So you’re planning a trip to Peru and you want to see everything, I hope you have a month to spare. I have been spending time recently on travel forums, offering up my opinions and advise where I can, on questions about traveling to Peru. One of the things that I have noticed is that far too many people want to see everything on one or two weeks’ vacation. I understand that for most people, vacation time is limited, I can also relate to wanting to get the most out of your vacation dollars, my wife and I took a 3 week vacation to Europe several years back, and during our trip we saw almost all the things there is so see in Italy, as well as visiting Paris.
While ‘things’ should be seen, ‘sites’ should be visited, statues, paintings and monuments are the types of things that can be seen. I know some people out there are probably saying, “A fine work of art should be admired and pondered”, well I have seen things like the Mona Lisa and the statue of David, while they are amazing works of art, I have seen them and have no desire to see them again.
On the other hand, I have visited sites like Chichen Itza, Rome and Machu Picchu, and look forward to visiting again as there is so much to explore. For example, most tourists that visit Sacsayhuaman during their visit to Cusco, do so as part of the city tour. During the tour you get a lot of interesting information about the site, followed by a little free time to explore. Between the tour and free time, the average tourist probably sees 30% of the site, and usually never gets to the backside where there is a large area of cut stone that is very interesting.
If you are planning a trip to Peru and have a limited amount of time, as most people do, I suggest Cusco. I know what you are thinking “of course you recommend Cusco; you have a B&B there”. Yes we do, and one of the reasons we chose Cusco, is it makes an excellent hub to see a lot of places. I think top of most peoples list of sitesto see is Machu Picchu, whether you plan to take the Inca trail or the train to visit; you will be coming into Cusco. So what if you also want to visit the Jungle? You don’t have to go to Iquitos as there is jungle within 1hr. of Cusco. Many other locations are also within reach either by bus or air.
Something to remember when planning a trip is the words fast and cheap do not belong in the same sentence. The fastest way to see the sights in Peru would be to take several one-way flights and hop from place to place, while you may be able to visit many locations in a short period of time, this will also be quite expensive. On the other hand, the cheapest way to visit Peru is by buss, you could still see all the same locations; it would just take you much longer, the happy median of course being a combination of the two.
So how long should you plan for each location? Keep in mind that these are only my recommendations and opinions.
1. Lima: 2 to 3 days should be sufficient for most people.
2. Iquitos: 4 days, This can be a time consuming location to visit as it is in the opposite direction of most of the other sites and the jungle lodges are a boat ride from the city itself.
3. Nazca: 1 day, there is not much exploring to be done here, a drive to the observation tower or flight over the lines and you pretty much done.
4. Lake Titicaca: 1 to 2 days, Puno is the town most people go to when visiting Lake Titicaca, aside from the floating Islands of Uros and Sillustani, There was not much else that interested me. You can add 1 to 2 more days if you want to visit Bolivia while there.
4. Arequipa/Colca Canyon: 2 to 3 days, while I have not been here yet, based on what I have red, this seems an appropriate amount of time.
5. Pisco: 1 day
6. Trujillo: 1 day
7. Cusco: 4 to 6 days (not counting Machu Picchu) I recommend six so that you can see the sites by private car instead of on a group tour, this allows you to travel at a slower pace and explore more of the sites (the typical Sacred Valley tour is one day and misses several interesting locations).
8. Machu Picchu: 2 to 8 days, for the non-trekking visitor, I recommend the 2 day trip as it allows a little more free time to explore the site. As for those that want to hike it, I have seen treks of up to 8 days in duration.
While this list is not a complete list of all the sites in Peru, these are the most discussed in the travel forums. If you were to visit each of the above locations for even the minimum number of Days I have listed, you would need 18 days not counting transportation. My ultimate recommendation if you are short on time is to pick a few locations that you really want to see, and take your time to explore and enjoy those sites. While a fast run through will net you a lot of locations, you may find yourself wishing you had seen more at the end.