Peru: Luxury & Private Trips
Home to Machu Picchu, a landmark inscribed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Peru needs no introduction. A visit to the mountaintop citadel is arresting, but it’s the journey into the Peruvian heartland—and back in time—that grips travelers with a history that’s hot to the touch. Stone ruins, spirituality, astrology, ritual, and cryptic symbols decipher a fascinating story of the Incan people and their ingenious technologies. In cities like Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa, the influence of Spanish colonization is worn on colonial facades and plazas. But Peru’s appeal is not written exclusively in the past tense. The capital is a hotbed of globally recognized restaurants; ecotourism and adventure travel are firmly entrenched in the Amazon and Sacred Valley; and a host of experiential lodgings, from treehouses to cliffside pods, eschew the ordinary. At this confluence of time and place, ancient and modern, ocean and Andes, Peru embodies some of the best South American luxury travel for the wild at heart.
What is Peru best known for?
You’d be hard-pressed to find an itinerary that doesn’t visit Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, but don’t confuse this well-trodden route for a whistlestop tour. It’s easy to shirk the crowds in the country’s more remote pockets, and there are plenty of small but equally worthy locations that rightfully deserve to feature on a luxury Peru trip, like the Amazon, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, and Lake Titicaca.
Peru travel highlights
- Watch the morning mist part, revealing the wonder of Machu Picchu.
- Multi-day guided trekking along the Inca Trail, Salkantay route, to Choquequirao, or the Cordillera Blanca.
- Peruse pre-Colombian art at Larco Herrera Museum, visit Plaza Mayor, and dine at world-class restaurants in Lima.
- Track wildlife in the Amazon rainforest, staying in an ecolodge or on a luxurious small ship.
- Visit Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley while making time for rafting, biking, ziplining, or hiking.
- Slow down, acclimate, shop, and caffeinate in charming Cusco.
- Visit Lake Titicaca to see its floating islands
- Spot condors circling overhead in Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest.
- Admire arcades and grand cathedrals backdropped by volcanoes in Arequipa.
- Visit the rainbow-banded Ausangate, perhaps on a lodge-to-lodge trek.
- Prioritize well-being at a mountain lodge spa where self-care rituals are rooted in spirituality.
What to expect on a luxury trip to Peru
Memorable lodging: From eco-lodges tucked deep in the Amazon to charming city hotels in renovated historic buildings, your luxury accommodations will emote a strong sense of place. More than just a hotel, our preferred accommodations will connect you deeper to the communities they give back to.
Expert local guides: Welcoming, English-speaking expert guides will help interpret all things Peru while imparting a local perspective. From food to architecture to birding, we love to arrange private tours that speak to EJ travelers’ special interests.
Exclusive experiences: Board the Hiram Bingham train in Ollantaytambo for a snaking mountain journey to Machu Picchu; experience the Amazon from the handsome cabins of The Delfin I riverboat; take a private mixology class to create—and sample—the perfect pisco sour; our travel specialists delight in building exclusive experiences into our bespoke itineraries.
Seamless travel: Peru is a large, mountainous country, and many of the regions you probably want to see are a fair distance apart. Expect to fly between various destinations during your Peru luxury vacation. EJ will arrange all transfers and domestic flights so you can enjoy worry-free travel.
24/7 in-destination support: Our job doesn’t end when your boarding pass is printed. Extraordinary Journeys is always by your side—even while traveling. We have reliable boots-on-the-ground support and a 24/7 concierge just a phone call away.
Culture: Over the centuries and still today, numerous indigenous peoples have called Peru home. While the Inca ruins are exceptional, make sure you also take some time to learn about the Wari, Moche, and Chimu civilizations, as well as the traditions of the contemporary Quechua people.
Astounding history: History buffs will adore Peru’s profusion of pre-Incan, Incan, Indigenous, and Spanish landmarks and ruins.
Dining: Tantalize your taste buds in Lima, the unofficial gastronomic capital of South America. Indulge in the freshest ceviche, sample street-side anticuchos skewers slathered in garlic sauce, and sample “cuy” (guinea pig).
Jaw-dropping scenery: Pacific coast, dense jungle, Andean peaks, volcanoes, altiplano, canyons, and valleys—Peru has it all.
If you’re looking for a quick but comprehensive Machu Picchu trip, you’ll need a minimum of five or six nights—longer yet, if you’re trekking. If you want to venture further afield during your Peru luxury vacation, experiencing highlights like the Sacred Valley, the Amazon, Colca Canyon, Lima, and Lake Titicaca, you’ll want at least 10 to 14 days.
With a diverse cooking style that reflects the country’s history, Peru is a foodie’s paradise. Its restaurant scene is having its moment in the sun, with local chefs gaining international recognition. Modern Peruvian cuisine is grounded in staples like potatoes, corn, and quinoa, which are ubiquitous in the mountains.; along the coast, you’ll find the freshest ceviche. You’ll also find strong Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and West African influences. The result? Tantalizing and unexpected fusion cuisine.
The currency is the Peruvian Sol. ATMs are widely available and credit cards are broadly accepted in shops and restaurants.
Peru has three official languages: Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. Guides speak fluent English. Hotel staff, drivers, market vendors, and shop owners may have limited English, but they’re eager to communicate with travelers.
Altitude affects everyone differently. As travel designers, we take care to give you plenty of time in an itinerary to acclimatize before continuing on to higher altitudes.
Yes, Peru is generally a safe place to travel. However, as with all tourist destinations, it’s wise to exercise caution with your belongings and practice situational awareness. Peru is a casual country, so wearing high-end jewelry and watches will attract attention.
No, American citizens do not need a tourist visa to visit Peru.
There are three ways to visit Machu Picchu: on a multi-day guided trek; via a scenic train from Ollantaytambo to Agues Calientes; or on a one-day trek that arrives at Machu Picchu’s famous Sun Gate.
You need to train and be physically prepared if you want to take on the challenge of the Inca Trail. A traditional four-night Inca Trail trek is strenuous, as you’ll be traversing mountains at high altitude. The trails are rugged but well-maintained, so good hiking boots and poles are necessary if you’re going to triumph over the steep, rocky terrain.
There is a shorter route if you want to hike, but not camp overnight. Travelers can do the “km104”, which is the final day of the Inca Trail—a seven-mile hike up to Machu Picchu that arrives at the site’s famous Sun Gate. It’s still a relatively difficult hike with lots of steps and plenty of incline and decline through mountains. It can take anywhere from four to eight hours.
Peru’s dry season, which runs from May to October, is the best time to visit Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail closes each February, the wettest month, for maintenance.
When is the best time to visit Peru?
The dry season, which runs from May to October, is considered the best time to visit Peru. However, it’s wise to consider the following when planning luxury travel in Peru:
- Weather patterns in Peru can be complicated and vary widely by region, but as a rule, there are two main seasons: wet and dry.
- If you’re exploring at high altitudes, it will be colder, so pack appropriately and dress in layers.
- The dry season, which is characterized by sunny days and chilly nights, coincides with the peak season, which runs from May through October. Note: you can still experience the occasional showers during dry season.
- June, July, and August are the busiest months. If you can travel during the shoulder periods of April/May or September/October, you’ll avoid the crowds.
- Festive season runs from mid-December to early January, so expect a bump in rates and lower vacancy. Book well in advance if you plan to travel at this time.
- During the wet season, which runs from November to April, days are hot and humid, and there’s a high chance of heavy rainfall. Nights are chilly during wet season.
- The wettest months are January, February, and March, when multi-day treks to Machu Picchu are discouraged. In fact, most of the trails are closed for maintenance in February.
- During the winter, the mountains are foggy and Lima is covered in a thick gray fog. However, the coast generally stays dry at this time. Therefore, Peruvian beaches and deserts are good add-on options no matter what time of year you’re taking a luxury trip to Peru.
- The Amazon is hot and humid and experiences showers all year round—giving it a rainy season and a “rainier” season. January and February bring higher water levels and slightly higher temperatures (reaching the mid-90s), but it’s still a great time to visit because the wildlife is very active.
Where to travel to in Peru
With 15 vast nature reserves, 12 incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 14 national parks encompassing everything from one of the deepest canyons on the planet (Colca) to the highest navigable lake in the world (Lake Titicaca), there’s more Peru than can be squeezed into a single trip. These are the cities and regions that popularly feature on itineraries.
Machu Picchu is a must-see for most travelers on a luxury trip to Peru. Built almost 8,000 feet above sea level back in the 15th century, this obscured city’s existence almost defies belief. Adding to its wonder is its isolation. Cradled by mountains and bisected by the Urubamba River, Aguas Calientes—Machu Picchu’s touristic stopover—is reached exclusively by train. From here, a winding road carves up the mountains to reach Machu Picchu. Of course, if you’re up for a multi-night trek, you can arrive on foot via the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek.
Cusco & the Sacred Valley
Lose yourself in the beating heart of Peru in the UNESCO-designated city of Cusco. For the Incas, this was the center of the world. Today, the high-altitude city boasts a whole host of Spanish and pre-Columbian landmarks and is known as the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This valley is home to an incredible wealth of archaeological sites, including Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Tipon, Pisac, Maras, and Moray.
Lima features on most Peru luxury trips, but sometimes travelers rush through—which we think is a mistake. Linger a while in Lima to gaze upon the impressive historical buildings around the Plaza Mayor, peruse the impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts at the Larco Herrera Museum, dine at one of the world’s most vibrant restaurant scenes, and party late into the evening in Miraflores.
Head to Iquitos to hop on a luxurious cruise or make a beeline for Puerto Maldonado to explore Tambopata National Reserve. The Peruvian Amazon, the fourth largest rainforest in the world, is home to more than 180 reptile, 262 amphibian, 293 mammal, 697 fish, 806 bird, and 2,500 butterfly species. On a boat safari or jungle hike, you might stumble upon rainbow-colored macaws, monkeys, otters, elusive jaguars, and tapirs. There are opportunities to participate in citizen-assisted research and sustainable, community-rooted travel. Lodgings include stylish (and airconditioned) riverboats and rustic-luxe, land-based eco-lodges.
Lace-up your hiking boots to explore Colca—one of the world’s deepest canyons. In fact, the canyon is so steep in certain sections that you can not see the bottom of the valley. Colca’s higher rims are adorned with some of the finest examples of pre-Inca terracing in Peru. Immerse yourself in a world of towering mountains, emerald valleys, traditional villages, herds of llamas, and colorfuly attired locals.
Lake Titicaca—the highest navigable lake in the world—is known for its unique man-made floating islands. The Uros people started constructing Islas Uros homes from totora reeds centuries ago when they were retreating from the Incas. Each island takes around two months of communal work to build and lasts around 12 to 15 years. Visit the Temple of Pachamama (Mother Earth) on the basket-weavers’ island of Amantani, or watch traditional weavers spin fine alpaca wool on the island of Taquile.
Sitting at the foot of the ice-capped El Misti volcano, Arequipa is adorned with some of Peru’s finest colonial churches and mansions—many of which were built using white volcanic sillar cut from the surrounding mountains. Go for a stroll around Monasterio de Santa Catalina, which dates back to the late 16th century, stopping off to sample city’s famous cuy chactado (fried guinea pig served with toasted maize, chilis, and black Andean mint) and catch a performance by the folk musicians who wander from peña to peña.
Some of our favorite Peru itineraries
Cruise the Amazon and explore the wonders of Machu Picchu and Cusco
Lima, The Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu Pueblo and Cusco
Discover the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and Cusco