Most people fly into Lima's international airport to begin their visits to Peru. Barranco is one of the nicer parts of Lima with middle and high income residents, nice parks, street art, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Additionally there are two really nice micro breweries to visit. The Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros) is very popular and crosses above the Bajada de Baños, a stone walkway that runs down to the Pacific through Lima's bohemian district.
South of Lima on the coast is Paracas and the Ballestas islands. Wildlife is a big draw for the Ballestas Islands National Park with its sea-lions, penguins, and many sea birds. Guano is still collected from a couple of islands. Access to the islands is greatly restricted but boat tours are available. The town of Paracas is small and walk-able but has a lively waterfront with restaurants and bars to server tourists. The seafood is very fresh and prices are fair for what you get.
Ica is the closest city to the oasis Huacahina just 5 km away. This former private resort features a beautiful oasis surrounded by tropical trees in the mist of a desert and giant sand dunes. For a small fee you can enter the Area de Conservacion Regional de Huacachina. As I recall the fee was close to $1. Better deals can be had in Ica than Huacahina for both food and lodging. Ica even has a nice mall.
Nazca is a small town with no night life. It is possible to see almost everything there in one day. The highlight of this stop are the Nazca Lines. Pro tip for the best deal go directly to the airport to buy your flight over the Nazca Lines. It is best to book morning flights for the best views and least turbulent flight. Price at airport is $50 to fly over the lines but the same exact trip is sold for $100 in town.
Arequipa the white city has a nice climate and is well located for taking excursions. There is a rather large expat community and likely as a result the city features quite the craft beer scene. Plaza de Armas has nice restaurants and a rooftop bar to enjoy sunsets. Mirador de Yanahuara Is a nice walk from Plaza de Armas and has rewarding views. Plaza Campo Redondo is the center of the craft beer scene.
Puno is located at the shores of Lake Titicaca near the Bolivian border. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The altitude is high and the weather is cold. The floating islands of Uros are rather cold and damp. Average life expectancy of the people is 60 and rheumatoid arthritis is common due to the harsh conditions. The climate on Taquile island was warmer and more pleasant. The island has many ancient terraces. Sillustani is an archaeological site containing funeral towers overlooking a volcanic basin filled by a lake.
Cusco is a safe and walk-able city. Plaza de Armas features a full court press of high pressure sales by vendors, artists and torts. You can literally buy anything in the Plaza de Armas despite the heavy police presence. However it is possible to get better deals on tours elsewhere. Nearby Plaza de Armas is the Museo Inka with interesting artifacts and information; be sure to accept the services of at guide to improve your visit. Nearby you may find the Twelve Angled Stone.
Urubamba is pleasant town located in the Sacred Valley. It is easy to visit many archaeological sites including Ollantaybambo and Chinchero that can be simply access by bus from Urubamba's bus station for less than $2. You can easily find official guides at both locations near the gate. I found the terraces of Chinchero to be particularly impressive even compared to Machu Picchu. Ollantaybambo is sometimes referred to as the oldest living Inca town. Ancient terraces and grain storage buildings dot the landscape.
Machu Picchu 16:49
Finally the place most people think of first in Peru, Machu Picchu. You can choose between treking and even scenic train rides to Aguas Calientes the pueblo of Machu Picchu. You can catch the train easily in Cusco at the San Perdo train station or take an inexpensive bus to Ollantaybambo to catch the train there. My trip occurred during the beginning of the rainy season and the river was raging. Hiring the right guide can greatly improve your visit to Machu Picchu.
I primarily travel solo but you don't have to to enjoy this channel. Working as a river guide during summers in North America I don't earn a lot of money and live close to the federal poverty level. In spite of this I live a rich life on a frugal budget. If you would like to learn more about traveling in Latin America or maybe frugal travel tips visit Fast Fred Travels and if you would like to come rafting with me check out Fast Fred Rafts for details.