Naming more than a handful of Peruvian sports stars, let alone events, may be a challenge for even the most avid sports fan. Peruvian sports successes on the world stage come few and far between, due largely to a lack of investment. Nevertheless, sports remain an integral part of Peruvian culture, from the passion for soccer to the controversy of the bullfighting arena.
Soccer, football, or fútbol, is the most popular sport in Peru. Success on the field has wanned since the glory days of the 1970s. The team hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1982. But Peruvians still love the game, so you'll find plenty of opportunities to play during your travels.
- Famous Players: Teófilo Cubillas (called the Pele of Peru), Nolberto Solano, Juan Manuel “Loco” Vargas, Claudio Pizarro, Paolo Guerrero
- Top Teams: Alianza Lima, Real Atlético Garcilaso, Universitario de Deportes
Soccer remains a male-dominated sport in Peru, but the female population takes control of the volleyball courts. The national women’s team is a major player on the world scene, occupying 11th place in the FIVB Senior World Rankings as of January 2011. At a recreational level, volleyball provides a sporting and social activity for women of all ages. Some “friendly” contests become quite serious, particularly when the female competitors decide to play for money.
- Famous Players: Cecilia Tate, Gabriela Perez de Solar, Natalia Málaga (considered Peru's queen of volleyball)
Surfing is popular along the length of Peru’s extensive coastline, with some world-famous waves in the north near Máncora and Puerto Chicama. Thanks to the Pan-American Highway, visiting surfers can easily travel the length of the coast, stopping off at Peru’s various surfing hotspots.
- Famous Peruvian Surfers: Felipe Pomar (1965 World Surfing Champion), Sofía Mulánovich (2004 World Open Champion, Surfers' Hall of Fame 2007) Luis Miguel "Magoo" De La Rosa (ISA World Masters Surfing Championship 2007 leader), and Cristobal de Col (2011 World Junior Champion)
Tennis remains a niche sport in Peru, one typically played by affluent city-dwellers. Public courts are rare outside the big cities, but you can often find a court or two in resorts and recreation centers. Despite the game’s niche status, Peru has still managed to produce some notable tennis players.
- Famous Players: Jaime Yzaga (defeated Pete Sampras in the 1994 US Open), Luis Horna (winner of the men's doubles title in the 2008 French Open)
Boxing and Martial Arts
Boxing is a minor sport in terms of participation, but the rise of Kina Malpartida sent television viewership through the roof. In 2009, Malpartida won the WBA World Championship super featherweight title, followed by a string of successful defenses. She quickly became a media sensation in Peru, despite the general lack of interest in the sport as a whole.
Taekwondo doesn’t have such a popular figurehead, but the sport has been growing in popularity since the 1970s. Taekwondo clubs are common throughout Peru.
Peru’s main domestic motor racing event is the Caminos del Inca Rally, an annual rally attended by some of the world’s top drivers. The route starts in Lima, passing through Huancayo, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Arequipa before heading back to the capital. The years 2012 and 2013 have both seen stages of the famous Dakar Rally in Peru.
Motorbikes outnumber cars in many Peruvian towns, so the rise of motocross was almost inevitable. Off-road circuits vary in size and structure, but the events are always exciting. If you have the chance, try to catch a Motokar Cross competition, a race between souped-up mototaxi rickshaws piloted by one driver and one copilot, the latter clinging to the back seat (read more about racing mototaxis here).
Bullfighting is a popular spectator sport in Peru, despite public opinion showing signs of a shift from universal respect to revulsion. In 2008, a poll conducted by the University of Lima found that nearly 80 percent of Lima residents disagreed with bullfighting, according to the Spanish-language Peru21 website. Opinion in the Peruvian capital is not always in line with the provinces, but it’s a telling figure nonetheless.
- Main Event: Bullfights at Lima’s Plaza de Toros de Acho during the annual Señor de los Milagros festival in October and November