Before I started researching how to spend my two weeks in Peru, I had absolutely no idea where else to head other than Machu Picchu and I had no idea how to get around (didn’t even know how to get to Machu Picchu). After a bit of googling I soon realised there was loadsss to see. So here it is, my two week Peru itinerary. I’ve split it up place by place so you can decide to stay longer / shorter if you have less or more time (I’ve put my recommended amount of time in each place at the bottom of the post). 🙂
In terms of flights, I would recommend flying into Lima and out of Cusco (or vice versa…OR no return flight and continuing on to Bolivia if you have longer) – but it may be cheaper to get a return flight to say Lima and then take an internal back from Cusco to Lima…have a research.
So, the perfect itinerary for two weeks in Peru….
Lima is a great starting point for your trip. It’s the capital of Peru and absolutely huge. You really don’t need more than a couple of days in Lima if you only have two weeks in Peru as it’s not the prettiest city – I had one day here and after that was ready to move on with my trip as there are way better places to see. If you’re working out how to spend one day in Lima, I would recommend getting a driver so you can get to all the best bits (Lima Old Town, Rimac (Lima’s slums), some good viewpoints & Lima’s street art district).
Paracas is nicknamed ‘the poor mans Galapagos’ (as it’s a similar experience but I imagine nowhere near as good) so that gives you an idea of what it’s all about. But only go here if you like birds and the smell of shit. Na joking, it’s cool, we saw penguins & South American sealions but the smell is prolific. If you’re not that into birds then I would say you could skip this stop. You definitely don’t need to stay the night in Paracas as the town is quite small & basic with nothing going on, so if you’re thinking of stopping here just do so for the day on the way through to Huacachina. We took a boat trip to Islas Ballestas – this lasted a couple of hours and cost around 50 soles. You can book this really easily in Paracas on the same day.
This is a cute little oasis found right in the middle of a huge desert and is definitely worth a trip. The main activity to do here is sand boarding and dune buggying, and obviously exploring the tiny little village. If you’re not keen on the sand boarding part you can still go up in the dune buggy for all the amazing views. In general it’s just a cool place to see, I haven’t seen anywhere quite like it before.
Nazca is the place to go if you’re interested in seeing the Nazca lines. It’s possible to take a short flight over the area so you can see it all better – I would recommend this as you barely see anything from the little viewing tower on the road between Huacachina and Nazca. I didn’t take a flight but I heard they were around £80 – £100.
Arequipa actually surprised me – it’s a big city with a beautiful main square and a back drop of stunning mountains – I loved it. There’s a lot going on as well with good night life (Wild Rover Hostel and Deja Vu were good) and nice restaurants too. Arequipa is the main stop for people doing the Colca Canyon, which I highly recommend by the way. I would even go as far as saying I preferred the Colca Canyon over Machu Picchu! It’s gorgeous!
OH MY GOD the Colca Canyon is amazing, better than Machu Picchu for me. DO IT!
There are multiple ways to see the Colca Canyon. The main way is to hike, either by doing a 2, 3 or 4 night trip. If you’re not much of a hiker like me, you can opt to take either a full day tour or a 2 day 1 night tour. I took the 2 day 1 night tour with Colonial Tours (100 soles), I would definitely recommend either a hike or the 2 day 1 night trip in order to see the most you can. Other people that chose the full day tour had to get up at 4am and got back to Arequipa very late at night, like 10pm / 11pm. It’s a lot of driving for one day and you don’t see as much so if you have the time then I would say do the 2 day 1 night tour at least. 🙂
Accommodation for the 2 day 1 night is in Chivay, a very basic town in the middle of nowhere, but still has an Irish bar! All of these tours can be booked in Arequipa at tour agencies right up to the day before you want to go. No need to pre book weeks in advance.
Cusco is gorge! About 100000 times nicer than Lima. Think small cobbled streets, a beautiful main square with big historic buildings, twinkling lights up on the hill etc. Barely any pollution unlike Lima. I stayed 4 nights in Cusco (including my overnight Machu Picchu trip) but could have stayed longer.
As I said up there, I had no idea how the whole Machu Picchu thing worked. Like the Colca Canyon, there are loads of different ways to do Machu Picchu: trek, bus or train.
Read more: How to get to Machu Picchu
Rainbow Mountain is another popular trip to take from Cusco, you’ve probably seen loads of photos of it on Facebook / Instagram etc. Again, you can book this tour up until really last minute at a travel agency in Cusco (around 60 soles). It’s around a 2 hour drive from Cusco, followed by a hike that is apparently quite tough as it’s steep and at a high altitude. There are donkeys on hand to carry your bags / you up if you need…
There are tonnes of treks you can do from Cusco. A few guys I hung out with for a while did the 4 night Salkantay trek which was also apparently quite hard, but with amazing views which made it worth it.
Puno is the town right by lake Titicaca, so if you wanna see the lake, you need to head here. But I’m not gunna sugar coat it, Puno was crap. We stopped here on our Peru Hop bus on the way to La Paz, luckily we hadn’t chosen to spend a night there because honestly it was awful. To be fair, we arrived early doors at like 8am but the town was deserted, the lake was dirty and full of rubbish and even had big disney boats lined up on the bank ready for the tourists.
We took a trip onto Uros floating islands and that was terrible. It just felt like they had shipped us over to the island especially for us to buy a load of crap they had set up on stalls for us. We had barely been there a minute before they had started to try and sell us things. If you want my advice and you’re not that into lakes anyway, avoid Puno. There are much better lakes in the UK…
Things to note…
How long should I stay in each place?
For two weeks in Peru I would recommend: 1 or 2 nights Lima (depending on your flight), 1 night Huacachina, 1 night Nazca, 2 nights Arequipa, 1 night Colca Canyon, 1 night Arequipa, 2 nights Cusco, 1 night Aguas Calientes, 2 night Cusco. Of course, if you are interested in trekking Colca Canyon / Machu Picchu then you will need to either cut down on nights somewhere or stay in Peru longer.
How to get around?
I took buses between each place, which really is the only way to do it. You can either take local buses (booking each leg at a travel agency a day or two before) or you can do Peru Hop, like I did. Peru Hop basically stops at all of these points and takes the stress out of organising everything. Bear in mind that these are long distances and involve a night bus or two – to give you an idea my longest journey without any stops was around 9 hours and shortest journey was 4 hours.
If you aren’t keen on taking buses then you would have to fly straight from Lima to Cusco and miss out most of the inbetween. I met people along the way who did this, and is still worth it if you want to see Machu Picchu but don’t have the time for all of the inbetween. The only thing I would say is that you are missing out on the Colca Canyon which I personally think is an absolute must for Peru – preferred it to Machu Picchu!
How to book things?
You really do NOT need to pre book anything at all before your trip, including accommodation (apart from the Inca Trail if that’s what you’re keen to do). There is always going to be space and you will always get the best deal / recommendations booking 1 or 2 days before from local travel agencies in the cities /towns as you go. I left London with my first nights accommodation in Lima booked and then I booked everything else along the way. This is definitely the best way to do it as it leaves you open and flexible with your route / planning. If you’re thinking of doing the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu then this is the exception to the rule as this needs to be booked in advance.
Other posts you may enjoy if you’re planning a trip to Peru:
Heading to Bolivia next?
The perfect itinerary for one week in Bolivia (including info on the Amazon)