Have you noticed not much has been mentioned in the past few years in the expat magazines concerning living in Peru? My curiosity finally led me to this Andean nation this past winter for a six-week tour that has answered my questions, but could Peru be for you? Let’s take a tour!
Your first destination and place for consideration will be Lima, the cosmopolitan capital of over seven million people. Don’t let the population numbers scare you off; it does not have the feeling of a giant metropolis since most people don’t drive so the amount of space dominated by freeways is very limited. The main advantage/disadvantage of Lima is the weather! Eight months of the year the city is engulfed in a coastal cloud phenomena that limits the temperature to between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with frequent morning mist or drizzle. Although no heat or air conditioning is necessary here, the cloudy weather could be discouraging for some.
The summer temperatures in January through April range from 72 to 85 F degrees with sunny skies and magnificent ocean sunsets. The city beaches are fine for relaxing, but few enter the waters except for the surfers. The oceanfront neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco are where you will want to live if you choose Lima. Both are safe and have a great assortment of shops, restaurants and nightlife for all tastes.
In Lima the hospitals are world-class, with medical and dental tourism on the rise. I had a new crown done for $250 instead of the $1000 charged in the USA, and it was done by a European-American trained dentist that was fluent in English. Go outside the capital and expect to pay as much as 40% less!
It is definitely worth your time to visit the historical downtown area. In and around the Plaza de Armas where the Cathedral of Lima is located, you will see the colonial architecture that is highlighted by beautiful wood balconies typical of Peru. In the night time you may tour the Magical Water Park, a collection of large computer controlled water fountains illuminated by colorful lights and lasers with water shooting into the air accompanied by music, the largest in South America.
In Peru the cuisine is noted to be world-class due to the many foreign influences. The cevicherias serve up fresh-from-the-sea dishes, and due to the flavor given by the Peruvian lemons, the ceviches (seafood marinated in lemon juice) here are the best in the world. But since most of the people are working-class, the common type of restaurants in all of Peru are either ones that serve rotisserie chicken, or ‘Chifas’ inexpensive Chinese restaurants that serve healthy but mediocre tasting dishes. For a taste of Lima, click on this link:
As you leave Lima you will notice that the surrounding areas are quite barren and dry leading up to the Andes Mountains. The highway to Huanuco or Huancayo goes up to a summit of 4818 meters or a dizzying 15,807 feet, the highest paved road in the world! I was disappointed by Huanuco, a town at an elevation of 6000 feet noted for having ‘the best climate on earth’. Unfortunately it was poorly organized and had no real colonial beauty. Huancayo is the noisiest town I have ever visited due to the constant noise from cars honking their horns for whatever reason and taxis alerting pedestrians by horn that they are available.
My trip from Huancayo to Ayacucho was the most terrifying bus ride of my life, navigating one-lane dirt roads through the mountains with drop-offs that ranged from a few hundred feet to well over a thousand. One mistake and it’s all she wrote; Bolivia is the only place that has more extreme roads. But fear not, the normal route from Lima to Ayacucho is safe and scenic. Ayacucho, once the epicenter for the Maoist guerilla uprising in the 80’s called ‘The Shining Path’ is now safe and on a rebound. This quaint city now has an airport with flights to Lima. I recommend air travel to here if your exploring time is limited. Ayacucho has beautiful colonial architecture and the population is made up of mostly indigenous people without the crowds of Cusco. The 9000’ elevation might not be for everyone, but those who choose to live here will be rewarded. With 35 churches including the cathedral, Ayacucho has the most elaborate Easter week celebrations in all of Peru. For a view of Ayacucho follow this link:
Ayacucho is a good place to acclimatize before visiting Cusco, and the bus ride is a safe one. At about 11,000 feet, Cusco might not be the place you would want to live in, but a visit to here and the world famous Machu Picchu is a must! However some do come here and never leave this Andean paradise. The central historical area here is unforgettable; the Plaza de Armas has the largest and most beautiful cathedral in all of Peru. Luxury accommodations and gourmet restaurants exist alongside backpacker hostels and budget eateries. To take a tour of Cusco visit this link:
After Cusco, one may want to travel to Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Here at 12,500 feet you may want to spend a day or two and take a boat tour before descending to Arequipa, located at a comfortable 7,000-foot elevation.
Ahhh… Arequipa! This is where I consider the best place to live in Peru. The climate is dry with 300 plus days of sunshine a year. Peru’s second largest city is uncrowded at only about 650,000 residents and even tranquil by Peruvian standards. The beautiful Misti volcano towering above at an elevation of 19,000 gives this city an unbelievable ambiance!
The Plaza de Armas here is considered to be the most beautiful in Peru. The cathedral has a very wide façade and is constructed of the white stone that gives Arequipa the title of ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ (the white city) There are pedestrian-only streets in the historical center that prohibit motorcycle taxis from entering. A tour of the Santa Catalina monastery located downtown, built in 1580, will delight the senses. Nearby the Colca Canyon is a spectacular place to visit for nature lovers. You can hike down into this canyon (that is deeper than the Grand Canyon of the USA) to visit native villages among other interesting sites or just view Andean condors soaring thru the air. Another plus, living in Arequipa you are only a little over an hour drive from the ocean, where near-deserted beaches await. You will not be disappointed with Arequipa or this link showing what it has to offer:
Traveling within Peru can be accomplished very comfortably and economically via bus. The first class busses here are the best in South America. Because many of the trips are as long as eight hours, there are huge, dual-level European-made land yachts offering every amenity including seats that recline 160 degrees. Since a lot of the scenery on these drives is monotonous, night travel is both safe and a way to save on a night’s hotel accommodations.
The last place worth mentioning is Trujillo, a city almost the size of Arequipa located near the coast in northern Peru. The historical center is noted for its unique architecture. You are located near many beaches and the climate is similar to Lima with cloudy conditions that keep the weather comfortable most of the year. Follow this link to see if Trujillo might interest you.
The downside to Peru could be summed up in one word: noise! In the cities the noise from car horns is almost non-stop in the daytime in certain areas. Living in small villages may not suit most people since they consist of mostly indigenous people that some of whom don‘t speak much Spanish. Unless your restaurant budget is substantial, the cuisine of either rotisserie chicken or cheap Chinese can wear you down. But once living in Peru, you will be able to buy everything you need for a normal diet. The main cities have supermarkets that rival the USA.
In conclusion, if you are tired of rainy weather, want an economical place to live in a country that is on the rise due to its abundance of natural resources with many exotic cultures… Peru just might be for you!