The Land of the Inca

Most famous perhaps for the Inca wonder of Machu Picchu, Peru boasts incredible beaches, some of the world's most innovative culinary experiences, and adventures ranging from the Amazon region to Lake Titicaca to incredible Colonial history. Most visitors fly into Lima (LIM), the bustling capital city, and head straight to Miraflores, the beach town just to the south. With incredible ceviche and causas, amazing sea views and unique shopping, Lima is well worth a few days to explore. Award flights are often easy to find from Lima to Cusco (CUZ), the incredible Colonial town high in the Andes, and the jumping off point for the Inca Trail. Stay in Cusco for a few days to get used to the altitude (over 11,000 feet or 3400 meters!), and then head to Machu Picchu. If you are lucky enough to have a trekking permit (obtained 6 months in advance), you can enjoy the spectacular 5 day hike through Incan paths high in the Andes. Or take the train a few hours to Aguascalientes and stay for a night or two to take day trips up the hill to the ruins.

  • Finding award flights to Peru

    Most international flights to Peru will land at Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM), which is well served by many large carriers. Airlines of interest to award travelers include American, United, Delta, jetBlue, and LATAM.

    Some interesting routes into LIM for award travel include: Redeeming jetBlue Airways true blue points via Fort Lauderdale, particularly if you live in a city served by jetBlue and/or routing via Florida makes sense for you. We have seen fares from the US as low as 23,300 points one-way to Lima.

    Using United MileagePlus miles, one-way award seats to Lima from the US can be found for as little as 20,000 miles in economy or 35,000 in business.

    Finally, a great use of AAdvantage Miles is via their partnership with LATAM, where you can book economy awards for 20,000 AA miles or business class awards for 30,000.

  • Finding award flights within Peru

    You might be surprised, but really the art of optimizing miles and points involves knowing when NOT to use them, and instead use cash. (Domestic US flights are often an example). While AwardSecrets are huge fans of award travel, domestic Peruvian flights are great occasion to actually use cash. There are many low-cost carriers operating internal Peruvian flights, including Viva Air and Peruvian Airlines. Additionally, Avianca operates numerous domestic flights. Using any of these carriers, domestic flights (LIM to CUZ for example) can be found for often under USD $50. While distances are short (flights are often less than 1 hour), the mountainous terrain of Peru makes air travel much more comfortable than busses.

    Once your travels around Peru are done, great award flights can be found FROM Lima to other parts of South America such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil or Argentina using AA miles via their Latin American partners. For example, Economy class can be found from Lima to Brazil for 10,000 AA miles or 20,000 for business class awards.

  • Finding Hotel award rooms in Peru

    The major sites in Peru such as Lima, Miraflores, Cusco and others have significant tourist infrastructure which includes some lovely chain hotel locations. Some of these, particularly in Cusco (the jumping off point for Machu Picchu), are stunning old colonial buildings which can be good award redemptions but quite expensive to book with cash.

    Two excellent examples in Cusco include: The Palacio del Inka which we can find for 35,000 Marriott points or USD $474 per night on some upcoming dates. Another beautiful property is El Convento Cusco, for 35,000 Marriott points or USD $479 per night. Both of these properties can value hotel points at well over USD 1.5 cents per point. On the other hand, there are a plethora of large chain hotels in popular areas of Lima which might be better to pay for with cash. A good example is the new Aloft Miraflores, which has cash rates from USD $120 per night or 25,000 points, which values the points at less than 1/2 of 1 cent.

  • Pro Tips:

    We have 3 tips for Peru.

    Tip #1: Altitude Sickness is no joke. Many travelers to Peru will start in Lima (at sea level) for a few days and then fly to Cusco (at over 11,000 feet or 3,400 meters). When hiking the Inca Trail, the highest point is Dead Woman's Pass at over 13,750 feet or 4,200 meters. Our tip is to acclimatize your body to the altitude of Cusco for several days, rather than diving right in to strenuous physical activity high in the Andes, risking serious injury far from medical care.

    Tip #2: The food. Lima is actually one of the world's leading gastronomic centers (alongside New York, London and Mexico City). We highly recommend spending some extra time in Lima exploring the innovative culinary scene. You'll get to try some of the world's best food, for a fraction of what you'd pay in London or New York.

    Tip #3: Don't show up in Cusco and think you can head out on the Inca Trail. Permits for the 4-5 day hike are tightly controlled by the Peruvian Government to avoid over-tourism, and are sold only 6 months in advance. We recommend planning an Inca Trail hike well in advance. If you do find yourself in Peru at the last minute you can still take the 2-day Short Inca Trail or the 1-day Salkantay Trek with very little notice.