Everyone has their own idea of the ideal travel destination, and that’s perfectly understandable. Expectations and preferences vary, but when I tell you that Peru is among the top three best travel destinations globally, believe me – it truly is!
This South American gem is a treasure trove, from majestic landscapes and ancient ruins to vibrant cities and diverse cultures. You can hike through the Inca Sacred Valley, explore the Amazon rainforest, and engage in traditional Peruvian activities.
Stepping into a country where English isn’t the native language can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure about navigating your way around. Fortunately, Peru has long been a favorite among tourists from other countries and is renowned for its “Gringo Trail” – making it easy for travelers of all backgrounds to confidently explore.
Trust me, you’ll have a blast, making it an ideal destination for a two-week getaway! Whether you’re planning your next trip or daydreaming, here are some suggestions for your Peruvian adventure.
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
Lima, the capital of Peru, is an ideal starting point for your South American journey. Spend a day exploring Lima’s colonial center, visit the main square (Plaza Mayor), and admire the city’s Baroque churches.
Continue your exploration in two of the most iconic districts, Miraflores and Barranco. Start with a visit to Parque del Amor, a romantic spot overlooking the Pacific. If the weather is good, you might catch people paragliding off the cliffs – a thrilling activity worth trying if you’re feeling adventurous.
For lunch, head to Mercado 28 de Julio, a market offering delicious ceviche and other snacks. Occasionally, they have live music and dance performances, making it a great place to spend about an hour.
Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, venture into the Barranco district, a colorful and trendy area with richly decorated houses and street art. Barranco was once a popular beach destination for Lima’s affluent population, but now it’s a hub of culture, art, and design, with many galleries and museums to explore.
A highlight of Barranco is Elías Aguirre Alley (Pasaje Elías Aguirre), a narrow lane filled with beautiful and vibrant street art, from spray-painted murals to traditional Peruvian artwork. It’s one of my favorite parts of Lima.
For dinner, consider one of Lima’s finest restaurants. If planned in advance, securing a reservation at the world-famous Central restaurant should be possible. It’s one of the top ten restaurants globally, and I’m still waiting for my chance to dine there – a top choice for when I eventually return.
Day 2: Huacachina
Take an early bus to the town of Huacachina, ready to explore its sand dunes. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America, and it’s absolutely worth a visit. Embark on a dune buggy tour, slide down the sand slopes on a sandboard, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of this adventure.
The driver might be a bit wild, and the ride might be bumpy, but it’s all part of the fun. You’ll be dashing up and down the dunes, leaving you exhilarated.
They’ll make a stop for you to experience sandboarding fully. You can choose to stand up and ride down the dunes like on a snowy slope or opt for a lying-down position. After seeing someone eat some sand, I decided that lying down seemed like the safer option!
If you’re lucky enough to arrive at sunset, you’ll witness a spectacle like no other, with the sun painting the sky pink and orange, reflecting on the desert. Huacachina is truly mesmerizing!
After the sun sets, explore the local restaurants in the oasis and savor delicious Peruvian cuisine.
To save time, take a night bus to Arequipa. Peru’s buses are quite comfortable, and it’s worth investing a little extra for lower-level seats that transform into beds.
This journey takes about 11 hours, but as it’s overnight, try to get a good night’s sleep. When you wake up, you’ll find yourself in an entirely new city!
Day 3: Arequipa
Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and boasts colonial architecture, making it one of Peru’s most beautiful cities.
Today’s itinerary is relatively relaxed. Take it easy to acclimate to the altitude and spend some time exploring the city. Visit the 16th-century Santa Catalina Monastery, one of Arequipa’s main attractions.
Stroll around its main square, Plaza de Armas, soaking in the atmosphere influenced by Spanish culture in the city center. Admire the grandeur of Mansión del Fundador and explore some local markets to buy traditional souvenirs.
Arequipa is also known for its delicious food, with some amazing restaurants in the city. Here are a few recommendations:
- Zig Zag: Overlooking the city, this restaurant offers delicious food and is a must-visit in Arequipa.
- Koa: A fusion of Asian and Peruvian cuisine that will pleasantly surprise you. The dumplings are particularly delightful.
- Mumis: A tasty Italian restaurant that transports you to Italy with its flavors.
Make sure to get a good rest tonight because tomorrow morning, you’ll be awakened early, ready to head to the Colca Canyon. I mean, a 3 AM wake-up call.
Days 4 and 5: Colca Canyon
If you’re seeking adventure, get ready to be mesmerized by the Colca Canyon. As one of the world’s deepest canyons, it will take your breath away not only with its beautiful vistas but also with its staggering depths!
The best way to experience this natural wonder is through a two-day canyon trek, including an overnight stay in a lodge deep within the canyon.
You’ll start by visiting Condor Pass, where you’ll witness some condors soaring overhead. These are the largest flying birds globally, and observing them in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience.
After witnessing the majestic condors, you’ll begin the descent into the canyon. The first half of the day involves a three-hour hike to reach the local lunch spot. Kick off your shoes, relax, and they’ll provide a menu of local delicacies.
The second half of the day involves another two and a half hours of trekking into the heart of the canyon, where you’ll reach the lodge. Here, you can rest, have dinner, and continue the journey the next morning.
It’s a long day, so make sure to carry some water and pack a few chocolate bars to keep your energy levels up. There are several stops and shops along the way if you need to replenish fruits or drinks.
On the second morning, you’ll start the sunrise hike at around 4 AM. The weather can be quite chilly, so ensure you have a jacket that’s easy to put on and take off. The sunrise views as you ascend from the canyon are among the most beautiful scenes you’ll ever witness!
This is the final stretch of the trek, but let me tell you, it can be challenging. It involves a steep climb for about two and a half hours to exit. You’ll be exhausted, but it’s absolutely worth it! It’s an experience you won’t forget and a highlight of your trip to Peru.
If you’re unsure whether you can make the climb, you can hire a mule or horse to carry you.
Embarking on a adventure through Peru has been nothing short of extraordinary. From the bustling streets of Lima to the serene beauty of Huacachina’s desert oasis, and the awe-inspiring depths of the Colca Canyon, each moment has woven a tapestry of memories that will forever linger.
Peru, with its diverse landscapes, rich cultural tapestry, and warm hospitality, offers an immersive journey for every traveler. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker scaling the dunes of Huacachina, a history buff exploring ancient ruins, or a food enthusiast savoring the delights of Peruvian cuisine, this country has something magical for everyone.
As I bid farewell to Peru, I carry with me not just photographs and souvenirs, but a profound sense of awe for the natural wonders and the resilient spirit of its people. The Gringo Trail has unveiled treasures that surpass mere tourist attractions, offering glimpses into the heart and soul of a nation that proudly stands as one of the world’s most captivating destinations.
So, to all the fellow wanderers and future adventurers, may your Peruvian odyssey be filled with discovery, joy, and the kind of moments that linger in the heart long after the journey’s end.