This 2-week itinerary will allow you to experience many of Peru’s biggest attractions, from its historic colonial cities to its natural wonders. You will start and end your journey in the capital of Lima, though the primary check on everyone’s bucket list, of course, are the lively ancient Inca capital Cusco and that empire’s legendary lost city, Machu Picchu. After your fill of adventuring in the highlands, a few days on the beach will be waiting, though you wouldn’t be the first to find it irresistible to linger in Cusco and the Sacred Valley (especially if you want to hike the Inca Trail or do another highland trek).
Day 1: Touch Down in Lima
All international flights arrive into the capital, Lima, and even though most people are headed elsewhere, you may want or find yourself obligated to spend at least a day in Lima. Make the most of it by touring the revitalized colonial quarter of Lima Centro, or perhaps visiting one of the country’s outstanding museums, such as the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera archaeology museum, and hitting either a great cevichería or a cutting-edge novo andino restaurant.
Then move on your way to Peru’s most famous Inca attractions. (If you’re able to get an overnight flight that puts you into Lima early in the morning, you may want to consider an immediate connection to Cusco to save time and avoid the hassles of Lima, buying yourself an extra day elsewhere.)
Days 2 & 3: Cusco, Inca Capital
Although your goal might be to hit Cusco running, the city’s lofty altitude, more than 3,400m (11,000 ft.), prohibits that. Spend a couple of days seeing the old Inca capital at a relaxed pace, making sure to hang out around the Plaza de Armas and visit La Catedral (Cathedral), Convento de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Convent), and Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun). Cusco is one of the best places in Peru to shop, eat, and party, so make sure to squeeze those vital activities in with sightseeing.
Day 4: The Stuff of Legend: Machu Picchu
Though Machu Picchu really deserves an overnight stay, if you’re trying to see the best of Peru in 2 weeks, you can’t afford the time. So take the morning train from Cusco to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), South America’s number-one attraction. Spend the middle part of the day exploring the ruins here, spending the night in town.
Days 5–7: Soaking Up the Sacred Valley
Take a morning train from Aguas Calientes direct to the Sacred Valley, the heartland of the Incas and home to many important architectural and cultural attractions. Base yourself at one of the country-style lodges in Urubamba, giving yourself ample time to make short trips to the market and ruins at Pisac, the Salineras de Maras and terraces of Moray, and the fortress of Ollantaytambo. Make time to go mountain biking, hiking, or horseback riding, as well as to participate in a pachamanca, a ritual feast where food is cooked in an earthen oven.
Day 8: Back in Cusco
If you weren’t able to catch an archaeology museum in Lima, or even if you did, check out the beautifully designed Museo de Arte Precolombino (MAP). Enjoy some of the lively cafes, bars, and restaurants of Cusco; you’ll find plenty while strolling around the Barrio de San Blas. If you have time and plenty of energy, catch a cab (or walk up) to the fantastic Inca ruins overlooking the city, Sacsayhuamán.
Day 9: Heading South
From Cusco, catch an early flight back to Lima, renting a car at the airport upon landing and head south along the Pan-American Highway. Make a pit stop for ice cream made from lúcuma at Helados OVNI, a roadside stand in Chilca, but then continue on to the beaches of Asia, a satellite city at 100km that appears during the summer months, where you can find a hotel or resort on one of the nearby beaches.
Days 10–13: Paracas
In recent years, the resort area along Paracas Bay has become one of the most activity-rich destinations in coastal Peru. Over the next few days, while basing yourself in one of a handful of recently opened resort-style hotels, your options of things to do are seemingly endless: kitesurfing in the bay, riding dune buggies or sandboarding on sand dunes, visiting pisco distilleries near Ica, or just relaxing by the pool or at the spa. Additionally, the Islas Ballestas Marine Reserve, filled with colonies of sea lions and seabirds, is just a short boat ride away. Return to Lima the final afternoon.
Day 14: Final Morning in Lima & Then Home
Arequipa is Peru’s top spot for fine alpaca goods. Spend the morning shopping for sweaters, shawls, and scarves before flying to Lima, where you’ll catch your flight back home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.