Peru's undisputed king of tourism is Machu Picchu. Millions of people each year go to Peru to see the ancient temple and ruins. To only visit Peru for Machu Picchu is like going to New York just for the Statue of Liberty. Being the third largest country in South America, there is much more to Peru than just Machu Picchu - you just need to be willing to find it.
Along the whole northern coast of Peru there's an energy that something's happening. A new frontier. Here are 4 off-the-beaten-path destinations in Peru's northern coast area that are helping to diversify the tourism landscape. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of these places yet, but don't be surprised either when you start hearing about them a lot in the next few years.
Ask a Peruvian about Mancora and they'll exclaim, "Mancora!" with a lust in their voice that's borderline explicit. Their eyes thrust open wide and you can almost feel their pulse with each syllable. Any place that can incite this type of reaction from a local must be worth seeing.
Pronounced "Mon-co-rah", it's one of Peru's best known beach destinations and a place where vacationing Peruvians, surfers and nomads from around the world converge to form a diverse, energetic yet laid back beach community. Not an idyllic paradise in a purely aesthetic sense, but a comfortable retreat from all things busy. What it lacks in beauty it makes up for in culture.
Far from the hustle of the major cities, the first thing you'll notice if you take the 19-hour bus ($55USD) from Lima is that honking car horns are replaced by 2 meter Pacific Ocean waves breaking down the beach with local and international surfers, wrestling and riding them to shore.
Walking down the main street (the Pan-American Highway that connects all of South America), there is plenty of opportunity for shopping, eating and drinking. Vendors selling local items and expats roaming the streets while music, laughter and the ocean provide a pleasant backdrop to this laid back community.
Just 10km (about 10 minutes by moto-taxi) southwest from Mancora along the beach is Vichayito, a quiet sandy beach that is popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers. It's also home to Aranwa's Vichayito Bungalows & Carpas, a beachfront property consisting of 9 intimate wooden bungalows and 26 upscale Bedouin tents.
Vichayito Bungalows & Carpas is the kind of place locals go to treat themselves with a quiet weekend, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean while a warm breeze passes through their upscale tent on the beach.
Made of durable canvas and modern inside with polished concrete floors and stylish design, the tents strike a successful balance between luxury and pragmatism that encourages you to get out and go to the beach for the day but then welcome you with a large, comfortable bed when you return for the night.
Just 5 more minutes southwest is Los Organos, a small fishing town with yet another quiet beach, great sand and surf. Deep sea fishing, humpback whale watching and bird watching are all very popular around Los Organos thanks to the ecotourism company Pacifico Adventures.
Lead by marine biologist Sebastian Silva and Belen Alcorta, Pacifico Adventures were one of the first to promote sustainable and responsible tourism on the northern coast of Peru. Using their whale watching tours to fund the first research project of humpback whales in northern Peru, their excursions combine tourist activities together with scientific research to remind us that sustainability and conservation are more than just buzzwords.
They say the name Los Organos comes from the seaside bluff that dauntingly rises out of the shoreline. Carved by years of erosion, vertical hollowed out columns all along the face and top of the bluff capture the ocean breeze as it sweeps across and creates an eerie organ-like sound that the local fisherman could hear while at sea.
Further still down the coast is Cabo Blanco, the famed fishing village where Ernest Hemingway once frequented and caught a 700lb marlin. Some say it's also the place that Hemingway drew inspiration for his book, Old Man and the Sea. Known since the 1950s to be a sport fishing retreat for the wealthy, Cabo Blanco is better known today for its world class surfing and the best left-breaking wave in Peru.
Back in 1951, some oil tycoons decided to open the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club and began charging other wealthy sports fishers $10,000 and more to become members. Celebrities like Jimmy Stewart, Ted Williams and Hemingway would all visit and fish for marlin by day and swap stories by night over countless trays of Pisco sour.
Not built to last, the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club went out of business in 1970 due to a change in the Humboldt Current that negatively affected the fishing and growing hostilities in the political climate. Now, the fishing club is an abandoned building atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with nothing more than empty walls guarded by the ghosts of good times passed and wandering street dogs.
With some of the best surfing in Peru, Cabo Blanco is now the site of an annual Billabong surfing tournament that brings the best surfers from around the world to this small village to surf and compete for $10,000 by day and swap stories by night over Pisco sour.
If you're planning to go:
Cruz del Sur has a daily bus from Lima that takes 19hrs and is about $55USD. Alternatively, you can fly from Lima to Talara 3 times a week and from there it's a 72km cab ride to Mancora.
Where to stay:
What to do:
When to go:
All year round.
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Travis Snelling is the cofounder of TripAtlas.com and is based in Toronto, Canada. When not stuck in the office wearing shoes he's out on adventures with his camera looking for new drinks, dishes and experiences.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: photography, history, culture, cuisine, adventure