There are ways to do Peru and there are ways, of course, not to do Peru. It seems that this holds the same truth in life as in travel. You have probably said to yourself at one time or another, “I should have done it this way, not that way,” for example, regretting the former and wishing for the latter. Before you spend that hard earned money and head south, be sure to remember these seven things not to do in Peru (you may feel a bit patronized if you read any farther).
7. Trekking The Inca Trail – Trekking the Inca trail is both dangerous and just not any fun. OK, let’s rephrase that and say that trekking the Inca Trail is dangerous if you go at it alone and no fun if you get lost. The Inca Trail brings hordes of crowds to Peru each and every year. If you like to feel like you’re at the mall hopping on the escalator, then come June through August, when thousands march onwards to Machu Picchu for two, four and seven day hikes. The trek is an icon of travel, but do it right if you’re going to do it at all.
6. Surfing the Peru Coastline – If you head south of Lima and want to catch some surf, then be ready for choppy waters, winds and, and just as often, doldrums calms. Instead, head north of Lima where you can catch world-class waves. If you don’t angle yourself right, you can walk away with shells and sand embedded in your skin for weeks. Puntas Rocas has the best waves of all and is home to an annual international surf competition. Chicama boasts the longest wave in the world, so if you don’t get it right, you’ll be tossed and smashed for a record amount of time.
5. Seeing the Colca Canyon – If you’re into staring at huge holes—this one nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA—and huge flying birds—the biggest flying land birds the world over—then heading to the Colca Canyon will impress you. When the owing and awing cacophonous pierces are over, you can even head down into the canyon for a wee hike. Just remember, once you go down, you have to come back up, and it’s no easy climb. Big holes for bigger amounts of money may be the highlight of your Peruvian experience.
4. Climbing the El Misti Volcano – If, like number five, you’re a hole visitor then you’ll enjoy the El Misti Volcano just as much; this time, however, you’ll have to trek quite a ways up (as opposed to down) to see the hole (crater) at the top of El Misti. The volcano sort of dominates the skyline from Arequipa, the town where many of treks to the crater and volcano top begins. Treks here are chiller than the Inca Trail, mind you, but the historical objects en route don’t add up to much. The naturally beauty here is what will surprise you over again.
3. Defacing the Sacred Rock – If you go south in Peru to the sacred Lake Titicaca, then you should leave any sort of spray cans, sidewalk chalk or graphitizing devices at home. The rock is the supposed place where Manco Capac came to existence. If you try to kiss the rock like the Blarney Stone or deface it in any way, you might come under fire with the locals. If you deface the sacred site, odds are the locals will get in touch with their cannibalistic (perhaps) past and invite their friends for a bbq at the lake. You will be both the entertainment and the antipasto.
2. Blaring out English Demands en Route – If you plan on visiting the famous Machu Picchu—and if you’re coming this far south, it’s a Must—then don’t expect all your guides to speak English perfectly. Many of the guides do speak English and might not even tell you, but that is their prerogative. If a guide does something that you don’t see as correct, the worst thing to do is yell in English or even Spanish for that matter. They will most likely understand you and do nothing to help you through the rest of the trip. A guy that is smaller than you but can bench-press his body weight times three is always a friend, never a foe. What works on the streets of New York may not go over well on the footpaths of Machu Picchu.
1. Doing the Deed in the Parque del Amor – Though you may be in Lima for just a few days, don’t be fooled by the Parque del Amor and its statues and name. The last thing locals and tourists alike want to see is you rolling around with your partner in the grass—what’s accepted in San Francisco is not considered public knowledge in Peru. Not only will you get hoots and hollers from crowds, they may very well boo your performance. Keep your slacks zipped, your eyes on your cameras and your hands pointing at the landscapes. Parque del Amor is for lovers of the heart, not the body. Parque del Amor accepts take-out orders only.
By Julie Bowman