Peru Travel Guide: 3 Weeks in Peru
Updated: May 17, 2020
The mystical country of Peru: home to the Inca Empire is one of the most spectacular travel destinations of South America. Over the years, world travelers are drawn to the country for its intriguing history, culture and jaw-dropping natural beauty. Though trekking through the incredible landscape of the Andes following the Inca trail and getting mesmerized by the Inca Citadel Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the spotlight of every traveler’s bucket list, there is much more. Be ready to be flabbergasted by Peruvian highlands, beautiful pacific coastal cities, rolling sand dunes, dense Amazon and extraordinary Peruvian cuisine.
From backpackers to vacationers, this Andean country offers a diverse yet exquisite experience to every kind of traveler. And to me, Peru is truly Machu Picchu and Beyond.
One fine summer evening me and my friend Angeeka decided to visit Peru. I could not ask for a better partner than her on this journey. And this simple decision led to extensive research for months. We put a lot of time and effort into learning about the places, making travel plans, handling our budget and time. In the end, we made an unforgettable experience in Peru for 3 weeks. This blog is an amalgamation of our research containing basic guidelines regarding Peru including our itinerary.
Here it goes:
When to visit Peru
Is it safe to visit Peru?
What about Visa?
From packing your bag to Dos & Don’ts
How to Get Around?
How to book Accommodation?
Are there any reading recommendations before travel?
Why do you want to go so far, to the other side of the world?
Several people asked me this question. 😊
Traveling to South America has always been a dream of mine. If I am honest, while growing up, I never had any knowledge except Machu Picchu and Amazon when it comes to South America.
It has always been an unknown territory for me. My curiosity inspired me to know more about this continent, people, culture and breathtaking landscape. I started reading several articles related to South America. Of course, documentaries, Netflix: all have their fair share of encouragement in my life. I was fascinated by the uniqueness of every country on this continent.
Initially, my plan was to travel to Peru and Chile especially covering Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region at one go. But we only had three weeks and both the countries have many places to see. Also, intercountry travel takes a lot of time and money. So, we chose Peru.
(I would love to visit Chile if I get another opportunity 😁😁 )
** I would like to mention Peru is quite inexpensive to visit. You do not need a lot of money to roam around except your flight fare. Visiting Amazon is expensive though. Apart from that, visiting Peru does not need to stretch the budget that much.
And why Peru?
Visiting Machu Pichu: 15th century Inca Citadel and one of the 7 wonders of the world is a lifetime experience for me. On top of that Peru is also home for a section of Amazon rain forest. Initially, those two were the highlights of the trip. But gradually when we planned more, turned out Peru is much more than that. Ultimately, when we finally visited Peru, we were exposed to the diverse landscape in a span of one week which completely blew our mind. One day we were in a high mountain, the next day we were on a coast enjoying the sun and wind and the next day we were in a desert. The experience was unparalleled.
From a rich history, spectacular landscape, amazingly warm people to unforgettable cuisine, Peru is one of a kind.
Back to our travel guide.....
When to Visit?
In my opinion, the best time to visit Peru is in the dry season.
There are two major seasons in Peru:
Dry Season: May to October. Sunny weather, clear blue sky, make it ideal for hiking. The number of tourists is high in this season, so as the price.
Wet Season: November to April. Visitors might experience more rain. Some of the hiking trails also get closed due to rainfall. Not suitable weather for mountains. January and February are the wettest months. But you could get budget deals if you visit this time of the year.
The temperature in Peru varies from one region to another depending on the coast, high mountain, desert, and Amazon. Amazon is very very humid.
Is it safe to visit Peru?
Unfortunately, we read scandalous stories and terrifying incidents concerning drugs and other illegal activities in South America in news or on the internet which raise safety concern for most of the travelers. I have read many articles regarding the safety of female solo travelers in South America before. Most of them have mixed reviews but it helped me a lot to get an overall impression. We followed some general rules while traveling to Peru. Here it goes:
First thing first: Always keep a photo of your passport and visa on your phone and carry the print out as well just in case you lose any document.
Watch out your belongings all the time. I usually prefer a small backpack or daypack over any fancy bag while traveling. It is better to choose a bag with a proper chain and cover on top, over a top-open backpack.
Always check surrounding while standing in a crowded area or in a queue or take your bag in front of you for more safety.
Do not flaunt your valuable camera, phone, tablets or jewelry. As a tourist, you get noticed for over displaying those pieces. It is better to blend in as local.
Beware of pickpocket in archeological sites, tourist places, and crowded places.
People who tend to rob, do many tricks such as: suddenly bumping into you or pushing you. You might see kids playing in groups blocking your path or group of people with kids entering into a restaurant and making noise to divert attention. Do not fall for those traps. Rather check your stuff before listening to others. Theft is very common in most of the cities.
Do not do drugs. If you think you are in Peru and you should try to buy cocaine since Peru produces a lot of cocaine, I must tell you it is not a good idea. It can ruin your entire trip if you get caught.
Keep a check on your alcohol intake. Excess amounts of alcohol can impair your judgment which is a nightmare if you are traveling alone.
Avoid traveling in shady places alone at night.
Use RFID-blocking wallets to protect your cards. Do not keep all your money in one place. Also do not carry a lot of cash since ATMs are available in most of the big cities. Peruvian local currency is Sol.
Always lock your bags while traveling.
Choose a reputed tour agency while going for an organized tour.
Do not just choose any bus operator rather go for a reputed one. Check the reviews before booking.
Always trust your gut feeling. While taking a taxi, at any point in time, if you feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to get down.
From my own experiences, Peru is safe to visit. You are not going to be kidnapped or murdered in Peru in normal circumstances. But you should always take safety measures throughout your travel to avoid any unwanted situation.
What about Visa?
Visiting Peru does not require a visa for most of the countries. For more information visit here.
To check whether you need a visa or not, visit here. For Indian National with a residence permit or valid visa of US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Schengen do not need Peruvian Visa.
From packing your bag to Dos and Dont's
I have some general tips for Peru:
Pack light. Yes, it is extremely helpful if you pack fewer things while traveling for such a long time. It gives a lot of flexibility to move around. I got this idea from here. We just had one big backpack of 7 kgs and one small daypack for everyday travel. We avoided taking trollies because we were not sure about luggage storage and road condition.
Another common trick which helped us to save a lot of space is to mix and match clothes (basically you could use the same top or jeans multiple times). Take clothes depending on the season and weather.
Share common things if you are traveling with a friend or partner.
Buy small travel bags and leakproof silicone travel toiletry set to be more organized. I used those small travel bags to compartmentalize my backpack which also saved a lot of space.
Carry good hiking shoe while traveling to Peru
Do laundry wherever possible. We did not bring clothes for 3 weeks rather we washed our clothes. Laundry is available at most of the places.
Carry umbrella and rain jacket
Makeup and basic needs: If you are not very specific to any product, you can skip carrying all those from your home and save space. We did not carry any stuff for our daily usage such as soap, body lotion, deo/perfume, toothpaste, etc. except makeup. We bought everything from Peru.
You must carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer while traveling inside Peru.
Carry medicine for all your needs especially for altitude sickness, Jet Lag, Traveller’s Diarrhea. I had a huge jetlag issue in the beginning. I advise having a rest day in your itinerary, in the beginning, to overcome the jet lag and also include rest day in the mid of your journey. The normally recommended vaccinations before traveling are Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, B, Rabies, Malaria. If you are visiting Amazon, carry mosquito repellent (can be bought in the local supermarket ). Also do not forget to take health insurance.
Stick to bottled water
Carry Universal charger
You need a new sim for your mobile to navigate. Take a sim upon your arrival from the airport or from the city center. I recommend Claro or Movistar.
Learning basic Spanish helps a lot. (Number system, greetings, small phrases)
It is better not to rush in Peru. Traveling from one place to another takes time. Also, you need to be well-rested. If you rush, you might end up getting exhausted. In my suggestion, take enough rest before starting such a long trip. If needed, add more days in your itinerary.
How to Get Around?
Airport: We traveled from Frankfurt to Lima, Peru via Madrid by Air Europa. There are many other airlines such as LATAM, Avianca, Iberia, KLM, etc. Air Europa was the best budget option for us. It was ideal for us to reach Lima since we had a connecting flight from there to Chachapoyas. But there are other international airports as well: Arequipa, Cusco, Iquitos, Piura. You need to check the airlines' options from your place to the destination.
For Domestic travel, also there are airlines like LC Peru, Viva Airlines, Star Peru, Peruvian Airlines, LATAM. Taking flight for city hopping is not the cheapest option though but the quickest.
For flight booking, I always check Skyscanner and Momondo for deals. You can check that too.
From Lima, most of the airlines fly to other big cities. But smaller and remote towns are difficult to reach due to the non-availability of flight. Some cities can be reachable once or twice a week. Also, flights can be delayed or canceled because of the bad weather. It is better to reach airports keeping sufficient time at hand to avoid chaos at the end.
**If you are reaching at Lima Airport, I strongly recommend taking Airport Express to your hostel or hotel. It is a safer and cheaper option than a taxi and also WIFI equipped.
Bus: You can travel all over Peru by bus (including overnight journey). We took Peru Hop to explore south Peru. We followed the route Cusco to Lima via Puno, Arequipa, Nazca, Huacachina, Paracas. Peru Hop is a reliable and well-organized bus company and I would gladly recommend it to anyone. Another company that I found is CruzdelSur. But we did not travel using Cruz del Sur.
Train: Except for the Inca rail and Peru rail which runs between Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo, I did not find any proper railway system in Peru. There is another option to travel from Lima to Huancayo in case you are interested. You can find the information here.
Also, I did not see the train as a budget option.
We did not use public transport inside the city that much. But we did use Uber, Taxi, and Colectivos a couple of times. Uber is the cheapest way to travel within the city if you want to avoid a taxi. It is available in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa. In case you want to use a taxi, it is better to ask the hostel or hotel to call a taxi for you. Another useful option of getting around is to use Colectivo (Shared taxi). It is quite popular in Peru. We did not need public transport because we joined many organized tours. Apart from that, we walked most of the time.
How to book Accommodation:
We booked all our accommodation through Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hostelworld. You can find many options for accommodation from low budget to high.
Just as additional information, staying in hostels allows you to meet many new people from different corners of the world.
Traveling to Lima from Frankfurt via Madrid
Travel to Chachapoyas from Lima for North Peru
Stay at Chachapoyas and explore North Peru
From North Peru (Jaen Airport), fly to Cusco
Travel to Ollantaytambo from Cusco and visit Scared valley
Travel to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo and stay
Visit Machu Picchu
From Machu Pichu travel back to Cusco.
Based on Cusco:
Explore Manu National Park
Rainbow Mountain tour
Cusco Sightseeing and travel to Puno
Explore Lake Titicaca in Puno and travel to Arequipa
Explore Arequipa and Colca Canyon
Travel to Huacachina from Arequipa via Nazca Lines
From Huacachina travel to Paracas
From Paracas back to Lima
Are there any reading recommendations?
If you search “Peru Itinerary” in Google, you will get many options. But you still need to narrow it down based on your choice of interests. Peru has numerous places for hiking and sightseeing. Before including anything into your itinerary, I recommend checking the details, transportation, time taken and then make a tentative plan.
I recommend these two books for reading.
a) I read Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring guide. It helped us to choose the places first and to make a map of our own and then we checked for transportation to connect the dots on our map.
b) Another book is Turn Right at Machu Pichu by Mark Adams.
Well… we are at the end of this blog. 😊
If you plan to visit Peru, you can refer to this blog, relax, sit back and enjoy your coca tea. 😁
And If you like this blog, do not forget to check out the next blog where you can get to know more about our journey.💕