This article is dedicated to all the men out there who enjoy taking short trips or extended stays in exotic locations with plans to date and play with the local women. Most of you who touch ground in Latin America go to the same countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina. It’s no surprise given those countries’ populations resemble the more accepted international standards of beauty, which is to say European or white.
I won’t argue with your preferences in beauty. I’m going to argue that choosing your destination based on the entire population’s average beauty is flawed logic. You aren’t going to lay the whole country, and you can find beautiful girls anywhere. That’s why a shrewd traveler will base his decision on other criteria, and the wisest will choose Lima.
1. Peruvian food is the best in Latin America
Choosing your destination country based on the beauty of the women, in my opinion, is folly. You will end up with Brazil or Colombia. And in those countries, how many women are you going to be intimate with? If you’re not resorting to working girls, chances are no more than a handful, if not just one.
But what you will do every day is EAT. You’ll eat a a few times every day and cover a wide variety of the national cuisine. So if anything in a country should be judged by quality and variety, it’s food.
Peruvian cuisine is the new rage in American restaurant trends. Peru won the 2012 and 2013 World Travel Awards for best culinary destination. Read more about ceviche, causa, ají de gallina, lomo saltado, and more in Peruvian Food: The Best in Latin America.
Ignore the importance of food at your own peril. Take it from me, I lived in Colombia for three years (see Colombian Food: Worst of the Worst).
2. It never rains in Lima
It never rains, but there is ‘garúa’, Limeños’ nickname for the clouds that blanket the city for eight months every year. Another nickname for Lima is ‘La Gris‘, or The Gray One.
But no umbrella. No worrying about getting caught in the rain on your bike or on a long walk. It never rains.
3. There is surfing in Lima
The best surfing in Peru is found in the northern beaches, but there is a vibrant surfing scene along the coast of Lima. There are surfing schools, board rentals, and surfers catching waves every day. If you’re a seasoned veteran or a wannabe who harbors dreams of learning, the Pacific Ocean waves crashing against the Lima coast are big enough to surf.
4. Lima is a capital city of 8 million
Lima’s economic and career opportunities rival those of Bogota, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires. The Economist and IMF have called Peru the best economic performer of the region, largely due to business-friendly government policies which aren’t adhered to everywhere in Latin America (Venezuela and Argentina).
There are enough executive professionals in Lima to make a living teaching English. Or if that idea repulses you, Lima’s job market and business environment are large enough to ply your professional trade.
5. Its original name was ‘Ciudad de los Reyes’ (City of Kings)
When the Americas were originally colonized, Lima ruled over all of Spanish South America while Mexico City governed Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. From what is now Potosi, Bolivia, the richest silver mine in the history of the world sent every ton of silver to Spain through Lima. Lima was the richest city in the Western Hemisphere before the Pilgrims ever set sail for Massachusetts.
The 18th century and beyond weren’t so generous to Peru, but the legacy of grandiosity remains in the city center. Downtown Lima has, by far, the most impressive sights of any Latin American capital I’ve visited (though I’ve never been to Mexico City).
6. Lima is one of Latin America’s safest cities
Photo credit: The Economist
Peru is one of the safest countries in Latin America. The above graph illustrates murder rates by country.
See the most violent cities in 2013. On that list, 41 of the 50 most dangerous cities are in Latin America (and five in the United States). Of the 41, there are 15 Brazilian cities, nine Mexican cities, and six Colombian cities. Neither Lima nor any other Peruvian city made the list.
7. Peru has the region’s best tourism
On an extended stay in a foreign city, you will surely see other parts of the country for short, in-country trips. Peru offers the most interesting and varied tourism outside Lima.
Machu Picchu is the most amazing tourist site I’ve visited anywhere, beating out Christ the Redeemer in Rio and Summer Palace in Beijing. Arequipa, where I was married, has the natural beauty of Colca Canyon. But even better is the city’s own local gastronomy, which can singlehandedly beat most of South America’s national cuisines. Trujillo and the northern beaches offer more surfing and all the bells and whistles you’d want from beach towns.
Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca mountain range draw the most competitive mountain climbers in the world. There are easier climbs and simpler hikes with magnificent views, and even skiing. Puno and Lake Titicaca give the most accurate look at the lives of indigenous Americans before the Europeans arrived. Iquitos is arguably the ecotourism capital of the Amazon rainforest, rivaling if not beating any Ecuadoran, Colombian, or Brazilian city. They weren’t drawn by aliens, but the Nazca lines in Ica are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that receive viewing tours by air every day. Sandboarding is also popular in the area.
While you can find great beaches and ecotourism in Colombia or Brazil, skiing and security in Chile, or great food, historic grandiosity, and Indian ruins in Mexico, only Peru offers all of the above.
8. Low cost of living
Your dollars or euros will go far for rent, meals, partying, and tourism in Lima than any other Latin American capital or business hub. Your money will go farther in greater Peru than in the smaller cities of most other South American countries (except maybe Bolivia or Paraguay).
9. Peru is not saturated with gringos
Gringo: any man from the United States, Canada, Europe (minus Spain, Portugal, and Italy), Australia, or New Zealand (gringa = woman from those countries).
The Amerindian stereotype of Peruvian women is why Peru is largely passed over by love tourists and sex tourists who choose their destination countries based on the more conformist beauty standard. If you want European-looking women, keep in mind how late you are to the party in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. Every city has been thoroughly conquered. The gringo seed is familiar. Ten years ago was a different story (I hear), but in 2014 you are too late.
Those markets are not as friendly. There are many competitors (other gringos) and the customer base is skeptical, no longer impressed by your accent. In Peru, on the other hand, a gringo is still a novelty.
10. Gringos in Colombia and Brazil have reputations
Colombia and Brazil are saturated with gringos looking to learn Spanish/Portuguese, drink beer, and meet girls. Before you get off the plane, you already have that reputation. In Medellin and Cartagena, the taxi drivers will ask if you want a girl. Everybody has the same assumption about why you’re there, including the women. It doesn’t matter if that’s not why you’re there. It’s assumed.
A gringo in Peru, on the other hand, is presumed to be one of two things: (1) a tourist doing the Peruvian circuit outlined above, or (2) a volunteer. They will not presume you to be a sex tourist, a love tourist, or a drug tourist because those gringos don’t go to Peru. Backpackers and do-gooders who want to save the world go to Peru. The competitive environment of Lima is friendlier.
Lima Travel Guide: Insider Advice from Expats in Peru
If you’re convinced Lima is your best bet, don’t go in blind. Get my Lima Travel Guide. Buy the Kindle version on Amazon. Or for the PDF with all the high-resolution pictures, visit LimaTravelGuide.com. Email [email protected] to get a 50% discount on the PDF by mentioning ROK. Also check out my Kickstarter campaign to fund This Mick’s Life: Addiction and Underworld from Ireland to Colombia: