There is a reason why Peruvian people worship the “Pacha Mama” or Mother Earth, the endless number of natural phenomenon’s make Peru one of the most diverse, stunning and naturally gifted destinations on the planet to visit. The incredibly dramatic mountains, the endless blue skies, the natural glaciers only add the perfect backdrop to the incredible history and culture of this geographically, diverse paradise. To make the most of your time in Peru and also see the most impressive and interesting destinations on your Peru vacation, here is a 15 day Best of magical Peru itinerary to help guide you along the way.
Most Peru vacations start and finish in the capital, Lima. Lima like any other capital city, is large and sprawling and you need to have your wits about you in certain areas, especially busy markets and on public transport. Most travellers head to Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro and La Molina for the safer areas of Lima. Miraflores is the most touristic region with high security, all categories of hotels, amazing restaurants and all the facilities of any South American City. For a more bohemian, artsy kind of experience, head to Barranco.
With art exhibitions, live music and great restaurants also. There is no better place to try Peruvian food than Lima. The incredible array of national dishes, fusion dishes and international plates is incredible; however, when in Rome…you have to try the national dish of Ceviche and the other seafood dishes available. The main attractions in Lima are The Gold Museum, The Pachacamac ruins, the Wate park, Huaca Pucllana, ruins, The Plaza de Armas, The catacombs and the National Museum.
Today, take a flight to the stunning white city of Arequipa and adjust to the slightly higher elevation of 200 Arequipa’s central Plaza de Armas, remains unblemished by modern interference, is in itself, a museum of the city’s architecture made of “Sillar” (volcanic rock). Its characteristic white, robust and aesthetically unique consistency, is why this city is locally known as the “white City” and is representative of the city of Arequipa. Impressive colonnaded balconies line three sides of the plaza and the 4th side is occupied by Peru’s largest cathedral, a humongous construction with two soaring bell towers. Even this is dwarfed by the dual snow-capped sentinels of the El Misti and Chanchani volcanoes, both of which are visible from various points in the central park of the plaza. This UNESCO World heritage site has had its ups and downs and has survived a number of earthquakes over the years. The cathedrals towers have had to be rebuilt on a number of occasions; however, you wouldn’t know it unless you had been told. Just down the road is the famous Santa Catalina monastery which is a city within the city and is definitely worth a visit.
The following day is a tour to the stunning Colca canyon, which is the main reason why people visit Arequipa in the first place. Thie canyon is the natural environment for Andean condors who call this spectacular canyon home. This magnificent endemic bird can be found in the plummeting canyons of Peru and measure up to 3 metres long with a wingspan of about the same, and are one of the largest birds in existence! It's amazing that they can actually get off the ground!
Colca Canyon in Arequipa is a popular hotspot to see things incredible birds and the canyon itself is the perfect, beautiful backdrop for these amazing creatures. The communities of the Colca canyon still maintain traditional customs and the patchwork scenery on the slopes of the canyon are mind-blowingly beautiful.
After spending the morning condor spotting, take the bus from Colca to Puno, the home of the largest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. The stunning blue skies are only “out-blued” by the crisp deep indigo lake itself, that almost gives the impression of being on an ocean journey. The contrast of the bright, colourful, traditional dress of the locals is a marvel to see!
Head out on a visit to sail the magnificent Titicaca waters to the non-floating islands such as Taquile for an authentic insight into how the local people live. The master weavers of this ancient island are some of the best in the world and it is the men´s job to weave in this community while the women spin the yarn. Then visit the floating islands of Uros for the cherry on the incredulous, Titicaca cake. The islands are rebuilt constantly from the totora reeds that grow in the lake and is like walking on sponge when you first step onto these unique floating islands.
Early take a bus tour to Cusco visiting a number of historical and archaeological sites along the way including the fabulous Andean village of Pukara, La Raya which marks the highest point and is the border between the Cusco and the Puno regions and the Wiracocha temple of Raqchi, the Sistine chapel of the Andes, before arriving in the imperial city of Cusco.
The Imperial City of Cusco was the centre of the Inca empire and known as the “bellybutton of the world”. It’s rich and complex history dates back thousands of years and to this day the City remains an eclectic mix of the traditional and the modern full of history with a million and one stories to tell. Cusco city is built on Inca foundations which are still visible today and are the base of many more modern buildings in the centre. The historic city centre is the Plaza de Armas which is home to the cathedral, the Jesuit church and a thousand street sellers, selling tours, shoeshines, massages and handicrafts. The surrounding ruins of Saqsaywaman, Quenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay are a great day trip and Cusco is the launching spot for the Sacred Valley and of course Machu Picchu.
Day 10: sacred Valley of The Incas
The Sacred valley apart from its stunning scenery is an incredibly fertile valley and such named by the Inca’s for this exact reason. Maras, Moray, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo and Pisac are the highlights of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Most people take the train to Machu from Ollantaytambo, unless you are adventurous enough to take one of the amazing treks to the Inca citadel. Machu Picchu is, of course, one of the main reasons that people visit Peru. This incomparable Inca site is not only an architectural masterpiece, but the geography of the site is mind-blowing also and just adds to the incredible mystery of why the Inca decided to build this monument here.
We are gearing up for Peru´s main attraction today, by taking a train to the town of Aguas Calientes which can be found nestled at the base of the magnificent Machu Picchu archaeological site. The train journey itself takes in some spectacular scenery as you ride through the Andean terrains and patchwork scenery of the sacred valley to this wonderful spa town with hot springs and a number of touristic facilities to help you prepare for your Machu Picchu visit the following day.
Fly from Cusco to the Amazon and Puerto Maldonado, the jungle area of Cusco. Here many Eco-lodges are waiting to take you on 3 day Amazon trip and even longer if your time allows. Experience the mega diversity of the jungle region and see some of its native species including the red and blue macaws, Jaguars and caimans amongst other animal species.
Enjoy the variety of walks and activities of the jungle and a kickback in a hammock for a cold beer and well-earned rest! After the Amazon it´s a flight back to Lima for your onward flight home, safe in the knowledge that you have experienced the magnificent magical Peru to the full on this 15 day vacation.