There’s more to Peru than just Machu Picchu. People around the world dream of visiting the famous Incan ruins, be it part of a short holiday or longer backpacking trip. Yet with so many places to see throughout the country, many would struggle to narrow an itinerary down to just two weeks in Peru. From the Amazon rainforest, to huge stretches of desert to countless archaeological sites – you’ll find great variety up and down the country. If you have time to visit, it should definitely be on your list for South America. Having travelled from the border with Ecaudor through to the border with Chile, we’ve created an itinerary for travelling Peru in just two weeks. Check out our 14 day Peru itinerary below.
Lima (Days 1, 2 and 3)
Depending on how far you’ve come, you may need to deal with the unwanted effects of jetlag. Luckily, you can take Lima at a relatively slow pace – even with just 2 nights there. If you’re not suffering too much, head to the top of Larcomar Mall in Miraflores for fantastic sunset views. Other than that, take it easy and sample some Peruvian cuisine before getting some rest for the next day.
Kick off your second day exploring the historic centre of Lima – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure to catch the changing of the guards outside Government Palace at around 11.50am. For those wishing to be educated on the city’s history, we recommend taking one of the free walking tours – departing at 10.30am from Miraflores and 11.30am from Plaza de Armas. It is highly encouraged to leave a tip when making use of these tours as they last around 3 hours. Come nightfall make your way to Parque de la Reserva for one of the colourful fountain shows. Costing just 4 Soles per person and with shows at 7.15pm, 8.15pm, and 9.30pm every day except Monday, it’s well worth fitting into your schedule.
Paracas (Days 3 and 4)
Check out of your accommodation in Lima, and catch one of Cruz del Sur’s buses to Paracas. We recommend catching the 1.30pm service as the main thing to do in Paracas is a tour of Islas Ballestas – which you won’t be doing until the next day. The town is quite small but there are enough restaurants to choose from. If you’re on a budget, some places offer a cheap Menu del Dia – which we regularly recommend to people as one of our top tips for South America. Spend the evening doing as you please, and make sure to book yourself onto one of the Islas Ballestas tours for the next day at 8am. Unfortunately the 10am tour isn’t a great alternative if you want to make it to Huacachina in time to go sandboarding and dune buggying. Tours can be booked in advance from Find Local Trips, starting at approximately 50 Soles, or if you’d prefer you can book on arrival. If paying in person, make sure that entrance to the reserve and taxes are included in the price.
Head to the port around 15 minutes before your tour is due to depart. If you’re prone to motion sickness, we recommend taking some Dramamine around half an hour before departing. The tour itself will get you up close to sea lions, penguins and huge colonies of other sea birds. As a result of the impressive wildlife found here, Islas Ballestas has become known as the poor man’s Galapagos. In total, the tour lasts 2 hours and also passes some amazing desert landscape making it well worth the trip. Once you’ve returned to Paracas, collect your belongings, as you’ll shortly be heading to Huacachina.
Huacachina (Days 4 and 5)
Catch the 11.10am Cruz del Sur bus from Paracas to Ica, arriving around 12.40pm. Ica is a short taxi ride away from Huacachina and should only cost 5 Soles – although drivers at the bus station will try to charge you double this. Once you arrive, check in, get sun cream on and head outside to explore. The small village of Huacachina is built around an oasis in the desert, surrounded by magnificent sand dunes. Walking up the dunes can be tough, but doing so will give you a great perspective of this unique place.
Make your way back to the village to undertake a sandboarding/dune buggy tour at 4pm. You can book in advance through Find Local Trips for approximately 50 Soles or try and negotiate a price closer to 30 Soles on the day. This high adrenaline tour lasts 2 hours and isn’t for the faint hearted, as the drivers are renowned for speeding up and down dunes with seemingly little regard for the potential consequences. The tour is well worth it and gives you a rare chance to get out into unique desert landscape and see seemingly endless silky smooth sand dunes. If your tour ends before sunset, quickly make your way back up the dunes on foot to watch night fall across the desert. Spend the rest of the evening enjoying dinner and a drink or two at one of the many restaurants around the village.
Nazca (Day 5)
Make your way back to Ica in the morning via taxi in time to catch the 9.05am Cruz del Sur service to Nazca – arriving at 11.15am. Here you’re able to take scenic flights to see the iconic Nazca lines from above. Huge designs have been marked into the ground, which when viewed from the air reveal a number of designs and shapes. Some of the more famous ones are of a spider, frog, hummingbird and monkey. Scholars believe the lines were created over 1,500 years ago – between 500BC and 500AD. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these mysterious lines are fascinating to see.
Flights cost from around 260 Soles, with an additional airport tax of 30 Soles to pay on top of this. As you’ll be pushed for time, you’ll need to book in advance from either Find Local Trips or another company. Alternatively, two of the geoglyphs (the frog and the tree) – can be seen from a viewing platform, which costs just 2 Soles to ascend.
As you don’t need to spend the night in the area, spend a few hours here before taking a bus on to Arequipa that night. If you plan on doing a flight, we recommend booking for 12pm. They’ll pick you up from the bus terminal and drop you back there afterwards. At this point, catch the 2.30pm from Nazca to Arequipa, which will arrive at 11.30pm.
Arequipa (Days 5, 6 and 7)
Situated at an altitude of 2,335 metres, between 3 towering volcanoes, Arequipa is the perfect place for altitude adjustment. The remainder of the trip will take in a number of high altitude locations and it’s important to acclimatise to avoid altitude sickness. Take this opportunity to have a relaxing few days and explore the city at your own pace. There’s plenty to do within walking distance. Visit Mirador de Yanahuara for brilliant views across the city through beautiful white arches. Another option is the 16th century Santa Catalina Monastery. The building is pleasantly colourful inside, although entrance costs 40 Soles per person. Other places to check out include Plaza de Armas (Arequipa’s main square), Mercado Central and Mundo Alpaca – where you can get up close to Llamas and Alpacas, as well as purchase genuine Alpaca goods. Once your 2 days are up, it’s an early start to journey to the impressive Colca Canyon.
Colca Canyon & Overnight Bus (Days 7, 8 and 9)
The second deepest canyon in the world lies just a few hours from Arequipa, and is a must do in the area. A 2-day, 1-night tour (including dorm accommodation) can be booked for around 90 Soles from Find Local Trips or arranged and negotiated while staying in Arequipa. If you’d prefer to be more active, treks are available from approximately 130 Soles. Whatever option you pick, be aware there is a 70 Soles charge for foreigners for entry to the Colca Canyon area, which isn’t included in your tour cost. If you’re pushed for time you do have the option of single day tours, or if you have extra time and want to trek you can visit for 3 days and 2 nights.
The 2-day, 1-night tour departs around 7.30am from your accommodation and takes in a number of volcano viewpoints. You’ll see llamas, alpacas and vicuñas on your journey, and also have the chance to buy coca products or try traditional Incan tea – both of which are said to combat altitude sickness. At around 1pm, you’ll arrive to the small town of Chivay where you’ll spend the night. Your group guide will suggest somewhere for lunch, but it’s up to you if you’d prefer to find somewhere else. For the remainder of the day you can either do your own thing, or visit nearby natural hot springs as part of the tour group. In the evening, you can meet up with the group for dinner and a traditional song and dance show. We’d suggest finding somewhere else to eat and getting an early night, as you’ll leave at 7am the next day.
After an early breakfast you’ll be picked up from your accommodation and make your way to Cruz del Condor. With some luck you’ll catch a glimpse of an Andean Condor, which have huge wingspans that sometimes reach up to 3.3m in length. Cruz del Condor is one of the best places to spot them, but unfortunately it’s not guaranteed. Regardless, the views from up here are incredible and some of the best you’ll have of the canyon.
The rest of the day will include stopping at more viewpoints, getting lunch, and making your way back to Arequipa. Particularly impressive are the views of traditional Inca terraces, some of which are still used for crops today. Upon arrival back in Arequipa – you should be prepared to catch an overnight bus with Cruz del Sur to Cusco. These will depart around 8pm and get you into Cusco around 6am the next day. Fortunately the buses are very comfortable so with an eye mask and some earplugs you should be able to get sufficient rest.
Cusco Days (9, 10 and 11)
As you’ll get to Cusco around 6am, we recommend contacting your accommodation in advance so that they are aware of your arrival time. Some places will allow you to check in early if the room is already vacant, which is well worth it even if they charge you a few Soles. That way if you want to get a few more hours sleep, you can do that before getting to know the city. Cusco is at an altitude of 3,399 metres, but after time in Arequipa and Colca Canyon you should be relatively well adjusted for this. If you feel any symptoms of altitude sickness, take it easy until you feel better.
If you haven’t already arranged getting to Machu Picchu, now is the time to do so. For the purpose of fitting everything into 2 weeks, this itinerary will take you to Machu Picchu by train. If you have time, we’ve heard that the 4 day Salkantay trek is incredible and often costs only slightly more than the train if you haggle on the price.
Cusco itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a pleasant city to explore on foot. Once you’ve caught up on some sleep, head to Cusco’s main square – Plaza de Armas. It’s home to Cusco’s cathedral, the impressive Church la Compañía de Jesús, as well as a number of shops, restaurants and bars. Next, make your way uphill to the neighbourhood of San Blas. You’ll find a brilliant free view across Cusco at Mirador de San Blas, or if you’d prefer to enjoy the view with a Pisco Sour head to Limbus. Otherwise wander the cobblestone streets, appreciate the intricacy of the pulpit in San Blas Church or visit the Coca museum to stock up on everything from Coca chocolate to Coca beer. Alternatively, find your own path through the streets of Cusco and see what you stumble across.
Spend your second day exploring a number of sites around the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The easiest way to do this is with the Boleto Turistico. This ticket gives access to 16 archaeological sites and costs 130 Soles for a full ticket (known as the Boleto General). Admission to many of the places is only possible with the Boleto Turistico and so there is little alternative if you wish to visit sites such as Saqsaywaman and the Pisac ruins. Three partial circuit tickets are available at a cheaper cost of 70 Soles each, although they may not include all the spots you want to visit. If you’d prefer to avoid entrance fees then we recommend this guide to exploring the sacred valley without the Boleto Turistico. Another option is to visit the remarkable Salt pans of Maras – a vast collection of around 3,000 salt pools etched into the hillside. Make sure not to have too late a night as you’ll have an early start the next day as you journey to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu (Days 11 and 12)
The iconic ruins of Machu Picchu are considered the country’s most spectacular attraction, and are essential for any itinerary. Book your trains as soon as you know your travel dates to get the best price. Wake early and take a collectivo from Calle Pavitos (a small street just off Avenida Grau) to Ollantaytambo. This journey takes around 2 hours and costs just 10 Soles. You’ll want to arrive into Aguas Calientes no later than 11am, so keep this in mind when booking your train. Enjoy the scenic ride and if you have the choice sit on the left hand side of the train as you’ll have better views.
Once you arrive, head straight for your accommodation and check in. Make sure you have to booked admission to Machu Picchu in advance via the official website to save time and hassle. Do this as soon as possible in case of high demand. Select the 1pm-5.30pm timeslot, which costs just 100 Soles. The site is generally less crowded in the afternoon, and so you’ll have more freedom to explore. Most tourists prefer to be there for sunrise, which is often anti-climatic as views of the ruins are frequently obstructed by morning mist. A short 20-minute bus journey will take you to the entrance, setting you back 65 Soles for a return ticket. Before arriving at Machu Picchu, familiarise yourself with these tips and the new rules introduced in July 2017. After you’ve finished up, catch the return bus to Aguas Calientes and treat yourself to a meal at a nearby restaurant.
The next day you’ll need to make your way back to Cusco. Catch your train to Ollantaytambo and then a collectivo to Cusco itself – once again costing 10 Soles.
Cusco (Days 12, 13 and 14)
By the time you arrive back in Cusco, you may well want to catch up on a bit of sleep. If not, enjoy wandering more of the streets of the city and make sure to book yourself on a hike to Rainbow Mountain for the following day. These trips leave around 3am, so you’ll need to get an early night to be prepared for a tough day ahead. A tour should cost between 70 and 110 Soles depending on the operator, while there may also be an extra 10 Soles entrance fee to the trail as not all tours include this.
Once your operator has picked you up, there’s a long drive ahead and so it’s best to try and get a bit more sleep. Your hike will start around 7am after a short stop for breakfast. The hardest part of your ascent is dealing with the altitude – which will eventually reach over 5,000 metres above sea level. Breathing becomes a lot harder at this height, and so continuing with the walk can become a struggle. After approximately 3 hours, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Vinicunca – a unique multi-coloured mountain. Temperatures can be very low this high up, so make sure you wrap up well. When it’s sunny, the colours of Vinicunca really pop – so hopefully the weather is on your side.
Once you’ve appreciated this wonderful sight for a while it’s time to descend, which is substantially easier. You’ll have to wait for everyone in your group to finish before departing back to Cusco, so try not to be too far ahead. We finished almost 2 hours ahead of the rest of our group, which meant we were sat on our minibus for that time.
Despite being hard work, the hike is well worth the effort. For those concerned about the toughness of the climb, it is possible to rent a horse to carry you most of the way for around 80 Soles. The downside is that you’ll still have to walk the steepest parts, as the horses cannot manage certain sections. It’s also worth noting that in rain and snow the trail conditions are said to be very tough. There have been reports of the path turning to mud at parts so it’s important to take care.
When you make it back to Cusco, you’ll need to rest up. Don’t do anything strenuous and relax, as your body needs time to recover from the hard work at high altitude. Following this itinerary, you should be sufficiently adjusted to the altitude by the time you take on this hike and therefore shouldn’t feel many ill effects the next day.
The next day you’ll need to fly back to Lima in order to catch your flight home, or if you’re going to explore more of South America, make plans to reach your next destination.
Coming up with an itinerary for just two weeks in any country can be tough, and Peru is no different. There’s really so many places to see that make it a logistical nightmare to fit everything in. To squeeze this much in there’s a fair amount of bus travel – so make sure to check out this advice for using buses in South America. It’s not the best itinerary for Peru if you’re looking to explore the whole country. If you have longer to spend in the country there’s a heap of additional places to go – from Mancora in the north to Lake Titicaca on the border with Bolivia. If you are limited to just a few weeks though, this 14 day Peru itinerary is ideal as most international flights to the country arrive into Lima – the starting point of this trip!
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