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Written by Savi, 14 Comments

Travelling to a new country is almost always an incredible experience. Of course there are things you can read on the internet, then there are nuances you figure out only on getting to a new country. Familiarising ourselves with these little cultural and social idiosyncrasies is one of our favourite parts of travelling to a new corner of the world.

 

It’s only when one travels to the place, talks to locals, acquaints oneself with the rhythm of life in a new country that one learns the nuances of a culture. Here are 10 Things we found out while travelling in Peru for a month:

 

  • 1) There are over 3000 varieties of potatoes in Peru. You’ll find everything from wild potatoes and sweet potatoes (camote) to white potatoes (papa blanca) and purple potatoes (papa purpura). What’s more, Peruvians have potatoes with every meal. Egg and potatoes, sausages and potatoes, bread and potatoes…. the list goes on!

 

Potato varieties in Peru
6 kinds of potatoes at every meal? It must be Peru 🙂

 

Different kinds of potatoes at a market stall in The Sacred Valley, Peru
Different kinds of potatoes at a market stall in The Sacred Valley, Peru

 

  • 2) Bus travel in Peru is more comfortable than you think. We were quite apprehensive about travelling on buses within Peru because we’d read horror stories on the interent. But bus travel in Peru is convenient and surprisingly comfortable. If you choose well, you could end up with reclining seats, snacks on board, and blankets. Buses are also heavily air-conditioned, so make sure you carry woolies and socks with you (even if you’re visiting in the middle of summer!)

 

Peru hop bus in Peru
Bus travel in Peru gets a thumbs up from us

 

  • 3) Food habits? Peruvians from the jungle (rainforest) LOVE their white rice and can’t dream of having a meal without it. White rice is a staple at lunch and dinner. Even breakfast is white rice and fried eggs 🙂
  • Elsewhere in Peru, Guinea Pig is considered a speciality. The cute rodent is on most restaurant menus in the country.
Guinea pigs are available at most restaurants in Peru
Guinea pigs are available at most restaurants in Peru

 

Guinea pig anyone? ;-)
Guinea pig anyone? 😉

 

  • 4) In Peru fruits and vegetables taste sublime. They’re mostly organic, yet extremely affordable. Everything from passionfruit (grenadilla) and oranges to bananas and custard apples (chirimoya) tastes incredible but Peruvian avocados are like no avocados you’ve had before. They’re velvety soft and taste sumptuous. Fruit so good, it’s almost sensual 😉

 

Local fruit stall in Peru
Fruits and vegetables in Peru taste INCREDIBLE

 

Different types of corn in Peru
Dozen types of corn – nom!

 

  • 5) In Peru, used toilet paper is meant to be thrown in bins and these ‘bins’ are often uncovered, even in luxury hotels. Without sounding derisive, we’ll just say it takes some getting used to. Don’t worry, we won’t include a photo for this one 😉

 

  • 6) If you need something done in Peru, you’ll have to pick up the phone and make a call. More often than not, emailing just won’t do!

 

  • 7) Peruvian handicrafts are some of the most colourful in the world. I never shop while travelling but Peruvian dreamcatchers, bags, shawls, and ponchos seduced me good and proper. One of my favourite places to shop was the Central Artisan Market in Cusco (Centro Artesanal Cusco) on Avenida Del Sol. For the best deal, bargain loads and better still learn a bit of Spanish.

 

Handicrafts in Peru
Handicrafts in Peru can be very seductive

 

Girl in Peru handicraft market
I don’t ever shop while travelling but I HAD to pick up a few things in Peru

 

  • 8) Peruvians of Incan descent have jet black hair well into their 90s – no kidding! Teeth decay, the spine begins to curve, but the hair stays as black as it was in their 20s. Talk about amazing genes! 🙂
Incan lady in Peruvian village
Not a grey hair in sight!

 

  • 9) Chakana, The symmetrical Incan Cross symbolizes three worlds: the upper world, everyday world, and underworld. Peruvians worship Mother Earth and in keeping with this, the Chakana denotes the organic cycle of life. You’ll see it on buildings, monuments, clothes, trinkets, and jewellery. Peruvians string it around their necks too – you can’t go anywhere in Peru without spotting a Chakana or two!

 

  • 10) Quinoa, Chia, Kiwicha (Amaranth) that are all buzzwords of the health food industry at the moment. As most of you probably know, these grains are sold in precious little bags for a whole lot of money in organic stores all around the world. But all these grains are Peruvian staples. They’re sold in huge piles on the roadside and used for soups, stews, and breakfast cereal. We even tried banana coated with quinoa!! If you’re a health-nut, you’ll LOVE Peru’s local markets 🙂

 

Women selling whole grains at a local market in Peru
Women selling whole grains at a local market in Peru

 

Peruvian whole grains
Whole foods move over – Peruvian whole grains are cheaper and available everything

 

What’s the one thing you’ve learnt while travelling? We’d love to know 🙂

Travelling to Peru? Read our Ultimate Guide to Planning a trip to Peru

Are you a foodie? Read our guide to eating in Spain 

Planning a trip to South America? Read all our posts on South America here

14 thoughts on “10 Weird and Wonderful things you don’t know about Peru

  1. Great Post guys! I love these kind of posts by you 🙂 I agree that acquainting oneself with the local culture, customs and habits takes travel to another level – something which we miss out on while doing a conducted/package tour.
    The biggest travel shock for me was (don’t laugh at me 😛 ) when I first traveled out of India… And discovered that the loos abroad have only a roll of toilet paper, and no water 😛 It took a while to get used to that 😉

    1. Hey Ramya,

      That’s so true – travelling has taught us so much over the past decade 🙂 Thanks for sharing your first travel-related lesson too 😉

      Cheers!

  2. Another wonderful post guys, and as always, love the photos, by the way, the one of the lady walking down the local street looks like it might have come from our town.

    Point #6 is spot on, I still don’t know why but Peruvian businesses are notoriously bad at responding to e-mails, so as you said, a phone call is always best.

    A little info to add to a couple of your points:

    8) whether true or not we have been told by many locals that the reason their hair stays black is that local women would traditionally use a local plant root (Sakta I believe) for shampoo, this is the same root they use to clean the sheep and alpaca wool before spinning and they say it is what keeps their hair from turning gray. They also tell Lily it is too late for here to start using it…lol

    9) There is actually a lot more to the Chakana as each of the 4 sides has meaning as does the shape itself, and while I have heard a variety of explanations here is a link that has the most common ones https://www.inkadesign.net/en/the-meaning-of-the-inka-cross-chakana/

    10) Due to the world wide demand for quinoa is is not used as much by locals as it traditionally has been, recently I read an article discussing this and they indicated that due to the increase in cost of quinoa, many people that used to use this as a primary source of nutrition are now switching to less nutritious grains and there is fear that the health of many Andean populations may suffer as a result.

    As always, love reading your stuff and I look forward to your next post.

  3. hey guys,
    Great post …good to learn new things about diffrent cultures.
    I believe that the best way to experience a destination is by trying out local food and hearing stories about their origin.

  4. ere are over 3000 varieties of potatoes in Peru. You’ll find everything from wild potatoes and sweet potatoes (camote) to white potatoes (papa blanca) and purple potatoes (papa purpura). What’s more, Peruvians have potatoes with every meal. Egg and potatoes, sausages and potatoes, bread in túi giấy cao cấpand potatoes…. the list goes on!

  5. Excellent Blog about Peru Savi 😉 ) only one observation “EL CUY” The Guinea pig for you, they are not available in the whole Peru only on the Andes or Mountains , at the Capital The Coast is very difficult. In Lima the people don´t eat guinea pig.
    Greetings from Lima 😉

  6. Read your interview today.Thought would check out bruised passports.
    You guys are gutsy and awesome.
    Informative and fun read on Peru too! 🙂
    Keep the zeal on you guys !! 😀

    1. Thanks a ton Satwika – it took a huge leap of faith to follow our hearts but I’m glad we did it 🙂

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