Solo Female Travel in Peru – Lima, Machu Picchu, and Nazca

From coastal cities to tropical mountain forests, Peru is home to wonders of the world like Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, and standout natural landscapes. One Planet Journey’s solo female travel specialist, Valentina Pucciano, takes you on a grand tour of Peru, the land of the Incas.

When in doubt about how to spend my time, I always found travelling to be the answer. Two years of forced confinement due to the pandemic turned me into a lion in a cage.

At last, in October 2022, I embarked on a journey of exploration and internal fulfilment. The adventure confirmed, even more than before, my capacity to take care of myself, my resilience, and ability to adapt to new circumstances. I got to know different lifestyles, and above all, how connections with strangers can turn into unexpected bonds that you will cherish for the rest of your life. “Peru, here I come!”


Planning for Peru as Solo Female Traveller

While searching for the best way to travel around the country, I discovered a private bus tour operator called Peru Hop. The company creates a plan you may choose to follow, or if you wish to stay longer in a location, it’s possible to catch the bus on another day. It came recommended as a safe option for solo female travel in Peru.

Little did I know, this marked the start of life-shaping connections with like-minded individuals.

The entire month of October is a good time to go to avoid the rainy season, and enjoy warm weather with sunny days. Depending on where you visit, temperatures hover between 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 10 during the night.

Man with two alpackas in the Andes mountains.
Working and living in The Andes

Avianca, Colombia’s flag carrier, offers routes from London to Lima via Bogota. My round-trip flight cost £500.

I planned to start the solo journey in Lima, then progress through Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, and finish in Cusco. The most recommended way to reach Cusco is along this route, allowing the body to acclimate to the change in altitude.


Arriving in Lima

As my first ever trip to South America, Peru did not disappoint. The first encounter with a local turned out to be friendly, warm, and effortless. The taxi driver who drove me to the hotel from the Lima airport, a father of two girls, offered me tips on how to avoid unwanted situations, treating me as if I were one of his own children.

I saw a chance to practise my Spanish and asked him what I could do to combat altitude sickness. He suggested motion sickness tablets, the type you use on a plane. However, as I later discovered, it didn’t do the job.

White building on a square with one tower on each side of the main building.
Lima Historic Centre

In 1535, Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish explorer, founded Lima because of its accessibility to the sea. Lima, recognised as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1988, became the primary hub for the economy, society, culture, and politics of the country. It also played a central role in Spain’s colonisation of South America.

Facing the Pacific Ocean, Lima offers standout districts like Miraflores and Barranco. Miraflores, my favourite, is a residential and upscale neighbourhood surrounded by gardens and flowers, living up to its name. Strolling along the El Malecon, a 10km cliff-side path with a view of the Pacific, I could also relax in El Parque del Amor. You can sit either on the grass or on the steps, gazing at the horizon.

For travellers on a budget, Lima is a recommended destination with hotel prices per night starting from $50, including breakfast. I suggest staying in the neighbourhoods of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. 



One pleasure of travelling is, of course, eating fantastic food. As a foodie, I am always on a hunt for the best place to enjoy specific dishes. In Lima, I had the fortune of trying ceviche. It is a dish comprising raw fish marinated in citrus and seasoning, recognised by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage.

“Ceviche perfectly combines sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavours. Like a party in your mouth,” says Gastón Acurio, the Peruvian chef.

Punto Azul is a renowned restaurant in Miraflores and a splendid choice to experience ceviche. It’s worth a bit of waiting if you go for a walk-in, as I did for lunch. Prices vary between $10 and $20, depending on your order.

Corn and fish in a sauce on a plate.
Ceviche at Punto Azul


While sitting down on the sofa in the hotel lobby in Lima, I contemplated alternative ways to go to Paracas in case the bus didn’t show up. However, I must admit, Peru Hop proved to be the most efficient way to travel around the country.

Paracas, a small coastal town, is home to the oldest marine protected area in Peru, the National Reserve. The landscape resembles planet Mars based on the arid sand and rock strata surface. Paracas also serves as an ideal starting point for exploring the Ballestas Islands, often referred to as the “Peruvian Galápagos”. Here, I took a boat trip to admire the islands and enjoy the view of sunbathing sea lions ringed in by Peruvian pelicans. The jumping dolphins made the moment even more special. 



Are you a thrill-seeker? Huacachina welcomes you. Surrounded by sand dunes, Huacachina is a village built around the only natural oasis in South America. It has evolved into a tourist destination accessible to all, despite having a population of no more than 150 residents.

For only $15, you can enjoy sand boarding and a dune buggy ride. The latter behaves like a roller coaster. I named myself the chicken of the group, begging the rider to go slower, while everyone else enjoyed the adrenaline rush.

If you want to take your skiing skills to the next level, sand boarding is your sport.

Experienced individuals can stand on the board, otherwise, the recommendation is to lie down on your belly and slide down the dune. Once again, I could not find the courage to go face down.

“Your friends are still waiting for you,” the guide told me.

Despite having sand inside my clothes and shoes, I had the best time. To experience the activity with my new friends made it even more remarkable.

Sand dunes under a blue sky.
Dunes in Huacachina

Pisco Sour

Pa arriba, pa abajo, pa’l centro, pa dentro! Put your glass up, put your glass down, glass to the center, and now drink!

A well-deserved Pisco Sour tasting awaited me. On our way to see the Nazca lines, we stopped at a small vineyard to try the legendary cocktail. None of us expected the experience to turn into a shot challenge. With pride, I can say that I won it, gaining popularity among the group of visitors enjoying the show. After, my thoughts centred on a satisfying lunch to absorb the alcohol.

What is Pisco?

Pisco is the Peruvian national spirit. Rumours trace its origins back to 1900, when an American moved to Peru for the mining trade and opened a bar. He created the drink as an alternative to the Whiskey Sour. However, several countries claim credit, and the first encounter with the cocktail may have already happened in the 16th century.

Made up of Pisco brandy, lime juice, syrup, egg white, and bitters, I would describe the flavour as a mix of sweet and tart. There are aromatic notes, and a silkiness to it.

A table with a drink, sunglasses, and a menu
Pisco Sour o’clock!


Sobered up and stuffed, the bus reached Nazca, famous for its geoglyphs, marked in the desert soil. Created sometime between 500 BC and 500 AD, and discovered in 1920, the lines still represent a mystery. Some believe they serve a religious purpose, while others suggest supernatural origins.

You can make out flowers and trees, and animals, for example, a bird, monkey, and a spider.

They extend over an area of 500km, constructed by the people of the Nazca culture. UNESCO added the site to its World Heritage List in 1994.

The lines instilled us with a sense of speechless awe, contemplating how ancient civilisations could create such gigantic artwork. To get the best view, either climb the 13-metre observation tower, or enjoy a 20 minute helicopter trip.

Lines forming a picture seen from above.
Nazca lines. What do you see?


The night bus took us to Arequipa, la Ciudad Blanca. Surrounded by three volcanoes, the town is a little gem in Peru, known for its buildings constructed with sillar, a white volcanic rock, responsible for the city’s nickname. Located in the Chili River Valley of the Andes Mountains, Arequipa is situated over 2,300 metre above sea level.

Several churches, the famous Monasterio de Santa Catalina, and a cathedral dating from the Spanish colonial period form part of the area’s architectural heritage.

With its Baroque decoration, vibrant nightlife and the view of the dormant volcano Misti, Arequipa stole my heart. It is an ideal destination for backpackers and mountain lovers that offers adventurous activities like climbing, water rafting, or a more relaxing day shopping near the main square. It also marked my first experience with chewing coca leaves to fight altitude sickness. 

Exterior of White cathedral with spire in the middle.
Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

While strolling the streets under a warm sun, a local woman stopped me to offer a taste of her queso helado. It is a traditional Arequipa delicacy and translates to “frozen cheese”. To my surprise, the flavour didn’t resemble cheese; instead, it made out cinnamon, vanilla and milk. The name refers to cutting the ice cream in a way similar to slicing a piece of cheese.

Wondering what the local cuisine is like?

On the menu, the option for a guinea pig will catch your attention. In Peru, these rodents are a delicacy and a source of protein for many.

I lacked the courage to order this dish, but one of my adventurous friends went for it. While waiting for our meal, we heard the chef chopping. We exchanged glances. “Is he preparing your food?”

When in Peru, you often hear the word cuy. In Quechua, the indigenous native language, cuy means guinea pig, as the name resembles the squeaking of the animal.



Sad to leave Arequipa, we set off towards Puno in southern Peru. It lies on the western shore of Lake Titicaca at 3,800 metres above sea level. I’d recommend taking some medicine for altitude sickness, should you feel unwell.

Puno acts as a commercial and communication centre in the country’s south, and trades in the wool of alpacas and llamas. Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, also doubles as the border between Peru and Bolivia.

We had close contact with the Uros people, believed to be the descendants of the area’s original inhabitants. They preserved a floating lifestyle and seem to welcome tourists to visit their mobile islands. The Uros use layers of water-resisting plants called Totora, reeds used to build both their houses and their traditional boats, utilised for fishing and guiding visitors.

Welcomed by the kids of the village, we explored a little island to understand how these people still live like their ancestors.

The vibrant clothing and materials employed in their garment production captured my attention, adding a splash of colour to the blue backdrop created by the lake.

As the sun set, we began our departure from Puno, heading towards Cusco on another night bus.

Woman sitting outside a thatched house selling crafts.
Native Uro woman at Lake Titicaca, Puno


Despite notable bags under my eyes, and a desire to sleep, my enthusiasm and excitement took over. Arriving in Cusco, I checked into a boutique hotel by the main square, Plaza de Armas, and planned my stay.

Cusco, once the capital of the legendary Inca empire, sits at over 3,000 metre above sea level. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has kept its ancient stone architecture, alongside Spanish-influenced structures.

Peru derives its name from a Quechua word that means “land of abundance,” pointing to the economic richness produced by the successful and well-organised Inca civilisation that ruled the area. The Incas venerated the Sun and the Earth, called Pachamama, in their native tongue. The people living in the Rainbow Mountains still follow the ancient tradition honouring the elements of nature, and only communicate in Quechua.

It turns out to be the most romantic language. Since there is no such thing as a farewell, all the goodbye words convey a notion of meeting or seeing each other again in the future. It doesn’t fear death.

Walking along the streets, you might bump into cute alpacas kept on a leash by their owners. With their friendly and relaxed attitude, they create a fairy tale atmosphere.  


Cusco made me feel like I time travelled, surrounded by colonial-era mansions, cobbled passageways, the majestic Andes towering over it all. Despite the chill vibe, the city offers plenty of entertainment, for example, folkloric shows in Plaza de Armas.

As the saying goes, the best is yet to come. Cusco serves up a variety of hiking activities ranging from day-walks to week-long treks. With only two weeks to explore the country, I opted to visit Machu Picchu by train instead of embarking on the 3-day Inca trail hike.


Machu Picchu

Another dream visit on my journey to see the seven wonders of the world.

Constructed by Emperor Pachacutec in 1440, the city flourished until 1532, when the Spanish invaded the country. It remained hidden until 1911.

I woke up several times during the night, fearing I wouldn’t hear the alarm. In the end, I got out of bed at 3 am for the 3-hour train journey. The tracks cling to the valley river, a mesmerising experience where it’s impossible to let your gaze stray from the window. In a state of calm and bliss, I admired the crystal-clear water weaving through the rocky mosaic.

The trip starts in Ollantaytambo, and I got off in Aguas Calientes, where I took a shuttle to the site. The Machu Picchu visit with local guides and transportation cost around 350 dollars.

Upon entering, a sense of surrealistic wonder overtook me. As I walked through the scene, blessed by the warm sun, the ambience felt charged with spiritual energy. I entered a mode of contemplation, a sort of microcosm for the entire journey, as much self-discovery as travel exploration.


Peru – The Land of Abundance

Peru offers visitors an unrivalled experience, with wild landscapes, adrenaline-filled activities, pleasing food such as dark chocolate and ceviche, compassionate interactions with the locals, and a rich culture.

While travelling in Peru, I recommend testing your limits and stepping outside your comfort zone. Be spontaneous and open to new experiences, even if they seem scary.

I am incredibly grateful for my adventure, which taught me how to hike at high altitude and explore a distant country on my own for the first time. It provided a chance to immerse myself into a different culture and, above all, to bond with other travellers that have become lifelong friends. The richness of these experiences left me thirsting for more solo female travel adventures. Peru is indeed the land of abundance.

Kawsayta Hamuy Rikurisun. See you in the next life.


Have you been to Peru? What impressed you the most? Let us know in the comment section! Subscribe to our newsletter and benefit from travel guides, sustainable tourism and luxury travel tips, insightful interviews, and inspirational places to visit. One Planet Journey – The World’s First Deep Travel Magazine.


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