Vegan Travelers in Peru – Useful Tips

Bucket list Peru? And you are Vegan? Here are some recommendations 🌳 :

  • Plan ahead as much as possible and make sure you get your vegan passport if you don’t speak Spanish. You might also join a local evening class or get a Spanish language application on your mobile .
  • Start your web research, checking platforms such as Happy Cow, Veggie Hotels and others to find options for accommodation, tours, and restaurants.
  • There are few vegetarian or vegan hotels in Peru. Andean Spirit Lodge in the Limatambo Valley, near Cusco, is a vegetarian hotel and very vegan-friendly. One thing to bear in mind is that you will find yourself in a completely different cultural context where people have depended on animals (the South American camelid family as well as fish and seafood) for millennia. Whilst the indigenous people did not eat much meat in the Andes before the Spanish conquest, they heavily depended on their huge herds of llamas for transport, dung for fuel and fertilizers as well as wool for textiles. You will rarely find places that do not use some alpaca wool in their infrastructure and decorations. Hotels usually use alpaca blankets or feather duvets. You may want to bring your own sleeping bag! 🏡
  • If an independent traveler you might feel happier booking yourself into an Airbnb rather than a hotel, so you can cook most of your own meals. There is no shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables in the markets of Peru, you will be spoilt for choice! However, one thing to look out for is to disinfect your raw foods properly, so you will stay well on your journey. Wash everything that you eat unpeeled and raw in water with either a few drops of iodine or chlorine (soak for at least 10 minutes). If you can’t find either use vinegar. 🍇
  • In the bigger cities like Lima, Arequipa or Cusco you will find some vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants. However, as a golden rule, it is best to avoid all salads – ‘vegan raw’ can be dangerous – and stick only to foods that have been cooked or peeled. Especially, grapes or lettuce can give you unpleasant surprises (it makes no difference whether it is organic lettuce or not – you don’t know about the quality of the water that was used for irrigation, nor do you know how thoroughly it has been disinfected. You would be surprised to learn that often it was just with boiled or bottled water, and that’s not enough in order to get rid of the germs). Although we have had only positive experiences with some vegan restaurants, such as the Loving Hut Titicaca in Puno or the Vegan Shaman in Cusco, we will only eat raw unpeeled salads at home.
  • In some conventional restaurants you may find meals labeled as vegetarian, and if lucky, even as vegan. Don’t necessarily expect the waiters to know the difference, regardless of what the menu says. Don’t get frustrated if, by mistake, there is cheese or butter in your dish… people are learning! In Cusco, you may get some vegan meals at Green’s Organic or at the Kintaro Japanese restaurant, to name some. Elsewhere, if turning up in a bunch, and you have just placed your vegan food order, you might find that the waiter will turn to your travel companions and ask them: “Would you like the same or are you normal?” LOL 😆
  • Take lots of nutritious snacks such as instant vegan miso soup, energy bars or even muesli with you. Vegan energy bars are hard to find in Peru. Other snacks abound, like salted Andean popcorn, banana crisps, and others. It is ok to buy nuts in the local markets, but be careful with raisins and especially figs. It is safer to buy packaged dried fruit from the supermarkets.
  • When shopping, check the labels of biscuits (even soda crackers) carefully as many products contain milk in some form, especially whey. Very often fresh bread contains lard, supermarket bread may contain lactose and honey. A good baker in Cusco, producing delicious sourdough loaves with superfood seeds like chia, is the Masa Madre. You can also find their bread in the Rabona shop in Cusco and in different places in the Sacred Valley. You may find that Peru lacks vegan foods on the supermarket shelves. There are no ready-made pates or vegan cheeses available. If you find hummus it is very expensive. Instead, you will find organic nut butter in some wholefood shops and olive or artichoke tapenades.  Hopefully, you like avocadoes as they could literally save your life as a sandwich topping! How about some homemade guacamole? 
  • The golden rule is to pack for dressing in layers in Peru – at least in the Andes! Bring a warm fleece jacket for those cold nights and definitely good hiking boots!
  • Other items that you best bring from home are a water filter, a reusable water bottle, good veg sunscreen (UV filter 50), sunglasses, a rain poncho, citronella-based natural mosquito repellant (Deet harms you and the environment), a Swiss pocket knife (make sure it goes in your main luggage on the flights) and a good book or two for those long hours on a bus or train.
  • You may spend some time volunteering in an animal shelter. In Cusco, we recommend Cusco Proteccion de Animales, an animal rescue organization that introduced the first dog shelter and free sterilization campaigns for dogs and cats and has rescued and rehomed thousands of animals since. Vets and people that have volunteered in shelters before are particularly welcome, but no prior experience is necessary, just come with an open mind and heart! Donations of dog food and medicines are always welcome, too. It is advised to get in touch first. 🐕 🐈 🐾
  • If you feel daunted by making your own travel arrangements, don’t panic! You may get in touch with Vegetarian Peru Adventures, who can help you plan your trip (apart from offering group tours for vegans we can also arrange for custom tours).
  • Be prepared to be amazed and positively shocked as well as pushed out of your comfort zone! Two things you definitely need on your trip are patience and a good sense of humor!! If you have these attributes you will rise to the challenge and have great fun! Peru is a fascinating country… Keep smiling! 😊

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