We did two very different tours of this South American tourist Mecca which was a focal point of our trip from the start.

 

Peru

Quick Summary

Time in Peru: Oct 1 - 19, 2009 and Dec 31, 2009  - present

Route: first visit - touring Arequipa, Lake Titikaka, and the Cusco region with our friends Iris and Paul; second visit -roadtrip along the entire coast from Ecuador to Chile

Food: very disappointing and uninspiring in the Cusco and Titikaka area (especially given Peru’s culinary reputation) but the country redeemed itself on the north coast and in Lima with their excellent and cheap ceviche, other seafood, roast duck, goat, sushi...; sticking to big cities and coast and avoiding the Andes makes taste buds happy

Crafts: the real Andean stuff can be found but it takes lots of effort and expense; mass tourism has unfortunately led to mass produced trinkets (mostly junk) dominating even the “local” markets; often not as advertised (“100% alpaca hand woven” is usually “15% alpaca and machine made”)

People: generally friendly but difficult to make a connection; every single person wants to sell you something in the very touristed areas; seem to think their country is very unsafe

Roads: Panamerican highway is mostly in very good shape but local roads and big cities are a horrible mess; gas is expensive but tolls are charged just one way; local drivers generally clueless (worst we’ve encountered)

Highlights: Sipan archaeological museum, Isla Taquille on Titikaka, central Arequipa, traveling with Paul and Iris, the Pisac ruins, flight over Nasca lines,  Edo sushi in Lima, picante de mariscos and parihuela in Trujillo, pato entomatado in Lambayeque, La Trattoria del Monasterio in Arequipa

Low-lights: attempted mugging in Lima, the ridiculous cost of visiting Machu Picchu, altitude sickness, Mancora (what a dump!), Cusco and Puno area food, general filth of north coast towns (only surfers should visit), driving through high winds and shifting sand dunes on the highway

Impression: a country full of great sights but not living up to potential - surprisingly poor and undeveloped given it’s rich history, natural resources, undisputed archeological dominance, and tourist popularity in all of South America; poorly managed; dirty and unsafe, especially outside the most touristy zones; on the bright side, still quite cheap for the international tourist

Lots more pictures from Peru coming soon