Do you want to travel a month in Peru? In this article, I’ll share the perfect itinerary, including the Andes mountains, the desert, colorful cities, and a lot of ancient Inca ruins.
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Day 1-3: Lima
A lot of the people who travel to Peru, skip Lima, but it’s absolutely worth it to stay a couple of days. Lima is probably the city you arrive when you fly to Peru, so you might as well stay for a while. The most fun things to do:
– Free walking tour in the historical city center
– Enjoy the views and the parks at the boulevard in Miraflores
– See some street art in colorful Barranco
Day 4-8: Explore the Andes near Huaraz
If you don’t like running into hordes of tourists, I would highly recommend visiting the town of Huaraz after your stay in Lima. It’s not as touristy as the southern part of Peru and you will really see how the locals live. Huaraz is at an altitude of 3000 meters, so take it slow the first day you arrive. You really need to get used to the altitude to avoid altitude sickness. Around the town, you will see snow-capped high peaks of the Cordillera Blanca and the town is a great spot for going on hikes in the Andes. There are many beautiful places for hiking, so ask around in your hostel or hotel for the best hikes. A couple of nice (and popular) hikes:
– half day hike to Laguna Wicacocha
– Paramount trek at Laguna Páron (only organized by Akilpo)
– Santa Cruz trek (4 days)
Day 9: Go biking in the desert near Paracas
After being in the mountains for some time, it’s nice to go back to sea level. Next stop: Paracas. It’s a quiet and sleepy village with a lot of boats and even more birds. From the harbour in Paracas there are daily departures for tours to the Islas Ballestas (also known as the poor man’s Galapagos). You are not allowed to visit the island, only to sail around them. You will see penguins, pelicans and sea lions and a lot of stinky bird poo. Another place to explore from Paracas is the Reserva Nacional the Paracas. You can take an organized bus tour (like all the other tourists), but it’s way more fun to rent a bike and explore the reserve by yourself. The route is approximately 30 kilometers and you will be completely alone most of the time. It’s an awesome bike ride in the desert, with beautiful cliffs (you might see penguins again!) and at the end, you might even see some flamingoes!
Day 10: Climb to the top of a giant sand dune in Huacachina
Do you feel like relaxing for a bit? Then it’s time to visit Huacachina, a oasis-like spot in the desert. It’s almost always warm and sunny and pretty much every hostel or hotel has a pool. There are some huge sand dunes surrounding Huacachina, great for climbing (awesome views!), take a buggy tour or slide down using a sand board.
Day 11-17: Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
When you’re done relaxing it’s time to go back to the mountains! You can take a night bus (13 hours) to Arequipa (at 2300 meters). Arequipa is home to a beautiful historical city center and is situated between multiple volcanoes. Some of the best things to do in Arequipa:
– visit the Santa Catalina monastery. It’s in the middle of the city and it feels like you’re in a small and colorful village.
– learn something about the rituals of the Inca’s in Museo Santuarios Andinos. Here you will also see the famous Inca-mummy (or ice maiden), Juanita. Which is a little lugubrious, but also very interesting to see.
– Visit the Colca Canyon with a multi-day (or if you’re in a hurry a one-day) tour. The Colca Canyon is even deeper (twice!) than the famous Grand Canyon and there’s a big chance of seeing the enormous Andes-condors flying around.
Day 18-19: Explore the islands in Lake Titicaca
From Arequipa, it’s only a couple of hours to Puno. There’s not a lot of things to do in this town (except for souvenir shopping), but it’s the gateway to Lake Titicaca. At an altitude of 3812 meters, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the biggest lake in South America. You can take a one-day tour, in that case, you will visit the (touristic) Uros Islands and Amantaní island or Taquile island (both are insanely beautiful). But it’s even better to take a multi-day tour, so you will sleep on one of the islands and are able to see the most beautiful sunset ever.
Day 20-30: Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Save the best for last: which is Cusco! You will never have enough time to explore everything around Cusco and the Sacred Valley because there is so many you can see and or do in this area. You can do a multi-day hike to Machu Picchu (book ahead if you want to do the famous Inca Trail, you can book all the other ones in Cusco), but there’s also many ancient Inca ruins and great trails in the Sacred Valley. Cusco itself is a great and relaxing place to stay, with the historical city center, great markets (souvenirs!) and the beautiful neighborhood of San Blas.
Spice it up
Do you prefer traveling fast or do you only want to take night buses? Then you’ll have some extra time to explore more destinations like:
– The Nazca Lines (only visible if you get into a tiny airplane). I skipped this one because I don’t like being in a small aircraft and other travelers told me Nazca was not a fun place to be.
– The Amazon at Puerto Maldonado. If you have another week in Cusco, this is a great trip. From Cusco, it’s only a one hour flight to Puerto Maldonado and from here you can take a multi-day tour into the Amazone. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to go here (and it’s quite expensive), so I’m saving this one for a next trip.
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