Peru: The Perfect 4 Weeks Itinerary - From North to South
The perfect four weeks Peru Itinerary will guide you through this amazing South American country from north to south. Use our travel itinerary to plan your ultimate month-long Peruvian adventure.
Congratulations, because you are reading this post dedicated to creating the best Peru itinerary, we assume you have decided to visit one of the most diverse South American countries: within a span of several weeks you can explore the humid jungle, hike trails winding through Andean mountains, admire adobe or stone-made ruins, learn about the Inca culture or observe every day, yet still authentic life of local people. No wonder that Peru has fascinated travelers for many decades (if not centuries) and the number of visitor increases every year as it has never been easier to travel.
Peru is a large country, and it's a fact that to cover it all, you would need to have years. We spent almost two months there and picked the best places you shouldn't miss. Traveling in Peru is safe (use your common sense as usual, especially in bigger cities), affordable and there is a fair number of quality bus companies (road conditions are not that great though) which connect more or less popular destinations. Because of the country's size, we countless times traveled by night buses, but if your budget allows, you can fly from place to place to save time and increase your comfort.
This itinerary shows a one month journey from the north of Peru to the south, but you can also use it when traveling the other direction or even when you decide to spend less time in Peru, the only thing you need to do is to choose the area you prefer (guessing you don't want to skip Cusco and Machu Picchu) and go from there. Happy planning!
DAY 1: CHICLAYO
If you are coming from Ecuador, there's a chance you will arrive in Chiclayo (you can get by the bus from Cuenca as far as Trujillo, but because it would be a shame to skip next stop Chachapoyas it is better to get off here).
No, Chiclayo is not a pretty city, but because the bus to Chachapoyas leaves late in the evening, you can visit two interesting sites in the town's proximity. The first is Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipan which is in Lambayeque (about 15 minutes away by public transport from Chiclayo) and the second one an archeological site and museum called Huaca Rajada (about 45 minutes away by public transport). Both places will teach you about the old pre-Inca culture, the Moche civilization.
If you have made it that far north, you might consider staying for a few days in Mancora where you can enjoy sun, sea, and beaches.
DAY 2 - 3: CHACHAPOYAS
The lesser visited part of Peru, Northern Highlands, hide one of the most important archeological sites but also burst with natural beauty. If time allows, we strongly recommend you to give it a try.
Because you will arrive in the morning (we did not have a problem to sleep in Peruvian buses), there will still be time to enjoy a productive day.
Leave your bags in a hotel and head to a local bus terminal from where you can travel to one of the highest waterfalls in Peru, Catarata de Gocta. You can either get to San Pablo and from there take a loop via upper and lower falls and finish in Cocachimba (this is a rewarding but slightly harder way), or you can follow the most common path starting and finishing in Cocachimba.
Save the second day for a visit of an archeological site, Kuelap. The ancient settlement is often compared to Machu Picchu (which we think is unfair), and some visitors even claim that it is better because of lack of crowds. Either way, Kuelap is unquestionably a place worth a visit. You can get there with an organized tour on by public transport on your own.
Before your bus leaves in the evening, you can stop by at Canon del Sonche viewpoint. It is only 15 minutes drive by public transport from Chachapoyas, and we actually liked the view better than in Colca Canyon.
DAY 4 - 5: TRUJILLO
From Chachapoyas, take an overnight bus to the colonial city of Trujillo. Trujillo is in UNESCO, and it is one of the neatest cities in Peru. You can have a relaxed morning in the city and in the afternoon visit Temples of the Sun and Moon.
The next day, visit the ruins of Chan Chan, which until now remain the largest world's adobe city. There's no need to take a tour as a public bus runs regularly and is very cheap. The only palace you can enter is Nik An as the restoration of other eight palaces is still in progress. We recommend you to hire a guide by the entrance as there are no explanation boards on the grounds and it is interesting to learn about another Peruvian pre-Inca civilization, the Chimu.
In the evening, take a night bus to Huaraz.
DAY 6 - 10: HUARAZ
Huaraz is Peruvian hiking capital, and it is impossible to do all the beautiful treks in the area, but we hope that our posts will help you decide which trek is the best for you. But first, do not forget that Huaraz sits more than 3000 meters above sea level so take it slowly and acclimatize properly.
Among our favorite one-day hikes belong trek to Laguna Paron, the most famous trek to Laguna 69, newly-discovered Laguna Churup or a one-day tour to a quickly retreating Pastoruri glacier at 5000 meters above sea level. The most popular multi-day trek is three or four days Santa Cruz Trek. We didn't do this one as we visited Huaraz in the offseason and it rained during afternoons, but it is also an option.
In case you are following this itinerary, take a night bus to Lima, from where travel by air to Iquitos, a gateway to the jungle. Low-cost flights leave every day, and the price is reasonable even when you book last-minute (we made the reservation only two days before our departure date).
DAY 11 - 16: IQUITOS & AMAZON JUNGLE
After your arrival, go to the city center and shop around to find the best tour company which will take you to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. You have two options on how to travel to the jungle: you can either stay in the lodge (which is outside the reserve, and you would visit it only on day trips) or you can go camping. After spending incredible seven days camping in the jungle, you might suspect that we will recommend you this option. But seriously, if you want to experience the Amazon, observe how local people still live in a traditional way and have a chance to see several animal species, go for multi-day camping, five days will do the justice. After your arrival back in Iquitos, take an afternoon flight to Lima.
DAY 17- 18: LIMA
After several days in the jungle, you might be looking for a city break. Although we were not somehow excited to travel to Peru's capital (it is too big), at the end we found the city's city center enjoyable. You can read our guide on how to spend one day in Lima. Lima is also known as a culinary capital, so do not hesitate to try new food, Peruvian cuisine was so far the best we've had in South America.
DAY 19 - 20: NAZCA
From Lima, take a day bus to Nazca town which is famous for mysterious Nazca Lines, large geoglyphs and trenches which are the best visible from the plane. Because you will arrive in the afternoon in Nazca, book your flight first (try to get the earliest flight as the visibility is the best and also the wind picks up later during the day) and then visit for example aqueducts or Chauchilla cemetery close to the town.
The next day tour company will pick you up and drive you to the small airport. You can read more about our flight over Nazca lines in our recent post. In short, prepare to get mind-blowing views, but to get them the pilot needs to take several sharp turns to ensure that all passengers see well, so hold tight, and in case you are easily motion sick, take some pills and do not eat much before the flight.
In the evening, take a night bus to Cusco.
DAY 21: CUSCO
After arrival to Cusco, spend at least a day walking around the historic center which should help you with another acclimatization during this trip. Cusco lies almost 3400 meters above sea level, and if you plan on doing some hikes in its surroundings, you should be adjusted to the higher altitude.
DAY 22: SACRED VALLEY
The valley going on from Cusco to Machu Picchu is one of the most picturesque and one of the most historically important areas in the whole of Peru. No wonder that some travelers when in Peru for shorter period spend all their time in this area.
To visit the most attractive places, you can either take a tour or you can travel on your own by public transport.
The most impressive ruins near Cusco is Saqsaywaman, but when you travel further do not skip Pisac ruins, Ollantaytambo, Moray ruins, Chinchero or the outstanding Maras salt mines. To get the best idea what you can do in Sacred Valley, read our Guide to Sacred Valley.
DAY 23 - 26: INCA TRAIL / SALKANTAY TREK
Trekking near Cusco area is something you can't miss. There are many treks you can choose from, but only one ends in the lost city of Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is one of the most popular treks in the world going through the wonderful landscape and passing by several ruins on the way to Machu Picchu. If you have a chance to plan ahead and make a reservation several months in advance, this will be the cherry on the top of your Peruvian itinerary.
The other multi-day hike you can consider doing is the classic Salkantay Trek. During this trek, you will be amazed by a spectacular mountainous landscape and although it does not end right by Machu Picchu but in the town nearby, Aguas Calientes, you won't be disappointed.
We had an opportunity to do both hikes so in case you're hesitant which one to choose, read our comparison Salkantay Trek vs. Inca Trail.
DAY 27: MACHU PICCHU
No visit to Peru is complete without seeing Machu Picchu, one of the world's new seven wonders. When traveling, you might notice that some places are sometimes over-hyped, but it is definitely not this case. No matter how many times you've seen the classic picture of Machu Picchu, you'll still be absolutely blown away when standing on the viewing platform overlooking the archeological site (and you can trust us as we visited the site twice within one week).
DAY 28: RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
When back in Cusco, another place you shouldn't miss is a hike to the Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley. The most popular one-day trek from Cusco is spectacular, especially when it is sunny as the sun highlights the colorful stripes. If possible, go for the combination with Red Valley, we found it even more interesting than the Rainbow Mountain itself (and much less crowded). The trek lies 5000 meters above sea level, so it is better to do it after a couple days in Cusco or after one of the multi-day hikes to Machu Picchu to fight with the altitude sickness better.
DAY 29: - 30 AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
It is easy to get from Cusco to Arequipa with an overnight bus. Thanks to it, you will have time to explore one of Peru's most beautiful cities right after your arrival. Arequipa has welcoming weather, pretty main square, but the main highlight of our time there was a visit to the Monastery of Santa Catalina.
The next day, take a one day tour to Colca Canyon to see one of the world's deepest canyons in the world and condors flying over. You can also hike in the canyon for two or three days in case you have spare time.
DAY 31: LAKE TITICACA
If you have a chance, only six hours by bus from Arequipa lies Puno from where you can admire Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the Sun and the highest navigable lake in the world. It is worthy to wait for the sunset over the lake. We visited Copacabana on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca as it offers better hiking opportunities.
From Puno, you can cross borders to Bolivia and continue your adventure, or you can get back to Cusco from where you can catch a flight back home.
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