Wow! I just got back from an incredible two week adventure in Peru with Travis and two friends! If this country is on your bucket list I highly recommend checking it out. I'm not one to usually toot my own horn, but I have to say that this trip was pretty legit. I did a lot of research beforehand and spoke with many friends that had been to Peru to come up with what I believe was the ultimate two week adventure. So after all the hard work of putting together an itinerary I wanted to share it with all of you!
For those interested in copying this trip let me give you a heads up on my travel style :) We travel with backpacking backpacks and not suitcases, so we can move around easier. I tend to lean towards getting in as much as one can (so our days were pretty packed), I try to get as much local feel as possible (we didn't stay in fancy hotels and we did a lot of bus travel) and I love being active (we did a lot of walking, including two day Inca trek). So if you are more of a laid back, fancy and take your time sort of traveler you may need to adjust some of the days/activties we did below.
I knew we had only two weeks to see as much as we could while in Peru. When you look into all the possibilities there is honestly so much to see, it is a bit overwhelming, so I had to narrow down what was the most important to us. We wanted to get a small taste of the capital (Lima), but not being big city people we only spent half a day there. We then continued to the Amazon (Yes, Peru has the Amazon) and made our way up in elevation to some of the highest points in Peru (Lake Titicaca) before finishing our trip in Cusco. We decided to end our trip in Cusco because we knew we would be buying a lot of textiles (we brought an extra bag that we stuffed with our purchased goodies and didn't want to be dragging that around the whole trip). We also ended in Cusco after traveling in higher elevation so that we could adapt to the high altitude and be comfortable in the city, as well as not getting altitude sickness while hiking the two day trek (remember we come from Key West!).
We booked all our hotels and flights in advance and printed our itinerary so we always knew where we were off to next. I honestly don't think I could pick a favorite part as everything was so different and such an incredible experience! Here is the day by day breakdown of what we did! :) Feel free to message me if you have any questions.
DAY 1 | ARRIVE IN LIMA LATE NIGHT - Almost all flights from USA have to arrive in Lima and they almost all arrive late night. We got in at 10pm and went straight to hotel. We made sure to have a tasty Pisco Sour (local drink) as soon as we got settled in!
TRAVEL: 35 minute travel from airport to our selected hotel. They do have uber (if you can get wifi or have service) and taxi stands in order to get a ride to your hotel.
HOTEL: 1900 Backpackers Hostel [http://www.1900hostel.com] We decided on a hostel for cost reasons. They had breakfast you could purchase here. We picked one near the historic center so we could explore the next morning.
DAY 2 | EXPLORE LIMA THEN FLY TO IQUITOS - Morning and afternoon exploring Lima so we could get a taste of the city. We started off walking around the centre of Lima looking at colonial buildings. Took a taxi to Miraflores to see the coast and ate lunch at Punto Azul [Calle San Martin 595, Miraflores 15074, Peru]. Some of the best ceviche we have ever had! Then we took a cab to airport for flight to Iquitos. After landing in Iquitos we went to hotel and explored "The Boulevard" promenade for food and drinks.
FLIGHT: 6pm flight from Lima to Iquitos via Peruvian Air (not our favorite on this trip, they were always running a few hours late). We did fly Viva Air and liked them way better. So find the best flight that works for your timing.
HOTEL: Hotel EPOCA [http://www.epoca.com.pe] One room, four guests
TRAVEL: 30 minute travel from Iquitos to hotel (provided by hotel).
DAY 3-5 | EXPLORE AMAZON AND JUNGLE - There are many options for exploring the Amazon in Peru. We decided on Iquitos because the town is only accessible by plane or boat (thought that was pretty cool! and therefore tuk-tuks are the main form of transportation). I also did a lot of research and we chose Libertad Jungle Lodge for our Amazon adventure because it had great prices and was 100% community based tourism. We had the opportunity to walk around the community and learn all about their lifestyle on the river.
TRAVEL: Arranged with the lodge - 8AM pick up to transport to Libertad lodge which was about a two hour car ride and two hour boat ride, but totally worth it.
HOTEL: Libertad Jungle Lodge [http://www.iquitos-tour.com/en/jungle-tours-Libertad] This really was such an amazing highlight! We chose the 3 Day, 2 Night jungle experience. You have a private guide the whole time and get to pick what activities you'd like to do. We did the following: canoe trip down black river, all day jungle tour, fishing for piranhas, played volleyball with community, local tour of community including making your own crafts, night tour searching for crocodiles and tarantulas. They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room. You have your own private hut with a shower, bathroom and mosquito netting for sleeping. They have electricity from 6pm-9pm so you can charge camera batteries, phones, etc. I was pretty nervous about the Amazon at first but it was so worth it and we felt safe the whole time with our guide!
DAY 5 | HEAD BACK TO IQUITOS FOR FLIGHT TO LIMA - We spent the last morning in the jungle and then took a boat and car back to the Iquitos airport where we flew to Lima. We had to stop here on our way to Arequipa and since we wanted the most amount of time on our last day in the Amazon we chose a late flight to Lima, spent the night and flew to Arequipa early the next morning.
FLIGHT: 8:15pm flight from Iquitos to Lima. Peruvian air was delayed once again and we got in super late so we just stayed at the airport hotel.
HOTEL: Wyndham (more pricey but it's literally a two minute walk from the airport and we wanted to avoid walking far in the city late night). They provide free breakfast early morning.
DAY 6 | FLY LIMA TO AREQUIPA AND EXPLORE CITY - I found this to be one of the cutest towns. Known as La Ciudad Blanca for its beautiful colonial buildings made of sillar, or white volcanic stone. This city is surrounded by volcanos and the perfect location to start our next tour of the beautiful Colca Canyon. I could really feel the high altitude (7,600 ft) so I spent the morning sleeping and drinking a lot of water (I also started taking medication to avoid altitude sickness just to be safe - you're dr can fill you in more on this). Everyone else explored the city by just walking around. I spent the later afternoon exploring Monasterio de Santa Catalina, one of the finest examples of colonial religious architecture in the Americas, Very Pretty! Some other ideas on things to do in Arequipa.
FLIGHT: 7am flight from Lima to Arequipa via VivaAir. This was an early flight but worth getting to Arequipa to explore as much as possible. We left our bags at the hotel and had breakfast on the terrace nearby.
HOTEL: Katari Hotel at Plaza de Armas. This hotel was AMAZING with fantastic views of the Plaza De Armas from their rooftop bar. I highly recommend spending the extra money to stay here. Breakfast is included. [http://katari-at-plaza-de-armas.arequipahotels24.com/en/]
DAY 7 | DEPART FOR COLCA CANYON TO PUNO - Colca Canyon really interested me because it is the second deepest canyon in the world (10,728ft). We booked a tour group [Via Viator] that arranged everything for our adventure to see Colca Canyon and the condors fly. It was a two day/ one night tour and we had a private guide for our small group of 8 people for the whole trip (until we were put on a bus to Puno the next day). We were picked up at our hotel in Arequipa and drove about 5 hours before we spent the night at a wonderful hotel in the small town of Yanque. The bus stopped along the way so we got to see some amazing views, alpacas and llamas, one of the highest points with volcano views (at 16,000 ft you can definitely feel the altitude!). Make sure when you can, to drink coca tea, which I highly recommend to help with the altitude. When we arrived in Yanque Kim and Hunter did a free 1.5 hr hike to local hot springs. Travis was sick and I had a broken toe so we rested up to fight the altitude and took a shorter walk to enjoy the hot springs. If you have more time on your travels there are some great trekking/trails throughout Colca Canyon that you can do.
TRAVEL: Picked up in Arequipa by Tour Bus at 7:30/8:00 AM.
HOTEL: We picked the 3 Star tour option and were very happy with our hotel. It was all booked but the company but if for some reason you want to do this on your own (don't know why because the tour group makes it super easy heheh) this is the hotel, Killawasi Lodge.
DAY 8 | COLCA CANYON AND ARRIVE IN PUNO - We woke up super early to get to the viewpoint to watch the condors fly. These large birds were pretty incredible to see in person. We got lucky and saw them within the first ten minutes of arriving at the lookout. With the extra time our guide took us on a small hike to see more of the beautiful canyon. From the bus we could see a lot of the terraces built into the mountains. We had lunch and then were put on a larger bus to Puno. This part of the trip was not the most fun, but the easiest way to get to Puno, which is the port city for Lake Titicaca.
TRAVEL: After our morning adventure of the condors we got on a seven hour bus ride to Puno. We arrived at 7:45pm in Puno and were picked up by a friend of Vidals (our airbnb) who drove us to the lake where we jumped on a boat and took a 10 minute ride to our floating island. Vidal was very helpful so communicate with him to figure out your pickup time.
HOTEL: THIS WAS A MAJOR HIGHLIIGHT!!! We stayed two nights on a floating island homestay via Airbnb with Vidal [https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/91836916] (Uros Summa Paqari) +51 9 3382 9167.
DAY 9 | TOUR TAQUILE ISLAND AND RELAX - Vidal recommended a tour of Taquile Island which he arranged for us. We had breakfast at the airbnb and then jumped on a motor boat (with a private guide again) and arrived at Lake Taquile in a little over 1.5 hours. Here we hiked up to the top for great views, to learn about the local life and eat lunch. You have the opportunity to buy local textiles as well. After the Lake Taquile tour, Vidal gave us a private tour of the Uros Islands. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the quiet island. Lake Titicaca is huge, beautiful and very high (13,000ft) so we took two nights here to adjust to the altitude. It was the highest point on our trip and it helped us adapt to Cusco (which seemed like nothing in altitude after this lake trip).
TRAVEL: A tour boat around the lake and private boat around Uros floating island.
HOTEL: Airbnb with Vidal [https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/91836916] (Uros Summa Paqari) +51 9 3382 9167. This airbnb is located on a floating island in the famous Uros area. It had a few private bedroom huts, two bathroom huts and a shower hut as well as an eating room and the private huts of Vidal and his family. You can purchase a home cooked dinner meal from them to avoid going on boat back to Puno. We really felt like locals living on this island! There is no electricity to charge phones, camera battery so be prepared. They have solar panels which provide lighting for the huts and island :) We also bought some homemade gifts from Vidal's father which meant a lot to us knowing they were made by this family we got to spend time with.
DAY 10 | BUS DAY TO CUSCO - We left super early, which thankfully was no problem for Vidal on getting us to the bus terminal. When we arrived in Cusco we took the evening to relax as the next day was pretty packed with touring ruins nearby.
TRAVEL: Bus at 6:50 am (board at 6:30am) arrive in Cusco at 5:00pm. We booked this bus with https://www.inkaexpress.com. They had a bathroom on board and also stopped at many locations along the way so the bus ride did not feel too long, even though it took the whole day. You can fly to Cusco from Puno as well but we wanted to see more of the country by taking the bus.
HOTEL: Amaru Inca in Cusco [https://www.amaruinca.com/en-us] We really loved the view of the hills from this hotel, it was decently priced, included breakfast and was in the San Blas neighborhood which was a great place to shop, walk around and eat.
DAY 11 | DAY TRIP FROM CUSCO: SACRED VALLEY, OLLANTAYTAMBO AND PISAC - We booked a tour [Via Viator] to visit the famous areas around Cusco. We saw the Sacred Valley from above before driving down into it, toured the ruins at Ollantaytambo, shopped at the famous Pisac markets (you can find almost all the same things in Cusco as well), had a great lunch buffet, fed llamas and alpacas and learned about how natural textiles are made with the opportunity to buy some. We were picked up at our hotel and dropped off near the hotel.
*Adapting to Cusco's higher altitude can be difficult if you arrive without time to get use to the elevation. Since we were at Lake Titicaca first the 11,000 ft did not affect us at all. Just something to think about when planning your trip :)
There are also a few other very cool things to see around Cusco (Moray salt mines and other ruins. We decided the above was the most interesting to us, but do some research to see what would make your heart the happiest.
TRAVEL: 8am-6pm bus tour with private guide
HOTEL: Amaru Inca in Cusco [https://www.amaruinca.com/en-us]. The staff was very friendly and we were able to leave our bags here while we did our two day Inca Trek to Machu Picchu.
DAY 12 | FIRST INCA TRAIL DAY : CUSCO-104 KILOMETER TO WIÑAYWAYNA TO MACHU PICCHU - We hired a company [iTep Travel] for a two day Inca trail to Machu Picchu. They arranged everything for us, including: transportation from Cusco, the train tickets where we got off at o KM 104 to start the hike, our packed lunch, accommodations in Aguas Calientes, dinner, tour of Machu Picchu, bus back down and train ride back to Cusco.
*We weren't too happy with our company as the accommodations were pretty sub-par and two of our friends got food poisoning from the dinner. I recommend doing research and finding a better company. I think it would have been fun to stay in Ollantaytambo (instead of Cusco) which is a quaint town and just leave early morning on the train from there. However, with that being said..... The trek was awesome and our tour guide was very friendly. It was pretty magical hiking for five hours and arriving at the sun gate to see Machu Picchu in the distance. We also got to stop closer to it and take photos with less of a crowd since it was near closing time. There are different treks you can do (7 or 4 day) but we decided on the two day trek to fit in more things/activities around our Cusco part of the trip. You get to see Machu Picchu twice on the two day trek and that is AWESOME!
We didn't find the hike to be too difficult but we took our time so that we would not run out of air (remember it is high altitude, but we were adjusted already thanks to Lake Titicaca). There is a lot of uphill climbing on steep rocks (stairs) and a good amount of cobblestone like pathways. I would say I am in average shape and I survived (even with a broken toe - thank you ibuprofen).
TRAVEL: Pickup at Cusco hotel, two hour drive to Ollantaytambo train station. Embark on train and get of at KM 104. At this point we trekked for 3 hours to the well preserved remains of the ruins of Wiñay Wayna (9,514 ft). On the way we saw beautiful mountain views, waterfalls and the river below. We stoped to eat lunch and then walked about two more hours to get the sungate and then we went down to Machupicchu town (Aguas Calientes).
HOTEL: Provided by tour company (Seven Mapi Hotel). I know this town was super touristy and made for all the people coming to Machu Picchu and maybe we were just spoiled with our non-touristy spots along the way but we were not a big fan of this city. This hotel was the worst hotel we stayed at. This town was definitely you get what you pay for type of hotel.
*Someone recommend the hot springs so we checked it out in the evening. I do not recommend this. It was gross hahah. We also had such a wonderful experience at the local hot spring in Yanque (Colca Canyon) so it was hard for us to look past the semi-warm pee looking water that was just overcrowded.
DAY 13 | SECOND INCA TRAIL DAY: MACHU PICCHU TO CUSCO - We got up early to bus back to Machu Picchu and tour the ruins. It was pretty incredible to see Machu Picchu twice! Due to food poisoning and my broken toe we had to cancel our plans of hiking Huayna Picchu Mountain (the large mountain behind the ruins). We bought tickets in advance to do this as you are allowed to enter during your assigned ticket time. We were super bummed about missing this but it was for the best. Our guide gave us a tour of the ruins for about two hours and then we had time to explore on our own. We had the 6am-12pm tickets to enter the site (they have two types of tickets so that the mountain is not overwhelmed with tourists). After climbing to the guard tower to get the classic photo we hiked back down to the bus and bused back to the train station to make our train in time.
TRAVEL: Bus up to Machu Picchu and bus back down to Aguas Calientes. Train to Ollantaytambo and private driver back to hotel in Cusco.
HOTEL: Back to Amaru Inca in Cusco [https://www.amaruinca.com/en-us] We returned to the same hotel we stayed in when we first got to Cusco.
DAY 14 | DAY TO EXPLORE CUSCO - We saved one day to just relax and shop before heading back to the states. This trip was so go, go, go it was nice to have a day to enjoy the city and not get up super early. We explored The Golden Temple of Sun, went to the local market and shopped the little streets of San Blas. We also stopped by Traditional Textiles Center [Av El Sol 603, Cusco 084, Peru] where we got to watch locals make textiles. We each bought something as well. It is pricey compared to the small markets out in town, but you are supporting the locals and handmade! We easily filled up our extra bag with tons of textiles including: placemats, blankets, pillow covers, headbands, shoes, slippers, sweaters, hats, scarf, artwork, table runner and xmas gifts for the family. We ate at Ceviche Seafood Kitchen at Plaza De Armas which was very tasty and I highly recommend. The evening we packed up and relaxed with a bottle of wine at our hotel.
HOTEL: Amaru Inca in Cusco [https://www.amaruinca.com/en-us]
DAY 15: FLY BACK HOME - We spent the morning getting some breakfast and then went to the airport to fly back home. Cusco is not an international airport so you have to fly back to Lima to get back to the USA. We found a flight from Cusco to Bogota (they do fly there!) to Miami and drove home to Key West. It is a long travel day so if you wanted to split up the time you could always leave the night before to Lima and spend the night then fly back to USA.
I can't stop raving about how awesome Peru was. We all really enjoyed this whole trip and I hope you can find some time in your lifetime to go visit this beautiful country! It has so much to offer from friendly people, beautiful landscapes, ancient history, great food and colorful textiles!