How to Spend a Weekend in Peru
Peru is a country that’s blessed with beautiful scenery, rich and flourishing culture, and extensive and colorful history. This makes it one of the best destinations in South America both for casual and hardcore tourists and travelers. There are lots of things to do and places to visit. If you are looking to spend a weekend somewhere where you get to do and experience as much stuff as possible, Peru is a solid choice. But before you look for Airbnb vacation rentals in Cusco, Peru, here are a few things you can do on your weekend trip in Peru.
Like most of its neighbors, Peru is blessed with amazing natural beauty. From the great heights of the mighty Andes to the vast Pacific Ocean, Peru is truly an outdoor adventure paradise. If you are planning to have a whole weekend getaway doing only outdoor stuff or just want to try a couple, here are a few things to do:
Hiking up the Andes
Hiking is a top activity in Peru. This is thanks to the Andes which gives countless amazing opportunities to scale heights. Known as the longest continental mountain range in the world, the Andes has hundreds of kilometers of paths and trails. From experienced veterans to beginners, there is something for every skill level.
For beginners, an easy one day trail is the Laguna 69. It is a relatively easy trek but its 4600m altitude might be a bit of a challenge. For intermediate hikers, there is Montaña de Siete Colores. A product of glaciers melting resulting in the colorful landscape we see today. Finally, arguably the best trail of them all is the Inca Trail. This centuries-old trail built by the Incas is one of the most popular trails in the country.
White water rafting
Also thanks to the Andes, Peru has an abundance of amazing rapids. The country has rapids that range from Class IIs all the way to Class IVs perfect for rafters of various skill levels. One such spot that sticks out is Cusco’s Urubamba River. Arguably the most well-known spot in Peru.
Other great rafting spots include Tambopata River in Puno, a highly technical spot reserved for skilled and experienced rafters only. A more beginner-friendly spot is Mayo River, also a popular destination for families. Lastly, one of the best spots in Peru is the Cotahuasi River. Its rapids range from easy Class II up to Class IVs. It also accessible through ancient Incan network trails adding a bit of history into the experience.
Surfing and Paddleboarding
Other water sports that are making waves in the South American country are board sports such as surfing and standup paddleboarding. These are popular activities all around the world and counting. These two have also gained a following in Peru thanks to the country’s access to the Pacific Ocean.
Lobitos is a surf town found in the northern part of Peru. This is a popular destination because of its small-town feel and consistently good waves. Another popular spot is Mancora. Located just north of Lobitos, this surfing destination is known amongst surfers for its amazing weather and consistent waves all year round. Finally, we have Punta Hermosa. This seaside surf town is great for both beginner and skilled surfers alike. It’s got easy waves for newbies as well as highly technical ones for veterans.
Peru’s long and colorful past is one of the best things about this South American country. Because of this, many travelers come to visit the country to discover the many secrets and lore there is. From the ancient Inca Civilization to the troubled Spanish colonial era, there are countless stories and mysteries just waiting to be discovered. For avid history buffs or the casual joe, here are a few places to check out:
First on the list, we have the magnificent city in the clouds, Machu Pichu. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, this ancient settlement was once a city by the Inca people. It was discovered by European explorers sometime in the 1860s and 70s. It was only in 1911 that it gained considerable international attention thanks to American explorer, Hiram Bingham.
Machu Pichu is one of the only unique ruins in Peru that did not suffer the same fate as the other sites. It was never discovered by the Spanish and has remained untouched to this day. Today, the site is open to visitors who want to see the ruins up close. The trek up the Inca Trail can be a bit of a challenge though but it is worth it.
Latin Trails offers Peru vacation packages that include visits to Machu Picchu:
Another one of Peru’s ancient wonders. Located within the desert of southern Peru, these impressive geoglyphs still captivates the minds of researchers around the world since discovery. Up close, these monuments look seemingly simple, and only through areal photographs do we see the literal bigger picture. These lines depict various flora and fauna like a spider, a monkey, a whale, and even a tree.
Due to its popularity, it is pretty easy to get to Nasca. However, it is still about 7 to 8 hours away from Lima, the country’s capital. Public transport like buses is present although private transports are available as well. The nearest community is Paracas and Ica where you can book accommodations for the night.
If you fancy visiting this amazing wonder we suggest combining it with other sites in Peru, here is a sample 8 day Peru tour program with visits to Nazca and Machu Picchu
Another one of Peru’s ancient settlements that should be on any history buff’s must-visit list. Regarded as the biggest city in South America before Europeans came to the continent. It spans over 20 sq. km and is made entirely of adobe or mudbricks. The city is divided into several complexes with buildings filled with geometric designs and motifs. It was said to be a very prosperous city with plenty of gold and silver artifacts. These were, however, lost when the Spaniards came.
Only parts of this vast settlement are open to the public and have received partial restoration efforts. The Palacio Nik An—sometimes known as Tschudi Complex—has the most extensive restoration to date. The complex houses a few modern amenities for visitors and guests to enjoy such as restrooms, and refreshment stands. Several guided group tours depart from Trujillo. There are also local guides if you wish for a more private tour.
Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is actually the whole valley surrounding the city of Cusco. Historically, this was the center of the Incan Empire with several settlements, monuments, and temples scattered throughout. This includes Machu Pichu all the way to Piquillacta. Because of this, the valley is a major tourist destination with hundreds of visitors coming each year. A Cusco Tourist Ticket will let you visit most sites and attractions in the valley.
Some of the notable places include the Maras Salt Mine where families still mine and process salt since the Incan Empire. The fortress in Ollantaytambo is a great place to visit. It was a major religious and military structure built by the Incas. And finally, we have Tipon where the Incas built efficient hydraulic projects still in use today.
Immerse in culture
Born from these silent monuments of ancient civilization is the amazing people of Peru. The native and Hispanic influences coming together to form in such a unique and colorful way. A culture that despite the challenges throughout the ages, has remained alive to this day. If you love learning about the people and their stories, here are some of the places to check out:
Overnight at Lake Titicaca
Known as the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca is a must-visit for people who want to experience life in rural Peru. Found deep in the Andes shared by both Bolivia, and Peru, the lake has played a significant role in the lives of its inhabitants. Floating reed islands, called Uros Islands, dot the western edge of the lake and has been the home of the locals known as the Uru people.
Tours usually start at Puno which is the closest city to the lake. There one can catch a boat ride to Amantani Island. Here you get to spend the night with local families and where the lake tour starts in the morning. The homes are equipped with basic amenities like beds and bathrooms.
Explore Lima on foot
For a more urban yet still brimming with traditional sensibilities, a self-guided walking tour of Lima might pique your interest. This historic capital of Peru is teeming with character and personality with its colonial architecture mixed with contemporary buildings. The historic city center is a well-preserved relic of the country’s colonial past with its historic churches and buildings.
For a more rustic and bohemian experience head on over to the Barranco district and wander through its streets. For a more contemporary and modern experience, head on over to San Isidro. The industrial district is known for its expansive parks, shops, and restaurants. Miraflores is a smaller neighborhood to explore. The streets are open to pedestrians and the shops and stores are within walking distance from the plazas.
Walk the streets of San Lazaro, Arequipa
Like Lima, Arequipa is also a charming little city filled with history and culture in every culture. Though being a large city, some of its historic districts are pedestrian-friendly and are perfect for afternoon strolls. The San Lazaro neighborhood is one such district you shouldn’t miss. Its narrow stone streets are lined with distinctly looking mansions, theaters, and a church.
Other places to visit in Arequipa include the Plaza de Armas, a beautiful public park surrounded by white colonial-style buildings that gave the city its monicker “The White City”. The Arequipa Cathedral is another stunning piece of architecture popular at the time. Museo Santuarios Andinos is where you get to see various artifacts including the perfectly preserved body of The Ice Maiden.
Ply the alleys of San Blas, Cusco
Another great Peruvian city to visit in Cusco. It is one of the oldest settlements in Peru and is still thriving to this day. It is known for its charming atmosphere of cobblestone streets and old homes and buildings. The valley has been a major community since the Inca Empire through the colonial period up to today.
The San Blas neighborhood is a particularly noteworthy section in the city. Cuesta de San Blas is where you find the San Blas slope, a picturesque street with a rustic vibe. The Plazoleta de San Blas at the top of the slope is where you find its other attraction like the San Blas Temple and the Hilario Mendivil & Family Gallery. Up ahead is the San Blas Observatory, an overlooking vantage point with an amazing view of the whole Cusco Valley below.
Taste amazing food
Finally, no trip to Peru is complete without trying local delicacies that the country has to offer. Luckily, Peru has a long and rich culinary history and has produced some of the most mouth-watering dishes around the world. From bite-sized snacks to unique and exotic dishes, there is surely something for everyone. Here are some of the must-try dishes when you visit:
This dish is a potato-based recipe that’s quite popular in the country has a bit of a mystery about it. Nobody exactly knows how and when this fated dish came to be. Some say it was what wives prepared for their husbands as rations when they go to war. They say it was to encourage and support them for their fight for “la causa” or the cause. Others say the name came from the Quechuan name for potato.
This is dish is a common delicacy not only in Peru but in all of Latin America. Each country putting its own twist on this classic Spanish influenced dish. Peruvian ceviche is made primarily with raw fish like sea bass or tilapia. It is mixed with lime extract, garlic, and Peruvian chillis called Aji Limo. You can find this iconic dish almost anywhere and is sometimes served with potatoes or corn on the side.
Pollo A La Brasa
This grilled chicken dish hails from the culinary traditions of Lima. A dish so iconic they made a special festival in its honor: the “Pollo A Brasa Day”. The dish is made by marinating raw chicken in a mix of spices like garlic, chillis, herbs, and other spice. It is then cooked over charcoal-fired grills to perfection. The dish is usually served with the spicy huacatay sauce.
Unlike the Pollo A La Brasa, Cuy is something unusually especially for western tastebuds. Cuy is the local name for Guinea Pigs and is an important local delicacy in Peru. Raw cuy is usually spit-roasted whole. It is prepared by marinating the meat in local spices, garlic, and salt. Another variation is deep-frying squashed cuy meat.
A staple in cafes and snack joints, this classic Peruvian snack is a must for sweet loving foodies. This caramel-filled cookie sandwich and topped with powdered sugar is a popular souvenir as well as a mid-afternoon munchie. It is best paired with hot chocolate or coffee.
Papas A La Huancaina
This potato-based dish is a popular appetizer served in restaurants all across Peru. The dish is basically boiled potatoes put on top lettuce leaves topped with a spicy cheese sauce. The sauce is made by combining cheese and Aji Amarillo, a local chili from the Huancayo region hence its name. This dish is one of the popular dishes in Peru has seen considerable popularity worldwide.
Things to keep in mind
If it isn’t clear by now, Peru is an amazing country to visit even for short weekend trips. But it isn’t without challenges. Though its cities are highly urbanized with most modern comforts easily accessible, a little prep work before coming goes a long way. Here are some things to keep in mind before visiting.
Cash is a must
Unlike developed western countries, cash is still pretty much king in Peru. Though you can find a few establishments that accept credit cards, they are a few and far in between. It is best to keep Peruvian money in hand to make transactions smoother. Plus, the further away from the cities and urban areas you go, the less chance you find a place that does accept credit cards.
Hiking and trekking gear
Chances are, you will be doing a lot of hiking and trekking in Peru. Because of this good hiking gear is a must. The specifics of what to bring depends on your preferences and the kind of activity you want to do. But basically, you would want sturdy hiking shoes, a solid waterproof jacket, and tactical pants.
Sun protection and warm clothes
This is a weird combination but hear us out. Most of Peru’s must-visit destinations are way up in the mountains. It can get cold even in the summer so it’s best to bring a warm jacket or two. Also, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned. In fact, the higher the altitude the more likely to get sunburned as there is less atmosphere to block the sun’s UV radiation. Bring along a good sunblock and a solid hat and sunglasses to protect yourself.
Extending your trip beyond Peru
Neighboring countries are just a 2 – 3 hour flight away, this makes it easy to combine a vacation in Peru with a visit to unique places like Patagonia in Argentina or Chile, the Iguassu falls in Brazil or the Galapagos Islands where you will enjoy the fearless wildlife.
Latin Trails offers both land based Galapagos tours and liveaboard expedition cruises on board our own yachts. Here are two sample itineraries you can look into: