As far as trips go, my two weeks in Peru achieved a level of legendary status that I nor my companions will ever forget. It was my first trip to South America and I will certainly say not the last. Whether it was spotting macaws early in the morning, meeting local families, wandering ancient ruins, or exploring the depths of the jungle, Peru’s magic and mystery will leave you in awe.
Planning a trip to Peru is no doubt daunting because there’s so much to see and when you’re constrained on time, you have to anchor the trip to a few primary activities or destinations. For this specific itinerary, the focus from the get go was the Inca Trail and the Amazon Jungle.
This post is meant to be a hub of information to help you figure out your own trip to Peru. You’ll find the high level day breakdown and if you’re looking for more information, links to other blog posts have more details.
Highlights of the Trip
- All of the Inca ruins we encountered along the Inca Trail
- Machu Picchu – I mean how could you not be blown away
- Hanging out at our lodge in the Amazon – Refugio Amazonas
- Chuncho Claylicks for macaw bird watching
- Salineras Salt Mines – Think rice paddies but with salt
- Cooking class in Cusco
- Spending time with a local family of the Maucau Community
Full 14 Day Itinerary
In the past I’ve put my itineraries in table format. Let’s try something different here and break things out by day to make it easier to read and also allows me to provide a bit more detail.
Table of Contents (jump to where you want to go)
- Day 1 – Flying into Lima
- Day 2 – Cusco
- Day 3 – Cooking in Cusco
- Day 4 – Sacred Valley with KB Tambo
- Day 5 – Sacred Valley with Andean Encounters
- Day 6 to 9 – Inca Trail
- Day 10 – Recovery in Cusco
- Day 11 to 14 – Amazon Jungle
Day 1 – Flying into Lima
Flying out from Toronto the previous day, we landed in Lima at 12:45AM. It’s not the ideal flight but one of the limited direct flight options. Upon landing, we grabbed a cab straight to our hotel, Casa Wayra B&B in Miraflores. This was a cheap stay in a good location.
Exhausted, we ended up sleeping until the late afternoon. Our plan for the first day was to take it easy and explore whatever we could. We honestly didn’t have anything fixed planned but instead asked the receptionist of our B&B for suggestions.
Famished and wanting to try at least one of the highly rated restaurants in the area, we cabbed over to La Mar. We arrived right around noon which was the perfect time to get there because the restaurant was fully packed a short time later. The food here incredible. The cerviche and causa here did not disappoint.
For the afternoon, we spent most of our time at Huaca Pucllana exploring the remains of a clay & adobe stepped pyramid from a Pre-Incan era. I didn’t even know about this place before but am so glad we stumbled upon it. It’s near the outer edge of Miraflores.
After that, we walked over to the “downtown” part of Miraflores. There was lots to look at here and even better people watching. This is where we found the famous cat park. There were cats EVERYWHERE.
SIM CARD FOR DATA:
Figuring out the SIM card business wasn’t easy. It took a little bit of charades with the Claro lady but eventually we had (most of it) figured out. Sparing you the details, here’s what you need to know
- Find a Claro store (Movistar is also good) and ask for a “chip prepago”.
- The rep will sign you up and do the paper work. Make sure you bring your passport. They will also help set up your phone.
- The SIM card itself will have some funds on it but it won’t be enough.
- To recharge, you’ll need to go to a supermarket/bodega. If it’s data you want, there are several packages based on the number of days you need. For us, since we were there 2 weeks and wanted a good amount of data, I picked the 15 day package which comes with 1.5GB of data.
- You will probably look really puzzled at this point so the cashier will probably help you activate the credits on your number.
- After that you’re good to go!
If you have questions about voice, I wish I could help. I wasn’t too concerned about calling but from what I understood, the base credits on the prepaid SIM card would cover you for emergency calls.
We eventually made our way down to the beach but by then the sun was rapidly setting and we only caught the silhouette of surfers in front of the purple drawn sky.
For dinner we walked back up to the Parque Central de Miraflores area and ate at Sangucheria la Lucha which was casual spot I was dying to try after reading all the reviews. I can’t remember exactly what I ordered but I remember I just couldn’t stop raving at how good it was. On top of that, the folks working there spoke English and were very friendly.
Miraflores is the posh, upscale neighborhood of Lima and while you can say it’s a bit touristy, I preferred the area quite a bit more than the city center. Everything is walkable here and completely safe.
Day 2 – Cusco
Early in the morning,we ordered a cab to take us to the airport where we caught an Avianca flight to Cusco. Since we were way too early to actually check into our hotel, Yanantin Guest House, we dropped our bags off and proceeded to wander around the city.
The great thing about Cusco is how easy it is to get anywhere on foot. One of the big highlights of the day included our tour of Qurikancha which was once the site of the most important temple in the Inca empire. It was later converted to a colonial church and convent of Santo Domingo but within its walls are the remnants of masterful stonework that at one point was gilded with gold. The history here is quite fascinating.
We also tried to make it to the Mercado Central de San Pedro but by the time we got there, most of the shops were closed. We elected instead to try a few fruit shakes and bowl of chicken noodle soup.
In search of some souvenirs, we also dropped by a few open air markets that were clearly built for tourists. We were bombarded with anything and everything made with Alpaca wool. I ended up picking up a pair of gloves here.
One task we had to make sure we fit in was the dropping by of the Alpaca Expeditions office to pay off the remaining balance of our Inca Trail trek. We also booked our pre-trek briefing session when we were there.
Eventually we ended up at the Plaza de Armas where I did a little bit of photography.
For dinner, we ate at Morena Peruvian Kitchen which hit the spot for its authentic cuisine and reasonable pricing. The Lomo Saltado dish I had was probably the best I had throughout the whole trip.
Don’t forget that you need account for time in your itinerary to go to your trekking operator’s office to check-in and pay. Alpaca Expeditions also includes a briefing session before your trek so factor that in as well.
Day 3 – Cooking in Cusco
On our third day, we were waiting for our other friends to fly in so we spent the morning exploring new neighborhoods within Cusco. One area I read about was San Blas so after breakfast we walked over there. Perched on a bit of a hill, there was a small square by the church which made for a bunch of good photos.
Every trip, I always try to make sure we do something a bit more hands on. Having such a good experience with our cooking class in Chiang Mai, I thought it’d be a great idea to try something similar in Cusco. So after we met up with our friends, we made our way over to the Marcelo Batata Culinary Experience.
The 5 hour class (2-7PM) was quite the thorough experience that truly gives you a better appreciation of Peruvian food and how to properly taste them. You start off by learning about the history of food in Peru before going into a makeshift mini marketplace to see, feel, and smell the core ingredients to Peruvian cuisine. Along the way, they feed you delicious hors d’oeuvres. The real cooking comes into play when we had a chance to make our own ceviche and lomo saltado. In between we also got to do a fruit tasting and mix our own pisco sour.
Jose was a great instructor and I can’t say enough good things about this cooking class. If you have an extra afternoon and you want to take it easy, this is a great option.
In hindsight, it was a great idea to do a class like this at the beginning of the trip because it helped us have a better appreciation of Peruvian food and how to eat it.
Day 4 – Sacred Valley with KB Tambo
As part of our acclimatization process, we planned 2 days in the Sacred Valley with two separate operators. This particular part of the trip was difficult to plan because there are so many companies offering tours here.
In the end we opted to do the first day with a company called KB Tambo because they offered a “Super Day” private tour option that had all the things we were looking for that included an English speaking guide and driver. They were also accommodating in terms of making tweaks to the itinerary.
Our final super day itinerary looked like this:
Local fabric market
Salineras Salt Mines
At the end of the night, we were dropped off at Tambo del Inka in Urumbamba (Sheraton property) thanks to my buddy’s SPG points. I would say this is one of the most incredible properties in the Sacred Valley. I was very impressed.
Overall, we were very happy with how the tour was run. Our guide, Jose, had great English and explained everything in detail to us as he guided us through. I was quite amazed with everything we saw on this day trip with the highlight being the salt mines and the Moray circles.
Being the only group at the local market, I was also very happy with the photography I was able to do there. There was no extra cost since we were buying goods there anyways so they were totally happy and willing to partake.
Cost wise, it came out to a total of $129 USD for the van (including driver). To have a guide, there was an extra cost of $100 (over 8 hours of service). Paypal deposit was required beforehand and the rest paid in cash after the end of the tour. We also ended up paying 50 PEN in tips per person.
Day 5 – Sacred Valley with Andean Encounters
For our second day in the Sacred Valley, we wanted to go a little off the beaten path. There were less options for this and one company that really stood out was Andean Encounters. What stood out the most from them was that one of his itineraries included time with a local family. I did something similar in Thailand and it’s truly a special experience when you can get a glimpse into the daily life of those that live in the mountains. So when I saw the “Ankasmarka Ruins, Maucau Community and Lares Hotsprings” tour, we jumped on it.
The day trip looked like this:
Calca Market – Stephano walked us through the market and also picked up the fish we’d ultimately eat for dinner
Ankasmarka – As a spot that’s out of the way for most tours, it was just us in these incredible Pre-Incan ruins.
Maucau Community for lunch – A humbling experience and enlightening to learn what life is like in the mountains.
Lares Hotsprings – A relaxing way to end off our trip.
Dinner at a local restaurant along our way back to Cusco.
After arriving back in Cusco at roughly 8PM, we checked into the Palacio del Inka which was much nicer than the guest house we stayed at earlier in the trip. This was made possible by my friend’s SPG points so it always pays to collect.
Thankfully, Alpaca Expeditions was kind enough to accommodate our late arrival. Our guide, San Juan, was waiting for us in the lobby where he gave us a full briefing of what the trek was going to be like and also gave us our green duffle bags where we had to pack everything that wasn’t going in our daypack.
While not ideal, the rest of the night ended up being a big scramble to repack everything we had. In one bag, we had to shove everything we didn’t need on the Inca Trail to leave behind in the hotel. And then we had to strategically pack our green duffle because we were only allowed 4kg of personal articles. We knew we didn’t have too much leeway here because the government would be weighing all porters upon entry. Luckily the hotel had a scale in the bathroom so we kept taking turns weighing, finding out we had too much and then going back to remove more items.
Another thing we did was treat our clothes with Permethrin that night. Late into the night, I was out on the balcony spraying all of our outerwear. Since this was something that could last 6 weeks, we figured that it’d be smart for us to coat this for both the Inca Trail and Amazon Jungle. This was recommended by our local store as something that was effective against mosquitos and wouldn’t have that corrosive effect that 100% deet has.
Sufficed to say, we ended up sleeping later than we had originally planned.
The first thing you’ll notice with Stephano is that he’s completely passionate about his job and being able to share his culture with us. He’s has a wealth of anecdotes and I distinctly remember him setting straight the real facts about the people in the region. Stephano is just a fascinating guy overall between his life story, his connection with the local people, and what he’s trying to do for the community.
While the first day in the Sacred Valley was a great overview of all the tourist highlights, this tour gave us a chance to go a little deeper and get connected to more of the local culture. If that is what you’re looking for, I highly recommend Stephano and Andean Encounters.
Total cost of the day trip was higher than our previous day. Everything came out to $760 USD for all of us which included the customizations we wanted (local dinner and drop off in Cusco). 50% Western Union payment was required as a deposit. This was the only snag to the booking process as I was disappointed that they didn’t take Paypal but this is actually pretty normal for destinations that are less developed.
Day 6 to 9 – Inca Trail
Our Inca Trail experience is quite well documented so there’s no point in rehashing everything. Here’s a list of the posts where you’ll find a wealth of information:
- Ultimate Machu Picchu Inca Trail Planning Guide
- The Truth About Hiking the Inca Trail
- A Visual Journey Along the Inca Trail
Situated in the San Blas region of Cusco, we settled into the Apu Huascaran Hostel after arriving back in Cusco. I booked this one off of Booking.com last minute and it turned out to be a great place to stay for the 4 of us with its loft style configuration.
Day 10 – Recovery in Cusco
The Inca Trail hike was both physically demanding and exhausting so it was quite the relief to know we had the next day to recover. Especially with how things played out with my girlfriend twisting her ankle on the last day of the trek, I’m not sure how we would’ve gone on without a day to do nothing. As for the rest of us, we all had some form of ailment that needed to be taken care of so this was well timed.
It was a lazy kind of day for us. With nothing planned other than wanting to sleep in, those that were able to walked around Cusco to load up on supplies (ice, meds, snacks) and exchanged for a bit more Peruvian Soles.
A great brunch place we stumbled upon was Jack’s Cafe which had a great menu of Western breakfast items which was a nice change from all the Peruvian cuisine we’ve been having up until that point.
For dinner, we tried Green Point My Vegan Restaurant next door to our hotel which I’d highly recommend. Healthy foods rarely taste as good as what we had here.
I highly recommend that you insert a day off in Cusco in between Inca Trail and the Amazon. You just don’t know how your body is going to react to high altitude. We met a lot of people that went directly from one to the other and they looked extremely exhausted.
Day 11 to 14 – Amazon Jungle
Like my Inca Trail experience, I put together detailed guides on the Amazon Jungle. Here’s everything you need to know:
- Ultimate Peru Amazon Jungle Planning Guide
- Amazon Jungle – Rugged Adventure Meets Comforts
- Peru Amazon Jungle – A Visual Journey
Our last day in the Amazon was more or less a transit day where we caught a morning flight from Puerto Maldonado to Lima.
From the airport we cabbed to the Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center where our friends were staying the night. For the two of us, we used it as a place to drop off our bags and freshen up.
Since we were situated in the historical center of Lima, we had the opportunity to walk to wander through the colorful colonial architecture and shopping promenades for a low-key kind of afternoon. This was also our last chance to pick up souvenirs so we did that as well.
For dinner, we ended up back in Miraflores to dine at Costazul Seafood. The service was some of the best I had seen in Peru. He accidentally tipped over my friend’s beer and he immediately apologized, cleaned everything up and then gave the whole table more bottles than we had originally ordered. I also loved the local atmosphere here. There was a family sitting behind us and at one point they brought out the guitar and broke into song and dance. The ceviche here is not to be missed.
At this point, we found out that our 2:15AM flight back to Toronto was delayed a few hours so we head back to the Sheraton for a nap before getting one final cab to the Lima airport.
If you have your eyes set on a restaurant in Lima and Cusco, you MUST reserve early. I thought we started planning pretty early but by the time I got around to booking, most of the fancier places were already booked solid.
Planning your own trip? Make sure you have this pin handy on your travel board.
Book with Alpaca Expeditions
I highly recommend that you book with Alpaca Expeditions. They’re best in class and would recommend them to anyone. If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Get more with Going Awesome Places
If you’re looking to book with Alpaca Expeditions, mention that you were referred by “Going Awesome Places” and you’ll be able to get free walking sticks and air matts.
I have to give a huge shoutout to Columbia and Mountain Hardwear for outfitting us on this trip. Everything from the backpack to the shoes and dry-fit clothes outperformed and were key pieces of our gear.