Peru is one of the most popular countries in South America. There is so much more to this country than Machu Picchu with all the beautiful landscapes across every part of the country, local culture, traditions, food and many more. This has been in my bucket list for awhile, finally got to visit in 2022 and this blog will cover details about the itinerary, what to pack and other tips & tricks needed for your travel.
Peru is quite popular of several stunning landscapes. From the stretch of a desert on the west coast to famed highlands and jungles, the country’s colonial architecture invites every traveler who’s looking for an adventure of a lifetime.
Most popular places to visit in Peru:
- Machu Picchu – Peru’s most popular tourist destination and one of the famous archeological new seven wonders of the world.
- Cusco – Located in southeastern Peru, Cusco used to be the Inca Empire’s historic capital.
- Lima – Lima is one of the largest cities in South America, as well as the capital of Peru. It is home to a collection of pre-Colombian art and is one of the major hubs to move to other cities in Peru.
- Paracas – A small town located on the west coast of Peru that is known for beautiful beaches, deserts, home to sea lions, pelicans, Humboldt penguins and other wildlife in the Ballestas Island.
- Arequipa – Surrounded by three volcanoes, Arequipa boasts of Spanish colonial and indigenous cultures.
- Nazca Desert – If you are interested at the famous Nazca lines, this is one of the famous attraction done via small planes.
Currency in Peru: Sol | 2022 Conversion Rate: 1 Sol = $0.25 USD
Languages Spoken: Spanish
We speak only English and had some difficulty with Spanish language. If you go with your travel guides, majority of them speak English but to communicate with drivers and other locals, Spanish is the primary language. Be ready to have your Google translate app ready that was very handy for us when ordering food and conversing with the drivers.
Transportation around Peru: The transit system in Peru is the most reliable and easiest method of public transportation. Throughout the country you can get around airplane, bus, minibus, and taxis in majority of the larger cities like Lima, Cusco etc. We had a private tour package that came with dedicated minivan’s for the tour group.
Best time to visit Peru
Peru’s climate is very diverse. The Andes mountains have a cool-cold climate with dry winters and rainy summers. The coastal climate is arid and semi-arid with very little rainfall.
- Driest Season: May to September is their Winter
- Wettest season: December to March is their Summer
Peak season for tourists is May through October during the driest months. However, hotels and airlines consider mid-December to mid-January as the peak season. The prices during these times are the highest. Peruvian Independence day is 28th and usually a long weekend for them. Our travel was around July 28th and we found peruvian crowd in huge numbers in many parts of Cusco, Lima and Machu Picchu.
What to Pack to Peru
It can be pretty confusing and is complicated to pack for Peru. With its hot coastal beaches and cold Andean highlands, Peru is one such destination that can be little stressful to pack for. Since we went in Winter and temperature was in the 60’s specifically in Cusco & Machu Picchu, layering is helpful. I found this website helpful that covers both essential and other packing items needed when traveling to Peru.
Here are some specific items I would recommend packing:
- Medicines (Prescriptions & Over the counter ones)
- Altitude sickness pills – This is real and majority of us went through altitude sickness in our group and some of us got prescriptions from the US (Acetazolamide) and few others purchased in Peru (Sorojchi Pills) directly. If you are buying in Peru, make sure you go with the local guides or ask someone the right pharmacy shop. There are several fake ones being sold.
- Insulated water bottles – Your throat becomes dry especially in Cusco, drink plenty of water and sometimes drinking warm liquids soothes your throat well.
- Comfortable layers
- Shoes (Athletic or All trail hiking boots)
- Rain jacket – You might need if you are doing in December, we had it handy and did not get to use it in our July trip.
Our Travel Itinerary Sample
Duration: 8 days/7 nights
Places covered: Cusco -> Sacred Valley -> Machu Picchu -> Paracas
|Day 1||Lima||Arrive Lima airport|
Take the flight to Cusco from Lima same day (weather acclimatization purpose)
|Cusco||Reached Cusco lunch time, checked into our hotel rooms|
Abode of the Gods tour activity around 3.30 PM
(Based on our experience, not a good idea to attempt this activity
on the same day. Take a lot of rest)
|Day 2||Cusco||Half day Activity that covered 4 Inca Sites & city views|
Rest day in the afternoon
|Day 3||Cusco||Full day tour to the East Sacred Valley|
Pisac Sacred Valley tours
Visit Cochahuasi Wild life rescue center, the Awanakancha camelid farm and textile exhibition, the
Taray look out, the Pisac market and the Pisac ruins in the East Sacred Valley.
Train to Machu Picchu
|Half day tour in the West Sacred Valley that covers the following:|
• Maras Saltponds
• Moray Inca site
• Urubamba + drop off at Ollantaytambo train
|Day 5||Machu Picchu||3 hour Guided tour in Machu Picchu|
Buffet Lunch at the Tinkuy restaurant (located at the entrance of Machu)
Evening train back to Ollantaytambo
Pick your luggage’s and drive to Cusco Airport (Cusco->Lima)
Arrive Lima late evening, stay a night in Lima
*** This will be one of the longest travel day with multiple hops between train, car and flight***
|Get ready to visit Paracas from Lima|
– 4 hour drive to Ica from Lima
– Visit Huacachina, desert osasis and a must see attraction (~3 hour activity)
– Stay the night in Paracas
|Day 7||Paracas||– Ballestas Island boat ride in the morning to watch wildlife|
-Paracas National reserve scenic drives
– Drive back to Lima in the evening (keep 3 to 3.5 hours estimation )
*** we stayed the night in Lima and took the morning flight to Seattle.
*** Stayed in Wyndham that was right inside the airport and easy access to board morning flight.
|Day 8||Seattle||Depart from Lima to Seattle|
Given Peru is one of the top tourist destinations in South America, there are plenty of options available both budget friendly and high end hotels. MachuPicchu Center company gave us options to choose from that were reasonable and very good quality. I am sharing the list of places we stayed if you wish to consider in your future travel. Please book atleast 4-5 months in advance to lock the best rates for the hotels.
- Hilton Garden Inn, Cusco – We stayed here 3 nights, Hilton is located very close to the city, 4 star hotel. Good restaurant options inside Hilton and breakfast buffet is very good.
- Hotel Villas Insights – One night stay at one of the local hotels located in the Machu Picchu town, 3 star hotel. We stayed just for a night to do the Machu Picchu hike in the morning, 5-10 min walk to the bus stop and other shops nearby. Their breakfast was amazing and tasted really home made (quinoa pancakes tasted yummy)
- Holiday Inn – One night stay in Lima that was 5 mins away from the airport. We stayed here on our way back from Cusco to Lima, pretty late in the evening and staying closer to the airport was the choice we made to avoid city traffic. This is a 4-star hotel, great amenities and good breakfast
- Radisson Resorts – Located in Paracas and this is one of the best resorts and highlight of our trip. We booked just a night and continue with our Paracas activities in the morning. If I had to do another time, I would stay here for 2 full days just to relax, close to the beach and totally relaxing place. We got to see dolphins diving in the water from our rooms.
- Wyndham Costa Del Sol – We stayed overnight in Wyndham primarily due to the location of this hotel that has easy access to the airport from the hotel. We had an early morning flight and need to be at the airport around 4 AM, worked out really well staying at Wyndham. I wish we had more time to spend at this hotel, great amenities and restaurant options available onsite.
Travel Booking Information
There are so many travel companies out there in South America and other parts of the world that offer tour packages. We wanted to do a complete tour package instead of exploring on our own due to the language reasons and none of us knew Spanish. For safety reasons as well, we preferred going with professional tour guides. Based on the past reviews from some of our friends and trip advisor forums, we chose MachuPicchu center company and we would highly recommend the company to others who want to visit Peru. The entire trip was well organized right from initial planning stages, the team understood our group requirements and laid out customized options for us. Once we reached Lima, the tour contacts were on stand by mode from Day 1 until our last day. We enjoyed booking the trip with Machu Picchu center company.
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