Aug 17, 2020|
Where to Go in Peru in 2021
Updated August 7th, 2020
There are so many fantastic places in Peru to visit. With its rich history, culture, and wildlife, Peru attracts a wide range of visitors. While highlights such as Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu should not be missed during your trip to Peru, there are many other gems to be discovered like the dunes of Huacachina or the world’s highest lake, Lake Titicaca.
If your main focus is the Sacred Valley and Andean highlands, the best time to visit Peru is from May to September. However, Peru has diverse climates; coastal microclimates, Andean plateaus, and rainforest regions. Because of this diversity, it is a year-round destination. The trick is figuring out when to visit other places in Peru, according to your travel dates.
Whether your interests are in local cuisine, historical ruins, or adventure tours, there is a destination in Peru for everyone. Learn more about the top places to visit in Peru and start considering your Peruvian tour itinerary today.
1. Lima, Peru
Why Visit Lima
Lima is the perfect place to visit for history enthusiasts and food lovers. Brush up on the country’s rich history by exploring the city’s exceptional historical center. Founded in 1535, Lima is dotted with Spanish influenced architecture. Discover opulent cathedrals, busy squares, and grand administrative buildings on a walking tour of the city. Must-see stops include the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral of Lima.
For foodies, some of the best cuisine in Latin America can be found in Lima. Blending indigenous, Chinese, and Spanish influences, Peruvian cuisine is guaranteed to impress visitors to South America. Popular dishes in Peru include Lomo Saltado, ceviche, and chaufa.
Best Time to Visit Lima
There is never a wrong time to visit Lima. Though, depending on your interests, there may be a season that is best suited for your travels. From March to May and September to November, the city experiences mild temperatures and humidity. It does not rain, which makes the fall and spring the busiest for tourism. There is plenty to do in Lima during these months.
From June to August, temperatures are cold, especially at night, though it doesn’t rain often. Usually, tourists who are planning to visit the Andean Mountains prefer these winter months. You can also experience some great cultural and religious festivals in Lima in June and July.
Summer in Lima is from December to February and is marked by sunny, clear skies, and hot temperatures. The summer also features some of the best sunsets along the coast, while being relatively empty; most locals leave for their summer holidays.
How to Get to Lima
Most travelers prefer to fly to Lima if they are coming from abroad. It is home to the most prominent international airport in the country, Jorge Chavez International Airport. Flights from all over the continent and further abroad fly to Lima.
2. Cusco, Peru
Why Visit Cusco
Cusco is a must-see for every traveler who visits Peru. Besides being a gateway to the world-famous Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, it is historically one of the most important cities in South America. Once the capital of the Incan Empire, the region is dotted with epic ruins and indigenous culture. However, the city’s most significant draw is its Spanish historical center. From its quaint cobblestone streets to its impressively ornate cathedrals, travelers can truly step back in time when in Cusco.
Best Time to Visit Cusco
The best time to visit Cusco is from May to September. Like all the Andean destinations, this season is considered to be the dry season. This is the most optimal time to explore the city and hike the Inca trail, with clear blue skies above and uninterrupted views. Weather can get chilly at night and warm during the day, so warm clothes are recommended.
June and July are the peak tourist months. I recommend planning well ahead to ensure the availability of accommodations and tours. May and September would be better if you are flexible and prefer fewer crowds.
How to Get to Cusco
Cusco is accessible by either flight, bus, or train. There are regular flights from Lima, Puno (Lake Titicaca), Puerto Maldonado (Southern Amazon), and even Santiago, Chile.
You can also arrive at Cusco by train. There are regular trains between Puno and Cusco. PeruRail operates the elegant PeruRail and Titicaca train service that runs between Cusco and Puno six days a week. This 10.5-hour train journey is a fabulous way to traverse the Andean highlands in style. You can also take the luxury Belmond Andean Explorer; this is surely a once in a lifetime experience overnight on an exquisite train.
3. Machu Picchu
Why Visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is perhaps South America’s most prominent site and a must-see during any trip to Peru. The UNESCO World Heritage site is famed for its beautifully preserved ruins, breath-taking views of the Andes, and scenic Inca trail. In all honesty, why wouldn’t you visit Machu Picchu? People from all over the world come to Machu Picchu to explore the various ruins, from the quaint ancient streets to the abandoned stone homes. Experience history, all while enjoying the lush forest surroundings, full of important flora and fauna.
Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
For the most sunshine, the best time to visit the ruins is during the dry season from April to October. For warmer temperatures (with possible rains), visit from November to March. One good side of this season is that everything is greener. When it rains it does not rain every day all day. Usually, it rains in the afternoon, when most people are on the train back to Cusco. For fewer crowds and better probability of pleasant weather, visit Machu Picchu during what we call the shoulder season, from May – June and September to October.
How to Get to Machu Picchu
There are a couple of ways to get to Machu Picchu. Once in Cusco, you can get to Machu Picchu by train, minivan, or hiking. If you are a hiker, consider hiking the famous Inca Trail or an alternative route. There are many other trails that lead to Machu Picchu, including the Salcantay Route, Lares Route, One-Day Inca Trail, Vilcabamba Traverse Route, Lodge Trek, and Chaski (or Cachicata) Trail.
If you are not hiking one of the many trails, then a train ride will be the fastest, safest, and most convenient method of transportation, taking you to Aguas Calientes (the town nearest to Machu Picchu). Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, take one of the shuttle buses to the nearby entrance of Machu Picchu.
Why Visit Paracas
Paracas is a great town to visit on Peru’s west coast. It is renowned for its splendid beaches, like El Chaco and for being the gateway to the Ballestas Islands, which are home to a wide array of wildlife. Enjoy swimming along sea lions, pelicans, and humboldt penguins, while exploring the beautiful terrain. Though a small region, the landscapes are incredibly diverse, featuring arid deserts, crystal blue waters, tidal beaches, cozy islands and the Paracas Peninsula. During the Ballestas Island tour, you will also see a huge prehistoric geoglyph on the hillside of the Peninsula.
Best Time to Visit Paracas
Paracas is a year-round destination. The weather is quite dry with its desert terrain. In the summer months, temperatures reach a max of around 26℃ (79℉). While the coldest temperatures during winter are around 13℃ (54℉).
The sun stays up the longest in October, so you’ll get the most out of your daytime activities if you visit around this time. The wet season in Paracas falls around March, featuring increased rain levels. If you prefer dryer weather, visiting in September is recommended.
How to Get to Paracas
A land transfer is the only way to reach Paracas. Paracas is almost a 4-hour drive away from Lima, not including traffic. I recommend taking a private transfer so that you can be more flexible with your time and with your trip. Another common way is to take a bus operating the Lima to Paracas route. However, I do not recommend this option.
Recommended Paracas Tours
The Essence of Peru Tour
5. Huacachina, Peru
Why Visit Huacachina
Huacachina is a small town in the south of Lima surrounded by dunes and one of the driest climates in the world. Adventurists can partake in several recreational activities, including sandboarding, dune buggy, and even wine tasting. The village is a true oasis surrounded by a quaint, green lagoon, and its shoreline palm trees. Juxtaposed with the dry, desert terrain all around, Huacachina is an impressive sight. Additionally, if you are planning to visit the Nazca Lines, this little desert town can be your hub for a couple of nights while you discover the surroundings.
Best Time to Visit Huacachina
Due to the region’s dry climate, Huacachina can be visited year-round. Temperatures average 25’C throughout the year. However, February and March tend to have the hottest temperatures.
How to Get to Huacachina
Huacachina can easily be reached from Peru’s capital, Lima. With multiple land transfers journeying throughout the day, the 4-hour voyage is a popular route. You can also choose to take a bus; however, without a direct route, this can take an entire day. The nearest towns accessible by bus are Paracas and Ica, requiring a second transfer to Huacachina.
Recommended Huacachina Tours
Peru Wine & Gastronomy Tour
6. Nazca Lines
Why Visit Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are an incredible site, shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories. Created by the Nazca people, the big question today remains: why were these immense geoglyphs made – no one truly knows. Some theorists believe the lines are rooted in astronomy, while others think the lines are messages from the tribes to their sky gods. For the best view and to appreciate the sheer scale of the Nazca Lines, I recommend getting a glimpse from the air, while on a scenic flight.
Best Time to Visit the Nazca Lines
You can visit the Nazca Lines at any time of the year. The weather is very similar to Paracas. The summer months are quite warm, and the winter months remain at a high enough temperature to enjoy exploring comfortably.
How to Get to the Nazca Lines
Because there are no direct flights or trains, it can be a bit tricky to visit the Nazca Lines. Land transportation, either private or by bus, is a must. Nazca is located about a 6 or 7-hour drive from Lima. Even though there are day trips from Lima, I recommend spending at least one night in Nazca, Ica, Paracas, or Pisco to fully enjoy the site and surroundings.
You can take flights from airports in Pisco (3hrs to Lima), in Ica (5 hrs to Lima), and in Nazca. If you stay overnight in Paracas then you will need to take a transfer to one of those airports.
Recommended Nazca Lines Tours
The Essence of Peru Tour
Why Visit Chinchero
Step back in time in Chinchero among some of the Inca’s best preserved ruins. Located just an hour from the Cusco, Chcinchero is one of the most beautiful and authentic towns in the Sacred Valley. Feel and see the Inca culture as it was in its past in the central square. Settled on what was once an Incan palace, this square is the heart of the town. A quaint and typical Peruvian market resides in the palace ruins, perfect for sight-seeing and shopping. The people watching is also spectacular, observe indigenous locals clad in the traditional clothing of their ancestors. The market is open daily, though the most crowded day is Sunday.
It is important to note that Chinchero is at a very high elevation, 3762 m (12.342 ft). Due to the height at which the city rests, the impressive Mount Salkantay and its white peaks can be seen from there. The perfect location to take photos.
Best Time to Visit Chinchero
Chinchero can be visited year-round. However, like the Sacred Valley, shoulder seasons (April, May, September, and October) are ideal times to visit. Also, I would highly recommend that you try to go there in the morning or before 1 PM so that you have some time to experience the market’s peak time.
How to Get to Chinchero
Once you are in Cusco or Urubamba, you are almost 30 Km away from Chinchero. Because it is located almost right in-between Cusco and Urubamba, you can have a day trip from both destinations or stop by on the way. The journey requires a 40 minute land transfer from Cusco or Urubamba.
Recommended Chinchero Tours
Chinchero is often combined with Ollantaytambo and the Maras Moray Salt Mines. Add Chinchero to any of our Cusco Tours.
Why Visit Ollantaytambo
The entire town of Ollantaytambo is an Incan city, making it one of the most authentic villages in the Sacred Valley. The small town is well worth spending a few hours exploring. With vibrant and colorful markets, epic ruins and picturesque terraced gardens, there is plenty to keep your eyes occupied. Ollantaytambo is also the city in which every traveler passes to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. If you don’t have enough time to do the trails, you will have to go through this town to take your train.
Best Time to Visit Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo can be visited year-round. However, like the rest of the Sacred Valley, the shoulder seasons (April, May, September, and October) are a great time to visit.
How to Get to Ollantaytambo
To get to Ollantaytambo from the city of Cusco, you can take the Chinchero – Urubamba highway. Use a private transfer, which will pick you up from anywhere in Cuzco or other towns in the Sacred Valley. It is the fastest and most convenient way, taking approximately 1.5 hours.
Recommended Ollantaytambo Tours
Add Ollantaytambo to any of our Peru tours.
9. Arequipa, Peru
Why Visit Arequipa
Arequipa is the destination for nature and history lovers. Once serving as the colonial capital of the Arequipa region, the city is dotted with beautiful architecture from the 16th century. History enthusiasts can brush up on the local history at the Museo Santuarios Andinos or by simply walking its quaint streets, seeing grand buildings such as the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and Santa Catalina Monastery.
The views don’t end with the city’s architecture; however, surrounding its borders are three impressive volcanoes. Visitors can enjoy hiking these majestic peaks or enjoying a sunset view at one of the city’s excellent bars or restaurants. It is also a gateway to the Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons and famed in Peru for its hiking opportunities.
Best Time to Visit Arequipa
The best time to visit Arequipa is between May and September (the Andean dry season). The majority of tourists arrive during July and August, which means more people will be around. If possible, try to plan your trip earlier in May. Or, even later, in September to avoid the crowds while still enjoying the dry weather.
How to Get to Arequipa
Arequipa’s airport receives regular domestic flights from Lima, Cuzco, Juliaca (Puno), and some weekly international flights from regional countries in South America, such as Chile.
Arriving in Arequipa by land from Nazca or Ica is also possible with a night bus around 8-9 hours.
10. Lake Titicaca, Peru
Why Visit Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, located 3.800 meters above sea level. In folklore, the lake is believed to be the birthplace of the famed Incan Empire and is still dotted with grand ruins of the civilization. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the local indigenous tribes that occupy the area today. Once threatened by neighboring tribes, the locals used the lake’s abundance in reed to construct entire floating towns that could navigate the lake. The site of these floating villages, built entirely of dried reed, is truly unique and a must on any trip to Peru.
Best Time to Visit Lake Titicaca
There are advantages and disadvantages of each season when it comes to Lake Titicaca. From November to March, it is usually much warmer than winter months, it is mostly sunny, but there will be wind and occasional rains.
Between April and October (the Andean dry season). It is cold, but you would have constant sunshine. During this season, especially July and August, you can expect to see more tourists around.
How to Get to Lake Titicaca
If you are in Cusco and going to Lake Titicaca, the most picturesque way to go to Lake Titicaca is to take the day train from Cusco to Puno. It is considered to be one of the best locomotive journeys in Peru. The Titicaca train departs on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday mornings and makes the journey in 10 hours. There is also the overnight Andean Explorer train, which departs once a week every Tuesday.
There are direct flights from Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa to Juliaca Airport (the closest airport to Puno), which can be the ideal way to get there if you have limited time.
Lake Titicaca is located between Bolivia and Peru, making it a great connection point between the two countries. It is possible to take a land transfer and ferry combination from La Paz (Bolivia). It can be a beautiful day trip with amazing Andean landscapes along the way. Most importantly, travelers via this route will be able to see one of the most essential Archeological and historical sites in South America, Tiwanaku.
11. Puerto Maldonado
Why Visit Puerto Maldonado
People come to Puerto Maldonado to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and to reconnect with nature. Puerto Maldonado is the capital city of the Madre de Dios region and is known as the gateway to the southern Amazon jungle. There are many lodges to stay in along the Madre de Dios River. Some of those lodges are located deep in the jungle and some closer to the town. They all offer a wide range of activities that guests can participate in to get to know the Peruvian Amazon, from river exploration to nature hikes through the rainforest.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Maldonado
Puerto Maldonado is hot and humid year-round. The dry season, May to September, experiences the lowest rain levels and is one of the best times to visit. Because of its low water levels, jungle hikes are more accessible, offering visitors more opportunities to experience the exotic flora and fauna of the rainforest. However, in both the dry and rainy seasons, there are many excursions that lodges will offer.
How to Get to Puerto Maldonado
To get to Puerto Maldonado, you must take a domestic flight from Lima or Cusco to Puerto Maldonado Airport. There are 1-2 flights a day from both Lima and Cusco. Once you arrive at the airport, your lodge will arrange boat transfers from the nearby pier.
Going there by bus is also possible, but it would take quite a long time. Approximately 36 hours from Lima and 10 hours from Cuzco. Therefore, land transfer is not recommended.