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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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