peru vs unknown destination in central america?
January 16, 2008 1:15 PM   Subscribe

travelfilter: Peru vs. elsewhere: best places to go/things to do in central/south america?

A friend of mine is going to be in Peru in early July, I'd like to meet up with her and have two options:

Either go to Peru and see the sights (minus Macchu Picchu and the Amazon because she's already going to have been) or meet up with her in an entirely different location of my/our choice.

So where should I go? Anyone have suggestions on thing do see in Peru (my friend has already suggested the Nazca lines) or alternatively any suggestions on great places to go in Central America?

My budget's not going to be enormous I'd like to spend <$1400 total for travel + expenses for a 9 day trip. Also, we're both a lot more into cultural tourism and checking out the history of the places we're in than partying.
posted by nerdcore to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to many places in Central America and have not yet been to Peru (next stop, I hope!). However, I would find it pretty depressing to travel all the way to Peru and miss not only Machu Picchu, but also the Amazon...

Central America is so vast, but specifically I recommend the villages around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, colonial city Granada in Nicaragua (over Antigua Guatemala, which is also wonderful but far more touristy), and the Bay Islands of Honduras: Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. The Tikal ruins in northern Guatemala are stunning. If you find a way to see all these in one trip, please do send me your magic formula.
posted by changeling at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2008

I second changeling - if you go to Peru you have to go to Machu Picchu unless you plan to go back and see it at a later time; it really is a once in a lifetime kind of place. It's also one place that I'd recommend getting a decent architectural guidebook for, as it made a lot more sense when reading about the background of the area. One recommendation around there is the small town of Ollyantaytambo - it has some fairly impressive ruins and is much quieter than others in the area. It also has an earlier train to Machu Picchu so you can beat all the people coming from Cusco.
posted by true at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was just in Peru a few months ago (and my email is in my profile).

It's definitely true that many of the most interesting parts of the country are around Cusco and Macchu Picchu - so missing those would be a huge shame.

I flew the Nazca lines - and I definitely enjoyed that. In that same general southerly region, I also went to Pisco, Ica (en route to Huacachina, mostly, [sand surfing!], there's nothing much to actually do in Ica) and Paracas. Some of those areas were hard-hit by the earthquake though (which happened was soon after I left), and I don't know what it'd be like to see them now.

There's not much to see/do in Lima.

I did not go there, but apparently there are some nice beach towns in the far north, and some archeological sites thereabouts that sounded cool (Sipan).

Also, be aware that if you want to go into the rainforest, you'll need to get some immunizations in advance.
posted by kickingtheground at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2008

Best answer: If you fly to Lima you can go over to Huaraz and hike in the Cordillera Blanca, then end up in Trujillo. Or (even better) make your way down to Arequipa and visit the Colca canyon. If I could go down to South America again, I'd fly to Bolivia then head to Uyuni to tour the Salar de Uyuni and the valley of volcanoes. But in 9 days? Might be short! The best would be to convince your friend to wait for you and do the Inca valley and the Machu Picchu together.
posted by ddaavviidd at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I work in the travel business and do a lot in Peru and have been there numerous times....

Another option if you are in Cusco is take a cheap bus to Puno and see Lake Titicacaca, the world's highest navigable lake. You can take a boat out to see floating islands and it's beautiful. The bus ride is long though. Another option is heading north to see ruins in the north that are far less well known (Trujillo, Chan Chan, etc.)

You will have at least 1 internal flight to go to Cusco - it's currently around $200 - $250 r/t.

Don't miss Machu Picchu. It's like.... going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. You will kick yourself for the rest of your life.

Remember that much of Peru is high altitude, so once you leave the coast, you need to give yourself a day of acclimatization so you don't get sick. Cusco, for example, is 11,000 feet. To do MaPi (as the locals call it) you need no less than 5 days alone.

Suggested Itinerary
Day 1 Arrive LIM
Day 2 Fly to CUS in morning, take a break for a few hours to acclimatize, see local ruins
Day 3 Head to Sacred Valley (Indian markets (Pisaq and Chinchero) are Tue, Thu, Sun)
Stay overnight in Ollantaytambo - see ruins
Day 4 Backpacker train to MaPi - stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 5 Return to CUS on 3:00 pm train, back in CUS in early evening
Day 6 All day bus to Puno
Day 7 Explore Lake Titicaca and floating islands
Day 8 All day bus back to CUS
Day 9 Fly back to LIM and connect with flight home
posted by HeyAllie at 2:53 PM on January 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

If you're gonna do Titicaca, do it from the Bolivian side (Copacabana) instead of the Peruvian side (Puno).
Puno is a hellhole where you WILL get robbed / mugged / screwed. Copacabana is a charming town with a bizarre church.
posted by signal at 3:06 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was in Peru just last week. If you're into cultural tourism and history, you might find some fun stuff in Lima. Also, Peru is huge and there's so much to see and do. I did Macchu Picchu, but I think if you saved that for another trip you would be ok. You would still have a fabulous time. You could visit Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, and Parque National Manu and totally exhaust yourself in nine days. You don't have to do all the "must see" stuff.
posted by sweetkid at 3:32 PM on January 16, 2008

I just wanted to disrecommend the Galapagos. They're worth seeing, but they'll break your budget.

Quito is nice, though, with plenty of history in the city and nearby.
posted by tkolar at 6:42 PM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone is reading this, but I talked to my friend and it sounds like we're going to be sticking around Peru, so any suggestions on things to see/do near Lima are greatly appreciated!
posted by nerdcore at 2:53 PM on January 18, 2008

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