LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Peru
Interesting Cities to Visit in Peru
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.
Travel Guide to Experiencing Peruvian Food
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:
- Chupe de Camarones – A thick freshwater shrimp soup, made with potatoes, milk, and chilies
- Puka Pikanti – A dish made with potatoes, beets, yellow chilies, mint, and peanuts
- Chairo – A traditional soup made with black chuño, red chilies, yams, sheep tripe, and dried meat
- Ocopa – A dish of sliced potatoes covered in a sauce of chilies, the huacatay herb, peanuts, and cheese
- Anticuchos – Skewers of marinated and grilled beef heart, served with potatoes or corn
- Mazamorra Morada – A jelly-like dessert made from purple maize and cloves
And if you’re looking for something to quench your thirst, try:
- Chapo – Made from boiled sweet plantain and cinnamon
- Inca Kola - A sweet lemon soda
- Té de uña de Gato - A tea made from the Amazonian Cat’s Claw plant
- Chicha de Jora - An alcoholic drink made with fermented maize and aromatic herbs
Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ visitors to Peru
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:
- Keeping it discreet by, for example, accepting twin beds rather than a double or wearing gender-neutral clothes
- Travelling in a group, especially at night, and avoiding bad neighborhoods
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips for Peru
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:
- Visit the MATE Museum, which is dedicated to the life and work of openly gay Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino
- Look up LGBTQ+ slang before you go in order to communicate with locals
- Visit the Rainbow Mountain
- Get a photo of (or buy) a Cusco flag
- Consider using LGBTQ+ dating apps to meet LGBTQ+ locals
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