In May, I spent an incredible 10 days exploring Peru with Peru Hop: the safest, most social, and most convenient way to see southern Peru.
While I definitely do NOT regret Peru Hop (more on that here), I do wish I’d timed a few of my stops differently (mainly: too much time in Puno and not enough in Arequipa).
Don’t make the same mistakes I did, read on and plan your own perfect 10-day Peru Hop itinerary, adding on more days as you’ve got available, you lucky dog.
Lima – 2 nights
I hear from a lot of readers that they aren’t a big fan of South American cities — which makes me sad! Lima has a lot to offer (as do La Paz, Quito, and Rio de Janeiro, just to name a few). If you’re really harsh on your anti-city stance, you still should plan for at least a night in Lima just in case of flight delays. Stay in the Barranco neighborhood, which feels more like a small, hip town than part of a bigger city, and it’s got some cool beach views and vibes.
On the way out of Lima, Peru Hop includes a stop to a coastline lookout, and a visit to the Pacific Christo statue.
Paracas – 1 night
For me, 24 hours in Paracas was pretty much the perfect amount.
You should plan a few more days to your stay if teeny-tiny, laid-back beach towns are your kinda place. There’s not a ton to do in Paracas, but it’s easy to pass the time sipping Pisco Sours overlooking the sunset, or just sunbathing at the beach.
If you go with Peru Hop, any visit to Paracas will include a free Paracas Nature Reserve tour – score!
the Paracas Nature Reserve
In addition to the free reserve tour, you can opt for a boat tour of the Islas Ballestas, known for hosting penguins and sea lions, or a variety of other Ballestas Islands and Paracas tours through FindLocalTrips (even kitesurfing!).
Be forewarned that if a trip to the “Backpacker’s Galapagos” is on the top of your to-do list, you might want to plan for more than a night. The day of my stay had rough waters, and all of the tours were canceled for the morning.
Huacachina – 1 night
Huacachina is THE desert oasis on South America, and the place to fulfill all your sand boarding and dune buggy dreams (at a tiny fraction of the cost you’d pay elsewhere through FindLocalTrips). One night is a necessity, but if you’re really into adventure activities, you could easily add a few more days.
On the ride from Huacachina to Arequipa, you’ll stop with Peru Hop to a Pisco vineyard where you have the opportunity to try wine and pisco (for free!) and learn about the process.
Nazca – NO nights
There’s no need to spend the night in Nazca. In my opinion, the included (i.e. FREE) viewing of the Nazca lines from the tour included with Peru Hop was more than enough. The sunset setting was super pretty, and visibility was great.
I can’t imagine that a flight would be worth the cost (and the scare factor – yikes!) but if you’re set on it, you’ll need to spend at least a night in Nazca.
Arequipa – 2 nights
My stay in Arequipa was my biggest mistake in Peru — a measly one-night stay after my Colca Canyon tour was WAY too short! Pretty much all I saw was the inside of my (very comfortable and reasonably priced) hotel room.
If you’re planning on doing a Colca Canyon tour, or continuing on to higher altitudes, spending a night or two in Arequipa to acclimate is an absolute must. I missed this memo, and left immediately for a Colca Canyon trip upon arrival… experiencing extreme altitude sickness the entire time.
Colca Canyon is so gorgeous and worth the trip… but don’t skip Arequipa!
Aside from needing to acclimate, Arequipa is an awesome destination in itself. The colonial city hosts some awesome restaurants, picturesque plazas, and everything from cooking classes to bar tours.
From Colca Canyon treks and tours to Arequipa Walking Tours, I found the best prices (again) with FindLocalTrips.
Puno – 1 night
My second-biggest Peru Hop mistake was in planning Puno. I spent two nights in the town, which really didn’t need it.
While Lake Titicaca and the islands are really cool (I loved my 1-day trip to the Floating Islands and Taquile through FindLocalTrips), Puno isn’t. It is ugly, dreary, and there’s really not much to do.
If I could do it again, I would either do just a short day stop in Puno to visit the islands, or I would overnight in a homestay on the Lake Titicaca islands, which I heard was an incredible experience… NOT stay in Puno town itself.
Cusco – 3 nights PLUS any overnight Machu Picchu excursions
If you plan a day trip to Machu Picchu, you should definitely stay in Cusco at least 3 nights. I’d recommend at least 1 before and at least 2 after, as you’ll be getting up super early and getting back super late on any day trip. You also want to give yourself time to adjust and acclimate.
If you’re going to do a trek to Machu Picchu, you’ll want to plan around that trip, but still I’d recommend at least 2 days before and staying 1 day after. Before the trip, you’ll want to acclimate and be at your best. After the trip, you’ll want to rest.
Cusco was really cool, but I made a bad mistake of staying quite a ways out of city center at a small, strange hotel that taxis couldn’t find in a creepy neighborhood. Research neighborhoods and the area well, and try to stay somewhere central.
Also do thorough research on your tour provider. I had a pretty messed-up Machu Picchu experience, and wish I would have gone with a different provider.
Pin it for later! The Perfect Peru Hop Itinerary
While I was a complimentary guest of Peru Hop, all my opinions and advice remain my own.