Highlights of Peru
Travel Peru specialise in designing trips for discerning travelers with limited time on their hands. Thanks to my experience and know-how, I can show you Peru’s famous highlights in less than a week.
Obviously, if you have time to add additional experiences into your bespoke travel plan, I would be delighted to design a plan tailored to your needs.
The following sample itinerary allows you to sample the wonders of Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, all in around one week.
Lima is a wonderful introduction to Peru. Not least for first-time visitors from North America or Europe, as the sights and sounds of this great country can be a change from what you are used to.
The capital lies right on the Pacific Ocean, and is home to around one-third of the Peruvian population. It boasts the best museums and the best restaurants, including delicious Peruvian cuisine, which is gaining increasing international recognition these days and simply must be tried. (Even if you are only briefly transiting through Lima, we can arrange an exceptional meal with transfers.)
The churches and cathedrals throughout Peru are quite spectacular, not least in down town Lima. Meanwhile, the old colonial center lays claim to a beautiful old cathedral along with the fine old municipality building and government palace, all located on the historical main square, Plaze de Armas. And just one block further on we have the Convent of Santa Catalina with its famous catacombs – all very atmospheric, and with an abundance of character and history.
Peru is also famous for its religious festivals. One of the biggest is in Lima, ‘The Lord of the Miracles’, which is held each October. The streets are filled with huge, vibrant processions, in which ladies dress entirely in purple and the men toil as they carry huge religious symbols through the streets.
Most people in Lima stay in the Miraflores area. It’s a most agreeable place to stay, close to the ocean, and is convenient for the majority of attractions.
Lima is also a great staging post to fly to Cusco. Most flights to Cusco leave in the morning, from about 6am onwards…
Days 2 & 3:
The flight to Cusco takes about 70 minutes. It’s a spectacular flight, taking you briefly out over the Pacific Ocean, before flying across the snowcapped Andes, over countless mountains and valleys and isolated communities. As you soar overhead, it’s impossible not to wonder at the lives led by those far below, and to marvel at the timeless scenery.
As we approach Cusco, we fly through the valley and are afforded wonderful views of Cusco and the surrounding glaciers.
Cusco is high altitude, some 3,500 meters, and on arrival you may temporarily find yourself a little out of breath. But do not worry, NEARLY everyone adjusts by the following morning.
Once through the hustle and bustle of Cusco Airport, there’s a short drive to the old part of town, where visitors are swiftly charmed by its special atmosphere and appearance. It’s a captivating blend of Inca and Spanish influences – for try as they might, the Spanish never succeeded in stamping out the Incas – and it all goes to make Cusco a truly mystical, charming and unique place.
It always good to have at least one night in Cusco, with a city tour in the afternoon and then, if you have the energy, an evening wander around its petite but rich historical center. Highlights include the main square and the area of San Blas with its local artisan shops – a great place to shop for souvenirs, gifts and keepsakes. Cusco is also well served by fine restaurants, so you’re sure to have an enjoyable evening.
The following day you can visit and tour the Sacred Valley, visit the historical market town of Pisac and the last Inca fortress and Sun Temple of Ollantatambo. This will take a full day (with a nice lunch included) and you can return to stay overnight in Cusco, or alternatively stay in the beautiful Sacred Valley…
The Sacred Valley is much closer to Machu Picchu than Cusco. It’s only a short two-hour ride by train to Aguas Calientes, the small village beneath the ruins of Machu Picchu (compared to about four hours from Cusco).
On arrival in Aguas Calientes (around midday), we tour Machu Picchu Sanctuary for about two hours and by about 2pm we are free to lunch, wander a little, and then take the train back to Cusco at the end of the afternoon.
Alternatively, those who overnight in Aguas Calientes can then take the following day’s morning tour of the Sanctuary, before everyone arrives from Cusco (this is a pleasant option as the Sanctuary does fill up as the trains arrive in the late morning).
We rise early and at about 6am take the 30-minute shuttle bus up to the Sanctuary just in time to catch sunrise at Machu Picchu at around 7am (we regrettably can’t guarantee you’ll see the sun, as it can be misty, but as the sun rises it quickly burns it off, so you’ll experience a dawn to remember). Afterwards, we’ll enjoy a 2-hour tour of the Sanctuary, before climbing Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu. Both are small mountains and take about two hours up and down and offer further, stunning views of the Sanctuary. Please note, there are only two times you can do this: 7am and 10am, which we can book if you require.
After your tour it’s free time.
Machu Picchu trains
There are quite a few trains that run up and down from the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes and back.
There is one 1st-class train, from Poroy station – a short distance from Cusco – at 6am and returning at 3.30pm, whilst a 2nd-class departs at 7am and back at 4.30 PM.
A little insight into the trains:
If you wish to save a little, take the 2nd class train, which is fine and comfortable.
1st class comes complete with an almost 180-degree glass roof and windows, all designed to give you the maximum view of the stunning surroundings. It also boasts waitress service (with an inclusive snack) and is more elegant.
There is a further train, the Hiram Bingham, which is a super deluxe. It runs every day (except Sunday) and whilst it’s a lot more expensive it is top of the range and is a fabulous experience, complete with a delicious three-course meal served on the way back.
Back in Cusco for the last night and a great opportunity for a little more exploring, dining and shopping.
And then the following day, we fly from Cusco back to the capital, Lima.
From there, we can connect the same day home and back to your country, or else take a further night in Lima (staying, for example, at the very comfortable 4* hotel at the airport), or perhaps back to Miraflores and the ocean… As always, your journey with Travel Peru can be designed as you see fit.
The above itinerary makes up a very nice 5-day program, but is just one example of the type of service we can provide.
We’d be delighted to design a trip tailored to your specific individual requirements. For example, why not extend your trip to one of the following:
– 6 days, with an added overnight in Aguas Calientes
– 7 days, with an overnight in Machu Picchu, plus a free day and night in Cusco
– 8 days, with a further night in the Sacred Valley, where we could take a half-day rafting program, (for beginners or above); and/or a family-friendly zip-lining adventure; plus an overnight in Machu Picchu and Cusco!
For travelers with more time to spare, or keen on other pursuits, there are many other enthralling features we can add to the program. For example:
– Jungle in Pto Maldonado
– Puno and the highest navigable lake in the world
– Arequipa and the deepest canyon in the world, The Colca Canyon, and the flight of the Condor Eagle
– Paracas and Ica, where you can visit the Ballestas – often described as a small Galapagos – and enjoy sandboarding on the dunes, or overfly the famous Nazca Lines, mysterious ancient sand etchings.
As with all Travel Peru itineraries, the choice is always yours. I will be delighted to design a bespoke trip to cater to your taste, budget and available time.
Inspired? Let’s start discussing your ideas!