Backpacking Peru is up there with one of my favorite adventures of all time, and that’s saying something! Nothing quite compares to Peru’s exceedingly diverse landscapes, buzzing city life and ancient world wonders!
I can tell you now, there is much more to this South American country than only visiting the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu…
There is a mecca of other-worldly adventures to be had when backpacking Peru, so I urge you to find the time to dig deeper than the average traveler and visit as many incredible Peru attractions as you possibly can.
Without further ado, I present to you The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Peru!
Have you got travel insurance for Peru? I know that nobody likes to talk about this stuff but accidents can happen and having World Nomads Insurance can save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong.
A GUIDE TO BACKPACKING PERU
There are a few things to consider when putting together your Peru itinerary and that all depends on what you want to do and how much time you have.
Whether you have 2 weeks in Peru or 2 months, there is an endless list of amazing places to visit in Peru.
I personally spent a total of 3 weeks in Peru, with a few extra days in Bolivia and found this was a fairly decent amount of time to cover most of the hot spots.
BACKPACKING PERU OVERVIEW
Below is an overview of all the places I visited in Peru, starting in Cusco and ending in Lima:
• Cusco – 2 days
• Ausangate Trek – 7 days
• Sacred Valley – 1 day
• Machu Picchu – 1 day
• Lake Titicaca – 1 day
• Copacabana – 1 day (Bolivia)
• La Paz – 2 days (Bolivia)
• Uyuni Salt Flats – 1 day (Bolivia)
• Arequipa – 1 day
• Colca Canyon – 1 day
• Huacachina – 1 day
• Lima – 2 days
If you have a few extra days up your sleeve, I highly recommend heading further south to Bolivia.
From Lake Titicaca, it’s around six to seven hours drive to Bolivia’s third-largest city La Paz, stopping at Copacabana for the day and then continuing on to reach La Paz.
You will need around four to five extra days to visit these locations in Bolivia if you do wish to add them to your Peru itinerary.
Machu Picchu – What to do in Peru
GETTING AROUND PERU
There are are two main options for getting around Peru and that is by bus or by plane.
Traveling by bus when backpacking Peru, in my opinion, is the best way to get around this South American country. There are some cheap, dodgy buses out there and then there are the more expensive bus companies, though these are generally a lot safer.
The most reputable bus company in Peru that I discovered to be the most comfortable and reliable is Peru Hop.
They offer many different bus routes with English speaking guides throughout Peru / Bolivia and I highly recommend traveling with them.
I personally traveled with Peru Hop on the Cusco to La Paz to Lima route which requires a minimum of 10 days and 9 nights. The cost for this particular route is $219 USD.
Internal flights in Peru are known to be quite expensive, though if you book a few months in advance you might be able to grab yourself a bargain.
I would only recommend traveling by plane in Peru if you have limited time, otherwise, the bus is still your best and cheapest option.
Search All ∼ Flights in Peru with Skyscanner.com
Bolivia / Peru Hop buses – Backpacking Peru
PLACES TO VISIT WHEN BACKPACKING PERU
# CUSCO CITY
Cusco is one of my favorite cities in Peru and it’s the common starting point for many travelers backpacking Peru.
Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,400m in the south-central region of the country.
I spent two days in Cusco upon arriving in Peru to explore the city and acclimatise to the high altitude before embarking on a 7-Day Ausangate Trek.
8 BEST THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO, PERU
#1 PLAZA DE ARMAS CUSCO
Plaza de Armas is the perfect place to begin your backpacking Peru adventures! Located in the center of the city, Plaza de Armas has a bit of everything for everyone.
A beautiful water fountain can be found in the middle of the main square which is surrounded by gardens, restaurants, bars, cafes and retail stores, enough to amuse you for a good hour or two.
The main shopping street in Plaza de Armas is Calle Plateros for all your Peruvian knick-knacks and souvenirs.
Also located in Plaza de Armas is the impressive Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco) and the Natural History Museum (Museo De Historia Natural), two iconic landmarks that are not to be missed!
Tip: For an elevated view of Plaza de Armas head into Starbucks located on the second floor in the building next to the Natural History Museum.
Find All ∼ Best Hotels in Cusco
Catedral del Cuzco – Backpacking Peru
Plaza de Armas Cusco – What to do in Peru
Market place on Calle Plateros – Backpacking Peru
#2 SAN PEDRO MARKET
San Pedro Market is a must-visit location when backpacking in Peru. In this market, you can find basically everything from fresh produce, cold cut meats, spice shops, fresh juice stalls, local handmade garments and much more!
From Plaza de Armas, it is approximately a ten-minute walk to the San Pedro Market.
When I visited San Pedro Market, the first thing I did was grab a freshly squeezed juice to take away and went on the hunt to purchase a colorful handmade poncho to keep me warm on my seven day Andes Mountain trek.
There are countless garment stores inside the San Pedro Market and I guarantee you’ll find something that fits you perfectly. I paid 70 soles for my poncho so expect to spend something around this price.
Tip: If you are planning on doing a trek in the Andes, cocoa leaves are known to be a natural remedy to help with altitude sickness and San Pedro Market is the best place to buy a fresh bag for cheap!
Search All ∼ Day Trips From Cusco
San Pedro Market – What to do in Peru
San Pedro Market – Backpacking in Peru
#3 STATUE OF CHRIST AT PUKAMUQU MOUNTAIN
About a thirty-minute walk from Plaza De Armas is the white Statue of Christ and the best viewpoint in Cusco.
The climb is steep and tiring but very rewarding once you reach the summit of Pukamuqu.
At the top, you’ll find the towering Statue of Christ and a panoramic viewpoint offering expansive views of the entire Cusco region and surrounding mountain ranges.
The Statue of Christ was a gift from Palestinian Christians in 1945 as a token for the kind refuge they received in the city.
This statue is reminiscent of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, dominating the summit of Pukamuqu with wide-open arms.
Tip: The best time to visit the Statue of Christ is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I promise you will get to witness an unforgettable sunrise or sunset, weather permitting!
Viewpoint at Pukamuqu – Peru Backpacking
Statue of Christ Cusco – Peru places to visit
#4 SAQSAYWAMAN ANCIENT RUINS
Just five minutes walk from Statue of Christ are the ancient ruins of Saqsaywaman. These ruins are considered to be the first of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’ and one of the more interesting attractions to check out when backpacking Peru.
The Incas once called Saqsaywaman the House of the Sun and the Spaniards called it a fortress due to its zig-zag design.
One thing that was very intriguing to me when I visited Saqsaywaman was the enormous boulders that form the walls at these ruins. They were put together perfectly, like a game of tetris, without the use of mortar.
If you go early enough you may be able to avoid paying the 70 soles entrance fee as I did, however, I was told to leave by one of the guards when the archeological site opened at 8am because I didn’t have a ticket.
So it’s best to get a ticket if you wish to explore the Saqsaywaman ruins without any hiccups.
Find All ∼ Best Hotels in Cusco
Follow this sign from the Statue of Christ
Saqsaywaman ancient ruins – 3 week Peru Itinerary
#5 VISIT THE STREETS OF SAN BLAS
On your way back down to the city from Saqsaywaman, be sure to take the route that leads down through the streets of San Blas.
An artisan neighborhood that is filled with beautiful architecture and quaint shops that line the cobblestone streets of San Blas.
Get your cameras at the ready to capture the beauty of it all and be sure to purchase a few trinkets while you’re at it!
Search All ∼ Day Trips From Cusco
Streets of San Blas – Backpacking Peru
#6 EAT STREET FOOD IN CUSCO
Eating street food in any third world country can be daunting but I assure you that it is perfectly safe to do so in Cusco.
The best street-side food vendors can be found in the morning selling artisan bread with avocado, egg and other varieties for just 1 Soles – what a freaking bargain!
I think I ate my weight in food on the morning I discovered these cheap eats!
Another tasty treat to try is the street side Churros! You’ll find that the younger local kids will have their little stalls set up along the streets of Cusco selling their freshly made, probably by their mothers, sweet treats!
Street side Churros – Peru backpacking
Street food vendors in Cusco – Places to visit in Peru
The ultimate avocado bread – Backpacking in Peru
#7 WALKING CITY TOUR CUSCO
Without a doubt, you will be approached by many locals in the streets asking if you would like to join a free walking tour around Cusco. I can tell you now that this is not a scam and it’s one of the best things to do in Cusco.
The walking tour in Cusco is completely free of charge, however, it is recommended to tip your guide at the end of the tour.
I always recommend joining a walking tour where possible as the local guides generally take you off the beaten path and share information with you that can’t be found in any travel guide.
See More ∼ Best Camera Gear For Travel
Visiting Plaza El Regocijo – Best things to do in Peru
The Qurikancha Museum – Backpacking Peru
Visiting a local market – Peru Itinerary
#8 EXPERIENCE CUSCO’S NIGHTLIFE
Another one of the best things to do when backpacking Peru is to enjoy a night out on the town! Cusco is known to be the party capital of Peru and welcomes people of all ages.
The best places to go out for a drink and a boogie are Mama Africa (Cusco’s most popular club), Ukuku’s, Paddy’s Irish Pub and The Point Hostel.
Tip: If you are looking for a good place to have pre-drinks before heading to the clubs, it’s always happy hour at The Point Hostel and they also have beer pong tables!
Free ∼ $40 AirBnb Discount
Things to do in Cusco at night
Body shots at The Point Hostel – Peru Guide
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO
Luxury: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
An unforgettable stay at any Marriott Hotel around the world is never a bad choice. This particular Marriott boasts beautiful interiors with antique exposed bricks and it’s just a few minutes walk to the main square, Plaza de Armas. The rooms are elegantly styled featuring cable TV, wifi, a minibar and private bathroom. Oxygen-enriched rooms are also available for those who struggle with high altitudes.
Mid Range: Tambo del Arriero Hotel Boutique
A charming colonial boutique hotel located in the Nueva Alta neighborhood, a short walking distance to the San Pedro Market and Cusco’s main square. The rooms are spacious and cosy featuring a TV, iPhone docking station, free wifi, work desk, warm heating and some even boast a private jacuzzi.
Budget: Frankenstein Hostel
There are countless hostels in Cusco but there is only one Frankenstein Hostel. This is where I stayed during my time in Cusco and I can’t recommend this place enough for its unique ambience and central location! Ludwig, the owner, was very welcoming as soon as I set foot in the door and made me feel right at home. The hostel lives up to its ‘Frankenstein’ name with spooky ornaments hanging in doorways and from staircases. Ludwig is also a nature lover and has many plants growing in the internal courtyard and he even has his own terrarium. There are cosy private rooms available at a very affordable price and breakfast is included.
# TREKKING IN PERU
If you are looking for the ultimate adventure while backpacking in Peru, the Ausangate Trek is by far one of the best treks in Peru!
Reaching altitudes of up to 5400m, the Ausangate trail offers an ‘off the beaten path’ experience, boasting turquoise glacier lakes, snow-capped peaks, rainbow mountains, hot water springs and much more!
I personally embarked on a 7-day Ausangate Trek and have put together this guide with everything you need to know before you go.
WHERE IS AUSANGATE MOUNTAIN
Ausangate Mountain is located in the Vilcanota Mountain Range in Peru.
From Cusco, it is approximately a four-hour drive to reach a small village called Tinki which is the starting and finishing point for most Ausangate Treks.
Ausangate Trek – Backpacking in Peru
WHERE TO BOOK AUSANGATE TREKS
There are dozens of tour operators and trekking companies located in Cusco to book the Ausangate Trek and believe me, it can be hard making a decision on who to book with.
However, in my experience, you definitely want to find a Peru trekking company that is highly experienced and reputable.
Most importantly, you’ll want to feel safe while also having an incredible experience.
I personally joined a 7-Day Ausangate Trek with Killa Expeditions which, in my opinion, is the most reputable adventure tour company in Cusco.
Myself and eleven other keen trekkers embarked on the 7-Day Ausangate Trek which included Rainbow Mountain and it was hands down one of the best experiences I have ever had!
Killa Expeditions offer a range of different Ausangate Treks including 5-day, 7-day and 9-day treks. Head over to the Killa Expeditions website to find a trek that best interests you and book online.
AUSANGATE TREKS – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before trekking Ausangate, see this list of things to know before you take off:
• Altitude – 3,700m to 5,400m
• Terrain – glacial, rocky trails and high passes
• Acclimatisation – 2 – 3 days in Cusco is recommended prior to trekking
• Distance – 5-day trek/7-day trek (67km) & 9-day trek (100km)
• Difficulty – strenuous, lengthy and high altitude
• Weather – rain, wind, snow, hail and sunshine (best time to go is from March to November)
• Food – all food and drinks are included during the trek, along with porters and chefs
• Accommodation – tents, mattresses, pillows and sleeping bags are provided
Full Blog Post → 7-Day Ausangate Trek
Incredible Ausangate Trek – Backpacking Peru
Off the beaten path – Backpacking Peru
WATCH MY PERU TREKKING VIDEO
# SACRED VALLEY
The Sacred Valley is located around 50kms north of Cusco and it’s well worth the visit when backpacking Peru.
Once home to many of the Inca people, the Sacred Valley is rich with history and authentic Peruvian culture.
The most popular sites to visit in the Sacred Valley are the hillside weaving villages in Maras, the agricultural terraces at Moray Ruins and the Salineras salt mines.
BOOK A DAY TRIP TO SACRED VALLEY
A day trip to the Sacred Valley can be easily arranged at one of the many tourist offices dotted around Cusco City, though in my experience, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which tour operator to book through without being ripped off.
Another alternative is to book a tour to Sacred Valley online in advance to avoid the hassle of having to organise a trip once you have arrived in Cusco. I recommend finding a tour that best suits you on the Get Your Guide website as they are affordable and reliable.
Search All → Sacred Valley Tours
Weaving village in Maras – 3 weeks in Peru
Dying the yarn – Backpacking in Peru
Terraces at the Moray ruins – Backpacking Peru
# MACHU PICCHU
Machu Picchu Mountain is one of the 7 Man-made Wonders of the World that is most famous for its ancient Inca ruins consisting of temples, terraces and water channels.
Machu Picchu translates to Old Mountain, taking its name from the location of the Incan citadel and it’s a must-see when backpacking Peru.
WHERE IS MACHU PICCHU LOCATED
Machu Picchu Mountain is located in the Sacred Valley approximately 70km from Cusco City in Peru. Machu Picchu altitude sits at 2,350m above sea level.
Find All ∼ Machu Picchu Hotels
Machu Picchu – Places to visit in Peru
HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU
There are a couple of ways of reaching Machu Picchu Mountain by either trekking or by train and bus.
Trekking Machu Picchu:
The Inca trail is the most common route for trekking Machu Picchu and there are many different packages to choose from including 2-day, 4-day, 5-day and 8-day treks.
There are dozens of tour operators and offices dotted around Cusco City to book the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but in my experience, it’s easier to book online ahead of time to avoid the hassle of having to organise it once you arrive.
I recommend planning a trek to Machu Picchu on the Get Your Guide website. They have a number of trekking options to Machu Picchu Mountain that are affordable and reliable.
Train + Bus to Machu Picchu Mountain:
The easier option of getting to Machu Picchu is by taking the train and bus combo from Cusco with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu Mountain.
There are daily trains that depart from Ollantaytambo (a town near Cusco) and arrive in Aguas Calientes. The two-hour train journey itself is beyond scenic and an experience I am sure you will never forget!
Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes I recommend spending one night in a hotel here and taking the first bus that departs at 5am from the main bus stop in Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Mountain the following morning.
Find All ∼ Hotels in Aguas Calientes
Train Cost: $100 – $200 return depending on which package you choose.
Bus Cost: $12 one way or $24 return.
Machu Picchu Entrance Cost: $45
Opening Hours: Machu Picchu Mountain opening hours are from 6:00am – 5:30pm, Monday to Sunday.
MACHU PICCHU TOURS
Machu Picchu – Peru Travel Blog
Machu Picchu Mountain – Backpacking Peru
WHAT TO EXPECT AT MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN
According to historians, Machu Picchu Mountain was built in the 15th century by the Inca Pachacutec. This Inca city was built with huge blocks of stone and the most fascinating part is that no mortar was used during the construction.
The ruins are divided into two main areas, the agriculture area consisting of terraces and the urban area which served administrative purposes. These two areas combined are absolutely beautiful and it’s why Machu Picchu Mountain is a picture-perfect destination to visit when backpacking Peru.
Due to a massive influx of tourism over the past few years, authorities have limited the number of visitors to 2,500 people on any given day in order to preserve the ruins at Machu Picchu.
The earlier you can get to Machu Picchu the better to avoid the crowds and on a clear day, you may get lucky enough to see the sun rise up over the mountains, illuminating the Inca ruins below.
Machu Picchu Mountain is best explored on a guided tour if you are wanting to learn first-hand the long history of this ancient Incan city. Otherwise, visitors are free to roam around at their own pace taking in the sights and capturing pictures along the way.
Bear in mind that the designated pathways are one way only so once you go down you can’t go back up. Take your time and get that perfect photo at each viewpoint as you make your way around Machu Picchu Mountain.
Find All ∼ Machu Picchu Hotels
Ancient ruins at Machu Picchu – Best of Peru
Machu Picchu – Backpacking Peru
BEST PLACES TO STAY AT MACHU PICCHU
Luxury: Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
Awarded the best hotel in Machu Picchu! Sumaq Hotel is located along the beautiful Urubamba River and only 20-minutes drive from Machu Picchu Archaeological Site. This 5-star hotel offers comfort, elegance and relaxation in Adean design. Free wifi is available, luxurious and spacious rooms, private balconies with mountain views and a superb breakfast is included.
Mid Range: Hotel Ferre Machu Picchu
Hotel Ferre is a 3-star hotel located just 5-minutes walk from the train station. The rooms are spacious and cosy with free wifi, private bathroom, mountain and river views and breakfast is included. You can also enjoy the communal sauna and hot tub inside the hotel.
Budget: Casa Machu Picchu Hostel
Casa Machu Picchu Hostel is the perfect spot for budget backpackers looking for cheap accommodation. Centrally located in Aguas Calientes, this hostel has dorm rooms, shared bathrooms and showers with hot water and a continental breakfast is included. Chill out in the lounge or terrace to enjoy the free wifi or to meet some other fellow travelers.
# LAKE TITICACA
I guarantee you would have either heard of or seen pictures of Lake Titicaca in Peru but you may not know too much about it.
Well to start off with, Lake Titicaca is the biggest lake in South America and also the highest lake in the world! You definitely don’t want to miss this place when backpacking Peru.
WHERE IS LAKE TITICACA
Lake Titicaca lies between Bolivia and Peru, though mostly visited from a small city called Puno which is located on the Peruvian side of the lake. From Cusco to Lake Titicaca, the journey is around eight hours.
If you are wondering about the Lake Titicaca Weather, the best time to visit is between February and November for moderate temperatures and minimal rainfall. December and January are known to be the wettest months at Lake Titicaca.
HOW TO GET TO LAKE TITICACA PERU
The easiest way to reach Lake Titicaca is by bus and traveling with Peru Hop is the way to go.
For this particular trip, the Peru Hop bus departs from Cusco at 22:00 and arrives the following morning in Puno Titicaca at 06:00.
Find All ∼ Homestays & Hotels in Puno
Lakeside city of Puno – Peru itinerary
Lake Titicaca – Backpacking in Peru
LAKE TITICACA TOURS
The only way to explore Lake Titicaca Peru is by organising a tour which can either be done in Puno at a tourist office when you arrive or by booking ahead of time with a tour company.
I personally booked my Lake Titicaca tour with Madre Tierra Travel, an adventure tour company that offers dozens of tours throughout South America.
LAKE TITICACA FACTS
Before I tell you more about my experience on the Lake Titicaca tour, here are some fun facts about Lake Titicaca Peru:
Lake Titicaca Altitude: 3,812 meters above sea level (highest lake in the world)
How Big Is Lake Titicaca: 8,372 km2 surface area, 191 km in length, 81 km in width
How Deep Is Lake Titicaca: 281 meters deep
Heading out on the boat – What to do in Peru
Was too good not to go for a swim!
LAKE TITICACA ITINERARY
On this particular Lake Titicaca tour, the places we explored are two of the most visited islands on Lago Titicaca – Islas Flotantes (the floating islands of Uros) and Isla Taquile (Taquile Island)
My friends and I were picked up from our hotel at around 6:45am and driven down to Puno harbour to where we jumped on board our tour boat for the day.
The first leg of our Lake Titicaca tour was a thirty-minute cruise out on to the lake and arriving at around 7:30am to Islas Flotantes, the famous floating islands of Uros.
These floating islands on Lake Titicaca Peru are constructed entirely from weeds that grow abundantly in the lake. Islas Flotantes is inhabited by the indigenous people known as Uros and up to six families live on one single floating island.
When we visited, the Uros people showed us around their section of floating land, demonstrated how they make the islands by weaving the reeds and taught us a little about their culture and daily lives on the lake.
Find All ∼ Homestays & Hotels in Puno
Drone shot of the floating islands – Things to do in Peru
Arriving at Islas Flotantes – Backpacking Peru
Handmade garments – Backpacking Peru
LAKE TITICACA TOUR – CONTINUED
From Islas Flotantes our Lake Titicaca tour continued to Taquile Island, which took around two hours across the lake on the boat. We arrived on the north side of Taquile Island at around 11:30am and followed the steep cobblestone path to the main village square.
Taquile Island is inhabited by the Taquileños people who are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, which are regarded as the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru.
After wandering around some of the textile stores in the plaza we sat down to eat lunch in one of the restaurants. My friends and I ordered grilled fish and vegetables, sourced directly from Lake Titicaca and it was absolutely mouthwatering!
We then made tracks over to the southern side of Taquile Island which lead down through local villages boasting amazing views of Lake Titicaca and down to another port where the boat was waiting to pick us up.
The day was coming to an end by this stage and we made the two-hour boat cruise back to Puno, catching a beautiful sunset over Lake Titicaca. Dusk had fallen by the time we had arrived in Puno and we were transferred back to our hotel.
All in all, a day tour on Lake Titicaca is a MUST and I highly recommend adding it to your list of things to do when backpacking Peru.
Arriving at Taquile Island – Peru Itinerary
Drone shot of Taquile Island – Places to visit in Peru
Isla Taquile – Backpacking Peru
Sunset on Lake Titicaca – Peru places to visit
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PUNO
Luxury: Libertador Lago Titicaca Puno
The only 5-star hotel in Puno! The Libertador offers panoramic views over Lake Titicaca, featuring a spa, hot tub, sauna, gym and free wifi. The rooms are air-conditioned with a private bathroom, tv and minibar. An in-house restaurant serving up Andean or international cuisine and breakfast is included!
Mid Range: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza
Centrally located near Puno’s main square, the Tierra Viva Puno Plaza offers spacious rooms, stylish furnishing, private bathrooms and balconies. Perfect for couples and rated for the best value in Puno.
Budget: Puno Hostels
This 3-star hostel is perfect for backpackers on a budget. Puno Hostel has dorm rooms and private rooms available, a kitchen to do your own cooking and free bikes are available for guests to explore Puno city! This place really is bang for your buck!
PERU TO BOLIVIA
As I mentioned earlier, if you have a few extra days up your sleeve, I highly recommend heading further south to Bolivia.
From Lake Titicaca, it’s around six to seven hours drive to Bolivia’s third largest city La Paz, stopping at Copacabana for the day and then continuing on to reach La Paz.
You will need around four to five extra days to visit these locations in Bolivia if you do wish to add them to your Peru itinerary.
Click on the links below to see my detailed guides on each of these locations in Bolivia:
Copacabana Bolivia – Backpacking in Peru
Death Road in Bolivia – Peru Itinerary
Uyuni Salt Flats – Backpacking Peru
BACKPACKING PERU – CONTINUED
Arequipa is by far the most beautiful city in Peru and a must-visit when backpacking in Peru! This small colonial town is framed by three massive volcanoes and filled with baroque buildings that will make you feel like you’re in a European city.
The majority of travelers use Arequipa as a base to reach the world’s deepest canyon – Colca Canyon.
Exploring the white-washed city of Arequipa can be done in a day. If you’re interested in colonial history and museums, be sure to check out Santa Catalina Monastery and Arequipa Cathedral.
Also, don’t forget to make your way over to Plaza de Armas and marvel at the stunning architecture, complemented by Misti Volcano in the backdrop.
Exploring Arequipa – Backpacking Peru
Misti volcano in Arequipa – Peru Itinerary
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN AREQUIPA
Arequipa has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of my favorite places to stay in Arequipa to fit the needs of budget backpackers and luxury travelers. See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Queen’s Villa Hotel Boutique
Queen’s Villa has one of the best locations in Arequipa, close to the main square and only 15-minutes drive from the airport. This luxury accommodation features a swimming pool, beautiful gardens, a panoramic terrace, library and cafeteria. The rooms are spacious and cosy, featuring a private bathroom and free wifi.
Mid Range: Selina Arequipa
Rated the best value in Arequipa! Selina has an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar, beautiful gardens, a tree house, cinema room, co-working space, library and more! Choose from either a dorm room, double room, triple room, quadruple room, deluxe room or a suite. Selina has something for everyone!
Budget: Wild Rover Hostel Arequipa
The name says it all! Wild Rover Hostel is an adults-only accommodation featuring a pool, garden, bar, table tennis, billiards and an in-house restaurant. Wild Rover is a party hostel located in the center of Arequipa and guests can choose either a bed in a dorm room or a private room. Perfect for solo travelers on a budget.
# COLCA CANYON
Be sure not to miss out on a Colca Canyon tour when backpacking Peru! Colca Canyon, also known as Valle del Colca, is famed the world’s deepest river canyon with a depth of 3, 270m and it’s also a popular location to watch the Cruz del Condor (flight of the Condors).
WHERE IS THE COLCA CANYON TOUR
Most Colca Canyon tours operate out of Arequipa, a beautiful city in southern Peru. The journey from Arequipa to Colca Canyon is approximately a three and a half hour drive to reach the starting point of Valle del Colca in the Chivay region.
Find All ∼ Hostels & Hotels in Arequipa
WHERE TO BOOK TOURS OF COLCA CANYON
There are dozens of tour operators and offices located in Arequipa to book a Colca Tour, but in my experience, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which operator to book a tour without being ripped off.
Alternatively, you can book Colca Canyon Tours online in advance to avoid the hassle of having to organise a trip once you have arrived in Arequipa. I recommend finding a tour that best suits you on the Get Your Guide website.
There are several Colca Canyon Tours available including 1-day, 2-day and 3-day tours, Colca Canyon trek options and much more!
Note: There is an additional Colca Canyon entrance fee that is not included with any tour that you book. The fee to get into the park is 70 Soles ($22) which must be paid upon arrival in Chivay.
Scenic mountain roads – Backpacking in Peru
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE COLCA CANYON TOUR
The Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa starts bright and early at around 3am for a hotel pick-up. The drive out to Colca Canyon in the minivan takes around three and a half hours to reach the town of Chivay and this is where breakfast is included before beginning the Colca Canyon one day tour.
After breakfast in Chivay, the Colca Tour continues along a winding mountain road, deep into the Colca Valley with several stops along the way at scenic viewpoints overlooking the most incredible landscapes! It’s difficult to get a clear perspective of the entire Colca Canyon, that’s why there are many lookout points to check out on this route.
The minivan then makes a two-hour stop at the most famous viewpoint, Cruz del Condor, and this is where you can spot the flight of the world’s largest flying bird, the Condor. With a wingspan of more than 3m, weighing up to 15kg and standing 1.2m tall, these raptors are truly a magnificent site to see.
There are a number of walking trails and dozens of lookout points to explore while on the Colca Canyon tour, each of which boasts unreal views up and down the valley!
Find All ∼ Hostels & Hotels in Arequipa
Walking trails at Cruz del Condor – Backpacking in Peru
Death-defying drops – Peru Itinerary
COLCA CANYON TOUR – CONTINUED
If you are wanting to capture good pictures of the flight of the Condor’s then you’ll need a decent zoom lens on your camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right lens on my camera to get any decent photos of the Condor’s though it was an incredible experience seeing three or four Condors circling the skies above my head!
The Colca Tour continues back to Chivay for lunch and a short wander around the small village town markets before making the long drive back to Arequipa.
On the road between Colca Canyon and Arequipa, the minivan will stop at the Patapampa viewpoint, also known as Mirador de Los Andes, for majestic views of the Cordillera and surrounding volcanic landscapes. This is also the highest point of the Colca Canyon Tour sitting at 4, 910m above sea level.
The Colca Canyon Tour arrives back in Arequipa between 5pm and 6pm with a drop-off to requested hotels.
BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR THE CANYON COLCA TOUR
It is possible to visit Valle del Colca any time of the year, though it’s recommended to tour Colca Canyon between March and June when the Condors are most active. You’ll want to avoid the rainy season at Colca Canyon which is from December to March.
Colca Canyon altitude is 3, 500m above sea level.
See More ∼ Best Camera Gear For Travel
Tours Colca Canyon – Backpacking Peru
Village town markets – Peru Itinerary
# NAZCA LINES
The Nazca Lines are a collection of ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert sands in south-west Peru and not to be missed when Backpacking Peru!. The Nazca Lines cover an area of 1,000 sq. km and there are around three hundred figures of all different shapes and sizes.
Some of the lines measure 30m wide and up to 9km long. The geoglyphs resemble plants and animals which can only be seen from above in a plane or helicopter.
Click Here to book your scenic flight over the Nazca Lines.
Alternatively, you can hike to some nearby hilltops in Nazca to get a birds-eye perspective of the mind-boggling Nazca Lines.
HOW TO GET TO THE NAZCA LINES
The best way to reach the Nazca Lines is by bus and if you are traveling around the country with Peru Hop, the bus will stop in Nazca.
Sunset over the Nazca Lines – Backpacking Peru
Huacachina Ica is one of the best places to visit in Peru! This incredible desert oasis truly is a remarkable vista which has recently become an internet legend thanks to everyone’s favorite app, Instagram!
WHERE IS THE HUACACHINA OASIS
Hucachina is located in the southwestern region of Peru approximately 300km south of Lima, Peru’s capital city. Huacahina is the name of the village which is built around a small oasis surrounded by enormous sand dunes. Ica is the name of the nearby city that’s just 5kms away from the Huacahina Oasis.
Search All ∼ Huacachina Hotels & Hostels
Huacachina Oasis – Backpacking in Peru
HOW TO GET TO HUACACHINA
The best way to reach Huacachina Ica is by bus and yet again, the Peru Hop bus stops in Huacachina.
For this particular trip, there is a bus from Lima to Huacachina that departs daily and the journey time is around 4-hours.
Another popular route for reaching Huacachina Ica is from Arequipa. There are daily buses from Arequipa to Huacachina and the journey time is around 14-hours, with a number of stops for lunch and toilet breaks.
HUACACHINA ICA TOURS
If you decide you want to book a Huacachina Tour as opposed to a self-guided trip, you can check out what itineraries are available on the Get Your Guide website.
Get Your Guide has many different Huacachina Tours on offer which includes transport, sand boarding and buggies in the Huacachina sand dunes and even a boat tour to nearby islands in Paracas.
Drone shot of Huacachina Ica – Peru Backpacking
THINGS TO DO IN HUACACHINA
Depending on what time you arrive in Huacachina Ica, the first thing you’re going to want to do is head over to South America’s ONLY natural desert oasis which is just a short walk from anywhere inside the village.
Sandboarding down the mammoth Huacachina sand dunes is another one of the best things to do when visiting this amazing Peru oasis.
Some accommodations offer complimentary sandboards for guests to use otherwise you can rent them from the locals in town. Grab a board, hike for around twenty minutes to the top of the highest dune and take the plunge!
Once you’re all done with sandboarding you can jump in one of the dune buggies with an experienced driver and zap around the desert dunes of Huacachina Ica. Be sure to pack your GoPro camera to capture all the action. A Huacachina dune buggy tour will set you back around $25.
Huacachina Oasis – Backpacking Peru
THINGS TO DO IN HUACACHINA ICA – CONTINUED
Another one of the best things to do in Huacachina is watching the sunrise or sunset from the top of the nearest sand dunes.
I was amazed at the amount of cloud movement going on when I hiked to the top for sunrise one morning, watching them sweeping in and around the oasis, up and over the dunes and into the oblivion.
Watching the sunrise at Huacachina Ica was by far the best moments that I enjoyed most during my visit to this majestic desert oasis!
When the sun goes down at Hucachina Ica Peru the bars and restaurants come to life. Huacachina sure loves to party and almost every night of the week you can finding a cranking bar with good music and cheap drinks, usually kicking off at around 11pm.
There is no shortage of restaurants dotted around the oasis offering just about everything from classic Peruvian dishes to pizza and pasta. Try getting into a restaurant in time for happy hour, kick back and reminisce on how epic your day just was!
THE LEGEND OF HUACACHINA ICA
Peruvian legend has it that the Huacachina Ica Oasis was created when a native princess stripped naked to bathe, but after looking in a mirror she spotted a male hunter approaching her from behind.
She fled the area leaving her mirror behind which turned into a lake. It is rumored that the princess still resides in the bottom of the Huacachina Oasis as a mermaid.
Swimming at Huacachina Ica definitely possible and locals believe the water and mud to be therapeutic, ridding those of arthritis, asthma and bronchitis.
If you’re not game for a swim or mud scrub, simply relax on the sandy shores of the oasis or rent one of the paddle boats to take out onto the lagoon.
Book Now → Huacachina Ica Tour
Dune buggying at Huacachina – Backpacking Peru
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HUACACHINA
Luxury: Hotel El Huacachinero
Located right in the heart of Huacachina Oasis, close by to bars and restaurants. This hotel features a swimming pool, restaurant and free wifi. The rooms have private bathrooms, cable TV, air-conditioning and an American breakfast is included.
Mid Range: Desert Nights Ecocamp
Desert Nights offer glamping at its finest! Located on the edge of the dunes and minutes walk to the town in Huacachina, this Ecocamp features a restaurant, shared kitchen, bar, garden, swimming pool and an outdoor terrace for guests to enjoy! Book a night in one of the luxury tents which also includes free wifi and a continental breakfast.
Budget: Wild Olive Guest House
Centrally located in the Huacachina Oasis, this guesthouse features a restaurant, shared kitchen, shared lounge and free wifi. Wild Olive has shared dorm rooms, private double rooms and family rooms available at an affordable price. Perfect for travelers on a budget!
Lima is the capital city of Peru and a bustling metropolis that is not to be missed when backpacking Peru. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Lima and I recommend spending at least two days to experience the joys that this South American city has to offer.
AWESOME THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN LIMA
• Go paragliding over the shores of Miraflores
• Ride a bike along Malecon esplanade
• Explore Lima’s historic center
• Visit Plaza de Armas
• Go underground to the Catacombs beneath San Francisco Church
LIMA CITY TOURS
If you want to make the most of your time in Lima to see all the sites, booking a city tour could be your best option. There are many different tours to choose from on the Get Your Guide website including walking tours, historic center tours, bike tours, food tours and much more.
Miraflores coastline – Peru travel itinerary
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN LIMA
Luxury: JW Marriott Hotel Lima
The JW Marriott Hotel is one of the best 5-star hotels in Lima. Featuring luxury accommodation with unbeatable views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a spa, outdoor swimming pool, in-house restaurant and walking distance to Miraflores district. The rooms are very spacious and come equipped with air-conditioning, TV, free wifi and private bathroom.
Mid Range: Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro
Centrally located in Miraflores district, this 3-star hotel is close to shops, beaches and top attractions in Lima. The rooms air-conditioned with private bathrooms and free wifi. A buffet breakfast is also included with the room. Perfect for couples and families.
Budget: Selina Miraflores Lima
Located in the vibrant Miraflores district and just 15 minutes from the beach. Selina features a cinema room, restaurant, bar, games room and free WiFi.Choose from dorm rooms or private rooms, perfect for friends and solo travelers.
IS BACKPACKING PERU SAFE?
Overall, backpacking in Peru is generally safe though there are some things to be aware of before visiting.
Petty theft, mugging and pickpockets are known to target tourists so make sure to have all your valuables in a safe and hard to get to place, especially on public transport and crowded places.
Tip: A money belt is perfectly designed to keep your cash and other valuables safe and out of sight when you are backpacking Peru.
A bit of common sense is to avoid walking the streets at night on your own and stay away from dodgy neighborhoods.
Peru is also known for drug-trafficking and police corruption, though if you don’t wander too far from the city areas this shouldn’t affect your Peru trip whatsoever.
As always, treat the locals with respect and in return, you will be treated with respect.
IS PERU EXPENSIVE?
Backpacking Peru can be done on the cheap if you eat like a local, stay at cheap hostels and don’t party too hard. Realistically, you can travel Peru on around $25 – $50 per day.
Peru will only be expensive if you prefer to stay at fancy hotels, travel by plane, eat out for every meal and if you book tours or treks.
See below for a general overview of daily costs in Peru:
• Hostel: $10-15
• Local food: $3-$6
• Western food: $10-$15
• Beer: $1-$2
• Local buses: 50 cents – $1.50
• Coach buses: $10-$20
The currency in Peru is Peruvian Sol and the exchange rate is $1 USD = 3.30 Peruvian Sol.
BEST TIME TO GO BACKPACKING IN PERU
The best time to visit Peru is surprisingly in the winter months between May and September. This is the dry season in Peru with little to no rainfall and prime conditions for trekking in the Andes mountain ranges.
The rainy season in Peru is generally October t0 March, so you can expect wet conditions during these months. The only upside to backpacking Peru in the wet season is that there will be fewer tourists.
BACKPACKING PERU MAP
MORE SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
If you are planning a trip to South America, be sure to check out my other travel guides below that you might find useful while crafting together your South America Itinerary:
Peru Travel Guide: 3 Weeks Peru Itinerary
Cusco Travel Guide: 10 Things To Do In Cusco
Rainbow Mountain Guide: Rainbow Mountain Trek
Machu Picchu Guide: Machu Picchu Mountain
Ausangate Guide: 9 Day Ausangate Trek
Huacachina Guide: Huacachina Oasis
Colca Canyon Guide: Colca Canyon Tour
Mendoza Travel Guide: Mendoza Wine Tour
Rio De Janeiro Guide: 2 Days In Rio Itinerary
Iguazu Falls Guide: Iguazu Falls
Buenos Aires Guide: 1 Day In Buenos Aires
Lake Titicaca Guide: Lake Titicaca Tour
Death Road Bolivia: Mountain Biking Death Road
Uyuni Travel Guide: Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia
MY CAMERA GEAR
• DSLR Mirrorless Camera: Sony A7ii
• Drone Camera: DJI Mavic Pro 2
• GoPro: GoPro Hero 8 Black
• Everyday Lens: Sony F2.8 24/70mm
• Camera Bag: Lowepro Protactic 31L
• Selfie Stick: Sandmarc Metal Edition 1.2m
• Tripod: Joby Flexible GorillaPod
• GoPro Dome: Underwater GoPro Dome
• Power Bank: Anker Powerbank
• External Hardrive: WD Elements 4TB
WHAT TO PACK FOR PERU?
• Waterproof Phone Case: Universal Waterproof Case
• Reusable Water Bottle: Hydro Flask Water Bottle
• Rain Jacket: North Face Rain Jacket
• Water Shoes: Slip-on Water Shoes
• Day Bag: Nomatic 20L Day Bag
• Power Adapter: Universal Power Adapter
• Packing Cubes: 4 Set Packing Cubes
• Microfibre Towel: Quick Dry Travel Towel
• Travel Insurance: World Nomads Travel Insurance
• Money Belt: Hidden Money Belt
And that’s it folks – thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions at all about Backpacking Peru, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Happy Travels! 🙂
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