Destinations: Check out the Map!
Length of Stay: 17 nights (October – November 2018)
Lodging: $19 USD/Night/Person Average
Three Week Itinerary
- Days 1-6: Cusco
- Day 7: Puno
- Days 8-10: Arequipa
- Days 11-14: Huacachina
- Day 15: Paracas
- Day 16: Lima
- Days 17-20: Huaraz
- Day 21: Lima
Looking for what to do in Peru? This itinerary provides a well balanced variety of what to do two to three weeks. Disclaimer: our route is jammed packed full of adventure, but you won’t regret the experiences it has to offer. For us, we were more than satisfied with everything we were able to see. Nonetheless, if you have more time we would recommend extending your stay in either Arequipa, Huacachina, or Huaraz. Shown above is our itinerary, as well as modified two week and three week itineraries.
Peru is a country of extreme biodiversity. In the far east, rainforests border Brazil while deserts line the coast and extend inland. Expansive mountains and highland regions cover the north and south, but even these are vastly different. For example, the highland regions of the south (home to Machu Picchu) are lush green with rice terraces used as part of ancient farming techniques. In contrast, the north is home to the beautiful snow capped mountains of Huascarán National Park with teal-blue glacial lakes. This country has so many hidden gems; read more below about what to do in Peru below. If you want to learn how to travel around this scenic country, check out our Peru by Bus guide.
Length of Stay: 5 Nights
Lodging: Hostal Inti Wasi ($27 USD/Night/Person)
Activities: Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Cusco Markets
When most people think of Cusco, Machu Picchu immediately comes to mind. Regardless, this city/region of Peru has so much more to offer. Cusco used to be the capital of the Incan empire so it is rich with culture and history. Therefore, the Inca trail and Pachamama hold significant meaning to the natives. The Casa Concha Museum and Machu Picchu Museum in Plaza de Armas are excellent places to gain a glimpse into the past.
Everything you need to know about Cusco:
Hiking near Cusco
Cusco sits at about 11,150 ft (3,400 m) so you will need to acclimate to the altitude upon arrival. This should only take a few days, but be wary of altitude sickness. Luckily there are coca leaves at almost every shop, including the airport, that help with this process. Interestingly enough, Machu Picchu sits at a lower elevation of around 8000 ft (2430 m). The hike to Cristo Blanco on our first day seemed much more difficult than the trek through the Incan ruins. Additionally, we did the famous Rainbow Mountain hike during our time in Cusco which finished at a staggering 16,252 ft (4,953m). This hike holds the record for our highest altitude hike we have completed. Nonetheless, Cusco is one of the highlights of Peru so read more to find out what what not to miss.
Length of Stay: 1 Night
Suite Independencia Puno ($10.37 USD/Night/Person)
Activities: Lake Titicaca Tour – Uros Islands & Taquile Island
From Cusco to Puno, it is about 8 hours by bus. If you’re wondering what to do in Puno, look no further than Lake Titicaca. Some people told me that they didn’t know that was a real lake; I can tell you first hand that it exists. It actually is a natural boundary between Peru and Bolivia. This lake is also the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,562 ft and 980 ft at its deepest point!
We found a tour through FindLocalTrips.com with Kollasuyo Travel. They offer a full day tour from 7:15am – 5:00pm of the Uros Islands and Taquile Island for $21 USD which also included lunch. After getting picked up from the hostel, we went on a boat tour and made our first stop at the Uros Islands. No, we didn’t ride out there on the colorful boat pictured above, we were actually on a 40ft motorboat that even had a bathroom on board. Read more about what to see at Lake Titicaca and how to book your tour.
Length of Stay: 2 Nights
Casa de Avila ($26 USD/Night/Person)
Activities: Plaza de Armas, Pisco Sours, Shopping, and Cheap eats
Arequipa is known as the ‘White City’ of Peru. Perhaps because most of the buildings in Plaza de Armas are constructed of marble and sillar, a white volcanic rock. Walking outside the main square, you will notice buildings with a variety of color. The bus ride from Puno to Arequipa is about 8 hours, but is a beautiful and scenic drive. This was one of this cities we wish we were in for an extra day or two. Read here to find out about the best things to do in Arequipa, where to stay, and how to get there.
Length of Stay: 1 Night
El Boulevard ($21 USD/Night/Person
Activities: Dune Hiking, Wine Tours, Sandboarding, Dune Buggy Tours
Remember how I said Peru has a lot of desert? Huacahina is a small oasis (quite literally) located just outside the much larger city of Ica. It is definitely a tourist destination as most of the people working in Huacahina speak english. There are quite a lot of Europeans, Australians, and Americans crawling through the small town. This is one place we wished we would have stayed longer. After talking with a bar tender at one of the hostels, he said he was going a bit stir crazy after being there for a few weeks. Understandably so since the town is only a few blocks long, therefore we don’t recommend more than a couple nights.
There are plenty of things to do to in Huacachina so you could easily stay occupied for a few days. There are pool side spots to relax by, wine tours, dune buggy tours, sand board rentals. We ended up going on a free wine tour for a couple hours that was included with our PeruHop pass. Afterwards, we hiked the dunes for a couple hours (totally for free!) Read more about Huacahina’s hidden secrets here.
Length of Stay: 1 Night
Residencial Maria Bonita ($16 USD/Night/Person)
Activities: Ceviche, Shopping at the local markets, National Reserve
We highly recommend taking a tour of Paracas National Reserve; it was our favorite thing we did during our stay. Besides the reserve, we had been waiting to get to this small seaside city in order to try the Ceviche. This is a dish of raw fish that is left in lemon juice so that the acidity ‘cooks’ it. We are sushi lovers so we found this delicious, but it might not be for everyone.
We would have liked to stay in Paracas longer than a night (probably because we had been moving around so much), but we wouldn’t recommend much more than a couple nights. The town consists of one main road with a bunch of hostels/restaurants and a beach side market with a boardwalk.
Once again, our PeruHop pass came in handy and it offered a free two hour tour of the reserve including transportation. We were able to walk to the edge of massive cliffs and watch the crashing waves below. It kind of reminded us a little bit of our experience in Big Sur in California, but on a whole other level.
Length of Stay: 2 Nights
Inti Killa Hostel ($21.30/Night per person)
Activities: Pizza, Sleep
Unfortunately, we really don’t have much to say about Lima because overall we spent 2 nights in the city totaling less than 24 hours. This was intentional because 1) Our friend, Isara, was on a short time-line to make it from Cusco back to Lima for his flight out 2) We had other places we wanted to see instead, and 3) Another friend of ours did not have a good experience in Lima. She had a bag stolen from her and said the city wasn’t worth much of a stay unless you knew somebody to show you around.
Inti Killa Hostel
However, our stay at Inti Killa Hostel was hands down the best service we had in Peru. Mary, the lady who checked us in went above and beyond to help us out and made sure we were more than comfortable. She arranged for a taxi to take us to the bus station on our way to Huaraz. When we returned for our last night in Peru she woke up at 5 am to make us breakfast and arranged another taxi to take us to the airport. Mary is an all-star and if we went back to Lima we would absolutely stay with her again.
With that being said, the location of our hostel was in the Miraflores neighborhood which seemed pretty decent and we felt safe walking around (even in the early night time hours). If we were to go back we would feel more willing to give this city a second chance. However, it definitely was one of the dirtier cities we stayed in during our time in Peru. During our bus ride out to Huaraz, it was very crowded and seemed to have a lot of pollution as we were leaving the city limits. We are more outdoorsy types and wanted to spend more time in Huaraz to do some hiking but met somebody there who said he had a great time with the night life in Lima, so to each their own.
Length of Stay: 3 Nights
Alpes Huaraz Hostel ($12.99 USD/Night/Person)
Activities: Huascarán National Park (Laguna 69 Hike)
Huaraz, like most cities in Peru, isn’t the safest to walk around at night. We felt safe enough walking together as long as we were mindful of our surroundings. Regardless, it definitely felt a little sketchier than Cusco. We were sure to wear our backpacks on the front of our bodies while walking around. This is so we can physically see them at all times to deter people from grabbing them off our backs. Nonetheless, we were more keen on seeing some of best hikes in Huaraz since it’s the outdoor capital of Peru.
Huascarán National Park
The hiking in Huascarán National Park is incredible. It is home to the world famous Laguna 69 Trek, the Santa Cruz Trek, and many more. We wish we had more time to spend here as we really only scratched the surface during our stay. We came specifically for Laguna 69 but learned so much about what it has to offer. Read more below about how to hike Laguna 69 and what other hikes Huascarán has to offer.
To read more from Josh & Molly head to their blog here! And, purchase their comprehensive Travel Guide to Peru here which is laid out in a beautiful, concise PDF filled with the best places to stay, where to eat, cool things to do, hidden gems, tips & etiquette, culture & more!