In 2014, I spent two weeks in Peru with Contiki. It was an organized pre-planned trip, but I feel that I got to see a lot of Peru. There are many highlights in Peru, and two weeks may not be enough to see all of what this beautiful country has to offer. However, if two weeks is all you have, then this sample itinerary is perfect for you. You will see the sophisticated capital of Lima, volcanoes around the beautiful city of Arequipa, the awe-inspiring Colco Canyon, the highest fresh water lake in the world, and of course, the incredible Machu Picchu. 

You will notice that if you count up the number of days, it doesn't add up to two weeks. That's because there are obviously travel times and days added to the list. On my trip to Peru, I flew from Lima to Arequipa, and from Cusco back to Lima. The rest of the time, I traveled in a private bus to all the cities and locations, such as from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, Colca Canyon to Puno, Puno to Cusco, and Cusco to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. 

Two days in Lima 

Most travelers to Peru will fly into Lima, before continuing onto Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru's tourist crown jewel. But many people skip over Lima. I would recommend one to two days there, depending on what you want to do and see. I would also recommend staying in Lima's Miraflores district, which is the trendy and touristy part of town. There is plenty to do and see and in this district and it is easy to get around on foot or via taxi.

Things to do and see in Lima, Peru:

  • Mercado Artesenal
  • Huaca Pucllana
  • Parque Del Amor
  • Plaza San Martin & Plaza De Armas
  • Iglesia Y Convento De San Francisco
  • Kennedy Park
  • Parque De La Reserva

Places to eat in Lima (tried and tested by me)

  • Le Mar Cebicheria Restaurant
  • La Lucha Sangucheria Criolla
  • La Dama Juana Restaurant

Two days in Arequipa  

Fly out to Arequipa, and spend one to two days there. Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city. The city lies in the shadow of three volcanoes, and many of its building are made from sillar volcanic rock. This means there are beautiful buildings to see. This city is also a UNESCO Heritage city, and it should be. With the impressive sillar buildings, and Spanish colonial influence, it is truly a remarkable city. The food here was also incredible. I only spent one day here, but I would definitely recommend two or more. There is so much to do and see in this city, even just walking around is fun. 

  • Yanahuara's Church - San Juan Bautista
  • Mirador De Yanahuara
  • Plaza De Armas
  • The Cathedral Of Arequipa
  • Monasterio De Santa Catalina
  •  Museo Santuarios Andinos (Andean Sanctuaries Museum)
  • Iglesia De La Compania De Jesu

Things to do and see in Arequipa, Peru

  • Yanahuara's Church - San Juan Bautista
  • Mirador De Yanahuara
  • Plaza De Armas
  • The Cathedral Of Arequipa
  • Monasterio De Santa Catalina
  •  Museo Santuarios Andinos (Andean Sanctuaries Museum)
  • Iglesia De La Compania De Jesu

Places to eat in Arequipa, Peru (tried and tested by me)

  • El Tio Dario
  • Zig Zag Restaurant

One day in Colca Canyon 

Honestly, I would recommend traveling (either by car rental or by coach of some sorts) through the remainder of Peru instead of using air travel. While the roads in Peru are simply insane and dangerous (and that says a lot coming from Johannesburg, South Africa), the scenery and landscape of Peru is insanely beautiful. I feel like road tripping across a country gives you a chance to see its true beauty, and doing this in Peru was definitely something special. Along the way to Colca Canyon, where you will mostly stay at the town of Chivay overnight, you can drive through Salinas and Aguada Blanca national Reservation, and the Mirador de Los Andes. Here however is where you may need to worry about altitude sickness. This is where a few of us on our tour felt a little sick, so keeping hydrated is super important, as well as taking it easy. 

Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons. Here you can look out for the Andean Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. 

One day in Puno and at Lake Titicaca 

Let me be real up front. I missed my entire day at Lake Titicaca due to a combination of altitude sickness from the day before, motion sickness from being in the bus all day, and a few other things that messed with my head a little bit. By the time we checked into our hotel in Puno, I was not in a good state. One of the lovely guys on our trip brought me some water and crackers, and I had to rudely close the door and run to the bathroom to throw up.  SO! I do not have very good advice for Lake Titicaca except to tell you what I was SUPPOSED to do that day. 

Lake Titicaca is the largest and arguably the highest navigable lake in the world. My itenenary was to travel across by boat and taking in the traditional communities lifestyle. We were supposed to visit the Tacquile and Uros islands. Everyone on my trip told me how awesome it was, while I drank water and tried to eat rice. They had a blast - and I wish I could have joined them! 

One - Two days in Cusco 

There are numerous historical stops along the way from Puno to Cusco on your road trip: the village of Pukara, La Raya, Sicuani and Raqchi.

Cusco (or Cuzco) is the starting point for many people’s journey to Machu Picchu. Cusco is located at around 3,400 m above sea level - which is pretty high, and was once the capital of the Incan Empire, which spanned across a large span of the Western side of South America, including parts of Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, at the height of its time. There are many beautiful archeological sites here, as well as Spanish colonial architecture. 

Things to do and see in Cusco, Peru:

  • Sacsayhuaman
  • Church Of Santo Domingo And Qurikancha
  • Plaza De Armas 
  • Iglesia La Compania De Jesus
  • Cusco Cathedral
  • San Blas
  • San Francisco
  • Santa Catalina Convent
  • San Pedro Market
  • Museo De Historia Regional
  • Andahuaylillas
  • Pikillacta & Rumicolca
  • Tipon
  • Cristo Blanco
  • Maras Salt Evaporation Ponds

Places to eat in Cusco, Peru (tried and tested by me)

  • Fallen Angel
  • Papachos
  • Incanto

One day in the Scared Valley 

A journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu must include the sights in the Sacred Valley, of which there are many. If you are traveling with a group or booked a tour, you will most likely come across these stops on your trip. If not, you really should add these. 

Things to do and see in the Sacred Valley

  • Ollantaytambo
  • Maras Salt Mines
  • Moray Archaeological Park
  • Pisac Ruins
  • Chincheros Weaving operative

Two days in and around Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail 

The highlight of your trip is finally here! Machu Picchu! The crown jewel of Peru. This place is truly spectacular, and a complete wonder to visit. However, I would definitely suggest doing the Inca Trail. It doesn't need to be the long four day grueling hike that many tougher travelers embark on. The Inca Trail is not just one trail, but includes many different lengths of trips throughout the region ending at Machu Picchu. I ended up doing a short one day hike to Machu Picchu, and was just under 10 km. 

In order to do any Inca Trail however, you need to prepare in advance. This involves applying for a permit well in advance of the date you want to go. Peru limits the amount of people who can hike to Machu Picchu every day, as well as how many people are allowed to enter the site, in order to limit the damage to the world heritage site. It's important to make sure you apply well in advance for any of the Inca Trails, and to find a agency that is allowed to operate a hiking group. 

If you aren't going to do the Inca Trail I would still recommend a two day stay in and around Machu Picchu. If you are a photographer like me, this is to make the most of your trip. Get up early  for sunrise, stay as late as possible for sunset. Take a walking tour, explore by yourself. Whatever it is, I wish I had had more time at this beautiful place. The weather is very unpredictable, and the day we hiked to Machu Picchu we were met with sunshine, and the eventual light rain and a rainbow. The next day, we go up early and it was wet and rainy, all morning and all day. I spent three hours at the top waiting for the clouds and fog to break for a few momemnts. It was truly spectacular but it required patience! And I was freezing. But I had come all the way for this! 

Make sure you get your passport stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp too! 

One - Two Days in Cusco 

Return to Cusco after your trip to Machu Picchu. If you've done the Inca Trail you probably need a little bit of R&R. If not, there is probably still things you would like to see and do there. On my last day in Cusco, I went horse riding, which was lovely.