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Peru is a beautiful country with a rich history and a friendly population, so any traveler will enjoy immersing in the culture. You’ll also find that a surprising amount of the country has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
There are so many things that draw tourists in, from the Andes mountain range to Machu Picchu to the Amazon jungle, but the true beauty of the country comes from its people, who are, on the whole, welcoming and accepting.
And, of course, no article about Peru would be complete without mentioning its largest and most famous festival, the Fiesta de la Candelaria, which celebrates the life of the patron saint of the town of Puno, the Virgin of Candelaria. This two-week-long festival mixes indigenous and Catholic traditions, with a healthy dose of musical performances and costumed dancers. It really is a sight to behold.
However, Peru is not the most progressive country in South America when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. While same-sex activity has been legal in Peru since 1924 and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people was banned in 2017, it is still a broadly conservative Catholic country, where attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people tend to reflect the Catholic teachings. There have also been considerable political challenges to the anti-discrimination law.
For these reasons, LGBTQ+ visitors will likely prefer to use discretion when visiting Peru, but it should not discourage you from travelling here, especially because the country has two of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in South America: Lima and Cusco.
Peru’s natural landscape is very diverse, so diverse in fact that it has 28 individual climates. This means that when you’re deciding about the right time to visit, you should also take into consideration what part of the country you’ll be travelling to and what you want to do while there.
If you are looking to do any sort of outdoor activity (i.e. hiking, sailing) or you want to visit the Inca ruins, then you’ll be best off travelling between May and September, which is the dry season in Peru. While the December to March period, which is Peru’s summer, is hotter, it will also feature frequent and heavy rainfall, making it harder and less pleasant to participate in any kind of outdoor activity.
The other months are often unpredictable weather-wise, so the best advice is to research past years weather in the exact location you’re visiting.
The second most populous city in Peru is surrounded by three volcanoes—Misti, Pikchu Pikchu, and Chachani—and its center is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique architectural style, known as Escuela Arequipena.
The style, which features Spanish colonial churches built in a traditional Peruvian way, can be best seen at the Santa Catalina Monastery, the Basilica Cathedral, and the Church of the Jesuits.
This was the capital of the Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in the 1500s and, as such, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This rich history is why most tourists visit Cusco, in order to see the walled complex of Sacsayhuamán or Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world. Cusco is also home to several museums, including the Cacao and Chocolate Museum.
You may see a lot of rainbow flags in Cusco, but they’re not necessarily Pride flags. They’re actually more likely to be the Incan Empire flag.
There’s so much to do in Lima that you could probably stay for a year and still not see everything. There are dozens of museums, focusing on everything from science to art to history, a decent nightlife scene, and its historic center was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.
The capital of Peru is also, unsurprisingly, an LGBTQ+ hotspot, with enough bars, clubs, and saunas to keep everyone happy. Here you can literally party all night and into the morning. Recommended venues include ValeTodo DownTown, Lolita Bar, Legendaris, and Sauna 240Club.
The largest city in the Moche Valley, Trujillo is full of Spanish charm, with marble plazas and colorful churches all around, but it actually played an important role in the fight for Peruvian independence, seceding from its colonizers two years before Peru as a whole.
It’s also close to two pre-Columbian monuments; Chan Chan, the largest adobe (mud brick) city at the time of its creation, and Huaca del Sol, the largest adobe pyramid in Peru.
Those looking for celebrations, rather than history, will enjoy the Marinera and Spring festivals, where dancing, music, and parades are brought together.
This is the best city base to explore the Amazon jungle. Here you can easily access the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and the Tambopata National Reserve to see exotic animals, like the spectacled bear, or even meet some Peruvian tribes.
Previously, you could only get to Puerto Maldonado by boat—it straddles the Tambopata and Madre de Dios Rivers just before they join the Amazon River—but it has recently been linked up to the road network, allowing more tourists to visit.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore the Amazon in style, then an Amazon River is for you. You can spend multiple nights on the water, exploring deep into the rainforest to see exotic animals, rare birds, and beautiful flora.
A river cruise typically offers daily guided excursions where you can kayak, bike, or fish near or on the Amazon while learning about the beautiful world around you.
This small oasis town is just a short dune buggy ride from the city of Ica and it looks just like a mirage that you might see if you were lost in the desert. Here you can take enough stunning photos to make your friends jealous, take a dip in the lake, dance the night away, and even sandboard. (It’s snowboarding, but on sand.)
These centuries-old rock carvings on the Chilean Atacama, covering 19 square miles of the Nazca Desert, feature incredible designs of animals, humans, and plants that are best viewed from the air or from the surrounding foothills.
Many researchers believe the carvings had a religious significance to their creators, but it is still unknown exactly what that was or how they were made. Some people even float the idea of this being the work of aliens.
Take a tour hosted entirely by local guides that takes you through all of the wonderful cultural, historical, and archaeological sites in Peru, but also shows you the delightful biodiversity of the country as well.
During the tour, you’ll have the chance to explore Lima, discover shamanic arts in the Sacred Valley, and roam through the ruins of Machu Picchu; all the while meeting artisans, archaeologists, and educators who are helping to make a difference for their community.
Peruvian cuisine is a mixture of tastes and textures, featuring dishes from Europe, Asia, and West Africa, modified to include local ingredients, as well as traditional Incan meals. This means that those who want a culinary adventure when travelling will find something delicious to shout about.
Popular Peruvian dishes include:
And if you’re looking for something to quench your thirst, try:
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Peru and LGBTQ+ people are prevented from discrimination under the law, and while equal marriage is not yet the reality, it is likely on the horizon and they do recognize marriages performed elsewhere.
However, public attitudes still have a long way to go, especially in rural areas. While recent legal changes and court rulings, spurred by the local LGBTQ+ community’s activism, have gone some way toward increasing acceptance, Catholic teachings still hold strong. For example, two-thirds of lawmakers in the Peruvian parliament voted to remove the anti-discrimination legislation, which could be seen as a microcosm for views on LGBTQ+ rights as a whole.
Tips for staying safe in Peru include:
If you’re looking to take part in an LGBTQ+ event in Peru, then you should definitely head out for Pride. Peru has local Pride parades in the cities of Arequipa, Callao, Chiclayo, Cusco, Iquitos, Lima, Piura, and Trujillo, but the biggest is in the capital. (Make sure to check the dates of Pride before booking your trip.)
And finally, if you’re travelling to Peru, here are the best tips for LGBTQ+ people looking to make the most of their trip:
Meg Cale is an LGBTQ+ travel advocate and community educator. Meg and her wife Lindsay run the number one lesbian travel blog, DopesontheRoad.com. Meg’s LGBTQ+ subject matter expertise has been featured in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan, Go magazine, Out Traveler, Gay Star News, Buzzfeed, Matador Network, Elite Daily, Korea Observer, and India's The Quint. Her passion lives at the intersection of travel, queer culture, and new media. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @MegCale
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