This is a road trip as we ourselves like it best: intelligent routes to off-the-beaten path places, great price-quality of experience ratio and wonderful authentic experiences wherever you go. Instead of just replacing tourism transportation with a rental car, we went back to the basics and searched for the opportunities to make best use of the freedom of a rental car.
After arriving to Lima you’ll visit the capital with our guide; the best introduction to our country. After that, you’ll travel by land transportation to Arequipa, enjoying the area around Paracas along the way. Optionally you could replace this with, or add, the area around Nazca along the way. Get inspired with our excursions around Paracas and Nazca here. In Arequipa, we’ll give you two free days to acclimatize (very important) or to add any of our RESPONSible tours in Arequipa.
From Arequipa you’ll start your self-drive adventure. First destination: the Colca Canyon! Along the way you’ll start to feel The Road Trip Freedom immediately, driving in a surreal volcano landscape with herds of alpacas and vicuñas. With our instructions and navigation tips you will enjoy the route at your own pace.
You’ll stay two nights in the community of Coporaque. From here you can (optionally) take an offroad route to the famous Cruz del Condor but also enjoy hikes and the thermal baths!
After Coporaque you’ll travel towards Lake Titicaca. Not to the busy city of Puno, but directly to a hostfamily at the border of the lake on the Capachica Peninsula. Surrounded by nature you’ll enjoy the Lake as it deserves.
Then, you’ll pass a night and visit the village of Lampa; a hidden gem of the Andes. From here, there are two possible routes to Cusco. Again; no reason to enter a busy city with your rental car. We still guide you on quiet routes surrounded by beautiful landscapes, directly into the Sacred Valley. You’ll visit several highlights of the valley but of course you can include any other excursion in the Sacred Valley if you wish.
Then, you’ll cross the Abra Málaga pass into the coffee area behind Machu Picchu for some amazing experiences in the upper jungle. This backdoor route will take you very close to Machu Picchu; you’ll only have to walk for three hours or take a short train ride for the last bit.
After Machu Picchu, you’ll drive back to Cusco and hand in the rental car so that you can enjoy the beautiful city of Cusco at your own pace before heading back home. Obviously, you can choose to add a day tour in or around the city of Cusco or even visit the Peruvian jungle before you head back home.
Do you see why we think this Road Trip is perfect? You can read the detailed Day-to-Day description below or contact us directly for the full itinerary in PDF with much more information.
As every long itinerary (6 days+), you can book this tour as it is, or adapt it with one of our travel designers until it is completely to your wishes. If that is what you want, please read through this itinerary carefully and then get in touch with our team telling us what you’d like to change to our example Road Trip.
Once you enquire this tour, we will send you a full PDF itinerary with much more information: more complete descriptions, upgrade and downgrade tips, route recommendations, options, and prices for the domestic flights.
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival at the airport, our driver will pick you up and bring you to the hotel. You’ll have a free evening in Lima.
In the morning you will be picked up by your guide for a walking tour through the city. You will use Lima’s public transportation to get an idea of a local’s daily life.
First you will go to the Surquillo market, where you will see the enormous diversity of unique Peruvian fruits such as the chirimoya, lúcuma, aguaymanto and pacay.
Then, you will take the “Metropolitano” bus to the historic center of Lima, visit the street Jirón de la Unión, the Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas and the famous San Francisco church with its catacombs. Of course, the guide can adapt the tour according to circumstances or your preferences: please coordinate with the guide which places you would like to visit.
You’ll travel by morning bus to the coastal town of Paracas (travel duration: 3.5 hours).
There you will experience a sand buggy tour in the afternoon! An adventurous trip through the dunes with stops to take pictures of the desert view and to glide off the dunes with a sandboard. Full adrenaline!
In the morning you’ll take a tour to the Ballestas islands to observe sea lions, Humboldt penguins, pelicans, seals and many seabirds. Sometimes you can even see dolphins!
Optional in the afternoon: tour to the Paracas National Reserve, a sanctuary for sea lions and flamingos and a beautiful landscape with different colors of sand.
In the evening you’ll go to the bus station in Ica to take a comfortable night bus to Arequipa. The journey takes 12 hours, and the seats can incline 160 degrees.
As mentioned above, you can also add excursions in the Nazca area here! This would add additional days to the trip, unless you take out Paracas.
Enjoy two days in this beautiful city, also called the “White City”. Do not miss the colorful Santa Catalina monastery and/or the interesting museum with the ice mummy Juanita.
If you desire to add an optional excursion in Arequipa, get inspired here!
This second day in Arequipa is important for your acclimatization, before going to the Colca Canyon passing over an altitude of almost 5,000 meters! Fortunately, the city has enough to offer.
Tip: pick up the rental car this afternoon. This would be easier, and you can leave early the following morning (highly recommended).
From Arequipa you drive to the Colca Canyon: a fairly easy route. It is worth stopping a few times along the way; you will pass through a reserve where many vicuñas roam freely and you will drive along lakes with the chance to see flamingos. The snow-capped volcanoes in the background complete this surreal landscape.
From Chivay, the capital of the Colca Canyon, you drive another 15 minutes to Coporaque for lunch with your host family! With a local guide (speaks Spanish only, translator optional at an extra cost) you explore the village on foot and visit the viewpoint where you can see almost the entire route for the next day.
Dinner and overnight stay are with a welcoming local family. You’ll have private rooms and bathrooms (hot shower available, although this depends on the sunshine of the day).
After breakfast you will set off on your own to the famous Cruz del Condor viewpoint. With a bit of luck, several condors will whiz right past your camera, taking advantage of the thermal winds that rise from the Canyon.
Back in Coporaque you will have a free afternoon. You could ride or hike to the thermal baths of Coporaque (tip: treat the kids of your hostfamily to a visit!) or go horse riding for the additional cost of 120 soles p.p. for about three hours. In Coporaque they have the comfortable (and obedient) Peruvian Paso horses! This activity has been a highlight of the trip for many travelers.
Variation tip: If you’re not afraid of some boulders and sand, you might enjoy a partially unpaved route to the Cruz del Condor. It’s not difficult and most importantly: without tour buses! This route is described separately in the route document that you will receive from us at a later stage, if you book.
Today it is time to say goodbye to your host family and (probably) new friends and get ready for another travel day: about six hours driving to the shores of Lake Titicaca. You drive to Juliaca through a rugged, vast landscape, characterized by volcanoes and vicuñas. From Juliaca you’ll continue to the Capachica peninsula.
Finally (the routes are explained in the route document) you arrive to the guesthouse. All have a fantastic view over Lake Titicaca. In the distance looms the Cordillera Real of Bolivia.
Rooms are basic but clean and equipped with the necessary amenities (there is even hot water in most guesthouses). Besides getting to know your guide and the family, there is time for a walk in the beautiful surroundings.
Dinner and overnight stay at local guesthouse. Please note: it can get quite cold up here!
Today the day starts with a drive to the San Pedro Harbor to take a motorboat to the less visited Uros Titino floating islands (about 30 minutes by boat).
You will be welcomed by a family that lives on the island that will explain about their daily life and how they make their island. It is also possible to take a ride on a traditional reed boat.
After returning to the community of Llachon you get to enjoy a typical local lunch from another local family. Then you drive back to your guesthouse, or not yet: the choice is yours!
Today you’ll ride to the hidden gem of the altiplano: Lampa. It used to be a very important town in the time of the Spaniards and that is why this little village secretly houses very beautiful sites and buildings. Its church is located between the two main squares and has a roof of beautifully colored tiles. There are many surprises we’ll share with you if you enquire this tour.
This day you will drive an adventurous off road route (not for anyone). You’ll leave early, together with the herds of animals going into the mountains. The schoolchildren walk in the opposite direction to the village, to get to school on time.
The route will reward you with unprecedented views, authentic valleys with grazing llamas and alpacas and local people working the land. You will also get to see the Puya Raymondi, the tallest flowers in the world and as a surprise landscape: the Tinanjani canyon. Bringing a picnic for today is a very good idea!
Before arriving to your hotel in Pisac, you’ll pass by the temple of Wiracocha, in the village of Raqchi (a must stop!) and Andahuaylillas (a village where time stood still, with its famous “Sistine Chapel of South America”).
This morning you can visit the ruins of Pisaq before the large groups of tourists arrive and enjoy the market of Pisaq before continuing towards Ollantaytambo. About 20 minutes outside Pisaq you will pass by the Inkariy Museum: very worthwhile to learn all about the pre-Columbian cultures of Peru!
There are many delicious lunch places in the valley (we’ll give you many tips). After lunch, drive on to Ollantaytambo for a free afternoon.
(On days like these, we can obviously include a tour guide to accompany you to make the best of your visit. For complete freedom this is not always standard.)
(Another option is to add an extra day in Ollantaytambo; there is much to do and it would give you some resting time after many long driving days.)
From Ollantaytambo you start on time for a beautiful trip over the Abra Málaga pass at an altitude of 4,300m: a very beautiful asphalt road. The views are phenomenal! It’s advised to get out every now and then as there are many endemic bird species that live here.
On the other side of the pass you drive from 4300m to 1500m in just a few hours: from bare grassy plains and glaciers to banana trees! Drive as much as possible with your windows open, you will feel the air getting more humid and the smells are changing.
In the afternoon you will take a walk with one of our coffee farmers and learn all about the coffee making process: from harvesting the beans to your own cup of coffee. You will also get to taste different fruits and local food specialties.
Overnight stay in simple but nice rooms, which are spacious and with their own bathroom and mosquito nets above the beds. The car will be safely parked closeby. A guide for these four days is included: he/she can show the way, translate and tell and teach you a lot about the environment.
After saying goodbye to your host family you drive (unpaved with some river crossings) to the hot springs of Cocalmayo to relax and have lunch. Then, you travel to the train station called “Hidroelectrica” where you’ll leave the car behind. The route to Aguas Calientes is either on foot along the railroad tracks (approx. 2,5 to 3 hours) or by train (optional, 1 hour).
You can also choose to stay in the beautiful Mandor gardens: a small nature reserve full of orchids, hummingbirds and much more flora and fauna. They have nice rooms and great food and are one hour on foot from Aguas Calientes, also on the railroad.
Today you will take the bus to Machu Picchu early in the morning. Often referred as “The Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and spectacular sets of ruins in the world. The Incas started building it around AD 1430 as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, strategically located between deep canyons and impressive mountains called Apus (Gods for the Incas), so it was a well hidden and well protected fortress.
In the morning you will have a private tour in Machu Picchu (duration: 2-2,5 hours) with your guide.
If you’re active, our tip is to climb the Machu Picchu mountain: not the over-visited Huayna Picchu. The Machu Picchu mountain is a little higher (climbing one and a half hours) but offers a nice panoramic view of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu mountain and the underlying Urubamba river. In addition, the path and the nature on the way are beautiful, and because of its limited number of visitors, it feels like an escape from the hustle and bustle of Machu Picchu. Note: you must decide beforehand whether you want to do it or not: it is a different entrance ticket and there are fixed times (called time slots).
The same afternoon, after your visit, you will either walk or take the train back to the Hydroelectric station and return to the same coffee farmer as before, for one more night.
You’ll drive back to Cusco in about five hours, where you return the rental car today after having enjoyed it so much for the past days.
You will drive over the Abra Málaga pass again, past Ollantaytambo, and on the road between Urubamba and Cusco, via Chinchero, you could also include a visit to Maras and Moray if you feel like it (little detour, taking approx. 30 minutes more).
We will also give you the option for a last chance of offroad adventure today, passing by Maras and Moray.
Most of our travelers stay at the Niños Hotel (2 stars): a very attractive hotel that supports projects with (street) children.
Today you will join our own Walking Tour! A beautiful introduction of the city and a nice relaxed walk (downhill only). Our driver will pick you up at the hotel and drive you to our first visit, the archaeological site of Qenqo. From there you will walk to Sacsayhuamán: these are impressive ruins with a great view of the city. The guide will tell you a lot of stories! We continue to the San Blas neighbourhood, where you will enjoy a break in a local cafe. Finally you will visit the famous Sun Temple. At the end of the tour, the guide will give you tips for lunch.
After lunch (not included) you can visit the Cathedral of Cusco (entrance fee: 25 soles p.p.), a museum (Museo Inka is fun!) or do some shopping to get a nice souvenir or a beautiful alpaca sweater.
Option: it is recommended to add another day in Cusco here, if you have the time!
Today, after a free morning, you will be transferred to the airport to take your flight back to Lima. There, you will have enough time to check in for the flight back home.
As for any trip that ends in Cusco, adding the jungle would be a great idea! If you have time to spare and you would like to have a more authentic jungle adventure, definitely consider the Manu National Park. We have very unique trips in Manu including visits to native communities. Having five or six days is recommended. Shorter jungle adventures can be found in Tambopata; a beautiful and easy accessible jungle area around Puerto Maldonado.
If you love hiking and spectacular high mountain landscapes, definitely consider adding at least five days to visit the area around Huaraz: authentic mountain communities and trekkings of all sorts are awaiting you! Northern Peru holds more treasures though, like the archaeologic sites around Trujillo and Chiclayo and the absolutely stunning Chachapoyas region that just seems to have it all.
Of course anything else is also possible, let us know what you like. The Galapagos Islands or Bolivia? Central Peru? A yoga retreat? A beach destination? We’d love to help you finish your Peru trip in the best fitting way whilst always keeping sustainability in mind.
There are a few reasons to start the car rental in Arequipa and end it upon arrival in Cusco.
Along the coast, there are a few insecure areas where we’d prefer you wouldn’t be driving. It’s not dangerous by any means, but the risk is a bit higher and we feel responsible for you.
Adding the long routes between Lima and Arequipa, and Cusco and Lima, to your itinerary, would raise the price a lot and also make the trip very long. Between Nazca and Arequipa and Cusco and Lima, there aren’t many interesting places to stop anyway. We prefer that you enjoy the best bits better.
With the current route, we can avoid you driving in Lima and Puno, and you will only drive shortly in Arequipa and Cusco. A car in those cities is more a burden than anything else, so this route avoids that stress as much as possible.
Most of the route is easy and if you have a bit of experience driving in other cultures you should be fine. Peruvian drivers can be pushy and chaotic but mostly don’t pay too much attention so be aware of that and prepared for anything. Well experienced drivers should definitely be fine.
The offroad routes are all optional. They are never too technical but of you have no experience at all on offroad you might encounter problems. Remember that any damage to the car is your responsibility. We will give you recommendations as good as we can but situations on site can always have changed. For offroad routes it is advised to use a 4×4 vehicle (if available it can be included at the same price), especially with more than two travelers.
The type of car we include depends on availability, amount of travelers and of course your choices.
In the current price, we include SUV’s of the Toyota RAV4 / Hyundai Tucson category for 2 to 4 travelers. They are perfect for the routes we suggest. They come either as 4×2 or 4×4; the latter is advised if you would like to take the offroad suggestions, especially with more than two occupants.
From 5 to 7 persons, we include the Toyota Fortuner/Prado category.
Please note that at some stretches, a tour guide will join you, so an extra seat would need to be available. This might cost you some luggage space. During the Coffee Route, you can leave luggage in Ollantaytambo and only travel with a small backpack per person to solve this issue.
If you want to see the price for your situation, please select an amount of travelers (number of adults, children, etc) on the right side of the website (or the bottom on the mobile version). You will then see that total price for your party right above it. For some tours, the price will change according to the amount of people.
It is advised to book this tour through our Custom Itineraries department, instead of direct booking here on the website, so that we can adapt the itinerary to your liking before you book. You can enquire by filling out this form.
Please refer to our article What to Pack for your Trip to Peru for all your questions about packing for your Peru trip. Whether you’re going to the jungle or the mountains, you’ll find the answers you need. You can also download a full Packing List for free.
Not very much; most hikes are optional or easy. However, due to the altitudes, it’s advised to come in good shape and have a strong heart and lungs. In case of doubts, read our article on How to Stay Healthy in Peru or contact us.
Once you leave Arequipa, you’ll immediately go up and reach almost five thousand meters (16,400 ft) above sea level; you will definitely feel it! The following nights (Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Lampa) will all be over 3.500 meters (11,500 ft) altitude, which is why we always recommend to acclimatize well in Arequipa. For example by staying there for two full days, like in this itinerary.
The rest of the route will lead you over passes above four thousand meters a few more times, but accommodations will be lower the last week of the itinerary.
All the visited host families have comfortable and nicely decorated homestay accommodations for you. The rooms are usually separate from the main house. You’ll have your meals in the family’s kitchen.
There are rooms with twin beds, double beds and multiple beds. Usually, there is enough space for double occupation.
Almost every room has its own private bathroom ensuite; sometimes the bathroom is outside and shared. Almost all have hot water. Thick bedding and a hot water bottle (or mosquito nets) are provided where necessary.
No, they don’t. So far however, most of our travelers do not opt for an optional translator, since apart from the additional cost it might change the experience. Our host families are very used to having guests that don’t speak Spanish and their Spanish is easy to understand for those who speak other Latin languages.
Of course, learning Spanish beforehand is always a good idea! Use an app like Duolingo to learn the basics before leaving and enhance your experience whilst traveling.
After a short programme on the coast, the Road Trip takes place in the Andes. It tends to rain a lot between December and April, and it tends to be colder at night between May and August. Find more info about climates in Peru in our blog “Best Time to Travel to Peru“.
This is a private trip. You will share your car with no one else but your fellow travelers and an occasional tour guide. On some excursions, you will meet other travelers, of course! Some hostfamilies on the way might have other travelers visiting that you might share a meal with. But in general, this is a very private experience.
Even though I prefer the motorbike, I love driving cars as well and the longer, the better. I enjoy the adventure, the freedom and (in case of a car) the comfort of driving with your own vehicle. For this Road Trip, together with my colleagues I combined our passion for sustainable and community-based tourism with the love for road trippin’ beautiful Peru.
The base for this Road Trip are Southern Peru’s highlights, combined with a few of our favourite homestays and of course; my best tips for off-the-beaten path (quite literally) driving to get the most our of your car and get to places that other tourists will never see.
Our knowledge of, and experience with Peru’s routes doesn’t end here, so if you have any other wishes for your ideal road trip through Peru, please do get in touch!