Just a Pack | February 26th, 2021 | No comments

Planning your trip and looking for the perfect 3 week Peru itinerary? You’ve come to the right place. 

Peru is the perfect destination for the adventurous traveler, no matter what you’re looking to do. This massive country is home to the Amazon Rainforest, a wonder of the world, and small towns with big personalities. Chock full of vibrant culture, ancient history, and outdoor activities, once you get there you may never want to leave.

Spending 3 weeks in Peru is an amazing experience if you do it right. That’s why we’ve put together a Peru itinerary: to get those gears spinning and those adventure pants on.

Peru also happens to be the very first country we ever backpacked on a budget. We spent two months traveling around Peru and Bolivia, but we understand most people don’t have the luxury of spending so much time there. We figured 3 weeks is just enough time to visit some of the key spots in Peru without having to mega rush. If you can spend MORE than 3 weeks, you should, but if you can’t this itinerary should set you straight. 

So, let’s get started.

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Three Weeks in Peru – An Itinerary 

A view of Machu Picchu on a misty day

This itinerary is our suggestion for what to visit in Peru and how much time to spend in each place. However, feel free to tweak it as you please! Also, it should be noted that bus travel between cities in Peru can take a long time. On some occasions it takes up to a full day, depending how far you need to go. Try to be flexible and mentally prepare yourself for long travel times and unforeseen circumstances on the road. 

Days 1-2: Lima

You’ll be flying into Lima, so what better place to start?

Lima is Peru’s capital and also the country’s largest city. Take it easy on the first day and allow yourself time to wander around.

Lima boasts amazing architecture and lots of history. The city center is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll want to visit Plaza de Armas de Lima, the Cathedral of Lima, and the Government Palace of Peru. There are also plenty of museums to visit.

To hit the highlights with a guide, check out Get Your Guide’s City and Coast Culture Bike Tour with a Local.

A view of Limas coastline during sunset

On your second day in Lima, focus on the Miraflores area. It’s home to the Park of the Reserve, a beautiful green space complete with fountains, and pre-Incan ruins at Huaca Pucllana.

Finally, head down the boardwalk to Larcomar and spend the evening there. This coastline area is full of cliffside bars and restaurants. Relax and enjoy the view over the beach while you indulge in local Peruvian food.

For accommodation in Lima, check out Hotel Boulevard in the Miraflores district.

Days 3-4: Huacachina

Early in the morning on day 3, catch a bus from Lima to Huacachina. The journey takes about five hours, but again, be prepared for unreliable travel times. This is why we recommend leaving early. 

Huacachina is a small village and a desert oasis. The village is dominated by the Huacachina Lagoon right in the center. Surrounded by palm trees, bars, restaurants, and lodges, this is one of the most popular destinations in Peru. Spend a day boating on the serene waters of the lagoon. You’ll also want to explore the surrounding sand dunes via a buggy tour, or try your hand at sandboarding.

For accommodation in Huacachina, check out Desert Nights Ecocamp for a unique experience.

Day 5: Bus to Arequipa

As we mentioned, travel times between cities in Peru can be crazy long. We recommend blocking off a full day for a bus from Huacachina to Arequipa. The bus takes almost 12 hours, but again, it’s smart to prepare for longer travel times.

If you can’t stand the thought of losing a full day in transit, you can also take an overnight bus. 

Days 6-7: Arequipa

A view of the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and is also known as “the white city.” That’s because many of its older buildings are made from local volcanic stone. Surrounded by three dormant volcanoes, this city is one of the country’s most beautiful.

Explore the Plaza de Armas, the Santa Catalina Monastery, and you can even feed the alpacas at Alpaca Mundo. 

If you’re looking to squeeze a lot into one day, check out Get Your Guide’s Half Day City Tour.

You can also take a tour of the Ruta de Sillar. During the tour, you’ll visit two quarries and see some amazing views of the volcanoes. 

For accommodation in Arequipa, check out the Katari Hotel, located right in the Plaza de Armas.

Days 8-11: Colca Canyon

Arequipa is known as the gateway to Colca Canyon, so it’s fairly easy to get from Arequipa to this area. The bus journey takes a bit longer than 3 hours, but plan for a little more, just in case. You’ll most likely be based in Chivay during your time exploring Colca Canyon.

Colca Canyon is the world’s third-deepest canyon, so there’s a lot to see here. One of the most famous viewpoints is Cruz del Condor, at an altitude of 10,892 ft. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the giant Andean Condor hunting for breakfast. 

Man standing on a rock overlooking a beautiful valley in Peru

Another amazing view of the canyon is from the Colca River itself.

White water rafting down this river is an incredible adventure. It’s also a quick way to explore everything the canyon has to offer.

If rafting isn’t your thing, spend a few days exploring the canyon by hiking, mountain biking, or even horseback riding. And when you’re done for the day, find a thermal bath to relax in.

If you’re not sure what all to check out on your own, look for one of Get Your Guide’s trekking tours.

For accommodation in Chivay, check out Casa Andina Standard Colca on the edge of the valley.

Days 12-15: Cusco and Sacred Valley

Once you’re done exploring Colca Canyon, head back to Arequipa to take a flight to Cusco. It’s best to leave early in the morning again, as the drive will take a little more than 3 hours. The flight will then be a little over an hour. 

Once you’re in Cusco, take some time to explore the city. Check out the Plaza de Armas and the Inca’s Temple of the Sun.

You’ll also want to head up to Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Incan fortress overlooking the city. The ruins are impressive, and the view of Cusco is breathtaking.

If you’ve got some extra time, you can also check out the nearby town of Pisac. Home to a famous market and more ruins, this is a short, fun trip out of the city. 

Once you’re done exploring the city itself, use Cusco as your base to explore the Sacred Valley. There are many points of interest in the valley. It’s up to you if you want to dedicate two or 3 days to this.

You can rent a car and go by yourself, or you can take GetYourGuide’s Full-Day Sacred Valley and Maras Tour. No matter what you decide, be sure to hit the highlights: the Moray Ruins, the Maras Salt Mines, and Ollantaytambo. 

You’ll also want to dedicate a day to see Rainbow Mountain. Go all the way to the top for the best views and photo spots.

For accommodation in Cusco, check out Antigua Casona San Blas in the city center.

Days 16-20: Trek to Machu Picchu

a llama standing near Machu Picchu Peru

And finally, the culmination of your trip: Machu Picchu.

This mysterious Incan citadel is one of the seven wonders of the world. To get the full experience, you’ll want to hike there. There are several routes you can take, but the two most famous are the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek. Both of these have starting points in Cusco.

If you don’t want to dedicate as much time or you’re a less experienced hiker, go with the Inca Trail. This typically takes 3 nights, 4 days. You’ll be camping along the way, covering 26 miles in four days, and you’ll be walking in the Incas’ footsteps.

Along this route, you’ll pass many Incan ruins and beautiful scenery. Some of the highlights include Dead Woman’s Pass, Sayaqmarka, and Llactapata.

You’ll want to dedicate the full last day to being at Machu Picchu. You’ll arrive through the Sun Gate and can gaze in wonder at the citadel.

The Salkantay Trek, however, will typically take five days and five nights. There is also a 4-day, 5-night option. This hike is more strenuous than the Inca Trail and you’ll pass through less ruins, but the scenery is incredible. You’ll also hike higher than you do on the Inca Trail.

Along the way, you’ll pass highlights like Mount Salkantay and Humantay Lagoon. This route also offers the chance to see more wildlife, as it’s usually less crowded.

On your last day, you’ll be based in Aguas Calientes and can visit Machu Picchu in all its glory. 

If you want a guided tour, check out GetYourGuide’s 4-Day Lares Trek to Machu Picchu with Panoramic Train.

Day 21: Cusco to Lima

Once you’re done at Machu Picchu, it’s unfortunately time to head to Lima for your flight back home. You’ll want to take a train from Aguas Calientes to the Cusco airport. A direct flight to Lima takes a little over an hour. 

Peru is an incredible place to visit, whether you’ve got 3 weeks in Peru or 3 months! This Peru itinerary will get you started, but there’s so much more to explore beyond these popular destinations. Happy traveling! 

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