Peru is the third largest country in South America . For those who have never been to this continent and has only ever traveled in Europe or in South East Asia, the first bus they encounter the moment they land in any airport of the many Latin American capitals might come as a shock, not so much for the road conditions nor for the buses, which indeed some of them are among the best, ( I have found both excellent ), as much as for the hours they need to prepare to undergo sitting and traveling.
In most cases the bus trips from one destination to another do not last less than eight hours, and in these circumstances it is said that the destination is nearby, there are trips from 15 to 36 hours, like the epic Caracas- Manaus (Brazil-Venezuela).
Peru is about 4 times as large as Italy, thinking to be able to do it in two weeks is not impossible but according to me, not enough, do not let the map deceive you, because it might seem small in comparison to Argentina and Brazil but once you get there your travel plans could change significantly.
As always, but especially in this continent, when planning a trip to Peru you have to take in account the distances.
If in 2 weeks it is possible see the essentials, I strongly recommend you to dedicate at least three weeks to visit the main tourist centers and to do so without having to rush.
I traveled Peru in a month and a half, I took my time doing it with calm, but I think that most of you will not have more than three weeks, so here’s a travel itinerary for 3 weeks in Peru, with arrival and departure from Lima.
From Travelogue Peru (July 2012)
I continue to feel cold, it’s been months now that I have been living in average altitude of 3500mt above sea level. Sun does not necessarily mean heatt, after all it is now winter.
The roads are getting longer, more and more strenuous to travel and to drag my old backpack that is gradually losing weight. Slowly I give away the too heavy clothes I had used in Bolivia and I lighten my load. I head for the Equator and I will not need the woollen sweaters anymore.
Despite the weight decrease, I still have no notion of the distances and each trip becomes epic, but by now I’ve got used to it.
On the maps these countries seem large but not huge. On the field instead you think that they are immense, inexplicably large and a move between two cities can take 12 hours by bus.
Cuzco is very beautiful. Puno I have not even wanted to visit, still intoxicated by Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca I want to remain “Bolivian” in my memories, I do not want to spoil this splendid and peaceful image with dances and songs that reproduce what was the life of a time, beyond the border, this spectacle had in the original version.
The Inka. Everything here speaks of them. Not only Machu Picchu, that for me is a postcard viewed so much that seen in real life did not give me anything of what I expected. But I cannot say the same of the sites near the city, those yes, that give you an interesting and varied vision of this ingenious and pacific civilization. The Cuy, the oven-baked guinea pig, the stuffed peppers and family size skewered meat.
The desert dunes of Huacachina, the sea and the coast of Paracas. It’s cold but it’s nice to eat arroz con mariscos at the kiosk and smelling the sea. It’s by me and I feel it, even if do not see it because it’s already dark. How I wanted to get back to you, sea.
3 weeks Itinerary in Perù – A travel itinerary
Day 1/2 – Arrival in Lima and settling in
You have been flying for many hours plus there is a time zone difference of 7 hours and you will certainly arrive very tired.
The best thing to do is to go to sleep in some hostel in Lima Miraflores and spend a few days in the capital.
Lima is not beautiful, the sun seems to be a mirage, the sky is constantly covered by clouds but it has a historical center, is compact and above all it is on the coast, where every day of the week there are surfers present.
Miraflores is the “VIP” area of the city, beautiful and rich villas one after the other, it is one of the safest areas of the capital at any time of day or night, and yes it is very touristy but this is one of the cases where this aspect did not bother me at all, people usually book in this area where it’s easy to find cheap and very beautiful hostels.
Besides the tour of the city center and a long leisurely walk along the malecon through the different districts, my advice is to go up to the Cerro San Cristobal and I recommend you do it in the evening to have a panoramic view of the city. To get to cerro, take a minibus that will depart as soon as it’s full and costs 10 Soles or $ 3.78 at current exchange rates. I do not recommend trying to go by yourself also because it goes through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of the city. The minibus is taken just behind the Plaza de las Armas.
Days 2 /3 – Huacachina
In the province of Ica not far from the big city is the natural oasis of Huacachina , a true oasis in the dunes of the desert .
To get there from Lima takes about 5 hours travel by bus and then a taxi from Ica up to the oasis .
The main activities are the sandboarding ( snowboarding on the dunes ) and a visit to the bodegas of pisco .
For more information about Huacachina click here.
After the tour of sandboarding, take a night bus for Arequipa the next day .
Huacachina also offers numerous solutions in hostels around the small oasis. For an updated list click on Hostels Huacachina.
How to get to Huacachina from Lima
The journey may take about 6 hours. Out of the Lima station take a direct bus to Ica and change for reaching Huacachina.
Days 5/6/7 – Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Arequipa is the white city of Peru . I discovered that all , or almost all, the South American countries have their own white city . Less white than Sucre in Bolivia is a beautiful city where the Convent of Santa Catalina must not be missed out . Entrance costs 30 Soles but the monastery is an architectural work of due respect, a citadel within the city.
For the undaunted, the tour of a sinister Colca Canyon is organized here . In this case you will need to consider 3 nights in Arequipa .
On the way back from Colca Canyon you can take, on the same night, a bus to go to Puno on Lake Titicaca .
There are numerous hostels throughout the city and very central . Breakfast is usually included .
How to get to Arequipa from ica
The journey is long and you will experience the greatness of the country in this way. From Huachina you will have to go to Ica, then Nazca and from here to change to catch the last bus to arrive in Arequipa.
The companies Cruz del Sur and Tepsa are valid options for traveling on long distance. Cruz South is a little more expensive but it is also the best bus company in the country.
Days 9/10/11 – Copacabana and Isla del Sol in Bolivia
Lake Titicaca is split between Peru and Bolivia, it is well-known that the lake side Peru is strictly touristic and little authentic so if you want to take part in a tour where everything is organized for you and nothing is real then Puno is the right choice but if you want to experience the Sacred Lake, my advice is to cross the border and go into Boliva.
From Puno to Copacabana it’s only 3 hours by bus including the crossing of the border, so it is worth traveling a few hours and discovering the splendid and mystical Isla del Sol.
One day in Copacabana is sufficient while it is worth it to spend at least one night in Isla del Sol, the heart of the Lake.
For more information about Isla del Sol read the post Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca.
On the return from isla del Sol with the first boat in the morning, take a night bus that goes directly to Cuzco, the journey is long and takes about 20 hours, ticket in a cama bus.
Not much can be found online for Copacabana, for a list of hostels click here Hostels Copacabana, but as soon as you get off the bus there will be someone waiting to accompany you to see one, I found mine this way.
Days 12/18 – Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Moras Moray, Tipon, Machu Picchu, Cuzco
The stay in Cuzo requires a minimum of 6 days if you want to discover the culture and the Inca civilization. Cuzco is not only Machu Picchu but other historical sites worth visiting and that should not be lost, one for all El Valle Sagrado.
The sites can be visited in an independent way but not having much time, and considering the low costs, it is better to rely on the organized tours which include pick up at the hostel, transport and a guide in the price.
Entrance tickets to the parks are excluded but for this, because the parks you want to visit have different costs accordingly, they can be bought at the entrance of the first park you visit.
The first day, considering the long and tiring trip, it is appropriate to make a reconnaisance round of the city and to organize the various tours.
The tours I recommend are:
- Valle Sagrado Tour
- Moras Moray and salaes Tour
- Machu Picchu
I advise you to follow the tours in this order so as to reserve the grand final at Machu Picchu. For information on tours to Machu Picchu I suggest you read this post.
The return from Machu Picchu in case the tour is done by bus will be in the evening at 22.00, hence the necessity to stay overnight in the city and leave the next day with a night bus to head to Paracas in the region of Pisco.
In order not to waste a day waiting for the bus, I suggest a tour out of town to Tipon to eat the famous Cuy of which you can read here.
Cuzco is very beautiful but also a big city, in this case, especially if you arrive in the evening or very early in the morning, the advice is to book the hostel in advance so that you can get into a taxi at the station and directly give an address. Most of these are located in large colonial houses and are in the center. Very beautiful.
Days 19/20 – Paracas
The night bus from Cuzco to Pisco is very long but comfortable but once we get to Pisco it takes about 25 minutes by taxi to get to Paracas a sleepy seaside town where the main attractions are two : Islas Ballestas ( also known as the Galapagos of the poor ) and the National Park of Paracas.
The day you arrive, relax in the sleepy town and eat the famous ceviche and the day after organize the two tours that can easily be done in half a day.
Day 21 – Return to Lima and departure
Paracas is a few hours from Lima thence if the return flight is in the evening you can arrive directly from Paracas without having to stay overnight in the city again.
Bus or flights?
I travel by bus and this is common knowledge, the buses in Peru are excellent and at different prices. Just like in Argentina here seats are bought in cama or semi cama buses, if you want to save some money then book the second type which is still very comfortable.
The most expensive company is Cruz del Sur, that I’ve never taken considering the economical alternatives of excellent quality, Tepsa for example.
My advice is to always ask the agency if there are alternatives to the Cruz del Sur, the agents take for granted that this will be our first choice, but if you change the company, the prices can be lowered by 50%.
If you have time to travel by bus, it is a nice and convenient experience and not dangerous. The distances are great so it is advisable to travel at night, the buses are safe, but to avoid misunderstandings put locks on everything including the backpack that you carry in the bus with you and keep it always between your legs and NEVER put it in the compartment above.
Obviously, traveling by bus is the cheapest option, but also the longer.
If you have a budget to spend you can fly, in particular, the routes recommended are between Lima – Cuzco or Lima – Juliaca, near Puno.
The airlines that offer domestic flights are: StarPerù, LAN, Peruvian Airlines and Taca.
Search for cheap flights to Peru on Skyscanner from Italy.
General costs for 3 weeks in Peru (trip done in 2012)
50 soles – Lima-Huanchaco
20 soles – Paracas-Lima 20
65 soles Arequipa-Cuzco
80 soles – Cuzco- Ica
30 soles – Puno – Arequipa
Hostels in dorms rooms
40 soles Puno single private room with hot water
20 soles Arequipa Amazing hostel Arequipa
25 soles Cuzco, Pirwa Hostel backpackers
17 soles, Paracas, Backpackers hostel
20 soles, Huacachina, Hostel Carola del Sur
17 soles, Lima,HQ villa
15 bolivianos ($2) a Isla del Sol. The hostel had no name just arriving on the island and ask availability, at that time the cost was about 20 bolivianos.
Check these hostels out Hostelworld
Tours (transport and guide included)
Machu picchiu by car $110
Valle Sagrado e Moras Moroy 65 soles
Colca canyon 220 soles
Islas Ballestas e Riserva nazionale di Paracas – 40 soles
Eating local and tourist menus 20 and 40 soles per day
The tour is obviously done in view of small budgets which means that traveling is done by bus and not by plane .
Buses in Peru are new , well organized , they do not cost much and are safe . Traveling at night means not losing a whole day and sleeping in cama bus ( the seats allow to lie in an almost horizontal position ) the arrival will not be traumatic as compared to what might be after an 8 hour bus ride in Laos!
My trip to Peru lasted a month and a half, I have had time to recover from the fatigue of long journeys and routes afford cheaper, but also more long and awkward. This is good to keep in mind when planning this trip.
The ideal would be to have a few more days between one destination and the other to rest a little, organize tours, book the bus (in high season it is recommended to book them in advance) etc.
I travel independently taking mainly public transport. A world trip began in 2011 is not yet finished, my mission is to explore the world and write about it. Travel consultant Galapagos, Argentina, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Namibia.