Is Peru the Most Overrated Traveller Destination Ever?

In 2018, I took a trip to Peru. I was super excited because as soon as I told people, the rave reviews came in.

Every time I hear someone say, ‘where should I go in South America?’, the answer always seems to be Peru. But why?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is nothing good to do in Peru. It has some great attractions… but then again, so does everywhere else. 

In my opinion, Peru may well be the most overrated traveller destination in the world. 

Why does everyone go gaga for Peru?

Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, the Nasca Lines and more alpacas than you can shake a stick at. There are some cool things in Peru, I grant you. But what if we took the south of Peru out of the equation? Scrap Cusco, scrap Nasca and scrap Huacachina. How many travellers actually see the real Peru? 

Why is Peru the most overrated destination in the world?

The elephant in the room 

I know I am from a western country that happens to be very clean. I realise that there is a lot of money where I am from and our government both national and local, invest a lot of wealth into keeping our country free of litter.

I don’t expect every place I visit to be immaculate as I understand not all countries have the resources that mine does. However, there is no denying that Peru is filthy. 

Litter in the overrated city of Peru

There, I’ve said it. It’s filthy. 

The beaches are strewn with litter, whether it be the old faithful plastic bottle or dirty nappies. The cliff edges look like rubbish dumps and you can’t see the plants for the litter as you drive through the desert. 

When speaking to other backpackers as I travelled through Peru, I couldn’t believe that I was the only one to notice this. It was everywhere!

During our stay in Chiclayo, Tim and I managed to get lost and wander off the beaten track. This led us down a sinister back road which in turn led us to traverse the most rubbish I have ever seen outside of a dump. It was like a landfill site. 

Rubbish pile
In the interests of transparency, I will say I didn’t take this photo and I don’t know whether it was taken in Peru. However, some parts of the country that I saw, rivalled the amount of litter in this photo.

The scariest thing of all about this blatant disregard for the environment was the attitude of the local people. During our time trying to escape litter central, we saw several locals come and dump half-eaten food and bags of used toilet paper on the pile. Nice. 

As we were nearing the end of our time in the country, we also volunteered at an animal sanctuary. One day we were harvesting alfalfa for the llamas in a field full of plastic bottles. It was only when I questioned whether we should clean up the field that the locals seemed to question that it might be a problem. 

Six of us collected litter for half an hour and brought down so many plastic bottles that it took four people to transport the load on a tarpaulin. What the heck! 

With the plastic crisis everywhere in western news and doing everything I can to reduce my own impact, I found this to be very disheartening. It is only if everybody plays their part that we can make a difference and sadly, I don’t think the majority of Peruvians are. 

Girl collects litter from overrated country of Peru
I spent a lot of my time in Peru collecting litter.

Peru may be a stunning country but unless the people that live there start looking after it, it will become another hole of human destruction.

You look foreign, you must be a walking wallet. 

I am not a newbie traveller and I do appreciate that to the locals, I am viewed as a tourist. Whilst I expect people to try their luck, I don’t think it gives people the right to blatantly rip me off.

I understand that for example, if I go to a local museum, I will be charged the foreigner rate. Usually, this is at least double the national price. I don’t mind this as in my opinion, you should be able to learn about the history of your own country, regardless of your income.

However, what I do resent is people seeing my white face and taking the piss. 

Some days, just existing in Peru felt like a constant battle to pay a fair price, avoid getting ripped off and skirting harassment. 

Don’t ever expect to be charged a fair price for anything that is used predominately by locals. A bag of coca leaves for me is 3 soles but a bag for a local is 1. A trip in a minivan for me (even though I may be the only person standing) is four times the cost of everybody else. 

I know that travel inevitably involves things like this and I accept it. When I haggle for an alpaca jumper on the market, I understand. When I buy a silly hat, I get it. However, buying a bag of peppers from the local market or trying to get a taxi? That is just plain unfair. 

Ladies with alpacas in overrated country of Peru

It seemed to me that everyone was after a buck. This cute alpaca photo? I made sure to clarify a price with the ladies before I had the picture taken. ‘Voluntario’, they said. Okay, a voluntary donation, no problem. However, when I gave the 2 soles to one woman for them to split, she then demanded I give the other lady money as well whilst woman number two tugged on my sleeve. Not quite as voluntary as I was led to believe. 

Another infuriating thing is that people just won’t take no for an answer. Cusco is particularly bad for this. It is impossible to walk more than 100m without being offered a massage, a painting, an open top bus ticket and probably drugs. If you say no, people continue to shout at you down the street or even follow you. No means no people.

I also found begging difficult to deal with. I would like to think I am a charitable person and feel a huge moral obligation to help when I can. After Tim and I got caught out with the Cambodian baby milk scam I am definitely more cautious but this doesn’t mean I never give. 

However, as a westerner, I get asked for money all the time. Sometimes it can be as many as 20 or 30 times a day. I can’t afford to give to everyone. I am not a royal descendant and I haven’t appeared on The Hills. I am just a normal person who has to save to travel.

Beggar in Peru

One lady in Peru approached me for money and when I said, ’No, sorry’, she actually started cursing me under her breath as well as wagging her finger at me. I couldn’t believe how rude she was. This wasn’t an isolated incident either. Both Tim and I have had people poke us and hit us with hats because we haven’t given them money. 

I think when you leave a country, your impression is always formed by how you were treated when you were there. This isn’t to say everybody I met in Peru took advantage of me but a hell of a lot did, potentially more than anywhere else I’ve been. I can’t help but feel that this is a very poor way to treat travellers, especially when they financially invest so much in your country. 

How many people are there?!

Another thing I loathed about Peru was just how over saturated with tourists it is. There are some world-class attractions there but travellers are killing these sites. 

Before you say anything, I know that as a traveller, I am part of the problem. I don’t know what the answer over-tourism is. However, what I do know is that trying to see a beautiful landmark surrounded by hoards of other people, all blatantly disregarding the rules is frustrating at best and depressing at worst. 

During my trip to Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain (which I deliberately visited because the other one is so overcrowded), I saw swathes of local tourists trampling the beautiful terrain, despite all of the signs telling them not to. 

Sign at Rainbow Mountain, Peru
It appeared the signs were not obvious enough for some of the tourists.

In Machu Picchu, you couldn’t breathe for the number of other people there, all blatantly disregarding the signs that said, ‘don’t feed the animals’ or ‘no jumping’. I don’t want to be a killjoy but at the same time, these measures are put in place to preserve these places for everyone to enjoy.

The same crowds are present at Peru’s beaches too which are potentially some of the most overrated travel recommendations I have ever been given. Not only is everywhere is covered in litter but there are so many people crammed in freezing cold water that it is impossible to surf without careering into someone.  

I’m not saying you should avoid all the big tourist attractions as these are ‘must-see’ destinations for a reason, I’m just saying be prepared to share your experience with hundreds or even thousands of others. It certainly spoils the fun. 

Should we all just forget about Peru? 

In my opinion, from the eight months I have spent in South America, Peru was my least favourite country out of the three I visited. Both Ecuador and Bolivia felt far more welcoming to me and much more authentic. I would recommend either of these countries over Peru any day. 

I would even go as far as to say that Peru is the most overrated country I have ever visited (though Vietnam is a close second). Although I don’t regret my time there, I highly doubt I will ever return. 

Nasca Lines in Peru

Despite what this rant implies, I didn’t hate my three and a half months in Peru. I met some great people and visited some world-class attractions. However, based upon my experience, this is a county that hugely takes advantage of travellers and that seriously needs to clean up its act. 

I know this post will be controversial and many people will disagree with me. That is okay. Just because I think Peru is a majorly overrated country, it doesn’t mean that you will too. 

The aim of this post isn’t to put anyone off visiting Peru. I simply needed to get this off my chest and I am curious to know what other people feel about this country. 

If travel has taught me anything, it is to never believe what other people say. Always experience a place for yourself and make up your own mind. 

Do you agree with me? Is Peru the most overrated traveller destination ever? 

Let me know in the comments! 

Is Peru the most overrated traveller destination ever?

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7 thoughts on “Is Peru the Most Overrated Traveller Destination Ever?”

  1. I loved my time in Peru, but I couldn’t agree more regarding the trash. I felt like Huacachina/Ica, in particular, have a serious problem. I hated leaving the tourist centers and seeing enormous trash piles everywhere. It broke my heart!

    • I completely agree about Huacachina and Ica. It was so sad looking around at the beauty of the sand dunes and then seeing a plastic bag fly past. It happened so often too! I definitely think more needs to be done, to both raise awareness and educate but also to tackle the massive problem that they are already facing.

  2. I totally agree with you. Peru is overrated in my opinion. The country is filthy, most of the locals try their best to rip the tourists off. My husband and I are now still in Peru and we self drive the entire trip. So far, only Nazca lines and the scenery along Sacred Valley attracted us. The rest are just meh especially Machu Picchu, it’s a complete tourist trap and it’s just anther ruin.

    • I completely agree with what you have said! The Nasca Lines were definitely one of the highlights for me, mainly because I think I held no expectations from them. Sad to hear you’re not enjoying Peru all that much but would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Bolivia if you haven’t already been and get the chance. The people seem much more genuine (generally) and the landscape is stunning! Thanks for reading (and not being mean to me)!

  3. It doesn’t get any better in northern pro I have lived here for a year and a half. Do not waste your time going to the beaches here they filthy and full of people who beg for money or will try to rob me. People are okay with living in trash and don’t seem to mind. I have never experienced racism as bad as it is in Peru if you’re dark skinned which I am white you were looked down upon. Stay out of Peru there are many other more beautiful South American countries to visit and enjoy.

  4. Really interesting to read this! We’re been in Peru for 3 months after 18 months travelling through Nicaragua Costa Rica Panama Colombia and Ecuador. We have been lucky to see the country with barely any tourists due to covid but in all honesty however hard I’ve tried I just don’t love it…. how I expected. The costing is so much for what you get for example the salkantay hike with camping was approx $500 each with the inca trail costing over $1000 each! We chose the salkantay, as just couldn’t justify paying $2000 to camp, we went without a guide staying in nice accomodation with all meals cooked for us and it cost us about $250 for both of us! litter is bad but I didn’t particularly judge this as countries have issues with rubbish but for us it’s the rubbish and lack of cleanliness in our accomodation that’s also been disappointing especially when I can’t believe how much we’ve had to pay! For me this isnt about poverty. There are loads of beautiful places in Peru but there is a large proportion sadly I wouldn’t recommend. Equally we’ve met some really lovely people but we’ve also met alot more rude unwelcoming people than anywhere else, not sure if weve just had bad luck but it definitely feels we are a primarily a wallet. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the most overrated country personally but it has been disappointing….we are leaving earlier that planned and looking forward to Bolivia and missing Ecuador!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of Peru I loved but likewise, a lot of others I wouldn’t recommend. I much preferred Ecuador although I met a lot of people who couldn’t understand that. I certainly felt like I was in the minority of backpackers for being disappointed by Peru. Everybody’s experiences are different though! Enjoy Bolivia, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time! 🙂


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