Solo Travel in Peru
The north of Peru does not have that many tourists and parts of the country are out of bounds so check Foreign Office advice or use a tour company if you are unsure of where to travel. If you're travelling solo in Peru, not all indigenous villages will welcome you. Some remote Andean villages live in complete isolation are not keen on visitors so stick to the tourist route if travelling alone or hire a Quechua speaking guide for the more remote areas.
Begging is increasing within the tourist destinations and as a solo you may encounter stares from the locals. As in any other city be careful with your belongings in Lima and don’t walk about at night (Cuzco is much safer).
Amazing Inca ruins, the Andes Mountains and fried guinea pigs. Peru is a country steeped in a fascinating history with lush scenery and colourful traditions.
The capital, Lima is a great place to start your journey. In the heart of Old Lima you can find the cathedral, museums and the Archbishop’s Palace. The San Francisco church and catacombs are a definite must; this is where the locals used to bury their dead under the church and you can explore the underground caves and view the old skulls and bones. In the main square the changing of the guards takes place daily at noon in front of the Presidential Palace. It’s fine to explore the capital during the day as policeman stand on the street corners but don’t venture out at night here.
A better place to stay at night is the affluent coastal district of Miraflores just a cab ride away. Here you’ll find people jogging along the promenade, and people surfing the waves so don't forget to add your sportswear to your Peru packing list. Miraflores has a different feel to the rest of the capital with good restaurants and nightlife.
Cuzco is the oldest inhabited city in South America built in the dip of a valley and 3,400 metres above sea level. This pretty historical city attracts travellers who not only come for the Inca ruins but who want to take a step back in time. Known as ‘the City of Churches,’ the city boasts tradition and legend. Take advantage of a tourist ticket which gives entry into museums, churches and the Inca site: Puca Pucara (the red fortress). If you’re not a fan of museums you will be after a visit to the Museo Historical Regional and Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo. For the adventurous try your hand at mountain biking, hand gliding and even white-water rafting but steer clear of the market if you don’t want to feel uncomfortable.
The Sacred Valley is a lush agricultural region between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Through the valleys are the red walls of the ruins of Pisac, a citadel that was once the entrance to the gorge with rocky overhangs, where several ancient burial sites are hidden. There is a great market here and villagers come from miles around to sell their handicrafts. There’s also a locals weavers project en route for a glimpse into local life.
Nearby is the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, a fortress that overlooks the beautiful Urubamba River Valley and one of Peru's main attractions. It is one of the biggest cities to be discovered and also the best preserved. The city was named ‘Fortress of Ollantaytambo’ by the Spaniards and has huge steep terraces that guard the fortress. The Temple of the Sun is a highlight here.
Aquas Calientes is the little town close to Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca ruin of all. The frontier town nestled in the hills gets its name (‘hot water’ in Spanish) from the hot springs. It’s a busy town with a large market and is mystical at night with the mist from the mountains and the sounds of the Vilcanota River as it echoes around the town.
Buses from here to Machu Picchu (meaning ‘old mountain’) start from 5.30am in the morning when can visit the lost city for sunrise. Discovered in 1911 by an American historian, Hiram Baingham, the site which spans five square kilometers is now one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It costs £31 to enter and £11 for the bus but you do get a stamp if you take your passport! Peru tourism now restricts the number of visitors to Machu Picchu to help preserve the environment so book ahead as places are limited. This also applies to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The busiest time is July to August.
The highest city in Peru is Puno at 3830m above sea level. This is the gateway to LakeTiticaca, a lake the size of an ocean which rests on the border of Peru and Bolivia, known as the birthplace of the Incas. This should definitely be on your Peru itinerary. Puno’s main square is like a mini city and you can buy hats and jumpers for silly prices. The city comes alive with monthly festivals but wrap up warm as it gets very cold at night. A visit here is not complete without a boat trip to the floating reed islands of the Uros People who isolated themselves centuries before. Over 35 islands exist and only a small number are open to visitors. Here you can purchase handmade tapestries made by the islanders to support their way of life.
Taquile is a port of call on the way to the floating islands, where the locals wear different coloured hats depending on their married status. There’s a great view of the lake from here.
Dining in Peru is an experience and if you’re lucky, you’ll have live music whilst you're eating as locals play their latest tunes on traditional wooden instruments. Italian food seems popular and the wood clay ovens are a warm welcome to cold weather. Try Chica, a traditional drink made from corn and herbs or a Pisco Sour cocktail. From their national dish, ‘ceviche’ (raw fish marinated in lime juices and spices) to Argentine steak and guinea pig, they cater for everyone’s tastes, no matter how adventurous.
Visit Peru for ancient civilisations, lush scenery and an insight into a South American way of life.
Drink cocoa tea or chew cocoa leaves to alleviate altitude sickness
If you visit Peru in February you may find yourself caught up in the annual water festival with locals trying to drench you!
How long do I need?
At least one week for Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Allow two weeks to include Machu Picchu (which is a must).
Accommodation in Peru
If you are backpacking Peru, you’ll find plenty of basic accommodation including hostels to meet like-minded others. There are guest houses and home stays for those looking to stay with locals instead of fellow travellers. You’ll also find Peruvian guesthouses, jungle and eco lodges and the more luxurious hotels on Booking.com. You can even camp if you are feeling adventurous.
Solo Favourite – Hotel Antigua Miraflores, Lima
Situated in a safe area, Hotel Antigua Miraflores is in the perfect spot for access to the beach, evening shows as well as restaurants and nightlife. Prices from £79 p/n. Find out more…
Solo Favourite – Tandapata Boutique Hotel, Cusco
We love this boutique hotel with its friendly staff. Not only is it exceptionally clean and chic but it is close to the fayre to pick up an artisan souvenir. Prices from £53 p/n. Find out more…
Solo Favourite – Hotel Hacienda Plaza de Armas, Puno
Not only is this 3 star hotel in a great location in the main square of Puno but it also looks out to the cathedral. It’s the perfect place for exploring and Lake Titicaca is really close too. Prices from £38 p/n. Find out more…
If you are looking for some company for all or part of your trip, both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel are responsible tour companies and have group tours from 8 days to more than 3 weeks. I have personally used G Adventures for Peru and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
For local tour companies the following have been recommended by other solo females:
- Urban Adventures – A responsible company providing day tours.
- Edgar Adventures – A Peruvian based travel company specialising in sustainable and responsible travel.
Travelling Around Peru
Buses and trains run from cities and towns but will take a large chunk out of your time so combine with internal flights for ease. A South America Airpass is a great way of saving money on flights.
There are a number of bus companies: Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours, Linea and Oltursa and Perurail operate the train lines. The train from Aquas Calientes to Cuzco has comfortable seats and provides a meal on board (you can see the start of the Inca trail from here too). Always make sure a taxi is licensed by checking documentation in the front window before getting in.
To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
From the Airport
Lima – A taxi will cost £15 for the 30 minute journey into Lima (more to Miraflores).
Cuzco – If you have hardly any luggage you can take the bus for 0.50 N.Sol which will take you to Almagro and Avenida Sol. If you have luggage grab a taxi, only £2 for the 10 minute journey.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
Peru to Chile – From Tacna to Arica in Chile. Take the bus from Lima to arrive the next morning. Then an international bus or a shared taxi from Tacna to Arica (takes 1 hour and costs less than £5).
Peru to Bolivia – From Puno take a 2 hour bus ride to the Bolivian border. You can travel onward to La Paz by boat then bus.
Peru to Brazil – From Puerto Maldonado take a minibus to Inapari (4 hours), then cross by the bridge or ferry to Assis Brasil.
Peru to Ecuador – A bus from Lima to Mancora then across to the river border of Huaquillas. You will need to speak Spanish here as the border can be sketchy.
Where can I go from here?
Ecuador 1.5 hrs
Bolivia 2.25 hrs
Brazil 3.5 hrs
- Can I drink the water? Not recommended.
- Is tipping expected? Yes for tours and porters, no for taxis or restaurants but 10% service charge is sometimes included.
- Fixed price or barter? There can be a local price and a ‘tourist’ price. Generally bartering is only for markets here.
- Any ATMs? Yes but take cash too.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right.
- Good for vegetarians? Not great! Their delicacy is guinea pig.
- Any seven wonders of the world? Yes Machu Picchu.
*This is accurate at time of writing but we appreciate things can change. Please let us know if you experience anything otherwise. Thanks.
Capital – Lima
Population – 29.4 million
Language spoken – Spanish, Quechua
Did you know? That Machu Picchu was the only Inca Ruin undiscovered by the Spanish during their rule.