)?

Any tips/tricks/advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!!!!
posted by deeman to Travel & Transportation around Peru (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1) Avoid dark corners in new cities. If you have a 3am bus transfer in a tiny station in a nameless town (and you will) stick with your buddy in a well lit area. If anything happens, give up your valuables. No one wants your organs.
3) Read books on the history of the place if you like (especially if you feel like it'll be 'coming home'. Also, prepare for the fact that Machu Picchu may lose some sense of that ancient mystique when you arrive and it's carpeted in a 150-strong German tour group wearing identical hi-vis orange ponchos.

As for tips/tricks/advice... I'm a big fan of the fact that travel is something you can't prepare for entirely. Things will change, plans will alter, and you'll have to think on your feet. And that's the beauty of it! So bring some clothes, have a vague itinerary, have a couple of money sources and photocopies of your passport, and then let the rest happen as it will.
posted by twirlypen at 8:27 PM on November 12, 2009

Watch out on being hit on by unbelievably hot Peruvian girls (especially in Lima.. there's a name for them). I've heard horror stories, but many just want to talk/have sex with white guys, especially tall guys.

Peru is pretty safe.

Eat the local food. It's amazing. Drink Pisco sours and cusquena beer.

Oh man, you're in for a treat, especially if your buddy has family down there, and if you know Spanish. I was in Peru for a month this summer... send me a mefi if you have any questions on places to stay, where to eat, etc.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:40 PM on November 12, 2009

how long have you got for travel?

i just spent a month in peru & found it to be quite an easy & safe place to travel around.

although, by "safe" i mean that we paid a lot of attention to guidebook warnings about which parts of which towns are considered to be particularly unsafe. but during the day in the (more interesting) historical centres of towns? no threats even slightly apparent.

but yeah, read up in your guidebook, eg "do not leave the bus station on foot because you will get mugged" is a useful tip.

having said that, being 6'2" and travelling with two buddies would help with your sense of security. i'm 5'10" and found myself towering over most of the locals; they're quite short people.

anyway, some things i particularly enjoyed:

- ballestas islands (aka "the poor man's galapagos"): between lima & naszca...sea lions & zillions of sea birds on some dramatic rocky islands just off the coast

- homestay on amantani, an island on lake titicaca

- mountain roads through huascaran national park, and the canon del pato; spectacular, but nerve-wracking

- historical centre of arequipa

- cusco

- other incan sites around cusco...see these before machu picchu. especially pisac, chinchero, salinas, ollantaytambo & moray
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:55 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

and eat ceviche, at every possible opportunity.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:56 PM on November 12, 2009

Yeah, Peru is pretty safe, at least during daylight hours. If you're in Cusco, don't worry about standing out, there are more tourists than locals in the centre.

I did 2 of the 3 things you list, Machu Picchu and Nazca. Machu Picchu was amazing - we did a 4 day "trek" which involved 1 day's biking (downhill), 2 days walking and the last day in Macchu Pichu itself, I think we paid something like USD160 for the 4 days all-in (including entry to the site itself which is around $30). But there's plenty of choice, so shop around. The only thing I would insist on is on the day, get there EARLY. The first buses leave Aguas Calientes (where you should stay the night before) at 0530, at least be in the queue. Not only will you get to see the sunrise over the stones, but it actually felt for the first hour or so that we had the place to ourselves.

Nazca is much more of an in-and-out thing. I got a bus there, arriving at 8am, took a plane over the lines and was out of there again by 2pm. Amazing but much less of an experience.
posted by jontyjago at 9:34 PM on November 12, 2009

oh, and here's a handy tip that took us far too long to work out:

you'd think that buses between between major cities like arequipa & lima, or between lima and trujillo would leave at all hours of the day, right? (trujillo & arequipa are the two next-largest cities after lima)

not so.

they leave en masse at two times: freakishly early in the morning (for all-day trips) or late at night (for all-nighters). there are very very few services leaving throughout the day on long routes.

(in other words, book your buses a day or more ahead. you can't count on just showing up & hopping on a bus within an hour, as you can in places like india)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:47 PM on November 12, 2009

Two years ago my brother and two friends of mine took ayahuasca through this organization. Antonio was our shaman, and he was great. It's a bit pricey, but it was all-inclusive for a week, and we felt very safe in the Amazonian jungle (they also offer workshops in Cuzco and Pisac, but I really think the jungle is the place to go to trip on ayahuasca.) Also, read Kira Salak's account of her trip here.

I've run into problems walking through slums in Lima, but most of the rest of Peru is very, very safe. I've got a good friend in Cuzco who does informal tours of nearby ruins and organizes hikes and bicycle trips. If you want his contact info I can give it to you. (He doesn't take people to Machu Picchu--too touristy. Although I loved it and strongly suggest you go--get there before sun-up and stay the whole day. Nothing like taking a nap in the ruins. When you wake up you are so happy!)

Have fun!
posted by mixer at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2009

A friend of a friend just started a company doing tours to Peru for pretty much the exact same demographic and purpose you're looking for. I'll see if I can get his contact info and MeMail it to you.
posted by Madamina at 7:17 AM on November 13, 2009

The girls are called bricheras. They can be very hot. Be respectful, but enjoy!
posted by mixer at 7:18 AM on November 13, 2009

Read the book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
posted by mixer at 7:20 AM on November 13, 2009

I feel the best way to arrive at Machu Piccu is via the 82 km hike, and this is an option that will disappear in a few years most likely, and must be booked with a company several months in advance. Some companies are better than others, but the feeling of achievement makes that first view the Machi Piccu several times more amazing and majestic.

Also, try eating some cuy just to say you did and to freak out your friends and relatives. It's not the tastiest dish (I'd still give that honour to ceviche) but it's very unique.
posted by Kurichina at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2009

When you get to Machu Picchu early in the morning, look around (preferably with a local guide). But be sure to finish/take a break early enough to climb Huanya Picchu - it's the mountain in the background of most MP pictures. It's somewhat strenuous, but totally worth it. When you get to the top you feel like you're on top of the world.

And seconding Ubu's recommendation on the homestay at Amantani. The people are wonderful and they'll dress you up in local attire and make you dance until you pass out (which isn't long at that altitude).
posted by jshort at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2009

And for background reading, see my previous question about books on Peru & Bolivia.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:47 PM on November 13, 2009

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