North of Peru
If you have two weeks, the beaches and ruins in the north of Peru are a must. The two-week timeframe will give you just enough time to make it work. Either begin your trip here if you’re coming from Ecuador, or come here after Cusco.
Formerly overlooked, in the last 20 years Mancora has become Peru’s number one vacation spot for locals. Families and partygoers flock to the village in both summer and winter. For surfers, right out in front of Mancora’s main beach is a perfect left-hand reef break. If you don’t want to surf, the beach has a seemingly endless list of other entertainment options, from horseback riding, jet skiing, and kitesurfing to riding four-wheelers. There’s also a mud bath close by that you can take a moto-taxi to.
Humpback whales come to the warmer waters of the north of Peru to give birth from August through October each year. From Mancora you can take tours to go see the whales and, if you’re lucky, see them jump from the water. Take a tour with Pacifico Adventures, the most reputable company in the area.
See Chan Chan
Head towards Trujillo, but don’t stay there. Outside of Chan Chan, which is outside the city, there isn’t much worth seeing in this area. The Chan Chan ruins, however, are remarkable. Chan Chan was the largest adobe city and the biggest in the Americas before Columbus’ arrival and the Incas’ conquest of it. It was built by the Chimu culture, who pre-date the Incas, and it is believed that 100,000 people lived here before the Incas conquered the area in the 15th century.
In Lima, it’s all about the food. Restaurante Central and Maido both rank inside the top 50 of the world’s best restaurants, and are more than worth the price of a dinner. In Lima’s downtown historical center, you can marvel at the restored colonial mansions and churches, as well as the presidential palace, and it’s always nice to take a walk through Barranco, Lima’s artsy and colorful neighborhood.
Maido, Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores 15074, Peru, +51 14462512
Paracas and Islas Ballestas
Located just south of the city of Pisco, this nature reserve offers visitors spectacular red beaches, lively marine life, and ancient archaeological sites. Enjoy the unique coastline of the Reserva Nacional de Paracas and maybe take a trip to Islas Ballestas – sometimes called “the poor man’s Galapagos”.
A Couple of Days Around Ica
Take a bus from Lima toward Pisco and then on to Ica, the desert oasis. A few miles outside of Ica lies Huacachina, a desert oasis from where you can enjoy endless hills of orange sand. Here, you can spend the day sand-boarding and off-roading in the desert.
After staying in Ica, head down to check out the inscrutable Nasca Lines. These mysterious drawings carved into the land have baffled experts, and no one really knows the true story of their origin. Take a quick plane ride to see the lines from above, so that you can come up with your own theory.
A Night in Arequipa
Arequipa is a beautiful colonial town in the south of Peru, and the country’s second-largest metropolis, although it’s a fraction of the size of Lima. The city features some stunning colonial architecture, and is surrounded by three volcanoes.
Canon del Colca
The canyon is 62 miles (100 kilometres) from end to end, and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The area is also rich with ruins from pre-Incan and Incan societies, as well as numerous Spanish structures.
A Night in Lake Titicaca
Floating Reed Islands
Lake Titicaca is a large lake in the Andes that offers a unique landscape and stunning views, but it’s perhaps most famous for the floating reed islands that have been constructed in the lake. They were built centuries ago in order to escape invaders, and require constant rebuilding as the bottom rots away.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Probably the highlight for travels in Peru and from all over Latin America, Cusco was the capital of the Incas until it was taken over by the Spanish. Not too far away lies the popular tourist spot Machu Picchu, the mother of all historical sites, which sits right at the top of many a traveler’s bucket list. Outside of these two spots is the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas, where you can enjoy beautiful views of mountains high in the Andes.