Peru is a fantastic country, with lots to see. With so many gorgeous colonial cities, interesting archeological sites, mountains that call to be hikes, coming up with a good Peru itinerary is easier said than done – especially if you have limited time.
If you don’t know where to start planning, worry not! I have been to Peru twice already (and going soon for a third time) and know the country quite well. So I thought I’d help out and put together a Peru itinerary that will take you to all the most popular attractions in the country.
This is a very classic Peru itinerary which is perfect for first timers, and it’s easy to add on attractions and things to do if you have a couple of extra days (think Inca Trail!). Read to see how to plan the perfect trip to Peru? Just keep on reading!
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Peru.
A Classic Peru Itinerary – Quick Overview
Below is a breakdown of how many nights you will stay in each place per this two-week Peru itinerary:
Days 1-2 – Lima
Days 3-4 Islas Ballestas, Paracas and Huacachina en route to Nasca
Days 5-8 – Arequipa and Colca Canyon
Days 9-10 – Puno and Lake Titicaca
Day 11 – Cusco
Days 12-14 – Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
The Best Peru Itinerary For A Fantastic Trip To Peru
Days 1-2 – Lima
Your trip to Peru will most likely start in Lima. This buzzing coastal capital is the ideal kicking off point for your adventures. Here you can spend one night soaking up the sights and sounds of Lima, with its well preserved colonial city center and beaches.
This is one of South America’s largest cities, and as such there are attractions to match: think museums to while away the hours in, the 16th-century cathedral in the center of Old Lima, and the Plaza de Armas for people watching.
Spending two nights here means opting for accommodation with amenities on your doorstep, and with public transport for onward travel in easy reach. And trust me: you’ll want a good night’s rest before heading off on your journey the next morning.
Where to sleep in Lima
Hilton Lima Miraflores
Staying in this dreamy Miraflores hotel is all about soaking up the plush luxury of the Hilton’s amenities, while having bars and restaurants on your doorstep. As well as its polished and comfortable rooms, this Lima hotel comes complete with hot tubs, a swimming pool and a restaurant.
Luxury Inkari Hotel
Also situated in the energetic Miraflores neighborhood, Luxury Inkari Hotel has comfortable rooms that are well-equipped. Room service, luggage storage and the on-site restaurant will be sure to help your trip run smoothly during your stay.
For those on a budget, look no further than 1900 backpackers. As the name suggests, this popular hostel in the center of the historic district is set in a heritage building. Guests here have the choice of either dorms or private rooms, and there are also activities to get involved with if you want to do some socializing.
For more information, read my post Where To Stay In Lima.
Day 3 – Visit Islas Ballestas, Paracas and Huacachina en route to Nasca
Your third day in Peru begins early as you get up and at ‘em for a fun packed day en route to Nasca. On the way you can visit Paracas, a small coastal town around four hours’ drive south of the capital.
This town works as the gateway to Islas Ballestas, with its rich offerings of nature. To get there you can arrange to hire a driver, take a local bus or arrange a shuttle through your accommodation. It’s quite a common route to take, so your options are pretty broad here.
After a morning bobbing around on the sea in awe of the life (and the smell) of Islas Ballestas, you can then continue on your way to Huacachina. This is the center of sandboarding in Peru, and a well known spot for the sport worldwide. It’s included in a lot of itineraries, especially through private companies such as Peru Hop, so chances are you’ll be swinging by this oasis village and its dunes.
Then it’s onward to Nasca to spend the night, preparing yourself for the next day: flying over the Nasca Lines.
You can book your Islas Ballestas and Paracas National Reserve, click here. If you wish to include a tour Huacachina Oasis and a wine tour of Ica, click here. For a tour that also goes to Nasca, click here.
Where to sleep in Nasca
DM Hoteles Nasca
Perfectly located just 200 meters from Nasca’s main plaza, this hotel is easily connected with public transport as it’s only two minute’s walk from the bus terminal. You can enjoy a comfortable stay in this charming property, which comes with its own outdoor swimming pool and on-site restaurant.
Casa Andina Standard Nasca
This friendly local hotel is run by professional, welcoming staff who will provide you with everything you need to help your stay run smoothly. The location of this accommodation option is also near Nasca’s main square, and there’s also a swimming pool here for some downtime.
Hospedaje Nasca Lodge
Those on a budget will be interested in this hostel, which boasts scores of glowing reviews. Your stay here starts with being met by the staff at the bus station, and then being taken to the clean, comfortable accommodation.
Day 4 – Fly over the Nasca Lines
There’s an exciting day ahead of you as you wake up on day four, ready for the flight over the Nasca Lines. These enigmatic pre-Colombian glyphs cover an area of almost 1,000 square kilometers and comprise 300 different figures etched into the sand.
The best way to see the lines is by heading to the skies, but if you are on a tight budget there is also the option to view these ancient marvels from a viewing platform (this costs just a few soles).
You can book a land tour of the Nazca Lines here.
But if you’re set on taking a flight, you’ll have around 45 minutes in the air in a light aircraft as it circles around the glyphs below. Note that things can be pretty bumpy in this small plane, and there’s a lot of turning around in circles, so come prepared: it’s recommended that you take travel sickness tablets beforehand.
You can book your flight over the Nazca lines here.
After your flight over the lines, there are also a slew of interesting archeological sights for you to spend some time exploring. One of these is Cahuachi, and the Cantalloc Aqueduct, both incredible examples of pre-Colombian engineering.
Night bus to Arequipa
Unless you want to stay in Nasca, you can actually save on the price of accommodation by opting for a night bus. This can take you to your next destination, the pretty colonial-era town of Arequipa.
The night bus from Nasca to Arequipa takes nine hours, and whisks you along one of Peru’s main highways on a smooth ride all through the night. You’ll arrive in the morning, ready to fully enjoy the day ahead.
Days 5-8 – Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Arequipa is the capital of the region of the same name. Dubbed the “White City”, this town is famed for its elegant Baroque buildings, all constructed for the most part from gleaming white silar – a type of volcanic rock.
The city is strikingly surrounded by the peaks of three volcanoes, giving a dramatic backdrop to the history of the settlement. At its center is the charming Plaza de Armas, home to the impressive 17th-century neoclassical cathedral.
You can book your guided tour of Arequipa here.
Not only is Arequipa a fantastic place to wander, discovering its museums and cultural sights, but it also works as a great jumping off point for the paradisiacal Colca Canyon. It’s actually possible to visit Colca Canyon with an overnight stay on a tour (price of stay included), allowing you extra time to hike and soak up all the lush scenery.
The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, at many points deeper than the Grand Canyon, carving its way through the High Andes. The surrounding area is a lush landscape, with traditional villages and ancient terraced agriculture dotted everywhere. It is an awesome place to hike and spend time exploring.
Then it’s back to Arequipa for some more city wandering; you could do a free walking tour, hit up the local market, and refuel at a local restaurant before the next leg of your journey. Don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep.
Where to sleep in Arequipa
This boutique accommodation option is set within a beautiful colonial house that’s been stunningly renovated. It’s just a five minute walk from this hotel to the main square of Arequipa and all its sights. Start your day with a continental breakfast and head out to explore what’s on the doorstep.
Los Andes Bed & Breakfast
A down-to-earth option right in the historic center of the city, rooms at Los Andes Bed & Breakfast are clean and comfortable and offer fantastic value for money. There’s even a delicious breakfast included in the price.
Situated in an 18th-century building, this luxurious hotel combines historical elements with modern day amenities for a high-end stay in Arequipa. The Plaza de Armas is mere meters away, while back at the hotel guests can relax in the garden or enjoy a delicious meal in the hotel’s own restaurant.
For more information, read my post Where To Stay In Arequipa.
Days 9-10 – Puno and Lake Titicaca
It’s time to leave Arequipa behind as you embark on the next leg of your Peru itinerary, taking the morning bus to the town of Puno. This small city on the shores of Lake Titicaca is the ideal base for exploring the shore and islands of the famed Andean lake – one of the biggest lakes in South America, and the highest navigable lake in the world.
From Puno you can easily take boat tours from its port, and head on a journey around the lake. The islands dotting the lake vary, from abandoned islets with ruins and those with no cars allowed, to floating islands – remnants of a bygone age.
The town itself doesn’t offer a great deal of entertainment beyond its restaurants and bars, so make sure you soak up everything that the high-altitude lake offers. Getting up early in the morning for a sunrise across the lake is a marvelous way to start your next day of travel.
Read my post A Guide To Visiting Lake Titicaca.
Where to sleep in Puno
Uros Titicaca Lodge
This high-end accommodation option is actually built on one of the floating islands of Uros – a 30-minute boat ride from the coast of Puno. This makes it an ideal place to experience life on the lake. Rooms here are built from wood, and are decorated with regional textiles and ornaments. They all boast incredible views out across the lake.
GHL Hotel Lago Titicaca Puno
Located on Esteves Island – linked by a bridge to the mainland – this large hotel is a polished accommodation option for those wanting a five-star way to stay in Puno. The spacious rooms look over Lake Titicaca, and come with well-appointed bathrooms and high-end amenities.
Inka’s Rest Hostel
Budget but clean and convenient, Inka’s Rest Hostel is a great choice for backpackers and other independent travelers on a budget. It’s location is just a 10-minute walk from the shores of Lake Titicaca, and included in the price of a night’s stay you also get a hearty breakfast to set you up for a day of travel and exploration.
Day 11 – Cusco
Day 11 means you’ll be up bright and early, traveling to the airport where you’ll catch a flight to Cusco. This is a well established route, and your hotel will probably be able to help you arrange the onward travel from Puno, to the airport and onto the flight to Cusco (around one hour).
You’ll have just one night in Cusco, but that’s enough to get a feel of this high-altitude city in the Peruvian Andes – once the capital of the Inca Empire. Here you can spend time walking around the Spanish colonial center, and learn about the archeological remains to be found here.
Sacsayhuaman, for example – a complex known for its impressive walls – is an easy walk from the Plaza de Armas. In addition, all the colonial churches and San Pedro market make day 11 a day full of discovering the city.
Make sure you get a good rest, as the next day you’ll be traveling to the Sacred Valley, and onwards to the world renowned Machu Picchu.
Where to sleep in Cusco
Hilton Garden Inn Cusco
Located just yards from Cusco’s main square, this modern hotel boasts polished rooms and panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Guests can relax in luxurious surroundings, enjoy meals at the onsite restaurant, or order room service. There’s even a 24-hour convenience store located on-site.
Casa Cavassa Centro Histórico Cusco
This charming hotel is set inside a colonial-era villa with contemporary interiors. Guest rooms here are comfortable and come with large beds as well as clean, modern bathrooms. Overall the hotel feels safe and welcoming. The location is great: right in the center of the city.
Hostal Santa Rosa Cusco
A budget-friendly accommodation option, this hostel offers up a friendly place to stay in the heart of Cusco. It’s affiliated with a nearby Catholic school. You’ll have the option to stay in either a homely private room or spacious dorm. The garden is a tranquil spot, while mornings mean a plentiful breakfast.
For more information read my post Where To Stay In Cusco.
Days 12-14 – Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
Arguably the highlight of this classic Peru itinerary, the Sacred Valley – including Machu Picchu – is the reason that many people visit this South American nation. Leaving Cusco, you’ll make your way to the jumping off point – Ollantaytambo.
The best places to visit in the Sacred Valley are Pisac Ruins, Moray Terraces and Maras Salt Mines, other than Ollantaytambo, that is.
Make sure to read my post The Best Guide To The Sacred Valley.
Situated along the Urubamba River, this centuries-old town is largely unchanged from its Inca heyday. Here you can visit the Ollantaytambo ruins: an enormous Inca fortress with hillside stone terraces. Also here is the important Sun Temple and the Princess Baths.
In order to visit the various sites in the Sacred Valley, you will need to get the Cusco Boleto Turistico.
Back in town, you can enjoy a few hours getting lost in the tangle of cobbled streets that still follow the Inca-era layout of the settlement. After dinner at a local restaurant, you can spend the evening resting up ahead of your visit to Machu Picchu.
There are a few ways to get to Macchu Picchu, but the train is the most iconic way to do it. This scenic journey takes two hours as it heads along the valley, with dramatic mountain views all the way to the Aguas Calientes. Once you get to Aguas Calientes, getting to Machu Picchu is a simple matter of a bus (recommended) or walking uphill for two hours.
It’s recommended that you visit Machu Picchu as early as possible, so try to get an early train out of Ollantaytambo. You will also need to get a ticket to the site in advance.
Get your Machu Picchu ticket on GetYourGuide here.
Needless to say, the 15th-century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu – 7,970 feet (around 2,430 meters) above sea level – is almost impossibly impressive. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, understandably, and a bucket list destination for many. It’s no wonder that it’s been dubbed one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World. It’s an awesome finale to your two week Peru itinerary!
Once you can tear yourself away from the incredible views and startling architecture of Machu Picchu, head back to Aguas Calientes for food and relaxation – and if you’re staying in a hot spring hotel, you’ll get to soak away any aches you have from walking around so much during your trip.
After a night resting up in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, catch the train back to Cusco. It’s the final leg of your journey, spending a night in the city before catching a flight from Cusco Airport back to Lima.
Where to sleep in Ollantaytambo
Las Qolqas EcoResort Ollantaytambo
This eco-resort in Ollantaytambo is certainly the luxury option for a memorable place to stay in the Sacred Valley region. The hotel is surrounded by mountain peaks and boasts its own gorgeously maintained gardens. An on-site restaurant serves up delicious meals, while its spa offers a list of treatments.
El Albergue Ollantaytambo
This rustic accommodation option is set in a Spanish colonial-style property, with terracotta tiled terraces and dark wood furnishings – as well as sweeping views out over the High Andes. Rooms here are decorated with regional artwork and textiles. Location-wise, it’s a short walk from the center of town.
A small but welcoming property in the center of Ollantaytambo, Sol Miranda is a good budget option for independent travelers. Rooms here are clean and modern, and the hotel comes with well maintained facilities and friendly staff. The added bonus is that it’s family owned, and has an attached cafe and restaurant.
Where to sleep in Aguas Calientes
A cozy place to stay after your trip to Machu Picchu, this is a warm and welcoming hotel that features its very own bar and restaurant. In terms of location, you’ll find this accommodation option overlooking the river just half a kilometer from Machu Picchu hot springs.
This centrally located hotel is situated a short walk from both the train station and the bus station (for Machu Picchu). The guest house is clean with good showers, spacious rooms and feels safe and secure. Breakfast is served from early in the morning, while there are nearby restaurants for evening meals.
Hotel La Cabaña MachuPicchu
A good mid-range option, the rustic style rooms at this hotel feature wooden furnishings and tiled floors; some even come with their own balconies. Each morning the hotel provides a buffet breakfast, and there’s also an on-site restaurant and bar for evening meals. You’ll find the hotel just yards from Machu Picchu hot springs as well as the train station.
If you have an extra week to spend in Peru, well, lucky you – you can easily add to this Peru itinerary! You’ll have even more time to spend soaking up the culture and history of this fascinating country. If you do have these extra seven days, adding one night to your stay in Lima is a must.
Getting to see some of the city’s interesting neighborhoods – like San Isidro, for example – helps you to get a better insight into how the city ticks. Plus there are so many museums and galleries to check out, the beach to lounge around on, and a whole host of restaurants and bars to sample some of Peru’s finest drinks and dinner. Also, having that extra day helps you adjust and reset, and help prepare you for the travel ahead.
Instead of just breezing by Paracas, you can opt to stay in the coastal town for two nights. The Paracas Peninsula is not only rich in wildlife – with much of the area protected by the Paracas Natural Reserve – it’s also awash with history. One example is El Candelabro, an enormous ancient glyph carved into the rock. The Paracas Culture here is known for their incredibly well preserved textiles, many in pristine condition despite being over 2,000 years old.
There’s also the option to add another night in Cusco. It’s a vibrant, youthful city with plenty to keep you entertained – and many more ancient sites on the doorstep, such as Moray and the Maras Salt Ponds. For this reason, you may want to spend another night in the Sacred Valley (such as at Ollantaytambo), which also has a long list of interesting sights such as Pisac Ruins.
If you really want to make the most of your trip, however, the best addition to this Peru itinerary would be Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This three-night, four-day trek needs to be booked in advance, as you need permits to access the trail, but it’s worth it for keen hikers. It starts around 40 minutes outside of Ollantaytambo and leads to Machu Picchu via the landmark Sun Gate.
Other Useful Information For This Peru Itinerary
Below are some more tips that will help you prepare for your trip.
Make sure to also read my post What You Need To Know Before Visiting Peru.
When to visit Peru
Because it’s home to the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific Coast, vast swathes of desert and the High Andes, the climate throughout Peru is changeable from location to location. Winter generally runs from June to August, with many travelers preferring to visit this time of year. With that in mind, this is the high season as it coincides with many countries’ summer vacations.
September to November is spring time and considered to be a shoulder season. Days are clear and sunny, and hotels and hiking routes are quieter with fewer tourists in the country. The other shoulder season is May to March, autumn. It’s pleasant on the coast, but less so in the Andes.
Summer, from December to February, means high temperatures that’s perfect for lounging around on the beach. That means it’s a great time of year for exploring Islas Ballestas and Paracas.
For those interested in adding the Inca Trail to their Peru itinerary, note that it is closed for preservation during the entire month of February.
Make sure to read my post The Best Time To Visit Peru.
How to get around Peru
Getting around Peru can be done in a number of ways. While many people rely on public transport such as buses and trains, Peru has a well established tourism industry that means private transfers and special train services, for example, are also very much an option.
Bus travel in Peru is the main mode of transport. Buses regularly connect up popular destinations, towns and cities across the country. Long distance bus journeys are normal for travelers and are an affordable way to travel around Peru.
Trains are less common in Peru, but definitely still a viable option for many travelers. Trains connect some of Peru’s most visited tourist sights, most notably Cusco and Machu Picchu. However, train travel is also possible in other parts of the country. The Central Railway, for instance, connects the capital city of Lima with Huancayo along the highest standard-gauge track in the world. If you’re a fan of train travel, you’ll be in heaven in Peru.
Flights are also a quick way of getting around, but can be more pricey than train or bus options – however, for the purpose of this Peru itinerary you will have to count on a few flights. Planes are best used if you’re running on a tight schedule, otherwise there’s not much cause to get flights across Peru the whole time.
Lastly, private transport is very much an option in Peru – especially to help save time and hassle trying to figure out bus timetables. Not only can tour companies offer shared shuttle services and bus journeys, but they can also provide private drivers to take you wherever you want to go.
Safety in Peru
Overall, Peru is a safe country, with general safety for travelers having improved a lot over the years – especially in cities such as Lima. Mostly, the thing that you should be aware of while traveling in the country is petty crime.
Things such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching do occur, particularly in crowded places such as bus and train stations and markets. Make sure to keep your belongings safe and secure, and make sure to try and blend in. Looking too much like a wealthy foreigner may make you more of an easy target. One tip in this regard is to leave your expensive jewelry and shiny iPad safe at home.
Another aspect of safety to consider is the great outdoors. You should make sure you are prepared when heading out into nature, as natural hazards can be just as dangerous as perceived threats in cities. Checking weather reports, researching tour companies and wearing the correct clothing and having the right equipment can make an enormous difference. It’s a good idea to never go trekking or hiking by yourself.
Other things to consider when traveling to Peru are altitude sickness, diarrhea and heat exhaustion. Make sure to take precautions against all of these by carrying the correct medication and staying prepared with protection against the elements.