I have been reading and researching, but thought to ask directly for the best options for us...
We are a married couple in our thirties and are planning a trip to Peru in June - July for three weeks.
We def want to do Inca trail and visit Amazon (very wide I know)
Other things I would possibly like to see is Colca Canyon, Arequipa. Possibly Amazon from Iquitos as easy access to Amazon River?!
I would like to feel good, for the start of the trail so planning on getting to Cusco 4 days before, but that's as far as I have got.
We are flying from Sydney (Australia) so I guess we have to fly to Lima. Is flying the best mode of transport or is it possible to use trains / buses for any legs of the journey? For the trail I think we'll use Llama Path or Peru Treks, but do you think we should use companies for the other places too or is it easy enough to do your own thing. We are fairly experienced travellers.
Any tips would be great. Has anybody heard of Muyuna Amazon Lodge?
Thanks guys very wide advise question, but would like to start booking and these pages have always been such a good help.
I spent four weeks in Peru a year and a half ago. My itinerary back then was:
Lima: 1 day, fly to Arequipa, 8 days here (including 3 day Colca Canyon trip), bus to Puno (ended up being a flight to Juliaca and minibus pickup to Puno due to bus strikes) 2 days there, bus to Cuzco, 2 days there, 4 days inca trail + Machu Picchu, 2 more days in Cuzco, flight to Lima, bus to Caraz (Cordillera Blanca), 6 days there, bus back to Lima. (If you want in depth details, I wrote a series of blog posts starting here.) I didn't visit the Amazon myself (remember to get yellow fever vaccination for going there), so can't advise on that.
What I've learned from that trip is: Skip Lima completely - it's not worth spending any time at. Altitude is hugely important, and it's worth going a long way off the direct path in order to gradually go up in height. Altitude acclimatization remains with you for a couple of days, so it's safe spending 2-3 days at a low altitude without needing to worry about then going back up sharply - but after 4-5 days it'll be all but gone, and you'd need to start acclimatizing all over again.
The classic gringo trail (and also my recommendation for basic framework for your itinerary) is Lima - Arequipa - Lake Titicaca - Cuzco. This goes from 0 to 2350 to 4000 to 3300 meters, where it's especially the stop at Arequipa at 2350 meters which is most important. Spend at least three nights at that altitude before going higher (including before doing the Colca Canyon trip, as that takes you over a 5000 meter high pass, and you stay the first night at 3000+ meters). In general, the recommendation is to not go up more than 1000-1500 meters at a time, spending at least one night at that altitude before going further up. (Lake Titicaca after Arequipa is very doable if you visited the Colca Canyon from Arequipa, but otherwise that increase might be a bit problematic, too.)
Doing this classic gringo trail, you'll be fully acclimatized when arriving in Cuzco and doing the inca trail (since you came from 4000 meters), and won't even break a sweat when going over dead woman's pass at 4700 meters. As such, I'd recommend starting out on the inca trail fairly swiftly after arriving in Cuzco (allow two days for delays with transport, but not more; with four days you'd be about to lose some of that 4000 meter acclimatization again). Heading straight to Cuzco from Lima is not recommended. You'd go over 5000 meter on the way there (if not flying), suffering majorly, and the first two days in Cuzco would be completely wasted time, as you'll barely be able to leave your hotel room.
Arequipa is easily my favorite city in Peru. It's still rather noisy with all the taxis, but the air is very clear and clean (as opposed to that in Lima), and I could easily sit several days on a rooftop terrace there, enjoying the view to El Misti, maybe descending occasionally to go and visit the insanely colorful monastery of Santa Catalina, or just to watch the pigeons (and the people) at the Plaza de Armas. (Caraz is my favorite village in Peru. Or maybe Cabanaconde (at the rim of the Colca Canyon) is. Tough call.)
So, what I'd say is: when arriving at Lima, just fly straight on to Arequipa. Other than for that flight (and maybe a flight from Cuzco back to Lima and home at the end), use busses to get around. You can just book those locally a day or two in advance, looking in your Lonely Planet to see which of the many bus companies go where, and which have the best reputation. (Cruz del Sur e.a.) Most places you can visit on your own, but for the Colca Canyon, I can strongly recommend a tour with Colca Trek (their guide Elias was the best guide I've ever had; though he's not much of a cook). Definitely do a trip which takes you to the bottom of the canyon (so a 3 or 4 day trip, not one of the 2 days (there and back again) trips). You should be able to leave most of your luggage at your ho(s)tel in Arequipa, taking only a daypack for necessities.
I've heard many good things about Peru Trek and Llama Path, although for Llama Path I remember their groups on the trail being huge. (e.g. a full 20 people, where I travelled with United Mice and lucked out by being in a 4 person group). Peru Treks I think I remember as having small groups as well, and our guide commenting favorably on them, too, but I'm not 100% certain of that.
I believe Amazon trips are relatively easily done from Cuzco, so maybe you could save that for last. However, knowing that you both love hiking, I'd also like to put in a recommendation for visiting the Cordillera Blanca. There's so truly excellent hiking there. (Although really, to do the area justice, you'd need to tag another two weeks of time onto your vacation. *g*)
Hi, I would definetly recommend at least a few days in Arequipa, easily one of my favourite south American cities. It has a nice relaxed atmosphere about it and if you are into trekking/hiking it's a great base to go to the colca canyon and to climb the 5900 metre volcano Misti which overlooks the city
If you want jungle, come to Iquitos.
This is such a beatiful city!
It is an island, you can get here by plane or boat:
There are two options of boats:
- from Yurimahuas (El Eduardo). The trip takes 4 nights aprox. The ticket costs S/140 and the boat sails with the water current.
- from Pucallpa (Henry is one option, thought there are others). The trip takes 5 nights aprox. The ticket costs S/80.
Both boats include the food (rice, chicken, yuca and platano, all cooked with river water…), but you have to take your own water and some extra food (you whant to go easy with the food they give you). You hang your HAMACA and sleep there, thought both boats have the option of a private room with private bathroom.
The trip is beautiful, but it takes a lot of time. Comparing the prices with the plane, they are very similar. For those of you who have only a few days, there are some more beautiful and less transit rivers to sail around Iquitos, specially inside the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
There are three different airlines that get here (from Lima): Lan (will charche you double for being a foreinger), Peruvian Airlines and Star Perú (makes one stop). You can find tickets starting from U$100. The trip takes 1hs 30min aprox. It is really incredible to enter the jungle thought the air, and see all the rivers.
Thanks for your replies.
I was going to skip Lake Titicaca totally is it really that fantastic???? Just thinking about the time....probably have to give a miss to Iquitos as well, it would add too much to the cost...soooo many internal flights and not that much time. So any ideas for the Amazon bit, any good tours from Cuzco or other ways of seeing some jungle
So def no point seeing Colca Canyon if not by hiking?
Thanks again guys!
I was going to skip Lake Titicaca totally is it really that fantastic????
No, it's certainly not. The Islas de los Uros are quite nice, and I'm happy to have visited it, but its main attraction is simply in being at the right location, "halfway" between Arequipa and Cuzco, at a height (4000 meters) which will give you enough acclimatization to laugh at most heights you'll encounter after.
So any ideas for the Amazon bit, any good tours from Cuzco or other ways of seeing some jungle
I believe there's indeed various options for descending to the rainforest from Cuzco (which lies very close to the eastern edge of the Andes), but I don't know specifics. Check your lonely planet.
So def no point seeing Colca Canyon if not by hiking?
Much less of a point. The condors certainly are amazing, but spending two days just to see them and the 30 minute roadside stops on the way is not worth it, imo. (Many people do go on two day colca canyon trips, though, and so that opinion obviously isn't universally shared.)