Ah, Peru… homeland of the Incas, nucleus of the Spanish Empire, and a landscape of incredible diversity. It has a special place in our hearts, as the country where we began our travel career break in South America. But with such an abundance of attractions, it can be hard to decide what to prioritise! This Peru itinerary maps out 4 weeks of travel based on our own experiences, plus alternative options for 1, 2 and 3 weeks. We cover everything you need to know about travel in Peru including transport, accommodation, safety, what to pack and when to visit.
2021 update: we have been in regular contact with accommodation places, tour providers and other tourism organisations in Peru to keep abreast of the latest situation. We’re keeping this guide updated to feature experiences that are still possible to book, and have the necessary safety measures in place.
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In this article:
Peru itinerary: background information
Who is this itinerary for?
Do you like to pack a range of activities into your travels and experience the local culture? If so, then this Peru itinerary is for you! Our full 4-week itinerary includes a blend of city exploration, sightseeing, trekking, food culture and insights into Peruvian history.
Of course, 4 weeks isn’t a fixed amount of time, and you can pick and choose what works for your own trip. We’ve thrown in some extra suggested itineraries for 1 week, 2 weeks and 3 weeks for different travel styles too. So whether you’re here for the history, culture or adventure, you will find a Peru itinerary here that works for you!
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, you may also want to read our guide to trekking in Peru, which includes a compilation of the country’s 35 best trails.
What is the budget for this Peru itinerary?
The accommodation, transport and food we highlight in this itinerary are based on a medium backpacker’s budget. As a general guide, as a couple we spent around $5,000 US dollars during a month in Peru, which included all costs and activities. You can read a complete and detailed breakdown of the costs for our travel in Peru here.
We actually spent quite a bit more in Peru than in other countries on our South America travels, and that was because of activities. Experiences like the Inca Trail and the Amazon jungle are utterly incredible and not to be missed, but they don’t come cheap. The Inca Trail alone accounted for nearly half of our total spending in Peru.
BudgetYourTrip is an excellent free resource for planning your travel spending. It provides travel budget estimates from budget to luxury for anywhere in the world. We’ve used it around the globe and found it to be extremely accurate. For Peru it provides detailed budget guides for each city.
How many days in Peru do I need?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. It depends entirely on what you want to do and your travel style. As a rough guide:
- 1 week: a flying visit to take in a quick bucket list of activities
- 2 weeks: a decent amount of time to explore 3–4 destinations within Peru without rushing too much
- 3–4 weeks: enough time to explore a wide range of Peru’s attractions at a steady pace, with flexibility for rest days and changes of plans
Peru itinerary: 4 weeks
Our itinerary begins in Lima and ends at Lake Titicaca, so it’s perfect for backpackers beginning in Peru and continuing into Bolivia on the ‘gringo trail’. Alternatively, if you are not planning on going anywhere else afterwards, you can fly back to Lima from Inca Manco Cápac International Airport in Juliaca near Puno.
Here’s our 4-week Peru itinerary at-a-glance (read on below for the finer details, including recommendations for accommodation, food and more):
- Days 1–3 | Lima: explore the districts of Miraflores, Barranco and Centro Historico, see the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, and get familiar with traditional Peruvian cuisine
- Days 4 | travel and rest day: flight from Lima to Iquitos
- Days 5–8 | Iquitos and the Amazon: discover Peru’s largest Amazonian city and take a tour into the jungle
- Day 9 | travel and rest day: back to Lima for overnight stop
- Days 10–11 | Huacachina: relax in this desert oasis village, with options for adventure activities (dune buggies, sandboarding)
- Days 12–13 | Nazca: fly over the legendary mysterious Nazca Lines
- Days 14–21 | Cusco and the Inca Trail: discover the capital of the old Inca Empire and take on the bucket-list hike to Machu Picchu
- Day 22 | travel and rest day: journey from Cusco to Arequipa
- Days 23–26 | Arequipa and the Colca Canyon: explore Peru’s White City and trek in the world’s second-deepest canyon
- Days 27–28 | Puno and Lake Titicaca: relax in the lakeside city and visit the floating islands of Uros
Stop 1: Lima – the colourful capital
Day 1: arrive in Lima
Spend a day getting used to the hustle and bustle of the city and check in to your accommodation.
Where to stay in Lima
Miraflores and Barranco are the most popular districts for backpackers to stay in Lima. Miraflores is packed with green parks, nice buildings, shops and bars, while Barranco is more of a laid-back, bohemian neighbourhood with colourful architecture. Check out our article on the best hostels in Lima for budget accommodation, or hop over to booking.com for more options. Alternatively, for your own private space, you can look for an Airbnb in Lima.
We usually stay in Miraflores, and this itinerary works best from there, although both are great. Here are three excellent Airbnbs we found in Miraflores that are ideal for couples or solo travellers:
- Unbeatable location by Parque Kennedy
- Spacious one-bedroom apartment in great location
- Beautiful Miraflores apartment in central location
Days 2–3: Miraflores, Barranco and Centro Historico
Try the boardwalk from Miraflores to Barranco begin your Lima experience. This lovely coastal walk connects the two main tourist areas, and begins with the Parque del Amor.
At lunch, try a menú del día restaurant on the streets of Barranco. Don’t miss the best sights of this colourful neighbourhood, including Puente de los Suspiros, Plaza Chabuca Granda gardens and Iglesia La Ermita.
Back in Miraflores, check out the markets. Mercado Surquillo is a huge food market popular with locals, while Miraflores Indian Market is where you can find arts, crafts and souvenirs. Hang out on Parque Kennedy and watch street performers. If you’re a food lover, it’s also well worth squeezing the popular Miraflores Trending Flavours walking tour into your itinerary.
At night, try a tour of Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, a restored 1,600-year-old adobe pyramid. You can visit during the daytime too, but it’s extra special after dark.
For dinner: our two favourite restaurants in Miraflores are Punto Azul and El Rincón de Bigote. These are both reasonably priced and top places to try the national dish ceviche, which consists of raw fish marinated in citrus and spices.
A short bus ride will take you from Miraflores/Barranco to the city’s historic centre. Here you can see fabulous Spanish colonial buildings such as Iglesia San Sebastián and Iglesia de Santa Rosa. The Plaza de Armas is one of the icons of the city and is a good pivot point for a walking tour. You can take a guided tour and be shown the highlights with narration from a local expert.
Walk out to the riverfront to see the colourful hill of Cerro San Cristóbal, before heading south of the main square to Plaza Grau and Parque de los Museos. This is where you can find some of Lima’s greatest museums, including MALI, the museum of art. A little further out you can see a stunning illuminated water show every evening at El Circuito Mágico del Agua.
Up for some adventure in Lima? Then you could consider checking out the surfing scene in Lima during your stay. Read our complete Lima surf guide to find out the best spots, seasons and how to book an experience.
Stop 2: Iquitos – the Peruvian Amazon
Days 4: fly to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon
The flight from Lima to Iquitos takes around two hours. You are transported back in time to the tuk-tuk-dominated city of Iquitos, which can only be accessed by boat or air. Once a major centre for the rubber trade, it is the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon.
Where to stay in Iquitos
In Iquitos it’s best to stay as close as possible to the city centre, ideally not more than 20 minutes’ walk from Plaza de Armas. You can find good accommodation from budget hostels to luxury hotels. But as you’re in the middle of the jungle, be prepared for slow wifi and unreliable hot water supplies! For budget options see our guide to the best hostels in Iquitos, or alternatively check out booking.com. or find an Airbnb in Iquitos.
Days 5–8: Amazon jungle tour / explore the city
No visit to Iquitos is complete without taking a tour into the Amazon rainforest. We took a 2 day / 1 night tour, which fits neatly into this itinerary, but if you have more time and want to stick around longer there are extended tours available. Alternatively, you can take a day tour into the Amazon or a wonderful wildlife 6-hour tour.
For multi-night jungle tours, check first if your accommodation offers them. We booked ours this way and it worked out great. Be sure to check reviews of the tour company though. If you can’t book through your accommodation, there are tons of agencies in the city centre you can try. Booking in advance isn’t necessary, there are always spaces available.
Take a couple of days either side of your jungle tour to explore the delights of Iquitos. Don’t miss Belén Market, a huge and sprawling local market that floats on the river when high. Morning is the safest time to visit and the the best time to see the market at its most chaotic.
For a slice of Iquitos and Amazonian history, drop into the Ayapua Boat Museum and the Museum of Indigenous Amazon Cultures. These are both located along the main riverfront boulevard, Malecón Tarapaca. While you’re here, enjoy the views with a coffee at Dawn at the Amazon, and come back in the evening for a drink and a dance in the city’s liveliest bars, Arandú Bar and Musmuqui.
Have lunch in the upstairs restaurant at Casa de Fierro, the ‘Iron House of Iquitos’. Legend has it this building was designed by none other than Gustavo Eiffel. Whether or not that’s true, it’s a cool building and has nice views over the main square, Plaza de Armas. This is also a great spot to wander around on foot and enjoy the city streetscapes.
Take half a day to pay a visit to the Manatee Rescue Center out of town. Manatees are large and docile water-dwelling mammals and sadly endangered, and this place looks after them. You can learn about them, meet them and feed them.
For dinner: treat yourself to a meal at the floating restaurant of Al Frio y Al Fuego. You need to take a short ferry ride to reach it, which is all part of the experience! Try the juane, which is a traditional Amazonian dish of chicken, rice and olives boiled in a bijao leaf.
Day 9: fly to Lima with possible overnight stop
Depending on the time of your flight, or how you like to travel, it is possible to fly from Iquitos to Lima and head straight on to Huacachina by bus in a day. We preferred to take it slow, enjoy another night in Lima and then head on the next morning.
Stop 3: Huacachina – the desert oasis
Days 10–11: get active on the sand dunes in Huacachina, or just relax
Catch an early morning bus from Lima to Ica (about four hours) and then take a taxi to the desert oasis of Huacachina. If you arrive in time, take a walk to the top of the sand dunes to see one of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever witness. Schlepping up the sand is a lot more effort than it looks, but totally worth it!
For an injection of adrenaline, you can take a late afternoon white-knuckle dune buggy ride. These usually run from around 4pm to 6pm and culminate in a desert sunset view. In the daytime, try your hand at sandboarding – this is one of the best places in the world to do it. Or, of course, you could just relax by the pool or take a leisurely boat ride on the village lagoon.
Where to stay in Huacachina
We highly recommend staying at Desert Nights Ecocamp in Huacachina. This is camping at its poshest. Tents are kitted out with double beds and power sockets, and the on-site pool has a swim-up bar serving craft beer and cocktails. For more options, see the Ica section on booking.com, or you can choose from some really cool Airbnb stays in Huacachina.
Stop 4: Nazca – home of the Nazca Lines
Days 12–13: fly over the legendary Nazca Lines and explore the city
Nazca is just a couple of hours’ bus ride on from Huacachina (via Ica). The city is most famous for the ancient geoglyphs carved into the nearby desert. The figures of animals, birds, humans and geometrical shapes have mystified scientists and archaeologists for decades since their discovery. From Nazca, it’s possible to take a flight over the famous lines and see them up-close. Check out our guide to flying over the Nazca Lines for everything you need to know.
While Nazca isn’t the most exciting of cities, there’s still plenty to see for a few hours before you take a night bus on to Cusco. Archaeology enthusiasts in particular will enjoy Museo Arqueológico Antonini (the archaeological museum). There are also various day tours possible in the region, such as the Cahuachi Pyramids, Cantalloc Aqueducts and Chauchilla Cemetery.
Where to stay in Nazca
We stayed at Nanasqa Hostel for our two nights in Nazca. A budget option, this was one of the cheapest hostels we visited in Peru, but it covered everything we needed for our stay. It’s a 15-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas and has good facilities, as well as offering a range of tours around the area. Breakfast is available for an extra cost. For more places to stay, see the Nazca section of booking.com or find an Airbnb in Nazca.
Stop 5: Cusco, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
Where to stay in Cusco
We stayed in the beautiful San Blas district of Cusco before our Inca Trail tour. Just a short walk up the hill from Plaza de Armas, it’s a historic district characterised by narrow, cobbled alleys, lively markets and colonial buildings. Its elevated position also gives a spectacular view over the city, especially at night.
We’ve compiled the best hostels in Cusco to help you choose from the best budget accommodation options in the city. For a wider range of accommodation, see the Cusco section of booking.com or find a private space from the many options for Airbnbs in Cusco.
Days 14 and 15: arrive and acclimatise in Cusco
Cusco is 3,399m above sea level so it’s a best to arrive at least a couple of days before you take on any hiking. A day of general wandering around and relaxing is highly recommended. Don’t do anything too strenuous in the first 24 hours, and drink plenty of water.
There is a lot to do and see around the city, including various Inca ruin sites and museums. It’s a super photogenic city; head to the cobbled streets of the San Blas neighbourhood for some of the best views. The Plaza de Armas is the main square, where you can find iconic buildings like Cusco Cathedral and Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, plus it’s a short walk to Museo Inka, the Coricancha ruins and the famous twelve-angled stone.
Walk up the hill to the north-west of Cusco’s historic centre and you will reach Cristo Blanco, the 8-metre-tall statue of Christ that looks over the city. There’s a superb view from up here, and nearby you can visit the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, one of the most important fortresses of the Inca Empire.
Tip: for a slice of Cusco city life and a cheap lunch, head to San Pedro Market at midday. You can buy classic Peruvian dishes from various street-food style stalls at very low prices.
Day 16: visit the Sacred Valley
An hour’s drive from Cusco is the Sacred Valley, the heart of the Inca Empire. With Inca ruins to explore, stunning landscapes to see and welcoming local villages to visit, it’s an excellent getaway from the city.
Our visit to the Sacred Valley was included in our Inca Trail package (see below), but it’s also possible to book a full-day tour from Cusco.
Days 17–20: hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu
Now it’s time for the big bucket-lister. There are few experiences in life you will treasure more than the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. One of the seven modern wonders of the world, it needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, and there’s no way more rewarding than the famous four-day trek. We did it with G Adventures; check out our review of the tour and why we think it’s the best way to do it.
Booking the Inca Trail in advance is essential. It’s also a challenging hike and requires preparation. Read our guide to Inca Trail preparation for all you need to know, as well as our complete packing list for everything you need to take.
One final thing on the Inca trail: most tour companies require you to have travel insurance (they literally won’t allow you on the trail without it). See our section on travel insurance below for our recommendations.
Day 21: rest day in Cusco
After completing the Inca Trail you will need to rest your muscles. It’s also a good opportunity to try some of the local restaurants and bars. Drop into Sumaqcha for some great Peruvian food in a cosy family restaurant, and have a relaxing beer on the balcony of Norton Rat’s Tavern overlooking Plaza de Armas.
Day 22: explore Cusco, overnight bus to Arequipa
Take a final opportunity to enjoy Cusco and tick any final activities off your list before moving on to the next destination. If you have the stomach for an early start (we’re talking 2–3am), one excellent option is to take a day trip to Rainbow Mountain, Peru’s famous multi-coloured peak. Once you’re done, it’s time to hop onto a night bus to Arequipa.
Stop 6: Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Day 23: arrive in Arequipa and explore
If you arrive early in Arequipa the chances are you won’t be able to check into your accommodation until the afternoon. Grab a breakfast in one of the terrace bars on the Plaza de Armas, or get to know the city with a tour of the landmarks and countryside.
Arequipa is known as the ‘White City’ as many of its buildings are constructed from a pale, volcanic stone. If you want to explore self-guided, check out the city-within-a-city at the Monastery of Santa Catalina, and the quaint old neighbourhood of San Lázaro. Also head across the river to the Yanahuara district for one of the best views of the towering Misti Volcano.
Tip: for a cheap lunch, find the upstairs section in the bustling local market of San Camilo. There are various food stalls here offering great deals at lunch. Try pork adobo, a classic regional dish.
Where to stay in Arequipa
Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and a popular stop-off for backpackers, and so it is well equipped with a range of accommodation options. We compile some of the budget options in our guide to the best hostels in Arequipa. For alternative options all the way up to swanky hotels, check out the Arequipa section on booking.com. If you would prefer a completely private space, check out the options for Airbnbs in Arequipa.
Days 24–25: Colca Canyon trek
The Colca Canyon is the world’s second-deepest canyon, and is twice the depth of its more famous counterpart, the Grand Canyon in the US. We took a two-day trekking tour, which included a stop to see majestic Andean condors in flight, and a dip in some thermal springs when the hike was complete.
Our trek wasn’t without its downsides. Read about our experience and our essential tips for booking and preparation here. While we saw some of the best scenery of our travels, it was a very tough trek. It’s important to be aware of the challenges before deciding on the best way to see the Colca Canyon. A reliable option is to book with GetYourGuide, who work with the most reputable local tour companies, and offer free cancellation with all tours.
Day 26: rest day in Arequipa
Just as with the Inca Trail, you will want to take at least a day to rest after completing a Colca Canyon trek. If there’s anything else you want to do while you’re in the city, check out our article on 20 things to do in Arequipa for ideas.
For dinner: try out Mirador Misti, a concealed rooftop restaurant behind the Basilica Cathedral. This is also a great spot to simply relax with a drink in the afternoon and enjoy the city views.
Stop 7: Puno and Lake Titicaca
Days 27–28: explore Puno and visit Islas Uros
The bus journey from Arequipa to Puno is a weighty one of six and a half hours, which will account for most of the day. If you take an early bus, you’ll arrive in Puno in good time to enjoy the sunset on Lake Titicaca.
With a full day there is plenty of time to explore the side streets of this little lakeside town. Finish off with a walk around Lake Titicaca and some fresh seafood at one of the lakefront stalls.
Alternatively, you can take a trip out to Islas Uros. These floating islands are a real highlight of Lake Titicaca, constructed entirely of reeds from the lake. On a full-day tour you can meet the Uros people and learn how they use the reeds to build their homes and boats.
Where to stay in Puno
In Puno we stayed at Cozy Hostel, which was excellent value for money. For the amount we paid we were really impressed with the facilities and services provided, in particular the awesome breakfast buffet. It had a really nice social vibe too, with a comfy furnished communal area.
Travel on to Copacabana or back to Lima
Finish your 4 weeks in Peru by either heading back to Lima for a return flight, or by taking a bus across the border into Bolivia.
Peru itinerary: 1 week
One week in Peru is a limited amount of time, so your itinerary should be very focused. We’ve put together three alternatives to suit different kinds of travellers.
Route 1: Lima + Cusco + Puno
This Peru travel itinerary focuses on Peru’s classic landmarks of Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. It starts in Lima and ends in Puno.
- Days 1–2 | explore Lima: spend two days exploring the highlights of Peru’s bustling capital. Use our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas. Take an evening flight to Cusco on the second day.
- Days 3–5 | Cusco and Machu Picchu: spend the first day in Cusco acclimatising to the altitude and do some sightseeing at a slow pace. On the second day, take a day trip to Machu Picchu. You can book your entry ticket in advance (and add entry to the mountain for an extra fee if you like). For transport, you can make your own arrangements from Cusco or book a round-trip expedition train beforehand. The next day, either explore more of the city or take another day trip from Cusco. We recommend Rainbow Mountain or Moray and Maras.
- Days 6–7 | Puno and Lake Titicaca: if your budget allows and it fits with your travel dates, take the PeruRail Titicaca train from Cusco to Puno. This is one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys and only departs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Otherwise, take a morning flight to Juliaca and a taxi on to Puno. Relax in the evening with some fresh fish from the lake. On your final day, take a tour to the islands of Uros.
Route 2: Lima + Cusco + Arequipa
This Peru travel itinerary focuses on the wonder of Machu Picchu and the spectacular Colca Canyon. It starts in Lima and ends in Arequipa.
- Day 1 | explore Lima: spend two days exploring the highlights of Peru’s bustling capital. See our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas. Take an evening flight to Cusco on the second day.
- Days 2–4 | Cusco and Machu Picchu: acclimatise to the altitude and take it easy while exploring the city. On the second day, take a day trip to Machu Picchu. You can book your entry ticket in advance (and add entry to the mountain for an extra fee if you like). For transport, you can make your own arrangements from Cusco or book a round-trip expedition train beforehand. The next day, either explore more of the city or take another day trip from Cusco. We recommend Rainbow Mountain or Moray and Maras.
- Days 5–7 | Arequipa and the Colca Canyon: take a morning flight to Arequipa (or an overnight bus at the end of day 4 if you’re on a budget) and spend a day exploring Arequipa’s landmarks around Plaza de Armas. For activity ideas, read our post on 20 things to do in Arequipa. On the final two days, take an overnight trek into the Colca Canyon (you can book via a tour company in the city or through your accommodation). Alternatively, you can take an overnight Colca Canyon tour that doesn’t involve any trekking.
Route 3: jungle + ocean + desert
This Peru travel itinerary focuses on some of the extremes Peru’s wondrous natural scenery. It starts in Lima and ends in Nazca. The bus from Nazca back to Lima takes around six hours.
- Day 1 | half day in Lima + flight to Iquitos: spend the morning/midday in Lima before taking an afternoon/evening flight to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon. Either explore the Centro Historico at your own pace, or take a tour such as a street food experience or guided Lima city tour.
- Days 2–3 | Iquitos Amazon tour: take a two-day, one-night tour in the Amazon jungle. Check with your Iquitos accommodation in advance whether they can arrange this for you or recommend a tour company. Alternatively, spend a day in Iquitos and take a full-day guided Amazon River tour.
- Day 4 | return to Lima + explore: take a morning flight back to Lima and enjoy the rest of the day in the city at your own pace.
- Days 5–6 | Huacachina and Paracas: relax in the desert oasis village of Huacachina and visit the Paracas National Reserve, a beautiful protected coastal area of marine ecosystems and archaeological sites. Either stay in Paracas and take a day trip to Huacachina and the Ballestas Islands, or do the reverse and stay in the desert village and take a day tour to the reserve. Take an evening bus on to Nazca on the second day (2 hours from Ica/Huacachina, 4 hours from Paracas).
- Day 7 | Nazca Lines flight: fly over the legendary mysterious Nazca Lines in the desert. Check out our complete guide to taking Nazca Lines flights for details.
Peru itinerary: 2 weeks
Two weeks in Peru gives you a little more flexibility to see more of the country’s attractions or take on a big activity like the Inca Trail. These are our suggested travel routes:
Route 1: Lima + Inca Trail
This itinerary option puts the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu at centre stage. It starts and ends in Lima.
- Days 1–2 | explore Lima: get to know Lima’s capital city. See our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas.
- Days 3–4 | arrive and acclimatise in Cusco: take a morning flight to Cusco or an overnight bus if you’re on a budget. Take it easy for a couple of days as you get used to the altitude. Check out our article on 30 things to do in Cusco for activities.
- Days 5–11 | the Inca Trail: this world-famous hike takes four days, but we recommend the 7-day Inca Trail package with G Adventures – and here’s why.
- Day 12 | rest day in Cusco: give your weary legs a bit of respite and hang out around the Plaza de Armas for a drink and some delicious Peruvian food.
- Days 13–14 | Lima + day trips: return to the capital city to finish your exploration. If you’re still feeling frisky, consider taking a day trip. In a full day tour from Lima you can experience Paracas, Ica and Huacachina.
Route 2: Peru highlights
This itinerary hops quickly through some of Peru’s greatest attractions, including Machu Picchu, the Amazon jungle, the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca. It starts in Lima and ends in Puno.
- Days 1–2 | explore Lima: spend two days exploring the highlights of Peru’s bustling capital. Use our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas. Take an evening flight to Cusco on the second day.
- Days 3–5 | Cusco and Machu Picchu: acclimatise to the altitude and explore the city at your own pace. On the second day, take a day trip to Machu Picchu. You can book your entry ticket in advance (and add entry to the mountain for an extra fee if you like). For transport, you can make your own arrangements from Cusco or book a round-trip expedition train beforehand. The next day, either explore more of the city or take another day trip from Cusco. We recommend Rainbow Mountain or Moray and Maras.
- Days 6–9 | Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour: take a flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon jungle (flights are one hour and cheap if booked in advance). Book onto a three-day jungle tour – Puerto Maldonado Tours is one of the best operators. Alternatively, if you prefer not to stay overnight in the jungle, you can take Amazon day trips from Puerto Maldonado. Fly back to Cusco.
- Days 10–12 | Arequipa and the Colca Canyon: take a morning flight to Arequipa (or an overnight bus at the end of day 9 if you’re on a budget) and spend a day exploring Peru’s White City. Check out our article on things to do in Arequipa for ideas. On the final two days, take an overnight trek into the Colca Canyon (you can book via a tour company in the city or through your accommodation). Alternatively, you can take an overnight Colca Canyon tour that doesn’t involve any trekking.
- Days 13–14 | Puno and Lake Titicaca: the journey from Arequipa to Puno takes about five hours by road. When you arrive, it’s time to relax in this beautiful high-altitude lakeside town and take a day trip to the islands of Uros.
Route 3: Lima + jungle + Paracas + desert + Cusco
This itinerary combines trips to Peru’s two most popular cities, Lima and Cusco, with excursions into the Amazon jungle, Paracas National Reserve, Nazca desert and Machu Picchu. It starts in Lima and ends in Cusco.
- Days 1–2 | explore Lima: spend two days exploring the highlights of Peru’s bustling capital. Use our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas. Take an afternoon/evening flight to Iquitos on the second day.
- Days 3–6 | Iquitos and the Amazon: take a two-day, one-night tour in the Amazon jungle. Check with your Iquitos accommodation in advance whether they can arrange this for you or recommend a tour company. Either side of your tour, explore Iquitos at your own pace See our Iquitos travel guide for the best things to do. Fly back to Lima on the final afternoon/evening.
- Day 7–8 | Paracas National Reserve: take an early morning bus from Lima to the bayside town of El Chaco, Paracas, and enjoy two days exploring the beautiful national reserve. You can book a scenic boat tour to the Ballestas Islands or combine it with a full-day trip into Paracas National Reserve.
- Day 9 | Huacachina: make a stop-off in the desert oasis village of Huacachina for 24 hours. Get the adrenaline pumping with a dune buggy tour or sandboarding, or just relax by the pool at Desert Nights Ecocamp.
- Day 10 | Nazca Lines: take a flight over the enigmatic Nazca Lines. See our complete guide to the Nazca Lines for details.
- Day 11 | rest day and overnight bus to Cusco: the bus journey from Nazca to Cusco is a long one of 14–15 hours and needs to be done overnight. Get plenty of rest in Nazca before you set off.
- Days 12–14 | Cusco and Machu Picchu: acclimatise to the altitude and take it easy for a day, exploring at your own pace. On the second day, take a day trip to Machu Picchu. You can book your entry ticket in advance (and add entry to the mountain for an extra fee if you like). For transport, you can make your own arrangements from Cusco or book a round-trip expedition train beforehand. The next day, either explore more of the city or take another day trip from Cusco. We recommend Rainbow Mountain or Moray and Maras.
Peru itinerary: 3 weeks
Three weeks in Peru gives you a lot more wriggle room to travel slowly and spend more time absorbing the culture in each place you visit.
Route 1: the classic
This itinerary follows the classic ‘gringo trail’ through Peru’s most popular tourist hotspots, with a trip up to the Amazon along the way. If you want to hike the Inca Trail, you could cut out the Colca Canyon to make the extra time needed (if you’re new to trekking it’s not a good idea to attempt both treks in a short space of time).
- Days 1–3 | explore Lima: take time to explore the capital city at a relaxed pace over three days. Use our 2-day Lima itinerary for activity ideas. Take an afternoon/evening flight to Iquitos on the second day.
- Days 4–8 | Iquitos and the Amazon: take a two-night or three-night tour in the Amazon jungle. Check with your Iquitos accommodation in advance whether they can arrange this for you or recommend a tour company. Either side of your tour, explore Iquitos at your own pace. See our Iquitos travel guide for the best things to do. Fly back to Lima on the final afternoon/evening.
- Days 9–10 | Huacachina: spend a couple of days in the desert oasis village relaxing, with the option of trying out some adrenaline activities such as dune buggies and sandboarding. See our Huacachina travel guide for more things to do. Take a bus on to Nazca on the final afternoon/evening.
- Day 11 | Nazca Lines and night bus to Cusco: rise early and take a morning flight over the Nazca Lines. Then get rested and board a night bus for the journey up to Cusco.
- Days 12–15 | Cusco and Machu Picchu: take time to explore Cusco steadily as you get accustomed to the altitude. When you’re ready, take a day trip to Machu Picchu. You can book your entry ticket in advance (and add entry to the mountain for an extra fee if you like). For transport, you can make your own arrangements from Cusco or book a round-trip expedition train beforehand. The next day, either explore more of the city or take another day trip from Cusco. We recommend Rainbow Mountain or Moray and Maras.
- Days 16–19 | Arequipa and the Colca Canyon: take a morning flight to Arequipa (or an overnight bus at the end of day 15 if you’re on a budget) and take your time exploring the centre of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check out our article on things to do in Arequipa for ideas. While you’re in town, take an two-day trek into the Colca Canyon (you can book via a tour company in the city or through your accommodation). Alternatively, you can take an overnight Colca Canyon tour that doesn’t involve any trekking.
- Days 20–21 | Puno and Lake Titicaca: the final leg of this journey is from Arequipa to Puno, and takes about five hours by road. When you arrive, kick back and relax by Lake Titicaca, enjoy the local food and take a day trip to the islands of Uros.
Route 2: the trekker
This itinerary is especially geared towards hiking enthusiasts. It begins with a warm-up day hike from Lima, before tackling two of the world’s greatest multi-day trails: the Santa Cruz Trek and the Inca Trail, finishing up with a Colca Canyon trek. It starts in Lima and ends in Arequipa.
- Day 1 | explore Lima: begin your trip with some general sightseeing around Lima’s historic centre.
- Day 2 | day hike near Lima: take a trip out of the city for a day’s hiking. Three good options for day hikes near Lima are Lomas de Lúcumo, Lomas de Lachay and Palakala Falls. See our Peru trekking guide for details. For something a little different, you could also consider a surf safari – check out our Lima surf guide.
- Days 3–4 | transport to Huaraz and acclimatise: travel from Lima to the city of Huaraz, a base for trekking in one of Peru’s most stunning mountainous regions, the Cordillera Blanca. Flights do not always operate, so you may need to get a bus, which takes 6–8 hours. Once you arrive, spend a day acclimatising, as the city is higher than 3,000 metres above sea level.
- Days 5–8 | Santa Cruz Trek: undertake one of the world’s classic multi-day hiking trails, winding through Huascarán National Park and the Cordillera Blanca. You can do this trek independently or with a guide, but only go solo if you’re experienced as it’s a tough route that reaches 4,760 metres altitude.
- Days 9–10 | rest and travel to Cusco: take a day or two to relax after the trek and make your way back to Lima at your own pace. You can then travel on up to Cusco by bus or flight.
- Day 11 | explore Cusco: your body should be pretty used to the altitude by now. Take a free day to see the sights of Cusco city. Read our post on things to do in Cusco for ideas.
- Days 12–18 | the Inca Trail: hike the legendary route to Machu Picchu. We recommend the 7-day Inca Trail package with G Adventures. You can read about our experience and tips here.
- Days 19–21 | Arequipa and the Colca Canyon: take a transit day for the journey from Cusco to Arequipa while resting off as much as you can, before a final two-day trek in the stunning Colca Canyon.
Peru itinerary package tours
If organising an itinerary and making all your own arrangements from scratch doesn’t appeal, you have the option to book onto a package tour of Peru.
This is a more expensive option of course, but for a once-in-a-lifetime trip there are big advantages to having the stress of organisation removed. Package tours in small groups are also great for meeting people and sharing the experience with new friends.
G Adventures runs a whole range of excellent small group tours of Peru. If you haven’t already, check out our account of our unforgettable Inca Trail experience with them.
Here are some of the most popular G Adventures Peru packages. Some include a 21% discount when booking for selected dates in 2022 – check the pages for details:
- Absolute Peru (21 days) – covering the classic highlights such as the Inca Trail, Colca Canyon, Lima, Paracas, Puno and more
- Inca Empire (15 days) – from La Paz (Bolivia) to Lima, via Lake Titicaca and Cusco for the Inca Trail
- Peru and Bolivia – Machu Picchu to the Salt Flats (16 days) – the classics of Peru and Bolivia including the Inca Trail and a Salar de Uyuni tour
- Amazon to the Andes (9 days) – Cusco, the Inca Trail and Amazon exploration from Puerto Maldonado
- Amazon riverboat adventure in depth (9 days) – extensive Amazonian experience from the base of Pacaya Samiria National Reserve near Iquitos
- Peru Multisport (15 days) – exploring the country’s highlights through a mixture of hiking, biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting and more
For more of our top picks, see our guide to small group tours in Peru.
Peru travel guide and tips
The information in this Peru travel guide covers all the basics you need to know for planning a trip. If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact us.
Best times to visit Peru
Peru is a country of great geographical diversity and the climate varies depending on the local conditions. The country is located entirely inside the tropical region, and so there is a wet season and a dry season. Temperatures do not differ drastically throughout the year.
The dry season, Peru’s winter, runs from May to September. Although it’s a little colder this is a good time to visit, especially for trekking, as you can expect a lot less rain.
We spent our month in Peru in June/July, at the high point of the dry season. The weather worked out perfectly for the range of activities we did throughout the country, including exploring the main cities, touring in the Amazon jungle and hiking the Inca Trail.
In April/May and September/October, at the beginning and end of the dry season, there are fewer tourists around. This makes it a good option if you want to avoid the crowds, but the weather is more volatile.
Getting around Peru
Travelling by bus is our favourite way to get around Peru. In general the services are high-quality and comfortable. It’s also the cheapest way to travel between major destinations, and on overnight buses you get the bonus of saving a night’s accommodation costs.
Several bus companies operate in Peru and there are usually multiple daily departures between the main cities and tourist destinations. Busbud is a great service for finding routes and comparing the best prices.
Our preferred bus company in Peru is Cruz Del Sur. We use them for all of our overnight journeys. Their buses are comfortable, equipped with an entertainment system and you are provided with blankets, pillows and food.
When booking buses you will often see different price options for varying standards of comfort. ‘Semi-cama’ usually features partially reclining seats, which we found to be fine for sleeping. ‘Cama’ is a premium option with fully reclining seats. If you don’t see these terms, then check the fine print to see the kind of seating you are booking.
An alternative option for travelling by bus is Peru Hop, which gives you an open ticket for multiple stops. It costs a bit more, but it’s well worth it if you want to maintain some flexibility in your schedule. You can also book tours through them, and they provide a hassle-free border crossing into Bolivia (we used this and it made the process completely straightforward).
Peru’s major cities and tourist destinations are well connected by air, and services are reasonably priced if booked in advance. Flying will save time and hassle if you’re not on the tightest of budgets. Some destinations in the Peruvian Amazon, such as Iquitos, can only be reached by flight.
Several airlines operate in Peru. We used StarPeru for our trip to the Amazon, which is the country’s main budget airline and often has the cheapest prices.
We recommend using Skyscanner to find the best available flights and prices. Tip: if you can be flexible with your schedule, set the travel dates to ‘whole month’ and then ‘cheapest month’.
The matrix below shows typical flight times and prices between major destinations in Peru. Prices are based on the cheapest fares booked in advance:
|Lima||Cusco||Arequipa||Iquitos||Puno (Juliaca)||Puerto Maldonado|
|From Lima||N/A||1 hr 30 mins, from $25||1 hr 30 mins, from $30||2 hrs, from $20||1hr 45 mins, from $35||1hr 45 mins, from $65|
|From Cusco||1 hr 30 mins, from $15||N/A||1 hr, from $40||2hrs, from $35||1hr, from $45||1 hr, from $40|
|From Arequipa||1 hr 30 mins, from $20||1 hr, from $45||N/A||No direct flights||No flights (only 6 hrs by bus)||No flights|
|From Iquitos||2 hrs, from $20||2hrs, from $40||No direct flights||N/A||No direct flights||No direct flights|
|From Puno (Juliaca)||1hr 45 mins, from $35||1hr, from $45||No flights (only 6 hrs by bus)||No direct flights||N/A||No direct flights|
|From Puerto Maldonado||1hr 45 mins, from $65||1 hr, from $40||No direct flights||No direct flights||No direct flights||N/A|
Safety in Peru
Peru, in general, is not a particularly dangerous country to travel in. However, crime against tourists does occur, especially in big cities. Trekking in Peru also comes with its risks if you are not adequately prepared.
These quick tips will help you stay safe in Peru:
- Always watch your belongings. Theft is by far the most common crime against tourists in Peru. Be particularly vigilant in bus stations, big cities and crowded areas. If anyone approaches you, take care not to be distracted from your valuables. We learned this the hard way in Buenos Aires.
- Educate yourself about the most common travel scams. Travelscams.org is an excellent resource for this.
- Keep your valuables somewhere secure, and if you must carry anything expensive then don’t flash it about. Stay in accommodation that has lockers, and preferably 24-hour security.
- Don’t wander into any neighbourhoods you don’t know about, and always ask for advice from your accommodation about places to avoid.
- Avoid walking around at night. If you’re ever unsure, take a taxi. Also, only use ATMs in the daytime.
- Be careful and vigilant when crossing roads, especially in cities.
- Before you travel to your next destination in Peru, look up the standard taxi fares (or ask your accommodation). This will help you avoid getting swindled by taxi drivers when you arrive.
- Make sure you take the necessary steps to combat altitude sickness if you’re hiking in regions like Cusco. See our Inca Trail preparation guide for more advice on altitude.
- Don’t attempt any trekking unguided unless you are an experienced hiker. If you do want to trek independently, go in a pair or group, and make friends and family at home aware of the route you are taking before you set off.
Travel insurance for Peru
It’s wise to consider investing in travel insurance for your Peru trip. It’s unlikely you will come to any harm, but in case something does happen – such as having your bags stolen, or getting injured on a hike – it’s best to know that you will be covered. Medical care, in particular, can incur astronomical costs if you are not insured.
We recommend World Nomads for travel insurance in Peru. They offer flexible, reliable packages designed for adventurous travellers, and their customer service is outstanding. We’ve always found them a pleasure to deal with.
If you’re planning to hike the Inca Trail in Peru, or any other treks at high altitude, World Nomads offers special hiking insurance, and includes options for hiking up to 4,500 metres or 6,000 metres in its standard insurance packages.
If you are planning longer-term travel, another excellent option to consider is SafetyWing. Their simple, affordable, subscription-based insurance policies are designed for people who will be travelling overseas for long periods of time. Their policies are geared towards medical cover, and, unlike many, they include Covid-19. Check out our review of their long-term travel insurance here to find out more about how it works.
Organised tours in Peru
Small group tours are growing in popularity as a safe way to explore Peru with health and hygiene concerns taken into consideration. G Adventures has capped most of its tour group sizes at 12, and introduced a Travel with Confidence policy with a range of new health and safety measures. Read our guide to the top 10 small group tours in Peru, which highlights our favourite packages.
What to pack for Peru
What you need to bring to Peru depends on where you’re going and when you plan to visit. If you are only planning to do general sightseeing in cities, then you can pack fairly light. However, if you’re heading to the Amazon jungle or planning to trek, then you will need to pack accordingly.
Our Inca Trail packing list gives an exhaustive lowdown of everything you need to bring for trekking in Peru. If you’re heading to the Amazon, our Iquitos travel guide includes a section on what you need to pack for the jungle.
Budget travel tips
Peru is not an expensive country for general travel. However, if you’re not savvy then the costs can rack up quickly. These tricks will help you to avoid unnecessary expenditure:
- Try to avoid ATMs that charge withdrawal fees. Most in Peru don’t, but some (like the GlobalNet ATMs in airports) charge a few dollars for a withdrawal.
- Use a prepaid money card like Monzo or Revolut. These are great for managing your money, and they offer free withdrawal up to a certain threshold each month.
- Eat in menú del dia restaurants. You will find them in towns and cities across the country offering set-lunch meals at very low prices.
- Do your own cooking. If you’re staying in hostels, check that they have good kitchen facilities. Also look out for accommodation that offers free breakfasts.
- Shop in local markets whenever you can find them. Groceries are a lot cheaper in these than in shops and supermarkets.
- Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink, so you will need to buy bottled water. To save money, buy large bottles (supermarkets usually sell 7-litre bottles) and decant them into smaller bottles.
- Take overnight buses for long journeys. It’s the cheapest way to travel and saves you a night of accommodation costs.
- Never get into a taxi without agreeing a price.
- Consider Couchsurfing for free accommodation.
Useful Spanish phrases
Peru is a Spanish-speaking country and, like other places in South America, there is a lot of local slang incorporated as well. These handy Spanish and Peruvian slang phrases will help you to navigate your way through the country.
- Hola – hello
- Por favor – please
- Gracias – thank you
- Disculpe – excuse me / pardon
- De nada – you’re welcome
- Habla Inglés? – do you speak English?
- No hablo Español – I don’t speak Spanish
- Me llamo – my name is / I am called
- Buenos dias – good morning / good day
- Buenos tardes – good afternoon
- Buenos noches – good evening
- Mucho gusto – nice to meet you
- Cuánto es? – how much is it?
- La cuenta, por favor – the bill, please
- Socorro! – help!
- Una cerveza, por favor – a beer, please
- Luca – a Peruvian sol, the currency (like ‘buck’ for dollar or ‘quid’ for pound)
- Pata – friend/pal/mate
- Pitri mitri! – cool!
- Bacán! – cool!
- Tono – party
- Chela – beer
- Jama – food
- Porfa – please (por favor in short)
- Bamba – fake
- Monse – stupid
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