If you’re looking to take a month off to travel, Peru is one destination that will not disappoint. As one of the most popular (and Instagrammable) destinations of 2019, this country should be at the top of your list as you determine exactly where you want to travel this year. Filled with inviting locals, rich in ancient history, and bursting with colourful culture, Peru is one place you could easily spend an entire month and still not want to leave when the adventure is over.
With so many cities, natural wonders, and historic sites to visit, planning your itinerary may seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there’s a tour with your name on it that covers all the must-see sites, from the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, to the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca.
What is the best time to visit Peru?
Generally speaking, May to September is considered the best time to visit as it is Peru’s dry season. This will make a big difference, especially while hiking the Inca Trail.
What type of traveller is best suited for a month in Peru?
Someone who isn’t afraid of adventure, roughing it, trying new things and exploring unique places. This person has wanted to do something different for a long time and is excited to escape the norms to experience an entirely new way of travel. They love history, learning about new cultures, and completely immersing themselves in tradition.
Start and End Point: Start in Lima, end in Lima.
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is known for its indescribable coastline, beautiful architecture, and distinctive Peruvian cuisine. In fact, this city is consistently rated as the top culinary hot-spot in all of Latin America, so it’s one place you know the food will be gratifying. Flying into Lima allows you to start your month in Peru on the right foot: from the Pucllana Temple to the Government Palace, Lima will allow you to indulge in everything Peruvian, all in one stunning place.
Pro tip: Be sure you try Peru’s most famous dish, ceviche. Made with fresh fish caught each morning, this delicacy is marinated in limes and peppers, served with fresh onion, corn, and sweet potatoes.
What are the must-see places in Lima?
- The Main Square of Lima (considered the birthplace of Lima)
- Larco Museum
- Basilica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima
- Huaca Pucllana
- Park of Love
- Government Palace of Peru
- Park of the Reserve
- Cathedral of Lima
Paracas & Pisco
As you travel down Peru’s West coast, you’ll pass through the charming port city of Pisco and the small town of Paracas. Sitting along the Paracas Bay, from here you will have access to the launch point to the uninhabited Ballestas Islands. These rugged islands are home to a wide and unique variety of wildlife, including sea lions, pelicans, penguins, and a number of colourful bird species. Make sure you don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the islands, as it’s one of the most unique experiences the coastline has to offer. After your island tour, take some time to stroll through the town and enjoy everything the sea air and local cafes have to offer. From walking along the beach to grabbing a coffee in the park, you’ll enjoy every second.
Pro tip: Make sure you sample some pisco – the most prestigious national drink, that derives from the very town you’re in.
What are some of the must-see places in Paracas and Pisco?
- Paracas National Reserve
- El Candelabro
- Tambo Colorado
If you’ve never heard of the Nazca Lines, you’re in for an exciting experience. Located in the middle of the Nazca Desert, the Nazca Lines are one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries. Covering an area of nearly 1,000 square kilometres, these mysterious geoglyphs sit etched into the desert sands. There are over 300 different figures composed of over 10,000 lines, creating animals, plants, and people across the otherwise barren landscape.
Pro tip: If you’re able to, arrange for a flight over the Nazca Lines. They don’t look like much from the ground, but from above you’re able to see the amazing and unexplained desert drawings in full.
What are the must-see places in Nazca?
- Cantalloc Aqueduct
- Chauchilla Cemetery
- Cahuachi Pyramid
- Cerro Blanco
Just over nine hours southeast of Nazca you’ll find Arequipa – also known as the White City. This colonial-era city, framed by three stunning volcanoes, is filled with some of the most impressive and beautiful architecture you will ever see. The baroque style buildings will transport you back in time, making you feel as if things in the city haven’t changed in centuries. The views are amazing, the food is delicious, and the things to do are endless!
Pro tip: Visit as many picanterías as you can. These traditional restaurants serve some of Peru’s best dishes and they often have cozy patios to relax on. Just be ready for some spice, as most menu items are picante – spicy!
What are the must-see places in Arequipa?
- The Plaza de Armas
- Arequipa Cathedral
- Iglesia de la Compania
Four to five hours north of Arequipa is Colca Canyon, one of the deepest and most impressive river canyons in the world. A well-known trekking, rafting, bird watching, and tourist destination, this area has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for anyone looking to spot a giant Andean condor. The landscape is almost surreal, making it a must-stop destination for anyone travelling their way through Peru.
Pro tip: Remember to look up – if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a condor flying right above your head, an unforgettable experience.
Puno & Lago Titicaca
Another four to five hours East of Colca Canyon and you’ll find yourself in one of the most famous destinations of all Peru: Lake Titicaca. You’ve probably seen pictures of this wonderous lake and it’s deep blue water, but visiting in person is an entirely different experience. As one of the largest lakes in the world, spending some time on the water is a must so you can thoroughly explore the lake islands surrounding Puno. The communities and views from the Taquile Islands will surely leave you speechless, while learning about the rural life in Peru brings you even closer to the local culture.
Pro tip: The island of Taquile is famous for its expert weavers. Make sure you wander the streets and explore the shops of the local artisans, taking in their ancient craft.
What are the must-see destinations in Puno and Lake Titicaca?
- Catedral de Puno
- La Casa del Corregidor
- Jiron Lima
- Museo Municipal Carlos Dryer
Tucked high up in the Peruvian Andes lies the heart of the former Inca Empire: Cusco. Known as the launching point for travellers looking to hike to Machu Picchu, this colourful city is bustling with energy, life, culture, and music. The nightlife is booming, the architecture is amazing, and there’s an abundance of ancient history seemingly around every turn. Make sure to take some time to explore! We suggest simply wandering around because the stone streets and clay roofs make for photo-worthy moments themselves.
Pro tip: Take it easy at first, as your body may need some time to adjust to the higher altitudes. Cusco sits at 3,399 meters above sea level, making it higher than Machu Picchu itself.
What are the must-see places in Cusco?
- Plaza de Armas (and the surrounding shops)
- The San Pedro Market
- Pachapappa (only for those looking to try cuy)
- Mama Africa (Cusco’s most popular nightclub)
- San Blas District
The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a region of Peru (around Cusco) known as the epicentre of Inca culture and faith. Some of the most popular towns include Maras, Aguas Calientes, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, and Pisac. These towns are rich in history and offer endless things to do, see, and experience. This area of Peru is beautiful, both in its physical landscape and when you consider the deeply rooted culture that it continues to express.
Pro tip: Brush up on your Spanish skills if you can. Having even a beginner’s level of Spanish will help you communicate with locals, especially at the beautiful markets within the Sacred Valley region.
What are the must-see sites in the Sacred Valley?
- Ollantaytambo Ruins
- Pisac Market and Ruins
- Moray Ruins
- Salinas de Maras
After visiting Cusco and the Sacred Valley, the natural next step is tackling the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail is one of the most famous hikes in the world, taking intrepid travellers from the Sacred Valley to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu. The hike can take anywhere from two to five days depending on your route, but the final destination is always the same – the stunning mountaintop citadel of the Inca empire.
Pro tip: Enjoy the pleasures of Peruvian coca leaves. The soothing teas or chewing the leaves should help alleviate any pain from hiking or discomfort from the altitude.
What are the must-see sites along the Inca Trail?
- Dead Woman’s Pass
- Winay Wayna Ruins
Finally, after days of hiking, you’ll pass through the famous Sun Gates and gaze upon the whimsical Machu Picchu. This will undoubtedly be one of the best days of your trip, bringing you to one of the most beautiful, famous, and sacred sites in the entire country. Listen to your guides as you wander through the ruins and take the time to appreciate the site that you’re standing in. It’s one place every traveller has on their bucket lists and you are there! Take it all in.
Pro tip: There are two mountains you can hike once you make it to Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. Both are stunning and give you a unique perspective of the ruins, but in many cases, you need to book these permits in advance.
The Tambopata National Reserve, one of the final stops on your month-long trip, will make you realize the diversity Peru has to offer. Just a few weeks ago you were in the Nazca Desert and now you’re exploring the Amazon Jungle. Here you’ll experience the unique and lush jungle, filled with more birds than you could ever imagine. Boat rides through the region searching for anaconda, river otters, and black caiman will keep your adrenaline pumping, and night indulging in Amazonian cuisine will make you never want to leave.
Pro Tip: If you have binoculars, bring them! It will make spotting the unique wildlife a lot easier and more rewarding.
What are the must-see places in Tambopata?
- Oxbow Lakes
- Canopy Tower
If you’ve got the travel bug, Peru is one destination that will fill you with adventure, mystery, history, culture, and amazing food. There are so many things to learn, experience, and see in Peru – now it’s just a matter of booking your tour.