A few days ago, my mom and I returned from our trip around Peru. It was my job to plan a 16 day trip to Peru, and it was great! Our main reason for traveling to Peru was to visit Machu Picchu. However, we quickly realized that there was so much to do and see!
After a few weeks of planning, we decided to spend our first two days getting situated in Lima before flying over to Cusco. You can go by bus, but the drive is at least 20 hours, since the bus goes through mountainous terrains. Once in Cusco, we traveled up to Machu Picchu one day and then returned to Cusco. After a few days, we started our Peru Hop bus tour. It took us back to Lima by going down south to Lake Titicaca, then westward, and up along the coast. Below, is a little summary of the places we stopped at during our trip!
Lima (June 23-26)
Lima is the capital of Peru with a population of around 10 million people (in total, the country has a population of around 31 million!). Located on the water, it’s a beautiful place to walk along the Pacific coast and to try some parasailing. Also, known as Latin America’s gastronomy capital of the world, Lima has delicious (and cheap) food. The Lima food culture ranges from seafood, to various regional cuisines, and to food fusions with other cultures. (Fun fact: Peru has been selected at the ‘World’s Leading Culinary Destination’ for the past five years). Also interestingly enough, food, jewelry, and artisanal items are a lot cheaper in downtown Lima than anywhere else we were in Peru, so we did most of our souvenir shopping there.
While most people rather spend time in Cusco than in Lima, we spent a total of about 3.5 days in Lima and we don’t regret it at all. Lima has some unique districts that are worth the visit. We visited Lima’s Downtown District, Miraflores , which is Lima’s commercial and most affluent district. We also enjoyed Barranco, the fun and bohemian neighborhood full of culture and a great bar scene at night. Above all, you can’t beat the food in Lima!
- Visiting the Plaza de Armas in Downtown Lima. Lima is actually in a desert, so it barely rains here. There is almost aways a constant fogginess in the city – hence the gray sky.
- Walking along the coast of Lima.
- And of course, trying the delicious food that Lima has to offer!
Cusco (June 26-30)
Cusco is the most popular tourist destination in Peru, mainly used as a pitstop for those that plan to visit Machu Picchu. But besides its proximity to Machu Picchu, it’s a picturesque city located in a valley. Last year, Trip Advisor announced that Cusco was the second most popular tourist destination in Latin America (after Buenos Aires). We spent about two days here, exploring and getting situated to the high altitude (the rest of the days were used to get to/from Machu Picchu). A little too touristy for me, but definitely worth a few days!
- Of course, the clear highlight of the trip: Machu Picchu!
- Besides Machu Picchu, there are also other fascination wonders in the area, like Rainbow Mountain.
Puno (July 1-2)
Puno is a large town located at the shore of Lake Tictaca and it acted as our pitstop for a 2day/1night homestay tour we booked to explore Lake Titicaca. At 12,507ft/3,810m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It’s also shared with Bolivia, so many people opt to cross over to Bolivia from Puno.
- Visiting the Uros Islands – a collection of about 80 man-made islands. The islands are built by the Aymara-speaking indigenous people, who use shallow-growing reeds from the lake to build these floating islands. Swimming through the lake on a boat was incredible. We witnessed so many little islands, which were surreal – never before had I seen anything like it!
- Spending the night with a local family on Amanti Island and learning about the local culture and cuisine while there. This was a one-of-a-kind experience. We were hosted by a local family and were able to try their local cuisine. Perhaps the worst part was that the Amanti Island are at a significantly high altitude. During our stay, my mother found it hard to breathe, particularly when she slept at night.
Arequipa (July 3-6)
Arequipa is the second most industrialized and commercial city in Peru, after Lima. It’s a prideful town with a unique culture. It’s responsible for having several local, popular beverages (like Kola Escocesa) and dishes (Empanadas Salteñas). Some also refer to the city as “La Ciudad Blanca” (White City). Its buildings are made from white, volcanic stone and it was a city mainly developed by the Spaniards. It’s surrounded by three picturesque volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. This was my favorite city in Peru for a couple reasons A) its beautiful architecture, B) its unique culture, and C) for not being as touristy as other places we visited during our trip.
- Exploring the City’s Plaza de Armas.
- Booking a 2day/1night tour to explore the Colca Canyon – the second deepest canyon in the world.
Huacachina (July 6-7)
Huacachina is a tiny village built around an oasis in the desert. Besides the cool fact of being at an oasis in the desert, there is not much to do in the town itself. BUT, the sand dunes surrounded Huacachina mean that you can go sand boarding and ride a dune buggy, which were some of our coolest experiences in Peru!
- Taking many, many pictures.
- Sand boarding!
Paracas (July 7-8)
Paracas as a town wasn’t anything exciting (during our free time we did several laps around the town and sat around in cafes), but it’s located by the Paracas National Reserve. The Reserve is responsible for protecting parts of Peru’s coastal marine ecosystem.
Paracas (the town), is also located by the Ballestes Islands, also known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos Islands”. However, due to bad weather conditions, the port was closed that day, so we were unable to go out and explore the islands.
- The National Reserve was the highlight of our stop here in Paracas!
After our day in Paracas, we arrived to Lima July 9th, right before midnight. We spent the next day revisiting Downtown Lima and having our last share of delicious ceviche. Before long, we were on a plane, back to Newark. Peru was truly a magical and wonderful place to visit. In 16 days, we were able to see so many places and experience so much culture. It was a trip for the books!
It’s time for you to plan a 16 day trip to Peru!