Are you looking for the perfect 3 week Peru Itinerary?
I am so excited to share this 3 week Peru itinerary with you because we had such an amazing time when we were there. Now I love any excuse to go back through the photos and talk about it!
It’s highly likely that Peru is somewhere you’ve heard a lot about and chances are you have been dreaming of going for a long time now.
I can totally relate.
Seeing Machu Picchu with my own eyes had been at the top of my bucket list for years and when it finally happened it was pure magic. Now I am super excited that you too are planning to visit this incredible country.
We spent 4 weeks in total in Peru, so I have taken everything we experienced and even more and put it into this itinerary so you can make sure not to miss a thing.
Before we dive into the itinerary, let’s first just make sure you feel comfortable with the amount of time you will need for your trip.
Is 3 Weeks In Peru Enough?
Although we spent 4 weeks in Peru, we did spend 2 of those weeks in Cusco. We were on a longer backpacking trip and chose Cusco as a spot to slow down for a while.
That is why I have chosen to create a 3 week Peru Itinerary. Based on our experience, I think 3 weeks is the perfect amount of time to see some of Peru’s Highlights.
Of course to really see any country you would need years and we could’ve easily spent much longer exploring…because let’s face it, Peru is pretty awesome. However, realistically most people don’t have that much time so 3 weeks is the sweet spot to really feel like you got the most out of your trip.
The absolute minimum amount of time I would recommend is 2 weeks.
If you have more time for your trip then I really recommend also visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
How To Get Around Peru
I personally feel that the best way to get around Peru is by Bus.
We opted to use the bus company Peru Hop to get around because they have a really great system set up to get you from place to place with as little effort as possible. You can do this entire Itinerary using them so if your budget allows then they are 100% the way to go.
Alternatively, the public bus network would be the most budget-friendly way to get around the country but also potentially the slowest.
You could hire a car and drive yourself but just be aware that some of the distances you will need to cover to get from place to place on this itinerary are ENORMOUS.
There are also internal flights which can be unreliable, Trains which are uncommon and pricey and of course Taxis everywhere you go.
For this Itinerary, I will go into more detail on using the Peru Hop buses because we really do believe they are the best way to get around.
3 Week Peru Itinerary Overview & Map
Now that we have covered the best way to get around and how much time you will need, here is a quick overview of our 3 week Peru Itinerary;
Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day 2 & 3: Lima
Day 4 & 5: Paracas and Islas Ballestas
Days 6 & 7: Huacachina
Days 8, 9, 10 & 11: Arequipa and Colco Canyon
Days 12 & 13: Puno and Lake Titicaca
Days 14 – 20: Cusco and Machu Picchu
Day 21 – Fly Home (Via Lima)
This Itinerary should give you plenty of time in each place and make sure you don’t feel rushed.
3 Week Peru Itinerary In Detail
OK, time for the juicy details and everything you need to know to plan your epic, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru.
I’m excited, can you tell?!
Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day one of your trip will just be for you to arrive in Lima.
When booking your flights I recommend using a site like SkyScanner to compare prices and pick the best deals for you. Comparison sites like these are a great way to save some extra money.
Lima Airport is located about a 45-minute drive outside of the city and if like me you prefer to be organised, the best way to get from the airport to your accommodation is to book a taxi in advance.
We like to use Booking.com to book airport transfers and find them to always match prices offered by local companies. This just means I get extra support from Booking.com if there are any issues. Which *knock on wood* we haven’t had any issues so far.
The best part of booking a transfer ahead of time is that you give them your flight info and they will wait for you to land and allow enough time to grab your bags too.
Where to Stay in Lima
We stayed in the Selina Hostel in the Mira Flores area of the city.
This Area is ideal to stay in because it is safe and there are plenty of fun things to see and do in the area.
We chose the Selina because it was a great price, we could book a private room and they have an onsite bar and restaurant, as well as great co-working spaces. I would highly recommend this as the place to start your 3 week Peru itinerary.
For this itinerary, you will need to book a 3 night stay in Lima.
Day 2 & 3: Lima
We really liked Lima and only allowed ourselves 1 full day here which we felt just wasn’t quite enough.
For this reason, I have allowed 2 days to explore Peru’s lively capital city.
Here are some of the main things I recommend doing in the city;
- Join a free walking tour.
- Spend some time with the cats in Kennedy Park. This may have been the most fun and unique park I have visited just due to how many street cats live here and how well taken care of they are by the locals.
- Take a walk to the beach for some sunbathing or to enjoy the panoramic views.
- Do some surfing.
- Explore Plaza de Armas.
- Spend an evening enjoying the bars, restaurants and great atmosphere on C. Berlin Street, just off Kennedy Park.
Day 4 & 5: Paracas and Islas Ballestas
On day 4 you will catch an early morning bus along the coast to Paracas. A small town most famous for its islands; Islas Ballestas. Otherwise known as the poor man’s Galapagos.
You will want to spend 1 night in Paracas as apart from the 2 activities I am going to mention there isn’t much more to do here.
On day 4 you should arrive in time to jump on a boat trip to explore the islands. This is where you will get the chance to see sea lions and all kinds of marine birds from the boat. The islands are protected so you can’t go in the water or onto the island but you get to see plenty from the boats.
For the rest of the day, you can browse the stalls selling local souvenirs, take a walk along the beach or even give some of the water activities on offer a try.
On Day 5, head out to explore the national park and insanely picturesque sea cliffs just outside of the town.
You can either opt to join a group coach trip into the national park or go in beach buggies.
We had a guided visit included as part of our Peru Hop package but having seen people whizzing around on the buggies, I’d say that looks way more fun!
After exploring the national park, it is time to jump on the next bus and head to the next destination which is Huacachina.
Where to stay in Paracas
Paracas is a super small town with just a handful of places to choose from but we stayed in a really nice hostel called Paracas Backpackers House.
It had basic rooms and clean bathrooms but the best part was the roof terrace.
Days 5, 6 & 7: Huacachina
On day 5 you will travel from Paracas to Huacachina and check into your accommodation for the next 3 nights.
This is a little longer than we stayed here but Huacachina is a great little desert oasis, perfect to spend a couple of days relaxing and enjoying the sun.
The main thing to do in Huacachina is to go out into the desert on a dune buggy and do some sandboarding.
Yep, you read that correctly, sandboarding. If it’s not something you have heard of before then imagine yourself sliding down a giant sand dune on your stomach on a wooden board. That’s pretty much it but it is great fun.
Plus the dune buggy drivers love to show off their impressive driving skills by drifting you around the dunes at high speeds in between slides.
To take part you can either spend some time asking around to get the best deal. There are tonnes of guys in town selling the same tour so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Or you can save yourself some time and book in advance.
For the rest of your time in Huacachina I recommend climbing some of the huge sand dunes surrounding the oasis to get the iconic view down over the town.
You can also hire small pedal boats to go out onto the water, have a drink at one of the many bars, enjoy some sun by a hotel pool and even join one of the many pool parties at the Wild Rover Hostel.
Where to stay in Huacachina
We stayed just a 5-minute walk outside of the main town in a really great hostel called the Upcycled Hostel.
We had heard the main town can turn into a bit of a party each night so we opted for peace and quiet and were not let down. We had a nice private room and bathroom, there was a pool, plenty of great seating areas and an onsite bar and restaurant too.
That being said, if you prefer to party then the Wild Rover Hostel was definitely the place to be!
Days 8, 9, 10 & 11: Arequipa and Colca Canyon
On day 8, it is time to leave Huacachina and head to the city of Arequipa.
If you are travelling by Peru Hop bus then they will stop on the way at the Nazca Lines for you to get out and take a look from the viewing tower. Other than this I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see them.
Arequipa is a great place to also take a trip to Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. I recommend spending 4 nights in this area and taking time to visit Colca Canyon while you are here.
It is possible to visit Colca Canyon in a day but the option I would personally suggest if you are physically able, is to take an overnight trip and actually hike down inside the canyon.
Like i mentioned, it is possible to visit in a day but the drive is around 4 hours each way so it will be a long day.
Other things to do while in Arequipa include;
- Enjoy some time in the main square, Plaza de Armas.
- Take a look inside the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.
- Visit Museo Santuarios Andinos and see one of the perfectly preserved Inca children found mummified in the mountains.
- Cross the river to enjoy views over the city at Yanahuara Scenic Overlook.
- Take a look around Santa Catalina Monastery.
*** TOP TIP – For some amazing plant-based Peruvian dishes make sure to try Prana Vegan Club!
Where to Stay In Arequipa
When we visited we stayed at Peru Swiss Hostel and it’s one of the few places we have stayed that I wouldn’t recommend.
Instead, if I were to go again, I would be booking at Los Andes Bed & Breakfast. It has over 1000 really good reviews, is super close to the centre, is a really reasonable price and breakfast is included.
Days 12 & 13: Puno and Lake Titicaca
Day 12 will see you jump on a bus and head straight for Puno. This small town lies on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.
This is the perfect spot to go for just one night to allow you time to take a boat out onto the lake and visit the local people who live on the lake. Yep, that’s right, they have built floating villages on the lake and welcome visitors to come and take a look around.
You can even do an overnight trip and stay with a family in their floating home for the night if you really want to get an insight into the local culture.
On the afternoon of day 13, it is time to head over to Cusco.
Days 14 – 20: Cusco and Machu Picchu
The highlight of our 3 week Peru Itinerary was our stay in Cusco. There is so much to see and do in this region of the country, so I have allowed an entire week for you to make the most of your time there too! It’s the last place you’ll visit in Peru so a great spot to get some souvenirs!
This is where having a good pair of walking boots will come in handy. You can also check out this packing list for more ideas on what to take with you.
This is how I would recommend spending your time in Cusco;
Day 14 – Explore the city and allow time for acclimatising
We absolutely loved this bustling city!
Every street you walk down will be full of life, street vendors, cafes and all kinds of new things to take in. Definitely spend some time in the main square and take a look inside the impressive cathedral. If your legs are feeling up to it then head up the hill to Plazoleta Santa Ana to get some panoramic views out over the city.
A great way to learn more about any new place is to join a free walking tour. There are always people in the main square offering them.
Keep in mind that Cusco is already at around 3400m altitude so if you aren’t used to being so high up, it may take a little getting used to.
Day 15 – Take a day trip to Humantay Lake
To get to Humantay Lake you will have to hop on a bus for a couple of hours to get there. It is then about 1.5 hours of hiking up to the lake where you will be treated to some of the most spectacular views. Trust me.
This hike is not yet at crazy high altitudes so it is fine to do on your second day. The hike itself is a very gradual incline for the first hour then the last stretch is pretty steep.
Now is a great time to mention that most hikes in Peru, or pretty much any place where tourists go to enjoy the beautiful nature, you will find locals trying to sell horse rides. It is always best to avoid anything like this and stick to enjoying our hikes the good old-fashioned way…on foot.
It is always more fun and rewarding if you get yourself to the top anyway.
Day 16 – Take a day trip to Rainbow Mountain
On day 16 it is time to kick things up a notch and visit the infamous rainbow mountain.
I say this because despite being a pretty short Hike and mostly completely flat (just some steps at the end) it is at a much higher altitude. This can make it feel like you are running a marathon, rather than just walking on a flat trail.
Don’t be put off though, because if I can manage it then you can too.
As unique and beautiful as the Rainbow Mountain is, we were actually more impressed by the overall views. Standing on the top of the ridge facing the rainbow mountain you are surrounded by incredible mountain views on all sides.
If you don’t feel like doing both you can check out our detailed comparison of Humantay Lake vs Rainbow Mountain to see which one you would prefer to do.
Days 17 – 20 – Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Now for the main event… Machu Picchu!
I cannot recommend hiking the Inca Trail enough. If you are physically able and have the budget to do so then this is the absolute best way to experience Machu Picchu.
There are other easier and cheaper ways to visit but honestly, if you only take one thing away from this Itinerary please let it be to seriously consider hiking the 4-day Inca Trail.
Let me tell you why.
We got to spend 3 days hiking through some of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen. We enjoyed spectacular views of mountains and valleys pretty much the whole time. We also stopped at multiple Inca Ruin sites along the way, much like Machu Picchu but totally empty.
We supported local Porters who carried all our bags and camping equipment, we made some great new friends and had a guide for 4 days teaching us way more about Peru and its history than we could’ve imagined.
Have I persuaded you yet?
We booked our Inca Trail guided tour with Alpaca Expeditions and I can highly recommend them. Everything was perfect!
It is worth noting that you cannot hike the Inca trail without a guide and spaces are limited to just 500 people a day, including all the guides and porters. For this reason, it is pretty important to book this well in advance to make sure you get the dates you want.
You will arrive at Machu Picchu early on the 4th day and spend the morning being guided around the site before heading back to Cusco in the afternoon.
For this reason, you will need to make sure you have booked another night’s stay in Cusco for day 20.
Where to stay in Cusco
When we were in Cusco we stayed in 2 different hostels and both were great for their own reasons.
First, we spent a few nights at the Wild Rover Hostel. It was Guido’s birthday and we had heard this was the best place to have a party, followed by a great night’s sleep. I am happy to report that it did not disappoint.
I think my favourite part about staying here was the AMAZING views out over the city.
Once we had completed the Inca Trail hike we stayed a couple more nights in Cusco and this time opted for a more central location with lots of reviews mentioning peace and quiet so we could relax and recover.
We chose Kaaro House Cusco and it was perfect. Breakfast was included, the rooms were huge and the girls in reception were brilliant. We managed to get all our laundry done here too.
Day 21 – Fly Home (Via Lima)
Finally, on day 21 it is time to make the journey back home. Most airlines will fly from Lima so you will likely need to take a short internal flight from Cusco to Lima first.
The airport in Cusco is a short taxi ride away from the historic centre of the city.
How much does 3 weeks in Peru cost?
We spent a total of 30 days in Peru and our daily spend including accommodation, transport meals and activities (excluding Machu Picchu) was $88 for both of us.
This equals around $44 per person, per day.
So for this 3 week Peru Itinerary, including all the accommodations mentioned, the Peru Hop bus and all the tours/activities I have suggested, you will want about $1000 per person.
You will also need to factor in the cost of your flights.
The price of doing the 4 day Inca Trail hike cost us $807 per person (plus an additional $66 per person in tips for the porters, guides and chef but this is optional).
In total around $1880 per person plus flights.
For more tips on saving money on your trip, you can check out this guide.
3 Week Peru Itinerary – Good To Know Before You Go
Now you have a 3 week Peru itinerary to start planning your big trip but there are still a few important points I would like to give you some information on before you get too deep into your travel plans…
When is the best time of year to visit Peru?
Peru has a summer or rainy season and a winter season. It is during their winter months that it is best to visit. Between May and October. This is when you will have the dryest days and the best temperatures.
Keep in mind that June-August are the peak tourist season so if you visit in these months you can expect places to be busier and booked up well in advance.
We visited in June and it was perfect! June is also the month that Peru celebrates the Inti Raymi Festival. This was incredible so if you have the chance to be there when this is taking place then I highly recommend it.
Do you need a visa to visit Peru?
If you are from the UK, USA, New Zealand, Canada and most EU countries you will not need a Visa to enter Peru. You just need to make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport and you will be granted a stay of up to 183 days.
It is always best to double-check before you travel that things haven’t changed.
Planning your trip in Advance
As I have already mentioned, If you plan to visit between June and August then you can expect all the places I have mentioned in this itinerary to be pretty busy.
You should be fine to book accommodations fairly last minute but when it comes to Machu Picchu, DO NOT WAIT!
They have limited spaces each day and you need to book in advance to make sure you don’t miss out.
We also found that when we came to book our Peru Hop Bus travel service, about 2 weeks before we entered Peru, they had very limited availability left.
Another thing to keep in mind when planning your trip is to check well in advance that it is safe to go. I’ll explain more on that now.
Here are some more tips on things to do before you travel.
Is Peru Safe To Travel
Peru in general is a very safe country for tourists to visit. However, with that being said they do have a rather turbulent track record when it comes to protests.
The start of 2023 saw some pretty widespread protests throughout the country that meant tourists were being evacuated and advised to stay away. This is not the first time this has happened. The reasons for these protests are not for us to judge but they can definitely throw a spanner in the works for any travel plans.
For this reason, I always advise you to keep an eye on your government travel advice in the run-up to your trip.
As always when visiting any developing country it is wise to pay attention to your surroundings. Things such as pickpocketing and petty theft are always a problem in crowded areas. You should avoid walking alone at night in unknown places.
When on public transport keep all your valuables with you and out of sight.
3 Week Peru Itinerary – Final Thoughts
So there you have it, a 3 week Peru Itinerary packed full of adventure, history, culture and nature.
Peru is truly one of the most breathtaking places we have been so far on our travels. We not only loved the kind locals and the yummy food but also how much the scenery changed from one place to the next.
One moment you are standing in the middle of a sandy desert oasis and the next you are looking up at towering snow-capped mountains. Ok not quite in the blink of an eye but fall asleep on a bus and wake up the next morning and you could feel like you have landed in a totally different world.
I know Machu Picchu is at the height of so many people’s travel bucket lists but take it from me when I say that there is so much more to Peru and I can’t wait for you to discover all of it.