For some LGBTQ+ travelers, there’s only Machu Picchu in Peru. The others can hardly wait to take a selfie with a spitting llama. For us, our Peru adventure meant learning more about the history of this South American country, which goes back much further than just the glorious Incas. For this purpose, we start in Lima, the third-largest desert city in the world, located directly on the Pacific seashore exposed to the will of the cold Humboldt Current. And even though Peru lags behind its neighboring countries like Colombia in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, we set out with our rainbow flag to make Peru a little more diverse and rainbow-colored, from the desert to the rainforest in the Andes. Enjoy our Gay Peru Adventure through a couple of men‘s eyes.
I feel safe & comfortable as a gay Peruvian in Lima
During the approach to Lima over the majestic Andes, we experience a spectacle that is part of everyday life in Lima, especially in winter: permanent fog. Because of the cold ocean current of the Humboldt Current, Lima sinks into a gray soup of clouds and fog. But starting in November, the weather slowly changes, and the mist disappears, giving space for the sun. We have planned two full days for the Peruvian capital city Lima to learn about the history of the pre-Inca civilizations and, of course, about the situation of the LGBTQ+ community. The starting point for our gay Peru adventure is Miraflores, a district that makes a lively, bright, and gay-friendly impression. Here we also find several bars, clubs, and even saunas where Lima’s gay community can meet safely and freely.
“Even though there is currently no marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples in Peru, I feel safe and comfortable as a Peruvian living in Lima,” says Marco, originally from northern Peru. He has been successfully running the first official certified LGBTQ+ travel agency in Peru since 2011.
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It will still take a few years until equality in Peru
Proudly and calmly, he adds, “I’ve had nothing but good experiences with lesbian and gay travelers so far, and I’m convinced that things can only get better in the coming years. Peru is on the right track.” When asked if he would leave Peru for another country where LGBTQ+ rights are better off, he has a clear answer, “No. I don’t think so. I love my country and its people too much. Even though it will certainly take a few more years for equality before the law, as an openly gay man, I don’t have to worry about it any more than international LGBTQ+ travelers do.”
And we get to experience that firsthand as we stroll through Lima’s old town, hand in hand, admiring the famous wooden balconies. Even the sun makes an appearance as we wave a rainbow flag in the middle of the Plaza Mayor of Lima without any problems, arm-in-arm, of course, and with a kiss. Nevertheless, Marco gives us a tip along the way: “Travel smart, and you won’t have any problems.” We take this to heart and adapt our joint appearance to the environment. At night, for example, it is better not to hold hands.
But our history tour continues with a visit to the Museo Larco archaeological museum. Here, we learn more about the culture of civilizations before the Incas, which can be interpreted and thus reconstructed exclusively based on grave goods and art objects. Following our museum visit, we then got a little tipsy for lunch with our first Pisco Sours. The drink, made from Peruvian grape brandy, packs a punch, especially on an empty stomach!
The Berlin-based Spartacus informs LGBTQ+ and queer travelers about how gay-friendly a holiday destination is according to several ranking factors and criteria. Gay travelers can use the Gay Travel Index 2023 to prepare for their gaycation and as a guide when choosing a holiday destination. But which country ranks first? Where is it safe to travel to as a gay and LGBTQ+ traveler?
Paracas: Relaxing where Peruvians go on vacation
Before heading to the Andes and the Incas, it’s time for a few relaxing days in Paracas, a small harbor town south of Lima. In addition to hotels and resorts with pools and ocean views, the harbor for the speedboats departing to Islas Ballestas is located here. The archipelago, also called the “small Galápagos Islands,” is home to the Guanay Guano bird, the blue-footed booby, the Humboldt penguins, and various seals. On the way to the archipelago, we passed the famous Nazca Lines, which are impressively visible from the sea in the form of a chandelier. Finally, rested from a few hours at the pool, we leave the barren desert region behind and make our way to the kingdom of the Incas.
From zero to 3,500 meters above sea level
Even though it looks like a short distance on the map, the trip by car or bus takes well over 20 hours from the coast to Cusco. And yet, this travel option is the better choice, at least regarding the altitude meters. Because a rapid ascent to the height of Cusco is really exhausting, not only for our bodies. Due to lack of time, we nevertheless decided to take the one-hour flight from Lima, which would bring us from sea level to just under 3,500 meters above sea level. The first symptoms of the so-called altitude sickness then were promptly noticeable. “It permanently feels like someone is sitting on my chest,” Daan recalls. “Breathing is difficult. I was always a little dizzy, and getting enough sleep was actually unthinkable.”
So shifting down a gear, scheduling twice as much time for any activities, and drinking tea made from coca leaves is what the motto is. That’s the best way to endure the first few days. But our program knows no consideration. And so, we explored, already the first day, the partly very well-preserved Inca cities and temples in the so-called Sacred Valley, which is very photogenically embedded in the impressive mountains of the Peruvian Andes.
Machu Picchu – THE highlight of our Peru trip
Who would have thought before our trip that visiting the terraced ruined city at an altitude of over 2,400 meters would leave such an overwhelming impression? And yet, the journey began in Cusco with boarding the PeruRail Expedition Train and, unfortunately, continuous rain. The mood was accordingly gloomy, especially because the view of the mountains through the fogged windows was more than disappointing. But that was to change halfway through the journey. The rain eased noticeably, and the hitherto shy peaks of the Andes emerged from the clouds.
The final stop on the almost four-hour journey was Aguas Calientes at the foot of the Inca city. Clouds of fog envelop the lush green mountains while the raging Urubamba River meanders through the valley. We follow the stream of people to our shuttle bus, which should take 20 minutes to climb the steep slopes of the serpentine road. The tension increases with every meter uphill. Will we be able to experience Machu Picchu without clouds?
We walk up for another 10 minutes in single file from the bus before we would get our first glimpse of the ruins. At least that’s what our guide promises us. But apart from clouds, we only see countless neon-colored rain capes scurrying like ants over the mountains. Then, it starts to rain again, and our mood sinks to zero. But our tour guide today grins and remains calm. “Don’t worry, we will still be able to experience the ruins in all their glory later, I promise.” So, we first set out to hike the Inca Trail to the famous Inca Bridge. The views over the valley and the partially hidden Inca trails along the way are breathtakingly beautiful.
We learn more about Machu Picchu’s history and rediscovery by Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century during our hike. Then on the way back to the ruined city, our steps become faster and faster. The sun had fought its way through the clouds. The view was finally clear. In a magical atmosphere of fog, mountains, and llamas, the ruins of the former Inca Empire rise – after all, up to 70% preserved. And there we are, standing hand in hand, overjoyed and still totally excited in the midst of the legendary city of the Incas in the Peruvian Andes.
And now it’s time for your Gay Peru Adventure
In the next weeks, we will add more detailed blog articles about Lima, Paracas, Cusco, the train journey to Machu Picchu, the Inca city in the Andes, and the Sacred Valley, including photos, videos, and guides for your Gay Peru Adventure. Until then, please email us (or send a pm/comment on one of our social posts) with any additional questions you might have regarding your trip to beautiful Peru. We cannot wait to be back and see even more highlights of the South American country.
Do you want to know and see more of us gay couple travel bloggers? Stay tuned on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook! See you around in Peru, South America, and on one of our next gay pride trips worldwide!
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Please note: This gay-friendly trip to Peru was made possible in close collaboration with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Marco from LlamaTrip.com, and the Tourism Board of Peru. Additionally, we are thankful for all the tips and help to come from our wonderful readers, followers, new and old friends from all over the world, and Colombia. Nevertheless, our opinion, photos, videos, and writings are our own, as always.