This is hardly an exhaustive list but here are a few things you might want to try (or give a miss) during a stay in Peru:
1) Try a Pisco Sour, a quintessentially Peruvian drink made with pisco, a grape brandy favored by locals. It’s a bit like grappa but whereas many distilled spirits like this are made from the lees of wine-making, the Peruvians content themselves with importing Chilean and Argentinian grapes and making pisco. The Pisco Sour is a tart, tasty drink that goes down really easily. A Lima resident with Irish ancestry told me that three of them will make a woman “obedient”. I didn’t ask him to elaborate.
2) Try the Inca favorites, chicha and cuy. The former is a fermented corn beer which, while not unpleasant is an acquired taste. It does come flavored with fruit which goes down a little easier. Cuy or guinea pig is usually baked whole though the more squeamish can get it in a stew. Guinea tastes a bit like a bony rabbit.
3) Take in some of the local music scene which is varied as the multicultural Peruvians can make it with native, Spanish and black influences. You can hear musica criolla in nightclubs in Lima where there are Afro-Peruvian beats and in the mountains, the ubiquitous Pan pipe. The Peruvians take their music so seriously that they elected star singer Susana Baca and she was named Minister of Culture.
4) Take a flight over the Nazca lines. You might have seen them on the Discovery Channel. Inscribed into the desert over a thousand years ago, these giant figures, some a good 300 meters or more are visible only for the air. Ancient alien theorists say these figures of spiders, hummingbirds and even one that some call the astronaut were intended to guide aliens down to linear markings which kind of look like runways.
5) Take a visit to the Larco Museum in Lima. This private collection is reputed to be the largest known collection of pre-Columbian ceramics. A lot of jugs were made with the faces on long Incas who commissioned them and remind me a lot of the more current “Toby jugs”. Some of the faces look distinctly Asian and African! Don’t miss seeing the naughty side of the Moche civilization in the sala erotica.
6) Try your hand at surfing on the beach at Miraflores. There are lots of outfits there to rent wet suits and boards and give you a few lessons to boot. If you are REALLY adventurous go tandem paragliding along the breathtaking shoreline, about sixty dollars for ten minutes.
7) Try ceviche, a Peruvian delicacy which has caught on the world over. This dish is made with raw fish, lime or lemon juice, chili peppers, onions, sweet potato and corn. I have always disliked sushi but ceviche is delicious. Be sure to order it made with trout in the mountains. This trout is caught fresh in lakes and streams whereas salt water fish have usually traveled a for long time in dubiously refrigerated trucks.
8) Fly to Cusco (pronounced like “costco” by the locals) and take in the Inca ruins. If nothing else take the train and visit the magical place which is Machu Picchu. It is actually located in a tropical cloud forest with exotic plants in the surrounding forest. Words cannot describe the sublime surroundings here so take a look at the photos.
9) Go to the Colca Valley in southern Peru and watch the giant Andean condors with their eleven foot wing spans go soaring over the world’s second largest canyon.
10) Take a look at the equestrian statue of Jose de San Martin, in the Plaza de San Martin in Lima. He was the man who liberated Peru from Spanish domination in 1821. Note the sculpture of Victory below San Martin and take a close look at her head. When it was carved, the artist was told to put flames on top of the figure’s head. The word for flames in Spanish is llamas which is also the word for the wooly creature the Incas use for wool and carrying burdens. The statue of Victory to this day still has a Peruvian llama perched on top of her head.
Pisco Sour – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Susana Boca – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Ceviche – Wikimedia Creative Commons
All other photos by George Burden – All Rights Reserved