What to include in a Peru vacation package
For a lot of people the biggest vacation decision has been made when they have decided to come to Peru, until they realize the amount of destinations and things to see and do in Peru besides Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the main attraction “luring” people to Peru but once it has been decided that this year’s destination is Machu Picchu and you proceed to the next stage, what to do with the additional days, that one really discovers the true diversity of the magnificent country. The coast with its great climate, ancient civilizations, fascinating wildlife and endless sand deserts complete with natural oases surrounded by some of the largest sand dunes on the continent. On the other hand take a look at the Andean highlands with its strong Inca heritage that you can still experience to the modern day, filled with inexplicable Inca sites dotted among some of the most beautiful and highest snowcapped mountains in the world. One cannot forget the jungle either; the massive Amazon Rainforest filled with innumerable fauna and flora treasures. The area holds more than 30% of all known species of plants and animals in the world.
So then the main questions:
- What to choose?
- How many days to set aside to visit your favourite destinations in this diverse country?
- How to put all this together for your perfect Peru vacation package?
Well following our SATO travels team will try to give an overview of the possibilities for a Peru vacation package when you have only a certain amount of days to play with.
7 Day Peru vacation packages;
For most people on the top of their list you can find Machu Picchu. Therefore if you are looking for a 7 day Peru vacation package, Machu Picchu will most likely be the focus point for this Peru vacation. Flights arrive in Lima and most people will spend one or two nights in Lima before flying down to Cusco. In Cusco one can enjoy a city tour and the next day set course for the Sacred Valley. In the Sacred Valley one should try to visit the Pisac Market and if time allows the Pisac Inca Ruins. The final village of the Sacred Valley; Ollantaytambo is one of the most authentic Inca villages in the valley and with its impressive ruins makes for a nice end to this day. An overnight in the Sacred Valley is also recommended as this will allow you to see the valley and its villages “after opening hours” and the valley provides some of the finest hotels in Peru. The next two days will allow for Machu Picchu; take the train from the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes from where you can head up to the extensive site of Machu Picchu. For people wanting to climb Huayna Picchu, keep in mind the new regulations and it is recommended to have a second day at the site in order to enjoy the ascend to Huanya Picchu “the roof of Machu Picchu”. On the second day you can take the return train to Poroy or Ollantaytambo station and spend the night in Cusco before flying back to Lima connecting with your international flight ending this Peru vacation package.
10 Day Peru vacation packages;
A 10 day vacation provides you with the possibility to add another destination to the 7 day Peru vacation package described above. There are several possibilities but the following are the most popular. These extensions can be done before or after the 7 day Peru vacation package depending on your preferences.
Lake Titicaca;one very popular option to add to the 7 day Peru vacation package is to visit Puno and Lake Titicaca. This lake, one of the largest and highest in South America is known for its importance in the Inca culture and even more for its breathtaking views over a crystal blue lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains reaching up to 6000 meters above sea-level. The lake is best visited from Puno a medium sized city on an altitude of 3811 meters located on the shores of the lake. The lake is best visited with a day tour that includes the floating islands of Uros and one or two larger islands in the lake. Surrounding the lake there are also several places of interest such as the pre Inca sites of Sillustan on route to Juliaca and Tihuanacu on the Bolivian side of the lake. This trip is best done after the Machu Picchu and Cusco part as the altitude here is even higher than Cusco. This allows for Cusco to be a better place to acclimatize before rising even higher. Another reason is the connectivity with Lima making it easier to put this leg on the end of your trip.
The Amazon Rainforest;another popular 3-4 day extension to the standard 7 day Peru vacation package is visiting the Amazon Rainforest. A trip to the Amazon Rainforest should at least be 3 or even better, 4 days as this will give you the time to enjoy the rainforest. Peru’s most popular destinations to enter the rainforest are Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. Both provide excellent jungle opportunities but for the Iquitos region one needs more time than for the Puerto Maldonado region. Puerto Maldonado is reachable by an hour’s flight from Cusco from where trips to several jungle lodges are organized. From Puerto Maldonado you can either go to the Tambopata National Park or the Manu National Reserve. Both areas are recognized as some of the most pristine areas in the Amazon Rainforest and are worldwide renowned wildlife spotting areas. The ideal plus of this region is the fact that from Puerto Maldonado you are within 45 minutes by boat from the heart of the jungle. The other rainforest region is Iquitos. Iquitos is the world’s second largest jungle city and the only city of its size that can only be reached by boat or plane. The area is full of national parks but an excursion into the jungle from Iquitos is best done for a longer period than the Puerto Maldonado region. This is mainly due to the fact that as Iquitos is quite a large city, the jungle is further inland making that the transportation to and from the lodges can take quite some more time. Nevertheless the region is where one can experience the real Amazon River in all its greatness, including pink dolphins. The Amazon Rainforest can be visited before or after the trip to Cusco & Machu Picchu.
Arequipa and the Colca Canyon;another highland extension besides the Lake Titicaca extension is to visit Peru’s second city, Arequipa and the closely located Colca Canyon. Arequipa is nicknamed the “White City” due to its massive use of sillar, a white volcanic stone. The city holds one of Peru’s most beautiful and colonial city centers and enjoys a great climate. The two main highlights of the city are the majestic main square and the Monastery Santa Catalina, one of the oldest and largest on the continent. Located at about 2.5 hours’ drive from Arequipa one can find the Colca Canyon. The drive there takes you through literally “breathtaking” sceneries as you will climb from Arequipa located at about 2500 meters to the Salineras National park where you will cross an altitude of 4900 meters for a moment before heading down again to the town of Chivay at 3600 meters above sea level. The Colca canyon is the world’s second deepest canyon (over 4000 meters deep) and is an amazing sight surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The canyon is also home to several Thermal baths, La Calera being the most famous one. Finally the canyon is probably one of world’s best places to see the Condor in the wild, the largest bird on the planet. These birds are best seen in the morning around the Cruz del Condor viewing point where several nests are found. The extension to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon can be done either before or after the trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu but with the altitude in Arequipa being lower than Cusco it is a good place to acclimatize slowly before heading to Cusco.
Ica and the Nazca Lines;another interesting extension to the 7 day standard Peru vacation package is a visit to the Peruvian South Coast, Ica and Nazca in particular. Ica is located at about 300Km south of Lima and is known for its extensive sand desert and Pisco Bodegas. Close to Ica one can find Huacachina, a Fata Morgana like natural oasis surrounded by large sand dunes. There are several hotels and a buggy ride into the desert where one can optionally do some sand boarding which is an experience more than worthwhile – make sure to go in the late afternoon to catch the spectacular sunset in the middle of the desert. Around Ica several Pisco Bodegas can be found. Pisco is the Peruvian Firewater made of white grapes and very popular in Peru- either pure or in cocktails. About 1.5 hours further South of Ica lays the city of Nazca. The city itself is not worth spending much time in but the city is mythically known for the Nazca Lines. The Nazca Lines are over 300 strange figures drawn in the dry desert ground. The figures in most cases are so large they can only be appreciated from the sky. There is a small airfield in Nazca where over flights can be done over these mysterious lines where so many scientists have dedicated their lives in trying to understand their purposes. Around Nazca one can also find the hallucinating cemetery of Chauchillas. This cemetery – or better said open grave- is a field in the desert filled with bones and open graves including the mummies – some still with the original clothing and pottery. As the South Coast of Peru does not have a domestic airport that flies to Nazca, the region is best reached from Lima. From Lima one can do the trip in VIP bus along the Pan-American Highway or in private transport. In bus Nazca is located at about 7.5 hours from Lima, making that for people heading South it may be easier to take an overnight bus to Arequipa which is about 9 hours instead of returning to Lima and then making your way down.
Peru’s North Coast;a less popular but more than worthwhile extension to the 7 day Peru vacation package is to travel north from Lima. North of Lima one can find the city of Trujillo. Trujillo is known for its beautiful colonial city center and maybe even more for the ruins of Chan Chan, the Temple of the Sun and the Moon, found just outside of Trujillo. Chan Chan is one of the older Pre-Inca sites in Peru and the largest adobe (mud brick) construction in the world. Even though some parts are highly damaged the site impresses each visitor by its sheer size and typical mural drawings. Further north one can find the city of Chiclayo also known for its large number of pre-Inca sites in the region. Finally Peru’s north coast is where one can find the best beaches and surfing breaks in Peru, the most famous beach town being Mancora, where one can find great breaks, nice beaches, amazing climate and great lodges.
14 Day Peru vacation packages;
People looking for a 14 day Peru vacation package can opt to either visit the entire Southern route, or a part of it combined with the Amazon Rainforest. The most logical and effective route for a 14 day Peru vacation is to follow the “Southern Cone” route. This route takes you from Lima to Ica and Nazca before continuing to Arequipa. From Arequipa you will visit the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca. After Lake Titicaca the route takes you to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, ending at Machu Picchu before flying back to Lima. Another option would be to both skip Ica and Nazca or Arequipa and the Colca Canyon and add the Amazon Rainforest instead. This way the Amazon Rainforest is best done at the end of your trip. For people really wanting to experience the rainforest more extensively, a 14 day Peru vacation package is also ideal to combine the 7 day standard Peru vacation package with a 6 or 7 day jungle adventure. For this amount of days in the jungle one may consider to visit the Iquitos region. Finally 14 days will also be sufficient to combine a visit to the Inca Heartland, Cusco and Machu Picchu with a visit to Trujillo and Chiclayo on the north coast and even add a couple of days to relax on the beaches in Mancora.
21 Day Peru vacation packages;
For people having the time and desire to discover it all –knowing that they will probably not come back to Peru- a three week itinerary would be the solution. 3 weeks allows you to do the 14 day Southern Peru vacation package, add on a couple of days in the Amazon Rainforest and visit Trujillo and Mancora. For people looking to get off the beaten track a 3 week Peru vacation package also gives you the chance to experience the famous parts of Peru after which you can focus on the lesser known but so very beautiful north Peru. Visit the Cordillera Blanca for some of the best mountain hiking in the world, visit ancient civilizations such as the Chachapoyas and their fortress Kuelap and travel by river all the way from the northern highlands to Iquitos in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest.
Of course the time necessary to visit Peru first of all depends on the time you have available and the priorities you may have; history, hiking, cities, wildlife, sceneries, relaxation, etc…Once you have this clear you can start planning. Hopefully the information above gives you a better idea of what sites are easiest to combine and how much time you would need for these. As you can read Peru is a destination worthwhile to visit also if you only have one week. The only disadvantage is that after this one week you will for sure want to come back to discover all the other magic destinations that this amazing country has to offer.
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