Backpacking South America

There is so much to see and do in Peru. While the focus of most visits to Peru is seeing firsthand the wonder that is Machu Pichu, Peru is so much more than that! From sand dune beaches, to white walled cities, to high altitude lakes and canyons that are even deeper than the Grand Canyon, Peru has a lot to explore and experience. Regardless of whether you have a week or month to visit Peru, we’ve crafted the perfect Peru itinerary to help you plan an incredible trip!

1 Week Peru Itinerary

This 1 Week Peru Itinerary is written with the US traveler in mind. The goal is to do and see as much as possible, as efficiently as possible. We get it, we’ve been there.

Our 1 Week Peru Itinerary focuses on doing Machu Picchu with a couple extra can’t-miss experiences mixed in:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Lima
    • Stay in Miraflores, walk the park along the Miraflores cliffs at sunset
  • Day 2: Day-Trip to Paracas / Huacachina / Both
  • Day 3: Fly to Cusco
    • Day in Cusco Acclimatizing, Walking Tour
  • Day 4: Cusco
    • Qenqo, Sacsayhuaman ruins
  • Day 5: Take Train to Aguas Calientes
  • Day 6: Visit Machu Picchu, train back to Cusco
  • Day 7: Fly back home

Not only do you get to explore Machu Picchu, you even have time to go to our unexpectedly favorite place in Peru – Paracas – and bike the Paracas National Reserve! If biking is not your style, you can go to the Islas Ballestras (also called the Poor Man’s Galapos) to say hi to the penguins and sea lions or go sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru’s natural oasis.

If you’re planning to do the 2 day / 1 night Inca Trail hike, delete the day trip to Paracas and head straight to Cusco!

Click here to open up our more detailed Travel Guides to Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Cusco!

Peru Itinerary Paracas National Reserve
Paracas is worth the day trip if you can find the time in your schedule!

2 Week Peru Itinerary

This itinerary is for people who have a little more time but not all the time in the world. Maybe you work for a progressive company, or maybe your country values vacation time a little higher than the US. Either way, lucky you!

In addition to Cusco and Machu Picchu in the 1 Week Itinerary, our 2 Week Peru Itinerary allows you to get off the beaten track a little more and explore southern Peru!

  • Day 1: Arrive in Lima
  • Day 2: Lima
  • Day 3: Bus to Paracas
    • Bike the National Reserve
  • Day 4: Paracas + Huacachina + Overnight Bus to Arequipa
    • Islas Ballestas in the morning
    • Sandboarding in the afternoon
  • Day 5: Arequipa
  • Day 6: Arequipa
  • Day 7: Colca Canyon
  • Day 8: Colca Canyon
  • Day 9: Colca Canyon + Overnight bus to Cusco
  • Day 10: Cusco
  • Day 11: Ollantaytambo Ruins + Train to Aguas Calientes
  • Day 12: Machu Picchu + Train to Ollantaytambo
  • Day 13: Moray and Maras, Stay in Pisac
  • Day 14: Pisac + Bus to Cusco
  • Day 15: Bus to Puno + Bolivia or fly back home

With an extra week, Arequipa and a three day trek to the bottom of the nearby Colca Canyon (fun fact: the 2nd deepest canyon in the world, even deeper than the Grand Canyon), can be added to your Peru itinerary. You also have time to explore some of the extensive Incan and pre-Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley and bike, visit the Poor Man’s Galapagos AND sandboard in Paracas and Huacachina!

In additional to the travel guides mentioned above, here you can find links to Travel Guides for the Sacred Valley, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon!

Colca Canyon Llahuar
The reward awaiting you at the bottom of the Colca Canyon!

4 Week Peru Itinerary

This is for the traveler who’s got time to explore. Either you’re taking a yearlong South America trip or you’ve decided you want to do a deeper dive on Peru. Either way, this Peru Itinerary balances movement with relaxation and leaves you with an incredible Peru experience.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Lima
  • Day 2: Lima
  • Day 3: Lima + Night Bus to Huaraz
  • Day 4: Huaraz (Aclimatization Day)
  • Day 5: Huaraz
  • Day 6: Huaraz
  • Day 6: Huaraz + Overnight Bus to Lima/Paracas
  • Day 7: Paracas
  • Day 8: Paracas
  • Day 9: Huacachina + Overnight Bus to Arequipa
  • Day 10: Arequipa
  • Day 11: Arequipa
  • Day 12: Arequipa
  • Day 13: Colca Canyon trek
  • Day 14: Colca Canyon trek
  • Day 15: Colca Canyon trek
  • Day 16: Arequipa + Overnight Bus to Cusco
  • Day 17: Cusco
  • Day 18: Cusco
  • Day 19: Bus to Aguas Calientes
  • Day 20: Machu Picchu + Bus to Ollantaytambo
  • Day 21: Ollantaytambo, Moray, Maras
  • Day 22: Pisac
  • Day 23: Pisac
  • Day 24: FREE
  • Day 25: FREE
  • Day 26: FREE
  • Day 27: Puno / Lake Titicaca
  • Day 28: Bus to Bolivia or fly to Chile or Argentina

An extra 2 weeks in Peru, allows you plenty of time to add hiking to the crystal blue, high altitude lakes of Huaraz to your Peru itinerary along with some extra time to relax (you’re doing a ton of hiking after all!). The free days at the end of itinerary gives you the flexibility to stick around a little while longer in any place you enjoy. We spent almost two months in Peru and used our extra time by enjoying coffee shops and dancing bachata in Lima, marveling at the mountain of the Sacred Valley in Pisac, and indulging in the culinary capital of Arequipa. Who knows what you’ll find…

Click here to check out our Travel Guides for Huaraz! We did not make in to Puno as their was also political unrest in Bolivia at this point in our trip and one of the main reason to go to Puno is to cross the Peru/Bolivia border. Instead, we chose to fly down to Chile and continue our adventure there!

Peru Itinerary Huaraz
Michelle exploring Huaraz on her way to Laguna 69

More Options

Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is a 5 day / 4 night adventure that starts outside of Cusco and end in Machu Picchu. If you love to hike, then it is a good option to add to your Cusco-area itinerary. Be warned, it was a 5 day, 65 mile hike all at an elevation of over 1.5 miles above sea level. As relatively fit 27 year old travelers, we found ourselves too exhausted to really enjoy our final day at Machu Picchu. For more of our thoughts on whether the Salkantay Trek to worth doing or our tips on visiting Machu Picchu, check out our Machu Picchu post!

Peru Itinerary Machu Picchu
Us after surviving the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu!

The Amazon

Peru is also a great place to visit the Amazon. The two most popular places to go are Iquitos (close to Lima) or Puerto Maldonado (closer to Cusco). If you’re looking for an off the gird experience, you can take a 3+ day excursion in the jungle to fish piranhas, hang out with alligators and sloths and completely disconnect for as long as you want! Michelle went into the Amazon near Iquitos and put together this informative post about her Amazon experience. Check it out to see if the Amazon is right for you!

Peru Itinerary Amazon
Michelle somewhere in the middle of the Amazon!

Beaches of Northern Peru

Our itineraries exclude the beaches of northern Peru. For many backpackers, entrance into Peru is done via bus from Cuenca, Ecuador to the Mancora district of northern Peru. From the beaches of Mancora, you can take an overnight bus to the beaches of Huanchaco. From Huanchaco you are an overnight bus from Huaraz. This is the route that we would have taken but there was political unrest in Ecuador during this point of our trip. Instead of busing across the border in the north, we changed our plans, skipped Ecuador, and flew from Bogota to Lima.

N&M Travel Guides

In addition to the links in this post, you can find the links to all our Peru travel guides in the drop down menu above. A good place to start is our Best of Peru post that goes into our favorite food, coffee, hostels, and experiences Peru has to offer!

Did you know that you need to purchase a ticket called a Boleto Turistico to enter some of the archaelogical sites and museums in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. If you’ve never heard of it, you can check out our quick guide to the Boleto Turistico!

There you have it, our Peru Itinerary! From us to you, happy adventuring!

Huacachina sand dune tour
Sunsets are particularly nice when viewed from the top of a buggy in the sand dunes of Huacachina!

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