A Peru Itinerary

Peru is an amazing country to explore. This South American country has beautiful nature, majestic mountains and an abundance of Inca sites to explore.

I have been lucky enough to have visited Peru twice. Once on a tour with G Adventures and another overland along the Peruvian coast from Ecuador. Although most people come here to see Machu Picchu, there is much more to this South American country. To help you take advantage of your time here, I have put together a 7 and 10-day Peru itinerary to help you plan your trip.

a Peru itinerary

7 Day Peru Itinerary

If you only have a week to spare for a Peru itinerary, it’s a good idea to take your time and spend 3 nights in the capital and 4 nights in Cusco. Find out what to do below.

A Peru Itinerary

The historic centre in Lima

1. Lima – The Capital for 3 nights

Fly into Lima for 3 nights

Start your Peru journey in the capital of the country. Once known as ‘The City of the Kings,’ Lima is both modern and colonial. Spend a day exploring the area around the UESCO World Heritage Site of Plaza de Armas and San Martin Square seeing the colonial plazas and the Lima Cathedral that you may recognise if you have been to Seville in Spain as it is based on the same design.

There’s a lot to see here from the City Hall to the Presidential Palace and the Archbishop Palace. Take a guided tour of the Casa de Aliaga, a colonial mansion that is said to be one of the best preserved in South America.

Continue your Colonial city tour at the San Francisco Convent within the historic centre exploring the catacombs underneath. The catacombs are meant to be the largest in South America and are home to the bones of thousands of people. Built-in the later 17th century it is one of Lima’s best-preserved churches.

See the monastery of Santo Domingo too. This church and monastery are said to be one of the most historic in the city.

As dusk falls, Love Park (Parque del Amor) is where it’s at for the sunset. See the colourful tile mosaics near the water's edge. Although it is obviously romantic, you can be solo to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Plaza de Amor.

Whilst in Lima, head to the Park of the Reserve to indulge in some water magic. The park is home to the world’s largest fountain complex and you can watch the 13 fountains during a music laser show or walk through a tunnel of water too.

Spend some time in Miraflores shopping and dining at one of the several restaurants. This area is one of the most popular with lots of green space and you may prefer to choose your accommodation here. There’s also a museum called Museo Amano if you are interested in textiles and ceramics from Peru. Within Miraflores is the temple of Huaca Pucllana, once an important ceremonial centre. Although it is now surrounded by buildings, it is an interesting site built over seven platforms.

An area that is an alternative to Miraflores is Barranco, a suburb that attracts writers and artists and is good to visit to get those creative juices flowing.

If you enjoy museums, another museum that you may want to visit is the Museo de la Nacion, the largest one in the city. Here you can take a historic journey to learn about the country’s archaeology all the way through to the Incas. Then there is the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia to discover more about prehistoric Peru through to colonial times.

A Peru itinerary

Cusco

2. Cusco – The Ancient City for 4 nights

Fly from Lima to Cusco for 4 nights: (Takes 2 hours, costs approx $170)

If you are a history lover, Cusco is an ideal place for you to learn more about the history of Peru. This city in the Andes Mountains used to be the capital of the Inca Empire and is known for being Peru’s historical capital. Along the streets of Cusco, you can still find the remains of old eras and walk along old Inca streets.

You can take a walking tour around the city to learn more about the past of the city or discover the historical centre of Cusco and old colonial buildings on your own self-guided tour. Discover the main square (Plaza de Armas) and walk along the Street of the Sun, a pathway made of stone from the Inca period. See the iconic Saint Claire Arch, built in the 19th century to celebrate the confederation between Peru and Bolivia.

Visit the Santo Domingo church to see its baroque style (not to be confused with the church of the same name in Lima). One of the most sacred temples in Cusco is also located here. The Coricancha, known as the Temple of the Sun is a beautiful temple that contains fountains, a solar garden, the Temple of the Moon, the Temple of Venus and the Stars and the Rainbow Temple. There were also mummies found here in the past.

See the Atrium of the Cathedral, Peru’s oldest cathedral, the House of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega – the father of Literature in the country, and the remains of the Palace of Inca Pachaquteq. Don’t miss the Cinchona, the national tree of Peru that appears within the country’s coat of arms at the Botanical Garden of Cusco. Cusco is also a great place to shop for alpaca clothes (they are really warm), silver and handicrafts so make sure you plan a stop to the traditional market of San Pedro Market,

There is so much you can do from Cusco. It’s an ideal place to base yourself for 4 nights and take tours from here. For the adventure solo, you can explore the Moray and Salt Mines on a mountain bike or quad bike, or go kayaking on Cusco’s lakes.

Cusco is also a gateway to some of the well-known Inca sites. From here you can visit Sacsayhuaman fortress either by foot (it’s a steep climb), or on a tour. Rediscovered in 1934, this archaeological complex situated above the city of Cusco has well-maintained stone walls and ceremonial altars.

Explore the Sacred Valley from Cusco. This lush area has colonial villages such as Ollantaytambo which is also known for its Inca ruins, and Pisac, where you can pick up some handicrafts.

There is also a day trip to Rainbow Mountain to hike amongst the colourful landscapes of this unusual mountain. Or spend the day trekking at Humantay Lake on a tour instead.

And of course, you can’t come all the way here without a visit to Machu Picchu. There are day tours that take you to this famous site from Cusco, stopping at Aguas Clients for lunch.

A Peru itinerary

Sacsayhuaman near Cusco

10 Day Peru Itinerary

1. Lima for 3 nights. Itinerary as above

Fly from Lima to Cusco (Takes 2 hours, costs approx $170)

2. Cusco for 4 nights – Itinerary as above

Bus from Cusco to Paracas (Takes 15.5 hours, costs approx $76)

Bus from Cusco to Puno (Takes 7.5 hours, costs approx $100) or take a day tour travelling between the two.

3. Paracas or Puno for 2 nights – Itineraries below

A Peru Itinerary

3. Option 1: Paracas – Peru’s Galapagos Islands for 2 nights

Bus from Cusco to Paracas (Takes 15.5 hours, costs approx $76)

Located on the Pacific coast of Peru, Paracas has endless white beaches, a diversity of wildlife and many stunning ocean-view restaurants. But the main attraction of Paracas is the town’s serene nature. Because the area isn’t that built up, you can find some quiet time relaxing in this small beach town. Sunbathing isn’t really recommended here so it’s more the area to sit and watch the sunset at the top of a mountain and take in the whole town from a spectacular viewpoint.

Whilst you’re here, make sure to see the Paracas National Reserve, Peru’s oldest marine reserve. Here you can visit Peru’s Galapagos islands known as the Ballestas Islands. It’s an ideal region for birdwatchers and there is also a protected desert to explore. 

You don’t have to go all the way to the Nazca Lines on a Peru itinerary to see geoglyphs as there’s also the Paracas Candelabra, a giant geoglyph more than 180 metres long that dates back to prehistoric times.

It only takes about 4 hours to drive from Lima to Paracas. If you prefer not to take the bus, you can rent a car at an affordable price and stop off along the way. 

Bus From Paracas to Lima (takes 4.5 hours, costs approx $18)

A Peru Itinerary

3. Option 2: Puno – The Gateway to Lake Titicaca for 2 nights

Bus from Cusco to Puno (Takes 7.5 hours, costs approx $100) or take a day tour travelling between the two.

If you prefer to travel to a freshwater lake bordering Peru and Bolivia, Puno is a great alternative to Paracas. You can take a train or bus from Cusco (trains don’t operate daily so pre-book before).

Puno is the gateway to Lake Titicaca, one of the continent’s largest lakes. This city is known for holding traditional festivals. It isn’t the prettiest city but there are still places to see such as La Catedral de Puno in the Plaza de Armas. This baroque Roman Catholic cathedral with its two bell towers was completed in the 18th century. You can also see archaeological relics from before the Inca periods at the Museo Municipal Carlos Dreyer but the main reason that travellers come here is to see the lake and the floating islands upon it (there are more than 100 here).

Taquile is one of the most visited islands where the islanders create woven garments and textiles that you can purchase. You can take a boat trip to see the Uros tribe who live on these reed islands and learn more about their culture and day-to-day life.

There is still so much more to see in Peru. You may also want to travel along the coast if you are a surfer stopping in places such as Mancora and Huanchaco. But if you are just here for a week or ten days, I hope that the above itineraries have given you some ideas of how to spend your time in Peru. 

Fly from Juliaca Airport to Lima, 50 minutes from Puno (takes 1.5 hours, costs approx $100)

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