If you don’t have too much of a time restriction, then this 4 weeks itinerary in Peru is perfect for you. Peru was one of the most beautiful countries we have seen in South America.
There is so much to do and so much to see. Even in one month, you can hardly explore all the beautiful places. All together, Nico and I spent 1 month in Peru, going from north to south. Several sites we visited in Peru belong to the most beautiful places we have seen in South America.
Many people come to see only Cusco and Machu Picchu, but there is much more to explore. That’s why we created this incredible 4 weeks Peru itinerary for those who have more time to explore Peru. We also would like to share with you our journey and the many amazing places we have seen.
WHY VISIT PERU?
Because of the beautiful Andes, Peru has an incredible scenery which you can’t see everywhere. Even an itinerary of 4 weeks won’t be enough to see all the astonishing places in Peru.
There are endless possibilities for hiking and admiring beautiful lagoons, such as Laguna Paron or Laguna 69 nestled among the Andes. One can follow Inca paths to majestic Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. Explore cities that are located high in the mountains at over 3.000 meters. From Rainbow Mountain, Chan Chan – the largest adobe town in the world, to the mysterious Nazca lines.
We explored many sites that displayed the culture of Peru’s indigenous people. We tried Peruvian food and saw many, many cute llamas and alpacas. But let’s start from the beginning. At the beginning of our journey to Peru.
WHERE DID WE START?
We were coming down by bus from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Our 4 weeks itinerary in Peru started in the north, making our way to the south so we could continue to Bolivia. Check our map to see our journey. We created the map ourselves, using watercolours and a little bit of Photoshop.
In Peru we traveled mostly by bus. But we also took 2 flights. We highly recommend using the bus company Cruz del Sur. It was the best bus company we used in South America. The buses are well maintained, you can get VIP seats for fair prices and the longer rides usually include meals as well. The seats are very comfortable and for the first time, we were actually looking forward to taking a bus. Our 4 weeks itinerary in Peru includes travel time as well, so please when you plan, know that travel times in Peru and in general in South America might vary. That means, you can arrive much later than scheduled or buses can be canceled entirely.
MANCORA AND THE BEACH (2 DAYS)
Our first stop on our Peru itinerary was a small beach town called Mancora. Mancora is not the best place to be, but you can still spend 1-2 days. It was a great stopover for us to get some rest at the beach and plan our journey in Peru. The main beach is nice and broad with not too many people around. If you are there in the right season you can even go kite surfing. We were there in May which is low-season but the beginning of “kite surf season”.
TRUJILLO (2 DAYS)
After a few days at the coast, we were looking forward to exploring two major archaeological sites located close to Trujillo. It took us around 10 hours by bus from Mancora to get to Trujillo. Trujillo is considered the “Capital of Culture of Peru”. Why? It lies in the Moche valley where two prehistoric cultures used to reside. The Moche and Chimu cultures.
They were there before the Incas came around and build large cities. The first one was Chan Chan (which means Sun Sun), constructed around 850 AD by the tribe Chimu. It is incredible to imagine, but this adobe town had at the time around 40.000 to 60.000 inhabitants making it the largest city in ancient times. Chan Chan is also a world heritage site.
We do recommend you to visit Huaca de la Luna as well, there are barely any tourists and the site offers incredible tours around the site, explaining you everything about this place.
READ MORE: FULL GUIDE ON HOW TO VISIT CHAN CHAN IN NORTHERN PERU
HUARAZ (3 DAYS)
We took a bus from Trujillo to Huaraz which takes around 7 hours. Going from the warmth into the cold Andes was a bit of a shock for us. Temperature-wise and also regarding the altitude. We quickly put our alpaca sweaters on and drink some coca tea. Cruz del Sur doesn’t have a direct bus to Huaraz so we took a company called Linea. Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region and the city has an elevation of approximately 3.050 meters.
It is not a very big town but it can get busy especially in the evenings. Huaraz is surrounded by the Andes and that is why the surroundings are a paradise for hiking. Depending on your interests you can stay weeks here and do nothing but hike and camp in the mountains. We are not necessarily passionate hikers so we decided to stay in Huaraz for only 3 days, visiting two beautiful lagoons: Laguna Paron and Laguna 69.
Laguna Paron needs to be in your Peru itinerary for sure. We arrived to Huaraz quite late and because I am such a perfectionist we had to go to Laguna Paron the next day as the weather was supposed to be good. Please don’t make the same mistake and rest for at least 24 hours. This is to make sure that you acclimate your body to the altitude. Laguna Paron was an absolute highlight for us. You can see Laguna Paron in 1 day or even stay overnight. We wrote an entire article about Laguna Paron and you can read it HERE.
LAGUNA 69 TREK
This is another trek you can do in 1 day. We woke up very early at 3 AM and drove about 3 hours to the spot where we had breakfast and enjoyed sunrise. We were so high that we saw snow. From there, we hiked about 4 hours in order to get to Laguna 69.
I definitely recommend doing the trek with Akilpo Hostel as they take an alternative route. Most of the hikers start and end the trek at the same spot which makes it quite boring. The trek we took will start with a view on Huascarán Sur. If you would like to find out more about the alternative hike to Laguna 69, then make sure to read our full guide.
LIMA (4 DAYS)
Our 4 weeks itinerary in Peru continued with 4 days in Lima. To get to Lima from Huaraz takes around 7 to 8 hours by bus. We left early and were in Lima by the afternoon. Lima is the capital city of Peru and definitely has some interesting places.
We spent only 3 nights in Lima as we wanted to explore more nature and not spend a lot of time in a big city. But once you are there you can explore San Martin Beach and the Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco. We highly recommend you to stay in the district called Miraflores, this is where most of the “gringos” stay. There are many tourist attractions, parks, and shops with access to the beach. We didn’t explore so much of Lima as we were very exhausted. Also, our drone got damaged during an update. We learned that we will have no chance to fix it on the way. Thus, for the rest of our trip, we were dragging the drone around but could not use it. Long story short we were devastated and frustrated. Oops.
CUSCO (1 WEEK)
From Lima, we flew to Cusco. One of the best decisions we made during our Peru travels. As you can imagine the bus takes forever. To be precise 24 hours for 1100 km as you need to climb up the Andes on curvy roads. We had enough of lengthy bus rides, besides the bus always takes longer then the schedule says. The flight is only 1 hour and you can find cheap flights if you look a bit ahead. In fact, the flight was the same price as the bus. Yesssss, we were lucky.
Cusco itself is a beautiful town and every Peru itinerary would be incomplete without a stop in Cusco. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in Peru, Cusco has to be in your itinerary. We spent there all together 1 week exploring the city and its surroundings. If you have time, make sure you spend at least 1 week there (excluding Machu Picchu). We do recommend you to do a free walking tour during which you can learn interesting facts about the city.
DAY TRIPS FROM CUSCO
You can do many day trips from Cusco to see other Inca places such as: Salineras de Maras (Salt mines of Maras), Moray Inca Ruins or you can explore the Sacred Valley. Then, you need to do 1 day trip to Rainbow Mountain. You see what we mean? You need at least 3 days for all these day trips.
Here are also a few suggestions for day tours you can take from Cusco:
MACHU PICCHU (5 days)
People come to Cusco because of Machu Picchu, that’s a fact. Again, just a reminder, set some time out just for Cusco itself because it is really worth to explore it. You can get to Machu Picchu in many ways. Most of the people hike the Inca trail, but you can take a train with Peru Rail from Cusco directly to Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is the gateway to Machu Picchu and one of our highlights in our Peru itinerary.
Want to learn more about the Incas? Then make sure to read
“The Last Days Of The Incas” by Kim MacQuarrie. A must read when visiting Peru.
HOW MANY DAYS DO I NEED FOR MACHU PICCHU?
The biggest questions people have in regards to Machu Picchu are: how to get there?, where to buy tickets?, do I need to buy tickets in advance?, what trail should I take? Endless questions and I understand it. It is a lot to answer and everyone wants to choose the best tour and have the best possible experience. Thanks to my friend who went to Machu Picchu already, I knew what trail we wanted to do. We choose a fun trail called Inca Jungle Trail.
However, the most famous trails are the classic Inca Trail and Salkantay Trail which are harder than the Inca Jungle Trail. The Salkantay trail is more difficult as you walk in different altitudes and you also sleep in tents. This wasn’t really for us. Please, be aware that the trails usually take somewhere between 3 to 5 days, depending on you and how much time you have and what option you choose. If you don’t have enough time for any of the trails, you can take a direct train to Aguas Calientes.
HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU FROM AGUAS CALIENTES?
From Aguas Calientes you have 2 options. You can walk, which is not that easy. To be honest, for me it was the worst experience. I almost died. You are walking up very steep stairs and because of the altitude and the steep path it makes it really hard. But you can also take a shuttle bus which takes you to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The bus takes around 30 minutes and costs an incredible $12 one-way.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU?
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is April to May and September to October.
INCA JUNGLE TRAIL (4 DAYS)
This trail differs slightly from the other classic hiking trails as it includes fun activities, such as biking, rafting and zip-lining. We slept in basic accommodation, but always had our own room with a private bathroom although we were told that we will sleep in dorm rooms. As the name says its a jungle trail, that means that weather is great most of the time as you mostly move down coming from Cusco. This is why we choose it. The 5 day Salkantay Trail goes up to about 4.500 meters before coming down again to Aguas Calientes. The food was included and we paid €150 per person which is a bargain for what you get. It also included our tickets to Machu Picchu. We loved this trail as we were passing by many cute Peruvian houses and walked along coca fields. We also stopped by a place where Peruvian culture was explained by our knowledgeable guide. Furthermore, I could even try on a Peruvian dress.
We also had 1 day where we walked 8 hours on the classical Inca Trail. We finished our day in a thermal bath looking at the stary sky. The last day we did a final hike along the railway tracks to Aguas Calientes.
WHERE SHALL I BOOK THE MACHU PICCHU TOUR?
Before you book any tour, make sure to check for the reviews. There are so many tours offering different trails. We took the Inca Jungle Trail with Nice Tour Peru and it was a really good experience.
If you would like to see Huayna Picchu you have to get tickets in advance. Tickets are quite expensive and only around 400 people a day can go up there. Find out more here.
Get your Machu Picchu Ticket here if you don’t have time for multiple-day tours:
- Machu Picchu Official Ticket
- Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Official Ticket
- Day tour from Cusco including train rides
Aguas Calientes is the gateway to Machu Picchu. It is a small and cute town and we stayed there 2 nights. Most of the travelers stay only 1 night and after Machu Picchu they return back. But it is worth staying an extra night to discover all the cute souvenir places and have more time at Machu Picchu. But be aware, that hotels and restaurants are relatively expensive in Aguas Calientes.
Rainbow Mountain (Montana de Colores) is a must visit when you are in Cusco. It’s a day trip and you can choose to go to Rainbow Mountain and come back or continue to trek through the so called Red Valley. It’s a long walk (12 km) and we decided not to go, as we were absolutely exhausted from the Machu Picchu trail.
ABOUT THE 1 DAY TOUR TO RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
You need to wake up very early, it takes about 3 hours to get there. We had the craziest breakfast. It was -1 degree Celsius and we had the breakfast at 7 o’clock OUTSIDE. I was freezing like crazy. Anyways, the tour should cost around 65 Soles including the entry tickets. I am not coping particularly well with altitude (Nico does) and you will be walking from 4.600 to 5.200 meters above sea level. Mind that Mount Everest base camp is at around 5.400 meters.
If you are not sure and don’t like to test how you cope with the altitude: TAKE A HORSE ($15 one-way). I did and once again one of the better decisions in my life. It is a really, really difficult hike. I will be honest, I couldn’t have made it. I had to walk some stretches as the horse couldn’t carry me and let me tell you, I was dying and couldn’t breath. After taking a step I felt like some imaginary hand is pulling me backwards.
SALINERAS DE MARAS
This is another perfect day trip from Cusco. You can go there yourself using public transport, no need for taking a tour. We got there with Uber. Our Uber driver waited for us and drove us back, which was super convenient. Be warned though that there is no network service. That means 1.) make sure your driver waits for you or you will be stranded and 2.) your driver will not be able to finish the ride so the app thinks he is still driving and will charge more. We contacted Uber afterward and they reimbursed the money.
If you would like to read more on HOW IT IS TO USE UBER IN SOUTH AMERICA, then head to our blog.
This place is incredibly impressive and it has been around since before the Incas. The saltwater gets there at 3.380 meters above sea level. Also, Salineras de Maras is not owned by an organization but by the 300 local families.
If you would like to learn about Salineras de Maras, you can read our full post about this amazing place.
AREQUIPA (3 DAYS)
From Cusco, we took a plane to Arequipa which takes around 1 hour. The flights were very affordable and we paid around €50 per person. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial town, also known as the “White City”. Arequipa has many wonderful buildings and many people think that it is called a white city because of that. However, that’s not true as the indigenous people named Arequipa a “White City” because of the many white (foreigners) living there. The city was founded by Spanish conquistadors. Make sure to take a free walking tour as it is very interesting to hear about the city’s history.
If you are looking for a detailed Arequipa travel guide, then we highly recommend checking A walking tour of Arequipa (written by Peru For Less). Have fun exploring this beautiful city.
NAZCA LINES (1 DAY)
From Arequipa, we drove by bus to Nazca. It is so fascinating to learn about the Nazca lines. Why are they there? What is the meaning of it? We really recommend you to take a flight over the mysterious lines and to get answers to those questions.
Nico found a great flight for €100 per person. The operator had a good reputation as several accidents occurred over the last years and the plane they use is bigger than other operators’ planes. It is very expensive and you might find cheaper offers. But as a rule of thumb prices should not be under €80. If you would like to find out more about Nazca lines and how to book a reliable tour to Nazca, then head to our post.
ICA AND HUACACHINA (3 DAYS)
From Nazca, we took a bus (only 3 hours) to a city called Ica. From there you need to go by taxi (15 mins) to Huacachina. This is the place where I celebrated my 3oth birthday. Huacachina is a man-made oasis in the middle of the desert. You can do many fun activities such as sandboarding, sand skiing or driving around with a buggy. With didn’t do any of it 😀 and just enjoyed our time together in the dunes.
READ MORE: WHAT TO DO IN HUACACHINA DESERT
From Ica we drove 4 hours to Lima and from Lima we flew to La Paz in Bolivia. Which is another story 🙂
So there it is. A full month of exploring the beauty of Peru and your perfect 4 weeks itinerary in Peru. Of course, you can pick the places you like and explore Peru in less time. We hope you enjoyed the article and that you will have a great time in Peru.
Do you have any questions? Let us know know in the comments.
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