Backpacking Peru: Ultimate 2024 Local's Travel Guide

George Alvarez
Written By:
George Alvarez
Last Updated:
December 31, 2023
Here's everything you need to know whilst backpacking Peru! This includes the best places to visit, what to eat, how to get around, and daily budgets!
backpacking Peru
What are you looking for?
This guide is written by George Alvarez, our resident Peru specialist! After traveling most of Central and South America, he settled in Lima and has made it his task to discover everything this breathtaking country has to offer and share his experiences. Learn more about George here.

This ultimate guide to Peru covers everything you’ll need to know about visiting this incredible South American nation. 

From where to visit and what to pack, to visa requirements and my own tips, let’s get stuck in!

My Experience Backpacking Peru

I first arrived in Peru right at the start of this long, one-way backpacking trip I started back in July 2021.

My main reason for this was to head into the Amazon and take Ayahuasca, and just kind of see the sights from thereon after. 

Honestly speaking, those 3 months that then followed in Peru were some of the best of my life, and is a testament as to why I’m living here now (and also why I won’t shut up about this country either!).

You can read about my experience of backpacking in Peru here!

During this time I visited pretty much all corners and in-between of Peru, including popular areas like Cusco and Arequipa, whilst also venturing off the beaten path to places like Chachapoyas, Yurimaguas and Ayacucho.

You’ll find that there’s two sides to Peru. 

The first is the touristy one, which is found throughout the southern backpacker loop (Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Cusco etc). 

Whilst it’s good for experiences and meeting people, it’s overrun with tourism and less authentic. 

The other side is the non-touristy one, which can be found in Northern Peru and the more remote areas (Cajamarca, Ayacucho etc). These areas are as unpolished and Peruvian as it can get, which means a both raw and visceral experience.

Some of my favourite things in Peru include the food (Papa Rellena is now a daily staple for me), flying around on a mototaxi, Arequipa, Yumbilla Falls, as well as Kennedy Park with all those cats just chilling and accepting pats as they please.

This period has, of course, not been without its lows too.

Food poisoning and altitude sickness were an all too common bane for me, catching me out more often than I would have hoped. 

I did also have more issues with locals here than I did in any other country on this continent, but the destinations and sceneries more than made up for this little inconvenience.

Note: Some posts may contain affiliate links. Read more in our Privacy Policy. Learn more about how we create and update content in our Publishing Guidelines.

Quick Things To Learn About Peru

  • Language: The main language spoken is Spanish, however there are also many indigenous languages spoken such as Quechua (mostly in the Andes and Jungle regions).
  • Currency: Peru uses the Peruvian Sol. Certain ATM’s do also dispense US Dollars, however these are used in few areas such as Lima, and are not reliable as your only means of purchasing.
  • Safety: Peru is one of the safer countries to visit within this continent, although you’ll still want to be cautious on public transport with your belongings, and also in certain areas of Lima and near the Ecuadorian border.
  • Vaccines: All travellers will want up-to-date vaccines for Peru, which include Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever. Those heading into the jungle will also want extra shots of Malaria or Rabies to prevent any more serious complications.
  • Religion: The majority of Peru is Catholic, which can be seen with its annual calendar full of religious events. It’s even more prominent in smaller towns and cities such as those located within the Andes.
  • Power Sockets: Peru uses both a two prong and three prong adapter depending on where you are. They also used 220 volt electricity, so be sure to get a solid adapter before leaving.
  • Local Sim Cards: Very important unless you want to rack up the costs using roaming! The very best providers are Claro and Intel, who offer a variety of different plans. I personally recommend Claro, which in my experience has had better coverage throughout Peru.
Our #1 Thing to travel with!
Travel insurance tip
Psst!! ... Do you have travel insurance sorted?

Before traveling anywhere, make sure you have your travel insurance in place. We recommend SafetyWing.


Here's a few reasons ...

  • They Cover for Covid-19
  • You can pause and restart policies each month
  • They are more affordable than many providers

For more info, check out my in-depth SafetyWing review.

Best Places To Visit In Peru

Peru is an extremely diverse country, and as a result there’s a tonne of varying destinations for all tastes.

Through my own experience backpacking this country, I’ve been able to see virtually everything and can therefore recommend the very best for you to explore.

In no particular order below, let’s take a look at the 10 best places to visit in Peru, why you should go and also how to get to each one.

These are the destinations that you just have to include on your Peru backpacking route if you have the time! 

1. Cusco

Ancient ruins of Machu Picchu

Arguably one of the most popular destinations of all, Cusco is an absolute must-stop when in Peru. 

This legendary city was once the capital of the Inca empire, and today you can still see many ancient sites throughout the historic centre. 

It’s the launching point for those heading to Machu Picchu, and also for the breathtaking, multi-day Inca Trail

Cusco is also the gateway into the Sacred Valley, an incredible region full of snow-capped mountains and jolly market towns. 

Due to its location, there are endless day trips you can take out of the city. Some of the most popular places to visit this way include Rainbow Mountain, Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Maras.

Cusco is best reached by flight from Lima (2 hours), otherwise it’s a gruelling 23 hour bus to cover the 1100+km distance!

2. Arequipa

Cobble-stone streets of Arequipa

Arequipa is best-known for its incredible white architecture, all of which has been built from volcanic rocks from the volcanoes that surround the city. 

El Misti and Chachani are the most notorious, and hiking enthusiasts are going to want to climb these (just take the altitude seriously, or you’ll end up in a pretty torrid state like I did…).

The other big reason to head to Arequipa is to explore the nearby Colca Canyon, with this dizzying canyon officially being the second deepest on earth.

We recommend jumping on this awesome day tour for the best chance of spotting the Condors which glide freely in this area.

Arequipa is an 18 hour bus south of Lima, although there’s worthy stops along the way such as that of Huacachina. Speaking of which…

3. Huacachina

Enchanting Huacachina

There’s no denying it - Huacachina is firmly ranked amongst the “hottest stops” you can currently visit in South America

This oasis town is situated within the baron Ica desert, surrounded by towering dunes from all sides (some of which size up to an imposing 500m). 

The town itself is pretty quaint, with the lake and climate making it a great place to get a good tan on. 

The top thing to do here is to head on a Sandboarding Tour, where you’ll also ride around the giant dunes on an adrenaline-fuelled buggy tour.

If you're backpacking through Peru then I highly recommend visiting this amazing place!

Huacachina is just 15 minutes away from the big city of Ica, which in turn is a 5 hour bus ride south of Lima.

4. Lake Titicaca

Lake Titacaca

Officially the highest altitude lake on earth, there’s really no place quite like Lake Titicaca

Amongst the deep blues, you can find a cosy culture, ancient ruins, scenic hiking trails as well as the logic-defying, floating Uros Islands. 

Puno is the major city on the Peruvian side (remember that the lake is also shared with Bolivia in the south), and this is the best place to base yourself. 

Whilst here you’ll want to take a boat tour over to the picturesque Taquile Island, however beware of the sun since it’s deceptively strong (my burnt bald head can unfortunately attest to this). 

Puno is a long way from Lima - 24 hours by bus - so it’s best to make stops along the way, or to fly here instead.

5. Iquitos

Aerial shot of Iquitos

There’s no place quite like the jungle!

Of all the different terrains in Peru, this is by far my favourite, and for many different reasons.

Iquitos is situated right in the heart of the Amazon, and is the perfect place to head on a multi-day jungle hike

Here you can spot many rare and exotic animals such as Pink River Dolphins, Jaguars, Snakes and Pirañas (you can even spend a day fishing for these nasties too!). 

Iquitos is also a popular place to come and try Ayahuasca, which is a powerful plant medicine that is renowned for its healing properties for both the mind and body. 

If you’re interested in this, then I recommend checking out Dreamglade, a retreat centre I can personally vouch for.

There are no roads to Iquitos, so to get here you’ll either need to fly from Lima, or take the multi-day boat ride from Pucallpa.

6. Chachapoyas

Gocta Cataracts in Chachapoyas Peru

This is my all-time favourite destination in Peru!

Why, you may ask? Because here there's incredible waterfalls, a more humble way of life, mesmerising ruins and also a unique culture

Chachapoyas is firmly off the beaten path of those heading around Peru, meaning you’ll be among the few tourists here. 

Gocta Falls is the top sight here, although I also recommend visiting the lesser-known Yumbilla Falls - which at a height of 895m, is the fifth tallest waterfall in the world.

You’ll also want to visit the ruins of Kuelap that are perched on top of a mountain, which was once the kingdom of the Chachapoyas Culture. We recommend heading on this guided tour which includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.

The best way to get here is to fly to Tarapoto from Lima, and then take the 8 hour bus over.

7. Lima

Plaza de Armas in Lima, Peru

Ah Lima. 

The capital which most often overlook, however those who spend more time here may just end up loving it (like in my case). 

The best areas to stay in are within Miraflores and Barranco, which are situated along the rocky cliffs of the Costa Verde that overlook the Pacific

Surfing is a popular activity to do regardless of the time of year, and whilst here you’ll also want to head to the Larco Museum in the Pueblo Libre district, which is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Inca artefacts in the continent. 

The San Francisco Catacombs are another must-see, which are the second largest of its kind in the world (after those in Paris).

Whatever your interests, there are tons of things to do in Lima so don't miss out on spending some time in the capital.

There are daily direct flights to Lima from most continents, although you may find it cheaper to connect through Panama or Colombia if coming from further afield.

8. Máncora

Relaxing by the beach of Máncora

Peru is mostly known for its dizzying Andean peaks and sweltering Amazon Jungle. 

However in the north, you’ll also find some stunning beaches which are very much needed after all of those tiring hikes. 

Máncora is the most popular hotspot of all here, and is the best place to base yourself. 

There are numerous quality beaches such as Las Pocitas and Punta Sal, where the conditions are also great for surfing (the waters will be more warm and comfortable compared with those in Lima). 

Máncora is also known for its party and bustle, where you’ll find a great variety of nightlife and eating options both in town and along the main beach. 

The bus from Lima to Máncora takes a lengthy 24 hours, so the preferred way of getting here is to first fly to nearby Piura, and then take the 2 hour bus to the town.

Here's a guide to Máncora that you might find helpful if you're planning a visit!

9. Huaraz

Lake Paron in Huascaran National Park in Peru

The undisputed hiking capital of Peru, Huaraz is a must-visit for those looking for some truly unforgettable treks and sceneries.

Located next to the white-peaked Cordillera Blanca and Huascaran National Park, here you’ll find many incredible mountains to climb such as Nevado Mateo.

You’ll also be able to join some breathtaking multi-day tours of the Santa Cruz and Huayhuash routes. 

Those who have more time will love this 8-day trek of the Huayhuash circuit, which is one of the most memorable experiences you can have in the Peruvian Andes.

There are also some picturesque alpine lakes to explore too, such as Parón and the more difficult Laguna 69. 

Huaraz itself is a typical, bustling Andean city, and is the best place to base yourself in this region. The city can be reached by Lima by bus, which takes around 6 hours.

10. Nazca

Enigmatic Nazca Lines

Rounding off our top-10, we have the mysterious city of Nazca. 

It’s best known for its Nazca Lines, which are perfectly etched into the nearby desert. 

Over 2000 years old, these giant lines (some of which measure up to 130m long) form various sacred symbols, such as that of a Spider and a Monkey. 

The best way to see these is by going with a reputable plane tour, who will point the many different geoglyphs out for you. 

Whilst here, you’ll also want to visit the Chauchilla Cemetery, a chilling site which contains perfectly-preserved remains of those from the pre-Hispanic era, along with a variety of important artefacts. 

Nazca is located 384 km south of Lima, with a direct bus taking 7 hours.

My 15 Favourite Things To Do In Peru

Now in no particular order, I’m going to go through 15 of the very best experiences I had in Peru, which I also recommend you try out too!

Like with any destination, there are places and activities that are just a rite of passage so you don't want to leave them off your itinerary.

For the ultimate Peru backpacking trip, try to include as many of the activities below as possible! 

Amazon River Boat Tour from Iquitos

The Amazon River

One of my first (and best) memories in Peru was riding along the Amazon River on a small wooden boat. 

From Iquitos you can head to the nearby port town of Nanay, where you can hire your very own boat and driver for the day. 

There are plenty of different spots worth stopping at along the way, including Mariposario, which is home to many exotic butterflies, of which you can also release one. 

Along the river there’s also areas for catching Pirañas, getting to know the Bora Tribe as well as visiting the Serpentario which is home to two giant anacondas.

Hiking Mateo in Huaraz

Hiking the snow-capped Mateo, Huaraz

The Cordillera Blanca is home to many unforgettable hiking treks and experiences, and I for one will be coming back soon for more. 

Whilst in Huaraz I headed on the day trip up to the peak of Mateo, a 5150m snow-capped mountain. 

This organised tour is great to head with, since you’ll need to drive for a few hours (leaving in the very early morning), which allows you to get a few more important hours of rest in. 

Once there you’ll begin the hike, which involves rope climbing up rocky terraces and bypassing large boulders. 

You’ll then reach the snow-line, and use crampons to finish the remaining part. 

The hike up takes around 2/3 hours, and at the top you’ll have incredible views of the Cordillera Blanca and its stunning lakes beneath you.

Here's some more information about other treks in Huaraz if you're interested!

Exploring the Ventanillas de Otuzco from Cajamarca

the Ventanillas de Otuzco

The beauty of this particular ancient ruin is that it’s a very humble site, with virtually no other tourists or over the top facilities here. 

The Ventanillas de Otuzco is located in the rural town of Otuzco, which is a 30 minute colectivo ride from Cajamarca (in the north of Peru).

Its main purpose was to serve as a necropolis, and here you’ll find a giant cliff which had been carved out to house the remains of several members of the Cajamarca culture (which preceded the Incas). 

Whilst you can’t see any actual human remains per se, instead you’ll see dozens of windows into the giant rock, as well as a collection of ceramics and artefacts that date back as early as 200 A.D. 

Walking the path to Machu Picchu

Train tracks in Aguascalientes Town

Machu Picchu is an incredible site, don't get me wrong, however for me the experience was all about getting there. 

Although I haven’t done it, I’m confident that the classic Inca Trail is the best option (given all the great reviews I’ve heard from others travellers and friends that have taken it on).

However I instead chose to do the more economical option of walking the train track to the nearby town of Aguascalientes, which I highly recommend.

During this 2/3 hour walk, you’ll pass by some enormous mountains, jungle vegetation as well as some enthusiastic locals (well, enthusiastic to sell you food and drink, which are still very much needed). 

It’s a great way to get lost in your surroundings, and whilst the most popular way to get there, you’ll still find parts where it’s just yourself and nature.

This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Peru so don't leave it off your itinerary! 

Spotting Condors in The Colca Canyon

Incredible Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is a truly breathtaking area in Southern Peru. 

Known as the second deepest canyon on Earth, many head to nearby Arequipa solely to be able to come and explore this mesmerising region.

It’s also one of the best places in Peru to come and spot the Andean Condor, the largest flying bird in the world by wingspan (which reaches up to an impressive 3 metres). 

The best way to spot them is by joining an organised tour, where you’ll be taken up to the Mirador at prime viewing times (the morning and late afternoon which are when they are most active). 

The best months to spot Condors in Colca Canyon are from March until April, and also from August until September.

Trekking to the incredible Yumbilla Falls

Yumbilla Falls in Chachapoyas

The north of Peru is known for its countless stunning waterfalls. 

Chachapoyas is the undisputed king, with the surrounding region home to some awesome ones such as Gocta Falls. 

However Yumbilla was the best for me, since it’s the tallest in Peru (overall fifth tallest in the world), and also as it’s very remote and hardly visited.

Along the way you’ll pass through dense jungle, muddy paths, small waterfalls and an incredible canopy mirador with views over the surrounding region. 

You’ll need around 6/7 hours to visit Yumbilla from Chachapoyas, including the buses to Pedro Ruiz and then onwards to Cuispes. 

For more information, check out this guide on hiking to Yumbilla...

Exploring the Ausangate National Park

Beautiful lake in Ausangate National Park

If glacial lakes of all colours are on your to-do list, then this will be a must! 

The Ausangate National Park is located within the Sacred Valley, and can easily be reached with a day trip from nearby Cusco. 

It’s home to seven brightly coloured lakes, which vary in colour from bright blue and greens to a dark red. 

The high altitude hike takes you around a circuit of the region, where you’ll see wild Alpacas as well as the incredible backdrop of the looming, snow-capped Nevado Ausangate. 

This National park is located at a dizzying 4000-4200 metres, so be sure to bring some coca leaves or Soroche pills to prevent symptoms.

We recommend heading on this guided hiking tour, which includes breakfast, lunch and extra hiking equipment if needed.

Going Surfing in Lima

surfing in Lima

The truth is that Peru is full of awesome surfing spots, from the mecca of La Libertad and Chiclayo up to the warmer waters of Piura. 

However for me the most fun was in Lima, next to the rolling hills of the Costa Verde

Here you’ll find all kinds of spots for different levels and capabilities, where you’re not just limited to the intimidating bigger waves of the Pacific. 

You can easily book lessons beforehand online, or even right there at the coast with instructors ready to go. 

The best time of year to go surfing is between November and January, but just remember to wear a wetsuit since it’s going to be cold regardless!

Sandboarding in Huacachina

Sandboarding in Huacachina

There’s nothing quite like soaring through the desert at lightning speeds, which is essentially what you’ll be doing when Sandboarding. 

Huacachina is the most popular place to do this in Peru, which is home to the expansive dunes of the Ica Desert (which are some of the tallest in South America). 

We recommend heading on a late afternoon tour, which includes a thrilling buggy ride over the dunes as well as a stop at a perfect vantage point to watch the sun set.

Just make sure to wear long-sleeved clothing to avoid scrapes and cuts, since it’s not unknown for people to fall off when heading downhill!

Cruising along Lake Titicaca 

Lake Titicaca

One of the best highlights of a trip to Peru is a visit to Lake Titicaca in the extreme south of the country. 

This high altitude lake is known for the incredible Uros islands, which float on the water's surface (as they are made entirely out of Totora Reed). 

You can easily head on a boat tour from Puno to visit them, and possibly then cruise onwards towards Taquile island for its ruins and natural wonders. 

Given it’s a very high altitude place, you’d think it’ll be freezing all the time (well it still is at night, so be sure to wrap up warm). 

However during the day, you can even sunbathe whilst lying on the deck of your boat!

Visiting the Ancient City of Caral

Ancient City of Caral

This is one of my favourite archaeological sites in Central Peru. 

It’s actually the oldest settlement of all civilisations in the Western Hemisphere, however it’s still not caught on to mainstream tourism! 

First developed somewhere between 3000 and 1800 B.C, Caral is home to various pyramids, houses and also an amphitheatre, all of which can be visited with an expert guide. 

You can also visit independently as a day trip from Lima, with the bus to nearby Barranca taking 3 hours, followed by an hour shuttle to the town of Caral where the ruins are located.

These ruins are located within the hot desert, so be sure to bring a hat and lots of water with you.

Check out this Caral guide if you're looking to pay this place a visit!

Eating at Central Restaurant

Awesome food at Central Restaurant

Peruvian cuisine is one of my all-time favourites, however when I first came here I’d hardly even heard of the dishes or typical foods. 

One of the reasons for this drastic change was due to a visit to Central

This restaurant is ranked among the best on earth, owned by star chef Virgilio Martinez. 

He has a unique 14 plate menu, with all dishes representing a different altitude of Peru (such as seafood, coastal mammals and jungle fruits, flavours from the Andes etc). 

For me this experience was incredible, and whilst not the cheapest, it will certainly open your mind (and palette) too.

Living it up in Máncora

Máncora, Peru

Máncora has one of the best backpacking scenes in all of Peru, and when it comes to nightlife, for me it easily rivals that of what’s found in Cusco and Lima. 

Here you’ll find many awesome hostels with good vibes, such as Marea, The Point and Wild Rover. 

The all-time best has to be the Selina though, where DJs play most nights of the week, overlooking the infinity pool and beach. 

Regardless of when you’ll be heading to Máncora there’ll be good parties and events, so trust me when I say that this place is worth the long bus ride to get to!

Flying over the Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines in Peru

This ranks both as a great activity for those interested in culture, and also for those looking for an adrenaline fix! 

During this flight tour you’ll be strapped into a (very) small aircraft, and you’ll feel every dip and glide as you fly over the Nazca desert. 

The pilot will point out these mysterious lines, including the hieroglyphs that can be seen which include the Monkey and the Eagle. 

For those who get queasy easily, then it may not be the best idea, however they do supply paper bags onboard at least…

If time (and money) allows, then you don't want to leave this awesome place off your backpacking Peru itinerary.

Check out this guide on visiting the Nazca Lines for more information!

Trying Cuy in Cusco

Deep Fried Cuy

Last on my list is trying the local specialty of Cuy

I’ll admit I was a little hesitant at first, given my cousin used to have a guinea pig as a pet… however I also really wanted to try everything no matter what would end up happening! 

Whilst I’ll leave the surprises up to you, I actually found it to be alright, although it can be expensive in the more touristy places. 

Cuy can be found all over Peru, however it’s best in its native Andean regions, with Cusco being one of the best places to try it. 

DEVA Cocina Andina is a great place that I can recommend just a couple of blocks south of the Plaza de Armas.

Be sure to let us know how your first experience went when trying this Andean staple!

Choosing Your Peru Itinerary

Once your heart is set on visiting this beautiful country, now comes the fun part of fleshing out your Peru itinerary

Remember this country is pretty big, so distances between destinations will also need to be accounted for. 

Below I’ve created several options for you depending on how much time you have available.

All of these itineraries follow the same pattern, where the two-week one will carry on from where the one-week left off, and so on etc.

Of course you can switch the destinations around if you'd rather explore more of the Amazon or spend more time in the Sacred Valley. That's the beauty of creating a Peru backpacking itinerary - the options are endless! 

1 Week Peru Itinerary Ideas

1 week Peru itinerary

Lima > Huacachina > Paracas > Lima

  • Days 1-3: Lima - We first start in the capital, and this will be enough time to visit major sights such as the Larco Museum, explore the districts of Barranco and the Historic Centre as well as a hike up to the viewpoint of Morro Solar.
  • Days 4-5: Huacachina - Two days is enough to visit this desert paradise, where you can go Sandboarding, ride a dune buggy around the desert and live it up in town. Any more and you may start to feel bored here…
  • Days 6-7: Paracas - Our last two days will be spent exploring the Ballestas Islands, and also the Paracas National Reserve. Paracas is also a great place to go windsurfing too. From here we’ll take the 2 hour bus back to Lima for our flight.

2 Week Peru Itinerary Ideas

2 week Peru itinerary

Lima > Huacachina > Paracas > Nazca > Arequipa > Lima

  • Days 8-9: Nazca - Continuing on from Paracas, we’ll now spend a couple of days in the mysterious city of Nazca. The must-do activities here include flying over the Nazca lines and seeing the Chauchilla Cemetery.
  • Days 10-14: Arequipa - This is an amazing city, and if you have more time then aim to spend at least 5/6 days here. The stunning Colca Canyon is a must visit, along with hiking either of the two major volcanoes; Chachani and El Misti. From Arequipa you can either take the bus back or fly to Lima.

3 Week Peru Itinerary Ideas

3 week Peru itinerary

Lima > Huacachina > Paracas > Nazca > Arequipa > Puno > Cusco > Lima

  • Day 15: Puno - Here we’ll visit the gorgeous Lake Titicaca, where the Uros islands are a highlight. Unless you’re planning on visiting the Bolivian side, I recommend spending just the day before hopping on a night bus to Cusco. 
  • Days 16-21: Cusco - The most popular destination of all, Cusco has a tonne of things to see and do. The Machu Picchu hike will take you two days minimum, and you can also visit highlights such as the Sacred Valley and Ausangate National Park. If you have more time, I recommend spending around 7 days here. When heading back to Lima, you'll want to fly (which is still cheap), since the bus will take you 22 hours.

4 Week Peru Itinerary Ideas

Lima > Huacachina > Paracas > Nazca > Arequipa > Puno > Cusco > Iquitos > Lima

  • Day 21-23: Cusco - With a few more days in Cusco, we’ll now have the opportunity to go on the legendary Inca Trail. You can also spend a night in one of the cute towns of Ollantaytambo or Pisac.
  • Days 24-28: Iquitos - Last but definitely not least, we’ll now finally head to the Amazon Jungle. You’ll want to head on a multi-day trek here to see the very best highlights and exotic animals. You'll have to fly to Iquitos from Lima, so it’s worth booking a return flight.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Peru?

Miraflores neighborhood in Lima

Peru is an extremely diverse country, with a variety of biomes ranging from jungle and mountains, to the desert and tropical northern coast. 

Whilst this is awesome from a trip point of view, it can otherwise make things complicated when it comes to the weather.

The overall best time to visit Peru would be during the dry season, which for most destinations runs from May until September. 

This period is characterised by comfortable daily temperatures and little rain. 

The only downside is that many areas in the Andes can get pretty chilly, so be sure to bring extra layers with you!

The wet season has its advantages too, since it’s usually warmer in most of the country (making places like Puno more bearable). 

As well as this, it’s also a great time to visit as it's the low season, which means accommodation and flight costs are cheaper.

The obvious disadvantage of heading during the wet season is the fact that it rains more, but a good ol’ poncho will be your best friend here!

We recommend checking out WeatherSpark for specific destinations.

A special case to mention here is The Amazon jungle, since it’s going to be pretty hot and wet year-round. 

May until October is the dry season, where the river banks shrink and give us a better chance of spotting rare mammals such as the elusive Jaguar. 

Those who want to head deeper by river, or see more marine species such as Pirañas, will want to head in the wet season (from November until late April).

Backpacking Peru: Sorting Your Peru Visa

El Misti in Arequipa, Peru

Of course every country is different, so you’re going to need to research what your specific requirements are for entering Peru. 

The majority of foreigners entering Peru will be given a 90 day Visa on arrival.

Unfortunately Peru no longer gives tourist visa extensions, so 90 days is the maximum you’ll have here. Every extra day you stay will currently (December 2022) incur a fee of 4.60 Soles (which is just over a dollar). 

This Peru guide by LimaEasy is a great read for more information on Peruvian Tourist Visas!

How Do You Get To Peru?

Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Titicaca straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia!

There are several different ways of getting to Peru, however for most of you reading, the only suitable method will be by flight.

Flying into Peru

The main international hub in Peru is the Jorge Chávez Airport, which is located in the capital of Lima. 

It’s one of the best connected airports in the South American continent, and is really easy to fly to from major cities within the Western Hemisphere. 

Routes that I’ve found to be the best in terms of prices are from Mexico City (Mexico) and Medellin (Colombia). 

Whilst there are direct flights from other continents around the world, you may find it cheaper to first stop in Panama or Mexico on your way into Peru. 

Crossing Land Borders

Peru is bordered by 3 countries - Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. 

The two first ones are the most common and easy to cross from into Peru.


Ecuador lies north of Peru, and the land border will take you into Tumbes. 

This is not the safest border, so I personally recommend doing this crossing only during the day.


Bolivia is located south of Peru, which is split with Peru by the mesmerising Lake Titicaca. 

Most head by bus from Copacabana to Puno on the Peruvian shore of the lake, and having done this I have to admit it was a very easy, no fuss crossing. 

The other way is by lake, however this will be on a hydrofoil boat, and will be more expensive (as it’s an all-in-one tour style package).


Brazil borders Peru to the east, within the dense Amazon jungle. 

Those who made it to Tabatinga on the Brazilian side can cross into Peru by boat - a ride that takes multiple days before arriving into Iquitos.

Getting Around Peru

tourist buses in Peru
You'll find plenty of tourist buses in Peru! 

Not too far ago, in a closely distant past, getting around Peru would have been a serious ballache. 

The terrain here is split between coast, rugged Andes and dense jungle, meaning it would have taken days to travel between different places.

Thankfully there have been improvements in many places, but some routes and lesser developed areas are still going to be a challenge, albeit a lesser one thanks to the invention of the good ol’ aeroplane.


Most major cities have their own regional airports, which means you can cut travel times to a small fraction. 

You’ll almost always need to fly from Lima to the destination (or vice versa), since smaller cities don’t often connect up too well between themselves. 

Whilst you’ll save on time, flights do cost more than buses of course. 

Having said that though, domestic flights in Peru can be pretty cheap (especially with airlines such as Sky), so be sure to compare with buses. 

I recommend using SkyScanner to compare all routes and providers.

On some routes it’s mandatory to fly, unless you have lots of time to travel there in an alternative way.

The main one here is when heading to Iquitos, as there’s no roads leading here. 

The simple flight from Lima takes just 2 hours, whilst the combination of buses and boat from the capital will take you multiple days to get to this jungle city!


By far the most simple way to get around Peru is by bus. 

Pretty much all major destinations are reachable within 18 hours from Lima (whilst this still sounds a lot, just trust me that this is a very good thing when compared with other nearby countries). 

There are many bus companies that serve different portions of the country. 

Some of my go-to’s include Otursa and MóvilBus. 

You can compare all routes, providers and departure times here on RedBus.

Whilst you’d think buses here are going to be crammed and uncomfortable, think again! 

Of all the countries I’ve visited in Latin America, Peru surprised me the most when it came to bus travel. 

They have 180° convertible seats, and the drivers are pretty solid too (they drive safely as well as needing zero stops on long-haul rides). 

The only downsides are that the bus can get quite cold (they never turn off the AC), and that locals don’t know how to use headphones. 

If you want guaranteed good sleep, then bring extra layers as well as quality noise canceller headphones.


Travelling around Peru by boat is another method, which is more common between destinations along the Amazon river. 

The most popular route is from Pucallpa to Iquitos, which takes a lengthy 4 days!

Whilst it’s not the quickest, if you have the time it’s really worth it since you’ll head deep into the remote Amazon and see incredible wildlife along the way.


The only real other option of getting around Peru would be driving, however I really recommend against it personally. 

Even most locals I know fear driving on these roads, especially in the hectic cities such as Lima

In the more rural areas there simply won’t be any concrete whatsoever, not to mention a tonne of possible obstructions and delays.

Still feel free to go for it, but now you know what to expect!

Finding The Best Accommodation In Peru

Inca Ruins in Ollantaytambo

If there’s one thing I’ve got really good at when travelling, it’s working out the best area to stay in when arriving somewhere new. 

When it comes to accommodation in Peru, the best place to base yourself is almost always near the Plaza de Armas (every city and town has one, which is like the main square with a cathedral). 

This is the heart of town, and is where all of the best hotels, restaurants and often touristic sights are located.

Now, there are plenty of vacation rental sites out there for you to look out.

However, I recommend using and Airbnb when looking for accommodation. Here you’ll be able to use the map on each app to focus your search to these better areas.

It’ll also be easier to find what's best for your particular budget too.

For those living the backpacker lifestyle, you'll find no shortage of quirky hostels in Peru!

However, there are also plenty of mid-range and luxurious options too if you don't mind splashing the cash.

Peru Travel Guide: How To Dress

Pisac, Peru

Peru is quite a conservative country, so you’ll still find many locals wearing traditional Peruvian garments out and about (even more so in the Andes). 

Also, as many are still poor, it’s best to leave flashy accessories and designer suits at home. 

Not only for your own personal safety (all kinds of eyes will be looking at your Rolex, and not just the good kinds either), but there’s simply no need.

In parts of Lima you can get away with this, as well as in more tourist-heavy areas such as Máncora and Huacachina.

What To Pack For Peru

The mountainous areas of Peru are especially chilly!

As we covered earlier in this article, Peru is home to numerous climates and environments. 

This can make packing somewhat confusing, however not impossible as we mention here in our comprehensive Peru packing list.

In all likeliness you’ll be visiting Cusco, which means you’re going to want to bring warm layers.

This city along with other popular spots in the Andes (such as Huaraz) are notoriously cold, given their high altitude. 

A solid pair of hiking boots is an essential bring for all of those treks you’re going to be heading on!

There’s also going to be hot areas too like Máncora, the Amazon Jungle and Huacachina (the latter during the day at least). 

Shorts, vests and a nice pair of flip flops will come in handy in these areas. 

Given Peru has so many different microclimates, it’ll take a champion strategist to work out exactly what’s needed in every place. 

For those of you (like me) who don’t have the desire or time to work everything out, then you’re going to want to bring a solid raincoat regardless. 

Whilst some areas like Lima and Arequipa have very little rain, there are other areas that are prone to downpours. The Amazon Jungle is one of these regions and it's going to be quite wet regardless of when you head there.

What you'll need
WHat We Recommend
Comfortable shoes

Do not skimp on high quality shoes when travelling. You’re going to be walking a lot. Personally I wear Skechers go walk and I’ve been using them for 3 years that they are perfect!

Hiking shoes

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking and adventurous activities, invest in a pair of good quality hiking shoes. You can hang them onto your rucksack.

Reef Flip flops

Brad LOVES these flip flops and I have to say they’re the best pair he has ever bought. They are high quality, comfortable and you can open beer bottles with them (oh yeah!). He uses them for the beach, walking up mountains, long walks, everything and they last long!


As said before, it’s a good idea to have a light jacket for your evenings. Some places it can get a little chilly so this will make you more comfortable.

Long trousers

If you want to stay cool, then wear cool long trousers, these are good in the evening to help cover your legs from bug bites.


Keep your head protected from the intense sunshine!

Playsuits and dress (again, for the ladies)

Super lightweight and breathable means these are perfect for backpacking Mexico.


Certain areas of Mexico are prone to mosquitoes, so use deet to keep them at bay. I recommend at least 50% deet.


Protect your skin. You still tan with sunscreen on! Get a high factor and note that it will be more expensive when you arrive to purchase, so it’s best to bring before you go backpacking Mexico.

high quality camera

You’re going to want to document your travels and if you want a camera that takes high quality pictures and super high quality videos, then I suggest the Canon G7x Mark II. It’s what we use for 80% of our pics and videos. Get a Go Pro for cool underwater pics.

International Travel Adaptor

It’s good to invest in a decent one which will work for a variety of different countries in the world.

Why you should read it
kindle for sri lanka
Kindle Fire

Rather than carrying around actual books, a Kindle is a far more practical item to have with you, and you can download as many books as you want for just a few dollars each. The Kindle Fire also lets you browse the internet, so saves you taking a tablet with you as well, if you're that way inclined.

sri lanka history book
Sri lanka History

If you're keen to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka, then this is a great book. It covers everything through from ethnical origins of Sri Lanka's population, all the way up to modern day tourism.

lonely planet sri lanka guide book
Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet have long been the go-to provider of travel guide books for all countries around the world. Personally, we have never paid for one, but instead look out for them in hostels and hotels! But they certainly are in-depth, so long as you get the latest edition. Which is crucial for Sri Lanka. We read a Lonely Planet Guide book for Sri Lanka that was dated 2004 and which described how hostile and dangerous the country is! Which, I suppose, it was at the time. What with the civil war and all ...

rough guide book sri lanka
The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka

Personally, we always opt for Rough Guides as opposed to Lonely Planet. They do some great itinerary and off-the-beaten-track suggestions. So, if you’re looking for more travel inspiration, then go for Rough Guides.

this divided island book
This Divided Island

This Divided Island is an incredibly popular book that has been nominated for, and win, some very highly praised awards. It offers deep insight into what life was like during the recent Sri Lankan civil war.

island of a thousand mirrors when backpacking sri lanka
Island Of A Thousand Mirrors

Island Of A Thousand Mirrors looks at the deep rooted conflict that exists between the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples of Sri Lanka. It does so through the eyes of two young girls, each of whom who come from a different cultural upbringing but still wish to remain friends despite their differences.

cecelia ahern books
Cecelia Ahern books

Finally, here are two books, completely unrelated to Sri Lanka, but which Cazzy enjoyed during her time here. Cecelia Ahern is her favourite author and Marble Collector and Flawed proved to be yet another two great novels by the world-renowned author.

Eating and Drinking in Peru

Let’s now take a look at the local grub and beverages you’ll encounter on your adventure around Peru.

Lomo Saltado
Lomo Saltado - a tasty local dish!


Peru is known for its unique food, and in recent years has been ranked amongst the most upcoming cuisines on earth!

Ceviche is the all-time top Peruvian dish, with the very tastiest found along the coast in destinations such as Lima, Trujillo and Chiclayo. 

Other popular dishes you’ll want to try include Papa Rellena, Lomo Saltado, Chaufa and Papa a la Huancaina.

When it comes to eating, you’ll find that the menu ejecutivo is the most cheap and widespread option in Peru. 

Served in local restaurants, they only serve Peruvian food which is a much more authentic experience.

For this price, you’ll get a starter, main and drink included in the price (between $2-4 USD).


Most travellers heading to Peru will of course already know about Pisco, which is a popular alcoholic beverage found throughout this nation. 

It’s a great way to start off the night, with the Lemon Sour flavour the all-time classic.

Other popular drinks to try include the locals’ favourite of Chicha Morada, with this fermented drink having its origins back before the times of the Inca. 

Inca Kola is a popular gassy drink, which can be found in all restaurants and shops. 

It really does divide opinion, so you’ll have to see if it does the job for you (I personally fall on the not so enthusiastic side of this particular scale).

Useful Online Tools For Your Peru Trip

Throughout my long time in Peru, I’ve made my fair share of travel mistakes.

The majority of these come from a lack of preparation, so follow these tips and you won’t need to make the same errors yourself!

Transport: RedBus is the best site for comparing and buying bus tickets.

Accommodation: is the best for finding a range of quality accommodations of all costs, and serves even the remote areas really well.

Flights: SkyScanner is the place for checking out all flights, where they have domestic routes and airlines covered well too.

Getting around Cities: Uber or inDriver are the best ways to get around cities, with the latter a more popular option in Lima.

Peru Budget: The Cost Of Backpacking Peru

river in Tambopata Province
Tours to the Amazon can be expensive, but they're worth it & there are some great deals to be found! 

Properly setting a budget before travelling is arguably the most important part of all, and will literally make or break your trip. 

That old saying of “Failing to plan is planning to fail” fits this situation pretty well.

Peru is one of the cheapest places to visit in the world, however, this is especially the case when it comes to South America. 

Whilst in others there are areas that greatly vary in price (such as Mexico), Peru doesn’t have these extreme variations. 

You’ll always be able to find both economical and luxury accommodation and restaurants in the more popular areas (such as Cusco, Lima and Arequipa). 

When heading north or into the more remote areas, it’ll be even easier to keep costs low. Just please lower your expectations since they often lack the infrastructure.

A Typical Budget Breakdown

For those who are backpacking Peru on budget, you’ll need a daily allowance of $20-25 when travelling through the country. 

This is plenty for a good dorm bed in a quality hostel, local restaurant meals, a bus or two as well as entrance to an attraction.

Those who want a more comfortable and luxurious experience can expect to spend anywhere from $30-50+ daily

With this budget you can upgrade to a high quality private room, eat at better restaurants and also take more taxis around town.

Overall what you spend all comes down to what you’re looking for from your trip. 

Certain areas like Lima and Cusco will have more luxurious options, but others often won’t so just be prepared for this when travelling around Peru. 

Eating and Drinking

The cheapest options start with cooking at your hostel, or eating the local menu ejecutivos which cost $2-4 USD per meal. 

Eating at chain restaurants is also popular as they’re widespread throughout Peru, with options like McDonald’s and Subway cheaper here than back home (you’ll spend between $3-6 USD per person). 

There’s of course the luxurious restaurants too, with that old phrase of the sky being the limit applying perfectly here!


Popular beers in Peru (such as Cusqueña) can be insanely cheap when buying from a local Tambo store. 

You can buy a six pack for roughly $3 USD. 

Within hostels and restaurants these prices will go up exponentially. 

A Pisco Sour will cost you roughly $5USD in the more touristy parts of Lima.

What about Flights, Tours and Travel Insurance?

These are not included in the above budgets, given they are large, one-off costs. 

You’ll need to factor a sizable portion of your travel budget towards these too (unless you want a less than desirable statement from your bank!).

Drone Laws In Peru

aerial view of Lima

Drones are becoming an ever-more popular item to bring when in Peru.

As we’ve already covered in this guide, each country has their own particular rules for drones which you’ll need to get acquainted with.

When entering Peru with your drone, you’ll need to pay a VAT of its total cost, which is set at roughly 18%. 

Failure to do so will currently result in a fine of $250 USD (and Peru being Peru, this may be increased on the spot so it’s best not to mess around here).

Some of the rules of drone flying in Peru include not flying above 500ft, and also not flying when there’s poor visibility. 

It’s also important to know that certain tourist destinations including Machu Picchu have banned drones from being flown (you can get special permits in certain cases though). 

You can see this comprehensive list for more rules and guidance on using drones in Peru.

Final Thoughts And Advice From My Peru Itinerary

Uros Lodge in Titicaca Lake, Peru

Peru has been a special country for me, and I tend to hear the same from friends and other travellers who also make the visit.

Those who want an action-packed adventure, to see epic landscapes, as well as explore a rich culture will love Peru. 

Like with any country, however, it does of course have its downsides but these are pretty minimal here (especially when compared with other South American nations that are either more dangerous or expensive!).

Peru has become quite touristy (mostly in the south), which can sometimes feel over the top or repetitive when visiting many different stops (especially with those gawking vendors who won’t leave Gringos alone). 

However there are also many areas to explore where you can get to know the real, authentic Peru.

I hope you’ve found this backpackers guide to Peru useful! 

If you have any questions then please comment below, or likewise if you have any of your own pro tips to help other travellers then feel free to share.

Here are some other guides that include nifty travel tips and tricks to help make sure your Peru trip runs that much smoother:

Leave a comment

Let us know what you think!