By Katie Boyer
One could visit Peru for weeks on end and still not have seen all of the wonders it offers. There are some obvious stops to make, like Machu Picchu, but there are also numerous awe-inspiring places that you’ve probably never heard of.
Not too long ago, I spent a summer studying and volunteering in Peru. I packed tons of adventures into those few months. But even if you only have 7 days, it’s well worth the visit.
Wherever your travels take you, you’re sure to enjoy some unique festivals, intriguing Inca ruins and history, amazing food and more!
Day 1, Lima – When flying to Peru, you will most likely have to stop in Lima. So why not start your adventure in this exciting city? Here in the country’s coastal capital, you will find a mix of historical churches, museums, restaurants and other attractions to visit.
On your day in Lima, be sure to visit the Plaza de Armas, the Government Palace and one of the many cevicherias. Peruvian Pisco is another must for experiencing Peruvian culture. This liquor is most commonly used in Pisco Sours, the national drink, but is consumed in many other ways as well.
Day 2, Puno – Traveling south to Puno will allow you to get out of the city and enjoy views of Peruvian landscapes along the way. Hop on a plane to save time. There are three flights a day and it only takes an hour and a half to get there. Puno may not sound as exciting as the other Peruvian cities on this list, but once you make it out to Lake Titicaca you will be glad you came.
Once you arrive in Puno, don’t waste any time getting out on the lake. Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake with Bolivia’s snow-capped mountains on the other side. Take a jump in if you dare to brave the cold — a shot of Pisco before might help!
The lake is home to 44 floating islands and villagers who welcome visitors regularly. These fascinating islands are made with reeds and are constantly maintained by the locals. You will notice their friendliness and openness when they invite you inside their homes, sharing how they live and even allowing you to try on their traditional, brightly-colored garments. Visit these islands and learn about their culture, the beauty of Lake Titicaca, and support this unique lifestyle by purchasing some handicrafts.
Day 3, Machu Picchu – From Puno, you can take a train or bus up to Machu Picchu. This famous world wonder draws thousands of tourists every year. Though this is a magnificent destination that shouldn’t be missed, I also recommend not spending more than one or two nights to explore the ruins.
Most people stay in the small town of Aguas Calientes at the bottom of the trail to Machu Picchu. There’s not much there besides hostels and restaurants, as most people are just in transit from between Machu Picchu and the Inca trails. By day, take a picnic and spend the day exploring Machu Picchu. If you are in good shape and ready to hike, prepare to be impressed by the great lengths the ancient Incas went to as you walk up and down their steep mountains paths.
Day 4-5, Cusco & the Sacred Valley of the Incas – Cusco is one of Peru’s top destinations for many reasons. Enjoy a day of exploration in this backpacker’s paradise: try a local market, visit beautiful Spanish churches, meet other travelers and taste the native dish cuy (guinea pig), if you dare!
Get outside the crowded city to visit some nearby attractions that offer a glimpse into the lives and innovations of the Incas. The Sacred Valley of the Incas boasts churches, hikes, ruins, alpaca farms, and markets galore. Be sure to catch a bus out to Urubamba and stop by the Pisac market.
Days 6-7, Amazon – If you’re ready for a drastic change from Southern Peru, you can hop on a small plane to the Amazon rainforest! Covering more than 60% of Peruvian territory, the Amazon is sure to give you a real South American jungle experience. There are so many different ways to spend your time in the Amazon: take a boat ride down the river, take a walking tour of a banana farm, fish for piranha, visit a shaman and learn about the medicinal plants that grow in the jungles of Peru, enjoy delicious fresh food and trek through the jungle to observe the unique plants and wildlife.
Even the nicest accommodations in the Amazon will be lacking hot water, so save the long showers for your return. I can personally recommend the Posada Amazonas hotel, which offers amazing meals, tours, group hikes, soccer games, open air rooms and more. Most travelers will make their way back to Lima via train or bus before catching a flight home.
Your week in Peru will fly by so be sure to cherish every moment and take lots of pictures!
Visit Katie’s Peru in Seven Days Custom Guide.
Katie Boyer is a Bay Area writer and blogger exploring technology and culture. She is the resident Volunteer Abroad expert and Latin America enthusiast at Go Overseas. She has volunteered in Peru and Mexico and hopes to continue her travels abroad soon.