When you think of Peru, you probably think of Machu Picchu and the magnificent Inca empire, but there is so much more to the country. Other civilisations such as the Chimu people also lived in this South American country. Peru now attracts those seeking to surf the waves as well as those wanting to explore its ancient history. Amazing Inca ruins, the Andes Mountains and fried guinea pigs. Peru is a country steeped in a fascinating history with lush scenery and colourful traditions. Below I've listed my itinerary on how I travelled Peru.
Having been to Peru before with G Adventures, I had travelled through Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Puno and Lake Titicaca, where we had visited the Uros People who lived on reed islands in Lake Titicaca. At the time I knew no Spanish, and was a very nervous traveller. Hence a tour was just perfect for me. Forward twelve years and I was back in Peru, and this time I had a travelling partner for most of it.
As travelling solo always seems to be serendipitous for me, I had stayed with a friend of a friend in Cuenca who had then exclaimed “I’m coming to Peru with you!” Happy to have the company, we travelled from Cuenca down to Vilcabamba together then took the overnight bus across to Peru. Two soon became three as we met an amazing German girl and travelled together so I was only solo for the last part of this trip.
What I did realise this time around is how much easier it is to travel. The buses in Peru surprised me with the level of comfort they provided. In total I took 4 night buses. Peru is huge! When I was here before I took internal flights which had been pre-organised for me. This itinerary took me 15 nights and with the distances and the ‘bus-lag’ I don’t think that I could have done it any quicker. By the time I arrived in Arequipa, my last stop in Peru, I was exhausted.
When I was here before Peru had been one of the cheapest destinations in South America (apart from Bolivia) of course. Now the cost of a meal in Miraflores in Lima seemed expensive. Lima has become known for its cuisine so maybe this was the reason? I also noticed the poverty in Peru. Maybe this was because I was now visiting projects in poorer areas.
For this itinerary I was travelling down the coast and visiting social impact projects along the way. Peru’s coast is a mecca for surfers. Steering away from the mountains meant that I would be seeing a completely different side of Peru and probably meeting a different kind of backpacker.
The Amazon – Having missed the Amazon in Ecuador I was looking at flying to the Peruvian Amazon. I had heard that Iquitos was one of the best places in the Amazon. The best option seemed to be flying from Lima to Iquitos then back again. I did meet someone who had gone overland but I’m not sure about the logistics. I would recommend to fly if you are solo. In the end I visited the Brazilian Amazon which was amazing.
Ecuador to Peru
To get to Peru I travelled overland from Loja in Ecuador. The overnight bus with Loja Internacional left at 11pm and cost $14. It stopped at the border in the very early hours and continued from there to Puira in Peru. From here I had to take a taxi to the other bus station and catch a bus another 3 hours onto Mancora for 15 Soles. These buses ran quite regularly.
Mancora is a small Peruvian beach resort with only 10,000 residents. As well as Latinos it draws surfers and beach lovers who love nothing more than partying on the beach, and watching the sunset over the ocean. If you like fresh seafood, Peruvian ceviche and a bit of nightlife Mancora is worth a stop. As well as people surfing here you can also kite surf or just choose to lay on the beach and get a tan instead. There are also a few shops and a fruit market.
Related posts – Mancora, the Peruvian Coast.
Accommodation in Mancora
I stayed at Misfit Hostel for the first night then switched to Psygon Surf Camp for the second. Psygon has a restaurant and bar (and real showers) and was a bit cheaper at $7.50 a night for an 8-bed dorm. It was good to stay in both to compare and Misfit was definitely more sociable and easier to meet the other travellers staying here. I paid $8 for a bed in a dorm.
Mancora – Huanchaco
From Mancora we took an overnight bus to Huanchaco for 65 Soles. The bus took us to Trujillo then from here we caught a taxi from the bus station which took approx 25 minutes. You can choose from a semi-cama seat (partly reclining) or a cama (reclining). We booked our bus from the office in Mancora and arrived into Trujillo at approx 7am in the morning.
Having planned to stay in Trujillo instead, we were drawn to this fishing village because of its laid back vibe and Inca ruins. Apparently it is known as one of the world’s most ancient spots for surfing. One huge draw here are the boats.
Things to do in Huanchaco
Surf – You can hire surf boards here and take lessons too. If you don’t like surfing just head down to the beach and watch others taking surf lessons instead.
Admire The Fishing Boats – What makes this place nice to visit is not just its long coastline or fab pisco sours but its quirky little boats, traditional reed boats that are lined up along the beach. Huanchaco used to be a fishing hamlet and if you are lucky you may spot a fisherman battling along the waves with his daily catch. Called caballitos de tortora, seeing one of these was worth the overnight bus ride from Mancora in itself.
Visit the Chan Chan Ruins – I love the name of these honey-coloured ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Close to the sea, you can walk through the pathways of this 700 year old site. The largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas.
It was once the capital of the Chimu people, abandoned in the fifteenth-century by the Incas. Detailed drawings of birds and fish adorn the maze of pathways which inch out to the sea. Because the walls are delicately made from a combination of sand, soil, and water, the ruins are now protected with a roof and scaffolding.
Related post – Things to do in Huanchaco.
Related post – Hilo Rojo – Child Poverty in Peru.
Accommodation in Huanchaco
Here we stayed at the Frogs Chillhouse Hostel which was a bit of a surfy/party hostel. For a small seaside town, we actually enjoyed our time here and stayed for 2 nights. I visited a project in Trujillo during my stay to find out more about the poverty in Peru.
Huanchaco – Lima
From Trujillo we took an overnight bus (yes another one) to Lima. The journey took 10 hours and cost 50 Soles. Even though it was late in the evening the bus station was really busy and felt safe. We took a taxi from Huanchaco to Trujillo and had to show our passports to get onto the bus.
Lima – 3 nights
Lima is the capital of Peru and is known for its Spanish architecture and culinary delights. If you love shopping and love eating then Lima is definitely worth a stop. Having been in Lima before I had explored the main tourist attractions. One that was new since my last visit was Larcomar, a large shopping and restaurant complex near the sea. This area felt really safe to explore and was pretty at night. In the distance you can see the cross lit up.
I also visited Mano a Mano, a non-profit organisation which operates in the slums in the North of Lima. I stayed overnight at a women-only run restaurant in the area of Comas, one of the poorer areas in Peru.
Things to do in Lima
Plaza de Armas – (otherwise known as Plaza Mayor). This is the oldest square in the city and where Lima was founded. Here you’ll find Lima Cathedral which dates back to 1746, the Palacio Arzobispal, and the Presidential Palace where you can watch the changing of the guards each day at noon. You can even get a free tour if you pre-book for the palace.
Monastery of San Francisco – I love this yellow coloured Baroque-style church. Not only is it great to photograph but if you go inside and explore underneath you’ll find the catacombs with thousands of bone remains inside – spooky but definitely educational.
Walk along the Miraflores boardwalk admiring the coastline. This is the main tourist area in the city with grassy parks and restaurants and a green oasis in the city.
Accommodation in Lima
We stayed at Nuna Wasi for 3 nights which is in Miraflores and approx a 15 minute walk to Larcomar. It had a good breakfast and the owner is really friendly and chilled.
Lima – Arequipa
Then I was back to being solo and caught another overnight bus with Cuz Del Sur to Arequipa. These buses run frequently and cost 100 Soles. You get a blanket, a pillow and a hot meal onboard.
Arequipa – 2 nights
Known as the ‘White City,’ Arequipa is my favourite city in Peru. It feels so different from the rest of the country as it doesn’t feel touristy. It is also surrounded by volcanoes making this a beautiful setting with a spring-like climate.
It has so much history and is easily walkable. I crossed the bridge and the river and spent an afternoon exploring the other side of the city, meandering through alleyways and taking pictures of chic, crumbling buildings. I only stayed for 2 nights but I could have easily stayed for three. If you like museums you’ll like Arequipa.
Things to do in Arequipa
Visit the Plaza de Armas – This is the most popular square and is home to its huge cathedral. Here you’ll find plenty of cafes around the square and travel agencies where I booked my transport down to Chile. Peek inside Santa Catalina Monastery which was once home to over 400 people. The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is the most spectacular building here and dominates the square in its dazzling white stone.
See the ice maiden – This may sound a little bit strange but inside Museo Santuarios Andinos is the frozen body of a 12 year old Peruvian girl named Juanita. Her body was found encased in ice in 1995 in the mountains and she now has a home in this museum. Her story is fascinating and the 20 minute film explains why she was sacrificed to the mountain gods.
Arequipa is a great city for just wandering around and losing yourself. Watch the locals playing sports in the sports fields near the river, see an Alpaca jumper being made at Mundo Alpaca, or just sit in the square and people watch. You can also hike one of the volcanoes. From here you can visit the Colca Canyon too. It is a beautiful and fascinating city and I definitely recommend a stop here.
Accommodation in Arequipa
I stayed at Mi Jato which seemed more like someone’s house than a hostel. It was clean and I had my own room plus they supplied a basic breakfast. It was only 10 minutes walk into the main square from here too. It cost £16 for 2 nights.
Total Costs for 12 nights in Peru = $409 (£328)
- Transfer – Ecuador (Loja) to Mancora – $14 + $5 = $19
- Mancora Accommodation – Misfit – $8 for 1 night (including breakfast)
- Mancora Accommodation – Psgon – $7.50 for 1 night (including breakfast)
- Ceviche – 20 Soles = $6
- Muay Thai Lesson at Psgon – $3
- Mancora to Trujillo – overnight bus – $20
- Trujillo to Huanchaco – Taxi – $10
- Accommodation in Huanchaco – Frogs Chillhouse – $16 for 2 nights (no BFST)
- Bus to Chan Chan Ruins & Return – $4
- Chan Chan Ruins – Entrance = $3. Taxi for all 3 sites = $9 = $12
- Huanchaco to Trujillo – Taxi – $10
- Trujillo – Lima – Overnight bus – $15
- Taxi in Lima – $12
- Lima Accommodation – Nuna Wasi – 2 nights – $16
- Accommodation at Mano a Mano – 1 night plus project cost – $26
- Taxi to project – $20
- Juventud Kollek tour of Collique – $31
- Lima to Arequipa – Overnight bus – $30
- Taxi from bus station to Arequipa hostel – $6
- Accommodation in Arequipa – Mi Jato – $20 for 2 nights (including breakfast)
- Museo Santuarios Andinos – $8
Plus my budget for food was $10 a day as I was travelling with others so 12 nights of food = $110 (less the day at Mano a Mano)
My daily budget in Peru was $34 a day.
N.b. I travelled to Peru in August 2016. The costs were accurate at the time. If you are travelling to Peru and want an itinerary for Machu Pichu I definitely recommend G Adventures who I travelled with before.
N.b. Some of these links are affiliate links. You still pay the same price but GatG makes a small percentage on your purchase. I give 10% off all profits to children's charities every month. Thanks for helping x