From the Incas to the Amazon

Sample Itineraries
Machu Picchu
Mist-enshrouded Machu Picchu (Kathryn McAdoo)

As any shoulder-season traveler knows, it's all about timing And when you're hopping from one continent to the other, the more time you can spend in country, the better. But, given that the States has yet to follow the global example of a three-week vacation, we offer two ways to take on Peru. One utilizes the train to Machu Picchu to save time (while still giving you a taste of the Inca Trail), while the other allows for giddy over-indulgence in all things Peruvian—trekking, surfing, traipsing through the Amazon, and more.

TWO-WEEK ITINERARY
Day 1-2:
Arrive in Lima and get acquainted with the city's colonial Spanish history at Plaza de Armes in the city center and San Francisco church's macabre catacombs. Head out to two of Lima's trendy suburbs, Milaflores and San Isidro, to sample modern Peru’s art, cuisine, and nightlife. Or target the coasts—the beach at El Paraiso or the waves at Punta Rocas, home to international surf competitions, cheap eats, and outdoor music shows.

Day 3-4: Head into the Andes and begin the time-honored traveler's route to Machu Picchu. Fly to Cusco, onetime seat of the ancient Inca Empire, and launching point for many highland adventures. Give yourself 24 hours to explore the city and acclimatize to the elevation—Cusco sits higher than 11,000 feet—while browsing the city's museums and culinary tradition, Andean-style.

Day 5-9: Short trips mean compromises—to save some precious hours without sacrificing the Inca Trail experience, board the train to Machu Picchu at Cusco and hop off at KM104, where you’ll hook up with your guide or group for a grueling uphill push to reach the final stretch of the famed trekking route. Draw out the experience by staying overnight in Aguas Calientes—or, to get a taste of the much less crowded, pre-dawn ruins, camp near Wiñay Wayna just outside of the ancient city.

Day 10-13: Fly to Puerto Maldonado, on the outskirts of the Amazon basin, then canoe down the Madre de Dios River to your jungle lodge accommodations. From here, take advantage of the region's many day trips, from bird-watching at Lake Sandoval to paddling through the interwoven rivers.

Day 14: Arrive back in Lima and soak up your last Pisco sours before departing.

THREE-WEEK ITINERARY
Day 1-3:
Arrive in Lima and get acquainted with the city's colonial Spanish history at Plaza de Armes in the city center and San Francisco church's macabre catacombs. Head out to Lima's trendy suburbs, Milaflores and San Isidro, to sample modern Peru's art, cuisine, and nightlife. Then hit the beach at El Paraiso or test the waves at Punta Rocas, home to international surf competitions, cheap eats, and outdoor music shows.

Day 4-5: Head into the Andes and begin the time-honored traveler's route to Machu Picchu. Fly to Cusco, onetime seat of the ancient Inca Empire, and launching point for many highland adventures. Give yourself 24 hours to explore the city and acclimatize to the elevation—Cusco sits higher than 11,000 feet—while browsing the city's museums and culinary tradition, Andean-style.

Day 6: Daytrip to Sacsayhuaman, an ancient hilltop fortress overlooking Cusco. The stone-block construction of this fortress took nearly 100 years and the resulting stonework is fitted so precisely that there was no need for mortar. Consider this the first of many awe-inspiring views.

Days 7–12: The four-day, 29-mile Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu begins on the Piskacucho train route. But remember to arrange for a guide before arriving Cusco if you can—the best guides and outfitters typically get booked as much as a month in advance during the peak season. Your bent for shoulder-season travel keeps the numbers low, but it's best to plan ahead.

Day 13: Return to Cusco and fly to Puerto Maldonado, the region's gateway into the Amazon basin. A nine-mile river trip down the Madre de Dios River will take you to your vine-enshrouded jungle lodge accommodations.

Days 14-18: Spend your time on the various daytrips accessible from your eco-lodge, including bird-watching at Lake Sandoval, rainforest hikes, and paddling through the interwoven rivers.

Days 19-20: Visit protected Monkey Island where rescued capuchin, tamarin, and howler and squirrel monkeys have been reintroduced to their natural environment. Just down the trail, get high on the Reserva's own 100-foot-high Canopy Walk with seven suspended rope bridges.

Day 21: Arrive back in Lima and soak up your last Pisco sours before departing.


Published: 24 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Peru

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Radisson Hotel Decapolis Miraflores
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Novotel Cusco
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Hotel Los Portales Piura
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Atton San Isidro

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