The Ultimate Peru Itinerary - 2 Weeks Exploring the Highlights
Chances are, if you’re looking at travels to Peru it’s because of Machu Picchu. I get it, I was the same. And yes, it was just as beautiful in person as I had hoped but was it my favourite experience in Peru? Hmmm, maybe not.
What I didn’t expect to find in Peru was such geographic diversity. It has costal cities, arid deserts, villages in valleys… villages in mountains… villages on lakes! And as you move through the country you’re constantly surprised by the new landscapes.
My 2-week (ok 16 days) itinerary covers all these great highlights. You’ll hike through lush valleys, meet communities from the mountains, slide down sand dunes and eat delicious food. It’s a great first taste of Peru that will leave you wanting more.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
DIVERSE LANDSCAPES | BUDGET TRAVEL | ANCIENT CULTURES | LLAMAS | The Outdoors
2 WEEKS IN PERU - My Sample ITINERARY
Day 1: Lima
Day 2: Ica and Huacachina
Day 3: Ica and Huacachina
Day 4: The Sacred Valley (Urubamba)
Day 5: The Sacred Valley (Urubamba)
Day 6: The Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo)
Day 7: Hike to Machu Picchu
Day 8: Visit Machu Picchu & Hike Huayna Picchu
Day 9: Cusco City Center
Day 10: Cusco Outskirts
Day 11: Train to Lake Titicaca
Day 12: Homestay on Amantani Island
Day 13: Taquile Island
Day 14: Go Home or if you have two extra days visit Arequipa
Some links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.
Day 1: Lima
If you’re flying into Peru then Lima is a great place to start your travels. The capital of Peru is known for its beautiful coastline, UNESCO World Heritage historic center and fresh ceviche.
I opted to only spend a day and a half in Lima. I would have spent more if I had the time but I was eager to explore the other regions of Peru and prioritized those instead.
If you’ve got the time and budget consider visiting one (or more) award-winning restaurants; Maido and Central are the most popular. They both offer tasting menus but couldn’t be more different. You’ll have to book well in advance so read my review article to get an idea of what they’re like.
Day 1 - Lima Itinerary
Morning: Explore the historic city centre
Afternoon: Enjoy a ceviche lunch
Late afternoon: Walk along the Pacific Coast and witness the sunset
Evening: Head to one of South America’s award-winning restaurants
Accomodation: Second Home Peru
For the detailed full-day itinerary, along with notes on accommodation, transportation and where to eat - read my Lima article.
Day 2-3: Ica and Huacachina
A few hours south of Lima is Ica and the oasis town of Huacachina. Huacachina itself is a bustling backpacker spot. The crowds are younger and the experiences are more budget friendly.
The most popular activity is riding through the dunes around sunset then sandboarding down them on your belly. I pre-booked a local guide which was the best idea. He not only took us out to the desert but made sure we got away from the crowds. Through him I also organized a tour to a winery, street food tastings and he took us to some of his favourite restaurants. The food at these places was some of the best we had the entire trip.
Day 2 - Ica Itinerary
Morning: Take the bus from Lima to Ica
Afternoon: Enjoy lunch and a tour of Tacama Winery
Early evening: Head out on the sand dunes and watch the sunset
Night: Try some street food
Day 3 - Huacachina
Morning: Hike the surrounding dunes of Huacachina
Afternoon: Relax by the pool and grab a seafood lunch
Early afternoon: Head back to Lima
Night: Enjoy a dinner in Lima
Accomodation: Hotel El Huacachinero
For the detailed 2-day day itinerary, along with notes on accommodation, transportation and how to book a guide check out my article.
Day 4-6: The Sacred Valley (Urubamba & Ollantaytambo)
The days I spent in the Sacred Valley were probably my favourite. Most people visiting Machu Picchu will stay in Cusco and bypass this area completely by train. Big mistake.
There’s so much to see and explore; plus, it sits at a lower altitude than Cusco, so it makes acclimating more manageable. I highly recommend spending a few nights here before visiting Machu Picchu or Cusco.
Using Urubamba and Ollantaytambo as a home base for a few days, you can explore surrounding natural landscapes, Inca sights and take in some of the traditional cultures of the people who live within the valley and the Andes.
Day 4 - Urubamba Itinerary
Morning: Arrive from Cusco airport and check into hotel
Afternoon: Enjoy a Peruvian-Thai fusion lunch
Late-afternoon: See the Moray terraces and the Maras Salt Ponds
Evening: Enjoy a traditional meal
Day 5 - Urubamba Itinerary
Morning: Visit a weaving community in the Andes
Afternoon: Enjoy a Peruvian lunch
Early evening: Drive around to nearby lookouts
Day 6 - Ollantaytambo Itinerary
Morning: Drive to the town of Ollantaytambo and explore Temple Hill and the large Inca fortress
Afternoon: Eat a pachamanca lunch
Late afternoon: Walk the streets of the town and climb to the storage houses
Evening: Enjoy a Peruvian dinner
Read my travel guide to the Sacred Valley for a detailed 3-day day itinerary, along with how to get around, where to stay and a contact for a great local guide.
Day 7-8: Machu Picchu
All right, we’ve finally gotten to Machu Picchu. By this time, if you’ve followed the above itinerary, you should be relatively well acclimatized. This means you have the option of hiking to Machu Picchu if you want a challenge.
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu: by train or hiking. The most common hike is the 4-day Inca Trail. Travellers book their tour guides 6 months to a year in advance because only a few hundred people can be on the trail every day and guides with permits are required.
A two-week itinerary can give you the option of doing this, but it’s at the sacrifice of 3 full nights somewhere else. So you need to decide what’s most important. I wanted a challenge, without occupying 4 full days, so I went with a 2-day hike.
This allowed me to push myself by hiking a full day to the ruins. Then a second day to explore them and climb the steep Huayna Picchu Mountain.
You can read about my 2-day hiking experience in this article. It also includes details on the 4 Day Inca Trail, 5-Day Salkantay Trek and 5.5 Day Salkantay Trek with Humantay Lagoon.
Day 7 - Hike to Machu Picchu
Morning: Take the train to marker 104km
Afternoon: Hike to Machu Picchu
Early evening: Arrive at Machu Picchu
Evening: Dinner and sleep at Aguas Calientes
Day 8 - Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Itinerary
Early Morning: Tour Machu Picchu ruins
Late Morning: Climb Huayna Picchu Mountain
Afternoon: Have lunch in Aguas Calientes
Evening: Take train to Cusco
Read my article for details on how to spend the day at Machu Picchu. It covers the new ticketing requirements and what it’s like to climb Huayna Picchu.
Day 9-10: Cusco
Sitting at a higher elevation than Machu Picchu, Cusco is best visited after a trip to the ruins. Being the capital of the Inca empire there are many museums within the city and Inca ruins on the outskirts. It’s best to hire a driver and guide if possible, to explore these outer areas.
Day 9 - Cusco City Center Itinerary
Morning: Explore San Pedro Market
Afternoon: Grab lunch in the city
Late Afternoon: Visit the historic buildings and museums
Evening: Enjoy a street food tour
Late evening: Visit the Cusco planetarium and learn about Inca astrology. Bonus: If it’s a nice day you’ll get to see the stars
Day 10 - Cusco Outskirts Itinerary
Morning: Visit the Tambomachay ruins and the The Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary
Afternoon: Explore the Pisac market
Late Afternoon: Grab a local lunch
Early evening: See the Pisac ruins and Saqsaywaman
Accomodation: La Morada Suites
Read my article for a detailed two-day itinerary to Cusco and the surrounding area. It covers all the highlights with tips on accommodation and transportation.
Day 11: Take the Train to Lake Titicaca
There are a few ways to get to Puno and the Lake Titicaca region. I opted for a luxury sleeper train, The Belmond Andean Explorer. This train ride leaves in the late morning and get’s into the Puno train station at night. It stops twice along the way with short excursions.
If the price is too much (which in my opinion it was) then consider the cheaper alternative of Peru Rail, which doesn’t offer the sleeper cabins. Here’s my honest review of the train ride. At the end I cover additional methods of transport to get from Cusco to Puno. Note that this train only runs on select days of the week. My article goes into those details.
Day 11 - From Cusco to Puno
All day: Ride the train from Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca)
Day 12-13: Lake Titicaca
Once in Puno, I didn’t bother spending any time in the city itself because I was interested in the remote islands on Lake Titicaca.
Through a tour company I decided to participate in a cultural homestay on the Island of Amantani. The homestay involved meeting a local family and being hosted in their private home. This cultural exchange allowed me to get a glimpse into their lives and a greater appreciation for how tough living on a remote island can be.
To get to the island we needed to take a 3-hour boat ride. On the way, we stopped at the highly-touristic Uros Floating Islands. Though the construction and history of these islands was interesting, it felt over-commercialized for tourism.
Once we arrived on Amantani Island everything changed. There was no motor traffic, no noise and beautiful views. We were greeted by our host family for the day who prepared our meals and gave us insight into their lives on the islands.
Day 12 - Amantani Island Itinerary
Morning: Disembark the train and head to the Puno Port
Early afternoon: Visit the Uros floating Islands
Afternoon: Arrive at Amantani Island, enjoy lunch
Early evening: Hike to the lookout point on the island for sunset
Evening: Enjoy a home cooked dinner
Day 13 - Taquile Island Itinerary
Morning: Have breakfast at your homestay then leave the island
Afternoon: Arrive at Taquile Island, hike and enjoy a lunch
Late afternoon: Take the boat back to Puno
Evening: Sleep at hotel in Puno
BONUS: If you’ve got two more days then head to Arequipa and keep reading…
You can read this article for my honest review of the Lake Titicaca tour and my experience at the cultural exchange homestay.
Day 14-15: Arequipa
If I could change one thing about this trip, it would be to spend more time in Arequipa. After several days in more remote locations it was nice to be back in a busy city.
The city center of Arequipa is charming. It’s known as the white city because so many buildings use the volcanic rock from nearby. Try to dedicate a day in the city and if you have another few days consider a trip to Colca Canyon to see some condors in the wild.
I had also wanted to do an ATV tour by the surrounding volcanoes (Misti, Mount Chachani and Pichu Pichu) but alas, my time was cut short by a stupid flight booking error. Next time I visit Peru, I’m heading straight to Arequipa.
Day 14 - Arequipa
All Day Option 1: Tour the outskirts and get a closer view of Misti Mountain
All Day Option 2: Book a tour to visit Colca Canyon
Day 15 - Arequipa City Center Itinerary
Morning: Explore the Santa Catalina Monastery
Afternoon: Enjoy a local lunch or a juicy sandwich
Evening: Catch a flight back to Lima for your return home (womp womp)
Accomodation: Beausejour Boutique Hotel
You can follow this guide for how to spend one day in the city center of Arequipa. It includes tips on accommodation, transportation and safety.
My Favourite Moments in Peru
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness
As someone who was absolutely paranoid about getting sick I can happily report that I was perfectly fine. With that being said I took as many precautions as possible and having experienced headaches in the mountains of Colorado I was better prepared for this trip.
If you’d like to receive a free handout outlining how I prepared for the trip you can subscribe below and I’ll send it over.
Things I’ll do Next Time in Peru
2 weeks (or 16 days) is a tight timeline. If you have more time you can consider adding these activities to your list:
Colca Canyon (from Arequipa) - From Arequipa, take a day trip out to Colca Canyon. Here you’ll go hiking and likely catch a glimpse of condors flying around the canyon.
The Nazca Lines (from Ica) - Dating back to around 100 BC these geoglyphs are carved into the ground. From a plane you can see shapes that form animals and plants. Just make sure you’re ok with a bumpy ride, I’ve read the planes can get shaky but the views are spectacular.
The Salkantay Trek (from Cusco) - A longer trek than the Inca Trail, this path will take you past large lakes and Peruvian villages. You can read more about it at the end of my article on the short Inca Trail hike.
Rainbow Mountain (from Cusco) - The Rainbow Mountain famously got its name from its collection of different mineral deposits, creating a rainbow-like effect on the mountain. You’ll need to commit yourself to a tour which includes an early morning and full-day hike. Be cautious after heavy rain as the path can get slippery and visibility can be poor.
The Amazon (from any city with an airport) - The Amazon would be ideal if you can add one week to your trip. There are two main cities which are the start of an Amazon experience; Iquitos (in the North) or Puerto Maldonado (South). Puerto Maldonado is more developed for tourism while Iquitos will feel more untouched.
My Favourite Hotel in Peru
A Packing Guide for 2-Weeks in Peru
I compiled a list of everything I brought along to Peru. It’s based on this 2-week itinerary and travel climate in November. It also includes tips on packing smartly.
For a lighthearted read before your travels try Turn Right at Machu PIcchu by Mark Adams.