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10 Days in Peru on a Budget - A Travel Guide

If you plan to travel to South America, put Peru at the very top of your list! This destination is nothing short of one unbelievable stop to the next.

From grand misty coastlines to snow-capped mountains, hidden ruins, and dessert oasis'; Peru is without a doubt a wanderlust paradise.

I'm uber excited to share with you some of the most unique experiences I've had the chance to capture throughout my short trip to inspire you to visit Peru. Our first stop is in:

Paracas, Peru

1. Paracas National Reserve

Location: Playa Roja

Location: Supay Beach - Black Sand Beach

Location: Paracas National Reserve

Paracas is 827,800 acres of scenic coastal desert about 3 hours south of Lima. You can explore the area on your own in many ways than one; walking, biking, ATVs etc. You can also reserve a tour which is highly recommended as first-timers, tend to get lost in the vastness of it all.

*Apparently there is a flamingo beach, which I didn't find out until it was too late to visit! Ask locals or even your hotel where it is.

2. Ballestas Island

Location: El Candelabro

The Ballestas Island tour is one of the main attractions for visitors who want to see the diverse wildlife, said to be the same animals found on the Galapagos Islands; such as sea lions, penguins, dolphins, flamingos.

On your way to the rocky islands, the boat does stop to demonstrate the Candelabra of the Andes, a prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the peninsula carbon-dated back to 200 BCE.

This morning boat tour is not longer than 2 hours and $15 USD per person which you can book in the offices found just before the pier.

*Covid Restrictions: As of this post date, you are required to wear a face visor and double face mask; subject to change pending Peru government regulations. Once the boat takes off, you can take off the face visor.


3. Huacachina

Location: Oasis de Huacachina

Huacachina is a small village built around a desert oasis and is home to the second tallest sand dunes in the world, approximately 6,800 ft above sea level. I only spent one day here, but would highly recommend staying 2-3 days to walk all the way to the top of the sand dunes and try thrilling activities like sandboarding & dune buggy riding (combined tours are as low as $15USD per person).

Hotels and hostels in this small village are also extremely inexpensive. At the time of this post, I paid less than $60/night to stay in El Huacachinero (breakfast included) and had lunch/dinner at the Desert Nights.

I also recommend booking a Pisco Tour at the Nietto Vineyard, where you can try over 10 different kinds of Pisco, learn more about the drink, and purchase bottles for the rest of your trip for less than $7 USD each.

Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa is said to be the most beautiful city in all of Peru, surrounded by 3 volcanoes, the city is mostly constructed with white volcanic stone. Many have suggested spending 2-3 days at this destination as well and they are not wrong!

After many adventurous tours, it's nice to wander around this city and enjoy the culture, food, and do a little shopping! This is where I purchased my poncho for less than $10USD. The people are likely to negotiate a price with you for whatever you want.

4. Plaza de Armas

Location: Plaza de Armas

Around the main plaza, there are tons of dining options, including restaurants with rooftop experiences to get a better view of the cathedral (don't forget to check for reservations early or even the day before).

Just around the corner, I ate a delicious red pasta at a small Italian restaurant called Pasta Canteen, located at Calle Puente 300. I highly recommend this place. A full dining experience cost me less than $8USD.

Active Volcano Misti during the day & at sunset hour.

5. Santa Catalina Monastery

Make time for this peaceful historical monastery from the 1500's right in the middle of Arequipa. The colorful archways and harmonious plazas are a site to see. It's typically open from 9-5 pm and the entrance is about $15 USD per person.

6. Mundo Alpaca

If you haven't seen Alpacas yet, this is a quick stop in your city sightseeing plans, where you can learn about the process of the Alpaca textiles. Think of it as a boutique with Alpacas on display, it's very small and at the time of this post, the entrance was free with many limited areas due to covid. The experience was less than 30 minutes altogether.

7. Mirador de Yanahuara

The Yanahuara Viewpoint is a great way to end the day with a golden sunset and a panoramic view of Volcano Misti. It's only 20 minutes away from the city center, which you can walk to or take a taxi for less than $2 USD.

Cusco, Peru

Sadly, on this trip, I was unable to explore Cusco during the day, because I booked a bus tour with an agency that completely forgot about me in Arequipa, setting me back on my plans to see the city. Don't worry I definitely will not be recommending them! There are other ways to get reliable transportation on your own.

8. Ollantaytambo

The Ollantaytambo ruins is a village in a sacred valley surrounded by majestic mountains, rivers, and hot springs that you can swim in! It was conquered by an Inca Emperor from the late 1400's.

If I had known better, I would have stayed here for a night. The river you see in the image above is a natural hot spring that you can swim in and Machu Picchu is only a 30-minute bus ride from this destination.

If you are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend a seat closest to the window at the Full House restaurant overlooking a beautiful creek by the mountains just past the train tracks. Apparently, the Cuy (a guinea pig) is a famous traditional dish you should try; if you can bring yourself to eat your average household pet. 🙃

9. Machu Picchu

The #1 reason half a million people travel to Peru every year! To see one of the seven wonders of the modern world since 2007. Hidden at about 8,000 feet above sea level in the middle of the impressive mountains, it's an experience you will spend all day exploring with unlimited curiosity.

I highly recommend a guide! Most of the guides are native to the jungles past the ruins and grew up learning the true history of Machu Picchu.

Our guide Marco was with us the entire day; took us from the bus in Ollantaytambo to the ruins and back. He was patient when I needed to stop to take photos or just marvel at the region, took the best photos and videos, knew all the best photo spots, answered all of our questions, and informed us of the history at every corner of the ruins. To book this expert, email: or WhatsApp (51-974-218228).

10. Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

My final stop, just hours before my departure from Cusco to Lima and back to Miami on the same day. . .

Sitting at 17,000 ft above sea level and basically the most difficult hike of my life, for the 20 minutes I wasn't on a horse anyways, is Rainbow Mountain (also known as Vinicunca). Discovered in 2015 by natives and a frequently visited stop in Peru because of the natural oxidization of different minerals on the mountain.

The tour I took was from Cusco, starting at 4 am to about 3 pm with transportation to and from your hotel, breakfast, lunch, and a guide included for just $35 USD!

The drive to this mountain from Cusco is about 3.5 hours with a breakfast stop in between. When you arrive the hike is about 2 hours up or you can ride a horse and get to the top in 40 minutes for just $20USD roundtrip.

The view to the top is unlike anything I've ever seen before with snowcapped mountains, creeks in the middle of the luscious green valley, and millions of llamas!

Because this was only a 10-day trip and a lot of my time was spent getting from one city to the next, I wasn't able to explore much of the City of Lima & Cusco, as well as other locations I later found throughout my trip. Many of the tours (like the Nazca Lines) were also out of commission due to the results of Covid.

After taking this trip, I completely understood why people spend 2-3 weeks at a time in destinations like this one. The natural beauty of this world continues to amaze and inspire me to continue traveling to places I've never been before.

Until the next trip friends!

Love, Anna.

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