If you’re heading to South America and looking for a 3 week Peru itinerary that explores all of the best bits plus some hidden gems, then look no further.
This guide covers many things, including unbelievable mountains with bright blue lakes, vibrant cities with stunning colonial buildings, cool street art and tasty food, an oasis in the middle of the desert and – of course – natural wonders like Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain.
This itinerary is going to squeeze every ounce out of Peru whilst hopefully not leaving you too exhausted at the end.
Before we dive deep into the 21 days in Peru, there are some super important things that you’ll need to know about such as how to get there, travel around and the best time to visit. Trust me, this is very important, as you don’t want to visit and be stuck inside because it’s raining.
The structure of this guide will give you information about each location, tell you how to get there, give you some accommodation recommendations and then an itinerary of what to do whilst you’re there.
You’ll also find some information about how much you can expect to spend during the three weeks and some tips on how you could potentially save some money.
Where is Peru in South America
Peru is situated on the western side of South America and borders 5 countries: Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
Below is an interactive map so that you can see the exact location.
How to get to Peru and travel around
Plane | If you’re heading to Peru by plane and you’ll be following this itinerary then you’ll need to arrive into Lima. This is the capital city and Peru and where most international flights fly into.
There is only one airport in Lima and this is called Jorge Chávez International Airport.
Typically, tourists stay in the Miraflores neighbourhood as it’s on the coastline, very safe and there are plenty of things to see and do. It can take 30 minutes to 1 hour to reach Miraflores from the airport depending on the traffic, and there are a few different options to get there.
The first is by the Airport Express Lima bus. This only runs between the airport and Miraflores, however, there are a few stops to get off at depending on where you’re staying in the neighbourhood.
- Tourist Information Center
- Parque Kennedy
- Boulevard Hotel
The bus runs from 7 am to 10 pm and leaves on the hour, every hour and costs around 20 soles which is approximately $6/£5.
Although I’ve visited Lima more times than I can count, I’ve never had any luck getting this bus. I’ve always arrived in Lima too late, on a holiday or when it didn’t seem to be running that day for no apparent reason – classic South America.
To be honest, I started to question whether it was a legitimate bus, but during my many weeks in Miraflores I saw it multiple times, so I guess I was just unlucky.
The second way to reach Miraflores is by taxi or Uber. There are multiple taxi companies inside the airport who will be flagging you down as soon as your walk through the exit, however, these are much more expensive than taking a Uber.
Uber is super safe, reliable and fairly cheap in Peru.
Bus | buses in Peru are one of the best ways to travel around. Compared to other countries in South America, they are super comfortable and depending on the company, quite luxurious.
Yep, luxurious buses which almost feel like you’re travelling first class on an aeroplane…but on a bus. Obviously.
There are heaps of bus companies, but the best-known backpacker favourite is Cruz del Sur. Depending on which bus you select, you could be travelling around Peru with your own bed on the bus.
Tip: If you’re following this 3 week Peru itinerary as part of a wider trip across South America then the likelihood is that you’ll be coming down by bus from Ecuador.
If this is the case, then you’ll have a hell of a bus journey from the north to central Peru where most of the things to see and do are on offer.
If this is your plan, then I’d recommend that you make this a 4 week trip and stop in Mancora and Trujillo to break up the journey, before coming down to Huaraz and Lima which is where this itinerary will start.
Check prices: Busbud
Car | driving in Peru as a tourist is possible, but you should only consider this if you’re a super confident driver as the roads aren’t always in the best condition and it can be super chaotic in big cities such as Lima.
Check prices: Rentalcars.com
The best month to visit Peru
The best month to visit Peru is tricky because when one side of the country is experiencing the best weather of the year, the other side is experiencing the worst. For example, when it’s hot and sunny in Lima, it’s wet and cold in Cusco.
However, since the last few days of this itinerary finishes with a trip to Machu Pichu, you’ll want to visit during the dry season in Cusco which is typically May to September.
Rainy season in Peru
Luckily, a lot of the coastal towns and cities in Peru experience none or very little rain. However, the official rainy season in Peru runs from December to March.
3 week Peru itinerary overview
- Week 1
- Week 2
- Week 3
Peru itinerary 3 weeks
Peru itinerary week 1
Day 1-5: Huaraz
Huaraz sits within the Ancash region of Peru at approximately 3100 meters above sea level. Being surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, Huaraz has become a hub for hiking and mountaineering. If you love incredible blue lakes, snowcapped mountains and authentic towns, you’re going to love Huaraz.
Tip: given the high altitude in this location, you should consider taking medication to help with the effects. If you head to any pharmacy in Peru, you’ll be able to pick up some Acetak tablets. Trust me when I say this is worth it – I ended up having to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray following a bad case of altitude sickness.
How to get to Huaraz
The best way to get to Huaraz is by bus.
If travelling down from Ecuador by bus, then as recommended above, you’re better off making this a 4 week trip and stopping in Mancora and Trujillo to break up the journey if you don’t fancy enduring a 20+ hour bus ride.
However, if you’re flying into Lima then you’ll need to take the bus from either Plaza de Norte or Javier Prado bus station.
Plaza de Norte is the closest station to the airport and Javier Prado is closest to Miraflores. The best way to get to either of these bus stations is by Uber and you’ll need to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance of your departure time in order for your passport and luggage to be checked.
If you’re sticking to this itinerary, then you’ll need to take a night bus on the day that you arrive in Lima. It will take around 8.5 hours and it gets pretty cold, so I’d recommend wearing some warm clothing.
If you’ve got some wiggle room on how many days to spend in Peru, then you could also opt for the day bus. The scenery is stunning, so it’s definitely something to consider if you have time.
Regardless of whether you take the day or night bus, the route takes a lot of winding roads. If you get travel sick then you’ll definitely want to take some tablets before embarking on this bus journey.
Whilst I’d recommend the Cruz del Sur bus company, there are plenty of bus companies who travel this route. To see all the options available alongside the times and prices, check out Busbud – but, be sure to select one with good reclining seats or a bed if you’re travelling through the night.
Tip: Once you arrive at Huaraz bus station, you’ll need to take a taxi to your accommodation. Bear in mind that taxi drivers in this area will require you to have almost the exact amount of money and will not give you change if you only have big money.
Check prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Huaraz
Huaraz is a surprisingly large city that has quite a lot of hostels and hotels to choose from. And, what’s even better is that they’re all pretty cheap in comparison to some of the other towns and cities in Peru.
Below are some recommendations for where to stay in Huaraz:
- Budget | Kame House Backpacker
- Mid-range | Hotel El Rubi
Day 2 | after taking the night bus and arriving in Huaraz early in the morning, you’ll want to check into your accommodation and use this day to acclimatize to the high altitude. Since Huaraz is at 3100 meters above sea level, this day is essential before you head even higher into the mountains over the next few days.
You can also use this day to ensure you’ve booked onto the necessary hikes which you’ll be able to arrange through your accommodation or ahead of time using the links below.
Day 3 | today you’ll head into the mountains to Laguna Paron – one of the best lagunas in Huaraz – for your first little hike to ensure you’re acclimatised.
Whilst the hike is short, the gains are huge, as Laguna Paron is one of the most stunning blue lakes in Peru that can be reached after just 30 minutes of climbing.
However, don’t be fooled, as this day is a long one. You’ll be collected by your tour company between 7 am and 8 am before driving approximately 45 minutes to the charming town of Carhuaz. You’ll be given between 20 and 30 minutes to pick up some breakfast and snacks for the day, as well as have the opportunity to try some of the local ice cream. I’m a big fan of lucuma – an incredible fruit which tastes like a caramel milkshake – so I highly recommend the lucuma ice cream here.
You’ll travel for another 45 minutes to the base of the mountain before the long and winding 2-hour journey begins to the start of the hike.
Once you’ve arrived at the starting point, you’ll be given 2 hours to hike and explore independently. It may seem obvious, but you’ll need a solid pair of hiking shoes and some warm clothes for this hike since you’ll be climbing over big rocks and the weather in the mountains is unpredictable.
After around 30 minutes of hiking, you’ll arrive at the viewpoint which sits at 4200 meters and looks down onto the undeniably beautiful waters of Laguna Paron.
Once everyone has made it back to the bus, you’ll be taken to a restaurant in the mountains for a late lunch before arriving back in Huaraz at around 6 pm.
Day 4 | now that you know you can handle some altitude, it’s time to tackle one of the most popular hikes in the area: Laguna 69.
It’s a demanding 13-kilometer hike that’s filled with steep accents and rocky terrain but reaps some of the greatest rewards that Peru’s nature has to offer. The ultimate prize of Laguna 69’s turquoise glacier water surrounded by snowcapped mountains at 4600 meters above sea level is an achievement that’s worth every breathless step.
You’ll be collected at approximately 5 am by your tour company who will drive you roughly three hours to the starting point of the hike.
Although it may seem tough to get yourself up and out by this time, there is a method in the madness. Typically, the weather becomes worse in the mountains in the afternoon and so you’ll be thankful that you’ll be trekking in *hopefully* decent weather.
However, with that in mind, you will need to pack for all weather eventualities. During my Laguna 69 hike we experienced blistering hot sunshine, rain, snow and wind. The key to success is a lot of layers and plenty of sun cream. You’ll also need a solid pair of waterproof hiking boots or trail running shoes and hiking poles would also be beneficial. If you don’t have your own, then these can be rented for a small fee on the day.
You’ll be left to hike alone or with your new-found friends from the bus, and your tour guide should be following the last person in the group. Rough timelines are 3-4 hours to ascend, 1-2 hours at Laguna 69 and 2-3 hours to descend. Based on these guidelines, you should be back in Huaraz between 6 and 7 pm.
Day 5 | day 5 of your 3 weeks in Peru gives you two options: you can hop on the day bus back to Lima or you can explore the city of Huaraz before taking the night bus. What you choose will depend on how well you can sleep on buses and how tight your budget is – as of course, when you’re sleeping on a bus you won’t need to pay for a hostel.
If you go for option 1, you’ll enjoy a lovely scenic journey back to the capital and arrive in time for dinner.
If you go for option 2, then you can explore Huaraz or even head on another hike, as the night buses leave between 9 and 10 pm.
Laguna Churup is another popular hike which has similar difficulty levels to Laguna 69. Alternatively, you could take a day trip to Pastoruri Glacier as most tours leave at 9 am and return by 5 pm. After a tough day hiking to Laguna 69, this may be a better option for you as it only involves a short 40-minute hike.
Either way, you’ll end up back in Lima after Huaraz.
Check prices of Laguna Churup & Pastoruri Glacier with you hostel – these are often the cheapest prices
Day 6 & 7: Lima
Lima is home to over 10 million people, making it one of the largest cities in South America. The three main areas which tourists visit in Lima are Miraflores, Barranco and the historic centre – also known as the City of Kings and declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Although Lima often gets a bad rap for its often grey skies, its vibrant food industry, colourful street art and stunning historical buildings more than makes up for it.
Where to stay in Lima
The most popular base in Lima is Miraflores and as such, the below recommendations are for this area.
- Budget | Pariwana Hostel
- Mid-range | Exe Hotel
- Luxury | Pullman Hotel
Day 6 | on day 6 you’ll be exploring the districts of Miraflores and Barranco.
First up is Miraflores and a great way to start the day is by heading down to the beach to catch some waves. The three main beaches for surfing in Miraflores are Waikiki Beach, Makaha Beach, and La Pampilla. Waikiki Beach is popular among beginners, whilst Makaha and La Pampilla offer better opportunities for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Since you don’t have too long in Lima, a great way to explore is by renting some bikes. There are plenty of dedicated cycle paths in the area, making it very safe.
Cycling along the Malecón de Miraflores is a lovely way to explore the area’s six-mile coastline. Along the way, there are plenty of parks, interesting sites and sculptures to stop at, including El Beso, the Chinese Park and the Lighthouse. You’ll also find some places to eat such as Beso Francés Crepería and the Larcomar shopping centre.
Alternatively, you could see the coastline from above by opting for paragliding. This is usually around 320 soles which is equivalent to $85/£70.
Either way, this should take you most of the morning and leave you the afternoon to explore Barranco.
After you’ve had some lunch around the popular Kennedy Park – also known as the cat park – it’s time to head over to Barranco.
Barranco is also known as the bohemian district of Lima. It’s becoming increasingly popular due to the vibrant street art and murals, with many companies offering tours to showcase some of the hot spots.
There are plenty of walking tours which explore Barranco, however, there is a fantastic food and walking tour that can be booked through Viator which I highly recommend.
Check prices: Barranco Food and Art Tour
Day 7 | today you’ll be exploring the historic centre of Lima, visiting museums and heading to the stunning Magic Water Show in the evening.
The best way to learn about the history of a place is with a walking tour, so I’d recommend booking one for the morning.
Check prices: Lima City Tour
However, if you’d rather explore independently then the key sites that you’ll want to check out are:
- Plaza Mayor
- Government Palace
- Cathedral of Lima
- San Francisco Monastery and Catacombs
- Casa de Aliaga
- Church of Santo Domingo
Next up is the Larco Museum. It’s one of the best museums in Lima – not only for its 45,000 objects which showcase the early Andean civilizations to the Inca Empire but also the immaculate 18th-century mansion in which they are held. Every corner of this museum is beautiful, with vibrant flower walls blooming against the bright white architecture.
Some of the best bits on the show are the Moche pottery collection which has incredibly detailed ceramics depicting scenes from everyday life and mythical nature, as well as a collection of erotic art that shows pottery depicting sexual practices and fertility rites.
One of the best sites to see in Lima in the evening is the Magic Water Show which is situated in Parque de la Reserva. As you might have guessed, this is essentially a bunch of fountains which shoot water around in time to the music whilst being lit by different colours. It’s pretty impressive and even holds the title in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest fountain complex in the world!
The show is on multiple times throughout the night on every single day of the week and costs 15 soles which is around $4/£3.
You don’t need to worry about the timing of the show as if you miss it, it will be on again shortly. There are other fountains to see, run through and capture awesome pictures of, so you won’t be bored in the meantime.
If you have an extra day or historic centres and museums don’t tickle your fancy and you want to do something more unique, then you could opt for a tour to the Palomino Islands to see Guano birds, Humboldt penguins and swim with sea lions.
Although I didn’t do this tour, having looked at it in-depth now, it’s something I really wish I’d prioritised time and money for. I’m heading back to Lima in the coming weeks and I will be there for a while, so I will update this post once I’ve ticked it off my bucket list.
In the meantime, here’s some tours:
Peru itinerary week 2
Day 8 & 9: Paracas
Paracas is 260 kilometres south of Lima. Although it’s a small seaside town, it acts as a great base for the abundance of things to do nearby. By far the most popular places to visit are Paracas National Park and the Ballestas Islands due to the magnificent wildlife and unique landscapes which can be found. Additionally, it’s a popular spot for those who are interested in kite surfing.
How to get to Paracas
To get to from Lima to Paracas, you’ll need to take the bus. Whilst there are plenty of buses which leave throughout the day, you’ll need to be careful about which bus you select since some of them take alot longer than others.
The best option is to take one of the early morning Cruz del Sur buses. Although they leave super early, they are the quickest and it means that you’ll arrive in Paracas with plenty of time left in the day to explore.
Check prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Paracas
Below are some recommendations for where to stay in Paracas:
- Budget | Viajero Kokopelli Hostel
- Mid-range | El Gamonal
- Luxury | La Hacienda Bahia Paracas
Day 8 | once you’ve arrived in Paracas and settled into your accommodation, you can roam the streets and explore this sweet seaside before heading to the meeting point of the Golden Shadows Trek at 3 pm.
This trek leads along the coastline of Paracas National Park and you’ll enjoy some spectacular views as the sun sets and the moon rises. In fact, you’ll be able to see both on either side of you which is super unique.
However, it’s the tour guides that really make this experience. Not only are they full of interesting information, but they’re absolutely hilarious too. They go above and beyond to provide an unforgettable experience and you’ll leave with some epic pictures to remind you of the experience.
Although this trek isn’t super long trek, you’ll be climbing across the sand and down some steep slopes – to the point where you may question whether it’s actually safe – but don’t worry, everyone made it to the end of the hike in one piece and the guide promised that no one else had ever left with injuries.
With that in mind, you’ll want to wear appropriate footwear. Hiking boots may seem a little excessive when you arrive, but trust me, you’ll be thankful that you put these on as you get further into the hike. You’ll also want to pack a jumper and/or a windproof jacket as you’re very exposed on the coastline.
Check prices: Golden Shadows Trek
Day 9 | day 9 of this 3 week Peru itinerary is jam-packed. You’ll head off to the Ballestas Islands in the morning before taking a buggy tour across Paracas National Park and heading to the Peruvian desert and oasis of Huacachina.
The Ballestas Islands are also known as the poor man’s Galapagos, with tours running from 8 am until lunchtime almost every day. I’d recommend taking the 8 am or 9 am boat as the experience lasts 2 hours and you’ll want to have enough time to get some lunch before exploring Paracas National Park.
During the trip, you’ll see Guano birds, Humboldt penguins and sea lions, as well as the iconic Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes which is said to have been created sometime between 200 BCE to 600 CE.
During the boat trip, you are likely to get a little bit wet, so you’ll need to wear a waterproof jacket. It’s also likely to be extremely sunny and so you’ll need to ensure you’re wearing a lot of sun cream and a hat to protect you.
Tip: If you’ve chosen to visit the Palomino Islands, this experience is similar and so you may want to skip this. The difference between the two is the price and the fact that you can’t swim with the sea lions here.
In the afternoon, it’s time to jump in a sand buggy and head to Paracas National Park. This is one of the best and most fun ways to explore the National Park while stopping at some of the most interesting spots, including The Red Beach – a beach with red sand and clear water like glass, The Cathedral – an interesting rock formation that looks like a cathedral, and The Lookout – one of the highest points in the park offering breathtaking views.
The tours usually last between 3 and 4 hours and so you’ll be back just in time to catch the last bus from Paracas to Ica which is the closest town to Huacachina.
Check prices: Mini Buggy Ride in Paracas National Reserve
Day 10: Huacachina
Huacachina is a tiny village that’s been built around an oasis in the Peruvian desert. Yet, it attracts many visitors and tourists who are not only looking to admire its beauty, but also adventure sports such as sandboarding and riding in the dune buggies across the desert. During the day, Huacachina is quiet, peaceful and idyllic but at night, there is a vibrant party scene.
How to get to Huacachina
To get to Huacachina, you’ll need to take to the bus from Paracas to Ica. The last bus leaves around 5 pm and it takes just under an hour and a half to reach Ica. From Ica, you’ll need to take a 5-minute taxi ride to Huacachina.
Check prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Huacachina
- Budget | Wild Rover Huacachina
- Mid-range | Hotel El Huacachinero
- Luxury | Hospedaje Claudia
Day 10 | after arriving in Huacachina the previous evening, you’ll begin your day with some sandboarding before taking a trip in a sand buggy in the afternoon. There are plenty of tours which combine the two, however, these experiences only last around 2 hours and so renting your own sandboard and then finding a tour company to take you out on the sand buggy is a much better way of doing it.
When it comes to renting a sandboard, you’ll have two options: one that has secure attachments that your feet will be locked into and another that has loose straps that you slot your feet into.
Whilst the second option is more expensive, it’s worth it to be able to enjoy the experience more.
I’d recommend renting the boards for 4 hours, as you lose quite a lot of time climbing up the sand dunes. This is pretty sweaty work, so this activity should not be underestimated.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re wearing appropriate clothing that you don’t mind getting covered in sand. It’s usually quite hot, so this will be shorts and a t-shirt – preferably sportswear if you have it. Whilst you may think flip-flops are a good idea for the sand, you’ll want to avoid these at all costs. You’ll need a sturdy pair of shoes which slot into the sandboard and ones that are going to give you a good grip to scale the dunes.
After lunch, you’ll want to spend a little bit of time wandering around the oasis and perhaps going on the boats in order to let your food settle before you jump into a sand buggy. This is crucial as the sand buggy experience is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. You’ll be thrown in every direction as you reach the tip of ginormous sand dunes and fall hundreds of feet to the base.
Honestly – this was one of my favourite experiences in Peru, but also one that I really thought we’d make headline news as a group of tourists who had been killed by a crazy sand buggy driver.
You’ll also want to time it so that your experience is coming to end just as the sun is setting, as the likelihood is that the driver will stop in a remote location so you can capture some incredible pictures of the sun setting over the desert without any crowds.
If you would prefer a tour, then GetYourGuide is a great platform to book through.
Once you’ve recovered from an exhausting day both physically on the sandboards and mentally on the sand buggies, it’s time to enjoy your last night in Huacachina with a party. The three best locations for this are:
- Bananas Adventure Hostel Bar
- Wild Rover Hostel Bar
Day 11: Nazca
Nazca is best known for the Nazca lines which are ancient geoglyphs that are believed to have been carved into the desert floor sometime between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The most popular way to see the Nazca Lines is with a flight so that you can get a fantastic birdseye view. In all honesty, the town isn’t much to look at and this is the only thing that really attracts tourists here. Besides that, it’s also a convenient place to stop before taking the night bus to Arequipa.
How to get to Nazca
To get to Nazca from Huacachina, you’ll need to take a taxi to Ica and then the bus to Nazca. This usually takes around 3 hours and if you’re wanting to see the Nazca linas, then the last flight usually take off around 3 pm, so you’ll need to take the morning bus. At the time of writing, this is 10:20 am.
Check prices: Busbud
Day 11 | today you’ll have two options and what you choose will depend on your budget and interests. Option 1 is to take a flight over the Nazca lines, however, this can be quite expensive for a backpacker on a budget. Option 2 is to have a more relaxed day exploring some historical sites and museums after what was likely a heavy night of drinking.
If you’re keen to see the Nazca lines, then I’d recommend booking a flight for 3 pm as it’s unlikely you’ll reach Nazca until at least 1:30 pm if you’ve taken the morning bus. This is usually the last flight of the day, but it will give you some wiggle room just in case you face some traffic.
The flight lasts around 30 minutes and you’ll likely be sharing the plane with 5 others who have also booked the tour. During the flight, the guide will provide you with everything you need to know about the history of the Nazca lines and they’ll even keep hold of your luggage whilst you’re up there.
Alternatively, if you aren’t planning to see the Nazca lines then you can explore the city independently. Some of the most popular things to see and do include:
- Chauchilla Cemetery
- Antonini Museum
- Aqueducts of Cantalloc
- Nazca Planetarium
You’ll then head to the bus station to take the night bus to Arequipa.
Day 12, 13 & 14: Arequipa
Arequipa is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru that’s known for its historic centre which is made out of white volcanic stone. In fact, that’s how it got its nickname ‘The White City’.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Arequipa, but it’s best known for being the gateway to the Colca Canyon which is one of the deepest canyons in the world. For context, it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA.
Additionally, Arequipa is a great place to stop in order for you to begin the acclimatisation process as it sits at 2,328 meters above sea level.
How to get to Arequipa
To get to Arequipa from Nazca, you’ll need to take the night bus. There are a few different options, however, without a place to stay in Nazca, you will likely want to take one of the early night buses which are usually between 9 pm and 10:30 pm.
Regardless of which bus company you choose, you’ll want to check that you’re getting the best possible seats (or even a bed) for what you’re willing to spend as this bus journey is over 10 hours.
Check prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Arequipa
- Budget | Arequipay Backpackers Downtown
- Mid-range | La Hostería Boutique Hotel
- Luxury | CIRQA – Relais & Châteaux
Day 12 | after arriving in Arequipa early this morning and knowing what’s in store for the next few days, you’ll no doubt want a relatively relaxed day today.
After checking into your accommodation, day 12 of this 3 week Peru itinerary involves seeing the historical sites and museums, as well as trying some local foods.
The best way to see the historical sites and learn about the history of Arequipa is with a walking tour, however, I appreciate that after a long bus journey, you may not have the energy levels for this. You can book a walking tour through GuruWalk or you can explore some of the key sites below independently:
- Plaza de Armas
- Cathedral of Arequipa
- Tristán del Pozo
- The Mario Vargas Llosa public library
- Santa Catalina Monastery
- Fundo el Fierro
- Barrio de San Lázaro
Day 13 | on day 13 you’ll begin the 2 day Colca Canyon trek.
Although this itinerary for Peru follows a 2 days trek, it can also be done as a 1 or 3 day trek.
You can do this hike independently or with a tour company, depending on your preference. However, one thing for sure is that if you use a tour company, it makes things much more straightforward and the bus journey to the starting point will be shorter as it’s more direct.
The bad news is that the tours begin at 3 am – which is common for hiking excursions in Peru – and it’s a 4 hour bus journey to the starting point of the hike: Cabanaconde.
If you choose to hike independently, then you’ll benefit from a later start as the busses don’t begin until 5 am, however, the journey tends to be around 6 hours to Cabanaconde.
When looking at the 2 day tours to the Colca Canyon you will have a few options available depending on how much hiking you want to do, as some tours will spend the first day visiting the surrounding villages and spotting the condors which nest in the area.
Below are some tours to consider.
Day 14 | once you’ve completed the Cocla Canyon trek and arrived back in Arequipa in the evening, you’ll have two options to consider about your mode of onward transport.
Firstly, you could stay in Arequipa for the night as you’ll likely want a good rest after a few days of hiking, before flying to Cusco the following day.
Secondly, you could take the night bus straight to Cusco. It takes between 10 and 11 hours and there are multiple buses to choose from throughout the evening.
Although taking the night bus is the cheapest option, flying is actually surprisingly inexpensive and so it’s something to consider if you don’t sleep well on buses.
Peru itinerary week 3
Day 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19: Cusco
Cusco is one of the most popular cities to visit in Peru, since it’s very close to Machu Picchu – one of the five wonders of the world.
Situated in the Andes mountains, Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world at 3400 meters above sea level. Given the fact that you will have spent a few days in Arequipa, the altitude should affect you less than if you were to fly straight from Cusco from sea level. However, you’ll still need to be mindful of the dangers of altitude sickness.
Whilst the nature around Cusco is absolutely breathtaking, the city also has a lot to offer. You’ll find colonial buildings, a vibrant art scene and plenty of unique and interesting foods to try.
How to get to Cusco
As mentioned above, there are a few different ways to get to Cusco from Arequipa and what you choose will depend on your budget and how tired you are from hiking in the Colca Canyon.
Check prices: Busbud / Skyscanner
Where to stay in Cusco
- Budget | Viajero Kokopelli Hostel Cusco
- Mid-range | El Mariscal Cusco
- Luxury | JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
Day 15 | whether you decided to take the bus or fly to Cusco, hopefully, you’ll have picked an option which means you’ll arrive by lunchtime so that you have some time to acclimatise and explore some of the sites in Cusco.
Today, you’ll want to take it super chilled and do nothing more than wander around the city and see some of the sites. This is really important to keep the effects of altitude under control and don’t forget to help your body by purchasing some Acetak tablets from any pharmacy.
Some recommended things to see and do are:
- Plaza de Armas
- Cusco Cathedral
- The Temple of the Sun
- San Blas neighbourhood
- Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
- Inca Museum
- Casa Concha Museum
Day 16 | today you’ll be beginning your Machu Picchu trek. This Peru itinerary of 3 weeks follows the short Inca trail which is 2 days rather than the traditional 4 days. This is purely based on the fact that you only have 3 weeks in Peru and we’re trying to squeeze as much in as possible during this trip.
If you can find an extra few days, then by all means opt for the 4 day Inca trail or the Salkantay trek which is around double the distance but half the cost. If you have extra days, it may also be wise to give yourself an extra day to acclimatise in Cusco.
Regardless of the tour company you have chosen for the Inca trail, you’ll be required to go to a briefing the night beforehand. Here, you’ll be given all of the information you need on what to pack, what time you’ll be collected and what you can expect to happen on your trek.
I’d recommend knowing exactly what you need to pack ahead of this briefing because you will not have much time to buy any last minute items if you are not prepared.
Below is a general guide on what you’ll need:
- A small day pack
- Waterproof jacket
- Lightweight fleece
- 2 short sleeved t-shirts – one for hiking and one to change into in the afternoon
- Hiking trousers
- 3 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks
- Sports bra
- Hiking boots
- Sliders for wearing in the evening
- Head torch
- Sun cream
- Bug spray
- Toilet roll
- Face and body wipes
- Filter water bottle
- Battery pack
The itinerary of the two days will vary depending on which tour you choose since some include more hiking than others. Yet, regardless of which one you go for, you can guarantee that the days will begin early – as early as 4 am – and you’ll cover the Sacred Valley and the Sun Gate.
When it comes to choosing a tour operator, I found the price tends to be more expensive through the well-known westernised companies and they’re actually using a local group anyway. The tours which you’ll find on platforms such as GetYourGuide are often the exact same experience for slightly cheaper. As long as the reviews are decent, you’re better off booking on this platform.
One thing to bear in mind is that if you’re visiting during peak season, you will need to book your Machu Picchu trek well in advance as there are only a certain amount of permits available.
Day 17 | on day 17, you’ll have hopefully seen some fantastic views of Macchu Pichhu before arriving back to Cusco in the evening. It will have been a long day, so it’s unlikely that you’ll want to do much more than hunker down for the evening, however, if you do have some energy then I’d recommend heading to San Blas for the evening. It’s a really cute neighbourhood within Cusco and there are dozens of charming places to eat and drink.
Day 18 | on day 18, it’s time to enjoy the Moray, Maras Salt Mines & Chinchero Weavers with a half-day tour.
The first stop is Moray, which is an archaeological site in the Sacred Valley that has some pretty impressive and unique circular areas. These areas are believed to have been used by the Incas for agricultural experiments, as each one has its own microclimate in order for crops to be tested at different altitudes. Regardless of the reason, it’s a spectacular site.
The second stop is Maras Salt Mines which ever since Inca times have been used for salt production. In my opinion, they’re even more impressive than Moray and make for some really unique photos. The salt pools are tiered and as the water flows into each layer, the water evaporates in the sun and leaves behind the salt which is then harvested by local families and sold in the markets.
The third and final stop on the tour is to the Chinchero Weavers – a group of craftswomen and craftsmen who sell all sorts of things designed by their traditional weaving techniques. Typically, they use natural dyes and alpaca wool to create their items and sell them to not only locals and tourists, but a number of stores around the world. If you’re looking to purchase the typical ‘i’ve been to Peru’ alpaca jumper and you want something that’s going to last you a long time, then this is the place to get one.
Although this tour will only take half a day, you’ll want some time to take it easy today as tomorrow will be an early start.
Some things to consider are a massage or a bus tour.
Day 19 | next up on this Peru itinerary is the wonderful Rainbow Moutain, which only appeared in 2015 after the snow which had been covering it melted. The colours of the mountain are due to the number of different mineral deposits which ultimately create a rainbow effect, hence the name: Rainbow Mountain.
The best way to reach Rainbow Mountain is with a guided tour. I know this may not always be to everyone’s preference but given its remote location, it really is the easiest way to see the mountain at a cost-effective price.
The likelihood is that you’ll be able to walk into a tour office in Cusco and book a tour for the following day, but personally I think it’s always better to be able to read the reviews on trusted platforms like GetYourGuide ahead of time and get a spot secured. Plus, because it’s such a popular tour, the prices are pretty much the same regardless of where you book.
Regardless of your choice, the tours begin at around 4 am and the drive is approximately 3 hours. The reason that the tours start so early is to ensure that you’re getting the best weather since it usually rains in the mountains in the afternoon.
The good news is that this is a relatively short hike. It should take under 2 hours to reach the summit and it’s flat for almost the entire way, with a short but steep incline at the end.
One very important piece of information to consider is that the hike begins at 4600 meters above sea level and peaks at 5200 meters. It’s vital that you don’t do this hike when you first arrive in Cusco as you’ll need time to acclimatise properly since this is the highest altitude you’ll experience in Peru. If you struggled during the Inca Trail it is not worth taking the risk to summit Rainbow Mountain (as disappointing as that may be). I can really vouch for this as I ended up having to go to the hospital due to altitude sickness.
This evening, you’ll take the night bus to the final destination of your three weeks in Peru.
Day 20 & 21: Puno
Puno sits at 3800 meters above sea level and is best known for its lake: Lake Titicaca – one of the highest lakes in the world. Puno is a great stop for those who are continuing their journey through South America to Bolivia.
How to get to Puno
To get to Puno from Cusco, you’ll need to take a night bus. The quickest and cheapest one is usually with Cruz del Sur and leaves at 10 pm at night.
Check prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Puno
- Budget | Pukara- Puka Kantuta
- Mid-range | Hotel Hacienda Plaza de Armas
- Luxury | GHL Hotel Lago Titicaca
Day 20 | on day 20 you’ll be taking a boat across Lake Titicaca to the Uros Floating Reed Islands and Taquile Island to learn about the indigenous people who still live here.
Most tour companies will collect you from your accommodation in Puno, however, you’ll want to double-check the time since you’ll have arrived early that morning by bus.
The first stop on the tour is the Uros Floating Reed Islands which is a group of islands which have been built from totora reeds. Typically, you’ll get a guided tour of the islands and learn about the indigenous people who inhabit the island, before hopping in one of the traditional reed-built boats.
The second stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site: Taquile Island. To this day, those living on the island are still speaking Quechua – an indigenous language spoken by people across South America. You’ll jump off the boat for a short hike to the top of the island to gain some of the best views over Lake Titicaca, before visiting a local family for a traditional lunch.
Day 21 | day 21 signifies the end of your trip to Peru.
For many who are continuing their travel across South America, you’ll most likely be heading across the Bolivian border to La Paz. The buses from Puno leave early in the morning and so you’ll have yet another early start to the day.
If Peru is where your trip ends and you’re returning to your home country, then you’ll need to take the bus back to Cusco and most likely fly to Lima before taking a connecting flight home.
3 weeks in Peru cost
The cost of 3 weeks in Peru will be different depending on your travel style. However, you should fit into one of the categories below and as such, be able to gauge some rough cost and total budget for your trip.
Budget: £1-£2 for local buses, £10-£25 for long-distance buses
Mid-range: £20-£50 for taxis or private transfers
Luxury: £100+ for a private car with a driver
- Overall, a rough estimate of a 3-week trip to Peru would be:
What is the cheapest time to go to Peru?
To get the cheapest prices without compromising too much on the weather, you’ll want to visit Peru in the shoulder season.
If you’re following this itinerary and you’ve read the section about the weather, then you’ll know that the weather differs drastically depending on which side of the country you’re on. However, if you’re wanting to visit Machu Picchu then you’ll need to make this side of the country your priority.
With that in mind, the shoulder season in Cusco is October and April and as such, this is when the cheapest time to visit Peru is without compromising too much on the weather.
How many days do you need in Peru?
Depending on what you want to see and do in Peru will depend on how many days you really need. You’ll notice that many things such as the Colca Canyon trek and Inca trail can be done over more or fewer days depending on much time you have.
As the most popular locations are spread across Peru and the country is reasonably big, a lot of time is taken up with travel – particularly as a lot of the time you will have to travel by bus.
If you’d rather spend longer in locations and fly between cities then your best solution would be to go from Lima to Arequipa to Cusco.
Is three weeks enough in Peru?
Three weeks in Peru is enough if you’re super organised and you follow this itinerary down to a T. It’s going to be full on, but it means you will see all the best bits that this beautiful country has to offer.
If you have additional weeks to spend in Peru, then it means that you can take things more steadily and potentially add some extra locations to your itinerary. The locations that we skipped in this 3 week Peru itinerary are:
The town closest to the Amazon in the north of Peru.
A beach town in the north of Peru thats popular for surfing, whale watching and swimming with sea turtles.
A colonial beach town with a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant food and art scene.
A pretty colonial town in the highlands of Peru with plenty of culture and hikes to less travelled locations like Millpu pools.
- Puerto Maldonado
The town closest to the Amazon in the south of Peru.
Explore South America further
If you enjoyed this 3 week Peru itinerary and you’ll looking to explore South America further then I’m in the process of creating not only more guides on Peru but also Ecuador and Colombia. As soon as they’re ready, I’ll drop some links to them in this guide.
So far, you can find Lagunas in Huaraz and how to visit one of Peru’s best lagunas – Laguna Paron.
Stay Wild Travels.
Disclosure: just a heads up that some of the links within this blog are affiliated which means that we may receive a small commission. We only recommend things that we truly believe in. If you use any of these links, it really helps support our blog, so thank you!