If you arrive by plane, you will surely land in Lima. This is a huge city with plenty of suburbs and 3 main areas interesting for tourists:
- Centre: all the area between the Rimac river and San Martín Square, including Plaza de Armas, Jiron de la Union, San Francisco Convent...
- Miraflores: the coastal neighborhood with residential houses and modern & international shops.
- A few museums here and there: Larco Museum, Gold Museum... those are far and you'll have to take a taxi
I spent 2 days in Lima, but left that for the end of the trip, as I had to be in town for my plane back anyway.
Probably your second step in Peru will be worldwide famous Machu Picchu ruins. They really deserve the visit. No matter haow much you have heard or read about it, being there is really unforgettable experience.
They are close to Cuzco (2 or 3 hours by train), so you'll have to fly there (buses take up to 30hours!) and dedicate at least a whole day for it.
A marvellous way to visit Machu Picchu is doing the Inca Trail (see next tip), a 4d/3n trekking along the Andes till the ruins. But you better do some training before you do it!
Entrance: 26 USD
Many foreigners come to Peru just to do the Inka Trail. This is a 4 days / 3 nights trekking from Ollantaytambo (near Cuzco) to Machu Picchu, 42 kms later, going up to heights of 4200 metres. You don't have to be a sportman or a professional to do it, but you better do some exercises or walking the previous months, and stay a few days in Cuzco before, to get used to altitude.
You can book it in Cuzco once you arrive, but recent visitors restrictions make it advisable to book in advance (at least 2 months) via internet. You mail the agency you choose, make a money transfer of 30% and pay the rest once in Cuzco.
Here are some well known agencies:
I did it with Andean Life (285 USD) and they did an excellent job!
Lake Titicaca is located in the south of Peru, sharing its waters between this country and Bolivia. It is the world's highest lake navigable to large vessels (3,810 m above sea level).
To visit it you can do it from:
- Peruvian side: go to Puno and there you will find many tours to Uros Island, Taquile island, or even tours of several days around the lake.
- Bolivian side: cross the border to Copacabana and from there visit the Sun Island.
Sleeping in the lake (either in Taquile or Sun Island) is a really nice experience, is such a peaceful place (no cars in the islands) with endless wide horizons and quite interesting cultures and villages.
A big part of Peru is mostly jungle. When you think of Peru you think of Machu Picchu, Incas, Spanish conquerors, Nazca lines, but Amazon river is born here and goes a long way across this country.
You have mainly 2 options for visiting the jungle:
- South: in Puerto maldonado, not far from Cuzco. Most of the people doing the Machu Picchu choose this jungle, as is close to Cuzco and many agencies there offer stays in lodges and excursions for 3 or more days.
- North: You have to fly to Iquitos and there take a boat that will take you far from this town (2-3 hours by the river) to the National Parks.
Both options are OK, maybe there are some more animals around Iquitos, and there is more "deep Amazon", but Manu Park in the south is also a good option for a first visit to the jungle (is not the Amazon river, but very similar).
Also named Cusco, this old colonial white city with red tiled roofs is probably the most touristy place in Peru (and maybe in all South America).
It deserves a 2-3 days visit, not only for its narrow charming cobbled streets and interesting museums, but also for the many ruins around that can be visited in 1 day tours.
It is also a good basecamp to visit the nearby ruins of Machu Picchu.
Iquitos is the largest city on earth that has no communication by road. It is located in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, on the shore of the Amazon river, north of Peru.
It is a tropical laid back town with many many moto-taxis, few cars (as there are no roads) and beautiful colonial houses with pleasant colours and marvellous tiles.
In its best times it was the capital of the rubber empire in the Amazon, big fortunes grew here, and big fortunes vanished. Walking along the streets you can see this town lived better times.
This is a good basecamp to join a jungle trip or spend a few days in a jungle lodge, or even just to sail up or down the Amazon river.
Puno is considered the "capital" of the Peruvian Titicaca lake. This is the place where people come to start boat tours around the lake, or as a stopover on the way to Bolivia from Cuzco.
It is a small provincial town, nice to walk around an afternoon and an excellent place to buy quality alpaca stuff (pullovers, coats...), but it has no special tourist attractions.
In retrospect, I am really happy that I hiked the Inca Trail. But, I won't lie, there were times during the hike, when I was not all that happy. It was the kind of trip that you loved and hated at the same time. The hate part, is the thousands of steep and ackward steps along the journey. The love part was on day 3, hot, tired and sweaty when you made it to the campsite and the hostel overlooking Machu Picchu for a cold beer (knowing that you were going to make it all the way) and of course the other great highlight on Day 4, waking up early, sitting on the top of the world as the clouds parted and the view of lovely Machu Picchu was in sight. It was a once in a lifetime trip. But, don't go into this hike thinking that it will be easy. It is a challenging hike. In fact, our guide said that the Incans made this hike difficult on purpose, for spiritual purification. So prepare yourself and enjoy!
The most important museum to visit Lima and perhaps all of Peru, is the Museo de la Nación. This museum, housed in a large rather ugly modern building, is the home for many of country important ancient artifacts. There are scores of mummies, brilliant ceramics and textiles scattered throughout the museum.
The museum exhibits are set up in chronological order from the earliest Peruvian civilizations to colonial times. There are also several scale model exhibits of several of Peru's pre-Columbian cities. Many of the displays are labeled in English. I highly recommend that you visit this museum if you journey through Peru is extensive as mine was. I found that the museum gave me valuable insight into the timeline of pre-Colombian Peru that I was ignorant of before I began my trip. Because of my visit to this museum I actually made some excursions to some of the ancient sites in Peru that I would have otherwise overlooked.
It costs S/6 to visit the museum, which is open from 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Oddly enough the museum does not seem to have a website.
One of the world's most puzzling mysteries is the origin of the Nasca Lines. Spread out over an area of 1000 sq.km are hundreds of figures and thousands of lines that can only be appreciated from high overhead. So high in fact that modern man only realized that the lines existed when planes began flying over the lines in the 20th century. The images that drawn into the sand include a monkey, a hummingbird, a killer whale and "an astronaut". Oddly enough many of these species of animals cannot be found in the region around Nasca.
It is believed that the Nasca culture carved these lines throughout the centuries between 300 B.C. to 700 A.D. There are a multitude of theories on why the lines were carved into the sand by a people who could not see them unless they flew over them. They could be an astronomical calender or some sort of chart to indicate where there are sources of water in this remarkably dry region. There are even wilder theories that the lines were landing strips for aliens from other worlds. I personally following with the theory that the lines were a worship place for the Nasca in their quest for water.
Most of the most interesting Nasca Lines are located in a 48km stretch, 21km north of the town of Nasca. You are not permitted to walk amongst the Nasca lines. To see the Nasca Lines, you of course have to fly over them. I stayed at Hotel La Maison Suisse, across the road from the local airport and flew over with an airline I could book at this hotel called Aerolca. This cost me $68.00 and involved flying over in a small six seat airplane. Although the lines themselves were indeed fascinating, the flight was nauseating. For 35 minutes I struggled to not throw up as the pilot weaved about tipping to the left and right so were all could see the lines. Each of the other passengers felt the same way. So you have now been warned.
Pisac is an important archaeological center and contains some of the largest ruins in the entire valley. The ruins are said to be part city, part ceremonial center, and part military complex.
You can walk a path to the ruins, but remember to bring water and sunscreen. You might feel the altitude at the higher elevation, so take it easy and enjoy the view. If you have the time, you can spend 2-3 hours exploring this area.
Open daily from 7am to 5:30pm. admission is by Cusco's boleto turístico.
Machu Picchu is the highlight of any trip to Peru. It is beautiful and breathtaking to witness. You can take the 4 day or 2 day hike on the Inca Trail, but for a more relaxing way to see this ancient ruins, you can take the train.
I generally avoid tours, but the Colca Canyon tour out of Arequipa is too great a value to be missed. See condors, mountain vistas, mountain towns, enjoy thermal baths, a country walk, music and the canyon in an overnight trip for around $20. Meals except for one breakfast, and park entrance ($6) are not included. (Higher class accommodations are available for a supplement.)
There are many museums to see in Lima, but one of the most interesting ones to see is the San Francisco Church which contains the bones of 70,000 to 90,000 people. The church is one of the best preserved in Lima. There is a mandatory tour of the church and this is the best way to see it.
9:30am to 5:30pm, and cost $2 (US).
We did not stay here, but it was pointed out to us as the hotel used for some of the VIPs that came...more
We didnt really think of coming here until we started mapping out a plan of our independant walking...more
Av. Hermanos Ayar Mz 1 L-3, Aguas Calientes, Sacred Valley, Peru
Good for: Business
More Regions in Peru