So, you’re planning a trip to the mystical country of Peru? For those who want to discover the best of this wonderful country, we’ve put together the 3 best travel routes, with different itineraries so you can find the perfect trip. Short on time? Don’t panic, here we’ve told you what you must see and what can be missed.
ITINERARY 1: THE GRINGO TRAIL
This is the classic route that travellers take when they visit Peru for the first time. See the highlights of Peru and travel the southern part of the country conveniently by bus, from Lima to Cusco. No need to take a flight for this itinerary.
The easiest way to do this is by taking the Peru Hop bus. We will be following their itinerary for the south trail as their bus goes to both the bigger and smaller landmarks along the gringo trail. The PH folks/guys say you can do this route in 6 days, but if you’re not in a hurry then you can take your time and hop on and off the bus as you please.
As you will be travelling in a country of varying altitudes, which can range from Lima (79m in Miraflores) to Arequipa (2,328m) to Cusco (3,400m) to Puno (3,810m), make sure you take preventative measures to combat altitude sickness. It’s best to take your time and not rush your travel plans if you can help it.
Itinerary Gringo Trail (12 days)
Day 1: Lima to Paracas (morning bus)
Visit smaller spots on your way to Paracas and enjoy a chilled afternoon in this seaside town, and spend your time eating good ceviche and relaxing in the sun.
Day 2: Paracas to Huacachina (afternoon bus)
See the Ballestas Islands and the National Reserve in the morning and go sandboarding in the afternoon.
Day 3: Huacachina to Nazca (to Arequipa overnight).
Visit a Pisco Vineyard and sample Peru’s famous alcoholic beverage. See the Nazca Lines from the Nazca Lines Viewing Tower.
Day 4: Arequipa.
Arrive in the “White City” of Arequipa and take it slow. At 2,328m, you might be feeling the effects of the altitude. Explore the city by foot, and watch people in the main square. Try delicious local dishes, such as rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers – believe us, it tastes better than it sounds!) and queso helado (an ice cream-like dessert). For more information on the beautiful colonial city check out the Official Arequipa webpage
Day 5-6: Colca Canyon.
Join a trek (2/3 days) or tour (1/2 days) of Colca Canyon. Get a glimpse of the majestic Condor in an otherworldy landscape.
Day 7-9: Arequipa to Puno (early morning bus)
Leave Arequipa early and visit The Floating Islands in Lake Titiaca at Puno and spend the night on one of the islands with a local family. Alternatively, you could also visit the floating islands in one day or even a 2-hour excursion but then you will miss out on Amantani Island.
Day 10: Cusco (arrive in overnight bus)
Discover the hilly city by foot, wander its cobbled streets and narrow walkways, and relax in the main square. Don’t rush too much as the altitude is still pretty high (3,400m). Check out the city’s lively nightlife.
Day 11-12: Machu Picchu (Classic 2 day train)
Don’t miss! Peru’s national treasure, Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu can be done in one day, but in order to get the best experience and see the spectacular sunrise over the citadel, it’s best to take at least 2 days, spending one night in the town of Aguas Calientes, and departing early the next morning to visit Machu Picchu. Other (longer) options include the Inca Trail, Salkantay, or Inca Jungle. Most treks are 4 days including your visit to Machu Picchu. Explore your possibilities before deciding which one suits you best.
Day 13: Cusco to Lima (Plane or Bus)
Get back to Lima by bus or plane and end your trip.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostels for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bars is free even for non-guests
Lima’s beaches aren’t Peru’s best, but they provide a quick escape from the city, and you can easily find a surfing school if you go down to the Miraflores Playa Redondo. A short trip along the Costa Verde south will take you to Chorillos, where the crowded Playa Agua Dulce is found. There is also a bustling fish market (Muelle de Pescadores), where you’ll see quaint fishing boats, a plethora of outdoor restaurants, and gangs of pelicans searching out their next meal, great for a photo stop. Alternatively, get a bird’s eye view of the coastline and try paragliding in Miraflores.
- Explore its popular neighbourhoods, the bohemian Barranco where you’ll find romantic colonial mansions and dilapidated but beautiful buildings, and the glamorous, exclusive Miraflores with its malecon, palm-tree filled parks, and chic Larcomar shopping centre. Of course, you can’t miss a trip to the historic centre.
- Lima has plenty of museums where you can immerse yourself in the country’s art and history, with long lost tales of Spanish conquistadores, Inca Emperors, and stolen treasure.
- The culinary scene here is world famous: Limeños are proud of their finger-lickingly delicious gastronomy; indeed 3 of the world’s top 50 restaurants 2017 are in Lima and Lima’s ceviche (Sliced raw fish with lime juice) is godly.
- Go paragliding and enjoy the best view in Lima!
- Check out our blog on the 50 things to do in Lima for more ideas.
Sleep on an overnight bus to Trujillo (8-10 hours). Or, stay in Lima and experience a night out in Peru’s capital city! Take an early bus to Trujillo the following morning. A flight between Lima and Trujillo is 1h10min flight.
Day 2-3: Trujillo.
A small city known for its sunny year-round climate. Spend some time wandering its colonial streets. Try delicious seafood at Mar Picante.
- Trujillo has a unique architectural style. Roam its streets and enjoy its wonders.
- The pre-Colombian citadel of Chan Chan is a giant mud city, spread over 20km-squared – be amazed at its construction. Take a guide so you can appreciate and understand the ancient site. Take a taxi or combi from Trujillo.
- Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (The Temples of the Sun and the Moon). Even older than Chan Chan, these pre-Colombian pyramid-like structures are found 10km from Trujillo. Get there in a combi or taxi from Trujillo (15 soles).
- Huaca Dragon has some great dragon wall carvings.
Day 3-4: Trujillo to Huanchaco
Desperate to get back to the beach already? The chilled surfer town of Huanchaco is just 20 minutes away. Take a bus from Trujillo, which will take you 12km northwest to Huanchaco. Once a quiet fishing village, now a popular spot to visit, this is a surfing town with a seriously mellow vibe.
- Watch the fishermen navigate on their narrow reed boats.
- Go surfing.
- Grab some food and a beer and watch the waves. Go back for more surfing.
Day 4-7: Huanchaco to Trujillo to Cajamarca (morning bus)
Rise and shine early, and travel back to Trujillo. From there, catch the morning bus to Cajamarca. (7h30min)
Cajamarca is a peaceful city, and one which holds great historical importance for Peru: Atahualpa, the last Incan Emperor, was kept prisoner here. Visit the Cuarto del Rescate (ransom room) where the Spanish held Atahualpa captive.
- Go to the Baños del Inca: Natural hot springs located 5km out of the centre. This place also has historical importance; it was said Atahualpa was bathing here when the Spanish invaded.
- See Ventanillas de Otuzco: An ancient burial site, with tombs built into the cliff side, looking like little “windows”. A short journey from the city centre.
- Take your camera to Cerro Santa Apolonia: Climb up the stairs for a panoramic city view.
- Relax and take a moments peace in the Plaza de Armas, especially pretty at night.
- Sample Cajamarca’s cheese and milk – this place is one of the best producers in Peru.
Day 6-7: Cajamarca to Trujillo to Mancora (morning bus).
Take the morning bus from Cajamarca to Trujillo (7h30min). Then take the bus from Trujillo to Mancora (9h45min).
Day 7-9: Mancora.
You’ve made it to Mancora! Known as the Hawaii of Peru for its year-round warm weather and blue skies, this is a place that has it all: Surfing, beaches, parties, and amazing food. There’s a great backpacker scene here, and it is also a key surfing destination. We recommend you spend several days here, in order to explore the area. Go in the Peruvian summertime if you’re looking for big parties, in the winter everything will be a little bit quieter.
- Visit the nearby waterfalls and mud baths.
- La Poza de Barro is a natural spa, the water is said to contain minerals and healing properties! (30 mins/24km east from Mancora in moto-taxi/hike there in 4 hours).
- Explore the area by horse or motorbike.
- Kite surfing/water sports.
- Zip lining.
- Party! Surf! Party!
Day 10-11: Mancora/Vichayito/Los Organos/Punta Veleros.
Tips: Vichayito/Los Organos/Punta Veleros
- Visit Vichayito, Los Organos, and Punta Veleros. These nearby beaches can easily be accessed by moto-taxi, or on foot.
- Try water sports at Vichayito, a place with strong winds and shallow water – diving, snorkelling, kite surfing, and wind surfing.
- Go wildlife watching at Los Organos – swimming with turtles, and spotting whales, pelicans and sea lions. Enjoy the white sands, relax at the spa, and stay at Soleil Bungalows.
- Punta Veleros is a place for surfing, fishing, and diving.
Day 11-12: Mancora/Tumbes – Day trips
Fancy getting away from the beach? You can do day trips from Mancora to visit reserves.
Tips day trips from Mancora:
- Visit Tumbes (approx. 2 hours from Mancora).
- Take a day trip to the Mangroves in Tumbes (120km north of Mancora): Look out for the American Crocodile, see other wildlife species, go by kayak/canoe, visit the fishing village of Puerto Pizarro.
- The Zona Reservada de Tumbes – where dry and tropical forest meet.
- The Parque Nacional Cerros de Amotape.
- Los Pilares de Quedbrada Fernandez.
Day 13: Get back to Lima by bus or plane.
You can go back to Lima by bus, which will take you 16-20 hours depending on the company and the traffic. Buses from Mancora leave in the evening. Alternatively you could take the plane and get to Lima in less than 2 hours.
After an Ecuadorian adventure?
If you already made it to Mancora, it’s but a small step towards Ecuador. Via Tumbes you can cross the border and venture into the country that is home to the one and only Galapagos Islands.
- Just in case you’re not done yet with the beach life, visit Hippy town Montañita and spend your days surfing and eating.
- The Galapagos … It goes without saying that the islands are reason enough for a visit. Given its price tag you might want to drink a cocktail or two less if you want to fit a visit into your travel budget. Go scuba diving, snorkeling, take boat rides, and get lost in paradise.