Peru is a terrific country full of history, amazing landscapes, crazy archeological sites, and a really welcoming culture, this 2 weeks Peru itinerary will give you the possibility to experience some of all these aspects.
When planning a trip to Peru it could be easy to pack your days to see as much as possible, but travelling Peru with kids made me decide to take it a bit slower, to give us time as a family to properly enjoy where we were, instead of feeling we were just ticking the boxes of what to see, we wanted to feel were living it a little.
I would have loved to include all the best places to visit in Peru in 2 weeks, but I preferred to give ourselves the time to not just scratch the surface but to appreciate them in a more real way. Machu Picchu may be what Peru is famous for but there is so much more than that!!!
This is of course my approach and it is fine if you feel you want to add more in, I will add suggestions of other things that can be done along the itinerary.
When travelling in Peru Liam and Santiago were almost 3 years old.
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2 weeks in Peru
Day 1-2 Lima
I believe many people underestimate Lima. Many tourists arrive in Lima only to board the first flight to Cusco. Certainly it is not a fascinating capital like Rome (haha) or futuristic like Tokyo, but for me it was the perfect introduction to our adventure in Peru.
Lima in 2 days gives you enough time to see the main sites, savor the ever-evolving gastronomic scene, and to recover from the jet lag. Below is a short summary, but if you want the detailed itinerary plus info about where to stay and where to eat, then head to my specific post for the perfect 2 days in Lima itinerary, where you will also find a detailed downloadable map!
The first day is dedicated to exploring Miraflores and Barranco during the day and Huaca Pullana in the evening.
The winning solution with the children for us was renting bicycles with child-seats and taking bicycle paths along the coast. The day was sunny and very pleasant for cycling, the coast offers various viewpoints and gardens where to stop including some very well kept play areas.
On the map you will also find different options for restaurants, we have chosen Amaz, a great restaurant with interesting options of Amazonian influence.
Our hotel, DoubleTree El Pardo, was in a great position and during a nice evening you can easily walk to Huaca Pullana after a bit of relaxation by the hotel swimming pool.
The second day in Lima is dedicated to the Historic Centre of Lima (inscripted in the World Heritage List)
You can take an Uber and in 20-40 minutes (depends on the traffic) you will be there. I’m a big fan of free walking tours, so in fact this was how we started the day. I find them an excellent way to become familiar with a new place and have some important information from local people. The payment is made at the end as an offer based on how interesting the tour has been and well the guide conducted it.
Since the tour ends near the Monastery of San Francisco, it can be enjoyed immediately after the visit to the complex which includes a guided tour of the catacombs .
For a stop in a space where the children can also stretch their legs I suggest one of the restaurants in a pedestrian area, not too busy, on the Plaza de Armas opposite the Cathedral (Passje Santa Rosa). We had a really late lunch at Tanta, a small Peruvian chain and we liked everything.
An interesting activity that involves adults and children, is participating in one of the choco museum workshops, where you can make your own chocolates to bring away.
From the historic center, 15 minutes by taxi or a long walk is enough to reach the Magic Water Circuit where adults and children will surely be fascinated by the play of water, lights, and music that from 7:15pm make the park alive.
From there to return to the hotel in Miraflores we had no problems calling an Uber, only the meeting point may be a bit confusing because at the exit there are plenty of taxis parked.
Day 3-4 Huacachina oasis (including transfer Lima to Cusco)
The third day is time to move from Lima to Huacachina.
I know this seems like one of those things for teenagers and back packers, more than for families with small children, but I have to tell you we loved it !!! It was quite a detour considering that we were not continuing down the cost visiting Nazca line or going towards Arequipa, but I thought it would be worth the effort and I was right!
Huacachina is almost 5 long hours away from Lima. You can get there by bus, private and transfer, or with one of the many companies that organize day trip to from Lima. Usually in the same day you can also visit Ballettas Island and Paracas Nacional Reserve on the way to Huacachina, but it’s a looong day!!!!
We decided for the private transfer because for our travel plan with kids (and we wanted to go back directly to the airport) it was the smoothest solution. In this other post I will go through all the options on how to get to Huacachina, and explain in more detail why we decided in this case to spend more money to get there.
If you leave around 9:30am from Lima you will arrive just after lunch, so you will have time to relax and cool down by the hotel pool…that’s what we did. At about 4:15pm we were greeted by our buggy driver (we organised our Huacachina buggy tour and sandboarding through our hotel) and we went off on a fun buggy drive on the dunes and sandboarding. We had a private tour for 240 peruvian soles so we could tell the driver to not be too crazy! The boys loved it, they laughed all the way and while we were sandboarding or watching the sunset they were just happy to play with the sand.
This is a short summary but you can have a look at my detailed itinerary and a useful guide if you want to know how to organize in the best way your 24h, where to stay or where to eat in Huacachina, plus more sandboarding info!
We spent the morning of the 4th day in Huacachina, exploring the oasis and rowing on the lagoon. Huacachina lagoon is really pretty, we couldn’t stop taking pictures! You can rent pedal boats or rowing boats for just 20 soles for half an hour, with the kids it was super fun.
Around the lagoon there are several hostels and little shops, but in the morning it is definitely really quiet!!!
Around 11am it was time to pack and head back to Lima straight to the airport, where the flight Lima to Cusco would take off at 6pm. Having a private transfer was definitely a great decision avoiding changing vehicle to get to the airport and saved us time on an already long journey.
We had booked on the last flight to Cusco and I was a bit apprensive because I read in a few places that sometimes they get canceled due to bad weather conditions rising in the late afternoon in Cusco. We maybe have been lucky, but our flight was on time and it landed even a little earlier than expected.
Having arrived in Cusco airport it was time to collect our hire` car and start our adventure of driving in Peru. While organizing our itinerary I spent a lot of time searching for first hand information from other travelers about renting a car and driving in Peru, but there isn’t much so I will put all the details and our recommendations in another post about exploring the Sacred Valley with a rented car.
The car rental place was just 5 minutes walking from the airport and the owner was really nice texting me with directions. The process took a while, but by 8:30pm we were on our way to Urubamba which would be our base for the next 5 nights! Even the first impact with driving in Peru was absolutely fine and we arrived to our destination in less than 2 hours. (..but watch out for the speed bumps, they’re savage!)
Many people decide to stay in Cusco and to do a sacred valley tour from there, but our decision to move away immediately from Cusco to Urubamba was based on the result of my search on how to avoid altitude sickness. Altitude sickness in Cusco could be a serious problem, and with kids we didn’t want to risk it. Staying in Urubamba (2,871m, that is more than 500m lower than Cusco), means that you give your body time to acclimatize.
Day 5 -9 Sacred Valley (including Machu Picchu)
We decided to spend 5 nights (in the end 4 days and a bit) in the Sacred Valley, but 4 nights would be enough. Our choice of schedule was bound by the decision to reach Lake Titicaca aboard the exclusive Perurail … from Cusco. In this case you are bound to departures that are not scheduled every day. I must however say that the possibility of enjoying each site in the Sacred Valley calmly and seeing less touristic villages in the enchantment of the mountains was fantastic.
As I said before, here I will offer a quick overview but you can read all the details of the itinerary in the Sacred Valley here.
The first day we had a quiet start, in order to appreciate the beautiful open spaces of the Tierra viva hotel where we stayed. If you start your day around 10 am you will have time to visit the amazing Salt mine of Maaras and the Moray. The salt mine was probably the most stunning place we visited after Machu Picchu.
This is definitely a leisurely day, you can take your time. Lunch options are not many, but we found a good spot in the main square of Moray, a truly authentic village restaurant on the first floor of the market building.
If you are going to stay only 4 nights in the Sacred Valley then this is the day where you can easily add a visit to another place. Before to go to the salt mine you can stop in Chincero to experience a really colourful market, have a weaving demonstration and visit the ruins that extend on the hillside of the church, apparently built on Inca palace ruins.
Urubamba is a small village that is not often considered by tourists, but for this reason it maintains an authenticity difficult to find in more famous places like Ollantytambo. A couple of hours are enough to take a ride and savor the genuine air you breathe.
To bring some variety to the visits to the ruins, today’s itinerary includes a cooking class to learn some of the most iconic Peruvian dishes like ceviche and lomo saltado. There are several options between Sacred Valley and Cusco, we have opted for a private lesson at the Posada Pakakuna, where the chef has equipped part of the garden for demonstration and cooking, which is an excellent solution for us to have room for Liam and Santiago to play while we cooked.
The lesson was detailed and well planned, with even an interpreter as the chef spoke only Spanish. The only drawback is that we have not prepared anything but only watched, while in other cooking lessons we have participated in we have always been involved hands on … maybe clarify before if you go.
The cooking lesson was in Urubamba so after a plentiful lunch there is still good time for an exhaustive visit to Ollantytambo, which is only 15 minutes away by car. Ollantytambo is a very picturesque village, although quite touristy, and the ruins dominate it in quite an imposing way. It depends on the age of your children, but even this site is easily accessible. Our kids went up at least half way on their own and so we took them on our backs for only part of the way.
This is a big day, today the itinerary says visiting Machu Pichu!!!
The visit to Machu Pichu is not something you can wake up in the morning and decide to do, unfortunately in this case the spontaneity must give way to the organization.
If you have been asking yourself if you visiting Machu Picchu with kids is just a crazy idea, read here the details of our adventure!
You have several options when it comes to getting to Machu Picchu, you can go and come back on the same day from Cusco or Ollantaytambo, or stop to sleep in Aguas Caliente (Machu Picchu little village). Of course you can also consider trekking to Machu Picchu or joining a Machu Picchu tour from Cusco, but with small kids they wouldn’t be my first choice.
In 2018 the government changed the access rules to the Machu Picchu site, so you will have to choose whether to buy the ticket for the morning or afternoon. It is no longer possible to stay inside all day. With this premise the best solution, especially traveling with children, is definitely to do a daily excursion choosing the afternoon ticket (from 12) … this is what we did.
These are the steps to take to organize your visit and I explain them in great detail in here:
- reached Ollantaytambo
- parked near the station for 3 soles per hour
- took the 8:53 Vistadome Perurail train (I had previously bought the tickets, but it was not completely full)
- bought the bus tickets from Aguas Caliente up to the entrance of Machu Picchu
- entered at 12 precisely
- visited the site until 16 and started the reverse path adding a stop in Aguas Caliente for an early dinner (the 18:20 Expedition Perurail train on the way back was fully booked, so also in low season it is good that you buy your train tickets online in advance)
The day spent in Machu Picchu was fantastic, this is a site where not many venture with small children but it is absolutely feasible with a minimum of organization. The paths are also really good, so kids are safe to walk in most places. Don’t miss my article completely dedicated to this day!
On the eighth day there is space for 2 activities, the visit to Pisac market and ruins, and a fun activity Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding on the lake by the Piuray outdoor center.
We had a problem and unfortunately we couldn’t go to do the SUP. I’m really upset because it is something I want to do for a long time and they were organized with equipment also for our almost 3 year olds, so they could have stayed on the board with us.
Anyway, as an alternative we started the day relaxing a bit in the gardens and then we made our way to Pisac. Pisac market is the most beautiful of all market we have seen, really nice products, well organized, not busy, and with lovely people, from the market it is only other 10 minutes to get to the ruins. Pisac is one of the attractions on the Boleto Turistico.
The Pisac ruins are one of the few places where we carried the boys on our back for most of the time. The climbing isn’t easy and in few places quite dangerous for a distracted toddler, but it worth the effort.
Day 9-11 Cusco
This is the day to change location. It’s time to move back to Cusco.
On the way to Cusco you can stop in Chinchero if, like us, you have not added it in conjunction with other visits. The visit does not require more than a couple of hours, the market is less touristic than other places and perhaps the long staircase to reach the ruins dissuades some visitors so it shouldn’t be so busy. Don’t be put off though, the view once you get to the church square is beautiful and I found it to convey a very pleasant sense of calm and peace. Kids are safe to run around, but definitely not pram friendly!
From Chinchero it is only 45 minutes by car to get to Cusco. Mark quickly brought the car back to the airport after dropping us at our amazing boutique hotel for the next 3 nights. Antigua Casona San Blas is a spectacular gem in the middle of San Blas (no surprise eh?). I found it for an incredible discounted price through HotelCombined (an hotel comparison website). It was a prepaid rate but fully refundable. The rooms are not big, but the hotel has been carefully built with a really strong attention to details.
The afternoon plan involved taking part in a free walking tour, but instead we decided to postpone the Cusco city tour to the following morning and we wandered the enchanting San Blas neighborhood.
After an amazing breakfast at the hotel it’s time to know more about the historic capital of the Inca Empire. The free walking tour starts at 10am in Plaza de Armas in front of KFC. The guide was interesting and seemed knowledgeable (not the best ever but good enough, like in Lima we had a bit of a hiccup experience due to the boys frequent toilet stops). The tour covered the most important things to see in Cusco, This type of tour usually doesn’t include the entrance to the sites they point out, but you can go back especially because some are included in your Boleto Turistico.
We found that our kids are usually happier if we carry them during these tours, and it also makes us more relaxed as we can listen to the guide without worrying to loose them!
The early afternoon can be used to do a bit of shopping, in Cusco you can buy artisanal things at the market, but you also have some lovely more European looking shops, where you definitely spend more but you can get some pieces more fashionable than what you may find at the market.
In the evening an activity a little bit different between all the things to do in Cusco, is to visit the Planetarium. It is a family run establishment but very well organized. It is located 10-15 minutes from the center, you book online, and then at the meeting point they arrange transport to and from. Children are welcome and do not have to pay, but they should not disturb (a first part includes a presentation). We were lucky Liam and Santiago were fascinated by the projections of the night sky and were good enough to not have to leave the room. The telescopes, then, are outdoors so no problem and Santiago even enjoyed observing some stars through one of the telescopes!
Today is the day to visit Sacsayhuamán, the ruins of a citadel overlooking Cusco from the top of a hill.
The site is vast, the visit probably takes no more than an hour and a half or two, but on a sunny day, if you are not in a hurry, it is not difficult to end up spending half a day there relaxing as well as exploring. Reaching the site from the center is not difficult, it takes 35-40 minutes to walk but all uphill. We went by taxi and on the way back to the city center we took the long walk option (downhill!!!), until arriving for a delicious late lunch at Chicha.
If you are not tired, the afternoon is dedicated to visit San Pedro market and Qoricancha.
In case you want to do something different in my list there was also the possibility to participate in a food tour. (I love food tours because you have the possibility to taste many different things you maybe wouldn’t dare by yourself, and you learn a lot about the people through their food)
Day 12-13 Lake Titicaca
Today the alarm is early because we move from Cusco to Lake Titicaca with a journey of about ten hours on board the Titicaca PeruRail (leaving at 7:10am from Wanchaq).
This train claims to travel one of the twenty-five most scenic routes in the world. Considering the high price of the ticket (US $ 225) you could dispute that the buses connecting Cusco to Puno run more or less the same route for a fraction of the price. Obviously this was a little luxury for us and we didn’t regret it. If you are traveling with children under the age of three you are not obliged to buy a ticket, but they are not given a seat. We were very lucky because the train was not full and the train attendants found a way for us all to have a place!
An important thing to keep in mind is that this train does not travel every day so you will have to plan your itinerary accordingly. If you want more information you will soon find a dedicated post.
Shortly before arriving in Puno you will pass through Juliaca, do not be caught unprepared, position yourself in the panoramic carriage where you can watch the rails disappear quickly under the market stalls that are moved and immediately repositioned after the train passes. Our train was about an hour late, and having chosen a hotel slightly outside of Puno to enjoy the magnificent view of the lake, we didn’t have time to do anything else.
The list of things to do in Puno having only one day available from my perspective wasn’t very long, if you decided to come up here it is probably to see the Uros floating island. There are several Lake Titicaca tours you can join to go and visit them, but to be honest if you only have 1 day this is not necessary, different if you can spend 2 or 3 days here. You can reach the quay with a taxi and, avoiding all people that will try to sell you tickets, you can just reach the end of the pier and buy boat tickets for Uros or Taquille.
Boats to Uros (10 soles each plus 5 soles fee to enter the island) are leaving frequently, and they take half an hour to get to the first island. To go to Taquille it is better you check the time with your hotel, but I think they only leave early in the morning around 7am because Taquille is further away.
I read a lot about this type of excursion and I was prepared to find something really touristic, so I wasn’t surprised when even the public boat ended up to be a mini tour. After reaching the first island we were given a really interesting explanation of how they live there and how they maintain the island. We were then invited to pay other 10 soles to jump on one of the reed boats to reach a second and bigger island. The second island had a couple of shops and a restaurant, you will stop there for 1 hour which is definitely too long if like us you don’t want to have lunch there, but you can get your passport stamped for the Uros!
We started our mini tour around 10 and about 12:30 we were back on the quay. From there you can get in a taxi and visit Sillustani, which should be an interesting pre-incan cemetery…we didn’t, we thought we had seen enough Incan ruins and in the afternoon we went for some shopping.
Day 14-15 Arequipa
To get to Arequipa we experienced a Cruz de Sur bus. I had bought the tickets in advance and chose the VIP seats, which were slightly more expensive, but absolutely fantastic.
Mark, who hates making long journeys by bus, still does not believe that the six hours were so comfortable.
The seats are very large and they recline a lot, each seat has a large screen with a decent selection of films and some cartoons. During the trip you also get a snack with a drink! The comfortable journey leaves you well placed upon arrival to immediately set off to discover this charming town.
There are quite a few things to see in Arequipa, so in the afternoon it’s good to join a walking tour to get an overview of the town or define the itinerary of what you want to see. I suggest that you dedicate yourself to the Plaza de Armas, the cathedral, the convent of San Francisco and the Iglesia de la Compania. The latter has the Claustros de la Compania next to it (looking at the church on the left) which houses several shops where you can buy well-made alpaca clothes, but on the upper level there are also some places to stop for a quiet but lovely aperitif. In the evening after a delicious dinner at Chicha (yes, there is also one in Arequipa) and after putting the children to bed you can go up for a drink on the terrace of the fantastic hotel we chose: Palla boutique hotel … enchanting!
This is the last day of the journey and fatigue is starting to be felt.
The morning is perfect spent exploring the convent of Santa Catalina. The place is charming and very safe for children who can run quietly without danger. the convent is very large and to fully appreciate it you can take advantage of one of the guides at the entrance, which in about an hour will take you around leaving you time to continue exploring on your own.
If your flight, as for us, is the next morning, the afternoon can still be dedicated to the Santuarios Andino Museum and to the last purchases before departure. Arequipa is the only place where time seems to have been really not enough to fully appreciate it.
If your flight stops in Lima and you have few hours available don’t forget that there is a left luggage booth near the domestic arrival area (door 3 more or less, quite at the back). Leaving luggage there costs 6 Soles per piece per hour or 13 soles per hour for a locker (lockers are usually big enough for 2 hand luggage pieces and one backpack)
How to move around
Generally in the cities, small and large for a tourist the most practical thing is taxis (also Uber in the case of Lima). In Lima it is only now beginning to develop a transport network that could be considered by a tourist, but it is still very limited. The important thing to remember when taking a taxi is always to agree on the price before getting in, so as to have no surprises.
In case you are adventurous you can use the collectivos, or combis which are almost everywhere little buses that take on anyone who stops them and do not have fixed stops, but stop when someone has to go up or down along the path. In some small villages I think they are the only option, but we didn’t use it.
For long journeys the options are almost limited to airplanes and buses, the trains do not cover the whole country, while with the buses they reach everywhere. Some domestic air companies may seem very competitive on price, but they will charge you any extra (seat reservation, baggage beyond the minimum size, reprint of the boarding pass …) an extremely high price. We have used Vivaair for the flight from Lima to Cusco, it was all ok, but read carefully all the rules.
Of the various bus companies we only used Cruz de Sur and found it professional and with great service. Peru Hop bus, that I mention at the beginning it’s also a new great alternative company.
The railways are privatized and expensive and cover only the main tourist connections, in the end you will be forced to use them and they will work very well, but surely the cost of the ticket is not justified.
Best time to visit Peru
In Peru you have to think about the seasons more like the rainy season or the dry one, there are not the four seasons like for us.
The dry season runs from about May to October and coincides with the most touristic months.
We were very fortunate having gone between the end of April and the beginning of May, and although we could still meet some days of rain, we always had bright sunshine except for maybe half a day in Pisac.
If you want to get to Machu Pichu with the Inca trail, get good information, because for example in February it is closed due to bad weather.Don’t forget that part of the journey is at very high altitudes and if even the sun beats by day at night it can be very cold (cusco and the titicaca lake for example)
In Peru the currency is the nuevos soles, but many tourist activities, hotels etc. show price and accept US dollars. If you want to bring cash, it is not necessary to bring US dollars unless you already have them because even when prices are shown in US dollars you can pay in Peruvian soles.
Pervuvian soles are not a widespread currency, so you may have to order them a couple of days in advance at your exchange office, bank or post office. Or you can do like us, leave without it and think about it there. This is not what I usually do, but in this case it was the most convenient thing.
Probably because it is a little demanded currency, in London I could not find a change with reasonable fees. So considering that I have several cards, I decided to make the most of them and it was the best solution.
The cards I used are: Curve, Revolut, and Wetransfer. They are all cards that are supported or recharged by other cards, but which do not charge you any commission. Curve is the one I used most to pay where the cards were accepted and with all three I withdrew money without problems. However, remember that some Peruvian ATMs charge a commission that is independent of your bank and that sometimes they have 400 soles as a limit per transaction.
These cards are super useful when you travel and if you want me to write a more detailed post … let me know in the comments.
I hope my 2 weeks in Peru itinerary inspired you and gave you confidence to start to plan your next trip even if you have small kids with you! Please let me know in the comment if you would like to know more or if I forgot something!