Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru Title Pic

Updated on January 25th, 2021

Peru is at the top of many peoples Bucket Lists but how do you see everything & how long do you need? There’s the legendary Machu Picchu, the epic hike to get there via the Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, the wonders of the Amazon & the mystery of the Nazca Lines. Throw in Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, fascinating culture, beautiful people & diverse wildlife & where do you even start? Look no further as here I have your perfect Peru Itinerary, 3 weeks is all you need!”

Where?

Peru, South America. Includes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca, Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon & much, much more!

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca SunsetWhy?

When I start planning a journey, I often look at tours to find out where they believe are the best places to visit. When I was looking for the top things to do in Peru, I came across the Absolute Peru tour with G Adventures. It was 2017 & after losing my husband 2 ½ years earlier, I had yet to fully commit to a life of solo travel adventures. It Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Machu Picchuwould be my first time in South America & my Spanish was a work in progress. The perfect solution seemed to be to join the tour. It was an opportunity to see this fascinating country, ticking off everything I had on my list. And all in just 3 weeks. Perfect!

So that was 2017, why share this now? The pandemic has given us all time to put our backpacks in storage & reflect on adventures past. I realised that beyond my efforts tackling the Inca Trail & discovering the wonders of Machu Picchu, I haven’t shared anything else about my thoughts on the best places in Peru. So, for the next few weeks come with me on a journey through deepest, darkest Peru & I guarantee it will be next on your bucket list…when you can…& it is safe to visit again.

The Inca Trail - Peru, South America

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Tour Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, LlamaWhy take a tour?

Being on a tour is very different to creating your own itinerary & travelling independently. I like the tour option as everything is done for you. All guides are local so hugely knowledgeable & happy to share their recommendations. It is a great way to get an understanding of the culture but not necessarily the best to really immerse yourself in it. Nowadays, I would feel more confident to take the trip alone. I found the pace relentless, but it achieved my goal & really did deliver the best places in Peru in just 3 weeks.

The truth is that much as I love travelling independently, sometimes it is just easier to join a tour. For example, if the journeys are complicated, you have limited time or just looking to make new friends. So, if you would like to follow a similar route, then this is the perfect place to begin.”

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake TiticacaPeru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca SunsetPeru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru

Day 1 – Lima

Lima was the start & endpoint of my Peruvian adventure. I arrived the day before from Argentina so wanted to explore the capital. I was staying in the coastal area of Miraflores, at the Lima Wasi Hotel. Peruvian food has garnered a lot of attention globally & Miraflores is famous for its excellent selection of restaurants.

I took the opportunity to walk the city & made it to Plaza de Armas for midday to witness the impressive changing of the guard at the President’s Palace. It was a fantastic display of extravagant marching to a live brass band. Also, ff like me you are a fan of the macabre, check out the catacombs at the Monasterio de San Francisco.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca SunsetDay 2 – 3. Ballestas Islands, Ica & Huacachina

Our first day on the road was spent travelling to the coastal town of Paracas so I was excited the next morning to get on a boat to discover the ‘Galapagos’ of Peru. As well as a host of wildlife (sea lions, penguins & many species of birds), the Ballestas Islands are home to the intriguing Candleabra. The massive ‘artwork’ is 150m high & 50m wide, imprinted into the earth. Its origin remains shrouded in mystery.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Balleastas IslandsIca is Peru’s largest wine producer so if you get chance, take a tour of one of the wineries. Be warned, that Peruvian wine is very sweet which was not to my taste. However, I very much enjoyed the pisco tasting & invested in a couple of bottles for the journey!

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, HuacachinaThen we suddenly found ourselves in the desert. Huacachina is literally an oasis. Lush green palm trees & a few properties surround a small lagoon. And as far as the eye can see, there are sand dunes. You can get an adrenaline rush with extreme buggy rides & try your hand at sandboarding.

I discovered the joys of hurtling headfirst down progressively steeper slopes & loved it. Except for days after you will be finding sand in the most unusual places!”

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, NazcaDay 4 – Nazca

The legendary Nazca Lines are an immense artwork of lines which criss-cross the desert, interrupted by massive animal geoglyph etchings. It is still a mystery why & how they were created back in 450-600AD as they are only truly visible from above. I chose to take a scenic Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Chauchilla Cemetaryflight. And wow! These shapes & fantastical creatures blew my mind!

Chauchilla Cemetary lies 30kms south of Nazca. The remains here date back to 1000AD, so are pre-Inca. It is fascinating to see the mummified bodies laid to rest with their prized possessions (& very long hair!).

In Nazca, we stayed at the Casa Andina Nasca Hotel & the following day ended on a night bus to Arequipa.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca SunsetDay 5 – Arequipa

Arequipa is a beautiful city surrounded by volcanos, making it a little prone to more than the occasional earthquake. I just wish I could have done the town justice but after the night bus, I was pretty knocked out. There are many options to make the most of a day here. I chose to take the downtown walking tour with Free Walking Tours Peru. Another great alternative is a visit to impressive Santa Catalina Monastery which is right in the centre of the city.

We stayed at the Hotel Casona Plaza & when in Arequipa, you need to check out the famous Picanterias to taste the local cuisine. I recommend La Benita de Los Claustros where I tried sampling my first guinea pig (apologies to any vegetarians, or guinea pig owners!).

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca SunsetDay 6 – 7. Colca Canyon

Our next stop was the epic Colca Canyon, the 2nd deepest canyon in the world (only pipped to the post by its next-door neighbour). To put that in perspective, Colca is 100km long & twice as deep as the Grand Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Colca CondorCanyon. Therefore, if you are here looking for the best things to do in Peru, do not miss Colca Canyon! Apart from the sheer spectacle of the landscape itself, Colca is famous for its majestic condors.

They like to stretch their wings on the early morning thermals. Having them swoop overheard truly is a sight to behold!”

In addition, there is loads of hiking & exploring to be done around the area. It boasts some of the densest terraced agriculture in the world (rollover Bali!), numerous volcanoes & some rustic hot spring pools to rest your weary bones in. We stayed at Casa de Lucila in Chivay.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake TiticacaDay 8 – 10. Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America & the highest navigable body of water in the world (whatever that means?!). Each island is home to a different community with its own unique culture. So, what more do you need to add this icon to your Peru itinerary?

Uros Islands

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake TiticacaAfter a night on the banks of this magnificent lake in Puno, our first stop was the Uros Floating Reed Islands. For centuries the Uros community have lived on the totora reeds, plentiful in the shallows of the lake. The islands are built from the reeds, as are their boats & the totora also provide sustenance when eaten. The islands are constantly replenished from above as they rot in the water below & therefore can be home to a family for 20 years.

Taquile Island

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca, HomestayOn Taquile Island knitting is a way of life. The men take the lead on creating amazing designs to impress potential suitors & wear distinctly pointed hats of their own creations. The ladies will judge their handiwork before deciding whether to marry them. The island itself is stunning with a real Mediterranean feel. I advise you to take your time walking the path which circumnavigates the island.

Amantaní Island Homestay

For me, the big adventure came as we had the opportunity to stay overnight as guests of a local family in their home. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had a pristine room. Not all my companions were so lucky. Dinner with the family was fantastic & I slept very well. To learn more about the experience, watch this space.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Lake Titicaca, HomestayThe next morning, we took on the challenge of kayaking. The peace & tranquillity of the lake was spellbinding.

Then it was dress up time as I joined the rest of the group for some traditional dancing. Our hosts danced, we tried unsuccessfully to emulate them.”

Then we bid a fond farewell & got back on the boat for our return trip to Puno.

To read all the details, check out An Amazing 2 Day Homestay on Lake Titicaca

Day 11 – 12. Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Cusco is the gateway to the ancient world of the Incas but there is so much more than “just” Machu Picchu. The Sacred Valley is one impressive Inca site after another & the city itself is a hub of activity. See future posts for a lot more information but for me the highlights were:

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, PisacPisac

Pisac is a huge terraced Inca site. What looks small from a distance changes to vast when you stand on one of the terraces. The constructional vision of the Incas is mind-blowing. Then there is the cliff with a honeycomb of holes in the rock where they buried their dead in catacombs.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, OllantaytamboOllantaytambo

Once again, a fantastic ruin of epic proportions. The effort & the sheer number of people it took to transport the huge stones & create walls which fit perfectly, no mortar required. It is truly awe-inspiring.

In Cusco, we stayed at the Cusco Plaza Saphi & the following night in Ollantaytambo Lodge with a huge amount of trepidation over the days ahead.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Inca TrailDay 13 – 15. Inca Trail

With nerves jangling, we began the much-anticipated journey to tackle the Inca Trail. I was nervous about the walk & the altitude but excited about claiming my prize at the end & hiking into Machu Picchu. I have documented everything you need to know about this epic hike in my blog post. Please check out 3 Amazing Days Hiking the Inca Trail to find out how I did.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Machu Picchu, Inca TrailDay 16. Machu Picchu

For everyone on the Inca Trail, the final day arrives rudely too early as you join the queue in the dark to enter the national park. We waited 2 hours for the National Park to open at 5.30am for the final short walk to the Sun Gate. All the Inca Trail hikers watch from above as the sun ascends into the sky & this wonder of the world appears from behind the shadow of the surrounding mountains.

Machu Picchu itself seemed dwarfed from our lookout, making it even more mind blowing that it was ever discovered in the first place.”

Check out my blog post to read all about the experience of visiting this Inca icon in Achieving a Life Goal – Hiking into Machu Picchu.

Exhausted, after 4 big days & overwhelmed by the experience, I got the bus to the town of Aguas Calientes to be reunited with my fellow non-hikers & the joys of Pisco sours. Once night-time descended, we dragged our weary bones onto the train back to Ollantaytambo.

Day 17 – Cusco

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Amazon CapybaraAfter returning to Cusco, there was a limit to my enthusiasm to explore anything else other than the pleasures of the massage table! However, for those with more energy, Cusco is a hive of activity & opportunities. Watch this space for more in future posts.

Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Amazon CaimanDay 18 – 19. Amazon Rainforest

We bid a fond farewell to the mythical Incas & off to our final stop on the journey…the jungle! It involved a flight to Puerto Maldonado (affectionately Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru, Amazon Face Painttermed “Hells Port”) before climbing onto a motorized canoe to enter the depths of the legendary Amazon Rainforest.

For 2 days we explored the best wildlife the jungle had to offer through day & night by foot & on boats. In the process we angered a tarantula, came face to face with a tiny but highly poisonous frog, fed piranhas, woke up a sloth & walked around a tree almost as big as a house.

I even had my face painted with dye from a plant, much to the amusement & horror of my friends. I was later told it wouldn’t come off…it did!”

For all the information you need to visit yourself, check out my Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Amazon Rainforest in Peru.

Day 20 – Lima

Our last journey of the trip took us back on the boat to where it had started all those adventures ago…Lima.

Peru is a diverse & fascinating country for anyone who loves exploring ancient civilisations, diverse cultures, breathtaking landscapes & fascinating wildlife. I hope this has given you a flavour of the best places to visit in Peru & an idea of how you could achieve it in 3 weeks. There is lots more detail to come over the coming month so I look forward to welcoming you back on the journey.

Peru - Includes, Nazca lines, Pre-Incan mummies, Balleastas Islands, Lima, Arequipa & Cusco

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Peru Itinerary – 3 Weeks to Discover the Wonders of Peru

18 Comments

  1. I would love to see you dancing, is that on the video? 😀

    Love the fact that they are all in such colourful clothings, is it always like that?

    1. Thank you, Ann, & unfortunately, I was too busy concentrating on the dance to film it! And their traditional dress is very colourful, I loved it too! Sue x

  2. We missed Peru as our last stop on our South America cruise this year when Covid stopped the world. We planned to stay a few days in Lima and then return for a longer stay to see more of Peru. I can see we will need many weeks to enjoy all Peru has to offer. We would probably do part of it as a tour and enjoy some spots wandering on our own. I love the views of some of the hikes you did but we would plan around altitude and fitness level concerns. And add on a trip to Galapagos while we are there. Can’t wait to get Peru back on our planning board.

    1. I’m so sorry you had to miss Peru Linda but this plan sounds amazing! Taking time to acclimatise to the altitude makes a big difference. I look forward to reading all about it when you do make it there! Sue x

  3. How funny, when I was in Peru, I travelled basically the same route; well, guess they call it Ruta del Gringo for a reason 😉 This being said, I cannot believe you hiked the Inca Trail! I was so exhausted from the altitude, I was hardly able to make it from the museum of Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes walking – for the record, it’s about 20 minutes.
    I’d love to go back to Peru once the present political situation is clearified.

    1. Thanks, Renata & it sounds like you loved Peru as much as I did! The altitude is definitely a challenge but luckily by the time I got there I had spent over a month in Bolivia & Peru so I think my body must have adjusted a bit. Sue x

  4. What a great trip! You certainly packed a lot into three weeks. I love the fact that you stayed with a local family; those are the best moments of any trip in my book – it feels such an old-fashioned type of travel. Peru has been on our bucket list for a while, my husband and I are really looking forward to visiting, though we feel we need longer time than we usually have for vacation. We never considered a tour, but the one you took sounds amazing! Thanks for a great itinerary, and showing me how much you can accomplish in just three weeks (btw I love your face-paint using plant-dye – makes you look like you belong in the jungle).

    1. Thank you Emese & I think you will love Peru, especially if you are able to give it some time. And I loved my face painting too – I felt like warrior 😉 Sue x

    1. Thank you, Nicole, & it was amazing! The thing with G Adventures is they took care of everything which made life a lot easier for us! But what I like is that in each area we had a local guide who knew the area really well. They were all fantastic at telling stories & genuinely making the places we visited come to life even more. Sue x

  5. Glad to have read your itinerary as I would love to go to Peru! The oasis in the desert must be really cool and of course hiking the Machu Pichu and going in the Amazon rainforest as well!

  6. This is fabulous! I was in Peru last year for 3 weeks and did most of these places. Love Arequipa and Peru just fascinated me. Thank you for bringing back suck fond memories!

  7. This is a great insight and itinerary that shows there is a lot more to Peru than Machu Picchu, as magnificent as what it is. I do prefer to do my own thing when traveling but at times like these it certainly helps to go on a guided tour because you pick up so much more information and you have an expert showing you around.

    1. Thank you Alma & I do prefer to go it alone most of the time. But as they did everything I wanted this time it just seemed to fit. And I got to meet some great people as well! Sue x

  8. Oohhh, Machu Picchu is on my bucket list. Actually, the whole of South America is on my list. Personally I would avoid tours because I’m social phobic and wouldn’t do well traveling in a group. Plus, I know that I could do it cheaper on my own. But I might join a short tour once in a while especially if it’s my first time in the country. Your itinerary sounds amazing though.

    1. Thank you Ummi & totally understand re the tours. One for this long can be hard work. Fortunately I was very lucky with my group. I hope you make it to this amazing continent one day…when we can… Sue x

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