A One-Month Itinerary for Budget Backpacking Peru

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With a certain world wonder that captures the imagination of travellers everywhere, in truth, Peru is a country filled with wonders. A striking country with every extreme, Peru is home to some of the most incredible sights in all of South America as well as plenty of little-known adventures waiting to be uncovered. Let me share with you our one-month itinerary for budget backpacking Peru that will help you plan your own epic adventure.

Peru gives you a little taste of everything, making it an amazing destination to visit on its own. But whether you are visiting on a long backpacking haul or a quick holiday trip, I will let you in on the cost of travelling, how to get around, and some key destinations that should not be missed on any trip.

Cost of Travelling Peru

Our daily budget while travelling Peru was around $40 CAD a day/person ($30USD). You can easily accomplish this by being mindful of the meals you eat at restaurants, how many organized tours or excursions you take, and the accommodations you stay at.

Getting lost in Machu Picchu

Round trip flights from North America can cost as little as $600 CAD. Peru is definitely not an expensive destination to get to!

Average hostels usually cost less than $10 CAD with the more popular chains or party hostels being a little more.

You can find set-menu lunches for as little as $3 CAD, or treat yourself to some of the finest dining in the world costing anywhere from $10 CAD over $100 CAD. Some of the best restaurants in the world call Lima home and experiencing Peruvian fusion cuisine needs to be a part of your itinerary. Ever tried Ceviche? Well, you will in Peru.

Bus travel is cheap and incredibly comfortable. Services like Cruz Del Sol are some of the best on the continent! Buses will be priced around $10 to $40 CAD (night buses are closer to the latter). If your up to it, small colectivo cars waiting around bus terminals can sometimes offer faster trips for similar or lesser prices!

Peru is not the cheapest South American destination thanks to its popularity, but it will be easy to keep this one-month budget backpacking.

How To Prepare

As mentioned, Peru is a country of extremes and depending on your trip you will need to be prepared for it.

Here are some quick tips you should consider.

  • Know the CLIMATE season, and pack accordingly (Lots of rain? Cold or Hot temperatures?)
  • Know the TOURIST season, you may need to book things ahead (e.g Machu Picchu Treks)
  • Try NOT to pre-book things (It is always much cheaper in person!)
  • Get your shots (especially for the Amazon!)

Our Itinerary & Our Suggested Itinerary

Our trip through Peru was closer to 5 weeks than a month, but you can easily sample your favourites from our list when making your own one-month itinerary for budget backpacking Peru.

NOTE: We entered Peru from Ecuador, which made for travelling to northern destinations much easier. Most travellers will fly into Lima, and moving north will require more time or another flight.

To make things simple, check out this awesome map I made dotting out our backpacking route through Peru

(Insert MAP)

The itinerary below is a guide for how most of you will end up visiting Peru, starting from Lima. As you will fly into the capital, we will begin our itinerary here while also sharing how you can visit the same places we did.

If you too are taking a longer backpacking journey and coming south from Ecuador, or north from Bolivia, use the map above and follow the destinations in the direction you are headed.

Here is our one-month itinerary for budget backpacking Peru!

Our One-Month Itinerary for Budget Backpacking Peru

Lima

2 – 3 Days

Paragliding over Lima’s oceanside parks.

Amazing Ceviche at diner Punto Azul

The beating heart of the country, Lima is a mega metropolis that offers everything you can think of. Some of the best cuisine in the world lives here, and its swanky neighbourhoods bring on a raucous nightlife.

Lima offers a classical old quarter that shows off some of the most stunning colonial architecture in Peru. Its endless seawalls make for a great stroll, as well as some of the hip up-and-coming neighbourhoods becoming wonderful places to explore. Ceviche is a must here, and inevitable since every street cart, work lunch diner, or Michelin restaurant has the best of this stuff in the world. Possible the greatest culinary cuisine in all of South America warrants a visit alone.

We, unfortunately, were only in the capital for because we were in a rush to catch a pre-booked tour (again, a no no). Exploring its many sights could easily last multiple days.

This is no boring capital city. Lima is an essential (and probably inevitable) destination for your itinerary.

How to Get There:

Probably where you will fly into, or reach heading south!

Where to Stay:

Our amazing Airbnb with Magdalena in the neighbourhood Lince.

Chachapoyas

3 Days

Next, we head north!

Our first true destination in Peru (sorry Chiclayo) was the indigenous town of Chachapoyas. A perfect hub to explore Peru beautiful northern highlands, Chachapoyas is surrounded by unadulterated exploration. Tons of multi-day hikes can be taken on by the adventurous while the areas biggest highlights are some of Peru’s best.

Too few people know about the wonderfully mystical ruins of Kuelap. The Chachapoya people constructed a striking city on top of one of the highest peaks in the surrounding area and cultivated a civilization that earned the respect of the Incans. New infrastructure projects are making the site more accessible, but the ruins of Kuelap are reason alone to venture north.

The legendary hilltop ruins of Kuelap should not be left out!

Not to mention one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, the Gocta Waterfalls, is not too far away. Anywhere from the 3rd largest to the 12th (depending on who you chat with), hiking up to and underneath this mammoth makes for an amazing day trip.

Chachapoyas also happened to be our gateway to the Amazon…

How to Get There:

Fly direct or into Cajamarca or Trujillo. Busing from Lima is very long, probably too long. Coming from Ecuador by bus with transit in Chiclayo or Trujillo, it will take a day.

Where to Stay:

Backpackers Chachapoyas, right near the main square and offers great services with comfortable rooms.

Parque Nacional Pacaya Samiria/Iquitos

5- 7 Days

A real trailblazer deep in the Amazonian jungles of Pacaya Samiria

If it’s on your list, I strongly recommend you visit the Amazon Rainforests of Northern Peru, an often overlooked region.

From Chachapoyas, we took some gnarly buses to the edge of the jungle in Yurimaguas, took a fan boat along the tributaries of the Amazon to reach the dusty town of Lagunas. An adventure in itself.

The reason we put ourselves through this is for the most incredibly raw Amazonian experience.

With the amazing Huayruro Tours, we embarked on a 7-day canoe expedition deep into the Parque Nacional Pacaya Samiria.

Over that week we saw everything, and I mean everything. Caiman, Anaconda, massive Paiche fish, parrots, parakeets, 10 different monkies, and a Jaguar’s lunch? All directly from our boat floating along the Amazon river. The accommodations included pretty much a camping trip, but our guides were incredible and made for an unforgettable experience.

If you don’t want to spend so much time in the jungle, many other travellers make their way to the remote city of Iquitos. Iquitos is the world’s largest city not accessible by road and sits right on the mighty Amazon. It’s boomtown history and incredible Amazonian cuisine was highly recommend by fellow travellers, and could be added to your itinerary.

Note that Amazon tours can be booked in Iquitos, but we recommend booking in Lagunas because they offer more authentic jungle experiences for less!

How to get there:

Lagunas/Pacaya Samiria: Bus or fly into the city of Tarapoto, and take a colectivo into the town of Yurimaguas. From there you take a fan boat ride 3 hours downstream to the town of Lagunas, where the tours begin. From Chachapoyas, this took longer than a day (one night in Yurimaguas)

Iquitos: Fly in from another major city, otherwise only accessible by boat rides along the Amazon (there’s a fun idea!).

Where to Stay: 

Huayruro tours will organize accommodations for you. If you’re looking on your own, search for Hospedaje Eco in Lagunas or Hostel El Puerto in Yurimaguas.

Huaraz

5  – 6 Days

A big hop, skip and away from the Amazon and we found ourselves in the breathtaking snowcapped vistas of Huaraz.

This was an awesome addition as it was a stop we decided to make just because of the number of backpackers who told us fantastic things about Huaraz.

Boy, they were not wrong!

Everyone raved about the multi-day treks into the stunning Parque Nacional Huascaran. The most incredible of them all is the famed Santa Cruz trek. This 4-day grinding expedition at 4700 metres was made all the easier with the sweeping valleys, rushing rivers, and crashing glacier caps. Easily some of the best trekking in all of South America, and there are some more uncharted routes that can be undertaking with the right guides.

Day hikes to different lagoons or glaciers are recommended to acclimatize to the high altitude. We did the amazing hike up to Laguna Cherup, while another day could easily be spent taking an excursion to Laguna 69

Huaraz is not too far from Lima, and should be a must visit for any one-month itinerary for budget backpacking Peru.

Santa Cruz’s views and high altitude will take your breath away!

How to Get There:

From Lagunas, after visiting the Amazon, it took nearly 26 hours with multiple stops! We would suggest breaking up the trip with a quick stop in Trujillo.

If you don’t have time to visit the north of Peru, Huaraz is only an 8-hour bus ride from Lima. You will eventually

Where to Stay:

Aldo’s Guest House, awesome owner and staff offering clean, and bright rooms.

Paracas/Huacachina

2 Days

NOTE: If you only have two weeks to visit Peru, the most popular route is to stick to the south of Peru. Starting in Lima and continuing to these next destinations in the south would make for a fantastic trip.

Dune Buggy rides into the Huacachina Dunes is extreme fun!

If you have already taken the time to visit the capital, you will probably move on to one of or both of these travel hot spots. For some good-ole backpacker fun, Paracas and Huacachina offer just that.

Paracas is better known as the “poor man’s Galapagos,” offering awesome boat tours to visit these wildlife haven islands. We did not visit Paracas because we had visited the Galapagos Islands, but you can see many of the same animals in a pace much closer to the continent!

Huacachina is famous for its hippie oasis town surrounded by gigantic sand dunes. Everyone who comes here is looking to shred with some sandboarding or bomb around on a dune buggy tour. These tours are kind of silly fun, and the town is a backpacker stomping ground that brings with it the typical fun of a tourist town.

A day each in these gringo trail haunts is enough, or stay for the parties.

How to Get There:

A quick 2 – 3-hour bus ride south from Lima.

Where to Stay:

In Huacachina we stayed at the Desert Nights hostel, a HI affiliate at a good price. However, for a little bit more I would recommend finding a hostel with a pool because it gets hot in the desert.

Arequipa

2-3 Days

Arequipa, being the 3rd largest city in Peru, still holds a small town charm that makes it an endearing city to visit. Situated on a sweeping plain towered over by the picture perfect volcano of El Misti, the location is stunning. That means there are tons of nearby hiking trails and day trips to be had, not to mention the city itself.

You can get some of the best Andean and Incan inspired cuisine in all of South America right here in Arequipa. Its main plaza and crisscrossing colonial streets are incredibly enjoyable to soak in. The more time you spend in the city, the more it will grow on you

Volcan El Misti towering over Arequipa’s grand cathedral.

How to Get There:

An 8-hour overnight bus from Ica, a city close to Huacachina. Tack on 4 hours if leaving from Lima. Flying in is also an option.

Where to Stay:

Our Airbnb stay was with Mirella in the Yanahuara neighbourhood just outside the colonial centre.

The Wild Rover party hostel chain has a location Arequipa, with Marlon’s House also being recommended.

Colca Canyon

2 – 3 Days

For some spectacular hiking that is completely different from anywhere else in the country, trek down into the valley and villages of the Colca Canyon.

This is the biggest regret of our trip because, yes, we had to pass it. Again, don’t ever, ever pre-book a tour! Feeling rushed is never fun.

That could not be more true with the Colca Canyon. Some travellers will only visit to see the famous Andean Condors on a long day trip from Arequipa. Heading out for a DIY trek into the Colca Canyon is a much more rewarding experience.

The scenery is so truly incredible the photos found online to do it justice. Not to mention some of the quaint villages you will come across below also offer natural hot springs. The perfect remedy after a tiring day of hiking.

Do yourself a favour and do a multi trek. For an article on how to plan the trip, there is a simple guide on Culture Trip.

How to Get There:

A 5-hour bus ride to Cabanaconde from Arequipa.

Where to Stay:

In the canyon it is common to find various hostels or guesthouses in the villages of Sangalle, Malata, Cosñinhua and Llahuar.

Cusco

5 – 7 Days

The beautiful city of Cusco sits on the hallowed grounds and centre of the mighty Incan empire. It’s crumbling cobbled streets make for amazing lost misadventures, but the real heavy hitting experiences are in the Andes Mountains that cradle the cultural capital.

A-many afternoon’s stroll through Cusco’s beautiful historic centre.

Cusco is a hikers paradise, and some of its tantalizing trails lead to the world wonder of Machu Picchu. You can find yourself in the region surrounding Cusco for weeks strolling through indigenous villages on the way to Incan fortresses.

Some of these sites can be visited on a day trip, but extended experiences like stay overnight in Ollantaytambo are more than worthwhile.

NOTE: We really did not enjoy the Rainbow Mountain day trip, the most popular excursion from Cusco. They’ve changed the hiking route to a congo line quick climb up to a busy photo op over the multi-coloured hills. It’s a long and rushed day, and you can find similar sights trekking elsewhere in Peru or Bolivia.

How to Get There

Fly in from Lima, or take a bus from any city in southern Peru. Bus from Arequipa to Cusco was 10 hours overnight.

Where to Stay

The popular Loki Hostel chain has a nice location in Cusco. We also stayed with Guisele in here beautiful apartment just outside of the Historic Centre. Any of the hostels when staying in Aguas Calientes the night before visiting Machu Pichu is fine (none are necessarily great).

Mist hangs over the ruins of Machu Picchu

Puno/Isla Del Sol

2 Days

A must hit before you head back home or hop over to your next country, the legendary Lake Titicaca and its enchanting energy is an incredibly stunning stop for a rich cultural experience. Visit the floating reed villages of the shores of the city of Puno to experience a day in the life of an ancient indigenous lifestyle.

We went a little further in our own travels to Copacabana, Bolivia to step foot on the spiritual Isla Del Sol, where the Incan Empire along with the sun was born. It’s sweeping hills backdropped by the endless lake and its sacred waters fill you with this spiritual energy as you wander past its pre-Incan ruins and old wood forests.

Soaking in a gorgeous sunset overlooking Isla Del Sol

NOTE: As of October 2018 there has been no resolution to a conflict between two towns on the islands, and restriction to travel on the island means that essential 3/4 of the island is inaccessible. Check with local authorities or hostels to see if the situation has been resolved.

How to Get There

From Cusco it’s a 6-hour bus ride to Puno, and 8-hours to Copacabana (crossing the border is very quick).

Where to Stay

On Isla Del Sol there are many hostels to choose from that are fine with Hostal Templo del Sol being a good option.

Look at that smile!

Take on the Adventure

There you have it! Your perfect one-month itinerary for budget backpacking Peru. Know that it is easy to convert this itinerary to a two-week jaunt. Simply stick to the popular trail south of Lima.

We highly recommend taking the time to visit many of the lesser visited destinations in northern Peru such as Chapoyas or Huaraz.


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Thank you for sticking around and reading our post. If you have any other tips for fellow travellers we would love to hear from you in the comments below! For more stories and photos from our adventures make sure you check out our Instagram and Facebook pages @brightintheworld


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