Peru is a heavy hitter on the latest travel destination scene and more and more people are flocking to the South American country which borders Ecuador and Colombia. Filled with incredible landscapes, hiking, wildlife, natural history and a growing culinary scene that will delight even the most savvy food lover — Peru has something for even the most discerning traveler.
With the growth of this destination, there are definitely tips and tricks that can help you, especially if you know them ‘before’ you hit the trail. How drinking a local tea can help you stave off horrid altitude sickness, why arriving early at an infamous hike site will serve you better, exploring activities beyond the norm, and how trying the local delicacies is totally worth your while. Click through and check out the 8 things we think you should know before you set off on your first Peruvian adventure.
Buy Coca Tea and Drink Each Day to Avoid Altitude Sickness
At some point during your stay in Peru’s varied geography, you’re bound to reach 8,000 feet or beyond above sea level. Here is where the common issue of ‘altitude sickness’ kicks in. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and more, so make sure one of the very first things you do when arriving is stock up on the Coca Tea to drink every day. The tea is made from the leaves of the coca plant and also contains a small amount of alkaloids. (You may know alkaloids as the base of cocaine, although the trace amounts in the tea ain’t gonna get you high).
Do Book a Longer Trip Than You Think You'll Need
Peru is so much more than just the Inca Trail and Macchu Picchu, so make sure you make the most of your visit with at least a couple of weeks to really explore this incredible nation. Whether you are exploring and hiking in the mountains and trails, or checking out cities like Lima and Cusco, you’ll find that you’re constantly surprised by the amazing attractions and places you can see while here.
Be An Early Bird If You Want The Best Macchu Picchu Experience
Yes, Macchu Picchu is even more amazing than you can imagine and it’s also better than the pictures. One huge tip is to get here early, as soon as they open the gates to avoid the throngs of tourists arriving by mid morning. Be sure to pack your water and snacks if you want to skip the overpriced little snack bar on the way up. Another great tip here is to skip the crowed tourist bus ride on the way down and instead walk the 1km back to Aguas Calientes instead.
Eat Your Weight in Ceviche in Lima
As the Peruvian national lunch, ceviche is a great way to start your exploration of food and is at it’s best in Lima. You’ll find all kinds of seafood mixed with hot peppers, onions and citrus mixed and marinated for your culinary pleasure. Whether you are in a market stall or at one of the cities many cevicherias, the quality of the seafood is top notch. Traditionally served with a side of vegetable like sweet potato and a homemade corn nut called Cancha made with large kernels of Peruvian corn, make sure you also drink up the marinating juices — or Leche de tigre as the locals call it. Hit up El Mercado at lunchtime for Chef Rafael Osterling’s amazing dishes or for something more no frills, head to Chez Wong on Calle Enrique León García.
Book With Peru's Local Airlines to Get Around
While you are inside Peru, if you want to get around and skip the sometimes 20 hour bus rides then flying on one of the countries domestic airlines is your best bet. Though some of the booking process may not be as easy as the U.S. airlines you’re used to, it’s worth it to fly cheaper and quicker between cities. While there, check out LC Peru, Star Peru, TACA or Aviaca, or LAN Peru.
Make Time For Cusco
Cusco will reward you in many ways, so make sure you have ample time to spend here. A gateway to the Andes mountains, you’ll find the locals are super friendly and more than willing to help you book tours through the local areas for WAY cheaper than you’d find elsewhere. While here you can explore ancient ruins, stunning temples, and forgotten cities. You can also be adventurous and try one of their local specialties — Cuy (also known as Guinea Pig)
There's More Than Just Hiking in Peru
If you feel like you’d like to do more when in Peru than just hiking Macchu Picchu or exploring the ruins, there are so many cool activities for you to try. If you want to surf, head to Mancora, go deep into the Amazon to explore the incredible wildlife or even try parasailing in Lima. Even if you’re not religious, make sure you add a trip to the Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa, and you can add in the bonus of white water rafting while in the area.
Always Have a Little Help on Hand
We’re talking about some meds for the unpleasant occurrence of food poisoning or reaction to the water. While most places you’ll be eating are relatively clean and you may not have any issue at all, it’s super smart to pack a full dosage of an antibiotic like Cipro in case you are struck with vomiting and/or diarrhea. Hey, it’s way better to be safe than sorry.