When people ask me what it’s like to travel to Peru and Machu Picchu for the first time, my response is simple, “Peru is a destination you could explore for the rest of your life and not see the same thing twice; in Peru you can expect a new adventure around every corner.”
With so many extraordinary regions and diverse landscapes to explore in this massively diverse country, choosing where to go for your first visit to Peru can be difficult. For that reason, we add value to our travelers by helping them customize an itinerary tailored to their desires. As an example, a lot of people know Peru mostly because of Machu Picchu, so that is number one on their list. Therefore, we typically recommend taking the classic route to Machu Picchu via Lima, Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes, and finishing in Cusco on your first visit. At that point, you will be acclimatized to the Andean altitude and ready to adventure further.
“Exploring the Seventh Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu, radiates wisdom and wonder by inevitably making one visualize what life must have been like for the Royal Inca in the Pre-Columbian era while they were secluded from the entire world… in their own sanctuary where every stone and ruin is strategically placed to utilize the natural elements of this environment. If you are a lover of cultural adventures and amazing food, I recommend that you make a visit to Peru as soon as possible”
– Turney Maurer
Insider’s Guide – Travel to Peru in 2020:
Peru is a massive country where the Earth’s biggest jungle collides with the towering, ice-capped Andes mountains. Meanwhile, southern Peru has the Nazca Lines, the world’s second deepest canyon—Colca Canyon, and Lake Titicaca—the world’s highest navigable lake that can be seen from outer space. However, there is more! Northern Peru has some of the best waves to surf in the world where you can rest afterwards at a remote beachside wellness retreat. Meanwhile, one of the world’s biggest waterfalls in the world awaits your arrival. Dive further into the northern jungle to find Pre-Inca archaeological sites as big and well-preserved as Machu Picchu which have recently been introduced to tourism with the inclusion of a cable car at Kuelap.
With all of these magnificent sites to see, how are you supposed to choose which ones to see when you travel to Peru in 2020?
Peruvian Woman Overlooking Colca Canyon
As mentioned previously, let’s get you to Machu Picchu first when you travel to Peru in 2020. Depending on the time you and your group have to travel, your options of regions to visit after seeing Machu Picchu will be limited. It’s important to note, especially if you are arriving to Peru from the United States, your itinerary is going to be 6 Days / 5 Nights minimum in order to see Machu Picchu and spend an evening in Cusco. Altitude sickness is no joke, and if you try to see the Seventh Wonder of the World in a hurry, you are likely to become very ill and ruin many days of your journey. Here is why…
The only main international airport in Peru is in Lima, the seaside capital city. In order to get to Machu Picchu, one must fly domestically from Lima to Cusco, where the altitude is around 12,500 ft.. To prevent altitude sickness, we greet our travelers at the airport in Cusco for a driver and guide take them to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where the altitude is around 9,800 ft.. Here, spend a few nights at a lovely hotel like Sol Y Luna Lodge & Spa or Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba to become acclimatized and partake in some amazing day tours before continuing to Machu Picchu at around 7,800 ft. elevation.
Salt Mines at Maras: A Lovely Experience in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Depending on whether you’d like to hike to Machu Picchu or take the train, you will need to either spend a night in Aguas Calientes or return to Cusco via train. We certainly recommend taking the Hiram Bingham Train (pictured below) for an open bar with appetizers, 3-course meal, and live music along the way in a 1920’s style elegant train. When planning your journey with one of our trip designers, we will help you decide what is best. Check out our Top 8 Treks in Peru blog to learn about more options of hiking to Machu Picchu and other areas of Peru.
Singing and dancing on the Hiram Bingham Train
Finally, after exploring Machu Picchu, you will return to Cusco by train and stay the night. At this point of the journey, your body will be fully acclimatized and ready for the next destination when you rise the next day. Some destinations such as Manu National Park, Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains), or adventure activities like white water rafting or mountain biking are a driving distance from Cusco. Otherwise, there are domestic flights to nearly any other region of Peru (some with a layover in Lima — see recommendations at the bottom of this blog). For example, consider flying from Cusco to Iquitos after visiting Machu Picchu for a Peruvian Amazon Cruise aboard the Delfin 1, where you and your loved ones can enjoy exploring the jungle in style.
A couple enjoying the hot tub on Delfin 1 in Iquitos, Peru
The peak of the Dry season in Peru is from June – August which attracts the most tourists since you will likely not encounter rain at Machu Picchu. Although, Peru is a very diverse destination and while some areas of the country might be rainy or cold, some coastal areas are perfect to visit. The main takeaway is that the shoulder seasons (March – May) and (Sept-August) are great times to visit Machu Picchu during the transitions of the rainy and dry season. Sure, you might encounter some rain, but you will also experience sunshine and less people at the ancient Citadel. Peru is still a great destination year-round, it just depends on where you want to explore!
Plaza de Armas: Cusco, Peru
If you’re like me, after you see Machu Picchu and maybe one or two other regions of Peru, you will be itching to go back for more. Luckily for you, a second or even third journey to Peru can be as exciting or even more wonderful as the first. Below we have compiled a gallery of some of our favorite destinations to see in Peru beyond Machu Picchu.
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The Peruvian Amazon Gallery
Southern Peru: Islas Ballestas, Pisco Region, Huacachina Oasis, Nazca Lines, Arequipa & Colca Canyon
Northern Peru: Máncora, Tumbes, Chachapoyas, the Lost City of Kuelap, & Gocta Falls
Galapagos Islands & Quito Ecuador
Did you know that visiting Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands in the same journey is a great way to see both destinations conveniently? Due to direct flights from Lima to Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador — this multi-destination journey links well. If you ask me, the best way to combine the two countries is by flying from Lima to Quito in the early afternoon, so that you arrive in Quito around 4:00 p.m.. From there, we will organize a private transfer from the airport to your hotel, and book a dinner at ZaZu Restaurant (part of the Relais & Chateaux collection) or similar for a taste of Quito’s finest cuisine. The following day spend a full-day exploring the city or going on a lovely trek with another overnight stay in Quito. The next morning, return to the airport and continue to Darwin’s Archipelago, the magical Galapagos Islands.
In Galapagos you will have to choose whether you want to explore via land, sea, or both? Read more about the Galapagos Great Debate to see which one suits you and your group the best.
Due to a new flight offered by LATAM that runs directly from Lima to Calama (Atacama Desert, Chile), these two destinations are now fantastic to combine. Imagine yourself going from seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World where ruins are covered in lush green vegetation among a towering mountain surrounded by a flowing river, to feeling like you’re walking on the moon and looking at flamingos in the distance? Sounds nice doesn’t it? If so, let us treat you to this multi-destination combo by contacting us today!
Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.