You’ve picked the right country! Peru is safe, developed, and boasts every type of terrain possible. Three weeks in this South American country is ample time to soak up the Peruvian culture without feeling rushed. Here is an extensive three weeks in Peru itinerary (which can be reduced or extended).
Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary – The Route
Most travellers fly into the capital, Lima. If you have one night, stay in Miraflores, it’s very touristy but has everything on your doorstep – food markets (America’s embassies – McDonalds etc), clothes shops, bars (Tenerife strip style), and an amazing view of the beach. The Larcomar has a complex of more upmarket shops and restaurants as well as a cinema and bowling alley. The sunset is not to be missed from this spot.
If you have more than one night in Lima, stay in the trendy area of Barranco. Cute coloured buildings, art, and microbreweries! A nice balance of attractions for your Peru itinerary.
- Recommended nights: 3 nights maximum in Lima is required. Taxi Green from the airport to Miraflores will cost around S/.50 (£11 / US$17)
- Lima to Paracas: Approximately 3 – 4 hours
- Lima to Màncora (see below): 17 – 19 hours (1 hour 45 minute flight approximately £225.00 / $339)
- Read about our 3 nights in Lima: Lima and Lima on Bikes
Accommodation in Lima
Hostels in Lima are you cheapest option and they are pretty economical starting at just over £5 per night for a dorm bed. Most offer a (dry) bread and jam breakfast and social events on rooftops etc – click here to check reviews and best prices for Lima hostels. Private rooms average at around £25, which is pretty typical for hostels in Peru from. I would honestly love to stay in the Barranco area of Lima and there are a few welcoming options for backpackers such as Barranco’s Backpacker’s Inn. Hotels in Lima are obviously more expensive starting at just under £30 and hitting the £200. If you want seaside views and hot tub luxury it is possible in Peru’s capital!
Paracas (and Isla Ballestas)
Paracas is a small beach town approximately four hours from Lima. It is the gateway to Isla Ballestas, ‘the poor man’s Galapagos Island.’ By speedboat (not fancy cabin boats, take layers to wrap up), you can see Humboldt penguins, seals, sea lions, and birds. Isla Ballestas has its very own Nazca Lines called Candelabra Geoglyph, 150m high and 50m wide. A must see addition to your Peru Itinerary. It was hot during the boat tour, make sure you pack a hat, sunglasses and factor 50. Ladies, I like La Roche-Posay factor 60 cream when splurging. Never sacrifice a smooth face for the sun!
- Recommended nights: 1 night (unless you want some beach and not just boat time)
- Paracas to Nazca Lines: Approximately 1 – 2 hours
- Find out why we are glad we didn’t miss – Paracas – Poor Man’s Galapagos Island
Accommodation in Paracas
Paracas is a small town so there is not much choice when it comes to accommodation with under 10 hostels available in the area. However, sometimes size does not matter, Paracas ticks the box for variety – party backpackers tend to flock to the well known chain Kokopelli Backpackers which has a pool and is directly on the beach (we walked right through it to get to the playa), we stayed in their capsule style dorms in Cusco and found it private but still sociable, great concept. Breakfast is also included. For rates under £8+ and reviews see here.
For a more chilled stay check out the new 11 rooms with private bathrooms and 12 shared of the Paracas Backpackers House. Facilities include a kitchen, three common areas, one with hammocks. Prices, reviews and availability can be found here.
The most interesting looking to me (which wasn’t there when we visited) is the Paracas 360 Eco Hostel, check out the bedrooms; they are like mini-caravans (there’s a bar and swimming pool too). No breakfast provided. To see if there are rooms available and at what cost, click here.
Budget backpackers, there are dorms available for under £5. See reviews for the full range of hostels in Paracas – read the overview.
Man made or aliens?! The burning question that lies with Peru’s Nazca Lines. Budget travellers can see the Lines from the viewing platform for a couple of soles. For those who truly believe, there are numerous companies which offer helicopter rides over the twelve Nazca Lines (prices from £66 / $100 for a 30 minute ride).
- Recommended nights: In & out unless taking a ‘copter ride, you’ll need to stay overnight
- Nazca Lines to Ica (Huacachina): 2 – 3 hours
- You may want to skip the overnight if you only have two weeks in Peru unless it’s a hot one for you
Accommodation in Nazca
If you do decide to take the flight you’ll need somewhere to stay and there are a few options with 9/10 reviews from fellow travellers so you are in safe hands. The small Nanasqa Hostel is close to a supermarket, offers a pick up from bus station if the car is available and probably most importantly boasts of a selection of local beers. Dorm rooms are economical, check out their rates and availability.
Four-bed dorms and private rooms are also available at the Nasca Lodge. This colourful hostel also offers a car pick up from the bus station and towels (do you travel with a towel? I hate the feeling of those travel ones, we ended up just hiring or booking accommodation with them). Prices depend on type of room, see here for more details.
Check out the full range of hostels in Nazca to see which fits your budget – see the overview here.
Ever partied in a lagoon? Huacachina is where it is at. A small (party?) town surrounded by large sand dunes, itching for you to board (or ski!) down. There is a plethora of companies looking to take you to the dunes but for the authentic experience choose one which offers appropriate gear (authentic boards and boots) and the opportunity to ski. Mode of transport? Buggies! Huacachina is a fun place to spend a weekend if you want to relax by the pool (Banana’s Adventures Hostel) or have some drinks. Warning, Huacachina can cause serious headaches, we now swear by these hydration tablets. Stock up! In fact, it was a British doctor on holiday in Cuba that recommended them (too much rum!)
The next town is Ica, there you will find banks, supermarkets, restaurants, and shops. It’s a short tuk tuk ride away (approximately 15 minutes, 4-5 soles / 80p).
- Recommended nights: Max. 3 nights. 1 or 2 nights if only interested in sandboarding Peru
- Huacachina (Ica) – Arequipa: approximately 12 hours (overnight available)
- Why we didn’t sandboard in Huacachina…
Huacachina and Sandboarding and Sand-Skiing in Peru
Accommodation in Huacachina
I honestly have such fond memories of our stay at Banana’s Adventure, we ended up staying for 3 nights instead of the 1. There’s such a nice vibe around the pool, they put on BBQ nights, the poolside bar as smoothies and our Peru Hop (see below for more information) tour guide (who was not staying at Bananas) said that they do the best food in the town. The WiFi wasn’t great (non-existent) but that meant I could take a weekend off blogging and actually chill out (and party!) Like all hostels in Peru, Bananas has dorms and privates, we had no issues sleeping regardless of the rooms being around the pool area, the bar closes and everyone heads around to Huacaf*ckingchinas, including the bar staff. Check out the best option for your trip here.
The rest of our Peru Hop companions stayed at the hostel with the Friday/Saturday night club attached, Casa De Arena. Personally, I avoid hostels which are the party place, I like to visit them, drink and dance and then get some rest elsewhere, the decision is yours. Check out more review here.
Huacachina hostels have seen a bit of competition over the last few years and there is certainly more choice, check out the other options at the Huacachina overview.
Disclaimer: all hostels will offer buggie rides and sandboarding trips to the dunes. We urge you to spend your cash on the real deal, the Sandboarding Peru crew. They are boarding and skiing professionals, offer the best gear and work with local school kids. When you see Huacachina and Ica you’ll realise how important that is; there really isn’t much around apart from those amazing big sand dunes!
Huacachina, not a mirage – get your skies ready
Arequipa (Are-eh-keepah), The White City and gateway to the Colca Canyon is a city like no other. Peru’s second most populated city is surrounded by three dormant volcanoes, El Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. The ‘free’ walking tour, run by students (pay by tip, which is typical in South American cities) is extensive and recommended. Grab a jugo (juice) from San Camilo Market (The Witches Market) then get a good night’s sleep for your early rise to the Colca Canyon.
- Recommended nights: 4 nights if hiking the Colca Canyon (1 night before and 1 after). 2 nights if not
- Arequipa – Colca Canyon: Approximately 3 hours
- Can you believe we saw this in the Witches Market? Things to do in Aerquipa
Accommodation in Arequipa
We stayed at the chain hostel, the Flying Dog. It’s peaceful, breakfast is included and you can book your Colca Canyon Tour guide through them. It is on the quiet side so if you are looking for a party hostel I’d veer towards Wild Rover which has a bar and swimming pool. Breakfast is also included. Arequipa is a big city, there are over 50 hostels to choose from so do check out which suits your needs and cash flow in this guide.
Arequipa – The White City
You are researching a trip to Peru so it is highly likely that you have either secured your place on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or you are deciding between one of the alternative treks to the seventh modern wonder of the world. Stop right there! Consider this – two or three day hike down into the world’s second deepest canyon (3,400m), a sound sleep in the canyon, and then a steep climb out! Colca Canyon trek is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. Watch condors swoop overheard, sip soup in a local’s home, and feel self satisfaction as you make it to the top! Hiking is a great for keeping fit while travelling, add to your Peru trip itinerary to combat the backpacker’s belly!
- Recommend nights: 1 or 2 nights depending on trek
- Arequipa to Cusco: Approximately 10 hours (overnight bus available)
- Which trek did I prefer, Colca Canyon or Lares Trek to Machu Picchu? Find out here: Colca Canyon Essential Guide and Colca Canyon Packing Guide
- Although this was one of my highlights many visitors with only 2 weeks in Peru prioritise Machu Picchu hikes
Colca Canyon Hike
Another overnighter to the cobbled streets of Cusco. Many travellers get sucked in by Cusco’s beauty and the simplicity of the city. Everyone that is backpacking Peru ends up in Cusco at some point (the start of their Peru itinerary if coming from Bolivia or near the end if the are starting in Peru). It did rain every day for one week in Cusco! It also rained every day during our trek to Machu Picchu so think about taking a waterproof jacket with you. I like my Marmot PreCip as it is light and folds into its own pocket, small enough to pop into my bag after the downpour.
This is where you will begin the trek to Machu Picchu (Inca, Salkatanky, Lares or Jungle Trek – anywhere from £199 – £332 + /$300 – $500 +). It is vital that you spend some time acclimatising before you begin your trek or you run the risk of suffering from altitude sickness. It is also advised that you select a travel insurer which allows you to climb to the heights stipulated in your trek guidelines (for example, the Lares Trek reaches highs of 4650m /15255ft above sea level). We shopped with True Traveller because of their coverage of these high altitudes, mass importante! See if their rates work for you by clicking here.
Don’t miss this post on 14 ways to get to Machu Picchu.
Hiking not your thing? The train to Machu Picchu leaves and returns to Cusco (£33 / £78 – $50 / 120 one way). Do stop in the archaeological site town of Ollantaytambo, if you have time! Machu Picchu is not the only day trip.
It is easy to spend a fortnight in Cusco if you are looking to attend Spanish school (and a homestay to practice what you are taught). For space geeks, Cusco has its own family run planetarium!
- Recommended nights: With trek – 7 days + / without trek 3 days +
- Check out how we spent two weeks in Cusco….
Cusco Restaurants to eat in / Hostels in Cusco / Spanish school – San Blas Cusco / Cusco Homestay / Lares Trek to Machu Picchu / Machu Picchu Trek Packing Guide / Cusco Planetarium
Accommodation in Cusco
We played Goldilocks in Cusco over the two weeks we spent in Peru’s cutest city. We tested the beds of three different hostels and dined and partied in a few more. Initially we stayed with Kokopeli Hostels , their private capsule style dorms are really neat, you just pull a curtain over for privacy. The hostel has a bar which serves food and puts on social events. Free tea is available and coca leaves are in abundance. We left our luggage with these guys when we hiked to Machu Picchu. Check the variety for rooms and rates here.
After Machu Picchu we tried the ‘other side’ of Cusco, San Blas. This is the more bohemian side of the city. Our first hostel was Casa de la Grinda which is an option for those in Peru to try some of it’s more ‘natural remedies’ (we didn’t).
We ended our time in Cusco at Thomas Grill and Garden, the views from the top room are incredible. The hostel also has a kitchen. It’s very quiet so not for those looking to disco. We partied at Loki Hostel which is another popular choice for backpackers throughout Peru. There’s over 100 hostels in Cusco! Check out more here.
A small town which is very much a ‘normal town’ in Peru but has a port where boats take travellers to The Floating Islands of Uros. These are reef (also know ask totora) island inhibited by The Uros people on Lake Titicaca. The half day trip from Puno is a wonder to behold but may be looked upon as ‘touristy’. If you are looking for a more authentic experience to add to your Peru travel itineray, why not stay on Taquile Island with a local Peruvian family? Many of the women on the island only speak Quecha but some of the men and children can converse in Spanish (even if yours is broken Spanish!) There are no cars on on Taquile Island, life is simple and traditional. Ask about the environmentally friendly, Chukjo! This tour can only be booked through Inka Rest hostel, we stayed there for two nights in a private room, breakfast was extensive and the staff were friendly (a tad mad!)
For a less authentic but still different experience try a homestay on Amantaní Island. Both islands can be reached by boat, however this must be booked through an organised tour (approximately 85 soles / £ 17.72 / $26.68 each).
- Recommended nights: With homestay: 3 nights (1 night on the island) / without homestay: 1 night.
- Cusco to Puno: Approximately 8 hours.
- Read about our night without WiFi! Puno and Taquile Island
- 2 week Peru itinerary would probably remove a stay on Taquile Island (especially if you can’t speak any Spanish)
The Jungle in Peru
Over half of Peru is jungle! This country really has it all. Peru shares The Amazon with Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil, there are many indigenous tribes still living in the Peruvian rainforest and a variety of animals call this region home too. The city of Cusco is the best entry point for travellers looking to spend time in the jungle and there are many companies who sell trips. Please do some research on the ethics of companies, there are stories of mistreatment of animals by some companies. If there is a guide holding a snake in an advertisement photo, give that trip a wide berth! There are lots of options depending on budget and wants. Puerto Maldonado is accessed by air and road which is the base for Madre de Dios (Reserva Nacional Tambopata and the Parque Nacional Bahuaja-Sonene) and deemed the best place to go to visit wild life by Rough Guide. Cheaper options may include taking a bus from Cusco via Ollantaytambo to Quillabamba where lots of travellers go to do white water rafting on the Río Urubamba.
There are options from Lima too. According to Go2Peru, Iquitos is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road! Iquitos can be reached by plane, LAN, Peruvian Airlines, and Star Peru fly daily. There are day or multi – day trips to the Amazon to suit every budget and can be booked before your reach Iquitos for whilst you are there. Naturally, there are lots of scams so choose your company wisely. It is cheaper to go to the rainforest via Bolivia, this is what we intended to do so skipped it in Peru. You will 100% need some form of mosquito repellent. We initially travelled with a DEET heavy repellent like OFF but moved on to a DEET free product called Avon So Soft after nothing was working for us and we had the fear about putting DEET on our skin after a year of applying it on and off.
- Recommended nights stay: Depends on excursions
- Cusco to Puerto Maldonado: Approximately 1 hour flight
- Cusco to Quillabamba: Approximately 3.5 hour bus ride
- Lima to Iquitos: Approximately 2 hour flight
Huaraz is small town known as the hotbed for Peruvian hikes. This high altitude town (3000m absl) is a base for many backpackers who are planning 1 day and multi-day treks around Peru’s Andes Mountain Range. The best time to visit is typically June when there is little rainfall or snow. Popular hikes include the 1 day trek to Laguna 69 / Lake 69 (that Canadian blue!), 1 day Paron Lake, 3-4 day Santa Cruz hike (best views of the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca) or the 12 day Cordillera Huayhuash circuit. It is advised that you do two 1 day hikes (or more) to help acclimatise before attempting the multi-day Peru treks. Highs can reach 5000m absl. I really wish we had added this to our Peru backpacking itinerary.
- Recommended nights stay: this really depends on what treks your are doing
- Lima to Huaraz – 8 hours by bus (Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours and Oltursa) or 50 min flight with LC Peru (max 15kg in hold / 5 kg cabin)
*If Huaraz is on your Peru itinerary, I would suggest to visit after Lima as it is north of the capital. I am very disappointed that we missed this out. But do check out Jon is Traveling’s experience of his trek to Laguna 60.
There’s a quite a few options for hostels in Huaraz. You definitely want to get a good night’s sleep before the hike so be sure to check the reviews before you book. La Casa de Zarela is a fair trade hostel only 10 mins walk from the bus station. There are a variety of rooms and kitchen facilities. For reviews, prices and availability click here.
Laguna 69 I Jon Is Travelling
Màncora – Backpacking Peru Itinerary for sufers
North of Lima you’ll find the Piura Region and a coast of beaches where travellers go to party. Not a bucket list option for many travellers who have previously spent a month on the Colombian coast but an option for those looking to chill out (in what some critics say, not the cleanest of beaches), surf (South Beach), or dive (Vichayito Beach).
*If Màncora is on your itinerary, I would suggest you visit there before moving further south. I’m not disappointed we missed this, we never actually met anyone who had Màncora on their Peruvian itinerary.
- Recommended nights stay: Depends on how much partying / beach time you’d like
- Lima to Màncora: 17 – 19 hours (1 hour 45 minute flight / approximately £225.00 / $339)
Mix of chill and party in Màncora hostel wise. Loki makes another appearance (you’ll see the popular party hostels at most stops in Peru) with Loki del Mar, not only is it close the surf breaking point but it also has its own swimming pool. More laid back options include ocean view bungalows at Misfit Hostel. Vegetarians may want to swing by Marcilia Beach Bungalows (accommodation available as well as cafe). There’s more! Check out reviews, rates and availability.
Our Three Week Peru Itinerary
Craig and I spent one month in Peru in March / April, taking one week out to attend Spanish school in Cusco. We flew in to Lima from Austin (we are from Scotland but started our long term travel itinerary from New Orleans then Austin for the music festival South by Southwest). After three nights in Lima we took the Peru Hop bus and following this Peru travel itinerary
- Paracas / Isla Bellestas (nature / one night)
- Huacachina (sandboarding / three nights) with a trip to the bank in Ica
- Arequipa and Colca Canyon (stunning hike / 5 nights)
- Cusco (Machu Picchu / two weeks including one week at school)
- Puno and Taquile Island (this island is silent / three nights) then Bolivia (two and a half weeks – check our guide)
Playa Roja near Ica – 3 week itinerary Peru
The Best Time to Go to Peru
Peru’s weather is best measured by the ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ season as opposed to summer and winter. May – October is essentially the dry season which results in more tourists. However, nights can still be cold, especially for those who are in Peru to trek. November through to April fall into the ‘wet’ season. This is subject to change as Peru is seeing the effects of the weather phenomenon, El Niño. Inca Trail is not available in February of each year for annual clean up. Told you the weather could be grim, don’t forget your rain jacket, check out reviews of my favourite here!
Currency in Peru
Peruvians use the Peruvian Nuevo Sol or soles. The exchange rate for UK citizens is 20p to 1 sole (at time of writing). ATMs in Cusco have a maximum withdrawal which can be problematic when settling bills for treks to Machu Piccu. Expect a 5.5% charge when using Visa. Bargaining in markets is acceptable but not always successful!
Getting to Peru
Most of the larger city airports have flights to Lima.
UK citizens do not require a visa to enter Peru and should be granted six months on their ‘little white sheet’ at immigration. This is not always the case when you arrive at immigration. Keep the immigration information (‘little white sheet’) with your passport as you need it to leave the country.
Getting Around Peru + Peru Hop Bus
Cruz de Sur is popular but is simply a bus company, no tours or information offered. Internal flights will connect Lima with Arequipa and Cusco but again, remember to give yourself time to acclimatise when arriving in Cusco. There is an efficient and safe hop on / off bus service called Peru Hop. It is aimed at travellers (although we did meet people of all ages on the bus, including a 9 month old baby!)
Hop on / off bus – Peru Hop
Accommodation In Peru
Hostels are your main sleeping option. Prices vary depending on where you are. For examples in Lima, a dorm bed may cost £5.50 to £12 where as in Huacachina you will find one for £5/6. Homestays are popular in Cusco for those looking to work on their Spanish (although cheaper in Sucre, Bolivia if heading that way).
Food and Restaurants in Peru
- Desayuno (or breakfast to us), typically consists of pan (white bread roll), butter and jam, with hot drinks. If you are lucky you may get huevos (eggs) and / fruit salad. You will be bored of pan by the end of your trip.
- Peru‘s famous cuisine is ceviche – raw white fish, cooked in strong lemon juice served with cold sweet potato, corn, and cilantro (coriander). Locals tend to eat this late morning. I tried it twice, once in Lima and then Paracas (a beach town).
- You’ll find lots of different types of every day meats and the addition of alpaca (heavy like lamb), llama (lighter), and cuy – guinea pig! Fish, especially trout, is popular around Uros, The Floating Islands region.
- Chifa is Chinese food with a Peruvian fusion, or just Chinese food really!
- Western food can be found in most towns and cities (including the ‘American embassies’ in the big cities).
- Set menus are a good way to get your fill cheaply. In Cusco, you can eat a two course meal for 10-20 soles. The soups are the best in Peru. They make great use of quino, my favourite sopa!
- Dulce de leche, the Peruvian Nutella! It’s toffee not chocolate, rico (tasty)!
Restaurant article – from cheap to a bit less cheap: Food in Cusco
Ceviche – fish, sweet potato, sweetcorn, onion, corriander
You’ll get all your normal fruits in Peru, they are just bigger and tastier! New editions include Granadilla which gives you the sensation you are sucking frog spawn but it is delicious and refreshing. Corn is very popular, you’ll find lots of vendors selling popcorn.
Before I get onto the hard stuff let’s talk about drinking water. It is not advisable to drink tap water in Peru. We travelled with a purifying and filtering water bottle and managed to avoid Dehli belly for the full month so I suggest you do it! Trusted makes include Water to Go which is slightly cheaper than the most popular, LifeStraw.
- Pisco Sour! The Peruvian sweetheart! Pisco is the national drink, add lemon juice, raw egg, and sugar to it then tadah – a Pisco Sour. Fuerty (strong). Be sure to try this during your 3 weeks in Peru.
- Each region has local beers for cheap. Cerveza (beer) is very popular and cheap. Pilsen, Cristal, and Arequipeña are a few labels to look out for.
- Chicha! The locally brewed corn drink, not for gringo consumption our tour guide warned us. Still up for it? Look out for the red flag outside people’s houses or shops, this indicates it is on sale.
- Coca tea. Helps with altitude. You’ll drink heaps of this in either leave form (add sugar) or teabag. Locals chew on it for energy.
- Muna is delicious. Drink with hot water, like a tea, to help with digestion.
Please take our point about travel insurance seriously! We met a guy who was sick and when his friend finally dragged him out of the dorm bed to see the the doctor it turned out he had dehydration. Look after yourself and get travel insurance, here is the link for the company we use.
Coca Leaves – Altitude Relief?
It’s easy to see how three weeks in Peru can be extended or merged into a quick trip by picking what you feel would be the highlights from above. I hope that you find this Peru three week itinerary useful, let me know in the comments below!
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