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  • Tell me about Peru.. thinking about solo travel, trekking, Machu Pichu, etc.
  • no_eyed_deer
    Free Member

    I’ve been considering heading to Peru for a few weeks this September. The plan would be to do the usual touristy stuff, start at Lima, head overland to Cusco, then do several days trekking to Machu Pichu.

    One of my reasons for heading that way is that I’ve never been to S. America before and Peru looks like it might just possibly be relatively interesting..?

    However, from what I’ve seen on various travel blogs / vlogs what’s there doesn’t actually look hugely exciting. A sort of weird mix of grotty modernity, jarringly European-influenced colonial architecture and sad Inca ruins. I’m sure there must be more to this than my initial impressions on the internet, but I ‘m somewhat struggling to find enough to really excite me to go!

    I’ve travelled a great deal across much of Asia over the past 20 year and this region always brings me back for its amazing mix of culture, food, scenery and wonderful people.

    Asia is also very safe too. One of the things troubling me about Peru is what I’m reading about violent muggings, of tourists who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time etc. I’m a photographer, so I like to take relatively expensive cameras away with me on trips and often I just walk the streets taking photos. It seems like this will be a complete no no in Peru?

    So, what is really good about visiting Peru? (And what should I watch out for?)

    Anyway, your thoughts please.. 🙂

    CountZero
    Full Member

    Check before you go about Machu Pichu, it had closed due to violent protests about the president, but has apparently reopened, but with very restricted numbers of visitors.
    And prepare for the very thin air, at that altitude, humans can suffer serious health problems if they haven’t prepared properly for about a week or so at lower altitudes. I’ve been at 10,000 ft, and started to feel the effects of the altitude, at 17,000+, it can be an issue.
    https://www.travelawaits.com/2861786/machu-picchu-reopens-to-travelers-february-2023/

    Philby
    Full Member

    I don’t know whether its still the case but the trekking routes to Machu Pichu have limited numbers allowed and certainly on the Inca Trail you need a permit. The weather conditions and altitude (4,250 metres in the highest pass) will be challenging – camping at high altitudes in sub-zero temperatures, and experiencing everything from cloudless sunny skies to torrential downpours in the same day. Machu Pichu is definitely worth seeing though. I also liked Cusco and many of the Inca structures are amazing in how they have been built. Lake Titicaca and the reed islands are also worth visiting. I also spent a few days in the Amazon staying at a research station which took guests, which was an unforgettable experience.

    Spin
    Free Member

    Sounds like you’ve talked yourself out of it.

    I was underwhelmed with Machu Pichu but then that sort of thing usually underwhelms me.

    I can’t offer any advice about independent travelling as I was there with 30 school kids!

    Poopscoop
    Full Member

    We for coach jacked. Whole coach held up at gunpoint in the middle of the night on a desert road. Got woken up by seeing a gun being put to my sons head.

    jonba
    Free Member

    I enjoyed my trip there. We went with KE adventures though so very touristy in many ways.

    Flew into Cusco. Then walked for a bit and went to Machu Pichu.

    We did this

    https://www.keadventure.com/holidays/peru-trekking-choquequirao-machu-picchu/?kw=Choquequirao-Hike&infinity=ict2~net~gaw~ar~634888154808~kw~choquequirao%20hike~mt~e~cmp~%5BSb%5D%20Peru%20Trip%20Specific%20%28EM%29~ag~Choquequirao&gclid=Cj0KCQjwjryjBhD0ARIsAMLvnF-86BJBW0pLrfzW7IgoymZh8CXtvkbY3MeqJDf96WJCOJGdJDXRv2UaAonQEALw_wcB

    Choquequirao was better than MP in many ways as it was deserted. But then I tend to like places without people!

    It’s high up, fist night in Cusco was a bit rough but otherwise fine after that. Follow usual advice on altitude. That sort of height would only be a concern if you’ve had problems or never been at altitude before.

    We also went to Guatemala, climbing volcanos. That trip was awesome. Might be an option. It was with these guys. They do bikes!

    https://www.facebook.com/oldtownoutfitters

    myti
    Free Member

    I went for 4 weeks when I was 17 and had an amazing and challenging time that I remember well to this day. Serious culture shock compared with life in Berkshire but it was an organised school trip and a long time ago. The world is full of amazing places that you could never visit all of in one lifetime so if you’re not excited by the idea of a place why bother? Go somewhere that you are really passionate about visiting.

    kimbers
    Full Member

    Did a month in Peru
    Machu Pichu, you have to book in advance, it’s worth doing the hike to get there, as you get there earlier and it’s more rewarding, we entered thru the sun gate just as the sun escaped from the clouds which made it great!

    Like anything it’s what you make it, we did nazca lines & a flight over them is worth it (also there’s an awesome hostel with a pool in the middle of the town which is a lovely oasis)
    Lake Titicaca, we stayed with locals on an island which was illuminating- playing football against local kids at high altitude was a lesson!
    We did quite a bit of hiking and if you like archaeology there’s so much to see, wanted to hire MTB and ride the volcano outside Arequipa , but was closed due to a festival, is probably only thing I feel I missed.
    Coca leaf tea is a fab way to start the day too

    edit BWD says it better

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    One of my reasons for heading that way is that I’ve never been to S. America before and Peru looks like it might just possibly be relatively interesting..?

    It does sound like you’re already sold on being disappointed. Astonishing mountains. Fascinating history. Atavistic indigenous culture overlaid with a veneer of Spanish, Catholic imperialism. You don’t have to go to MP, there’s far better trekking elsewhere – the Blanca or Huayhuash or I solo-trekked around Ausangate, which is around a day away.

    It’s not Asia, there’s a roughness to it and you do need to be a little careful about personal safety in Lima and Cuzco, but not acting like an ostentatious wealthy tourist dick goes a long way as does learning some basic Spanish before you go. Very few South Americans speak good English and for most indigenous people, Spanish is a second language too, which can be ‘interesting’.

    The mountain biking around Cuzco looks potentially amazing. BKXC just posted a series of videos from the Cuzco region which look fantastic.

    Architecture? There’s some mad stuff in Cuzco where the Spanish built on top of interlocking Inca stonework though it’s not Angkor Wat I guess. Macchu Piccu (or however it’s spelled, I can never remember) is pretty impressive though.

    Personally I’d go to Bolivia rather than Peru if I were choosing just one Andean country. But mostly I think you need to go there with an open mind and accept that it’s not going to be the same as Asia. Or if that’s what you want, don’t go.

    Jolsa
    Full Member

    I did the usual solo backpacker stuff Peru > Bolivia > Chile > Peru, but 20 years ago now. I haven’t been desperate to return to Peru like other countries I’ve visited, however I’m glad I went for the Inca trail alone. I found the 3 day walk or whatever it was, incredible, and more memorable than the time at Machu Picchu itself.

    Bolivia however, was excellent, and rich for interesting photography.

    On carrying your kit around, I had the same concerns, and police in the streets of the major cities would remind me to keep a hand on my camera bag when wandering around. Not unheard of, so I read, for some to slash the bag strap in order to whisk the bag from your body. Be aware, apply common sense, so that they look for an easier target!

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    If you like mountains, the Cordillera Blanca and the Huayhuash are, ime, a lot more rewarding than the Cuzco / Sacred Valley area. Phenomenally good trekking and mountaineering in a properly epic landscape. No peak or permit fees, unless things have changed.

    kayak23
    Full Member

    I went just over ten years ago with a company called Red Spokes on a ‘mountain bike trip’ 🤣.

    The riding was appalling considering it was meant to be mountain biking. Barely even gravel. Did a miniscule amount of off-road riding, and that was fireroads at worst. The Death Road (Bolivia) was incredible but not particularly deathy.
    I remember having a couple of hissy fits after I just couldn’t take any more road riding and nearly getting taken out by a Juan Kerr of a bus driver.

    Must have ridden past so many miles of epic singletrack…. On the roads 😡
    But hey, I’m not bitter about it still… after all this time…

    The country was amazing though. Really interesting. Machu Pichu was cool but very busy and felt very touristy with tat for sale in the village below. It really is an incredible place though. We walked and went up on the buses as part of our trip, but a friend did the proper trek a couple of years earlier than me.

    Olyantaytambo was great. Went to the reed Islands in lake Titicaca which was great.

    I didn’t have much issue with the altitude, though you could feel it of course.
    Drank a lot of complimentary coca tea.

    Yeah, it’s different. Just avoid Red Spokes if you’re not a roadie.

    fooman
    Full Member

    Skip Lima and make your way higher up to acclimatize before trekking to Machu Pichu. The trail the trek takes you in gives some of the best views, you can also climb a path up the mountain behind you see in pictures which is dizzying. We also stayed on an island at lake Titicaca with a local and toured the reed islands which we found rewarding. Peru is the only South American country we’ve been to, based on what friends have said I’d probably pick Argentina next time.

    johnners
    Free Member

    **** me, a couple of you went to Machu Pichu on school trips?
    My school went on a day trip to the Isle of Wight once, heady times!

    ransos
    Free Member

    If you like mountains, the Cordillera Blanca and the Huayhuash are, ime, a lot more rewarding than the Cuzco / Sacred Valley area.

    I clicked on the thread to recommend the cordillera blanca,it’s stunning and was virtually deserted when we wenr. I think it was three or four days trekking. We did the Salkantay trek to get to Machu Pichu, again it’s quieter than the main route and still gets you to the same place. I absolutely loved Peru and Bolivia.

    tomtomthepipersson
    Full Member

    We flew to Cusco, spent a few days acclimatising and visited some nearby ruins then went to Puno, Arequipa, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Huacachina, Pisac and a few other places in the sacred valley before heading to Lima to get a flight. Lima I wouldn’t go back to but everywhere else I’d happily revisit.

    Got the train to Aguas Calientes, spent the night there then went to Machu Pichu at dawn – there was no one else there and it was pretty bloody amazing. People were queuing to get in as we left though.

    TheDTs
    Free Member

    Also worth a visit, Colca Canyon Incerdible landscape, altiplanos and Vultures.
    Our trip was Arequipa, Titicaca, Cusco & Trail to MP, Iquitos in the Amazon and jungle for 4 nights, back to Cusco and on to Lima. Would have liked to see Nazca lines but was going to be a big detour.
    Highlights for me, Huayna Picchu Mountain, overlooking MP. Quite exposed and great fun. Ruins around Cusco, the jungle, swimming with pink dolphins in the Amazon and fishing for Piranha the same day, in the same river! (Easiest fishing ever)

    Naahh, it was shit don’t go..

    ransos
    Free Member

    The Death Road (Bolivia) was incredible but not particularly deathy.

    It was quite deathy for the cyclist who was killed the day before I rode it.

    Garry_Lager
    Full Member

    I’d love to go – even if Machu Pichu disappoints, or you don’t personally believe that the hierodules will land their spaceship on lake Titicaca, surely trekking in the Andes can’t fail to be good? Seems like a reliable base activity for a holiday with some tourist stuff that might really elevate things.

    doris5000
    Full Member

    A sort of weird mix of grotty modernity, jarringly European-influenced colonial architecture

    If this is going to be an issue, south America may not be the place for you…

    Personally I am a huge fan of Chile. It’s wealthier and more developed than Peru, feels very safe, lovely people, and has absolutely stunning scenery from deserts to lakes to mountains to remote wilderness.

    doris5000
    Full Member

    **** me, a couple of you went to Machu Pichu on school trips?
    My school went on a day trip to the Isle of Wight once, heady times

    Innit! I thought my school was posh because there was a french exchange. This is in comparison to MrsDoris who went to school in hackney and knew kids that had never even been to Central London 😬

    scud
    Full Member

    Lucky enough to have travelled quite a bit in S. America via motorbike, Peru was great, but gone downhill in last 20 years really.

    For first time there, i’d go to Chile or to Ecuador and Galapagos Islands if i was to go back to a country

    CountZero
    Full Member

    My school went on a day trip to the Isle of Wight once, heady times!

    Ha! I did a day trip to Stonehenge, before they built a fence around it and charged a months wages to get to within fifty feet of the stones! I’ve actually touched them! So there!

    I would like to visit Machu Pichu, because the architecture fascinates me, their ability to fit somewhat randomly shaped stones together with such precision absolutely amazes me.

    mrdestructo
    Full Member

    If you’re going overland, and heading over the mountains, buy a couple of oxygen cans from a pharmacy. The anti-altitude medicine I bought made me almost swallow my tongue. The minibus driver was fine, but we had people flopping in their seats due to altitude. Definitely don’t drink alcohol or smoke. Dependent on your age and health, the tea you can buy at tourist locations made from coca leaves helps fit people. The locals also suggest booking coach seats on the lower deck near the front in the event of accidents.

    We went Lima to Atalaya, via coach and 4×4. I knew local anthropologist researchers, so met the townnmayor/family. Then a 7hr journey down the Amazon on an early boat (more like a barge with tatty seats). Carry a vaccination document from your GPS in case you get asked if you want to visit the reservations. The army don’t let you cross over the river without it. A military checkpoint will have you spilling the contents of your bergen before they’ll let anyone off at the end of the journey (river drugs route) and whilst you can hang off the rear of the boat to pee off it, the boat doesn’t stop due to Pumas in the territory. Definitely be careful with your clothing choices or they’ll look at you like you’re a merc or drug runner. You do get to see and pass all indigenous people’s villages though. Cusco had Saturday parades which are noisy. Check the seasonal weather. You can end up with cold weather clothing in the morning and shorts and t-shirt by lunch. Sunscreen and big hat helpful important.

    Or, fly to Cusco as part of a tour package (seriously, tour packages are the easiest way) and then you drop down to a hotel in the Sacred Valley about 1200m lower which is better for your body, then get taken back for coach trip up the mountain to the Inca city. Get up that mountain when it’s still dark and you get to sit in peace watching as the sun rises and burns off the fog/clouds and exposes the city. Take a big bag of snacks the alpacas can eat in the city. There’s a sheltered area you can feed the dirty, smelly things

    vazaha
    Full Member

    OK i have some things to add to this, but i need to put someone down so give me a mo.

    vazaha
    Full Member

    Right…

    First things first, i’m massively biased because i absolutely love Peru.

    Second things second, i was there 30 years ago so i’m not exactly the tip of the spear…

    To address some of the things you’ve asked, and largely agreeing with what ^above people have contributed, South America is amazing (looking at you Brasil), and Peru in particular takes ‘relatively interesting’ to new levels of wow.

    I don’t know how anyone could be at Machu Picchu and go ‘meh’ – WTF!

    My understanding is that getting a permit is not easy as an independent traveller now, so going as part of an organised tour is pretty much the only way to do it, so probably an idea to tie that in before you go if it’s a must. Which it really is. If you don’t do the Inca Trail, you can, as has been alluded to above, get the train to Aguas Calientes, stay overnight and either walk up early doors or get the first bus up before the crowds from Cuzco arrive – walk around the ruins in relative peace then climb Huayna Picchu or even better (because i am a massive wus and Huayna Picchu is really scary) walk out to the Sun Gate and see it from there as it gets crowded.

    I’m going to say right now that you have to think about alternatives to any strenuous activity at altitude. Personally i just could not cope with it at all. All the coca tea in Huaraz couldn’t help me to do more than a few days up in the Cordillera Blanca, but you don’t need to go far for some great scenes – seriously though – listen to me – i’m looking at the closest wall to me here, in my room, now – it’s about 10m away from me – if i were up there, i would need a breather in between here and there. It is quite possible that i am merely weak, and my bloodline is weak, because i was suffering with my brother when i was enduring that particular hell, so, you know, YMMV and all that.

    The Colca Canyon was only just being opened up as a venue when i was there, so i’m sure that will be more developed now. Lake Titicaca and the reed raft communities is also amazing.

    Security you are right to be concerned – again, i was there some decades ago but i’ve no reason to believe it’s any different now. I was lucky, i met many who weren’t, it’s always going to be a concern, especially if you are carrying expensive kit.

    Which brings us to mrdestructo’s point about organised tour packages – because if you can afford it, that’s going to be the best way to do it.

    I’m going to make a recommendation, i hope that’s ok, i don’t have any actual personal experience of this company, but i do know Paul – and even though i haven’t seen him for over twenty years, i know that this guy knows his cebollas – he’s done some unbelievable shizzle –

    Amazonas Explorer

    – if you want to paddle or pedal in Peru, this is your guy.

    vazaha
    Full Member

    One more thing, since opening this thread, further research has revealed that the Canta Rana in Barranco is still there.

    If you do go, you must promise me that if you have any time in Lima, you MUST go out to Barranco and have ceviche in Canta Rana. If you have a choice of pescado, choose the cojinova, if no cojinova choose the corvina.

    Spin
    Free Member

    I don’t know how anyone could be at Machu Picchu and go ‘meh’ – WTF!

    Just some buildings innit? And there’s a bit of a view but I didn’t earn it. I’m generally underwhelmed by historic sites like that, I don’t feel much connection with buildings unless I can imagine the people living there. I was largely unmoved by visiting Auschwitz but very moved by my rereading of if This is a Man during the trip.

    cynic-al
    Full Member

    I went in 07, loved it, felt very safe, easy to travel solo (tho I’ve done a fair bit in Europe and USA).

    no_eyed_deer
    Free Member

    Thank you all for the brilliant replies! Still just as confused as ever, but at least I have a lot more ‘real user’ information to go on now. It seems that some of my doubts might be well-founded, but there appears to be a fair bit to recommend this country.

    I’ll probably have just to go for it and anyway stop feeling unsure.

    It bugs me that the SA still remains the one continent I’ve yet to get to (apart from that big icy one) and it’s completely unknown to me, so I guess I’ve got to scratch that itch. Interestingly, Ecuador was also strongly recommended to me a by someone few years back, so perhaps I need to closely investigate that as an option too.

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    Ecuador is cool. It’s kind of like all the main features of other Andean countries crammed into a smaller space, so you get Amazonian jungle, snow-capped volcanoes, petty crime, indigenous culture and the bonus of the Galapagos Islands. It doesn’t have quite the epic landscape feel of Peru or Bolivia – at least the Andean bits – but it’s kind of more manageable for a short-ish trip, if that makes sense. Maybe a bit like Wales compared to Scotland. Or something like that.

    As I posted earlier in the thread, maybe consider Bolivia as well, just an astonishing place to visit. Kind of like Tibet in the Andes.

    bearGrease
    Full Member

    I was sent to Talara in Northern Peru to replace a colleague who’d caught dysentery. He soiled himself in Lima airport on the way home.

    My luggage got lost, as in gone forever, so I spent the next six weeks wearing borrowed clothes and eating microwaved cheese sandwiches in an attempt to keep myself “healthy”. Even though that was in the 90’s I’m not keen to return.

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