South America, Peru

My V Dub Bug Obsession: Beetles of Peru

October 6, 2014

The humble Volkswagen Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide. Designed by Porsche in 1934 (although designs were not finalised until 1938) following Hitler’s demands for a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for the new road network of his country, the first Volkswagen Beetle left the factory on the 26th May 1938.

Despite being a German-designed car, it was actually manufactured largely in Brazil for many years.  Production in Brazil ended in 1986, started again in 1993, and continued until 1996.  By 2002, over 21 million Type 1 Volkswagens (Beetles) had been produced, but annual production had dropped so drastically by 2003 that Volkswagen announced the end of production in June 2003.  The final Volkwagen Beetle rolled off the production line in Mexico on the 30th of July 2003.

As a direct result of the fact that 22% of the total number of Beetles made were manufactured in South America, and that Peru doesn’t yet seem to have adopted the same ‘throw away society’ idea that we have in the UK  (if something breaks, they fix it rather than replace it – including cars), a lot of these vehicles still ply the streets.

I don’t know what it is about the Volkswagen Beetle.  I’m not an automobile fanatic or a classic car nerd (hell, I don’t even drive) but I appreciate the aesthetics of a good vehicle design.  I appreciate that not all of you will share my view about the classic Volkswagen Beetle, and maybe if I was a driver having driven one, that view might change.

But the truth is I like to look at Beetles.  I like to photograph Beetles.  They look fun, honest, straight-talking, down-to-earth, and quirky, and they stand out from the crowd – everything I strive to be really!

So, I thought I’d break up my chronological Peruvian journey with a short article containing some photographs of my favourite car, spotted in an around the towns and cities of Peru.

Beetles of Cajamarca

Painted in a rather unusual duck-egg blue colour, this little fella was parked immediately opposite the beautiful Hospedaje Los Jasmines, our home for the 3 nights we spent in the charming Andean town of Cajarmarca.  You can read more about our Cajamarcan highlights here.


Beetles of Chiclayo

I’ll be the first to admit that Chiclayo is definitely not going to win any awards for being one of Peru’s most attractive cities, but it does have a lot of Beetles – probably more than I saw in any other Peruvian cities.

If you’re into seafood, there’s also a restaurant her that serves the best Parihuela (seafood soup/stew) that I tasted during my 3-month journey around the country.

Beetles of Trujillo

Trujillo is, hands down, the most colourful city I’ve ever visited.  It’s lavish colonial architecture is spectacularly well-preserved, and its buildings have some of the most beautiful and intricately-detailed window grates that I’ve ever had the fortune to set eyes upon.

This cheerful red Beetle was spotted alongside Trujillo’s grand, brightly-painted catedral, which is the focal point in the city’s Plaza de Armas.

For more photographs of Trujillo’s colourful colonial buildings, check out my photo essay.

Beetles of Huaraz

We spotted several classic motor vehicles during our 6-night stay here.  Huaraz is a traditional, friendly, likeable and lively Andean town, which forms a great base from which to explore the stunning Cordillera mountain range – whether you choose to do so on foot, on wheels, or by river.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera when I spotted this Beetle the first time around.  It was regularly parked along the main road which lead from Soledad church (near to our guest house) down to the Plaza de Armas, however on my initial sighting there was a cat asleep on its roof, relaxing in the warm afternoon sun.

You can read about the best bits of my stay in Huaraz here, and here, and here.

Beetles of Tarma

Tourists seldom make it to Tarma.  Most choose the well-trodden route between Huaraz and Lima.  However, knowing that we had our pre-booked Inca Trail trek not far ahead of us, we chose to stay at altitude (to save needing a few days to become accustomed again), and make our way to Cuzco the back way – via Tarma.

Tarma is located on the cusp of the Amazon jungle, amidst lush mountain scenery and hidden Inca ruins, and whilst the town itself isn’t very attractive, this sunny yellow Beetle did help to brighten the streets up a little.

Beetles of Huancayo

Next stop on the back road to Cuzco was Huancayo, most famous for being the location of Torre Torre – a valley high above the city where erosion has destroyed much of the land but has left behind some towering, somewhat surreal rock formations.

Huancayo’s bustling main square mixes the old and new with seamless perfection, and this Beetle – parked on the street next to the catedral – was one of many we spotted around Huancayo’s streets.

Beetles of Ayacucho

We were lucky enough to be in Ayacucho on the day of its annual Volkswagen convention.  Hundreds of brightly coloured, customised Beetles and Camper Vans were paraded around the city, and subsequently parked up in Ayacucho’s Plaza de Armas.  Their proud owners would either be sat in the driver’s seat, or alternatively they’d happily pose for you by the side of their pride and joy.

Beetles, Arequipa

I’m not sure whether this sunny yellow specimen (complete with roof-rack) was part of the Volkswagen convention or not, but he was parked in the same spot of Ayacucho’s historic centre, just around the corner from our hostel, every morning.

Still in Ayacucho, we found this fella at the top of the Mirador de Carmen Alto, admiring the spectacular view of the city down below – something we did the following day, but from a viewpoint much, much higher than this.

Beetle admiring the view

So, there you have it – my modest collection of Peruvian Beetles.  A Bolivian collection will follow soon!

I’d love to see your Beetle photos too, so if you have any you’ve snapped on your travels please tag me 🙂

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  • Reply Sammi Wanderlustin' October 6, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    See, what I want is a Camper van. In my dreams I’d have a split screen, but it’s not looking likely haha
    Sammi Wanderlustin’ recently posted…Tim Burton Saves the Day in PragueMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 7, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      Yeah, I totally love split screen campers too, Sammi! Well it’s good to dream, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Reply SJ February 25, 2015 at 9:50 PM

    Wow, how are they all in such good condition? My uncle used to have one of these, fun memories. Thanks Kiara!
    SJ recently posted…62 inspirational stories that make you want to travel to CroatiaMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2015 at 7:28 PM

      SJ, I’ve no idea, especially as the streets are full of them so the Peruvians obviously use them rather than just keeping them for shows as everyone seems to over here in the UK!

  • Reply Adelina February 26, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    I love Beetles – I think they’re super cute especially these classic versions. I love that they’re committed to fixing things and not just throwing them away for the newer model.
    Adelina recently posted…Who Am I? Searching for My Roots in Hong KongMy Profile

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