During all these years living in the US, I’ve been told “I want to go to Peru!” at least 100 times. Strangers, friends, and students always ask me for my advice. I find myself telling the same every time, so I decided to document it.
A word of caution: the following advice is not the backpacker version of Peru. The places I recommend herein are not the cheapest (specially the restaurants), but this is what *I* would do if I’d take my mom to Peru (if she would not be Peruvian, and we would be tourists there).
Here is my advice:
- Length of the trip: 10 days is my recommendation. Of course you can stay longer, but I don’t recommend going for less than 10 days.
- Places to visit (if planning for 10 days):
- Lima: your flight will arrive to Lima (the capital of Peru) for sure. There are no international flights to any other city in Peru, but to Lima. Plan to get a hotel in Lima for the first two nights you are there. You will find plenty of things to do in Lima during your first two days in Lima. Visit the historic center of the city, take a stroll in Barranco or go to some museums.
- Cuzco (Machu Pichu): fly to Cuzco very early after your second night in Lima (8am would be the best considering the time it will take you to go to the airport). Plan to stay in Cuzco 4 nights. The first day you arrive to Cuzco plan on doing NOTHING because the high altitude can really affect you. It affects me sometimes, and it doesn’t sometimes. Do not overbook yourself the first day. You will find plenty to do in Cuzco for the next 4 days, including one full day to Machu Pichu (waking up at 4am to take the train, and arriving to your hotel at 10pm). Fly back to Lima.
- Lima: plan to stay in Lima the last 2 days of your trip. You can visit the rest of the city, eat good food, and enjoy the museums. Your international flight will depart from Lima.
- Visiting more places if you have more days:
- Arequipa: this is one of my favorite cities in Peru. In the last years, their cuisine and city attractions have make it memorable. You can visit Canon del Colca too.
- Puerto Maldonado (the jungle): I love the jungle. If you are adventurous and like hiking, this is the place to go. I recommend staying in a lodge for 3 nights. They will organize walks, excursions, stars sightseeing, piranhas fishing, and all of that. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the food because it’s all included with the lodge (and it will be delicious).
- Where to eat (in Lima):
- Rafael: when I went to this restaurant, I was a little bit reluctant on going here because I thought that the price was too high. But… when I ate the first bite, I understood it was all worth it. This place is not cheap to Lima-standards (or to my standards 🙂 ). Each plate is around $20 (not bad for the U.S. I know), but it’s worth it. Don’t skip the dessert because that’s the best part.
- Centro: this restaurants is one of the best in Latin America. I have never been here because it’s very hard to get a reservation (you have to call with a lot of time), so make sure you call months in advance. This restaurant is not cheap either but I’ve heard it’s worth it.
- La Mar: this cebicheria is the place to go to get cebiche, leche de tigre, and other seafood. Plan to go during lunchtime, and to wait sometime for a table. They don’t accept reservations.
- Astrid y Gaston: Gaston is to Peruvian-food as Facebook is to social media. He put us on the map. He made us appreciate our food even more, and I like the guy. He’s cool. Their restaurant in Casa Moreyra is located in one renovated-old-house, which is supposed to be very beautiful.
- Pardo’s Chicken: I love Pardo’s Chicken. You will find lots of them in Lima, you don’t have to call for a reservation, and it’s on the cheap end. Try all their spices because they are the best. Their pollo a la brasa is what I miss the most in the U.S.
- Eat tamales, peruvian-chinese food (chifa), desserts. Everything will be amazing. If you are staying with a family that is hosting you, eat at their house. I love eating at my house because the food that my aunts cook is the best.
- Where to stay:
- In Lima: I recommend getting a hotel or an Airbnb in Miraflores. If you are really fancy, stay in the Marriot in Miraflores. Otherwise, there are plenty of nice hotels in that area.
- In Cuzco, Arequipa or any other city outside Lima: stay close to the center of the city. The hotels closest to the center would be the most expensive, but you will be able to walk to most of the attractions.
- In the jungle: get a tour that includes a lodge. They will pick you up from the airport, and take you (by bus and by boat) to the lodge.
- Extra tips:
- Be safe: Do not take large purses outside. Be always cautious while walking in the streets. Don’t take your passport out, leave it at the hotel.
- You can use credit cards: however, taxis and small business won’t take credit cards or dollars. Have soles always with you.
- Enjoy it: be flexible, have a nice attitude, and enjoy your trip!