I spent a month and a half in the country of Peru and I didn’t even do the big “touristy” things that travelers flock to Peru for. I traveled from Piura, all the way south to Cusco for the main attraction, Machu Picchu– stopping at the cities in between– and then into the jungles of Pucallpa. During my time in Peru, I grew to love the people and the culture, and found that Machu Picchu is but a small fraction of what makes this country wonderful. Here are a few of my favorite things about Peru that make it unique, in no particular order:
- Peruvian pride: Peru qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1981 and I was lucky enough to witness such a historical event. Red and white– the colors of the Peruvian flag– flooded the streets, the soccer team theme music filled the air and nothing but news about soccer played for days leading up to the game. When they won people cried, people drank and the next day was declared a national holiday. The streets were empty as everyone had been celebrating the night before and children didn’t have to go to school. I had never seen such celebrations for a sporting event across a nation.
- Pisco Sours: A yellow brandy made from fermented grape juice is the national alcoholic beverage of Peru. Two of these babies and whew, I’ll be asking Paolo Guerrero to marry me. Speaking of …
- Paolo Guerrero: Ok, so you’ll only ever see him on TV or on someone’s soccer jersey, but ya gotta admit, he foooiiiinnnneee.
- Peruvian hairless dog: Stray dogs share the same space with all the locals, and seeing them in the streets is as normal as mosquitos in the jungle. But spotting the Peruvian hairless dog is like like suddenly seeing someone streaking through the streets: you won’t believe your eyes, and you’ll stare, wondering what it is that you’re looking at. It’s gray, has no fur except for the tip of it’s tail and at the top of it’s head. It for sure is one ugly dog.
- Llama’s/Alpacas: Their wool is soft, they’re unique looking and alpaca’s are ahem, pretty tasty.
- Aji: No meal is complete without aji. What’s amazing about aji is that the spice doesn’t take away from the flavor. You know sometimes when you put too much spice, and then your tongue is on fire, and you can’t drink enough milk to take away the burning flames of hell out of your mouth? It’s not like that with aji. It’s the perfect mix of flavor and spice. Not all aji’s are made the same, so always try them when eating at a restaurant.
- Potatoes: I know, weird right? Peru has a variety of different potatoes that they use in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they mash it up and layer it with chicken or tuna salad, or puré it as a side, or even stuff it with some meat. The potatoes of Peru are diverse and delicious, and are definitely what’s going to make you gain weight during your travels there because you can’t say no to these damn potatoes.
- Ceviche: Peru is the creator of ceviche. If Peru was God, ceviche would be it’s children. The ceviche of Peru is unlike any other ceviche that I’ve ever tasted. Covered in thick cuts of raw fish, the perfect blend of lime and chili, choclo (a Peruvian corn), thinly sliced onions with a side of sweet potato and sprinkled with a little bit of cancha (a different Peruvian corn that is toasted)– that’s how I want to die.
- Food: While we are on the topic of so many food items, I might as well mention that Peru is well known for its gastronomy. Food, glorious food. Compared to the rest of South America, Peru has the most diverse options for food. Not only has Peru mastered their own cuisine, but they go above and beyond and take on the challenges of cooking food of other countries as well. Burgers? Oh my gaaahhh, you’ve never lived until you’ve had a burger in Peru, where the patty has been drizzled with the juices of lomo saltado. Also, Peru has this clever invention called “menú” and with it you get an appetizer and an entree, sometimes dessert, all for under 12 soles (~$4).
- Indigenous people/music: Peruvian people have a deep and long history. They’re music uses traditional flutes and pipes, slap drums, and bells and is still played throughout Peru. Today, their indigenous language, Quechua, still exists and if you’re lucky, you might still be able to hear it being spoken.
- Ponchos: They’re colorful, and they’re warm.
- Plaza de Armas: In every city of Peru, there is a Plaza de Armas. It makes for a great place to take pictures, eat lunch, or just chill and people watch.
- Geography: Peru is a country for everyone. Wanna surf? Mancora and Lima are the places to go. History? Cusco. Sand boarding? Ica. Rock climbing? Jungle trekking? Camping? Huaraz. And so much more, man.
- Mototaxis: If you make your way out to the jungles and less touristy areas of Peru, you will encounter a different form of transportation called mototaxis or motocars. You can always negotiate prices and usually won’t have to pay more than 6 soles (~$2) to get from one place to the other.
15. Jungle fruit: Not only does Peru have mangoes and platanos and pineapples, but they have their own unique fruits that, when introduced, are always described as “a fruit of the jungle.” Lucuma, chirimoya, and camu camu are just a few of my favorites.
There is so much more than just Machu Picchu to Peru. It is totally and completely worth it to visit even if you can’t afford Machu Picchu. I could go on and on about the country, but honestly the list will probably contain mostly edible products, so I’ll just stop talking about food now.
What makes you want to go to Peru?