Peru Without Machu Pichu or Cuzco
Replies: 29 - Last Post: Dec 14, 2012 7:47 PM Last Post By: Woodrose33
Dec 6, 2012 8:52 PM
I picture MP, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley being overwhelmed with tour buses, travel agencies and backpackers with Lonely Planets in one hand and cigarettes in the other. Am I wrong?
What do you think about skipping the gringo trail and heading up north instead, possibly to Cajamarca or Huaraz and seeing the mountains, smaller towns, lakes, etc... and meeting the locals? It will be my first time in Peru and I'll have probably 8 or 9 days.
Dec 6, 2012 9:04 PM
Dec 6, 2012 9:43 PM
Dec 7, 2012 12:39 AM
3Most travellers classify Machu Picchu as a "must" and move with the crowds. If you are differently inclined about where you wish to travel and what you want to experience, then the north of Peru is a very good option. I personally think of Chachapoyas, Kuélap, Leymebamba, Cajamarca, but there is much more. With your limited number of days you will have to be selective.
Dec 7, 2012 12:54 AM
4I spent five weeks in Cusco last August and September and only saw 'the backpackers with Lonely Planets in one hand and cigarettes in the other' when I spent half an hour in the centre of Pisac after I had to pick up a local friend. Otherwise I didn't see much travelers or backpackers except on the Plaza de Armas of Cusco and surrounding streets.
I had lunch and dinner at places where virtually no foreigners go except expats only 10' from the Plaza de Armas or in residential areas or @ the homes of my local friends.
I spent the nights with friends in bars where the only gringos were me and some nights a small group of volunteers from the US who had known the place through their coworkers.
I visited a bunch of places where there were no tourists for instance Pitumarca, Pampachiri, Checacupe, Q'eswachaca, Sicuani, 4 lagunas, Combapata, Pomacanchi, Ccatca, Lucre and towns beyond, Huacarpay, Piñipampa, Huaro, Huasao and more and these are just places south of Cusco.
Spent a full day in the Sacred Valley in two towns, Urquillos & Huayllabamba, without seeing people who didn't live there or in the area. Travelers and backpackers mainly go to Písac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Maras and Moray in the Sacred Valley.
And if you want to go trekking without seeing much people do the Vuelta a Ausangate.
I have visited many places in northern Peru and found it very different to the south, except maybe Cajamarca which remains me Cusco and Huancayo. Cajamarca sees it's part of foreign and Peruvian tourists and Huaraz was full of trekkers & alpinists when I was there some time ago.
Any place with more than five sentences in guidebooks sees its part of tourists and backpackers.
Dec 7, 2012 5:13 AM
5There is plenty to do and see without "a must" sites, if you hate crowds you'll be happy to avoid it and whole trip will be worth it. Just keep in mind that town of Huaraz is hideous, mountains around are magic, but town is just bad.
Dec 7, 2012 7:52 AM
6The gringo trail is mostly about history. If that is not to your liking, then don't go. You can escape the tourists by staying in places like Chinchero and Pisac (away from the park). And as IncaCola said, you can escape the tourists in Cusco by staying away from the tourist areas. But if you want to see the things worth seeing, you will run into tourists.
Dec 7, 2012 8:29 AM
Dec 7, 2012 3:49 PM
8I know what you mean, wanting to stay of the beaten track. I really loved Arequipa, it has beautiful architecture and it’s not very touristy like Cusco was. In saying that, only the main center was full of tourist in Cusco so it’s easy enough to get away and have authentic experience there. If you want to stay away from the tourist trail I wouldn't recommend the Cusco City Tour or the Sacred Valley Tour. These are purely meant for those wanting to see the "highlights" which in my opinion are not the highlights at all! Try out the beautiful ruins of Tipon or simply go walking in the hills behind Sacsayhuaman!
I did go on the Machu Picchu tour with a friend of mine with a great company called Dos Manos. This wasn’t really how i imagined visiting Machu Picchu but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and receiving the information about the history which I would never have known if I went on my own.
So finally I would say YES! Machu Picchu is a must, I don’t get awed by much but this took my breath away and I wasn’t bother by the other tourists being there, they are respectful and have as much right to be there as I did! :)
Dec 7, 2012 5:57 PM
Dec 7, 2012 10:10 PM
10Well, Cuzco and surrounding area is indeed full of tourists, and it appears that tourism is its main industry. The ratio of tourists to locals is IMHO so high that it killed for me the atmosphere. (Besides the center of Cuzco is not that big, either. There are a lot of various tourist activities available around Cuzco, but you can see all the highlights of the city in 1 day.) However, 1) I have no right to complain as I was one of those atmosphere-spoiling tourists ;) 2) I would not miss it as it is indeed very interesting. Seeing the stonework from the Inkas was amazing and worth going to Cuzco despite all the negatives. Machu-Picchu is unabashedly touristic, but again I recommend you strongly not to skip it. While the ruins themselves are amazing in their own right, the natural surrounding are stunning. I have been to Pompei and was underwhelmed; I went to Machu Picchu and was overwhelmed.
I have been to Cartagena, and I am not a fan of it myself, so if you have skipped it you didn't miss out. I did enjoy the historical aspects of it though as I am a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but unless you are familiar with his literature and interested in seeing the places he has described, it is far from being the most compelling place to visit in Colombia.
Dec 8, 2012 10:03 AM
11If you want to get off the tourist trail fly to Liverpool in the UK, get a 501 bus to South Parkway Station, from there get a train to Seaforth And Litherland station and have a wander around. You will get a full insight in to what literally no tourists get to see and if you want to experiment a local shaman in the Railway pub next to the station will help you explore the world of drugs.
Dec 8, 2012 10:09 AM
Dec 8, 2012 10:14 AM
Dec 8, 2012 10:22 PM
14If you want to get of the Gringo trail why go to Huaraz? that is it's main industry, catering to gringo trekkers and climbers.
I think Fowler9 has hit the nail on the head
I spent a few days in Trujillo north of Lima which I liked. Not so many tourists and a good small, local and active Couchsurfing community. But if you are going to Peru it seems a wast not to go to Cusco. I also pent a day in Chimbote where no tourists go and it was a crap hole. Maybe go there and spend your 9 days if you want to get off the tourist track.
Cartegena I can understand as it just a colonial city albeit a great example of one. But not going to the Galapgos which is unique for wildlife in the world or MP/Cusco I can't understand and seems a new form of travel snobbery.
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