2+ months: Arequipa → Colca Canyon → Nasca → Cusco → Huanchaco → Mancora → ECUADOR → Mancora → Lima → Cusco → Mancora → Iquitos
18.10.2012 - 04.11.2012
I found this to be an unnecessary stop, but I've also heard numerous people rave about it so I think it's one of those places that requires some time and exploration in order to truly appreciate it. We were a bit strapped for time so we didn't have that chance.
Tours can be arranged from Arequipa, but you can also go on your own: we took a local bus to Chivay (tiny off the grid town - no lights when it got dark), spent the night there and woke up early to take another bus to Cabanaconde (the gateway to the Canyon) in the morning.
DO: Hike the canyon to Oasis Sangalle. Condors are a main attraction of this area, we skipped the main viewing point because it was too crowded.
Tip #1: the "oasis" is a swimming pool.
Tip #2: it's possible to do both legs of the hike in one day.
Tip #3: if you spend the night, bring layers and wake up EARLY (4am) to beat the sun for the hike up. Yes you will hate everything at first, but it's the right decision - the steep hike uphill is challenging enough without the intensity of the sun beating down on you the whole time.
All I have to say is go and do a flight tour of the Lines!!!
Tip #1: ask the officials for a Nasca Lines stamp in your passport!
Tip #2: spending the night in Nasca is unnecessary - take an overnight bus there, do the flight, and take an overnight bus to your next destination
An inevitable stop, for good reason.
STAY: Kokopelli, Loki, Wild Rover will all show you a good time.
DO: get to know the city via the Free Walking Tour. Spend time at Plaza de Armas. Hike up to Saqsaywaman and make sure to visit Cristo Blanco for amazing views of the city. Check out the San Pedro Market. Try chicha (alcoholic drink derived from fermented corn). Take advantage of coca leaves - they help with the altitude.
GO: to MACHU PICCHU!! There are all sorts of ways to get to Machu Picchu - minibus, train, trek, guided (or usually a combination). Cusco is littered with tour agencies. We skipped the headache of trying to figure out which was the best deal, experience, quality, etc and did it on our own..... here is our itinerary/budget:
Bus Cusco → Urubamba (4 soles)
Hostel (12 soles)
Mini bus → Ollantaytambo (1.50 soles)
hitchhike → St Maria's (20 soles)
hitchhike → St Teresa (13 soles)
walk along train tracks→ Aguascalientes
Hostel (15 soles)
bus → Machu Picchu (24 soles) **could have walked but exhausted and didn't want to waste time
walk back down to Aguascalientes
Hostel (15 soles)
Entrance ticket (64 soles)
train tracks → St Teresa
hitchhike → St. Marias (11.50 soles)
minibus → Cusco (30 soles)
Total: about $100 (inc. food - no restaurants; only DIY & mercados)
Also an inevitable stop. Unfortunately I was sick during my time here so I don't have any tips on a good time.
A short bus ride from Trujillo, this is worth the stop if you're looking for a chilled out surfer beach town. Most of the hostels are across the street from the beach, which makes life there extremely simple.
DO: Surf. Enjoy the beach. Eat at Surf er Burger.
I may be the wrong person to ask for an objective opinion considering I went 4 different times. It's really not much: a tiny little beach town near the border of Peru/Ecuador. Despite it's small size, it's situated right on the Panamerican Highway so it's always bustling with local and international traffic.
STAY: Loki is a hostel that is essentially a backpacker resort. It's location is ideal, but you really don't need to leave thanks to a huge pool, tons of hammocks, a restaurant/bar (where everything can conveniently be put on tab), sun beds, ping pong, a TV room... Like Loki La Paz, every night is party with a different theme. And when the party is over there would be a mass migration to the beach where a few bars would keep it going all night. I would recommend Kokopelli Hostel, but unfortunately it is no longer there
DO: Surf. Kiteboard. Tan. Go to the lighthouse to watch sunset. Eat ceviche. Drink a beer. CHILL. If you're really itching to do something, go to Las Pocitas beach for a change of scenery.
→ super easy jump off point to Ecuador (bus → Guayaquil)
Huaraz (Laguna 69, Huarscaran National Park) & Huacachina (sandboarding)
Lake Titicaca offers a great transition point between Peru and Bolivia (Puno on the Peruvian side; Copacabana on the Bolivian)
Iquitos offers the opportunity to go to Colombia and/or Brazil via a boat down the Amazon (see other post)
theres a huuuuge range in bus prices, and it is directly related to quality. cheaper is not always the best decision. aim for mid-range prices and you should be good. WARNING don't go cheap on the bus ride between Cusco/Lima in particular - the ride is LONG and CURVY. the journey can be miserable if you have a shitty quality ride. the scenery, however, is incredible regardless.