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The most frequently traveled route by backpackers and tourists through Peru is rightfully dubbed the Gringo Trail. These locations are hotspots of tourism because of their unique culture, history and landscapes. The route begins in Lima and takes you south through the desert, up to the Andes, through Cusco and the Sacred Valley and, finally, back to Lima. Here is our guide to the classic trail and other options for extending your trip.
Depending on how much time you have, this can take anywhere from two to three weeks. You’ll begin in Lima and go south, heading to Cusco and traveling through the Sacred Valley back to Lima.
Lima is both the beginning and the end point. As Peru’s capital and largest city, it has plenty to offer tourists but as the country has so much to offer, it’s advisable to stay for one night and maybe another when you return at the end of the trip. While in Lima, enjoy some delicious food at one of its world-class restaurants.
Take a bus from Lima towards Pisco and Paracas, the national reserve where you’ll want to stay. The park is home to a beautiful and rugged coastline with orange sands meeting the Pacific Ocean. Another main attraction is Islas Ballestas (“the poor man’s Galapagos”), which is teeming with marine and wildlife. You can arrange boat trips to see both Paracas and Islas Ballestas.
Next it’s to Ica, Peru’s wine and pisco capital. If you want some adventure, stay in Huacachina, a desert oasis surrounded by endless hills of orange sand. From there you can arrange sand-boarding and whitewater rafting trips.
Nazca is only a short drive away and is where you can find the mysterious Nazca Lines. These enigmas are best viewed from a plane, and suitable trips are easily arranged in town. You’ll probably only spend a night here, viewing the lines and then moving on.
This is when you ditch the coast and turn inland, finding one of Peru’s best cities. Arequipa has beautiful cobbled streets, stunning architecture and one of the world’s deepest canyons. Oh, and it’s also surrounded by volcanoes you can hike.
You’ve made it to the Andes now and find yourself at one of the world’s highest navigable waters, Lake Titicaca. This is the home of Uro people, who are famous for their floating reed islands. You can even arrange home-stays with the Uros people, in order to better understand their culture and traditions.
You finally made it to Cusco, the grand home of the Incas who considered it the center of the world. There’s plenty to do in Cusco, but begin by walking the streets and enjoying the Spanish and Incan architecture. Take hikes throughout the Sacred Valley, enjoying all the ruins and don’t miss out on hiking to Machu Picchu or taking the Inca Trail.
If you have more time to spend in Peru, there are plenty of other adventures to be had, from the north coast, the Amazon and the warm waters and sunny beaches near Ecuador. Extend your trip weeks or even months to see it all.
From Cusco you can go to Parque Manu, Peru’s best kept national park. You can stay at ecolodges deep in the jungle that allow you to see rare jungle animals. If you don’t want to hit the jungle at this point, wait for Iquitos. It is the largest city in the world not connected by roads and is located within the jungle. Explore the uniqueness of an Amazon city and the many healing retreats offered close by.
Head down from Cusco or the jungle and go north, towards Ecuador. There you’ll find Peru’s best beaches like Mancora and its superb surf spots likes Lobitos or Chicama. There are also plenty of ruins to see all long the coast such as Chan Chan and Lord’s Sipan’s tomb.