Peru… a country filled with so much diversity. From one day to the next you can go from the big city to vast desert, rainbow colored mountains, and one of the Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu! This makes Peru a great travel destination for anyone looking for adventure and amazing landscapes.
But making the most of your time in Peru will require quite a bit of planning, especially when it comes to visiting Machu Picchu. So I want to share what we did, and also share the thing we may have done differently!
So here it is; my Two Week Peru Itinerary!
We flew into Lima to begin our trip and I will start off by saying to be honest, it’s not my favorite city. People have mixed opinions on Lima, but I found it to be too spread out to really enjoy and limited in the areas that are safe and enjoyable for tourists. That being said, the neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco are some of the best in town and offer great dining, a nice environment, and are a good base for the start of your trip. I personally prefer Barranco, which is the more bohemian and artsy neighborhood between the two. I highly recommend Canta Rana in Barranco for lunch; it’s a great spot for authentic food and is you’ll be surrounded by locals (that’s how you know it’s good).
Throughout our trip we stayed with Selina, from our very first day at their Selina Miraflores location. I was working with Selina as a part of their new Film Residency program which allows photographers and videographers the opportunity to exchange content for free stay – which is perfect for freelancers like myself!
If you’re not familiar with Selina, they are a company geared towards providing creative spaces for freelancers and travelers who want to have a beautiful and artistic place to stay, work, make new friends, and explore. And if you want to stay longer but still get work done, they have coworking spaces at all of their locations so you can work remotely 🙂
My favorite restaurant we visited was called Siete in Barranco (pictured below), which was definitely on the pricey end but had great food and an incredibly beautiful interior space! I felt like I felt like I was in an interior design magazine and I wasn’t mad about it.
A few days after arriving in Lima we took the 4 hour bus ride south to Ica, a small desert town from where you will then take a 10 minute taxi to Huacachina. This tiny town looks like a mirage in the desert, and is surrounded by massive sand dunes as far as your eyes can see. I’ve been to the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and these dunes are truly just as epic!
We stayed at Banana’s Adventure Hostel in Huacachina, which was the perfect base for our one night here. The hostel itself is its own tropical oasis, and my only regret was that we didn’t have more time here! The best part is your stay gives you one free dune buggy ride and one breakfast, which is such a steal!
About an hour and a half before sunset, we loaded up in the dune buggies to begin exploring the sand dunes. I am not exaggerating when I say this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! The drivers fly over the dunes and it felt like a rollercoaster. I didn’t want the ride to end! But once we got to our destination about 20 minutes into the dunes, we were blown away by the sunset and then started our sandboarding adventure. I was so scared to do it at first, but once you try it, it’s not as scary as it seems!
The next morning we woke up at sunrise to hike the big dune by the oasis to shoot some photos. But be prepared, walking up this thing is not easy!
Our next stop was Cusco, just a short and cheap flight away from Lima. As soon as we arrived, I knew that I was going to love the city. It’s such a beautiful town filled with cobblestone streets, hills, and Andean culture unlike anywhere else in the world. And my favorite part about Cusco is it’s filled with cute street dogs. Seriously, this place has more cute dogs than anywhere I’ve ever been!
To get acclimated to the high altitude, I recommend spending at least a few days in Cusco just relaxing and exploring before you go off on other adventures. To further prevent altitude sickness, make sure you are drinking coca tea which I did every morning of our trip, and I never got sick!
Oh, that famous rainbow-colored mountain you’ve probably seen all over Instagram. What you can’t tell through looking at photos is how tough it is to breathe up there at 17,000ft! Though only a few miles, Rainbow Mountain is definitely not an easy hike. So if you’re not in the best shape (raises hand!) you also have the option to go by horse, which is what I chose and I’m so glad I did! Having ridden horses my whole life, I prefer being on horseback than on foot and thankfully these horses were treated well and I felt good about that decision. The horses are about 60 soles one way (approx $18 USD) and 80 soles both ways.
The hardest part of the hike is the very end, which is both the steepest and highest portion. Once at the top, you might be a little overwhelmed by the crowd of people (this place was packed even in the low season), or you might be distracted by the fact that you feel out of breath every 10 steps with only 50% oxygen at this altitude. Either way, it’s time for what you came for – getting to see the rainbow colored mountain!
I highly recommend buying a beer on the way from one of the locals; a great way to reward yourself for making it to the top 🙂
Of course, your first trip to Peru is not complete without a visit to Machu Picchu! This ancient city is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and has such a unique history. There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu of varying prices, but the two main options are taking the train or doing a trek. Our friend Lindsay who we traveled with convinced us to do the trek, but after a lot of research we decided the Inca Trail (the most common route) was just too expensive and crowded.
Instead, we chose to do the Lares Trek with Alpaca Expeditions since they were rated #1 on TripAdvisor and pride themselves in sustainability. For the treks, the options you have to choose from are the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Inka Junkle Trek, or hiking solo (only allowed on certain trails and you have to bring all your own gear). I’ll share more about why we chose the Lares Trek and our experience on another post, but how do you decide whether a trek or taking the train is best for you? To keep it simple: if you love hiking and don’t mind the challenge, the trek is for you. But if you prefer spending your time wandering the city streets of Cusco (like me), then save time by taking the train.
Whichever you choose, you’ll end up at the same place and get to take in the magical sights of Machu Picchu!
I hope you found this guide helpful and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! And stay tuned for more in-depth posts on Huacachina, Rainbow Mountain, and our Trek to Machu Picchu coming soon 🙂 If you want to save this post for later, make sure to pin the image below!