To begin your adventure, grab the first connecting flight from Lima to the far-flung jungle town of Iquitos. With almost half a million inhabitants, this fascinating Amazon city is the largest in the world to be inaccessible by road. After checking out the remarkable floating city of Belén, jump on a motorized canoe en-route to a jungle lodge deep in the rain forest. Over several days, tour her canals and small rivers on the lookout for monkeys, caiman, snakes and rainbow colored macaws. In between safaris, go swimming with river dolphins, fish for piranha and get to know the indigenous locals. If entering an alternate dimension tickles your fancy, consider taking a psychedelic ayahuasca healing ceremony with a local shaman.
Upon arriving back to Lima, check into a hotel and check out the city. The center is famous for its grandiose colonial buildings and museums, while the upmarket suburbs of Miraflores and Barranco are where the wealthy go to unwind, full of fine-dining restaurants and upmarket bars and cafés.
An overnight bus to Huaraz leaves you waking up in Peru’s trekking paradise. You’re at considerable altitude here (10,000 feet/3,000 meters), so embark on some easy acclimatization hikes before getting stuck into a serious trek. The turquoise colored Laguna 69 is your best bet, although plenty of other options abound. Now that you’re breathing properly, it’s time to set off on the three day Santa Cruz Trek, considered by many to be the best in the Peru. Traverse under snowy-peaks, over high mountain passes, along lush river beds and through eerie desolate valleys on this epic outdoor adventure.
A lengthy bus ride to Ica and a quick taxi ride sees us arrive in Huacachina, a stark contrast to the high Andean mountains from which we have just come. This stunning, laid-back town is built around a lush oasis in the middle of the desert, with a crazy dune-buggy ride combined with adrenaline-pumping sand-boarding the only real activities on offer. Of course, those without a death-wish could just sit back and soak up the views instead.
Why the Nazca lines were created is still shrouded in mystery, but there is no better way to appreciate these baffling pre-Colombian oddities than to see them for yourself. Chartered light-aircraft flights leave every hour or so to view these wonders from the air, while a small informative museum on the ground provides all the latest scientific info. There’s not much else for a traveler in Nazca, so hop on the next bus to Arequipa.
Downtown Arequipa is a delight to explore, chock full of towering churches and leafy plazas with a distinct colonial charm. After checking out the sights, book a two-day Colca Canyon trek, a wondrous hike that passes indigenous villages and traditional terraces in a spectacular valley. The highlight for many is the Mirador Cruz del Cóndor, where the majestic flying beasts pass almost within touching distance of spectators below. Those after something a little more hardcore might opt to scale Volcano Misti instead.
As a crucial city to both the Inca and the Spanish, Cusco is packed full of fascinating historical sites to explore. Even better is the unmissable Sacred Valley, a lush land full of ancient Inca sites that are as mysterious as they are captivating. Next, put the hiking boots back on and make the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu just like they did in the good old days – on foot. The three-day Inca Trail is the most popular route, although Salkantay and Lares are spectacular as well.
An obvious highlight for many, the spectacular citadel of Machu Picchu never fails to impress. Get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds and marvel at the mountainous setting of this jaw-dropping archaeological site in relative solitude. After a few hours wondering around dumbstruck, mouth agape in sheer disbelief, head back to Cusco by train and connect onward to Puno.
The stunning crystalline waters of Lake Titicaca make for a fantastic finale to our epic Peruvian adventure. With an eclectic mix of intriguing indigenous culture, captivating history and stunning natural surroundings, a day or two in the region makes for an unforgettable travel experience. Be sure to visit the floating islands or Uros and, if time permits, a home stay on Amantani for an incredible cultural exchange.
Note this itinerary dedicates a lot of time to trekking. If that’s not your thing, consider bumming on the beaches of Mancora or Trujillo, admiring the wildlife at Islas Ballestas or exploring well off the beaten track in the central highlands instead.
Only got two weeks in Peru? No problem, we’ve got that covered too.