Thinking about Peru.. where to start?

Old Jun 30th, 2019, 02:48 PM
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Thinking about Peru.. where to start?

I'm back from Europe and already day dreaming about another trip. This time I'm thinking we finally make our way to another continent, South America! Peru seems to make the most sense. Admittedly, I haven't looked at a guidebook or done much research yet but I have questions -

1- How "safe" is Peru for female travelers? (for example, I would not be comfortable going to Egypt, Morocco or Mexico by myself or with only females).

2- What's a reasonable length of time for a trip to Peru to see the highlights?

3- Is Peru do-able (how easy/hard is it to get between places) on our own? It sounds like we'd benefit from a guide to explain to us what we're seeing but I really hate tour groups (they are so inflexible). On the other hand, I do like that you can squeeze in more things than you could on your own. Thoughts?

4- I'm confused as I read "Go to rainbow mountain" "Definitely don't go to rainbow mountain, it's an instagram scam". "Go to Lake Titicaca to see the floating islands" "Don't go to Lake Titicaca/Puno, it's filthy disgusting" "Go to Lima, it's the foodie capitol of South America" "Don't stay long in Lima, it's ugly and Cusco is way nicer." Of course, Machu Pichu is a must, hiking in Colca Canyon seems amazing, Cusco seems like a base where you stay to do various activities, I'd love to combine all these with a trip on the Amazon River. Is this do-able in less than 2 weeks?

We love scenery, culture, blue waters and nature, mixed in with some ancient Inca history... can someone please suggest a preliminary itinerary for us? Is Lake Titicaca really a miss? We'd also want to have 2 days in Machu Pichu... it just seems so stunning!

Trying to figure out where I should start .

Last edited by layanluvstotravel; Jun 30th, 2019 at 02:49 PM. Reason: typo
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Old Jun 30th, 2019, 02:58 PM
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A guidebook would be the best place to start, IMO, but you might also find some useful information in my trip report:
Praise for Peru A report of my solo month in this amazing country

1. I'm a solo female traveler who felt completely safe during the month I spent in Peru.
2. I had a month and don't believe I saw all the highlights. I certainly skipped many things I'm sure I would have enjoyed.
3. I had guides occasionally; much of it was on my own.
4. I don't think what you list is do-able in 2 weeks; others might disagree.
As for the confusing advice, well, people have different reactions to things. I don't know how any of us can tell you what you'll think!
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Old Jun 30th, 2019, 06:33 PM
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1. As safe or safer than Europe, IMO.

2. Three weeks would be better than two weeks.

3. Very easy on your own. There is a well developed tourism infrastructure. You don't need to travel with a group the entire time. Hotels and flights can be booked online, just like you would anywhere else. If you want a guide, they are available outside some of the major tourist sites such as Machu Picchu, or you can do read up and follow along with a guide book. Only a few things need to be booked ahead (Machu Picchu train, some hikes that are capacity restricted and require permits, such as the Inca Trail to MP or the Huayna Picchu addon which tends to sell out). Be careful with small group tours, though, they tend to force too much shopping and waste time picking everyone up. It's usuallly better to just hire a driver to take you around. If you can afford a private guide you can find some recommendations on Fodor's.

4. Everyone who has been is going to have their own likes and dislikes. I recommend at least 8 days minimum around the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Machu Picchu. I personally don't think Cusco is a "good base" and prefer to split my stay between Ollantaytambo to start, with Cusco at the end. Then add a few days at the end for Lima (especially if you are interested in museums). I like Colca Canyon as an addon more than the Amazon. If you had three weeks I'd bus to L. Titicaca, bus to Colca Canyon, then bus to Arequipa and fly back to Lima. There should be plenty of trip reports around.

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 30th, 2019 at 06:43 PM.
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Old Jun 30th, 2019, 06:49 PM
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I should add -- and I think mlgb will agree -- that if you have only two weeks, you can see a lot that you will enjoy. You'll just have to be selective. And if you know WHY you want to see something, you should be able to sort through at least some of the contradictory comments out there.
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Old Jun 30th, 2019, 09:55 PM
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1. As safe as it gets in South America. There is nothing going on there that should cause any particular concern for female travellers ( or male for that matter)

2. Two weeks for the usual gringo trail highlights would be possible but at a very fast pace (not always the most sensible thing at high altitude!) 3 would be much better, 4 would allow you to go further afield and/or at a more leisurely pace. We have spent somewhere between 6 and 12 months travelling in Peru and have still not see all we would like.

3. Do a lot of research and planning and you can fit in all that you could on a tour. Peru has a very well developed tourism infrastructure. The bus system is cheap, comfortable and efficient. Airlines, less so, but still ok. Guides can be hired if required along the way. Personally, I have never felt the need as I have a pretty short attention span/boredom threshold.

4. No one can tell you where you should go or what you may like or dislike. All opinions are necessarily subjective. I hate the term "must sees" but there is undoubtedly a fairly standard gringo Trail that takes in most to the most famous sights including:

The Sacred Valley
Lake Titicaca
Arequipa & Colca Canyon
The Amazon Basin ( which in itself takes up 70% of the Peruvian land mass.)

Other less visited sights in the north , but IMO just as worthy, might include:

Trujillo and Chiclayo
Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

With regards to the comments you may have heard;

Lake Titicaca is spectacular, Puno is an OK town these days ( at least the parts a tourist is likely to visit). The Uros floating island have become a theme park, but the eland islands like Taquile and Amantani are probably worth considering. For me it has always been the thrill of sailing on the highest navigable lake in the world ( 3800m). The lake itself is simply stunning. It is also on the way overland between Cusco and Arequipa / Colca and there is a lot to see en route.

Lima - we were not that impressed on our first trip and then Mlgb above suggested that I was wrong and should give it another chance. I did and it is now on of my favourite cities in the world. Loads to see, a great vibe and the best food of anywhere in South America.

Arequipa is another favourite city. Not as many sites to see as say Cusco, but beautiful nonetheless. A great place to catch a fiesta and Monasteria de Santa Catalina is a truly world class sight.

Colca Canyon is incredible

The Sacred Valley is jam packed with wonderful sites. Machu Picchu will of course be on your list but I don’t believe it warrants two days. In fact, I would seriously consider just doing a day trip from Ollantaytambo to free up time elsewhere. I am probably in a minority, but spectacular as it undoubtedly is, it isn’t my favourite place in Peru.

Some photos and detail of some of our travels in Peru are on our blog @

Happy to assist with a suggested itinerary once you have decided how long - warning! It won’t be enough
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Old Jul 1st, 2019, 09:41 AM
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A recent trip report from one of my favorite "report writers" (along with kja and crellston of course).
10 days in Peru : 2017 Trip Report

You could easily expand indiancouple's fast paced itinerary to fill two weeks, just by adding nights in Lima at the end, perhaps a day to hike around the Sacred Valley (I like the Pisac hike down from the top into town, you will be on part of the Inca Trail there), or tacking on an Arequipa/Colca leg.

With only 2 weeks I'm not sure if you would have time for a full-fledged hike into CC. Tip...even the young people I met in Colca considered the return out of the canyon difficult and would have used a mule if they had known. Some of them had already done the Inca Trail, too. There are shorter hikes around the Canyon if you don't have the three weeks.

Peru is larger and more diverse than Europe so if you are not against to returning to a country, you can do multiple two week trips and never see the same places twice (except Lima). I have not added up all of the trips that I've taken (it's easy to get there from LA) but there are still places I haven't been and would like to visit if they were easier to reach and if the Shining Path were completely done with (eg Tarapota/San Martin, Huancavelica, and Apurimac).

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 1st, 2019 at 09:48 AM.
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Old Jul 1st, 2019, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
A recent trip report from one of my favorite "report writers" (along with kja and crellston of course).

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Old Jul 11th, 2019, 05:48 AM
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You asked for a fast itinerary- on my first trip to Peru I only had 12 days but it was 12 days or no days and so 12 days it was. It was a tight itinerary but I managed to see quite a lot without feeling rushed. I would not try and do the Amazonas at the same time and 2 days at Macchu Picchu would have been too much for me.
If you can fly directly into Cusco, do it - even at a higher cost than going through Lima as it will save you a significant amount of time. Save Lima for another trip. Here is the itinerary

Fly into Cusco
Ollantaytambo 2 nights -base for the Sacred Valley
Agua Azul 1 night
Ollantaytambo 1 night
Cusco 2 nights
Puno 2 nights
Colca Canyon 1 night
Arequipa 2 nights
My flight arrived in Cusco at 5pm and I had purposely made a reservation at a hostel in Ollantaytambo for the first night. I had the hostel arrange a car and driver to be waiting for me at the airport and transport me directly to Ollanta and the hostel. This was not a huge expense and having the hostel make the arrangements assured a fair price as well as the driver actually knowing where to go.
You do not want to stay in Cusco the first night. You will hear this and read it from other posters and do take heed-Cusco is at a higher elevation than Machu Picchu and you need to acclimatize. When I got off the plane in Cusco I could not catch my breath and was very happy to leave the area immediately.
Day 1- in Ollantaytambo I had a free day which I spent exploring the town and hiking the local ruins.
Day 2- I arranged with the hostal to hire another car and driver to take me into some pueblos an hour up a gravel road behind Ollanta- this ended up being a highlight of my trip and was not expensive. I would have done it alone but I met some people at the hostel who also wanted to come and we shared the cost so was even less.
Day 3- afternoon train to Agua Azul and night in Agua Azul (leave most of your stuff at the hostal in Ollanta)
Day 4- get up early for Machu Picchu at sun rise- it really is worth it -way less people and cooler temperatures. It was magical and special of course but I was ready to leave after 5 hours and was happy I had booked an afternoon train back to Ollanta- night in Ollanta
Day 5- I checked out of the hostel and with my new friends we arranged another car and driver to tour around the sacred Valley, spending most of the afternoon in Pisac and visiting the ruins there as the sun was going down-magical. The driver then took us to our respective hotels in Cusco
Day 6- Cusco and the ruins there
Day 7-Bus to Puno- this is a wonderful trip- I booked with WonderPeru but this was quite a few years ago
Day 8- day trip on Lake Titicaca- unique in the world and not to be missed
Day 9- I had booked a night in a lodge in the Colca Canyon and arranged with the lodge to pick me up at 8am at my hotel in Puna which gave me enough time to go on one of their guided hikes in the canyon in the afternoon.
Day 10- early morning tour to see the condors and transport arranged by the lodge to travel to Arequipa in the afternoon.
Day 11-Arequipa
Day 12, I flew out of Arequipa
If I had had a few more days I would have liked to have gone from Arequipa to Nazca, perhaps stopping at the beach on the way and then continuing to Cusco for the return flight. As it was, it all worked out perfectly for me for the limited amount of time that I had. I saved a huge amount of time by hiring drivers and arranging the transport through my hotels which made for a very relaxing trip.
PS, I was a single female traveller on this trip and felt completely relaxed and very safe everywhere I went.
I hope you go- buen viaje!

Last edited by bellalinda; Jul 11th, 2019 at 05:58 AM.
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Old Jul 11th, 2019, 03:15 PM
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That is a good itinerary, also.. I'm assuming that Agua Azul is an autocorrect for Aguas Calientes!!

I've been up to Patacancha, one of the weaving villages described under Day 2 (through an Awamaki tour based out of Ollantaytambo). They are quite high (like 13,000 feet) so may be difficult to do shortly after arrival.

If you want to walk up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, that also gets you on a part of the Inca Trail. I'd probably book a morning entry, head up there first, and wait for the cloud to lift (hoping it is not raining) and from what I understand they don't actually kick you out of MP at noon under the new system (could be wrong). I went under the old system so you got a full day's entry, which is enough in my opinion.

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 11th, 2019 at 03:23 PM.
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Old Jul 11th, 2019, 04:31 PM
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aarggh, thank you for the correction mlgb- yes of course it is Aguas Calientes!
We must have been in another village outside of Ollanta as we definitely did not go to 13,000 feet and again I want to say it was a highlight of my trip and very much recommended. It was such an authentic experience as there was nothing planned for us because it was a spontaneous trip and as we were taken in by a local we were accepted and welcomed warmly each place that we went. The town was bustling with people coming and going- all of them dressed (even the children) in local attire - the men in their ruanas and the women in skirts, shawls and typical Peruvian hats. We witnessed a local soccer game at the high school with all the young men wearing their matching ruanas and the young women, also in matching skirts and blouses doing a dance rehearsal at the far end of the field- each group pretending not to be watching the other but obviously very interested. We were taken into some peoples homes because our guide wanted to say hello -maybe show us off- where we were invited inside. We also went to some shops and bought textiles and also to a lodge of some kind where we had lunch. Any one of the hostel owners in Ollanta could organize such a trip.
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