This 14-day Peru itinerary is the classic backpacker route that includes many of the country’s top attractions. The trip involves a journey through a nature reserve and sand dunes on the country’s desert coast, a visit to the islands of Lake Titicaca, a hike through Cusco and Machu Picchu, and a dab of Lima’s colonial center. While it is a good example of what Peru has to offer, it still leaves out a lot.
If you have extra time, add on a weeklong trip in the north, which has fascinating pre-Inca ruins, excellent hiking, and sandy beaches. Or spend a few more days in the Peruvian Amazon, which is teeming with wildlife and is home to unique indigenous cultures. Getting around is accomplished via a straightforward combination of planes, trains, buses, and combis.
From Lima take a bus to Pisco (3 hours) and a short combi ride to the beach town of Paracas, where you can enjoy the sunset over the Pacific.
Explore Reserva Nacional de Paracas and the Islas Ballestas. Watch sea lions and endangered Humboldt penguins and picnic on a wilderness beach. In the evening, take a bus to Ica (1 hour) and then a short taxi ride to Lago Huacachina, where you’ll spend one night.
Sandboard on the dunes above Lago Huacachina and then tour a pisco bodega. After a late lunch, take a bus to Nasca (2 hours).
Enjoy a morning overflight of the Nasca Lines. Afterward, take the bus to Arequipa (6.5 hours), where you’ll check in for a two-night stay.
Tour sophisticated Arequipa, a sparkling white city best known for the 17th-century Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Take a flight or bus trip from Arequipa to Puno (7 hours by bus).
Explore Lake Titicaca with a day tour of Islas Amantaní and Islas Uros. Return to Puno for the night, or consider a stay with a family on Islas Amantaní.
Continue onward to Cusco. From Puno you can fly, take a direct nonstop train, or ride a tour bus that allows you to see the ruins along the way (9 hours). Upon arrival, grab a 1.5-hour taxi or combi ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, a living Inca village in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley.
Recharge in the lush surroundings of the Sacred Valley. Options include touring Ollantaytambo’s old Inca city and the Temple of the Sun, rafting the Río Urubamba, and going horseback riding or day hiking on one of the area’s many Inca trails. On the second day, walk or mountain bike from the Inca ruins of Moray down a steep valley past the Salineras, or salt mines, and back to Ollantaytambo.
Take an early morning train to Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley. Spend a full day at Machu Picchu, then hop on the afternoon train-and-bus combination back to Cusco.
Tour the Cusco area, where you will have two days to appreciate the churches, the artisanal neighborhood of San Blas, and the fortress of Sacsayhuamán.
From Cusco, catch a morning flight to Lima’s airport, where you can leave your bags, and then take a quick look at the city center and enjoy a gourmet dinner in Miraflores. Then hop a red-eye for home.
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