Not sure where to go? Try one of these common itineraries to take on your own, or mix and match destinations to plan your own independent trip.
1. Southern Peru Itinerary
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Lima - Paracas - Huacachina - Nazca - Arequipa - Lake Titicaca (Puno) - Cusco - Machu Picchu - Lima
Peru is becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in South America. It is a beautiful country with breathtaking landscapes, fascinating culture, and archaeological attractions unlike any other in the world. People visit this country for any number of reasons, from ecological tourism, to its history as the center of the Incan Empire. Regardless of why you're traveling to Peru, a trip to Machu Picchu is an absolute must.
This southern circuit itinerary is generally the most popular for visitors. It visits many of the country's main highlights. Begin your trip in the capital city of Lima. This is the easiest place to fly into and is the starting point for most visitors to Peru. From Lima, make your way south to Paracas and the Ballestas Islands. On the islands, which can be reached by boat, you can see penguins and sea lions. There are also great beaches, beautiful scenery, and a few archaeological sites worth visiting. Also make sure you dine on some delicious seafood while you're in the area.
From there, continue on to the desert oasis of Huacachina. There's a lagoon here that is encircled by palm trees. It's a great place to relax and take in the scenery and atmosphere.
Situated in a desert valley is the town of Nasca. Make your way here from Huacachina to see the geometrical figures and giant drawings that were created by an ancient civilization.
After visiting Nasca, continuing on to the city of Arequipa, which is surrounded by three volcanoes and offers visitors the chance to see the Spanish and mestizo culture in Peru. Outside of the city you can also visit two of the world's deepest canyons, Colca and Cotahuasi.
From there go to Puno and Lake Titicaca. This desolate area is actually quite beautiful. Puno sits on the edge of the lake where you can enjoy lively music, fascinating festivals, and interesting islands.
From there travel to the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco. This city offers visitors many outdoor activities, wonderful nightlife, interesting craft shopping, and a very rich culture. It's also the easiest place from which to access Machu Picchu, Peru's most famous and impressive site. There are many ways to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco, so explore all of your options.
After spending as much time as you can allow in Cusco and Machu Picchu, return to Lima to finish the southern portion of your trip.
2. Northern Peru Itinerary
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Trujillo - Mancora - Quebrada Kuelap - Tarapoto
Visitors to Northern Peru enjoy the beaches, surfing, coastal archeology and jungle trips. Although many of the country's major sites are located in the south, if you have time it is highly recommended that you also explore Peru's northern region.
This itinerary begins in Trujillo. Trujillo is a reasonably sized city that sits near the Pacific Coast. It is located near several archaeological sites in the valley and offers excellent beaches and wonderful seafood.
From there continue to Mancora which is a trendy town and enjoyable place to visit. It offers several great sand beaches with many places to surf, fish, or dive.
After spending some time in Mancora head inland to the Chachapoyas region in the northern Andes. Northern Peru's answer to Machu Picchu is Kuelap, which is a mountain citadel with twenty meter high walls. There are also many nearby waterfalls, mausoleums, and hiking trails.
If you have more time left in your trip, travel into the Amazon region toward Tarapoto. You can travel by river to the Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria or Iquitos, where you can experience some of Peru's rainforest.