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. Ths itinerary for Peru is a replica of our journey through the country in June/July 2017.
In this article:
Itinerary for Peru: background information
Who is this itinerary for?
This itinerary for Peru 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 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.
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 £639 (728 Eur, 856 USD)
- Sundries spends: total of £81 (92 EUR, 109 USD)
- Transport spends: £485 (552 EUR, 650 USD)
- Accommodation spends: £328 (374 EUR, 439 USD)
- Activity spends: £2,359 (2,687 EUR, 3,162 USD) – this includes a 7-day Inca Trail tour with G Adventures at £800 per person
- Total budget for 2 people for 28 days: £3,892 (4,433 EUR, 5,217 USD)
28-day itinerary for Peru
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. They 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.
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 (Hospedaje 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What time of year is best to travel Peru?
This itinerary for Peru was completed 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.
Further reading on Peru
Check out my previous articles on destinations in Peru:
- What to do in Lima: a two-day guide
- Visiting Iquitos: the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon
- Boom, bust and bio-piracy: the man who stole the Amazon’s rubber trade
- 24 hours in Huacachina: the Peruvian desert oasis
- Needles, haystacks: the search for an iPhone in a mountain of sand
- Flying over the Nazca Lines: a complete guide
- Ten awesome things to do in Cusco, Peru
- Hiking the Inca Trail: a complete guide for first-timers
- Racing the inca Trail: legendary porters go the distance
- Colca Canyon trek: an up and down experience
- The art of the menú: budget eating in Peru
For more general inspiration on South America, including some highlights from Peru, try:
- Continent of cuisine: food highlights of South America
- Alcohol tourism: signature drinks of South America
- 28 cities of South America: a traveller’s ranking
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 email@example.com or contact me on social media.