Peru, the country of Incas, is home to one of the seven wonders of the world, Macchu Picchu, as well as breathtaking landscapes and some of the fluffiest animals in the world. In this Peru travel itinerary, we will show you the legs of our two-week trip to Peru in November, what we visited, our treks and we will share some useful travel tips. Let’s discover together our journey day by day.
Day 1: Getting to Lima
Taxi from Lima airport to Miraflores: 15$. Journey time: 1:30.
After 18 hours of flight we finally landed at Jorge Chávez International airport in Lima around 7 pm local time. From what we have read before our two-week trip to Peru, lingering around the airport area should be avoided at all cost: look out for fake taxis which might bring you to an ATM and empty your bank account. The best way to arrive to the city centre safe and sound is to book a taxi through your hotel or to make sure that your taxi has its license plate number painted on the sides. It took around one hour and a half to reach the Miraflores neighbourhood where our hotel was located.
Day 2: Lima and night bus to Arequipa
We hadn’t beaten the jet lag quite yet, so we got up at 5:30 am. We actually soon figured out that in Peru people go to be pretty early - 9 pm at the latest - and get up at the crack of dawn. So we kept this schedule pretty much for the whole trip in Peru. We walked around looking for a place to eat breakfast and we got to the seashore, next to the Parque del Amor, a nice park full of benches decorated with romantic quotes.
We had to figure out how we were going to go to Arequipa; in the end we decided to book online a bus with a company called Oltursa leaving Lima around 6:30 pm. We travelled first class on huge seats that could recline to a near 180° and with a screen to watch some films. They provided us with a good dinner and breakfast and after 17 hours, we finally reached Arequipa.
Exchange rate during our trip to Peru: 1 € = 3.6 soles
Bus Lima - Arequipa with Oltursa: 145 soles. Journey time bus Lima - Arequipa: 17 hours.
Day 3: Arequipa
We got to the Arequipa bus station at around 10 am and we took a taxi which drove us to the city centre in 15 minutes. After settling in the hotel, we started asking some information about the trekking in the Colca Canyon. The Plaza de Armas (the main square in the city) is swarming with agencies offering thousands of treks like this. In the end, although the online reviews weren’t great, we decided to go for the agency that our hotel owner had suggested: Kusi Travels. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter with which agency you book, since people from different agencies are gathered into one big group at the beginning of the trek; ending up with a good guide is just a matter of luck which we had. We can only advise you not to book or pay the restaurant for the last day of trek upfront to the agency, because you will find cheaper options once you are there, even within the same restaurant.
Back to Arequipa. It was Sunday, the city was almost deserted and many sites were closed. One of the few open sites was the Santa Catalina monastery. This monastery is a huge maze of little roads and is made of colourful volcanic stone. With its 20,000 m2, it is also the biggest monastery in the world. We got lost visiting the plain rooms where cloistered nuns used to sleep, as well as the beautiful private kitchens and the huge common kitchen.
After visiting the monastery, which took us roughly two hours, we went up to the Mirador Yanahuara; after 10 minutes of climbing, we got to a square overlooking the city and the volcanoes, including El Misti sitting at 5,200m. Arequipa is a beautiful city, but traffic is very intense and walking outside pedestrian areas is not very pleasant.
Price ticket Santa Catalina Monastery Arequipa: 40 soles. Santa Catalina Monastery Arequipa visit duration: 2 hours.
Day 4: Colca Canyon: Condor’s Cross and descending the Canyon
At 3 am we got on a tiny bus, as the landscape outside was still enveloped in the dark night. The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world after its neighbour Cotahuasi Canyon. After breakfast and a nice cup of tea with coca leaves - which is good for the altitude - we reached Condor’s Cross. It is a panoramic point overlooking the gorges from which we can see up close the canyon and the mountains. It is at a pretty high altitude and when the weather is good, you can see up close some condors riding the hot air currents. The Andean condor is one of the biggest birds in the world and it goes out looking for preys when it is hot outside. We got there early in the morning and the air was still too cool to see them flying around.
We spent 20 minutes at Condor’s Cross without seeing any condors. A bit disheartened, we were going away when a lone condor appeared from the other side of the mountain and flew directly over us. We would end up seeing around 5-6 condors during the Colca Canyon trek, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t see any at Condor’s Cross!
We then reached the beginning of the trek, where we got split up into two groups. We spent the first two hours going downhill on a winding path until we reached a bridge with our knees shaking. The path was full of stones and rocks, which made the descent much more difficult, as well as a lot of dust.
After having crossed the bridge, the landscape of the chameleonic Canyon changed completely: dusty paths turned into green hills where local people grow fruits and vegetables, such as the plata, the Peruvian avocado, which they then exchange at the village market in Chivay. Huge cactuses and aloe vera plants dot the paths plunged into the green landscape.
After an endless descent, we finally reached the Sangalle oasis, where we spent the night. This small green dot in the middle of the arid mountains is home to a couple of hotels, where trekkers spend the night. From far away you could see the winding ascent leading to the top of the mountain, which we would have to take the next day.
Day 5: Colca Canyon - the ascent
The fateful day of the ascent has come. We had to walk 6 km in three hours going from 2,100m (Sangalle oasis) to 3,200m (Cabanaconde village at the top). We started the trek at 4:30 am with headlamps. The path was full of rocks and steps, at times very high; sometimes local people passed by leading some mules carrying tourists on their back. The ascent on the mule costs 60 soles and you can book it in the oasis on the night before the ascent or directly during the trek. Three trees at the top of the mountain showed us our destination far away; little by little and making many little stops, we finally managed to get to the top, completely exhausted. The last part of the ascent was the most difficult one, because, besides the physical fatigue, the sun started to shine and the altitude caused shortness of breath.
To compensate for the exhaustion and pain you will be experiencing, the Colca canyon puts up an unforgettable show: mountains plunged in the wonderful pastel colours of sunrise; the more you climb, the more the panorama will be worth the effort.
Once we reached the top, we devoured our breakfast in the Cabanaconde village. The village has a central square with the statue of a condor and a white church.
On the way back to Arequipa, we stopped on the side of the road and a lady offered us some colca sour, cactus fruit dressed with lime, which tastes like sour kiwi.
We also stopped at the highest panoramic point of our 2 week itinerary in Peru, sitting at 4,910 m, from where you can admire five Andean volcanoes. Along the road we also spotted many alpacas, lamas and even vicuñas, the smallest camelid whose wool is extremely refined and expensive.
We also spent an hour splashing around in hot springs, where we could relax our tired muscles in very hot waters and then we went to lunch before going back to Arequipa.
NB- When you participate in a group trekking, they are going to bring you to a tourist restaurant. The buffet menu is the most expensive one; choose an economic menu (also called touristic menu) which will be copious anyway, or remember that you are not obliged to stay.
Price ticket thermal baths: 30 soles.
Day 6: Arequipa
In Peru even the quietest days start around 5:30 am, because of what we could call “Peruvian jet lag”. We spent the day visiting the city of Arequipa, starting from the San Camilo market, a chaotic two-story market full of merchandise: heaps of dried coca leaves, bags full of herbs, meat and fish.
On the way to the city centre, we stopped to take a look at the Claustro de la Compañia, a magnificent and much decorated cloister enclosing many shops.
We took part in a free tour of the city (with tips), which showed us some hidden spots in the city centre, as well as the Callejón del Solar neighbourhood made of Andalusian-style narrow white streets and a alpaca wool weaving centre.
Continuing our 2-week itinerary in Peru, we took a night bus to Cuzco with Cruz del Sur - a bit less comfortable than the Otursa bus with which we went to Arequipa. The road to Cuzco was bumpy and the bus suspensions were creaky, but after 10 hours we finally reached Cuzco city. It is worth mentioning that at the bus station in Arequipa we had to pay a tax for long trips.
Bus Arequipa-Cuzco : 142 soles. Journey time bus Arequipa Cuzco: 10 hours.
Tax for long trips: 3 soles.
Day 7: Cuzco
We got to Cuzco early in the morning and we settled in our hostel a bit outside of the city centre. Florian wasn’t feeling very well, so we only spent a couple of hours close to Plaza de Armas and the rest of the day in the hostel, organising the following days. According to our original plans, we wanted to trek to the Rainbow mountain and spend a day visiting the Sacred valley. We decided to wait to see if Florian was feeling better before booking a trek in the mountains, and we also decided not to visit the Rainbow mountain - overcrowded and at risk of erosion; we opted for Pancoyo mountain instead, which is pretty similar and a lot less visited. Few agencies organise this trek, but it could be worth looking into it to ease the burden of the Rainbow mountain. In the end we did not do any of the treks, because Florian wasn’t feeling any better and we wanted to recover before the Inca trail.
Day 8: Sacred Valley Tour
We left for the Sacred Valley tour at 7:30 am. We booked with an agency called KB Adventures, but as in other cases, we were mixed with other agencies. Our guide was very knowledgeable and told us many things about local history and tradition.
We started off the Sacred valley tour by visiting the Pisac site, a small village perched on several terraces used for a very varied agriculture. While going up towards the houses, we saw the biggest cemetery in South American directly inside the mountain: a lot of holes indicate where ancient Inca graves were desecrated.
We then went to the Ollaytantambo site which was much more crowded. We climbed 200 steps little by little following the queue to reach the temple of the sun. The temple of the sun is a granite building made of huge rocks turned to the east and built with several anti-seismic systems, which is essential in a country often shaken by earthquakes.
The rest of the group left to go to Aguas Calientes and Macchu Picchu and we continued our tour on to Chinchero (we discovered afterwards that it is the best place where to purchase alpaca wool items).Chinchero was lit by a beautiful afternoon light; we visited the rests of the imperial palace on the village main square and we went back to Cuzco.
Day 9: Cuzco
We took the whole day to calmly explore the city of Cuzco. We started by exploring the San Pedro market, where you can buy many souvenirs; just behind this tourist market, there is a whole more “authentic” market neighbourhood, where you can find pretty much anything, as long as you can manage through chaos.
We visited the San Blas neighbourhood on top of a little hill. While we were climbing on the cobblestone streets of Cuzco, we passed by a big Inca foundation wall; there are many of those in Cuzco, where there originally were Inca buildings or temples, which were then destroyed by the Spanish.
The main little square in San Blas is very cute and there is a phenomenal view on the hills surrounding the city, while a huge rainbow flag- symbol of the city of Cuzco - waves in the wind. On the church parvis people celebrated the end of a wedding ceremony.
While we were going back to the Plaza de Armas, we stumbled upon the Señor de los Temblores procession; a statue of Christ was carried by many men following the melancholic music of an orchestra. The statue was moved from left to right to mimic the movement of the earthquake; sometimes the music would stop and porters would rest. As chance would have it, we were in Cuzco on the 300th anniversary of its proclamation as patron saint of the city.
Day 10: Inca Trail - Start
We got up at 4 am and the bus of our agency came to pick us up at the hotel and drove us close to Ollantaytambo, at km number 82 where the Inca Trail trekking starts.
Our first day of trekking involved 14km of moderate difficulty; we got to see the Patallacta Inca site from above. We walked in incredible landscapes, where you can feel the holiness of the mountains; as a matter of fact, mountains are actual deities called ‘Apus’ in the Inca culture. Our guide showed us a ceremony to the mountains where we offered some coca leaves. Then he gave us some leaves to keep in our mouth for the altitude sickness.
We reached the camp, which had already been set up by the porters, at 5pm; we settled in our tents and celebrated happy hour with tea (with or without coca leaves) and popcorns. Then we had a delicious dinner under the big tent and went to bed really early.
Day 11: Inca Trail - Dead Woman’s Pass
The fateful second day had come; we had to walk 16 km up and down the mountains and reach the Dead Woman’s pass at 4,215m, which is so called because the mountain looks like the profile of a woman lying down. It was raining and we started walking in a jungle. The first part of the ascent towards the pass was made of little rocky steps; the last half an hour was the most difficult part for sure, also because oxygen was lacking due to the altitude.
We reached the highest summit, but we still had 6 hours of steep ups and downs to go under the pouring rain which only stopped as we reached the magnificent Runcu Raccay site plunged into the mountains. The panorama along the trek was breathtaking with mountains, waterfalls and clouds.
Before reaching the camp, we visited the Sayacmarca site; to gain access to the site, we had to climb 50 steep steps giving a fatal blow to our legs. We walked the last 30 minutes in the dark with our headlamps.
Day 12: Inca Trail - Other Inca sites
The third day of Inca Trail should have been the simplest one, but as we soon discovered, no day is really easy. This was the day of the Inca flat, constant ups and downs without ever being actually flat. Paths were narrow and the panorama was always outstanding; we also passed through tiny dark caves.
We passed through two Inca sites, Phuyupatamarka and Intipata, where we encountered some funny llamas. Then we visited the wonderful site of Wiñai Wayna, close to our camp.
Day 13: Inca Trail - Sun gate and Macchu Picchu
To reach the Sun Gate by dawn, we had to wake up at 3:30 am and queue at the checkpoint entry which opened at 5:30. Then, together with all the other groups, we had to walk the last hour of trek and face the gringo killer, the last vertical flight of steps before reaching the entry gate to Macchu Picchu. The day was gray with a dense fog; as soon as we reached the Sun Gate, the fog dissolved and let us see Macchu Picchu for a couple of seconds before clouding up again. We have finally arrived!
The sun was shining down in the Macchu Picchu valley and we had a two-hour guided visit of the site. At the end, we could explore the site by ourselves following the sense of the visit (you cannot go back on your steps!) and we had fun looking at the llamas walking undisturbed around the houses.
After reaching Macchu Picchu, we started feeling really tired after these 4 days of trekking on the Inca Trail. We took the bus going to Aguas Calientes, where we joined our group in a restaurant and after lunch, we took the train to Cuzco. The panoramic train showed us for the last time the wonderful mountains which accompanied us during these days of trek and after more than 3 hours, we finally made it back to Cuzco.
If you need help organising your Inca Trail, we tried to answer some of the most common questions you may have in this Inca Trail FAQ.
Day 14: Cuzco and going back to Lima
In the evening we took the plane to Lima.
Flight Cuzco-Lima : 58$. Flight time: 1 hour.
Day 15: Lima and going back home
It was time to go back home after this beautiful 2 week trip in Peru. Thank you Peru for your lovely people that showed us this wonderful country; thank you for the splendid Apus, the mountain spirits, and the treks. We walked in total 65km and went back home really tired, but with incredible memories.
Tops and flops of Peru
Very lovely people
Be careful with taxis
In case you wash your clothes, check that they return all your items
|Top Peru||Flop Peru|
|Breathtaking views||Be careful with taxis|
|Very lovely people||In case you wash your clothes, check that they return all your items|