For thousands of years, Peru's extraordinary beauty has been
the backdrop for incredible cultural and spiritual expression. Today, it is
one of the world's most welcoming and enticing destinations for gay travelers.
More and more gay bars and restaurants are opening in Lima and Cuzco, and the
country's best hotels warmly receive gay travelers without batting an eye.
In fact, one can find more rainbow flags in Peru than perhaps
anywhere on earth. The gay pride symbol has been a major symbol of the Inca
people for centuries. According to historians, the Incas regarded the rainbow
as a gift from the sun god. Rainbow flags adorn governmental buildings, hotels,
and of course flag poles throughout the country. While it is not intended as
an official welcome to gay travelers, one can always pretend.
Peru is considered to be among the safest countries in South
America, but that wasn't always the case. In the early '80s, Peru was beset
by a terrorist group called the Shining Path. People were afraid to travel because
the Shining Path controlled several areas of the country. When the reign of
the Shining Path ended in the early '90s, Peru started to invest in tourism,
developing new tours, five star hotels, and high service standards in order
to attract foreign tourists. Today, Peru is prepared to receive everybody with
Zoom Vacations, a U.S.-based gay vacation company, has brought
the largest gay group to Peru to date--48 people! A typical Peruvian journey
will take you through the cultural heart of Lima, charming Cuzco, and the Sacred
Valley of the Incas (all UNESCO World Heritage sights). But perhaps what will
impress and inspire you most is a visit to one of the world's most important
archeological sights: the ancient, mystical city of Machu Picchu.
The Incas built Machu Picchu, which literally means "Old
Mountain," at the top of the Andes. It contains palaces, temples, elaborate
stairs, and aqueducts built entirely from stone. Research suggests that it was
abandoned for over 100 years before the Spanish invaded the area in the 1500s.
Many visitors to Machu Picchu report feeling an extraordinary energy emanating
as they walk among the ruins. Perhaps it's simply the beauty of the Inca's mass
stone structures set atop the magnificent Andes Mountains over the winding Urubamba
River below. Maybe it's just the lingering blessing of an ancient Inca Priest.
Whatever it is, nothing can truly prepare a traveler for the "magic" of Machu
The city used to have only one path, now known as the Inca
Trail, that connected Machu Picchu to Cuzco, the capital city of the Incan Empire.
This trail is now used as a sort of spiritual pilgrimage for tourists who wish
to experience the discovery of an old metropolis as the early Incas did. The
Inca trail takes anywhere from a week to a few days to hike, depending on where
one picks it up, and the high altitude and steep terrain make it quite challenging.
The enchanting city of Cuzco is as rich in Incan ruins and
Spanish colonial buildings as it is in fine restaurants and wonderful accommodations.
Most notable is the Orient-Express
Hotel Monasterio , a gay-friendly, luxurious, lovingly restored
monastery-turned-hotel, whose staff will cater to your every need. They'll even
pump oxygen into your room to compensate for the high elevation! Of course,
the age-old chewing of the native coca leaf or drinking coca tea will also assuage
the weary traveler.
Whether you choose to hike the Inca trail, or take the lavish
Hiram Bingham Train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, it will be an unforgettable
experience. However, do not leave the area without visiting the scenic Sacred
Valley of the Incas. This area enjoys an agreeable climate and fertile plains,
which make a rare and fruitful combination for the high Andes. It was also an
early route to the jungle which gave the Incas access to the fruits and plants
of the tropical lowlands. Today, the Sacred Valley contains many ancient Incan
sites of interest, and offers opportunities such as white water rafting, horseback
riding, parasailing, and more.
After a spiritual, eco-focused journey to the land of the
Incas, round out your stay with a visit to Peru's vibrant gay-friendly capital.
Lima's cosmopolitan atmosphere affects all aspects of the city--from art, to
culture, to cuisine--making it a tourist's delight. Spanish, Japanese, Italian,
Portuguese, and native influences are apparent everywhere, inspiring unique
architecture as well as a fusion cuisine unlike anywhere else in the world.
Only in Lima can you have an authentic lunch in South America's
oldest inhabited mansion, La Casa Aliaga (located just off the main square in
Lima, and exclusive to Zoom Vacations), just a few miles away from where you
will enjoy a gourmet dinner in one of the world's best restaurants, Huaca Pucllana
(Av. Arequipa 4698 in Miraflores), nestled against a 1,600-year-old ruin. You'll
enjoy nouveau Peruvian cuisine items such as grilled pork chops with pur?e trio
and sweet red chili comfit, and desserts such as "Suspiro de Lime?a": caramel
cream topped with soft meringue sweetened with port wine.
While many of the world's metropolises have more vibrant
gay scenes, Peru's largest city shines with stylish gay-friendly and gay-owned
restaurants, and bars that are more balanced and mixed than one might find elsewhere.
Most of the gay life can be found in Miraflores, one of Lima's neighborhoods
bordering the coast.
"Gay life in Lima is great," says native Peruvian
Ylan Chrem. "I have always considered Peruvians to be among the warmest people
in the region and tourists from around the world are welcomed everywhere they
go. Lima offers bars, discos, and saunas every day of the week, and luckily,
nightlife does not start as late as in other South American cities."
Chrem says that the best disco in Lima is Down
Town , which just opened a sister bar in Cuzco. It has a VIP area
that you can access for three dollars. Most people start their night off at
the mixed crowd disco, La
Sede, from 11 p.m.-3 a.m., and then walk to Down Town. At La Sede
the music is very '70s and '80s, featuring Rafaella Carra, ABBA, and other pop
Native Peruvian Dany Gras says, "Lima's gay life is starting
to grow, but that doesn't mean that it's boring. There is always something happening.
Of course, these events can't be compared to the ones that happen in Rio de
Janeiro, Buenos Aires, or Santiago. They are great, but smaller in scale."
Lima enjoys unusual yet wonderful weather conditions--it
rains only a few days a year, however, its proximity on the coast, amidst gentle
waters flowing to the ocean, makes it surprisingly lush and green.
"There is also incredible surfing," Gras says, "and
people come from all over to dine in Lima's waterfront restaurants, and watch
the surfers below."
Peru offers gay travelers a remarkably diverse and well-rounded
vacation experience. You'll feel as though you've stepped back in time in the
Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu, and Cuzco, and yet accommodations
are quite modern and luxurious. And in Lima's funky discos and bars, you'll
dance to the latest music, perhaps partying as if in ancient Inca times, when
gay sexuality was accepted as a natural part of life.
Bryan Herb works for Zoom
Vacations, a U.S.-based gay tour company that offers gay vacations
to Peru. Lan Airlines offers
non-stop flights from Miami and Los Angeles to Lima. Lan can also handle all
of your inter-Peru travel (such as your necessary one hour flight from Lima
The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any new information.