Solo Travel to Peru (everything you need to know)
A Guide to Solo Travel in Peru
The temptation of intrepid exploration, ancient historical ruins, and top-notch cuisine has drawn adventurous solo travelers to Peru for decades.
Mostly to marvel at one of the seven wonders of the world. But there’s a lot more to Peru than just Machu Picchu.
Boasting some of the best hiking on the continent, access to the Amazon Rainforest, sandy beaches, & bustling cities; Peru has a little something for everyone.
It’s no wonder that solo travel to Peru is one of South America’s most iconic experiences.
What to Expect as a Solo Traveller in Peru
Like its other Latin American neighbors, Peruvian culture is friendly and warm. This makes life for a solo traveler exceptionally easy. Add in the abundance of hostels and well-trodden ‘gringo’ trail and you’ll find it impossible to not make friends while traveling in Peru.
With plenty of tourist infrastructure in place, hopping from city to city is an easy task. Unless of course, you want to visit some of the more rural areas in Peru. This could add some painful 12+ hour bus rides across the vast country. But if you’re seeking serene mountain villages you won’t be disappointed.
Day-to-day you’ll find yourself exploring high-altitude cities, immersing yourself in the ancient Incan culture, and learning about the rich indigenous histories of the region. Throw in a trip to the Amazon and some trekking through the dramatic landscapes of the Sacred Valley and Peru will undoubtedly be a trip to remember.
Tips for Solo Travellers in Peru
Let’s take a look at the basics of Peruvian travel; How to stay safe as a solo traveler, tips for getting around, and a glance at what you may find on a Peruvian menu.
Let’s talk safety, most solo travelers’ biggest concern when traveling abroad. These are a few things you can do to quell those fears in Peru.
- Get a sim card. Navigating unfamiliar cities becomes a lot easier with access to GPS. If you’re worried about safety this is a good asset to have.
- Avoid going out alone at night. Or heavy drinking.
- Trust your gut. If it feels like a sketchy situation, remove yourself.
- Keep valuables hidden. The most commonly reported crime is pick-pocketing. Don’t carry a lot of cash on you.
- Brush up on your Spanish or carry a phrasebook. English isn’t widely spoken in Peru. You can also download Google Translate to make interactions with locals go smoother.
2. Beware of Altitude Sickness
Splitting headaches, lightheadedness, exhaustion, and nausea. Not exactly the state you were hoping to be in on vacation. Altitude can be rough on our bodies and many Peruvian towns (& major cities) sit at 10,000 ft or higher. (Cuzco sits at a whopping 10,500 ft above sea level!)
Fortunately, altitude sickness is mostly preventable if you take a few simple precautions.
Tips for avoiding altitude sickness:
- Don’t fly directly into cities of high elevation.
- Give yourself a rest day to acclimate.
- Stay hydrated & avoid alcohol.
Altitude Sickness can be serious if you overexert yourself and the only cure is to get to a lower elevation.
3. Making Friends
Many travelers choose the solo route out of a deep-seated desire to take on the world alone. Many solo travelers relish the opportunity to develop their confidence and to spend some time alone with themselves. It can be a profoundly rewarding and introspective experience.
But some travelers choose the solo travel life out of necessity. In the case of the latter, you may want to make some friends. & fast. Let’s take a look at the easiest ways to make friends as a solo traveler in Peru.
- Stay at a Hostel. Hostels are backpacker hubs filled with travelers (often solo) looking to make connections.
- Sign up for a tour. From cooking classes in Lima to free walking tours in Cuzco, there are plenty of opportunities to make friends with other solo travelers who share your interests.
- Join a trekking group. Hiking is an activity best done in groups. Multi-day treks through the Andes have a way of bonding travelers more than just an evening spent in the hostel.
4. Getting Around Peru
Much like the rest of South America, you’ll spend a lot of time on buses in Peru. Trains are nearly non-existent, so you’ll have to endure the less luxurious bus routes.
Here are a few other common forms of public transportation.
Collectivo or Combi: A mini-bus (often painted white). They are faster than the traditional buses but more expensive. You’ll likely be sharing your ride with other travelers.
Micros: These are smaller than Collectivo’s and often only carry around 6 people at a time.
Luxury vs. Public Buses: Tourist buses are commonplace in Peru and are safer, faster, and more comfortable than the careening jam-packed public buses that run similar routes. Consider taking the more expensive tourist buses on the longest stretches of road.
If you’re short on time in Peru you should opt for domestic flights to cover large distances. But as I mentioned before, be cautious flying into high-elevation cities like Cuzco without first acclimatizing.
5. Accommodation in Peru
Peru offers a wide-spread of accommodation options from backpacker-style dorms to lavish hotels that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris. Here’s a quick breakdown of your options.
Hostels or Hostals: The cheapest option. Great for meeting fellow travelers and getting a feel for the party scene in major cities.
Hotel or posada: Higher-end accommodation for travelers looking for a more luxurious stay.
Guesthouse: Sitting somewhere between a hostel & hotel a guesthouse is a great option for those looking to connect with locals and immerse themselves in the Peruvian culture.
Tambo Lodge: Found in rural regions like the Amazon Rainforest these lodges vary in quality from extravagant private bungalows to open-sided jungle huts.
A Quick Guide to Peruvian Food
Lima, Peru is one of the top foodie destinations in the entire world. But all Peruvian cuisine has its merit. Here are some dishes you absolutely cannot leave the country without trying at least once.
- Peruvian Ceviche- The national dish of Peru.
- Cuy- Grilled Guinea Pig is the most popular traditional Peruvian dish & it has been consumed since before the rise of the Incan empire.
- Lomo Saltado- Marinated beef stir-fried with peppers and onions. This is a tasty meal you can eat daily.
- Aji de Gallina- Traditional chicken stew made with yellow chili peppers.
- Anticuchos– One of Peru’s most popular street foods. Grilled skewers of cow liver or heart.
- Charqui- Dried Alpaca jerky. A hearty Peruvian hiking snack often found in rural villages.
- Causa Rellena- Potato is the major staple in the Peruvian diet. This particular potato is sliced and sandwiched around a veggie or chicken filling.
Food Tips for Solo Travelers
- Always choose restaurants and street vendors that are busy & filled with locals. No one can find delicious eats like the locals can.
- Ask locals “Where they like to eat” instead of “Where you should eat”. You’ll be directed to their favorite hole in the wall instead of a popular (and less delicious) tourist trap.
- Be adventurous. Often the only way to figure out what’s worth eating is to try it. There are always a few dishes that surprise you.
- Don’t be afraid to eat in restaurants alone. It’s a great way to meet fellow solo travelers and people-watch.
How Long Should You Spend in Peru?
If you’re looking to cover the entire country of Peru while hitting most of the destinations below, you would need a minimum of 4 weeks. This gives you time to acclimate, do a few multi-day treks, bus across the country, and explore the Amazon Rainforest in addition to seeing the major sights and attractions in Peru’s cities.
If you’re just looking to see the highlights, 2-3 weeks will do. For shorter trips, you should consider a tour to handle the logistics or pick a single region of Peru instead of trying to traverse the entire country.
Where to Travel Solo in Peru?
Now that we’ve covered how to solo travel in Peru let’s look at where to solo travel in Peru. Here are the best destinations to visit in Peru & some worthwhile attractions to help shape your itinerary.
Peru’s very own beach town. Lobitos and Colan are some of the best shores for surf and sand.
One of the last remaining glaciers in the tropical South American Andes and it’s shrinking more every year. Visit it before it disappears completely.
The capital city. Visit San Cristobal Hill or try out paragliding off the stunning seaside bluffs, all the while savoring some of the best eats in all of South America. Lima is a cultural hub to lose yourself in.
Tip: It’s also a great place to start your Peruvian adventure since it sits at sea level and there are plenty of other travelers to connect with.
If the famous alien Nazca lines are of interest to you be sure to pay a visit to the small desert town in Ica. Only visible in all their glory from the sky, you’ll need to charter a flight to see them properly.
Paracas Natural Reserve
Near the bustling city of Cuzco, this nature preserve rivals the nearby Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands. You can spot sea lions, dolphins, and massive migratory birds on these coastal islands.
Tip: You can also spot wild sea lions at Palomino Island off the coast of Lima.
Oasis of Huacachina
This photogenic little town sits within the rolling dunes of the Atacama Desert. Spend the day sand-boarding and revel in the view of the town from a distance. Just be prepared to get a little sandy.
Once the capital of the ancient Incan empire, now you can marvel at the ruins that remain around the city. Pay a visit to Cristo Blanco and spend some time exploring the Sacred Valley. Wander colorful fruit markets and savor the city life before you embark on your trek to one of the seven wonders of the world.
A place words just can’t do justice. Although you can skip the trekking and just watch the mist filter through the ruins of the ancient city, you should trek at least a portion of the Inca trail if you’re able.
Note: Trekking tips are included below as well as some recommended hiking routes.
You’ve probably seen the rainbow-striped mountains on Instagram in the last few years. Sitting at 17,000 ft this popular destination is often done as a day trip from Cusco and offers stunning vistas of the surrounding area during the short 7 km hike to the summit.
If you’re a history buff or you simply can’t get enough ruins Ollantaytambo is the perfect addition to your Peruvian itinerary. Visit the Pinkuylluna ruins carefully carved by the Incas tucked into the hillside.
Maras (Salinas de Maras)
Sitting in the Sacred Valley this salt mine is breathtaking. From above the white geometric ponds contrast with the desolate surrounding hillsides. The salt mines are more than just photogenic however, they also produce the pink salt famous in the region.
You can also visit the archeological site of Moray. Famous for the Inca’s circular terraces and lush green landscapes.
Also known as the White City for its UNESCO-Heritage recognized homes made from white volcanic stone. Arequipa is teeming with food & history and rimmed by snow-capped volcanoes. It’s an absolute must-visit for any traveler in Peru.
From Arequipa take a trip to Colca Canyon and marvel at the view of native bird species from Mirador Cruz del Condor.
Sitting at over 12,000 ft Lake Titicaca is the highest large lake in the world. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful and offers a glimpse into what life was like for the peoples of Uros Island. Although now mostly a tourist attraction, the man-made floating islands are worth a visit.
Although Brazil contains the majority share of the Amazon rainforest, Peru offers some of the best wildlife spotting and exploration opportunities for travelers. Here are some of the most popular options for diving into the Peruvian Amazon.
Iquitos: The only option that allows you to see the Pink River Dolphins.
Puerto Maldonado: Easily accessible and with plenty of tourist infrastructure, this town is also home to the Tambopata National Reserve.
Manu National Park: A little off-the-beaten-path but packed with wildlife in unique high cloud forests and lush jungle valleys. A great option for the extra adventurous traveler, this region is famous for its diverse wildlife and ayahuasca ceremonies.
Tips for Trekking in Peru as a Solo Traveller
Peru is the pinnacle for adventure tourism and trekking in South America (alongside the Patagonia region), but these kinds of activities are best done in groups. Fortunately, it’s easy to make friends in Peru as there will be many solo-travelers looking to hike. You can also check out our group tours to Peru if you want some guaranteed hiking buddies.
Here are some tips for trekking in Peru.
- Book a Tour & Go With a Group. Many of the Sacred Valley treks & hikes near archeological ruins require a permit & a local guide anyway.
- Get Your Permits Early. Certain Machu Picchu routes book out up to 6 months in advance.
- Find Hiking Buddies at Hostels. In popular trekking regions like Huaraz, almost everyone will be there to hike. Opt to stay in a hostel & band together with other solo travelers to hike safely.
- Carry Extra Water. Peru offers some challenging hikes. Be sure to stay hydrated and take breaks regularly.
Best Trekking in Peru
Now that we’ve covered how to trek as a solo traveler here are the best treks in Peru to add to your bucket list.
Famous for crystalline blue glacial lakes and some of South America’s most scenic trekking, Huaraz is a must-see if you’re a fan of the outdoors. Laguna 69 is the most popular hike in the area and you’ll be able to easily link up with other trekkers in the city.
Feeling ambitious? Join a group tour on the multi-day Huayhuash Circuit over 10 grueling days. Known for its breathtaking Andean scenery.
500 travelers per day have the privilege of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Beginning near Ollantaytambo, the trail snakes along the valley and through the Sun Gate to the summit. But this 4-day trek is not the only way to trek to Machu Picchu in all its glory.
Note: It’s not legal to hike the Inca Trail completely solo, a guide is required.
One of the other favorites is the Salkantay Trek. Slightly more strenuous and known for its mountain views, this trek has no permit required or visitor cap since it is less traversed.
Now that you’ve reached Machu Picchu…
For the extra adventurous, you can hike to Huayna Picchu above the Machu Picchu citadel. It climbs around 1,000 feet up roughly-constructed Incan stairs. You’ll have to reserve your spot months in advance as they only allow 400 people per day to make the climb.
Machu Picchu Alternative
For those less concerned with ancient ruins and more interested in sheer natural beauty the Ausangate Trek is the preferred path through the Sacred Valley. This multi-day trek is a high-altitude adventure that passes scenic turquoise lakes & the iconic Rainbow Mountain. Unless you’re an experienced hiker and have found a group to hike with, you should join a tour as the trail isn’t always well-marked.
Solo Travel to Peru With Like-Minded Travellers Aged 25-45
Overwhelmed by the possibilities? Want to visit Peru but don’t want to deal with the hassle of planning? Why not give our 12-Day Peru Tour a look. You’d be joining a group of adventurous travellers aged 25 – 45 and have some ready-made friends to explore this amazing country with.