Peru Travel Guide: 3-week Itinerary
Three weeks is an ideal length to discover Peru due to the convenient buses and flights making traveling in Peru fairly easy. Here’s a day-to-day Peru Travel Guide. Discover the travel locations of this route’s highlights in our Peru map.
Day 1 – 3: Lima
Welcome to the capital of Peru: Lima. This modern creative city built along the scenic coastline is a good starting point for your time in Peru. Wander around in the artist area Barranco, bike around the city and coastline, and taste Peru’s national dish ‘Ceviche’.
Read more: 10 Things to do in Lima – Lima city guide
Day 4: Paracas – Unique Peru travel experience
One of the most extraordinary wildlife events takes place daily at Paracas’s Ballestas Islands. A million sea birds torpedo themselves into the water trying catch the fish at the surface who are hunted by the sea lions.
Paracas is a tiny, laid back backpack village, great to spend the night go on a tour through Paracas National Reserve and do a Pisco Wine tasting tour.
Read more: Ballestas Islands of Paracas
Hacienda San Jose – Peru travel history
On your way to Paracas, stop at the beautiful country house Hacienda San Jose. Underneath the house lies a 9-kilometer long tunnel system that was used to smuggle African people to work on the farms and avoid tax. It is possible to go inside the tunnels and catch a bit of the, somewhat, dark history that took place here.
Lima to Paracas
Get to Paracas within a 3-hour bus ride, best booked online with a reliable bus company or via the public bus.
Day 5 – 6: Huacachina
The highest sand dunes in South America surrounding a small lagoon with lush-green palm trees. This oasis named Huacachina has to be on your Peru travel itinerary as it is a unique phenomenon. So watch the sunset from the dune top, do a sand buggy tour through the desert and spend the night.
Read more: Huacachina, the desert oasis of Peru
Paracas to Huacachina
Huachachina is a short 45-minute bus ride from Paracas. Unfortunately, there is no public transport but you can take a taxi from Ica or a bus tour company.
Day 7 – 9: Arequipa
The volcano-ringed city of Arequipa is the second-largest city in Peru. It is often skipped as the majority of the tourists visit Machu Picchu only. Arequipa is a stunning and charming city fantastic to explore on foot. Its white colonial buildings in the historical center give a feeling as if you’re walking in Europe.
The city is located at 2,400 meters, an altitude to get used to before going to the even higher located city Cusco.
Read more: Everything about Arequipa
On your way to Arequipa, you will pass the Nazca Lines, a series of drawings carved into the ground of the desert over 2000 years ago. The viewing tower on the side of the highway gives a good look at the drawings such as a tree and hands. Alternatively, book a flight to see all the Nazca lines from above.
Huacachina to Arequipa
The comfortable overnight bus from Huachachina to Arequipa is a great way to cover a long distance. The bus ride takes 12 hours but it will stop at the Nazca lines viewing tower.
Day 10 – 12: Cusco
Cusco is the gateway to the Sacred Valley and Macchu Picchu. This charming little cobblestone-street city is situated at an altitude of 3.200 meters and you will need some time to get used to that height. Luckily, Cusco is a fantastic city with beautiful architecture, cathedrals, museums, and some of the best restaurants in the country!
Get to know: All the things to do in Cusco
Arequipa to Cusco
On day 8 in Arequipa, take the bus via Puno or fly directly to Cusco. If you want to see the floating villages of Puno, add one day to your Peru travel itinerary. Find the best flight
Day 13: Sacred Valley
After acclimatizing in Cusco, go into incredible Sacred Valley. Discover sights like the Moray circular terraces, Pisac, Maras Salt Mines, and Ollantaytambo. Finally, take the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, better known as Machu Picchu town. Spending the night in Aguas Calientes allows you to get up early and see the sunrise on the Machu Picchu mountain.
Tip: Save on your budget by booking a multi-day Sacred Valley tour.
Tip: After Machu Picchu, you have to return to Cusco. For that reason, leave your big suitcase luggage at the hotel you will be staying at from day 15 and just take a day pack with clothing for two nights.
Learn more about the Sacred Valley
Day 14: Machu Picchu – Highlight of Peru travel route
Rise and shine very early as today is the highlight of your 3-week Peru travel route! Machu Picchu, the once lost Incan city, situated on top of a mountain is something to experience best during sunrise. Spend the morning wandering around at this jaw-dropping site and eventually don’t forget to get the passport stamp as a final reward for visiting Machu Picchu.
Spend the rest of the afternoon in Aguas Calientes relaxing as you will need this after that early wake-up call.
Day 15: Back to Cusco
After spending the night in Aguas Calientes, hop on the morning train back to Ollantaytambo. In the morning, two trains depart at 08:30 and 10:32 but remember to get these tickets in advance. The train ride belongs to one of the most scenic train rides in the world with many windows offering a great view of the entire Sacred Valley.
Ollantaytambo to Cusco
A taxi back to Cusco takes around 1.5 hours and costs about 100 SOL (30 USD). Another option is the local buses from Ollantaytambo to Cusco take 2 hours and cost about 30 SOL (9 USD).
Day 16: Rainbow Mountain – Must-do Peru travel experience
Prepare yourself for a tough hike to the 5000-meter high rainbow-colored mountain top of Palccoyo. The rainbow colors, created by various kinds of metal, were covered by snowy mountain tops but due to climate change, this will now be visible during the summer period. A unique experience to have on your Peru travel itinerary.
Optional: If you’re a fan of hikes consider doing the hike to Humantay Lake on day 17 and spend one day less in the Amazon. Please do not use the poor horses at Humantay and walk instead.
Day 17 – 20: Iquitos Amazon
From the mountain tops to the jungle – Make a change of scenery and spend your last days in the tropical Amazon jungle of Peru. Deep inside the jungle is the city Iquitos, where you take the boat on the river into the Amazon. Stay at one of the riverside eco-lodges and spend your days spotting sloths, pink dolphins, colorful birds, and visiting a local tribe.
Cusco to Iquitos
Iquitos is surrounded by jungle, there are no roads to this city, therefore, your only option from Cusco is a 2-hour flight. Plan this in advance as the flights to Iquitos are not daily.
Day 21: Lima – Final day the Peru travel guide
On the evening of day 20, fly back to Lima and spend the last day in the city eating delicious ceviche and buying some final souvenirs.
Iquitos to Lima
Get one of the daily 2-hour flights from Iquitos to Lima.
Costs of traveling in Peru
Traveling around Peru is overall relatively affordable. Tours, hotels, and flights are the things that quickly take up a part of your daily budget. Expect to travel in Peru for 35 – 55 USD per person on a budget and 75 – 125 USD when choosing for a bit more comfort in tours and hotels.
- Hotel: 60 – 200 USD / night
- Hostel: 10 – 25 USD / night
- Food: 15-50 USD / day
- Entrance fee: 10-60 USD
- Transport: 10 USD / day
How to get around Peru
Transportation in Peru is fairly easy and safe. Cover long distances with the quality buses or flights between the bigger cities although it’s good noticing that the busses are really good and you’ll meet people easier.
Best time to visit Peru
Due to its main climates, Peru can be visited throughout the entire year. When following this particular Peru travel route, the best time to visit Peru is between May and October during the dry season. The rain season runs from November until April but places like Lima will have a more pleasant climate during these months.
Tourism-wise the peaks are July and August so you might want to avoid these months of the year.
Travel to Peru: Is Peru safe?
Peru is known as not safe while the situation actually drastically improved over the last 10 years. Slum areas around the major cities are recommended to avoid but all tourist hotspots are safe to roam and walk freely. The most common way of unsafety is pickpocketing at the tourist hotspots. Other than that, the locals are helpful, friendly and we personally haven’t felt unsafe for a single moment.
Here’s how to: find the right travel insurance
Visa for Peru
Peru does not require a visa for the majority of the countries.
Check here if you need a visa for Peru
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Hello, love your posts about Peru, you’ve been a huge help! Did you get your yellow fever vaccination before going in Iquitos?
Hi Carolina, not necessarily, as we already had it due to the many travels we do. If you’re getting vaccinations anyway, I’d recommend taking that one too. Have the best time!