Home to Machu Picchu, Peru is a travel destination for individuals far and wide who come to gaze at the magnificent ruins of Incan past. However, those who have visited the area know Peru is much more than just the home of this wonder of the world. Within the borders of this large country lie beautiful […]
Home to Machu Picchu, Peru is a travel destination for individuals far and wide who come to gaze at the magnificent ruins of Incan past. However, those who have visited the area know Peru is much more than just the home of this wonder of the world. Within the borders of this large country lie beautiful beaches, a desert oasis, massive canyons, incredible hiking, and country-sized lakes. While it is impossible to see each sight, we have crafted a two-week Peru itinerary to ensure you see the best Peru has to offer.
Before catching a flight into the country’s capital of Lima, be sure to know your budget. Being a cheap country, with $1 USD equaling around $3 Peruvian soles, it is easy to see many of Peru’s wonders within reasonable financial means.
We also recommend packing light for this trip. For only two weeks, a hiking-style backpack should be plenty to accomodate all you will need. Continue reading below to discover the natural beauty and adventure Peru has to offer!
You will most likely fly into Lima when arriving to Peru, which is the perfect place to begin your adventure. As the capital of Peru, Lima has plenty to offer, from fine arts and history to delicious cuisine.
Lima’s climate is a bit peculiar, as it is a subtropical desert with a warm season from December to April and cool season from June to October. The overall weather is arid and mild because of its location to both the equator and the cold Humboldt current.
From May to October, the sky is almost always cloudy and provides frequent rains and high humidity index. From December to April, sunshine is frequent and the temperatures average around 75 F (24 C).
Transportation in Lima
Transportation in Lima can be a little tricky at first, as there are many options to choose from. The best way to get from the airport to the city center is by taxi, as public transportation is not readily available near by.
Once downtown, the metro, public busses, and micros are all options. The metro currently has 16 stops and connects south Lima with the city center, although construction for a line to the airport is in progress. City busses are also a great option, as they run regularly to all the districts of Lima.
Micros are small, privately-owned vehicles that travel haphazardly throughout the city. There are 60,000 operating in Lima and are inexpensive and convenient for making trips through the city.
What to Do in Lima
Where to Stay in Lima
We recommend spending 2-3 days in Lima, depending on your personal itinerary.
From Lima, we recommend spending at least one day in Paracas, a nature reserve south of the capital. Nicknamed the “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” Paracas is a perfect blend of desert and seashore.
Located four hours south of Lima, Paracas is home to a nature reserve that acts as a protected area for wildlife, especially birds. From the coast you can view the Humboldt penguin and the Peruvian diving petrel. From the reserve, visitors can also spy whales, sea turtles, and some of the area’s friendly sea lions.
Beyond the wildlife, Paracas has gorgeous beaches to bask on. In addition, local tour guides can accommodate any traveler looking to go ATVing, paragliding, cycling, kitesurfing, or even catamaran sailing! You can book in person in Paracas, or online at their website.
Visiting the Ballestas Islands, which are located off the shore of Paracas, is an absolute must. Known as the “poor-man’s Galapagos,” the Ballestas Islands are a small chain of islands that are home to sea lions, many sea birds, sea otters and Humboldt penguins. The islands enjoy protected status in order to preserve the ecosystem of the fragile populations of mammals that call the islands home.
We recommend arriving early in the morning from Lima and staying one night in Paracas before heading to your next destination.
If you decide to spend more than one day exploring, we recommend this overnight tour that includes a tour of the Ballestas Islands in addition to the pre-Inca Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Paracas, a bus to Huacachina only takes about an hour and a half. Huacachina is a stunning desert oasis and tiny town just west of the city of Ica. The town is full of swaying palm trees and diverse flora, alongside a cool lagoon you can relax by.
While this town is extraordinarily tranquil, filled with shopping opportunities and even a library, it is also home to many adventures. With Huacachina as a home base, you can embark on adventures out in the desert.
Popular experiences around Huacachina are dune-buggying and sandboarding down the surrounding sand dunes. You can rent either, or both, for hour increments and spend the day in a way that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
From Huacachina, we recommend heading to Arequipa next. The trip is 11 hours long, so it is best to not spend the night in Huacachina but instead take an overnight bus to Arequipa.
After an 11 hour bus ride, begin your 5th day exploring the town of Arequipa. Though much smaller than Lima, it is Peru’s second largest city. Surrounded by three volcanoes, the views around the city are breathtaking.
While many people skip right over the city of Arequipa to get to Colca Canyon, we recommend spending one night in the city. Nicknamed the “white city,” Arequipa is filled with temples and colonial buildings made from white volcanic ash, giving the city’s architecture a unique look. In addition, they are known for the rocoto relleno, a spicy stuffed red pepper dish that you must try.
From Arequipa, we highly recommend doing an overnight trek into Colca Canyon, like this two night venture into the canyon. While hiking Colca Canyon is possible to do without a guide, an experienced local will make the adventure more holistic. Tours can be booked ahead of time online or in person in Arequipa.
While doing a day trip to the canyon is possible, you will miss out on some of the aspects that make Colca Canyon so special. This is partially because the bus ride from Arequipa to Colca is around 4 hours. Due to the long bus ride and unlimited hiking and activities available, we recommend spending 2-3 days hiking the canyon.
Outside of the incredible views, the canyon is home to the local indigenous Collagya people, who are known for their candle-making and wool spinning techniques. After spending time immersing yourself in their culture, try to spot one of the massive endangered Andean condors that soar over the canyon.
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is Peru’s third most-visited attraction. Some have even ranked the experience as incredible as seeing Machu Picchu itself. During your hike, make sure to stop by Mollepunko to see 6,000 year old Incan cave art.
Many travelers choose to skip over Puno, as it is further south than Machu Picchu and takes half a day to get there. However, we think a trip to Peru is not complete without sitting by the shores of the legendary Lake Titicaca.
Taking a bus from Colca Canyon to Puno is simple. Instead of having to back-track to Arequipa, buses to Puno leave from Chivay’s bus terminal in the main square. The ride should take around 6 hours to reach Puno.
Known as the gateway to Lake Titicaca, Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru because of its wealth of artists and craftsmen. Because of this, we recommend arriving early to begin exploring the city before venturing off to the islands of Lake Titicaca. Depending on your preference, we recommend staying 1-2 days on the Lake.
For a day trip, we recommend this half or full day kayaking tour to the islands of Uro and Taquile. The Uro Islands are made from tortora rushes, as are the houses on them and the residents’ boats; an incredible feat. If time permits, this overnight tour includes spending the night in the Luquina Karina community to understand what daily life is like living on Lake Titicaca.
Upon returning to Puno, buses leave daily to take you to your next destination: Cusco.
Known as the heart and soul of the Incan Empire, Cusco is a city you could spend weeks in and still never experience it all. While many use Cusco as the gateway to Machu Picchu, the city itself is spectacular and worth spending time in.
There is no bad time to visit Cusco, as the coldest days rarely drop below freezing and the warmest days stay around 70 F (21 C). However, the rainy season from lat November to April can be a damper on some planned activities. With that said, traveling during this period will allow you to escape most of the crowds. Peru’s dry season is from June until mid-September, where temperatures hover in the mid-60s. However, most tourists travel during this time, so expect crowds in popular destinations.
There is no metro in Cusco, and the public transportation system is less sophisticated than in Lima. With that being said, the city is easy to navigate and is more walkable than Lima.
To reach destinations that are further than walking, there are two main options: taxis and buses. Taxis are plenty in the area. Unlike many American taxis, they do not have meters, so it is important to establish a price before entering any taxi. It is also useful to hail a taxi with a company name on the vehicle, as many are unregulated.
Bus stops in Cusco can be identified by small signs and occasional benches on the side of the road. Once boarding the bus, yell “Baja” when your stop approaches and you will pay as you exit the bus. Make sure to keep an eye on your valuables, as these buses are often crowded.
What to Do in Cusco
Where to Stay in Cusco
We recommend spending 2-3 days in Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu.
From Cusco, Machu Picchu is easily accessible in a variety of ways. You can choose from self-guided day trips to overnight treks with guides. Regardless of the trip you choose, you are sure to be astounded by the world wonder of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is truly one of the great wonders of the world. Because of this, it is the most popular symbol of the great Inca civilization. To add to your experience, watch the sunset over the stone village for a view you will never forget.
Depending on how many days you spend in other locations, a day trip to Machu Picchu is possible by train. This full-day tour provides round-trip transportation to the sight, including train and bus tickets.
You could also complete the Lares trek to Machu Picchu in this two-day tour, which includes sights of the gorgeous mountains as you walk through Isaqccocha Pass.
If you prefer an authentic experience, this three day tour includes staying with a host family that can expose you to true Peruvian culture. The tour also includes exploring the Sacred Valley and Perollniyoc Waterfall in addition to a full day at Machu Picchu.
Each option provides the experience of seeing Machu Picchu, but in three different lengths and ways depending on your specific needs. Each tour returns back to Cusco where you are able to catch a flight home from Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport.
To summarize all of the information above, we suggest the below itinerary for two weeks in Peru:
Day 1-2: Lima
Day 3: Paracas and Ballestas Islands
Day 4: Huacachina
Day 5: Arequipa
Day 6-8: Colca Canyon
Day 8-10: Puno
Day 10-12: Cusco
Day 12-14: Machu Picchu
Day 14: Back to Cusco for Flight Home
For additional time in Cusco or Lima, we recommend skipping the stop in Puno or the day in Arequipa.