Three of the most diverse geographic zones on the planet – coast, mountain and jungle – go hand-in-hand to make up this huge and diverse country. The flat coastal lands feature harsh deserts and oases as well as the capital, Lima, which is a mind-boggling feat of (fairly unsustainable) irrigation. The Andes – which stretch from Colombia and Ecuador in the north down through Chile and Argentina in the south, and across to Bolivia in the east – are dotted with Inca and pre-Inca ruins.
Peru has a landmass of 1.28 million square kilometres, similar to the size of Alaska, which makes it the third largest South American nation. Peru has a coastline kissing the Pacific Ocean that stretches for 1400 kilometers, along with five land boarders shared with Ecuador and Columbia to the north, Brazil to the east and Chile and Bolivia to the South East. As of 2015, Peru had a population of 31.2 million people, with the capital of Lima being the most populous city.
In terms of getting around, buses and some night buses are an excellent option for connecting you domestically and with neighbouring countries, but do go with reputable companies. However, if you are looking to explore deep into the Amazon jungle, a flight can be the safest bet. Ensure you try the Peruvian foods, however be wary of food poising especially uncooked meat from garages and street stalls.
Most tours will kick off from a town such as Cusco, Lima and Ayacucho, which have shopping facilities equal to small-town Europe where you will never be far from a toothbrush, bottled water or a well-stocked chemist. However, once in the jungle it could be days to a hospital. Listen to your guides and follow their advice, in return make sure you give them a generous tip.
Peru has a reputation of still being corrupt and does have a high level of crime, you will always meet tourists and travellers who have horror stories. However, when these things do happen, it is usually because a traveller has not followed one or more of the golden rules. People are poor, you are rich, and the assumption is you won’t really miss your stuff!
In 2014, there were 3.6 million international visitors to Peru. The Inca capital of Peru is Cusco, a stunning town that is the basis for many treks and tours. From Cusco, take a local bus through the cloud forests and you may be lucky enough to see the scarlet cock-of-the-rock, the Peruvian national bird. Microclimates reign in Peru; make sure you check out the weather in the local area in advance to avoid shocks.
Whilst Machu Pichu is one of the most famous Inca destinations, explore one the many hidden treks and Inca ruins, which is a far cry from the busloads of tourists in their masses. If you do chose to go on a trek, ensure you are aware of the altitude in this region and rest frequently. For more information on trekking and porters rights, check out this Tourism Concern article.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Trekking – Porters Rights:
Mountain trekking – it’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging. But how many of us could do it without the porters who carry our luggage and equipment? Porters are an essential part of treks. However, they often suffer appalling working conditions.
Porters work in some of the harshest tourism conditions in the world, carrying tourists’ backpacks. Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the porters carrying trekkers’ equipment in the Himalayas, on the Inca Trail in Peru and at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Lack of shelter, inadequate food and clothing, and minimal pay are commonly faced problems.
Despite progress in raising the issues, many porters continue to have their human rights abused by trekking companies. So it’s vital we continue to ask questions of tour operators or trekking companies if porters’ working conditions are not to be left out in the cold. If you’re planning a trekking holiday, only book your trek with a tour operator that has a Porters Policy based on our code.
Additionally, always make sure that any porters is never asked to carry a load that is too heavy for their physical abilities (maximum: 20 kg on Kilimanjaro, 25 kg in Peru and Pakistan, 30 kg in Nepal). Weight limits may need to be adjusted for altitude, trail and weather conditions; experience is needed to make this decision.
From a positive point of view, Peru now limits the daily numbers trekking to Macchu Pichu, and many other tourist hotspots are following suit. Gradually, both environmental and political decisions are becoming part of the equation as more people recognize that there has been no equal opportunities policy in the tourism industry and that our blissful holidays can damage the planet and its people.
The majority of UK operators now have policies on porters, paving the way for improved pay and working conditions for hundreds of porters. Look out for the Ethical Trekking logo or use one of our Ethical Tour Operators. Tourism Concern have carried out a very successful campaign on Porters Rights, to learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Porters Rights:
Displacement of local peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly people of Argentina can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Loss and Indigenous Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. For example, in Peru a representative of the Yagua tribe wrote that one community is made to:
“… perform dances on no matter what day, which is contrary to our customs, since with us each dance would be performed at a particular time of the year, times which are festivals for us. Our brothers are exhibited to the tourists like animals, and have to be at their disposal so that they can take photos.”
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism:
According to Right-Tourism.com, despite being banned in most parts of the world, cock-fighting is legal in Peru and big business. It takes part in large arenas (known as coliseo) and involves two cocks fighting to the death. It is a gory and bloody fight and often both cocks die. Both cocks have sharp spikes – cockspurs – attached to them before the fight. These spikes measure up to two inches long and can be metal or fishbone. It is common for cocks to have their eyes gauged out during the fight. As a point of reference, cock fighting was banned in the UK in 1849. As a tourist, please do not support these events!
Campers, hikers, and climbers should all follow a “Leave No Trace” approach when exploring the great outdoors. In many popular trekking locations around the world, a lack of this ethic has resulted in highlands and peaks being littered with garbage. Here are some suggestions for keeping the trekking regions beautiful for everyone to enjoy:
- Carry out all your rubbish or dispose of your trash responsibly. Don’t overlook easily forgotten items, such as foil, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers. Take into account how long items take to degrade. For example, aluminium cans take 80 to 100 years and plastic bottles take up to 450 years. Besides, while degrading harmful chemicals end up in the ground water.
- Collect rubbish where you see it on walking trails. If you cannot carry it out of the area, take the litter to a local rubbish collection depot or incineration centre.
- When buying things from shops, do not accept plastic bags.
- Never bury your rubbish. Digging disturbs soil and ground cover and encourages erosion, and buried rubbish may be dug up by animals, which may be injured or poisoned by it.
- Minimize waste by taking minimal packaging and no more food than you will need. Take reusable containers or stuff sacks.
- Take your used batteries home to your country.
- Where there is a toilet, please use it. Where there is none, bury your waste. Dig a small hole 15cm (6in) deep and at least 100m (320ft) from any watercourse. Cover the waste with soil and a rock. In snow, dig down to the soil. Ensure that these guidelines are also applied to portable toilet tents.
- Please encourage your porters to use toilet facilities as well.