The neighboring countries of Peru and Bolivia make for a perfect trip together. Chalk full of some of the world’s greatest natural and historical wonders, visiting both countries is easy to do for those with limited time. While Peru gets far more yearly tourists thanks to its culinary prowess and Machu Picchu, Bolivia is vastly underrated. The Uyuni Salt Flats was the coolest thing I did on this trip!
Update 2021: Due to COVID-19, please check the status of Peru’s COVID requirements if you are doing this trip. They’ve experienced multiple lockdowns during COVID and the news is constantly changing!
I had just over two weeks for my trip to both countries. Originally, I didn’t know if it would be logistically possible to visit Peru and Bolivia in two weeks and do it justice. However, with some planning and research, we saw all the main highlights on our list, which turned out to be quite extensive.
In total, our trip was 16 days and our itinerary included:
- Huacachina dunes
- Cusco and the Sacred Valley
- Machu Picchu
- Rainbow Mountain of Vinicunca
- Lake Titicaca (Puno and Copacabana)
- La Paz
- Uyuni Salt Flats
If these sights are on your list and you have about two weeks for a visit, this post is for you!
Day 1 to 3: Exploring Lima
We landed in Lima International Airport at 7am in the morning. After a slow Uber ride to our Airbnb in Barranco, we proceeded to immediately explore the city. Lima has such an amazing culinary scene and we spent a solid three days eating, and then eating more even if we were full.
Countless ceviche, Lomo Saltado, and endless pisco sours were consumed. We were also in Peru during La Mistura, South America’s largest food festival featuring some of the continent’s best culinary minds. We ate here three hours before a 13 course dinner at Maido. It’s an understatement to say we ate too much in Lima!
Day 4-6: Paracas
We left Lima the morning of day 4 to head south to the beautiful beaches and nature reserves of Paracas. Located only three hours south of Lima, Paracas is an easy getaway from Lima’s hustle and bustle. The ocean is calm, and the scenery is beautiful. We had an AMAZING stay at the Luxury Collection Paracas Hotel for a very reasonable price where we had the most amazing ceviche ever. Isla Ballestas, dubbed the poor man’s Galapagos is home to millions of birds and was great visit.
In addition, the Tacama winery and sand-boarding on the incredibly beautiful dunes of Huacachina made for great day trips.
Day 7-8: Machu Picchu
We took a bus early in the morning back to Lima to catch out flight from Lima to Cusco. Upon landing, I immediately felt the effects of altitude sickness as Cusco’s altitude is at 3,300m (11,000 feet). We took a taxi straight to our guesthouse in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is almost 1000m lower than Cusco and allowed me to acclimate to the altitude easier, ultimately saving me from feeling the full effects of altitude sickness.
No trip to Peru is complete without a visit to one of the new wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. Although it appears the whole world has visited Machu Picchu, being there in person made me quickly forget its commercialization as I soaked in the views from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. After a long day of hiking, we returned back to Aguas Caliente and drank copious amounts of Pisco sours after meeting another pair of travelers. We ended up missing our train and didn’t get back to Ollantaytambo until late in the night.
Day 9-11: Sacred Valley, Cusco, and Rainbow Mountain
After an amazing visit to Machu Picchu, we visited the main sights within the Sacred Valley: Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moray, Chinchero and ended the day in Cusco. Cusco is Peru’s second largest city and could not be more different from Lima. After a nice night’s rest, we toured around Cusco, visiting the main sites for a day. We stayed at another wonderful guesthouse/Airbnb in the old town with fantastic views of the city and mountains.
The next day, we took a day trip to the beautiful Rainbow Mountains in Vinicunca. This is a newer tour and gaining popularity quickly. Pictures don’t do it justice!
Day 11-12: Cusco to Lake Titicaca to La Paz
There are regular flights from Cusco to La Paz, but we wanted to also visit Lake Titicaca. We took an overnight bus with Bolivia Hop that left from Cusco. We traveled overnight, stopping in Puno in the morning, crossing over the Peru-Bolivia border to Copacabana (a huge hassle for Americans), and arriving in La Paz at 10pm. The bus made long enough stops in Puno and Copacabana to allow for quick tours of Lake Titicaca. This is the one part of my itinerary that I wish I had more timeas Lake Titicaca was stunning.
Day 13-15: Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
After a short night sleep in La Paz, we took a 7:30am plane from La Paz to Uyuni. Our 3 day, 2 night Salt Flat tour started that morning at 10am. This might seem hectic to take a plane and go straight to a three day tour, but it is quite common from what all the tour operators in Uyuni told me.
The salt flats was probably my favorite part of the trip. The landscapes were so unique and picturesque, with one wow moment after the other. I felt like I was on another planet on a regular basis.
Day 15-16: La Paz
Our salt flat tour ended at 5pm on the third day. We flew back that same evening to La Paz. The last day was spent walking around the highest city in the world (12,000m). We walked through the witches market and bought alpaca sweaters as La Paz is the cheapest place in South America to buy them. The cable cars that connect La Paz and El Alto offer fantastic panoramic views of the city and the Andes. I really enjoyed my time in La Paz and I think it’s a vastly underrated city.
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1: Land in Lima, explore city and eat at various restaurants
Day 2: Sightseeing around Lima
Day 3: More sightseeing and eating
Day 4: Bus from Lima to Paracas, explore Paracas National Reserve
Day 5: Visit Ilha Ballestas in the morning, relax in the afternoon
Day 6: Day trip to Tacama winery and Huacachina Oasis
Day 7: Bus back to Lima, flight from Lima to Cusco, taxi from the airport to Ollantaytambo for the night
Day 8: Machu Picchu day
Day 9: Sacred Valley, ending in Cusco
Day 10: Explore Cusco
Day 11: Rainbow Mountain tour, overnight departure on Bolivia Hop bus
Day 12: Lake Titicaca, end in La Paz at night
Day 13: Early morning flight to Uyuni, being Salt Flat Tour
Day 14: Salt Flat Tour
Day 15: Salt Flat Tour, evening flight back to La Paz
Day 16: Explore La Paz
This itinerary might not be for everyone, and it certainly is not the way I would choose to travel if I had it my way. Nevertheless, sometimes you need to make do with the time you have. I met numerous travelers that were spending months traveling through South America, giving each destination the just time it deserved and drawing my envy. With that said, I never felt overly rushed with my trip. Although I definitely want to revisit both countries, I felt like I saw all the highlights in Peru and Bolivia.
- Cusco to Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia
- Ultimate Planning Guide for Machu Picchu
- Ultimate Guide To Machu Picchu and Hiking Montaña Picchu
- Sandboarding and Wine Tasting at the Huacachina Oasis
- Ultimate Guide To Hiking The Rainbow Mountain Of Vinicunca
- Ultimate Guide To Crossing the Peru Bolivia Border
- Best Of The Ancient Cities: Machu Picchu vs. Angkor Wat vs. Petra
- Visiting Paracas and Isla Ballestas, Peru
- Guide to Bolivia’s Otherworldly Salt Flats
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