How To Spend A Month Backpacking In Peru
One month in Peru is the perfect amount of time if you want to take things slowly, enjoy some relaxing days in between big activities such as hikes and immerse yourself in the culture of the country.
Here’s a quick breakdown of this one-month backpacking itinerary for Peru:
- Day 1-3 – Lima
- Day 4-6 – Paracas
- Day 7-8 – Huacachina
- Day 9-10
- Day 11-13 – Colca Canyon / Return To Arequipa
- Day 14-15 – Puno and Lake Titicaca
- Day 16-18 – Cusco
- Day 19-23 – The Salkantay Trek
- Day 24-25 – Cusco
- Day 26 – Lima / Flight Home
We spent a month in Peru and followed the classic route down the coast from Lima to Lake Titicaca, before heading to Cusco to spend a couple of weeks trekking in the Andes. Here’s the exact itinterary we followed:
Day 1-3 - Lima
Peru’s capital is a vibrant city set on high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is filled with world-class restaurants, lively nightlife, and fascinating cultural history.
Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, surf lover or a foodie – backpackers are spoiled for choice in Lima.
Lima is split up into two main areas you need to explore – Miraflores and Barranco. They are both situated next to each other and right on the coast, so they are the preferred places to stay for backpackers.
Miraflores has an abundance of trendy cafes and restaurants all situated amongst seafront parks and boardwalks. In the evening, here is where you will find thriving bars, clubs, and live music venues.
There’s something for every backpacker in the bohemian district of Barranco with tasty local gastronomy, cute coffee shops and a vibrant alternative art scene.
It’s one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, with colourful street art, mural-covered buildings and trendy bars all set within the colonial-era mansions
Day 4-6 - Paracas
The striking coastal desert of Peru should be on every adventure seekers bucket list. The protected area, spanning over 3,350 km², consists of rolling desert, jagged ocean cliffs and rocky islands populated with a diversity of wildlife.
Paracas is about a 3-hour drive from Lima and usually, the second stop on the classic backpacker route through Peru.
The most popular activity here is exploring the National Reserve and there are several options for visiting; you can navigate the park by bicycle, ATV or book a tour with your hostels.
I would personally recommend renting a bicycle and exploring by yourself without a tour. Racing down giant sand dunes with the ocean breeze in your hair is an exhilarating experience. You can also take your time and explore all the wonderful sights at your own pace such as the impressive Playa Roja (Red Sand Beach) and the natural cliff monuments at La Cathedral.
Another great thing to do in Paracas is visit the Ballestas Islands. These islands are often referred to as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’.
You can find cheap tours to visit the islands from Paracas via boat but you still see loads of wildlife – hence the nickname! On the tour, you can see sealions, penguins, and loads of seabirds – it will feel like you’re in an episode of Blue Planet!
Check out our Paracas guides here for everything else you need to know about the town, including the best places to eat and some other great tours you can book:
Day 7-8 - Huacachina
Huacachina is a unique town, set in the middle of the desert and surrounded by sand dunes the size of small mountains.
Visiting this desert oasis is a necessary stop on any backpacker’s itinerary through Peru for several reasons. It’s a place where you’ll find incredible sunsets, see dune buggies flying through the air, hear the screams of backpackers sandboarding down dunes all topped off with some of the wildest nights out in Peru.
Your first day is the best day to get your fill of adrenaline in the form of riding dune buggies across the desert.
Then in the evening, if you want to party, head to the famous Wild Rover Hostel. This popular party hostel has a pool, large bar area and beer pong tables, and it’s a great place to start off the night before heading out into town to one of the random clubs.
On your second day, spend the day nursing your hangover by the pool and catching some sun. Then in the evening it’s time to head up one of the gigantic dunes to watch the sunset.
At the top the dunes you get an amazing birds-eye view of the oasis as well as panoramic views of the desert. Take a few beers up with you as it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink as you watch the sun disappear behind the dunes. The desert creates an incredible magenta sunset that’s unforgettable.
For more information on the incredible desert oasis of Huacachina, and this 2-day itinerary in more detail, check out the post below:
Day 9-10 - Arequipa
Arequipa is an underrated gem of a city bursting with beauty and charm.
With tranquil cobblestone streets, fantastic local cuisine, and great rooftop bars, all surrounded with a backdrop of picturesque volcanoes, the city has much to offer backpackers.
On top of this, this will be your starting point for adventures and trekking into Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world.
Before starting this epic trek though, you may want to spend a day or two enjoying the city. I would start with the free walking tour on your first day to explore the city, and then in the evening finding a rooftop bar to watch the sunset. The backdrop of the beautiful mountain ranges and volcanoes make for an impressive sight.
On your second day you can visit some of the museums in town, relax and enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafes and prepare yourself for Colca Canyon.
For more tips on the city, our complete Arequipa guide and itinerary posts have everything you need to know:
Day 11-13 - Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon reaches a depth of 3,400m – almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!
The popular 2-day guided trek takes you to the canyon floor on the first day. Here backpackers can relax and cool down in the pool, but the best part comes when the sun goes down. The canyon will become pitch black, and you’ll have one of the best views of the night sky in the world.
Then on the second day, you trek back up and out with a few stops on the way for food and other sights before returning to Arequipa.
You need 2 days minimum to complete this trek and you’ll likely be exhausted afterwards so give yourself a day to rest back in Arequipa after as well. Getting straight on a bus after this trek may not be the best idea. The next stop on this one-month itinerary is Lake Titicaca and this bus takes 6 hours.
Day 14-15 - Puno and Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,810 metres above sea level.
Half of it sits in Peru, the other half in Bolivia. Puno is the town closest where you visit Lake Titicaca from in Peru. Everyone says it’s not as nice as the Bolivia side of Copacabana but if you aren’t going to Bolivia then you 100% want to visit Lake Titicaca now.
The floating reed islands of the indigenous Uros people are also an impressive sight and climbing up to heights of 4200m on Taquile Island for panoramic views of the lake is an unforgettable experience.
Both can be done on the same tour and in a single day. However, you may want to take an extra day here just to slow down. The sudden change in altitude may also mean you need to take an extra day to adjust before completing the tour.
If you visit Taquile Island, you will be walking for around an hour at a moderate incline to reach the town in the centre. Whilst this isn’t much, doing so at 4200m means it is difficult and if you haven’t acclimated, you may start to suffer from altitude sickness.
Day 16-18 - Cusco
Cusco was once the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Now it’s known as one of the most popular backpacker hubs in South America.
Whether you visit to tear it up in the famous Wild Rover hostel or to spend a few days acclimatising before visiting Machu Pichu or Rainbow Mountain, the city won’t disappoint.
Begin your first day in Cusco with a walking tour around the city. Not only will you learn the local history, but you’ll learn some local secrets and find out the best places to eat and drink.
You should use your second day in Cusco for a trip outside of the city. Cusco is surrounded by beautiful nature and scenery and one popular option for a day tour is Rainbow Mountain. The short but challenging trek up to 5,200m to see this colourful sight is a fantastic day trip if you think you can stomach the altitude.
The panoramic views and the intense colours of all the mountains in the region are breath-taking and unlike other treks you will come across in South America.
On your third day, visit the Sacred Valley, a region in Peru’s Andean highlands just outside of Cusco. This beautiful valley, stretching roughly 60 kilometres, used to form the heart of the Inca Empire. It’s now an area of fertile farmland, small farming villages and preserved archaeological sites.
Day 19-23 - The Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is 5-day guided hike through the Andes mountains that eventually leads you to Machu Picchu on its final day.
National Geographic lists it as one of the “25 World’s Best Treks”. With a route that takes you past glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and serene high-altitude lakes, it’s one of the most scenic ways to reach the ancient Incan city.
It also has a reputation for being one of the toughest treks in Peru covering 75km and climbing to 4,630m altitude during the Salkantay Pass. But the challenge made it an even more memorable experience in our opinion!
Laguna Humantay and Salkantay Mountain are just two of the incredible places you will visit on this epic hike. However, the best part in our opinion in is the total 120km you’ll walk, the friendships formed, and the sense of accomplishment gained from trekking in the mountains for 5 days with a bunch of random backpackers.
Whilst Machu Picchu may have become a huge tourist destination these days, visiting via the Salkantay trek can be one of the best ways to do it . You’ll visit the ancient ruins on the final day of the trek, arriving at the top just before sunrise and avoiding most of the crowds.
Day 24-25 - Cusco
If you are planning on doing the full 5-day Salkantay trek or Inca Trail then planning a couple of extra days in Cusco afterwards is a good idea.
After the trek you will be well and truly knackered and booking yourself into a comfy hostel for a couple of days is essential so you can rest and recuperate. Also, Cusco has so much to offer, that you may want to use your final days on this month-long Peru itinerary to see more of the city.
One great restaurant to check out is Limbus Resto-bar which has one of the best views in the city. Try to get a booking around sunset and out on the terrace for incredible golden hour views of Cusco.
Another great thing to do in Cusco is go on a night out. There are several great bars and clubs surrounding Plaza de Armas along with some epic backpacker hostels where you can have a fantastic night.
Head to the Wild Rover backpacker hostel to meet people and play drinking games before heading out to some bars. I would recommend Paddy’s Irish bar for drinks and then Chango’s for clubbing!
Day 26 - Rest, Recovery & Next Destination
So, you’ve just completed this month-long backpacking itinerary for Peru. Where to next?
If you are flying home, then you will likely have to return to Lima to take your international flight. However, if you are staying longer in South America, why not visit on of Peru’s neighbours?
After our month in Peru, we flew from Cusco to La Paz to start our next adventure in Bolivia. If you are heading that way then check out our other extended backpacking itineraries:
Travelling other countries in South America apart from Peru? See how you can cross the border into Bolivia to turn this month into an extended South America backpacking trip:
How Many Days Do You Need In Peru?
You need at least three weeks in Peru if you wish to see the highlights that include Lima, Paracas National Reserve, Huacachina, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Machu Picchu.
The first two weeks is the perfect amount of time to travel from Lima down to Puno to see Lake Titicaca. Then the final week is ideal for spending time in Cusco and visiting Machu Picchu.
To see a condensed three-week version of this one-month backpacking itinerary for Peru, head to the post below:
However, we understand time is often the thing backpackers are most short on and spending three weeks to a month in Peru is a luxury.
At a minimum, we would say Peru is not worth visiting for anything less than 10 days due to the long journey times between places and the day or two needed for acclimatisation to altitude.
For those of you who are much shorter on time and want to see as much as possible, here are a couple of alternative backpacking itinerary suggestions for Peru to see the highlights in the most efficient way possible:
Is One Week In Peru Enough?
One week is enough time in Peru if you are happy with just seeing Lima and Cusco.
Cusco has the best activities, and you can easily spend a week here and not get bored. With Rainbow Mountain, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, there’s more than enough to keep you entertained.
Also travelling south from Lima to Lake Titicaca requires several long bus journeys which will eat into your time. You don’t want to spend your week taking long buses. Land in Lima, fly straight to Cusco and spend most of your time there.
This 7-day Peru itinerary helps you to see the best of the country in a short amount of time:
- Day 1 – Lima (Land in lima and fly straight to Cusco)
- Day 2 – Cusco (City Day)
- Day 3 – Cusco (Rainbow Mountain)
- Day 4 – Cusco (Sacred Valley)
- Day 5 – Travel To Aguas Calientes
- Day 6 – Machu Pichu (Return to Cusco in the evening))
- Day 7 – Fly to Lima
Is Two Weeks In Peru Enough?
Two weeks is a great amount of time to see most of the highlights of Peru. You will just have to be ruthlessly efficient with your organisation, transport, and timing.
This two-week Peru itinerary helps you to see the best of the country in that time:
- Day 1 – Lima
- Day 2 – Lima
- Day 3 – Paracas (Visit National Reserve)
- Day 4 – Paracas (Visit The Ballestas Islands)
- Day 5 – Huacachina Oasis (Dune Buggy and Sunset Tour)
- Day 6 – Bus or flight to Arequipa
- Day 7 – Arequipa City Day
- Day 8-9 – Colca Canyon Trek / Overnight Bus To Cusco
- Day 10 – Cusco (City Day)
- Day 11 – Cusco (Rainbow Mountain Tour)
- Day 12 – Train To Aguas Calientes
- Day 13 – Machu Pichu (morning) / Return to Cusco (evening)
- Day 14 – Fly back to Lima
Alternative Peru Backpacking Routes
Huaraz is the must-visit destination in Peru for nature and hiking lovers.
Avid hikers will want to head to Huaraz for a few days to embark on some of the most famous treks in not just Peru but the world.
Huaraz offers several one day treks that can be completed on your own such as Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron, perfect for those only staying a couple of days but who still want to experience the beauty of the mountains.
Or if you are looking for more adventure, there are multi-day hikes such as the famous Santa Cruz trek or the Cordillera Huayhuash route that will see you climbing above the clouds and camping in the mountains for anything from 5 to 10 days.
If there is one word to describe Mancora it would be wild.
This beach town is filled with locals, backpackers and other tourists wanting to do two simple things: surf and party. The best places to let loose are the Loki and Wild Rover hostels, but to be honest any of the other backpacker hostels in town which double up as bars and clubs will lead to a wild night.
Once the party is over, backpackers jump in the ocean and get rid of that hangover and learn to surf.
It’s is a great place for beginners who have never been on a board before, as well as intermediate and advanced surfers, and the continual waves, calm water and warm weather culminate in the perfect conditions for surfing.
Mancora is one of our favourite party beach destinations in South America, for more of the best party beaches, head to the post below:
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