Many people choose Peru as a starting point for exploring South America. However, the abundance of attractions can make it hard to decide what to prioritise. This Peru itinerary, a replica of our own journey through the country, will help you plan your trip.
In this article:
Peru itinerary: background information
Who is this itinerary for?
This Peru itinerary is perfect for people who love to explore the history of a country while getting outdoors. It is activity-focused, and has options for nightlife without that being the priority. It is perfect for people backpacking through the country from Lima to Bolivia, on the ‘Gringo Trail’. Alternatively, it would be easy to end this itinerary for Peru by flying back to Lima for a return flight.
What is the budget for this Peru itinerary?
The following budget breakdown is based on what we spent for two people, on a medium backpacker’s budget (not living completely on shoestring – we allowed ourselves enough to try some decent food and drink, and participate in plenty of activities). In the most part we stayed in hostels.
You can read a complete and detailed breakdown of the costs for our travel in Peru here.
Throughout our travels we kept detailed records of everything we spent. Below I have included both our planned and actual expenditure for our 28 days in Peru. We overspent by £167: part of the reason for this was that we indulged in some treats for Lisa’s birthday.
These costs do not include flights to and from Peru:
What we planned to spend in Peru:
- Daily food and drink spends: £20 (23 EUR, 27 USD), total of £560 (644 EUR, 756 USD)
- Daily sundries spends: £3 (4 EUR, 4USD), total of £84 (96 EUR, 113 USD
- Transport spends: £521 (594 EUR, 693 USD)
- Accommodation spends: £357 (407 EUR, 475 USD)
- Activity spends: £2,203 (2513 EUR, 2930 USD) – this includes a 7-day Inca Trail tour with G Adventures at £800 per person
- Total budget for 2 people for 28 days: £3,725 (4,242 EUR, 4,993 USD)
What we actually spent in Peru:
- Food and drink spends: total of £717 (810 EUR, 932 USD)
- Sundries spends: total of £82 (93 EUR, 107USD)
- Transport spends: £518 (585 EUR, 673 USD)
- Accommodation spends: £324 (366 EUR, 421 USD)
- Activity spends: £2,256 (2,549 EUR, 2,933 USD) – this includes a 7-day Inca Trail tour with G Adventures at £799 per person
- Total budget for 2 people for 28 days: £3,897 (4,404 EUR, 5,066 USD)
28-day Peru itinerary
Stop 1: Lima – the colourful capital
Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Spend a day getting used to the hustle and bustle of the city. Check in to your accommodation; we would recommend staying somewhere in Miraflores or Barranco (see ‘where to stay in Lima’ section below). These are safe districts full of sites of interests, and some of Lima’s best nightlife.
Day 2: Walk the boardwalk from Miraflores to Barranco
This lovely coastal walk connects the two main tourist areas, and begins with the Parque del Amor. At night, try a tour of Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, a restored 1,600-year-old adobe pyramid.
Day 3: Explore the Centro Historico
A short bus ride will take you from the tourist area 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.
My recent article what to do in Lima: a two day itinerary has all the information you need to make the most out of this beautiful city.
Where to stay in Lima
Miraflores and Barranco are the most popular districts for backpackers to stay in Lima. We tried two different hostels in Miraflores, both of which had convenient locations, all the facilities we needed, good security lockers and free breakfast.
Our first stay was at Dragonfly Hostel, where we booked a private room. We really enjoyed the rooftop bar, a cool hangout area with special deals every day. During our second spell in Lima, we stayed in dorm beds at Hitchhikers Hostel. This was a slightly bigger place, with a couple of social spaces stocked with games and books.
For more accommodation options, see the Lima section of booking.com.
Stop 2: Iquitos – the Peruvian Amazon
Day 4–5: Fly to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon and explore the city
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.
We arrived in the early evening, giving us some time for a beer in one of the city’s many homely bars. We also caught some live music at local favourite Complejo CNI. In the daytime, the city’s centre around the Plaza de Armas is an interesting place to explore by foot. Try an early-morning visit to Belén Market, or a coffee in one of the riverfront cafés.
For food, try one of the menú restaurants on the riverfront, or for a special treat pay a visit to Al Frio y Al Fuego, a floating restaurant in the middle of the river.
You can find more inspiration for Iquitos in my article visiting Iquitos: the gateway to the Peruvian amazon.
Days 6–7: Amazon jungle tour
We booked a two-day jungle tour through our hostel (Amazon House). We began with a trip to Monkey Island, a sunset tour to spot pink dolphins and a night hike. On the second day we visited a local tribe and fished for piranhas.
Day 8: Visit the museums of Iquitos
Back in the city, visit the Ayapua Boat Museum to learn all about the history of Iquitos as an important port. You can find out more about this in my article on boom, bust and bio-piracy: the man who stole the Amazon’s rubber trade.
The Museum of Indigenous Amazon Cultures is another excellent window into the history of Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon region. Its collection of artefacts gives insights into the way of life of over 40 different jungle tribes.
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.
Where to stay in Iquitos
During our visit to Iquitos, we stayed at Amazon House Hostel either side of our jungle tour. This place is a little way out of the centre, around 25 minutes’ walk from the Plaza de Armas. We did some home cooking in the hostel’s excellent kitchen facilities.
We really liked the neighbourhood around the hostel, with plenty of local shops and homely bars nearby. The hostel staff were super friendly and helped us book our Amazon tour. When we left, they gave us a free food pack-up to take away.
For other accommodation options, check the Iquitos section on booking.com.
Stop 3: Huacachina– the desert oasis
Day 10: Bus to Huacachina (4 hours)
Catch an early morning bus from Lima to Ica 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.
Day 11: Explore the sand dunes in Huacachina, or just relax
It doesn’t take long to walk around this charming little town but there are plenty of options for adventure activities, like sandboarding and dune buggy tours. However, be careful with your belongings in the sand. We had a lucky escape when I lost my phone, which is detailed in this article needles, haystacks: the search for an iPhone in a mountain of sand.
If you want a bit of a break, there’s no better place than Desert Nights Ecocamp, which is where we stayed. This luxury campground has a swimming pool with a swim-up bar, and superb views of the surrounding sand dunes.
In the afternoon, take a taxi back to Ica and a short bus ride on to Nazca (2 hours and 30 minutes). Find out more about what to do with your time in Huacachina in my article 24 hours in Huacachina: the Peruvian desert oasis.
Where to stay in Huacachina
We count Desert Nights Ecocamp in Huacachina among our most memorable travel stay-overs. It’s an awesome place with luxury tents, featuring comfy beds with a power supply. The complex has a swimming pool with a swim-up bar selling craft beer, cocktails and food. What’s not to love?
To browse other places to stay in Huacachina, look up the Ica section on booking.com.
Stop 4: Nazca – home of the Nazca Lines
Day 12: Fly over the legendary Nazca Lines
Nazca 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.
We booked the flight through our hostel, but this can be done online in advance too. Be prepared for a wait, but once it’s over you can relax and enjoy the rest of your day. Read more in my article flying over the Nazca Lines: a complete guide.
Day 13: Explore the city of Nazca, overnight bus to Cusco
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 Cantalloc Aqueducts, Chauchilla Cemetery and Cahuachi Pyramids.
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.
Stop 5: Cusco, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
Days 14 and 15: Acclimatise in Cusco
Cusco is 3,399m above sea level so it’s a good idea 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.
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. For more ideas check out my article ten awesome things to do in Cusco, Peru.
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, but it’s also possible to book dedicated day trips 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.
Booking the Inca Trail in advance is essential. It’s also a challenging hike and requires preparation. Read my article hiking the Inca Trail: a complete guide for first-timers for all you need to know.
The people who help run the treks to Machu Picchu are amazing. Racing the Inca trail: legendary porters go the distance is a story about how the locals make the experience possible, and once every year race the full 43-kilometre route in less than four hours.
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 great local restaurants and bars. 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 before moving on to the next destination. How about trying out the less touristy areas of the city, such as San Pedro Market, a few blocks away from Plaza de Armas? There is also the option to have an early start (2–3am) and visit the Rainbow Mountain.
Here’s that article again on things to do in Cusco for more ideas. Finally, take an overnight bus and head onwards to Peru’s second-biggest city: Arequipa.
Where to stay in Cusco
We stayed in two different hostels in Cusco either side of hiking the Inca Trail. First we stayed at Sunset House Hostel in San Blas. This was a beautiful spot with a small terrace area overlooking the city, where free breakfast was served. There was also a restaurant on-site with discounts for guests, and generally excellent facilities.
After our trek we stayed at the more centrally located Inka Wild Hostel, which, as you may guess from its name, was more of a party hostel. The on-site bar had some good offers and themed party nights.
For more accommodation options, see the Cusco section of booking.com.
Stop 6: Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Day 23: Explore Arequipa with a free walking tour
You will arrive early in Arequipa and the chances are you won’t be able to check into your accommodation until the afternoon. A free morning walking tour is perfect for learning all about the city and its surroundings.
A highlight is the miniature citadel at the Monastery of Santa Catalina. A short walk to the west of the city centre will take you to the Chili River, which has amazing views of the nearby Misti Volcano.
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 condors in flight, and a dip in some thermal springs when the hike was complete.
Read more in my article Colca Canyon trek: an up and down experience. 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. If you don’t want to trek, it’s possible to take day tours to viewing points.
Where to stay in Arequipa
We stayed at Vallecito Backpackers Hostel, just a few minutes’ walk from the central Plaza de Armas. We enjoyed our stay here thanks to the very friendly family running the hostel.
We arrived at about 7am on our first day after an overnight bus, and we were allowed to go straight to our beds – the only time a hostel has ever allowed us to do that. The free pancake breakfast was great, and we were able to book our Colca Canyon tour through the hostel in advance.
For more accommodation options, check out the Arequipa section on booking.com.
Stop 7: Puno and Lake Titicaca
Day 26: Bus to Puno
The bus journey 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.
Day 27: Explore the town of Puno / visit Islas Uros
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 tour you can meet the Uros people and learn how they use the reeds to build their homes and boats.
Day 28: Travel to Copacabana or back to Lima
Finish your 28 days in Peru by either heading back to Lima for a return flight, or by taking a bus across the border into Bolivia. While we loved Puno, we thought the Bolivian town of Copacabana was the best way to see Lake Titicaca.
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.
For other places to stay, take a look at the Puno section on booking.com.
What time of year is best to travel in Peru?
We undertook our Peru travel (following this itinerary) in June/July. This time of year falls in the middle of the Peruvian winter, or dry season, which was perfect for hiking and walking around cities without getting too wet or too hot.
Although this is technically winter, it doesn’t get too cold either. Average monthly temperatures in Peru tend to be around 17–20 degrees celsius in June/July.
Getting around Peru
The best way to travel around Peru is by bus. There are plenty of options to suit every budget and we’ve listed the companies we used below. You will need to fly if you plan to visit Iquitos in the Amazon (there are no roads linking this city), and for this we used StarPeru.
Peru hop provides open bus tickets with multiple stops. We discovered this once we were in Peru and used it for our travel from Arequipa to Puno, and then into Bolivia. The buses are comfortable and reliable, and the border crossing was easy with no drama.
Cruz del sur is the best bus company in Peru and we used this for all our overnight journeys. The buses are equipped with an entertainment system and you are provided with blankets, pillows and food. There are different price options to choose from with varying comfort levels. We usually went with ‘semi-cama’, and found the partial recline comfy enough for sleeping. If you’re feeling flush you can opt for ‘cama’, which includes fully reclining seats.
Busbud is a comparison site that searches all options for your bus journeys through Peru. You’ll find some cheaper options than Cruz del Sur, but we’d recommend sticking with them for the excellent comfort and safety record.
StarPeru is the Peruvian budget airline. It is a short flight to Iquitos and this company provided the best price. It ran on time and the planes were comfortable.
There are many more things you can add into your itinerary for Peru. It’s easy to travel around if you’re a tourist, and you could easily spend longer in each of the destinations listed above. If you’ve already visited Peru, please feel free to help out other travellers by leaving your tips and experiences in the comments below.
If you have any questions about this itinerary, you can drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on social media.
Looking for more South America itineraries? Take a look at our Patagonia itinerary and travel guide: 28 days / two weeks.
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