My Peru Itinerary
I don’t usually set off for a country with a developed itinerary. Sometimes, things are scheduled more or less to the minute, like my eight days in Iceland. Sometime, my plans for five months in Southeast Asia can be summarized as — and I don’t want to overwhelm you here with how detailed this is — “go to Southeast Asia for five months.”
There are a few reasons why things are so mapped out when it comes to my trip to Peru. One is the Inca Trail reservation — it is ironclad and must be booked months in advance, so once you have it you kind of need to work around it and make sure that you’re in Cusco forty eight hours ahead of your start time for official check in. Not to mention, there are tons of festivals going on in Peru around my time there, and I tried to devise a route that would allow me to hit up a couple of them.
Another major reason for my pre-planning is that I am lucky enough to have some special people joining me for set periods along the way. Understandably, when someone is taking what will possibly be their only major international trip for the next year or two, they might want to make sure they fit in a few highlights and nail down something more solid than, “Hey, let’s just chill in Lima for however long and just see where the wind takes us!”
A final factor is that for this trip I have worked out some really cool partnerships with travel brands I love, like Viator and Hostelworld. I’ve also pitched stories to my freelancing outlets that have led to some really fantastic opportunities. It’s a perfect balance for me — unlike a press trip I am making my own itinerary, setting my own schedule, self-funding the vast majority of my trip, and maintaining 100% of my freedom. Yet thanks to those partnerships and assignments I can lower my travel costs, earn a bit of cash, and stretch my budget further — which means more travel for me and more content for you. Yay!
This will be a budget backpacking trip, with a few fun splurges thrown in. I’ll be staying primarily in hostels, with a few hotels thrown in there thanks to various freelancing gigs. One area I always tend to spend big in is activities — what can I say, I’m a yes girl! As far as transit I’ll be traveling primarily by bus with the exception of crazy cheap Star Peru flights to Iquitos ($148 RT from Lima) and Puerto Maldonado ($90 RT from Cusco — for comparison, the bus takes twenty hours and cost $70 RT!)
• 11 Days / Iquitos / My first stop will be the Amazon. Here I’ll be reviewing one of Viator’s jungle trips (in conjunction with a fun giveaway coming up on Alex in Wanderland!) followed by a few days exploring the city and catching up on work. Then, courtesy of one of my freelance writing gigs, I head out on a luxury river cruise. I know, right? Tough job.
• 3 Days / Lima / Zoe arrives! I wish we had more time here but we are rushed somewhat by our Inca Trail reservation. We’re planning to go paragliding, check out the El Señor de los Milagros Festival, and take advantage of Miraflores’ trendy food and nightlife scene. I also have a few Viator tour reviews to do, which Zoe will be my trusty assistant on!
• 3 Days / Huacachina / Again, I wish we had more time here, but we’re going to make the most of this desert oasis and try sandboarding and dune buggying, lounge by our hostel pool, and go on a tour of nearby Ica’s wineries. Depending on how our wallets feel, we may pop south to fly over the famous Nazca lines. Then it’s off on an overnight bus to Cusco.
• 8 Days / Cusco and the Inca Trail / We’re doing the classic trek. Thankfully, we don’t have anything planned for this time aside from the hike and celebrating Halloween and it’s Peruvian cousin, Día de todos los Santos Vivos.
• 4 Days / Puno / This might seem like a lot of time to those who dismiss Puno as “a total dump” but one of those days is taken up entirely with travel. The rest will be dedicated to checking out Puno Week festivities and taking an overnight trip to the islands of Lake Titicaca.
• 7 Days / Arequipa and Colca Canyon / We arrive in Arequipa just in time to celebrate my birthday! Depending on our energy levels we might take advantage of all the hiking, biking and rafting that Arequipa has to offer… or we might just chill. After Zoe leaves I’ll head into Colca Canyon (independently or on a tour will depend on whether or not I find a buddy — as a lady traveler I don’t hike alone!) We don’t have any accommodation booked here so I’d love your suggestions.
• 8 Days / Cusco / An overnight bus from Arequipa will bring me back to Cusco, where I’ll meet…. Anders! He and a friend will have just arrived in Peru. While the boys head off on an alternative Inca Trek, I’m going to relax in the city and catch up on work.
• 9 Days / Cusco to Lima / Once the boys are back, we will head overland towards Lima, probably stopping in Paracas and Huacachina along the way. One we hit Lima, this group of scuba addicts is diving right in… to a sea lion colony!
• 6 Days / Puerto Maldonado / As Anders’ friend boards a plane back to Sweden, we’re going to be hopping on a flight of our own, to the heart of the Peruvian rainforest. We’re going to document the heck out of our adventure tour to South America’s most remote jungle lodge — between my photos and Anders’ videos you’ll basically be there right along with us.
• And Beyond… / These plans will bring me into December, and my next move will depend on what I decide to do about the holidays. Right now, I’m reveling in seeing blank spaces on my calendar.
Now that you know where I’m heading, I’d love your help. Are there any restaurants along the way I just can’t miss? Is the Nazca lines flight worth it? Would you do Lake Titicaca independently or with a tour? What about the Colca Canyon? I hope you aren’t getting sick of me using the comments section as my own personal travel agency, ’cause I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say.
Top image sources clockwise from top left. Book photo by me. Destination photos are edited by me and sourced from the following locations: Iquitos, Lima, Huacachina, Machu Picchu, Puno, Cusco, Paracas, Puerto Maldonado.
This my ultimate dream (now alongside Burning Man!), South America is top of the list of places I want to visit one day so I’m looking forward to these posts already! Living the dream Alex! 🙂
Thanks Sally! Cant believe I leave so soon! Eeek!
Aw to have your life…. Im jealous 🙂 I’ll have to live through your travel adventures for the next while as I’m stuck doing my art hdip! The joys!
Emma, what is an “hdip?” Is it an abbreviation for a kind of degree? I have a BFA so I am so curious! 🙂
Astounding itinerary! I’m still trying to pronounce the words. Have fun and stay safe.
I will say them all for you when I next visit 🙂
Wow, you are hitting it all!!! I wish I had had more time. I did the Classic Inca trail the week before Labor Day and it was such a great experience. Although Machu Picchu is astounding, I think the trail is much more spiritual- and MUCH less crowded. Make sure you hike Wayna Picchu as well because the view is unreal. Which guide service are you using? I went with Enigma and they were fantastic.
As far as restaurants, try Cicciolina in Cusco and if you’re a meat eater, order the Alpaca. Mayta in Lima was really good as well and it’s owned by Jaime Pesaque who also has a restaurant in NYC.
Excited to read about your take on the hike. ENJOY!
Thanks for the restaurant recommendations, Natalie! I just added them to my trip notes 🙂 We are using Llama Path for the trail. I heard great things about Enigma as well!
Food in Peru that is an absolute must to eat. Ceviche, Cuy, Anticucho de Corazon, Pollo a la Brasa and Picarones, all washed down with a Pisco Sour or Cusquena and to avoid altitude sickness, a nice Coca Leaf tea…
Many thanks for those tips — I just added them to my trip notes!
I’ve never made this trip so I don’t have any advice but I am super jealous of your plans to dive with sea lions! I can’t wait to read all about it. Safe travels.
I have no idea how exactly that is going to happen as the internet hasn’t given me any clues, but I know I’ll make it work! Sounds like a must-do for a diver!
I have a feeling that your trip to Peru is going to make me want to head there at once! First you made me want to travel South East Asia (you’re honestly the reason I started considering it at all and I can’t wait for next summer!) and now you probably make me want to travel South America as well. I have to thank you for a lot! 🙂 I hope you have a magnificent time!
Aw, I’m excited for you for your Southeast Asia trip! And who knows, you might soon be making plans for the summer after 🙂
This sounds beyond amazing! Peru is one of my top destinations 🙂 Can’t wait to read all about it!
Thanks Erica! It’s been high on my list for some time. Can’t believe it’s really happening.
This sounds so fun! I’m heading to South America next year so I can’t to read about your time in Peru 🙂
Awesome! I’ll be sure to provide lots of wanderlust inspiration and useful info 🙂
God I can’t freaking wait for you to be in my favorite continent!!!!!!!!!!!
Ah, someday we will overlap there, Andi!
You will absolutely love Arequipa, it is such a cool, chilled city. Make sure to go to the market and have food there – the ceviche and chupa de camarones is so, so, so good. If you can find a travel buddy, do Colca canyon separately. The trails are well marked and guides are generally unnecessary.
Ah, so good to hear that, Naomi! Were there a lot of other people doing it solo? In your opinion, would it be safe for a solo woman to do?
Don’t think I met anyone doing it by themselves as during the day, it gets so hot, I think you need a companion just in case. But everyone I met who did it independently had their trekking partners in Arequipa so I’m sure you’ll find someone to do it with you!
Good to hear! Thanks for the tips Naomi!
Wow, what an amazing itinery! Can’t wait to follow along (and I’m very jealous of the luxury Amazon cruise- wow!) 🙂
I am really looking forward to that as well, but maybe not for the reason you’d think… I’m actually looking forward to a vacation without wifi! I’ll still be working I’m sure, but to do so internet-free will feel like a gift 🙂
Sounds like you have an amazing trip planned Alex! This is one part of the world I’m hoping to visit soon!
Thanks Caroline! Hopefully I can give you some ideas for when you make it there as well!
Wow! This trip sounds like something my Spanish class would do over the summer. Maybe Perú is a more exciting trip than I would’ve thought!
Hopefully I can prove that with all the posts I’ll have coming up 🙂 Thanks for reading, Nate!
That sounds like an incredible trip! We hope to go to Peru next year, so we’re looking forward to your future posts!
Awesome! I hope I can provide some great daydream material for you guys then!
sorry, no tips, But I am looking forward to your posts and photo’s. Good Luck, be Safe and Have fun!
Thanks Helois! Really appreciate it.
Food isn’t great in South America, definitely not the main attraction for me but that being said there’s definitely gems to be found! Did the Nazca flight and I thought it was worth it but I studied Anthropology at university so I thoroughly enjoyed it – it was wayyy to short and you only get 1-2 passes of each figure on the ground, and they are still very far away! Another option to the flight is just stopping at the view towers – you can see a few from there, just not as well. Don’t expect to get great photos either since they blend right in! Take a motion sickness pill before cuz there’s lots of sharp turns, but it was fun!
If you’re going to Bolivia for Lake Titicaca do it independently from Copacobana and visit Isla del Sol – amazing place, not touristy. It’s definitely touristy from the Puno/Peru side but it’s beautiful too however the locals absolutely put on a little show for you and it’s not very authentic and there’s tons of other tourists around.
Colca Canyon you should do with a tour – if you spend a tiny bit more and do the 3 day you’ll be in a much smaller group (we were 7 including guide)and its not rushed like the 2 day! you get time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the canyon while still hiking 3-5 hours per day. Incredible place, not to be missed!
I’ve written about our experience in Colca and seeing Lake Titicaca from Peru AND Bolivia on my blog, Nazca is coming! Ohhhh I’m SO excited for you!
Thanks for all the tips, Shannon! I read your posts about the Colca Canyon tour — they were great! Sadly I’m not going to pop over to the Bolivian side (I don’t think) as the visa is too expensive to justify a short trip.
This looks good. I am feeling pangs of jealously. Look forward to reading about your trip.
Thanks Steve! I’m looking forward to writing about it!
SO happy for you!!! Tink and I loved South America on the trip with Dick and Sammi, you’ll have a great time! Can’t wait to read all about it!
I didn’t know you were on that trip! Fun to know 🙂
Oh cool, ya I have a bachelor of fine art in printmaking! The hdip is the higher diploma which is the one year course to become a secondary school art teacher! It’s hell 🙁
Aw, I’m sorry to hear that Emma! I’m sure it will all pay off in the end. Good luck!
This looks freakin fantastic Alex! You’re going to love Peru! I spent almost two months and only went Lima and north…the country is SO BIG. We really didn’t anticipate how long traveling between the different regions would take. My two cents worth – always splurge for a full cama on the bus (the reclining seats that go 100% down) and in Iquitos, I only hope that you fare better than I did with the street sharks hawking tours …. after 3 days I ended up having a nervous breakdown and screaming at them to leave me the f#$( alone and that they were ruining my holiday. They were absolutely incessant and over the top. I do have fond memories of beers on the promenade overlooking the river and scored a good deal on a longboat to the butterfly sanctuary and seeing the pink river dolphins. Also, there is a floating bar in the river with some cool people and reggae jams if you’re brave enough to get down the walkway through the lilypads. It’s the best at night all lit up. Enjoy 🙂
Oh Zoe and I are SO splurging on the VIP seats 🙂 It was one of the first thing we discussed when we decided to travel together! Ha!
Incredible itinerary! Though I have no tips to add, I’ve never been 🙂 Dying to go though so can’t wait to hear about your trip so I can take some ideas for my own! 😉 Especially can’t wait to hear about the Inca Trail. x
Eeeek! I’m so excited too Jacquie! Can’t wait to start posting…
I’ve heard that the amazon is incredibly! What a great itinerary you have made. I hope to go to South America some day.
I’m lucky to get tons of time in the Amazon on this trip! I think around 2.5 weeks in total. Can’t wait.
I’m so excited to see a different region of the world through your eyes. It’s going to be so drastically different than Southeast Asia! Question: Is the diving a big tourist attraction in Peru, or is it more just for the hardcore addicts like you who must find somewhere to dive, even if you were traveling in a landlocked country? =)
Ha, no…. it’s just for us crazies! I haven’t been able to find too much info on diving with the sea lions in Lima but I know it is possible! There is some traditional reef diving all the way up in Mancora as well.
Great blog Alex! I’ve been thinking of visiting Peru as well for my trip next year and will be looking forward to reading about your experience.
Be sure to post where you find the best pisco sour 🙂
Actually one of the tours I’m doing in Lima is a pisco sour lesson! I’ll try to post a recipe 🙂
OMG, this looks so exciting and makes me even more excited about my Peru trip next year. I can’t wait to read about it all, as I have a pretty similar itinerary. And you are going to be re-united with Anders. How lovely! 🙂
I should start posting about it pretty soon, as well! Look out for my first Amazon posts next week!
Alex this is a great itinerary! I’m definitely using it as a reference!
I just started my trip in Lima last week but because I need to fly to the Galapagos tomorrow from Guayaquil Ecuador, I just moved right up north, from Lima to Trujillo to Zorritos.
For Lima, in Miraflores (I stayed in Dragonfly Hostel which was awesome) right by the Parque Kennedy, Lu Lucha serves up great sandwiches with juicy meat of all kind and fresh fruit juices! Also try Anticuchos (skewered beef heart) served up by the crowdes food stands near the mercado in central Lima!
Well enjoy your trip and I hope I might bump into you somewhere when I return to Peru in November!
Thanks for the tips Kat and do keep in touch so we can perhaps rendezvous!
Wow! Sounds like an awesome plan and I will definitely check your itinerary again when I’m going to Peru, hopefully sometimes in the next few years 😉
I’ll be sure to report back on how this one worked for me — and if I end up sticking to it!
Hey there! I stumbled on your blog from the Go Girl blog- i am actually heading down to Colombia and then Ecuador/Peru/Bolivia for the next month ( i leave the US on 12/16) I am heading out on my own and only have a very loose itinerary- if you are interested in meeting up somewhere in any of those countries and sharing some of your travel experiences i would love to get some recommendations!
That sounds like an amazing trip, Gillian! The best way to keep track of me in real time is to follow me on Instagram… give me a shout if we are getting close to each other, I’d love to meet up!
Sitting at work reading your itinerary for Peru and doing a dance inside (as the students can’t see this ‘travelling in less that 100 days’ dance). We fly to Peru after SXSW in March, can’t wait to get my hiking boots on.
Awesome! Peru is magical. You’re going to LOVE it!
Hey I’m going to be traveling Peru during this same time coming down from Central America. I’d love to run into you. Check out the blog cuzcoeats.com for a local’s guide to great eating, history, and culture of Cuzco and all of Peru. He does amazing work and I can see you wanting to work/meet him.
Hey Natalie, this post is from 2013 so I’m not in South America anymore 🙂 Enjoy your trip!
I am sure you had a great time in Peru – did you finally do the Nazca lines flight?
We just got back from a month in Peru and did the flights – the sights were amazing, but the plane ride, errr, a little traumatic. It was a tiny tiny aircraft and the pilot seemed to be enjoying treating it like a toy and doing these crazy manoeuvres. Still, glad that we did the flight.
Peru is such a great country – would love to go back!
I did indeed — and wrote a post about it! You can find it in my very extensive Peru archives. I agree… it was nerve-wracking but worthwhile!
Hey. If you are going to the San Martin/Tarapoto area, we have a place for you to camp for 50 soles ($15) p/p per week. The price includes free access to an outdoor fully equipped kitchen, solar charging for phones and tablets and free organic fruits you can pick directly from the tree at the site. There is also 3G connection, and we are working on implementing i Wireless signal on the site. We are located 30 minutes from Tarapoto. Public transportation available straight to the property. Contact us on email@example.com for more information. Best Jenny & Jostein.
Sounds like a cool place! Best of luck with your endeavor.
Hi Alex! I am heading off to Cusco end of October and will be doing a Jungle trek to Machu Picchu, volunteering in Cusco for 6 weeks after. I am in a hostel my first two nights. While I do speak a fair amount of Spanish, I have never been to South American before or traveled alone for this long. Do you have any tips/have any specific things I should know about Cusco in terms of keeping myself safe? I am quite comfortable with the idea of traveling alone but since I am young (22) my mum is quite nervous. Thank you!
Hey Kate! What an amazing adventure you have ahead 🙂 I would get an unlocked phone with a local SIM card in it, and program in the local emergency services number, so you always have a way to call for help if you find yourself in a pickle. Some women feel more comfortable traveling with a personal alarm or whistle, too. If that makes you or your mom feel better, go for it! Mostly, I’d use the same precautions I would at home — know where you’re going so you don’t stand around on the street corner looking lost or staring at a map, avoid walking alone at night when possible, drink responsibly, etc. Wishing you a safe and happy trip!