One to two weeks

While a one-week visit to Peru would be very restrictive, there are certain places that fit neatly into seven days of travelling. If you find yourself with any time to spare, a few extra days in
visiting its fascinating museums will give you an overview of what you'll be seeing later. And in the meanwhile, you can experience the capital's great nightlife.

Cuzco and Machu Picchu

You could spend one or two weeks in southern Peru, which offers a very rewarding short circuit covering the most important and popular sites in this part of the country. Trips to
Machu Picchu
, the crown jewels of the Inca Empire, frequently comprise a week (or less), but if you plan to hike the
Inca Trail
or any of the challenging alternatives, you need to consider two weeks in the region. Beautiful
, the highest navigable lake in the world, and the white city of
can be combined with Cuzco into a fortnight, using air, rail and road travel.

Nazca and the Paracas Peninsula

As an alternative to the highlands, try a week or two on the
southern coast
, taking in the
Paracas Peninsula
(near Pisco), with its marine birdlife, and the incredible
Nazca and Palpa Lines

The Cordillera Blanca

, in the
Cordillera Blanca
, is only seven hours by road from Lima and one of the world's premier high-altitude recreation areas, with unparalleled ease of access. A week's hiking or climbing in the Cordillera and neighbouring areas is a practical option. Over the course of two weeks it can also easily be linked with the coastal archaeological sites near the colonial city of
(eg Chan Chán, the Huacas del Sol and de la Luna) and further north, around
(eg Lambayeque with the Brüning and Sipán museums, Túcume and Sicán). Alternatively, the
area includes the pleasant city itself, plus thermal baths, archaeological and more recent historical sites and beautiful countryside. To get there quickly from Huaraz, you have to return to the coast for flights from Lima or bus services from Lima, Trujillo or Chiclayo.

The jungle

eastern jungle
includes zones with some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. There are two distinct areas where tourism infrastructure has been developed, north and southeast, and a central zone that is growing in popularity. One itinerary could include the southeastern jungle, which contains the
Manu National Park
and the
Tambopata National Reserve
. These provide wonderful opportunities for those interested in plants, or for watchers of birds, butterflies and animals.

A trip to the southeastern jungle is usually combined with a visit to Cuzco, but it need not be. Flying both ways to
Puerto Maldonado
is the only viable option if short of time.

Travelling overland to the Amazon Basin is another option. The adventurous way is from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado (tours often involve going one way by road, the other by air), but from Lima to the
central jungle
, via Tarma, is easy enough for people to do on a holiday weekend (and is therefore crowded at such times). The Amazonian city of
is the jumping-off point for the northern jungle, where there is a good network of jungle lodges on the river or its tributaries. Flying to Iquitos is an option, either from Lima, or from
, which can be reached by a beautiful road that descends from the mountains just north of Chachapoyas. Alternatively, you can travel overland to Pucallpa and then take a river boat downstream to Iquitos.

The Andes

A trip to the central Andes from Lima can be done fairly quickly, calling at Huancayo, Huancavelica and Ayacucho in a week to 10 days. Alternatively, the route from Cuzco to the Central Highlands is rewarding, but since there are no flights between Cuzco and Ayacucho, the only, if rather demanding option, is by bus. Obviously the more time you allow, the more variety you'll see, especially in the Mantaro Valley near Huancayo, and the places of historical interest around Ayacucho. These are also two of the best places to buy handicrafts.

Three to four weeks

Adding an extra week or two to the basic southern itinerary would allow you to see much more of Cuzco, especially the
Sacred Valley of the Incas
. You can also head out and explore the
Cotahuasi canyons
from Arequipa, or, from
, the shores and islands of Lake Titicaca.

Chachapoyas and the far north

Cajamarca gives access to the more remote
region, which contains a bewildering number of pre-Hispanic archaeological sites. Aim to spend a minimum of one week here. Access by road is from the southwest through
. There is also a more northerly road route to Chachapoyas from Chiclayo, where you should stop to see the nearby archaeological sites.

You can break up a tour of archaeological sites and mountains with some action by surfing at
Puerto Chicama
(north of Trujillo) and there are many more beaches in the far north near
and Tumbes.
also has wildlife parks, such as coastal mangroves, unlike those in other parts of the country.

The Central Highlands

If you're planning on spending more time in the Central Highlands, one variation would be to travel overland from
Cerro de Pasco
via Oyón and Churín to
, on the coast north of Lima. You would then be close to the recently discovered and intriguing city of

Another good option is to combine the Central Highlands with the Cordillera Blanca, taking a series of buses between Huaraz and
, via La Unión and Huallanca. Finally, the
Cordillera Huayhuash
offers some rewarding long-distance, high-altitude trekking. It is most easily reached from Huaraz, via Chiquián, but should not be attempted unless you have a week or so to spare.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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