For a completely different experience, you might consider spending the holidays in the South American countries of Peru and Bolivia. Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Christmas markets, specialty foods and drinks, music and festivals: all make for a memorable experience.
We drove in from Ecuador, but travelers generally fly into the Peruvian capital of Lima and stay in Miraflores, a bourgeois section that’s the only area that felt safe. This fairly rich and westernized section of the city is similar to any North American or European city, with the unfortunate addition of beggars and street vendors. But there are also great restaurants, hotels and a large shopping center overlooking the ocean.
Lima’s seaside area is ringed with parks where benches invited us to watch surfers—without wetsuits—take falls in waves tinged with Antarctica’s cold waters. The scene reminded us of Santa Monica especially since we were also affected by high levels of pollution that made breathing difficult (much like Los Angeles!).
Mountain High in Cuzco
After a couple of days in Lima, which is usually enough for most people, we flew to the mountain city of Cuzco to enjoy its markets and historical ruins. There are many indigenous handicrafts shops in this colonial city filled with terra cotta roofed homes and more Inca ruins than anyone could wish.
One of the largest Christmas craft markets you’ll ever see is held here annually and it’s filled with handmade and manufactured gifts of all sizes and at all price ranges. While the shopping was excellent, the odors of so many people living and sleeping at the market caused some real problems. Country folks came from miles around to sell their goods and most had nowhere to sleep, eat or take care of their natural business.
Travelers planning to go at this time of year should realize that December belongs to summer in this part of the word. That means it’s the rainy season which translates into rainfall every afternoon. On the plus side, during this low tourist season, there are more opportunities to visit in relative quiet and take more tourist-free photos.
More information on our travels to Peru is available here:
Next week: Machu Picchu & Bolivia