Peru Travel Guide

Below is a detailed travel guide for Peru. You don’t need to book Peru tours to experience what Peru has to offer. Take some notes from my tips and tricks to build the perfect Peru travel itinerary.

Currency

Travel CurrencySol(es) is the currency in Peru. The currency code for sol is PEN. Depending on where you are, such as the touristic districts, the dollar will not get you far.

Seasons

Travel Season and Weather PlanningThere are two major seasons in Peru that you need to consider, summer and winter. Summer months are December to April and winter months are from May to November. Summer months are extremely rainy and wet causing some excursion destinations to be inaccessible. However, Peru’s weather is almost unpredictable, especially at higher altitudes. Winter is the preferred months.

Accommodation

Travel AccomodationYou can find affordable AirBnb’s and hostels throughout Peru. The only problem that I came across in the Airbnb’s are that they are poorly heated – you will be sleeping in cold nights during the winter. Our hosts accommodated us with extra blankets to keep us warm. You can also ask your host before your trip to get prices on tours or transportation. You can find a bed for as low as 24 PEN.

Travel Transportation

Transportation while in Peru

Navigating Peru is fairly easy if you have google maps or maps.me on hand when using buses, Ubers, taxis, private van companies, and rentals.

  • Buses in Peru will take you around from city to city for around 30 to 60 PEN to nearby towns. To give you an idea, it costs about 39 PEN a person to go one-way from Lima to Ica and it’s about 119 PEN from Lima to Arequipa. The company that I am most familiar with is Cruz Del Sur, but there are also other traditional bus systems. I’ve also heard of Peru Hop, which is primarily a tour company, but they also have a pass system that will take you from city to city (limited to certain areas).
  • Taxis and Ubers are very convenient for a more private transportation, and you can negotiate the price before hand (get a taxi off the street, they’re cheaper than calling a company). Also, keep in mind that getting a taxi at the airport is usually more expensive than anywhere else. To get to and from the airport, we would always use Uber, which consistently cost us 40 PEN. Getting from district to district cost us anywhere from 8 to 14 PEN. When you find a good driver, don’t be afraid to ask him/her if they are willing to take you to a further location; just show him a pinpoint location using your map of where you want to go if he’s not familiar with the location. Most drivers barely make 140 PEN a day, and if you have a group of 4 – or want to cram in a group of 5 – you’ll be saving a lot more money than getting a tour. You’ll also be able to get to anywhere and everywhere you want for cheap at the convenience of your own time. My buddy negotiated with a taxi driver to drive him around for a day, about eight hours, for a mere 80 PEN. Our group called an Uber to take us from Cusco to Picas for 140 PEN round trip, and from Lima to Paracas to Huacachina and back to Lima for 740 PEN – this saved us a lot of money.
  • There are also private van companies out in Peru. Vans, of course, will give you more space since taxis and Ubers are usually compact cars. Our quote for Lima to Paracas to Huacachina and back for 880PEN.
  • If you’re ready to tackle the streets of Peru, then you can’t beat a rental car. I met a Spanish duo, that had been driving across the country with their rental car during our train ride to Aguascalientes. Their 15-day car rental cost about 500 PEN in total and pumping gas cost around 3-4 PEN a liter. Inside major cities and touristy areas, it can be a pain to drive. Peruvians drive very aggressively, but if you are patient, you shouldn’t have a problem. Outside of those areas, streets open up and driving becomes much easier. If you’re on a limited schedule, rentals are a good idea. You can do as much as you want without restricting yourself to tour schedules or bus schedules. I do advise to research as much as you can on road conditions. Certain routes to some destinations will require you to drive off-road and on narrow pathways that may only fit one-way traffic (such as the road to the starting trail point of Lago Humantay or the Inca Trail).
  • Do as the locals and hop on a collectivo. Collectivo’s are the cheapest options to get around (2+ PEN) and there are plenty around. Each collectivo has a destination point already made, like a bus. Make sure you know exactly where your collectivo is going.
  • Tour busses are great when you don’t want to hassle with the detailed planning or drive off-road. The tour companies have very experienced drivers and buses that take you to those locations without worry. If you plan on adventuring to Machu Picchu for a day trip from Aguascalientes, the bus and trekking are the only options. To save a good chunk of money, do your research to get the best reviews. Then do more research to get the best prices. Tour rates are a lot more expensive when bought from the U.S.
  • Trains are the only option if you plan on visiting Machu Picchu without hiking the Inca Trail. The two main companies are Inca Rail and Peru Rail. Major train stations are located in Poroy, a town outside of Cusco, and Ollantaytambo, located 2.5 hours away from Cusco; the last station is from Urubamba. Within each train company, there are classes of trains that dictate how expensive seats will be. The more affordable Peru Rail trains are the Expedition and the Vistadome (a round trip on the Vistadome cost me 135 PEN).  The train station from Ollantaytambo had the most options for departure and arrival time. You can also pick roundtrip routes that put you at different stations.

Travel Food and Drinks

Peruvian Food and Drinks

There’s good food all around. If you want to save a few bucks, avoid the places the tour guides are bringing their clients, or avoid the central tourist areas in general. I would be cautious of the cebiche, and I would ask the locals before eating it from street vendors.

Local Peruvian Dishes

Some popular Peruvian dishes that you MUST try:

  • Cebiche
  • Cuy (guinea pigs)
  • Antichucos (grilled heart)
  • Lomo Saltado de Alpaca (stir fried alpaca steak with potatoes)
  • Polla a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken)
  • Sanguche de Chicharron (pork belly sandwich)
  • Aji de Gallina (chicken stew)
  • Papa Rellana (stuffed potato)
  • Rocoto Rellano (stuffed rocoto pepper)
  • Arroz de Chaufa (Chineses-Peruvian fried rice)
  • Picarones (deep-fried dough),

If you want something vegan there’s

  • Quinoa Soup
  • Crema de Zapallo (squash soup).

Of course, there are plenty more dishes. These dishes are the only two I tried and surprisingly enjoyed.

Local Peruvian Drinks

  • Chicha Morada (sweet beverage made from purple corn)
  • Pisco Sours (alcoholic Peruvian drink)
  • Inka Kola (a yellow Peruvian beverage alternative to Coca Cola)

Travel Destinations

Popular Cities and Attractions to Put in Your Peru Travel Itinerary

Many excursions are overpriced if bought in the U.S. Try asking your host for prices beforehand or wait until you get into the city. Usually, if you wait until last-minute, prices drop tremendously.

Keep in mind that when you pay for a tour, it doesn’t include the park entrance fee – usually, it only costs 10 PEN.

Explore Lima – This major city is the gateway into Peru. Lima is the capital of the country and is broken down into many districts where you can find great food, hang out at Kennedy (Cat) Park, run or surf on the beach, or explore some art. Miraflores and San Isidro is more upscale and contains an Inca ruin within the city. In Barranco, you can find street art all around town and is the spot for late night parties. At Plaza Mayor, you can find beautiful colonial architecture, such as the Governors Palace or the Cathedral. Inside the cathedral is a catacomb waiting to be explored.

Ride Dune-buggies and Sandboard in Huacachina – Huacachina lies four hours south of Lima near the city of Ica – it’s a small desert town with a lagoon, that covers half of the area, in between giant hills of sand dunes. Adventures race across the dunes on a heavy-duty dune-buggy. The adventure also includes sandboarding down steep hills of sand. Lastly, if you are taking the last tour of the day, you get to watch the sun set over the dunes and the desert lagoon.

Visit the Penguins and Beach Life of Paracas – Two hours south from Lima is a desert with a beautiful beach. Hundreds of large sand dunes lead to coast lines of red sand and blue waters at Playa Rojas. From the coast can take a tour that allows you to visit the islands where penguins and other life inhabits, known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos. You can also rent out ATV’s to explore the hills of the sand dunes.

Explore a Seven Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu – In the thick tropical forest of Peru and at 8,000 feet in elevation lays Machu Picchu. View one of the best panoramic sights you can find on Earth and one of the most pristine and enormous ruins. This Incan ruin makes the highlights of many Peru travel itineraries. Machu Picchu can be visited as a day trip, 2-day hike or the full 4-day Inca Trail hike.

Get more information about Machu Picchu

Hike through the Huayhuash range in Peru – Huaraz is one of the top hiking towns in the world and it’s not a wonder why. It’s surrounded by miles of beautiful mountains and many pristine lakes. If you can do the full Huayhuash Circuit, you can still do day trips – the views do not disappoint.

Take a Flight to Arequipa – Take a trip to the second populous metropolis of Peru, Arequipa. A flight to Arequipa will take about 1.5 hours from Lima, but it is worth it to put in your Peru travel itinerary if you can fit it in. The city is filled with amazing architecture and history. Near Arequipa is the Colca Canyon and Misti Volcano.


Take a Trip to Cusco – When visiting Peru, taking a trip to Cusco is almost a priority. Cusco is a city in the Peruvian Andes, lying at an elevation of 11,152 feet and is higher and usually colder than Machu Picchu. There are many different squares in Cusco, the most popular is Plaza de Armas – the tourist district where there are many restaurants, hotels, and large cathedrals. For me, Cusco was the base starting point for bigger adventures in Peru.

Maras, Moray, and Ollantaytambo – The Salineras de Maras has been used to mine salt for many centuries, and currently, it holds over 6,000 salt pans where workers mine. The Moray ruins is a little off the beaten track, but still fairly popular. You can find circular terraces that people believe used to be a site for agriculture. Ollantaytambo is a little town filled with cobblestone roads and is also home to an Incan ruin. The town also hosts a major train station to Aguascalientes. Maras and Moray are both near by each other and are about an hour away from Cusco. Ollantaytambo is another hour from Maras. My group of 5 paid a random taxi to drive us to each location and waited for us until we reached Ollantaytambo for a total of 150 PEN.

Adventure to Lago Humantay – Lago Humantay (Humantay Lake) is one of the most scenic areas of Peru that I experienced. You can take a day tour here or go self-guided. The drive is about three hours, and the hike is about 1.5 hours one way. I paid 40 USD for my tour, which included a small breakfast with coffee and a lunch buffet.

Experience the Colors of Rainbow Mountain – Rainbow Mountain (Montana de Colares) lies in the Vinicunca mountain. Its altitude is approximately 16,000 feet in elevation, and the hardest day trip you can take in Peru. It’s a 3 hours ride from Cusco to the start of the trek, and 2-3 hours hike one way.

Hiking the Ausangate Trek in Peru – This Andean mountain is sacred to the Quechua people of the Andean region of Cusco. This is a 4-5 day trek on snow capped peaks of the highest mountains in the area (20,944 feet). The final stretches will take you to the Rainbow Mountain viewpoints, and has been said to be more worth it than a day trip to Rainbow Mountain.

Travel Photography

Popular Photography Spots in Peru

  • Machu Picchu
  • Paracas
  • Rainbow Mountain

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