Peru is one of the most popular destinations because of Machu Picchu, but there’s more than that! Traveling to Peru is one big adventure. It is a destination in South America with mysterious discoveries – a country that blends with impressions. From the mountain ranges and canyons to jungles, desert plains, the tropical islands – not to forget the culture, impressive buildings, and Peruvian cuisine. Too many to mention and impossible to see everything in three weeks.
This article will help you plan your trip, as well as some tips and travel costs. If you only have three weeks in Peru, try to see as much as possible to make the most out of your journey. I focused on south Peru, including three days on Amazon. Unfortunately, it appears too much to do in a short time. Well, I have to be honest here – dragging my stuff daily from one place to another was exhausting but a satisfying trip for three weeks.
Table of Contents
- Traveling by bus in Peru
- The best time to visit Peru
- Travel Costs in Peru
- Lodging and Food in Peru are cheap!
- How much I spent in Peru?
- Getting around while in the city in Peru
- Domestic flights in Peru
- Go for hassles free with Peru Hop in Peru.
- How does it work with Peru Hop?
- Without further ado, let’s start with it.
- Days 1: Lima
- Days 2: Paracas
- Days 3: Huacachina
- Days 4-6: Arequipa
- Days 7: Chivay
- Days 8: Colca Canyon
- Days 9: Puno
- Days 10-12: Cusco
- Days 13: Train to Aguas Calientes
- Days 14: Machu Picchu
- Days 15: Ollantaytambo
- How to get to Cusco from Ollantaytambo
- Days 16: Back in Cusco
- Days 17-19: Tambopata Amazon
- Days 20: Cusco
- Days 21: Lima
- Accommodations in Peru.
- Three weeks trip to Peru
Traveling by bus in Peru
Traveling by bus in Peru is time-consuming. You’ll be sitting for long hours before reaching your next destination. Traveling at night is one of the best options, and arriving at a place in the morning. Peru has a profusion of buses, too many to mention. Companies like Cruz del Sur, Civa, and Tranzela are comfortable buses – onboard, you have a plug to charge devices, and the trips of 10 hours cost 80 soles. There are also cheaper buses, but I don’t recommend them. Although I don’t have experience, I have heard from other travelers about the discomfort onboard.
Tip: Buy your ticket at the station or through a bus company’s website. Don’t book with a travel agency because they tend to earn commissions, which come out more expensive.
The best time to visit Peru
Peru can be visited at any time of the year. However, to enjoy the trip, it’s best to travel during the driest months, which run from April to October. I went to Peru from the last week of May to June, which was perfect, with warm sunny days, but the temperature dropped below 10 Celsius at night. And the worst thing is that most hostels and hotels don’t have a room heater. So you need to pack some warm clothing.
Avoid traveling during the rainy season, as I heard from other travelers who have been around for months in Peru that December to March is a miserable time to travel because some of the walking trails are closed. And trains to Machu Picchu are sometimes canceled due to landslides.
Travel Costs in Peru
Travel costs for Peru are a personal matter and also depend on your lifestyle. Some people want to party, while others save the money for sightseeing. For example, if you stay in a hostel, you can cook your meal, but I did not bother to do the cooking because going out for dinner is very cheap. The highest cost is the flight to Lima, especially if coming from Europe. But I’m lucky I could book a promotion ticket six months before my trip.
Lodging and Food in Peru are cheap!
The accommodation is relatively affordable. I stayed most of the time in a hostel but opted for a private room. In some places, my room costs only 11 dollars. As for food and drinks, you can get a menu el dia for 15 soles, and for dinner in a restaurant, you get a portion of good food for 25 soles.
How much I spent in Peru?
During my three weeks in Peru, I spent 1.500 euros on transport, accommodations, food, tours, entrance fees, shopping, and flights. I have been to some countries in South America, and to compare the prices, Peru is the cheapest destination.
Getting around while in the city in Peru
Taxi is easy to grab, but be careful as some taxi drivers describe having bad reputations. However, I ask the hotel staff to ring if I need a cab. In addition, there are uber in Lima, Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco, and it’s cheaper and safer than taxis.
Domestic flights in Peru
Domestic flights aren’t that expensive as long as you book ahead of time, certainly three to two months before you fly. I flew from Cusco to Lima for 50 USD with Viva air, including a checked bag. Also, check the prices with Sky Airlines, Latam, and Star Peru. If you don’t want to endure long buses trip, flying will be an option.
Go for hassles free with Peru Hop in Peru.
Hop on, hop off anytime you want. Peru Hop will be the last option if you don’t want all that hassle of going to a bus station. As a solo traveler, I was concerned about the safety of traveling at night. Therefore, two weeks before my trip, I decided to go with Peru Hop.
Super easy because you will be picked up and dropped off at your hotel. It saves you the time and cost of a taxi from the station to your hotel and vice versa. They have six passes to choose from, which gives you flexibility. I select the full-south to Cusco with eight stops, which cost 192 euros during my booking.
How does it work with Peru Hop?
Once you book the trip with Peru Hop, you receive a login code that you need when signing in to their website. Then go to your itinerary and adjust the length of your stay at each stop. On board, you have a local guide which is convenient if you need help or other information during your trip.
Their buses were comfortable with recline seats, plugs, and a bathroom. It’s expensive but the easy way to travel around Peru. By the way, Peru Hop has a list of hotels, but you’re not bound to that. So if you don’t want to book with them, search for your accommodation, and if you can’t decide yet, you still have time for the latest 12 hours before hopping on the bus.
Without further ado, let’s start with it.
This ultimate guide for three weeks in Peru starts in Lima and ends in Lima. I flew from Cusco back to Lima. I’m traveling with Peru Hop – tweak it if you want to spend longer or less at each location, or maybe you want to skip some places. It’s all up to you.
Days 1: Lima
Some travelers skip Lima, but I stay for one night to experience the capital before continuing my adventure for three weeks in Peru. Coming on a night flight from Europe, I arrived early morning in Lima, giving me a full day to explore the city.
Lima is a bustling metropolis for those who like to soak up the culture. The historical center has tremendous cultural importance from the colonial period, while in another part of the city is the modern Miraflores, where a flock of tourists stays. There are things to do while in Miraflores; walk to the waterfront. It is a lovely area to spend some hours. And in the afternoon join the walking tour in the city center.
- The Malecon
- El Parque del Amor: Lovers Statue
- City free walking tour
Tip: There are different companies to book a free walking tour. But I sign up with Inkan Milky Way Tours Lima. The good thing about joining groups with a local guide, you’re less vulnerable as a solo traveler. Unfortunately, we often hear that the center of Lima isn’t very safe.
For more info>>>How safe is Peru for solo travelers: things to know
Days 2: Paracas
Paracas serve as a base for excursions to the National Reserve, which is home to fauna and flora, and the Islas Ballestas, where you can observe sea lions and penguins in their habitat.
It was my first stop with Peru Hop, a 3-hour drive from Lima. Spending one night in Paracas is enough to see the most impressive tourist sight.
As soon as you arrive, look for tours to Islas Ballestas for the following morning. The boat excursion in the morning is much better because the sea isn’t so wild yet. And during the tour to Islas Ballestas, you will see the massive, mysterious sign in the form of a chandelier. As for the National reserve, some people rent a bike, and if you’re not keen to do that, stay in the car and enjoy the view of the surrounding area.
- Islas Ballestas boat tour
- The Paracas National Reserve
Tip: When you inquire about the price for Islas Ballestas, don’t forget to ask if it includes the entrance fee to the National park. Otherwise, you need to pay 5:00 soles before getting on the boat. The price to Islas Ballestas shouldn’t cost more than 45 soles. Instead, you will get a discount by booking together the Islas Ballestas and Paracas national reserve.
Days 3: Huacachina
Huacachina is a place for thrill seekers. This tiny village is located in a beautiful desert oasis with an emerald green lake in the middle, surrounded by palm trees. Most people combine it with Paracas, but I spent one night here to experience the sunset. It is nowhere in the world as beautiful a sunset as in the desert. So do sandboarding and buggy ride something for you? You can embrace your wild side and take on the best drive of your life that thrills you with adrenaline.
- Buggy rides
Tip: The usual cost for sandboarding and buggy ride is 35 soles. There are a few offices where you can book the activities, if you know how to haggle the price, then try it.
Nazca is one of Peru Hop stops. Coming from Huacachina, we first went to Pisco, a tiny Peru town known for its Pisco drinks. We stopped for about two hours, tasted some pisco drinks, and had lunch. Afterward, our trip continues to Nazca. Nazca is not really a tourist destination in Peru. But it is known for its mysterious figure lines and can be observed from the air or lookout tower. Some people stay for one night, but I didn’t bother to spend too much time here. After we visited Nazca, we drove straight to Arequipa.
Tip: If you are traveling with Peru Hop, they will arrange a flight for you, which costs 80 USD for 30 minutes on the air. And the entrance to the lookout tower is free, but if you come on your own, there’s a charge of 6.00 soles per person.
Days 4-6: Arequipa
Arequipa is a beautiful city full of colonial influences, also known as the white city because of the large number of stark white buildings in the center. Many travelers base themselves in Arequipa for Colca Canyon; some go hiking for a few days and return to Arequipa afterward.
However, if hiking is not one of your favorite activities, you can make a two-day trip to Colca Canyon with an overnight in Chivay without going for a long hike. There are plenty of tours offered in Arequipa for Colca. By the way, joining the walking tour on your first day in Arequipa will help your bearing. I book the same company as in Lima, Inkan Milky Way Tours.
- Free walking tour
- Santa Catalina Monastery
- Go to Yanahuara for spectacular views of the three volcanoes.
- El Sillar and Canyon hike
- Two days Colca Canyon with one night in Chivay
Tip: It can be challenging booking tours in Arequipa, with many travel agencies in town, mainly near the Plaza de Armas. Don’t book the first one you encounter – instead, ask the price for a two-day trip to Colca Canyon. Some are cheaper, but they’ll put you in a dorm. Try this travel agency Roky Travels, at Portal San Agustin 118. I paid 160 soles for the excursions to El Sillar and a two days trip to Colca Canyon. I’m staying at Hotel Maravillas del Colca in Chivay. So anyway, you will need to rebook your hotel in Arequipa because you probably had to leave your stuff and need a room after coming back from Colca Canyon.
Days 7: Chivay
Chivay is a base for excursions to Colca Canyon, where you spend the night before visiting the nearby Colca Canyon. The 5-hour drive will take you to a scenic drive, so try to have a window seat on the bus because the landscape on the way changes dramatically.
You will likely arrive in the afternoon if you arrange the tour in Arequipa. It is a traditional town that has embraced tourism without losing its quaint charm and is beautifully situated among the terraced hills of the Colca Canyon.
- Plaza de Armas
- The market
- Hot springs
Days 8: Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is not just a tourist destination, it is also an important cultural center for the indigenous people of Peru and is home to various wildlife. The breathtaking landscape with towering mountains and rugged cliffs is one of a kind. I have been to Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it can’t compare to this Canyon in Peru.
Colca Canyon mountain walls run in varying depths, which can create dizziness by looking at it. And one of the highlights during your visit is the Cruz Del Condor lookout, where you see condors flying over the canyon. It’s too crowded anyway but still enjoy it as much as you can, you won’t see elsewhere as beautiful as Colca.
Days 9: Puno
Puno is a quiet little town in eastern Peru near the border with Bolivia and the gateway to the shores of Lake Titicaca. Well worth stopping by during your trip to Peru. The altitude in Puno is 3.860 meters above sea level, and you will feel out of breath quickly during your walk.
Visitors come in large numbers for Lake Titicaca, another one of the highlights of your trip through Peru. Because it is more massively visited, there are many tour operators in Puno to arrange a lake excursion, and they are all the same price. I end up booking at my hotel. Besides, they gather everyone in the same boat. So you don’t gain or lose – it just saves you time. The price for two islands: Taquile and the floating islands of Uros, cost 80 soles with lunch.
- Plaza de Armas
- The viewpoint of Manco Capac (Cerrito de Huajsapata)
- Lake Titicaca
Days 10-12: Cusco
I arrived here at 5:30 AM after a long night trip from Puno. Cuzco is a typical destination where you plan a few days but stay much longer. It is because I returned to this place three times after each trip. The city is famous because of its location, and there is so much to do that you will never be bored. So I base myself here while going for some trips to immediate surroundings.
Cusco is also the base for Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley. The historic center of Cusco is lovely to walk through. Marvel at the old streets, the beautiful views, the colorful people, and the coziness. However, to get my bearings, I join the city walking tour on my first day, the perfect way to discover the most beautiful known places of Cuzco with a local guide.
- City walking tour
- Looking for some trips
- Korincha Temple
- A day trip to the rainbow mountain
For more info>>>Hiking rainbow mountain in Peru: things to know.
Days 13: Train to Aguas Calientes
From Cusco, I took the Peru Rail at Poroy station which is a 30-minute drive with a taxi, and it cost 35.00 soles. Aguas Calientes is the last stop on the train track from Cusco and the route of the Inca trail. Most travelers pass through Aguas Calientes during their visit to Machu Picchu because there isn’t much to do. Actually, it is a lovely little town with a pleasant atmosphere, a perfect place to relax before or after visiting the famous sight, Machu Picchu.
- Machu Picchu
- Hot springs – 20 soles entry fee
Tip: Buy your bus ticket for Machu Picchu the day before your visit to avoid the long queue. The return ticket costs 30 USD. You will find the ticket counter next to the train station.
Days 14: Machu Picchu
One of the reasons why everyone is going to Peru is to see the world’s seven wonders. The mountains of the Andes have long kept Machu Picchu out of world history. It makes the most significant remnant of the Incas, where you will see beautiful terraces along the cliffs wherever you stand – it is just a magical place!
I entered the ruins at 7:00 AM, and there weren’t too many crowds yet, as most people only start later in the day. And I’m so lucky with the weather; it was a clear blue sky during my visit.
Tip: Purchase your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu at least two months before your trip. And be aware of different websites. The Ministry of Agriculture is the right place to buy a ticket- I pay 40 euros for the entry ticket.
Days 15: Ollantaytambo
Instead of returning to Cusco, I get off the train in Ollantaytambo and stay for one night. Most people take a day trip from Cusco or are in a hurry to get to Machu Picchu, which is a pity. The ruins of Ollantaytambo are among the best preserved Inca heritage in all of Peru. So plan an extra stop in the Sacred Valley along the way and marvel at the atmospheric center and the perfectly preserved Inca structures.
- Sacred Valley
- Old Town
How to get to Cusco from Ollantaytambo
To get back to Cusco from Ollantaytambo, I struggled to find information and couldn’t find a blog. So I asked at the Tripadvisor forum, and happily, they guided me back to Cusco. So here, you will get the correct info if you are in the same situation.
Two ways to get to Cusco: a taxi costs 15:00 soles, don’t pay more than the stated price here. Some drivers quoted me for 25 soles, but I didn’t go with them. The Colectivo cost 7:00 soles only. But they have irregular time departure. They only leave from Ollantaytambo when the train arrives from Aguas Calientes. So you’ll be waiting for a long time. You will find the taxi at Plaza de Armas or the train station. The Colectivo mainly leaves from the station.
Days 16: Back in Cusco
Before taking the night bus to Puerto Maldonado, I still have a full day in Cusco. You will never run out of things to do. It’s a city where you can linger for weeks without doing anything. But I’m the type of traveler who can’t sit still.
Cusco has quite a few height differences; you will walk a lot of steep up and down in this city. The San Blas district is the tourist point with a spectacular view over Cusco. And from here, you can take all the steps to Mirador Cristo Blanco for more pictures.
- San Blas
- Mirador Cristo Blanco
Days 17-19: Tambopata Amazon
After visiting cities and all the masses, you’ll probably yearn for some quiet place, and the jungle is the place to be. I have been to the Amazon in Ecuador (Cuyabeno), and my wish to experience the wilderness in Peru was more significant. So when planning this trip, I save three days for Amazon.
But choosing which Amazon to go to in Peru can be challenging. Thus, Tampbopata seems to be easy if coming from Cusco. Although it is a long night trip by bus once you arrive in Puerto Maldonado, the jungle lodges are just a short boat ride.
For more info>>>Amazon tips in Peru: how to get to Tambopata
Days 20: Cusco
I’m back in Cusco for the third time. I know my way pretty well now, but sad to say, I have my flight to Lima the following day. So even though it’s a busy city, I started to like it here. Cuzco is a typical destination to recover from all the traveling. My three weeks adventure in Peru is almost over. So it’s time to seek Peruvian souvenirs. The markets are one of the best places to buy souvenirs – however, you should know how to haggle too.
- San Pedro Market
- Wanchaq Market
Days 21: Lima
I flew from Cusco to Lima, and after checking into my hotel in Miraflores, I took the uber for 11 soles to this picturesque neighborhood. I haven’t had enough time to visit on the first day in Lima, so I put this on the last day. Barranco is a more relaxed district than Miraflores, safe and quiet with no traffic, which is a lovely area to spend hours.
The street art is stunningly dispersed in this neighborhood, with brightly colored houses and murals, especially in the area towards the beach, you will find more art. A fantastic place! I haven’t expected to see this in Lima. It just reminds me of Valparaiso in Chile.
Accommodations in Peru.
Below are lists of the accommodations where I’m staying during my three weeks in Peru. They are primarily a hostel, but their private room was excellent and inexpensive. All are centrally located, with good wifi, which we all need when traveling around. I used booking.com for my accommodations in Peru.
- Flying dog hostel –Lima
- Atenas backpacker hospedaje – Paracas
- Wild Rover Huacachina – Huacachina
- Peter’s hostel – Arequipa
- Hostal Oscar inn – Puno
- Casa Real hoteles – Cusco
- Samananchis Machupicchu – Aguas Calientes
- Valle Inca – Ollantaytambo
- Secret garden – Cusco
- Suites larco 656 Miraflores – Lima
Three weeks trip to Peru
My three weeks adventure in Peru was fantastic! And as a solo traveler, I haven’t felt unsafe during my trip. I’ve met countless travelers from all over the world. So I never feel alone. It feels like traveling in Southeast Asia because of so many backpackers. But your problem here is the language. Basic Spanish is necessary if traveling to some places in South America. If you have any thoughts about this itinerary, let me know in the comments below.