2 weeks in Peru
Peru has become a landmark destination in recent years. Known mainly for Machu Picchu, its Inca civilization, and for its excellent gastronomy, this country two and a half times bigger than France does not stop attracting the curious. But between the historical sites and the fabulous landscapes, the possibilities of discoveries are great and it is quite difficult to fix a route.
Especially that we quickly face a major problem for a short trip: distances. Indeed, the Andes offer beautiful landscapes, but also winding roads that are long enough to travel by bus. It’s up to you to see if you prefer to sacrifice time (bus) or money (plane), to establish the route to Peru that suits you best.
So: what to do in Peru in 2 weeks?
Here is an example of a 15-day itinerary in Peru so you do not miss anything you can not miss on your first trip.
Day 1-2: Lima
Lima is the capital of the country and the obligatory crossing point of a circuit in Peru. This city which alone brings together almost 10 million inhabitants, or a third of the total population of the country, swarms on all sides. Although it does not seem to have a good reputation with foreign guides and agencies, it nevertheless offers a unique charm, between its traditional neighborhoods and its seaside, Pacific side.
You will have the chance to see the inevitable sunsets by strolling on the “Malecon”, along the green spaces bordering the cliff. In Miraflores, do not miss Huaca Pucllana. This 1600-year-old pyramid, which has seen four pre-Colombian civilizations, was unveiled just 30 years ago in the heart of the district. The visits – obligatorily guided – are generally done by day, but recently, also by night. Illuminated, she is beautiful.
Also make a hop to Mercado de Surquillo, a few steps from Parque Kennedy. Between fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs, there is a beautiful sample of the variety of Peruvian products, from the coast to the jungle, through the Andes. It’s also the perfect place to grab a fresh fruit juice and share a generous and cheap day menu.
Barranco, the adjacent neighborhood, is the most charming in the city. Considered as the bohemian district, it is the perfect place to get lost in the streets, between colorful facades, typical casonas and street art, and enjoy the local life while more and more beautiful addresses, cafes, restaurants, galleries, open their doors. In the evening, it is also the favorite place of the Limenes to have a drink.
Add to this the historic center with its Plaza de Armas, home of Lima’s great cathedral, and just a few blocks away, the unmistakable Monasterio San Francisco and its catacombs. In the afternoon, do not hesitate to visit the Museo Larco, my favorite of the city, which presents a magnificent collection of pre-Columbian objects. Its green terrace, surrounded by a flower garden, is perfect to take a pisco sour or a chilcano in the evening.
But Lima must be lived through food, besides it is the favorite subject of all! It is not for nothing that it has been designated gastronomic capital of South America. Here you have to taste the famous ceviche, arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood), lomo saltado (beef stew), and anticuchos (beef heart skewers).
To stay in Lima
In Lima, we recommend you to stay in the neighborhoods of Barranco or Miraflores. Here are our favorite hotels :
- Inti Killa Hostel: Located in the district of Miraflores, in a quiet street, this small hotel offers beautiful rooms at a very attractive price. The hotel staff is extremely kind and helpful and will advise you for travel and sightseeing. They even give maps of “Metropolitan”, the Lima fast bus! From 45 euros per night in a double room.
- Casita Libertad Homestay: Hostel located in the district of Barranco. Very clean and well located, perfect for traveling without breaking the bank! From 23 euros per night in a double room
- JW Marriott Hotel Lima: 5 * Hotel located in the Miraflores district, this is the most luxurious hotel in Lima, very popular with travelers seeking superior comfort. From 280 euros per night in a double room
To read also : what to do in 48 hours in Lima ?
Day 3-5/6: Arequipa and Colca Canyon (3-4 days)
Nicknamed the white city, Arequipa is the second largest city in terms of inhabitants. Located between the Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu volcanoes, it rises to an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level.
One of the main attractions of the city is Santa Catalina Convent, one of the largest convents in the world. With its 20,460m², this true “small town in a city” blue and red is the largest religious building in Peru. Built in 1579, it housed nuns – a third of whom were nuns Carmelite nuns. They are only 40 today, having contact with the outside world since 1970. Evening visits (Tuesday and Thursday until 8 pm) are also possible and offer a very special atmosphere. It’s up to you to see what is the perfect time to stroll through the narrow streets and learn more about its history. Plan in any case several hours, it is really worth it!
The Plaza de Armas is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Peru with its magnificent white cathedral-basilica, which is the most important neoclassical monument of Peru and the Church of Compañía, one of the most beautiful representations of the baroque style of the country. For an unmissable view of the city, head to Mirador Yanahuara. It will be an opportunity to eat in a ” picanteria”neighborhood, a typical restaurant to taste the cuisine of Arequipa, considered the best in the country.
Impossible to go to Arequipa without discovering the Colca Canyon. A few hours from the city, the 2 edeepest canyon in the world. In addition to a beautiful view of the valley, you will have the chance to observe condors in full flight. With their 3 meters of average wingspan, it is a splendid natural spectacle. The shortest excursions are in one day, but the best is definitely to go for two days with a night in the canyon. It is also a favorite spot for trekking fans, while the circuit is quite easy, even without a guide in 1 or 2 days, down to the oasis.
Otherwise, less touristy than the Colca Canyon, is also the Cotahuasi Canyon, which won the title of the deepest canyon in the world. It is much less busy, but is a little more demanding and requires 4 days of walking instead.
Lima Transport in Arequipa
- By bus: 15h-17h, starting from 35 $ USD, with Tepsa, Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours and Excluciva
- By plane: 1h30, from $ 120 USD with Avianca, Peruvian Airlines or Lan.
To stay in Arequipa
These are the 3 hotels we offer for Arequipa based on your budget:
- Mercaderes Backpackers: Located 20 meters from the Plaza de Armas, this colorful hostel offers very clean and bright dormitory rooms, a terrace with hammock and all at a more than adequate price for the budget minded. Private rooms and dormitories available. From only 6 euros!
- Hotel Tierra Viva: for slightly higher budgets, Tierra Viva located two blocks from Plaza de Armas offers excellent value for money. The rooms are very comfortable, wifi and breakfast buffet are included. From only 62 euros per night
- Hotel Los Tambos: it is an interesting option for those who wish to enjoy a superior comfort. The hotel is located just 50m from the Plaza de Armas, with beautiful rooms, a nice roof terrace which offers a breathtaking view of the historic center and the surroundings, as well as an a la carte breakfast included with 5 different options! From 63 euros per night
To read also : what to do in 48 hours in Arequipa ?
Day 7-8/9: Puno and Titicaca (2-3 days)
It is near Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, shared with Bolivia, that is the city of Puno at over 3800m altitude. Puno has been named ” capital of folklore “, thanks to its important festivities like the colorful “Virgen de la Candelaria”. It must be admitted, however, that apart from these festivals, the city is not very pretty, but it is the starting point for excursions on Lake Titicaca, which is absolutely to be seen in Peru.
This immense lake, with an area of about 8,500 m² and sheltering 41 islands, offers some interesting possibilities of overnight stay at the inhabitant, a must for a 2 week trip to Peru. Here is what you should not miss on the Titicaca :
- The floating islands of the Uros are still part of the classic tour on the lake. It is true that tourism is overrated, but it is quite fascinating to see how these islands are made entirely of reed, as are their boats and homes. If originally they were occupied by the Uros, as the people died in the 50s – what the guides sometimes fail to mention – they are Aymara who succeeded them.
- Amantani, the most populated island with its 3,500 inhabitants, is one of the most beautiful with its terraced crops and its bucolic paths. We must go up to Pachamama or Pachatata to admire the sunset over the deep blue water. Here, many locals open their doors to travelers for one night. You should not expect the comfort of a hotel, without running water or electricity, but the bed is still comfortable, sometimes shy, but warm welcome. Here, we take the opportunity to enjoy the peace and the magnificent spectacle offered by the thousands of stars in the limpid sky.
- Taquile, his neighbor a little quieter, is famous for its wool-based crafts. Women spin, men knit. One can also easily notice the men of Taquile with their chullo, their tuque wool, they wear differently according to their status as single or married men. Taquile also offers a beautiful setting to spend the day walking around and some locals offer to sleep at home.
- The peninsula of Capachica is a very interesting alternative much less tourist with its communities of fishermen and farmers, like that of Llachon. Departures are not made by boat from Puno, but in combi from Juliaca (3 soles, 1 hour ride to Capachica, then 2.5 soles for 1 hour to Llachon). The trip is well worth it.
Transportation from Arequipa to Puno:
- By bus: 6h, from $ 25 USD, with 4M or Cruz del Sur. There is also a 4M bus that leaves directly from Chivay (Colca Canyon) (single trip from 13:15 to 19:30) $ 50 USD, which avoids a useless detour to Arequipa. And even better! There are vans that make the trip Chivay-Puno with pick- up directly to your hotel, with photo stop in Lagunillas to enjoy the scenery.
- By plane: 3h40-6h30 (via Lima or Cusco generally), from $ 250 USD, with Lan. The plane arrives at Juliaca. Then you have to go to Puno (45 min) by local bus 5 soles per person, shuttle 15-20 soles per person or taxi 80 soles.
Friend Tip: If there is a bus route that is a better option, this is it. It is much cheaper and arrives directly to Puno.
You will have to arrive the day before in Puno because the excursions on the Titicaca leave early in the morning. If you choose Capachica, be sure to arrive no later than 15h in Juliaca, to arrive in time for the last colectivo to Llachon.
To stay in Puno
Here are the hotels we recommend in the region of Puno:
- Posada Don Giorgio: a small rustic hotel with comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, wifi and very friendly service. From 20 euros per night
- Hotel Hacienda Plaza de Armas is a 3 * hotel ideally located right on the Plaza de Armas de Puno. From 45 euros per night
- Uros Titicaca Lodge: a real favorite! Built on one of the floating islands Uros, it is probably the most exotic hotel in Peru! If you have the option, I really recommend spending at least one night there. From 115 euros per night.
Day 10-11: Cusco
Unmissable step of a 2-week itinerary in Peru : Cusco. Historical capital of the country and ancient heart of the Inca Empire, from its 3400m altitude the city still impresses today with its architectural and historical wealth. On the Plaza de Armas, arches, Inca walls and colonial buildings intermingle, with its cathedral and the Church of Compañia. It regularly hosts major cultural and religious celebrations, so you may have the opportunity to attend during your visit.
Cusco is discovered on foot. San Blas, is an absolutely charming and typical neighborhood where there are several artisans and artists, galleries, shops, pretty cafes and restaurants. The narrow streets sometimes contain surprising surprises such as the Hatunrumiyok street and its stone at 12 angles, witness of the impressive construction technique of the Incas: no cement was used, but no emptied was left between the stones, which has allowed many buildings to withstand major earthquakes and still stand today.
The Coricancha, or “Temple of the Sun” was the most sacred place of the Inca Empire. A place dedicated to the worship of the god Inti, the Sun god, it was the most richly decorated of its time with walls covered with gold and silver leaves. Here the ceremonies of the sovereigns took place, and their mummies were kept on golden thrones. It was on its foundations that the Santo Domingo Convent was built in 1534, with the Spanish conquest of the city.
But of course, like any other city in Peru, Cusco lives through its markets. The Mercado San Pedro is a large market where we find cheeses, fruits, vegetables, all kinds of potatoes and quinoa. It is also the perfect place to taste the chicha morada, a drink made from purple maize, take a fresh fruit juice and eat at a low price. Good to know, it is also a good place to find souvenirs a little cheaper than elsewhere and where you can find practical services for travelers, such as sewing.
Four sites on the edge of the city are worth visiting:
- Sacsayhuaman 2 km from Cusco, which is estimated that the construction required 20,000 men for 50 years! From here, one can have a breathtaking view of Cusco.
- Qenko which was one of the most important sanctuaries of the Inca empire. The site has underground galleries that seem to form a labyrinth and its semi-circular shape suggests that there were important ceremonies and even sacrifices.
- Tambomachay, the “bath of the Inca” which two fountains still work to this day.
- Puca Pucara, the “Red Fortress” which was part of the defense structures set up by the Incas. Everything is well visited in half a day
To stay in Cusco
- The municipal hostel: This is the least expensive solution: they offer beds in dormitory (40 beds) to 5 euros. Located a little up, in the San Cristobal district (2 min walk from the center), the view is beautiful, and the budget unbeatable. Address: Kiskapata, 240, Cusco.
- Hostel Qorikilla: Located 600m from the Plaza de Armas, this hotel offers excellent value for money, with rooms from 25 euros. In addition, the view of the city from the terrace of the hotel is sublime!
- The hotel Tierra Viva Cusco San Blas: it is a charming hotel with inner courtyard, a slightly higher range with rooms from 80 euros.
To read also: what to do in Cusco in 48h?
Day 12-13: The Sacred Valley
If Machu Picchu is the dream of many, do not rush to get there. It would be a shame because there is so much to see in the entire Sacred Valley region since it was the heart of the Inca Empire.
In one day, you can visit Chinchero, Maras and Moray .
A second day, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It represents a few round trips, but the fact is that these sites are all a little scattered! Precisely, it is particularly in the care of transportation that the advantage lies in preparing for a trip to Peru via an agency .
- The Salines de Maras is in its own way the most impressive site in the region: 3000 natural water basins from which 800 local families extract salt. Walking around is a unique experience to live.
- Moray, nearby, was an Inca agricultural research center with circular terraced crops creating 20 different microclimates. With a temperature difference of 15C, plants from several regions of Peru were cultivated there.
- Chinchero, is a small white village with Andean charm. We go there to walk in its small cobbled streets, between adobe houses, and discover the textile work that made the reputation of its inhabitants. Very fine examples of colorful clothes and rugs can be found at the Sunday market, but the workshops are also open during the week to show the entire manufacturing process that is passed from mother to daughter from a very young age.
- Pisac is one of the most interesting sites in the valley. On the village side, there is a market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. One can also walk through the streets built by the Incas to observe local life. Side ruins, on the hill, is the ancient village of Pisac, the most complete Inca site after the citadel of Machu Picchu. There are temples, houses, agricultural terraces still used and pipelines of the time are still functional.
- Ollantaytambo was one of the most important villages of the Inca Empire. The fortress was one of the main centers of resistance against the conquistadors, which gives it a very great historical importance. There is the temple of the sun at the top, the bath of ñusta, where the woman of the Inca bathed to purify herself, as well as many constructions and terraced cultures. The view of the surroundings is breathtaking. But the place also contains other interesting and unknown sites, such as the Pinkullyuna, a free site where you can admire the village and the fortress (the entrance is located on the first street before the Plaza de Armas).
If you choose to go by train to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo offers a strategic stop in the Sacred Valley. Indeed, his station is on the path between Aguas Calientes and Cusco and the train stops there every day. You can either sleep in the village and take the first train to Aguas Calientes the next day, or leave in the evening and sleep in Aguas Calientes to be among the first on the Inca citadel.
To stay in the Sacred Valley
If instead of returning to Cusco after your visits to the Sacred Valley, you prefer to sleep in Ollantaytambo, here are my best suggestions for hotels:
- Janaxpacha: this is the option I chose during my stay. It is a hostel at the entrance of Ollantaytambo run by a friendly young American-Peruvian couple and their lovely dog Molly. Simple, but nice and clean. Do not hesitate to ask them for advice, they know the area by heart and are always happy to share good deals! Room from only 13 euros
- Ideal for nature lovers! From 55 euros per night, breakfast that will delight gourmets and gourmands included!
Also read: The Complete Guide to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Day 14: Machu Picchu
Then comes the most awaited visit: the famous Machu Picchu. The ancient Inca city, hidden in the mountains, was officially rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and is now one of the 7 new wonders of the world. Theories lean between religious sanctuary and royal residence, but what is certain is that the site is breathtaking.
The Intipunku, the “Sun Gate”, as the Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain offers stunning views of the site. To have access to these two last, be sure to choose your ticket at the time of purchase because without the right ticket, no ascension possible! The visit of Machu Picchu is done in half a day at a quick pace or in a day. In any case, the ticket is only valid for one day.
To organize a 2 week itinerary in Peru, it is important to be aware of the different options to get to Machu Picchu, all different in time and budget:
- the fastest and the most expensive is the train, to take either Cusco directly or Ollantaytambo.
- if you want to easily integrate the Sacred Valley in the way, you can go colectivo to Ollantaytambo, then take the train to Aguas Calientes.
- the cheapest way is to go colectivo to Santa Teresa, then Hydroelectrica, and walk to Aguas Calientes (about 10h).
Of course, there is also the option of an organized trek (usually 2 to 5 days) to get to Machu Picchu, whether with the Inca Trail – the most touristy trek that must be booked several months in advance-, or alternative treks like the Salkantay, Lares, Huchuy Qosqo and the Jungle Trail. Each agency offers a slightly different route, in terms of stops and lengths. Compare them to find the one that suits you best.
Transportation from Puno to Cusco:
- By bus: 6.30 am, from $ 22 USD with Cruz del Sur or Inka Express
- By plane: 1h, from $ 216 USD (from Juliaca) with Lan
- By train: Andean Explorer departs at 8am and arrives at 6pm, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, $ 180 USD
Transportation from Cusco to Lima:
- By bus: 20-22h, from 80 soles, with Civa, Tepsa, Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours
- By plane: 1h20, from $ 120 USD, with Peruvian Airlines, LCPeru, Peru Star, Avianca, Lan
To stay in Aguas Calientes
If you want to be among the first on Machu Picchu, the best is to sleep in Aguas Calientes!
- Casa Paz Hostel: This is a very simple hostel, but clean, and close to the train station. Wifi available, access to the kitchen and terrace overlooking Aguas Calientes. Breakfast is served from 4.30am to have time to be in Machu Picchu among the first, convenient! From 8 € in dormitory .
- Hotel Falcon: a simple but comfortable hostel with new mattresses, spacious rooms, hot water at all times and a very friendly and welcoming manager. From € 7 or dormitory or € 15 for a room.
- Aguas Calientes Panorama B & B 3 *: Just a few steps from the market, the train station and the bus to Machu Picchu, the Panorama B & B has become one of the favorite accommodation for travelers with its magnificent view of the river and the mountains. It’s not a luxury hotel, but it’s comfortable! Starting from 70 euros
See also: the ultimate guide to Machu Picchu!
Peru in 2 weeks: the word of the end
Of course, this article only offers a suggested route, feasible in 2 weeks and encompassing the main attractions of Peru. There are many other options, less touristy, but also more complicated in terms of feasibility in just 15 days if we take into account the reality of distances.
Seeing everything in 15 days, no matter the country, is impossible. And to be honest, even this trip in two weeks in solo, without agency, requires not enough speed and a fairly good coordination in transport. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice a few stops and take your time to enjoy it better. By the way.
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