I am planning on taking a trip to South America sometime in the end of this year. I want to start planning, but I need some help from you guys! I can only take 4-5 weeks off and I need some help with the itinerary. I am planning to fly to Lima, spend a couple days there than take a bus down to Ica than go back to Lima to catch a flight to Cuzco. Climbing Machu Pichu is going to be the highlight of my trip and was wondering what time of the year is best to go? After climbing Machu Pichu, I am probably going to catch the train to Copacabana, Bolivia. Then off to La Paz, and then I plan on flying back home from there. Do you guys think this is feasible in the short amount of time I have? Do you guys have any suggestions on any other places that I can go. I would like to see much as possible. Thank for the help!!!!
In 4 or 5 weeks you'll have time to do what you've stated. Maybe head down to Arequipa from Lima for a couple of days first, see the fantastic Colca Canyon (with Condor spotting if you're interested) and then from there to Ica and Huacachina and then get a bus upto Cusco. I know Cruz del Sur operate on those routes but without wanting to appear as though I'm showing preference there "are other good operators available" !!
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If you can fit in a trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia then I would definitely recommend it !!
First off, I wouldn't go with the expectation that "Macchu Pichu will be the highlight of your trip". While yes, it is an amazing site one of those iconic places in the world - I found my real highlights were other lesser known places in South America, like Salar de Uyuni, Isla del Sol, Arequipa, and Huacachina. Make sure you go with an open mind to other highlights.
I think you definitely have enough time to do what you listed, especially if you have 5 weeks. I would probably add a couple more things. Huacachina is a very cool place and shouldn't be missed. Arequipa is a wonderful city and you can do a hike in the Colca Canyon which is beautiful. At Lake Titicaca, I liked Isla del Sol best, and make sure you stay there at least one night, but two is better. Do a hike around the Island to really get a feel for the place. Don't just limit yourself to Copacabana with a day trip to the Island. The Peruvian side at Puno is also very interesting because you can take a tour of the floating villages and other Island that are really beautiful. Also, for me, Salar de Uyuni was one of the absolute highlights of my life, and any trip to Bolivia should include it.
My suggestion would be: Lima - Ica/Huacachina - Cusco - Arequipa - Lake Titicaca - La Paz - Uyuni.
Also a note on Macchu Pichu. When planning, be careful with the expectation to "climb" it. MP is a historical site like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. You go to the gate, buy a ticket, and walk on in. The vast majority of people take a train to Agues Calientes, then a shuttle bus up to MP to see it. Yes, you can save a few dollars and skip the shuttle bus and climb up the road to the site if you would like. But is the climb you are referring to the Inca Trail hike? If so, that requires very different planning. There is a limited number of tourist allowed to do it every day, so planning ahead is essential. Unless things have changed since I was there, you have to book several months in advance to get space. And keep in mind that this is not a cheap endeavor. Alternatively, if hiking is your goal, then there are cheaper options in the area that are just as good as the Inca Trail.
I'd cut down your planned time in Lima severely. A single day is plenty; Lima has good sides, but compared to the rest of Peru, it's definitely one of the less attractive places, particularly on its many smoggy days. Also keep altitude in mind. When going straight to Cuzco (3300 meters) from Lima (0 meters), you'll be pretty much incapable of doing anything for the first few days as you'll need to acclimatize (and if you're unlucky and particularly prone to suffering from altitude sickness, you might have to go straight back down again). Better to visit Arequipa (at 2350 meters) first, and loop around from there. I concur with the praise of Arequipa; it's a great place to spend a couple of days relaxing and acclimatizing. (Make sure you've spent a full three days there before heading to the Colca Canyon, otherwise you'll still run afoul of altitude sickness.)
Best time to visit Machu Picchu is anywhere during the dry season (April through October). If you want to hike the classic Inca Trail (2.5-3 days of hiking, walking into Machu Picchu through the sun gate at sunrise on the 4th day), you'll have to book 3-5 months in advance for May through September; 1-2 months in advance for the shoulder season. (You can't do the hike independently, but must do it with a local tour agency; any non-local tour agency will be a third party reseller for a local company, and thus more expensive. If doing this hike, acclimatization is even more important; you'll have to climb dead woman's pass (4750 meters) early on the 2nd day. Puno/Lake Titicaca (at 3800 meters) is a logical stop between Arequipa and Cuzco if you indeed want to hike the Inca Trail. There's many other multi-day hikes in the same area which can be booked just a few days ahead, frequently billed as "alternative inca trail", and though they'll have the same awesome scenery, they won't visit the same procession of ever-increasingly awesome inca ruins.)
Visiting Machu Picchu itself by train (to Aguas Calientes; bus up from there (or hike switchbacks, didn't look very appealing)) can be done any day, though it's worth booking the train a few days ahead so you can catch the last one back rather than an earlier one. At Machu Picchu itself you can climb Wayna Picchu (the pointy mountain in all the classic photos), which I can highly recommend, though only a limited number of people are allowed up each day. Not certain what the current arrangement for that is; it used to be you just had to show up early in the day, but I think I read things about them charging a separate fee (?) for it nowadays.