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Touring Peru independently

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
99 posts
139 reviews
Touring Peru independently

We are planing 10 days in Peru we are 55 and 60 and love nature but not the roughening it time so we definitely looking for the luxury option. My current plan ( and please give feedback as this is rough plan)

Fly into Arequipa

Spend 2 nights to aclimitise

Catch the Belmond luxury train for 2 nights going through and inclusive of Lake Titicaca tour and finshing in Cusco

Staying 2 nights in belmond sacred valley and seeing area

Staying 2 nights in Cusco and doing the Hiram Birkam train full day up to Machu Picchu

Doing the famous markets town

Fly to Lima stay 2 nights then back home to Australia

This is an extension to a cruise so 10 days is the maximum time we have

My question is

Should we give Lake Titicaca a miss and concentrate on Cusco area? Is full days enough for Lima ( we r not interested in museums but love outdoors)

Is the Hiram Bingham worth it or should we do another train or even do one way with other train and back with Hiram Bingham as it is over 400 $ each way!

Is the trip on the belmond Andean explorer worth going all the way to Arequipa to catch it?

Thank you

6 replies to this topic
Paris, Canada
Level Contributor
7,582 posts
20 reviews
1. Re: Touring Peru independently

We are backpackers on a budget so I can't help with the luxury part and don't know anything about the trains. So you have 2 days in Arequipa, 3 days train Arequipa-Puno, really only one full day in the Sacred Valley, 1 day for Cusco, 1 day for MP and 2 days for Lima? I would find it a shame to go to Arequipa and not have time for the Colca Canyon. I would also want at least 1 extra day for the Cusco area. Maybe a day less in Arequipa and a day less in Lima and add the 2 day/1 night Colca tour from Arequipa (great scenery). If you can skip Puno (not sure if you can) you can add a day to Cusco/Sacred Valley.

I don't know if the trains are worth it. Not to me but you like luxury so it might be right for you. I suggest you read lots of reviews. And I see no reason to take Hiram Bingham both ways. I didn't even know the Belmond Andean Explorer is now running. But only on Saturdays?

Now I am confused. Does the Belmond Andean Explorer leave in the evening of day 1 and arrive in Cusco around noon on day 3? That would mean you have 3 days in Arequipa? In that case you might have time for the Colca tour? How about this: day 1 Arequipa, day 2-3 Colca, day 3 evening to day 5 noon train, day 5 afternoon and day 6 Sacred valley, day 7-9: Cusco and MP, day 10 Lima?

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
99 posts
139 reviews
2. Re: Touring Peru independently

Thanks for your response . We decided to go to Arequipa mainly to acclimatise before the ascend to Lake Titicaca. We fly in straight from Santiago after docking from cruise so we arrive at 930 pm and next day we are going to take it easy and just walk around city. Following day we board train mid morning I think as it only leaves in that direction once a week and we had to rush to make it there in time. So it is 2 nights onboard the train and two days including a full day tour of Lake Titicaca and all is inclusive. I have watched a YouTube of the train and looks amazing. They even have a nurse and provide oxygen Incase u need it which is a bonus for us. As for the day tour from Arequipa to the canyon? I have looked into that it is 4900 m above sea level! That defeats our purpose of avoiding high altitude as we both have heart conditions . Plus I looked at photos and it looks similar to scenery we saw around northern outback Australia! We will still stay to nights in SV and have 2 days and 2 nights in Cusco and have 2 full days as one day will be going to MP we will fly out on a late flight to Lima and I donot mind just having one day 2 nights in Lima. I have read a lot of reviews but not much about the belmond Andean explorer from Arequipa to Cusco as I think it’s new for the 2 nights

Paris, Canada
Level Contributor
7,582 posts
20 reviews
3. Re: Touring Peru independently

Two nights in Arequipa would indeed be better before going to the Colca Canyon or Puno. But because you don't have much time to properly acclimatize you could consider taking Diamox (talk to your doctor of course). It will actually be worse to go to Puno after two nights in Arequipa than to Colca. Although on the way to Colca there is the Mirador de los Andes on the Patapampa Pass at 4,850 m you won't be there for long. Acclimatization happens mainly at night. Two nights in Arequipa and the third night in Chivay (Colca) should be okay. Chivay is at 3,635 m. Puno at 3,827 m. I thought the Andean Explorer left at 8 pm?

In case you would consider the Colca Canyon tour I would hesitate to recommend the one day tour because it is a very long day (starts at 3 am or so). The two day tour would be much better. I have not been to Australia but we loved the Colca valley and canyon. The trip there is scenic with viewpoints and volcanoes. You can see llamas, alpacas, vicunas, flamingos. Towns, churches, terraces, indigenous people and culture, hot springs. And the Cruz del Condor has a great view of the canyon and you will most likely see condors.

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
99 posts
139 reviews
4. Re: Touring Peru independently

Thanks will rethink about that

Still not sure if Lake Titicaca is worth going to or not?

Spokane, Washington
Level Contributor
955 posts
12 reviews
5. Re: Touring Peru independently

I've been to Kakadu NP and Uluru, and can't say Colca Canyon looks like anything I've witnessed in Australia. In addition, watching the condors gliding up close would be very unique. That said, I agree with Sonia that a day trip from Arequipa to Colca Canyon would be very exhausting and an O/N stay would be the minimum. The 1n/2d tour would transfer back to Arequipa or onward to Puno.

I personally would not skip Lake Titicaca as it is very different from rest of the Peru, and indeed unique anywhere in the world. The exception would be if visiting Inca ruins outside of MP is a high priority.

Also echoing Sonia, Acetazolamide is the best AMS prevention tool, though you have to clear with your doctor to make sure it does not interact with your heart pills (it is a diuretic)

Re Hiram Bingham, it's subjective. The train ride to AC is about 90 -120min. one way depends on your departing training station. The cheapest tickets/class seats are spacious with decent creature comfort (toilet, snacks and drinks), cost approx. $65 one way and in no way rough or third class. The train ride is scenic, but not spectacular IMO - the Arequipa - Puno - Cusco highways are more scenic. I understand why people willing to pay a premium for business class over economy in trans-oceanic flights for sanity's sake, but that does not apply here IMO.

Re Belmond Andean Explorer - this forum is more DIY, and vast majority take bus for the Arequipa - Puno - Cusco route b/c of abundance of options and cost. Some tour bus will provide O2, but not likely a nurse.

Paris, Canada
Level Contributor
7,582 posts
20 reviews
6. Re: Touring Peru independently

Lake Titicaca: we decided to skip it when we went to Peru for 30 days but we did go when we were in Bolivia. I enjoyed it but we had time for an overnight stay on Isla del Sol. If you have your heart set on taking the Andean Explorer do you have a choice? Does it not always go from Arequipa to Puno to Cusco? The Andean Explorer Lake Titicaca tour consists of going to Uros and Taquile with lunch on Taquile. If I went I would want to stay overnight on Taquile or Amantani. But I would not take the train so if the experience of taking the train is important to you that is of course what you should do.

If it were my trip and I had 10 days I would focus on Lima, Arequipa and Colca and the Cusco area. There are many posts on this forum from people who prefer Arequipa and Colca and many posts from people who liked Lake Titicaca better. It is a decision only you can make. You love nature and the outdoors so I don't think you can go wrong with either. I would not want to miss out on the sites in the Sacred Valley so I would prioritize that over Lake Titicaca (the scenery in the Sacred Valley is great too) but again, that's me. You could squeeze both Colca and Lake Titicaca in but that would make your trip rushed (I am now talking about not taking the train so that might not be an option for you anyway).

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