Peru is one of the most visited South American countries, especially by backpackers due to the network of hostels and bus routes that can be found across the country. With that being said, Peru is the 19th largest country in the world meaning that there is a lot of ground to cover. It would be almost impossible to see the whole country even in a lifetime, but from my experience a month is a good amount of time to get a real taste for everything that Peru has to offer.

Machu Picchu

To make the most of your potential trip to Peru, I have put together a rough itinerary for the main places to visit and activities to do whilst you are there. The itinerary starts in Lima where most people would fly into and finishes just over the border in La Paz, Bolivia, where another major international airport is located. There are also two bonus stops to the north of Lima that I have included if you are coming to Peru from Ecuador.

This route can be extended or shortened depending on your time and budget, either by skipping out some of the destinations or by staying longer in each one, something that is very easily done as there are always more activities that you could do, or places to explore in Peru.

Day 1- Lima

The first day will start with your arrival into the city of Lima and will be spent relaxing and getting used to the new country. There are a wide variety of places and different neighbourhoods to stay in Lima, but I would recommend the neighbourhood of Barranco outside the city centre. Not only is it close to the beach, but it is known as the bohemian centre of Lima and boasts some brilliant street art.

Barranco Street Art

Day 2-5- Lima

Explore the beautiful city of Lima. There are countless things to do in this metropolis, but some that I would totally recommend include:

  • Take a walk around the historic centre- make sure to catch the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace.
  • Check out the Circuito Magico del Agua, a stunning water and laser show. They open their doors at 3pm but the show is best experienced during the evenings after it gets dark.
  • Visit the Museum and Convent of San Francisco. Not only do you get to see the beautiful convent and learn about the history of religion in Lima, but there is also a fascinating and very eerie catacombs that can be seen as part of the tour.
  • Have a stroll around the Miraflores district. This is one of the wealthier districts in Lima, situated right on the coast. There is a beautiful boardwalk that runs along the coast and has some stunning views.
  • If you choose to stay in Barranco, then a tour around the street art is a must. This can be done through organised tours or can just as easily be done without the need for a professional guide.

BONUS TRIP

If you have a few spare days, then definitely make the trip from Lima to the Huascaran National Park. It can easily be reached by bus in 7 hours for around $15 and is home to the famous Lake 69 as well as Mount Huascaran, which is believed to be the inspiration behind the mountain found on the Paramount logo.

Day 6-9- Huacachina

Head to the desert oasis of Huacachina. To reach this, you will need to take a bus from Lima to the city of Ica to the south and from there it is a very short trip to Huacachina. The town is known to be a hub for backpackers in Peru and if famous for its parties and adrenaline activities.

When you are here, the place to be is the Wild Rover Hostel. There is a chain of Wild Rover Hostels across Peru, and in each one you will be sure to find a group of like minded travellers and often some big parties.

The dune buggy in Huacachina (also spot the sandboards)

There are a few things that everybody does in Huacachina. The first is the sand dune tour. You and some other travellers will be strapped into the back of a dune buggy and spend the next hour or so speeding around the sand dunes. If that wasn’t enough, many of the companies will also allow you to go sandboarding in the dunes. There are not many places in the world where you can experience such an activity and certainly not to the scale that you can in Huacachina, the dunes are massive!

Beautiful sunset amongst the dunes

I have two main tips for you before you go on a sand dune tour. First, make sure to take something to cover your mouth and eyes as the sand really does get everywhere. Secondly, try to go in the afternoon just before sunset. Whilst I was doing it the sun went down and it was beautiful.

The second activity that shouldn’t be missed is a day trip to the Ballestas Islands. These islands are often referred to as Peru’s answer to the Galapagos and are teaming with wildlife, from penguins to cormorants. The islands are not able to be visited on foot by tourists, but boats will circle around to ensure you get the best view of the wildlife.

Day 10-12- Nazca

Take the bus down the coast to the city of Nazca, famous for the eponymous lines that are found nearby. There is not that much to do in Nazca other than see the famous lines, but these in themselves make the visit a must. You can just view the lines from a platform, but this is definitely not the way to do it. Instead, you have to take a flight from the airport to get a real sense of the scale and beauty of these ancient lines. However, if you suffer from motion sickness then make sure that you take a sick bag!

Me in front of the tiny plane that had shown us the Nazca Lines

Day 13-17- Arequipa

Looking at the map of Peru, some might suggest that you head to Cusco from Nazca, and this is certainly a viable option. However, I would suggest that you head to Arequipa instead as it allows you to begin to become accustomed to the altitude that you will experience in Cusco.

The stunning Colca Canyon

There are a lot of things to do to keep you busy in and around the city of Arequipa, but some that I would recommend include:

  • A trip to see the Colca Canyon. This really is a must see from Arequipa. These trips are run from the city and can be just a day trip, or I would recommend staying one night so that you have more time to experience the canyon. It is one of the longest and deepest canyons in the world as well as the home to condors.
  • Visit the Santa Catalina monastery. The bright blue and red buildings that make up this monastery are the perfect place to get some amazing photos and the information around the visit gives you a great insight into the history of the city.
  • Misti Volcano. Dominating the view from the city is the Misti Volcano. Those who are keen hikers or adventurers might want to spend a day or two ascending it.
  • Museo Santuarios Andinos. This museum is home to many artifacts found in the Andes dating from the Incan period. Its most famous piece is an original Incan mummy.
Inside of the Santa Catalina monastery

Day 18-20- Cusco

The drive from Arequipa to Cusco is long and winding so be prepared if you suffer from motion sickness. I would recommend that the first few days of your stay in Cusco you take quite easy to get used to the altitude. Take a wander around the old town and prepare for what you will be doing in the next few days.

Day 21-24 Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

The most famous site in Peru and one of the seven wonders of the world is best reached by the famous Inca Trail. The trek should be booked through a reliable company, I would recommend G adventures but there are plenty of others. The trek itself lasts 4 days with 3 night spent camping and on the final day you will arrive at Machu Picchu before it opens to other tourists. This is one of the highlights of any trip to Peru, but bear in mind that the trek itself is quite demanding and not for everyone.

Views along the treks I did in Peru

Should the trek not be for you, then I would recommend spending some of the days in Ollantaytambo and the sacred valley where there are plenty of other ruins and beautiful scenery to enjoy. There is then a train that runs to the town of Aguas Calientes at the bottom of Machi Picchu where a bus can take you to the site.

Day 25-27- Cusco

After the hike and visiting Machi Picchu, you will want some time to relax and explore the city of Cusco again. This is the backpacker hub of Peru so if parties are your thing, then you have come to the right place, make sure to check out Wild Rover again.

Cusco is also the place from which to visit the stunning rainbow mountain. Beware that it will require an early morning start and even more hiking, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it!

Rainbow mountain with the passport stamp in the foreground

Day 28-30- Puno

Take the bus from Cusco down to the border city of Puno. This city is famous as it sits on the banks of the world’s highest navigable lake: Lake Titicaca. This city is the perfect place to visit the lake and experience everything that it has to offer. Make sure to go to the floating Uros Islands and experience their hospitality. I stayed with a local family in a remote part of the lake for an evening, something which can be booked through tour companies once you are in Peru.

Me with my Peruvian mother

Day 31- La Paz

The bus journey across the border from Puno to La Paz is a relatively simple one and it is here that your month in Peru will come to an end. There is plenty to do in La Paz, so it is certainly worth staying a few days there, but that is for a different guide to explain.

Bonus Stops!

If you are coming into Peru from Ecuador, rather than flying into Lima, there are a couple more places that you should visit on your trip.

The first of these is the northern beachside town of Mancora. This is close to the border with Ecuador and a centre for backpackers looking to relax and surf in Peru. It has an extremely laid back atmosphere as well as some wild parties throughout the year at some of the many hostels. If parties aren’t your thing, then it is a great place to learn to surf or just relax for a few days on the gorgeous beaches.

The second place is the northern city of Trujillo. It is the perfect place to stop between Mancora and Lima and contains some of the most important historical sites in the country, including Chan Chan and La Huaca de la Luna.

Stunning sunset in Mancora

Overall, Peru is a country that requires time to really do it justice. This is just a rough guide as to the best places to visit in the country and how long you should be staying in each place. On top of this, one of the best ways to travel in Peru is through Peru Hop, a bus service that runs through all the major destinations and allows you to hop on and off with other backpackers as you go.

I hope that this guide for one month in Peru has helped you plan your own trip and whet your appetite to visit one of the best countries in the world.