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Colombia and Peru are some of the most popular countries in South America that share a common border. Peru is famous for its Inca heritage, spectacular Andes, and Machu Picchu, while Colombia boasts vibrant colonial cities, stunning Caribbean beaches, and cute small towns nestled in the mountains.
So, should I visit Peru or Colombia?
If you want to check Machu Picchu off your bucket list, learn about the Inca culture, and sample one of the most famous cuisines in the world, visit Peru. If you would rather explore colorful colonial cities, enjoy warm sunny weather and vibrant nightlife, Colombia is a better option.
Whether you should go to Peru or Colombia, depends on your travel plans, budget and the type of experience you are looking for. If you want to enjoy some of the most beautiful cities in South America, go to Colombia, but if you like outdoor adventures and want to learn about indigenous cultures, then visit Peru.
✅ Read: Peru vs Chile: Which country should I visit?
Why visit Peru
- Machu Picchu: You can’t visit Peru without stopping at one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, Machu Picchu. The ancient Inca citadel is perched high in the Andes Mountains and has become a magnet for millions of tourists from all over the world who come here every year.
- Adventure Tourism: If you enjoy outdoors, you will love Peru! The country offers opportunities for trekking, camping and surfing. Popular destinations in Peru always have tours to help you see the highlights of the country.
- Lake Titicaca: This high-altitude lake is the largest in South America and straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. Here you can take a guided tour of the floating Uros Islands and experience the unique culture of the indigenous people living on Lake Titicaca.
- Nazca Lines: Marvel at the mysterious geoglyphs etched into the Nazca Desert. These enormous drawings can only be seen from the air, so you have to book a Nazca flight.
✅ Check: How to avoid Cusco altitude sickness
Why visit Colombia
- Cultural diversity: Colombia is known for its cultural richness, shaped by a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. Cities like Cali, Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena.
- Coffee culture: Colombia is famous for its high-quality coffee. Visit coffee plantations in the Coffee Triangle region to learn about the coffee-making process and sample freshly brewed coffee.
- Salsa music and dance: Colombia is known for its vibrant music and dance scene, particularly salsa. Experience the lively atmosphere in salsa clubs and immerse yourself in the rhythm of Colombian music.
- More off the beaten track: For adventure seekers, Colombia offers activities such as paragliding, river rafting, and trekking. The Colombian Andes boast breathtaking landscapes and opportunities for hiking and trekking, albeit less famous than its neighbors, like Peru or Ecuador.
Colombia vs Peru: safety
Peru is much safer than Colombia. Your main concerns in Peru are petty theft and tourist scams, while Colombia has seen an increase in incidents where foreigners have been drugged, robbed, or even killed by their dates. Colombia has a big issue with petty theft, and major cities have seen incidents of muggings and daytime robberies.
Safety in Peru
As a traveler in Peru, you don’t have to worry about becoming a victim of a serious crime. As long as you stay away from troubled parts of major cities like Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa and follow common sense, you should be relatively safe. Peru has many tourist scams, but they occur mostly in popular destinations and are aimed at taking your cash.
➡️ Learn: Can I drink tap water in Peru?
Peru has a big gap between the rich and the poor who live in rural mountainous areas, and political protests in the country are common. Avoid political demonstrations in Peru because they can quickly turn violent.
Safety tips for visiting Peru
➡️ Don’t display valuables
Avoid showcasing expensive clothing, jewelry, or accessories. Peru has a wide gap between the rich and the poor, and the last thing you want is to become a victim of pickpockets.
➡️ Exercise increased caution in busy areas
Whether you are exploring popular parts of Lima or Cusco, be aware of your surroundings.
➡️ Be aware of tourist scams
When visiting touristy parts of Peru, always be cautious of tourist scams which usually involve selling fake services or overcharging tourists. Be extra careful when taking a taxi, or better yet take an Uber, if you are in Lima.
➡️ Don’t drink tap water
Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink, and you should always buy bottled water, or get filtered water from your hotel.
➡️ Stay away from demonstrations
Political demonstrations are common in Peru, and can quickly turn violent, so it’s best to stay away from them in the first place.
➡️ Avoid staying out at night
You are likely to become a victim of crime at night, even in popular tourist spots, so plan your activities for the daytime.
➡️ Stay away from the northern region
Northern Peru and the border between Peru and Colombia are unsafe and should be avoided. The region is home to Peru’s cocaine production and drug trafficking routes.
➡️ Get insurance for your trip
Whether you travel to Peru or Colombia, get good travel insurance. It’s a long-distance trip, and you should have a good plan if something goes wrong.
I recommend SafetyWing, my favorite insurance, which has short and long-term travel plans.
While you should always take precautions, there are always things outside your control, and you never know when something might go wrong. That’s why having good travel insurance that covers you in the event of accidents, hospital visits, lost and stolen luggage is so important.
Safety in Colombia
A few decades ago, Colombia was known for drugs and cartels and frequently made headlines because of its violence and the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. But things have changed, and Colombia has become one of the most visited destinations in South America, with millions of tourists coming to explore its colorful cities and stunning landscapes.
So, is Colombia safe?
While Colombia is much safer now than it was before, some problems persist. Street crime is big in Colombia, with pickpocketing and muggings being common types of crime that affect tourists.
Displaying expensive clothing, camera gear or accessories could lead to a robbery in Colombia, even in busy areas. When traveling around the country, always be aware of your surroundings, keep a low profile, and avoid being out late at night.
Crimes against foreigners in Colombia
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota says that there’s been an increase in incidents involving the use of sedatives to drug and rob foreigners who are targeted through online dating apps or in bars and nightclubs, where criminals put Scopolamine (also known as Devil’s Breath) in their drinks.
Never leave your food and drink unattended, or accept them from people you don’t know. Be cautious with anybody who is overly friendly or trying to make contact with you by all means.
Be careful when using dating apps in Colombia
As of recently, there has been an increase in killings linked to dating apps in Colombia. Police in Medellin said that one of the local gangs was using dating apps to lure and abduct foreigners before killing victims.
If you use dating apps in Colombia, be extra careful. If someone starts talking to you about money, it should raise a huge red flag. If you are getting robbed don’t resist it, because it turn fatal.
✅ If you plan to spend a few weeks in South America, get insurance that will protect you in case of lost or stolen luggage, accidents, hospital visits, and many other unforeseen events.
Colombia vs Peru: cost
While Colombia and Peru are both very affordable, Peru has become more expensive over the years, because of its growing tourism industry.
Popular destinations in Peru like Cusco, Arequipa, and even Lima have become touristy. But outside of these places, Peru is a very cheap country with plenty of places where you can travel on a low budget and get away from the crowds.
Colombia is a cheap country where you can travel on a shoestring budget. Food, tours, and accommodations are usually cheaper in Colombia than in Peru.
Colombia vs Peru: people
People in Colombia and Peru are welcoming and friendly, but Peruvians might come off as a bit more reserved compared to Colombians, who are known for being outgoing and talkative.
I’ve had a great experience in both countries and always felt like people were friendly to me in Peru and Colombia.
Colombia vs Peru: Things to do
Colombia and Peru offer tons of activities, from hiking in the Andes to learning about ancient civilizations to paragliding. While both countries can be named an adventurer’s paradise, there are some differences.
Best things to do in Colombia
Explore the historic walled city of Cartagena, known for its colorful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant atmosphere. Visit the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas and enjoy the charm of Plaza Santo Domingo.
Tayrona National Park
One of the most beautiful places in Colombia, Tayrona is where lush jungle meets pristine beaches. Hike through the park’s trails, relax on the beaches, or watch the incredible wildlife.
Coffee Region (Eje Cafetero)
Visit the Coffee Triangle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to learn about the country’s coffee production. Take guided tours of coffee plantations, hike the Cocora Valley, and enjoy the picturesque landscapes.
Once-notorious city for its cartels, now Medellin is a vibrant and innovative metropolis. Explore the Botero Plaza, ride the cable cars, and visit the Comuna 13 neighborhood for street art. You can also take a day trip to the iconic El Peñol rock in Guatapé for panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and landscapes.
San Agustín Archaeological Park
Discover the ancient archaeological site of San Agustín, featuring mysterious stone statues and burial mounds. The site provides insights into pre-Columbian cultures.
Best things to do in Peru
Hike in the Andes
Explore the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world. Hike the Inca Trail or take a train to reach this awe-inspiring wonder. The gateway to Machu Picchu also provides access to places like Sacred Valley and Rainbow Mountain, one of the most popular hikes in Peru.
Explore the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, where you can take guided tours to spot unique wildlife, experience indigenous cultures, and enjoy the incredible biodiversity of the region.
Visit the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. Explore the floating Uros Islands and Taquile Island, experiencing the local Quechua and Aymara cultures.
Take a flight over the mysterious Nazca Lines, enormous geoglyphs etched into the desert floor. The shapes and lines depict various animals and figures, and their purpose remains a subject of speculation.
Explore the “White City” of Arequipa, known for its colonial architecture built from white volcanic stone. The Santa Catalina Monastery and Colca Canyon are must-visit attractions.
Peru vs Colombia: infrastructure
Colombia offers easier access to outdoor activities and places to visit thanks to a more developed infrastructure in the cities and shorter distances between villages, cities, and points of interest.
Peru has no lack of incredible places off the beaten path like Huaraz, Ayacucho, and Tumbes, but they take time and effort to get to because of poor road conditions and lack of amenities, which can make the journey very challenging.
Infrastructure in Peru
Outside of Lima, Peru has very poor infrastructure and it also has a bad safety record when it comes to traveling by bus. Although roads in Colombia can be rough too, major cities in Colombia have better roads and amenities than most places in Peru.
Infrastructure in Colombia
In Colombia, places off the beaten path are easier to access, and you don’t need much planning or preparation. In many cases, all you need to do is get on a bus and head to your destination from where you can explore the area further. But some roads in Colombia can be just as bad as in Peru, especially in the mountains, so always plan extra time for your trip.
Getting around Colombia vs getting around Peru
Flying is the best option for getting around Peru and Colombia. It will save you tons of time on the road and help avoid precarious driving conditions, as both countries have no lack of poor roads.
Popular destinations like Cusco and Arequipa are best visited by plane because flying in Peru is much faster and cheaper than driving. The good news is that you can book tours for most popular plaes, so whether you want to fly over the mysterious Nazca lines, try sandboarding on the dunes, or trek in the Andes, there’s a guided tour for that.
Or, you can try PeruHop, a tourist bus that runs through the country and offers visitors a look at popular highlights.
Colombia vs Peru: Beaches
Colombia has stunning Caribbean coastlines with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Popular destinations include San Andres, Providencia, and the Tayrona National Park, offering opportunities for relaxation and water activities. The country also has some beaches along the Pacific.
Peru only has the Pacific coastline, and while you can’t swim anywhere, Peru has many beaches that are great for surfing, especially in the northern region.
Beaches in Peru
- Mancora: Located on the northern coast, Mancora is famous for its stunning beaches and is a popular destination for surfers. It has a lively atmosphere, decent restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.
- Punta Sal: Close to Mancora, Punta Sal is known for having one of the longest beaches in South America. It offers a more relaxed setting and is ideal for those seeking tranquility.
- Zorritos: A beach town in the Tumbes region, Zorritos has beautiful sandy beaches and warm waters.
- Huanchaco: Close to Trujillo, Huanchaco is known for its traditional reed boats called “caballitos de totora.” The beach is popular among surfers.
Beaches in Colombia
- San Andres: A Caribbean island with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
- Providencia: Connected to San Andres, Providencia is known for its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs. It offers a more secluded and tranquil atmosphere.
- Tayrona National Natural Park: A coastal national park with beautiful beaches surrounded by lush jungles. The landscapes are stunning, and there are opportunities for hiking and wildlife spotting.
- Palomino: A laid-back beach town with long stretches of sandy beaches. It’s known for its relaxed atmosphere and is a good place to unwind.
Peruvian vs Colombian food
Peruvian and Colombian cuisines share some similarities, with an emphasis on local ingredients. Both countries have their unique dishes, but you may find common elements like rice, beans, corn, and potatoes in their culinary traditions.
Peru is famous for its cuisine. When visiting the country, try traditional dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado,aji de gallina and causa. The country’s diverse geography contributes to a variety of ingredients and flavors. Lima, the capital, is a foodie paradise with many renowned restaurants.
Peru is famous for its national cocktail, the Pisco Sour. You can enjoy this traditional drink at many bars and clubs throughout the country. Additionally, Peruvian mixologists have created innovative cocktails using local ingredients.
Colombian food is famous for its use of spices, and vegetables with a focus on stews, soups, and street food.
Arepas are a staple in Colombian cuisine. These round, flatbreads are made from cornmeal and can be grilled, fried, or baked. Ancocho is a traditional Colombian soup or stew made with meat along with vegetables like corn, plantains, yuca (cassava), and potatoes.
Nightlife in Peru vs nightlife in Colombia
While you can find plenty of nightlife in Peru and Colombia, the latter has a more vibrant nightlife with dancing and singing. Cali is the salsa capital of the world. There are numerous salsa clubs and live music venues throughout the city. Popular destinations in Peru like Arequipa, Cusco, and Lima have decent nightlife options.
Nightlife in Colombia
Major cities like Medellin, Cartagena, Cali, and San Andres Island all offer great options with plenty of bars and nightclubs.
When it comes to nightlife in Colombia, one thing to know is that in recent years, there has been an increase in drugging incidents at nightclubs and bars, so you should be extra careful when going out at night.
Here are some of the best places for nightlife in Colombia:
- Bogotá: The capital of Colombia, Bogotá, has a thriving nightlife with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants. The Zona Rosa and Parque 93 neighborhoods are popular nightlife districts. You’ll find everything from salsa clubs to electronic dance music venues.
- Medellín: The El Poblado neighborhood is a hotspot for bars and clubs, and the city is known for its lively atmosphere. Parque Lleras is a popular area for nightlife in Medellín.
- Cartagena: Cartagena’s Old Town comes alive at night with a mix of bars, restaurants, and street performers. You can enjoy music, dancing, and cocktails in this historic setting.
Nightlife in Peru
- Lima: Lima, the capital city, boasts a lively nightlife with a range of options. In the districts of Miraflores and Barranco, you’ll find numerous bars, pubs, and clubs. Barranco, in particular, is known for its bohemian atmosphere and artistic vibe.
- Cusco: The most popular destination in Peru, Cusco has good nightlife options, so you can enjoy a fun night out after exploring this historic destination.
- Arequipa: Arequipa also has good options for nightlife, especially around the downtown area.
Peru vs Colombia: FAQs
Is Peru safer than Mexico?
Peru is statistically much safer than Mexico. As a visitor, you are relatively safe in Peru, especially outside major tourist zones, which have higher rates of petty theft and pickpocketing. While Peru’s poor infrastructure is the main concern for travelers, in Mexico, you have to be careful not to wander into areas affected by gang violence and generally avoid displaying any valuables.
Keep in mind that just like in Mexico, safety in Peru depends on a specific region and the current situation in the country. Always do your homework before planning a trip to either country.
Is Peru cheaper than Colombia?
Peru is more expensive than Colombia. When visiting popular places like Cusco, Arequipa, or Lima, prepare to pay more for food, accommodations, and tours than in major destinations in Colombia like Cartagena, Medellin, or Bogota.
Is Colombia or Peru safer?
On average, Peru is safer than Colombia. As long as you avoid troubled neighborhoods in major cities and exercise reasonable caution, you should be relatively safe. In Colombia, there have been cases of foreigners being drugged and robbed in bars and nightclubs. Muggings are also common in Colombian cities and can occur even in broad daylight.
Which is better Peru or Columbia?
Colombia is better if you want to spend time in the cities, enjoy the nightlife and great atmosphere, and take quick trips to places where you can spend time the nature. Peru is a better choice if you want to hike in the mountains, learn about the Inca culture, and get off the beaten path.
What are the similarities between Peru and Colombia?
Both countries are situated in the Andean region of South America and share a border. Peru and Colombia are known for their rich biodiversity. They are home to diverse ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest, Andes Mountains, and Pacific coastline.
Colombia vs Peru travel: final word
If you are still wondering about whether you should visit Peru or Colombia, check your travel plans. Both Peru and Colombia have a history of ancient civilizations, and both boast wonderful outdoor opportunities and jaw-dropping landscapes.