Peru + Bolivia: Itinerary Ideas

Dreaming of visiting Peru and Bolivia, the ancient lands of the Inca, but not sure where to start? It can be overwhelming, but I am here to help!


Right after I graduated college, I decided to take a 3 week backpacking trip to these amazing places. Most people may not have that kind of time, so luckily these itineraries can be chunked into smaller visits!


Day 1- Arrive to Limalima, peru, barranco

Lodging: Barranco’s Backpackers Inn


Day 2- Lima, Peru

*Explore Barranco and check out the ocean views! This is an eclectic neighborhood with great street art and even better ceviche!
*Plaza de Armas– Designated as a plaza in 1573, this is the core of the capital city. It’s filled with brightly colored colonial buildings, fountains, gardens, restaurants, street vendors, stately churches, and flowers!
*Monasterio de San Francisco– Home to monks in 16th century, I recommend you do a tour of its creepy catacombs (warning: bones galore!) and check out its impressive library.
*Cathedral Basilica of Lima – The oldest church in all of Peru (1535!), it is also the burial site of infamous conquistador, Francisco Pizarro.
*Jirón de la Unión– A modern shopping area and pedestrian street filled with colorful buildings.
*Parque de la Muralla: Overlooking the Rimac River, it also has views of the Chosica slums (a beautiful, but poor neighborhood).
*Parque de la Reserva– A great place to people-watch, this park has several huge fountains and a variety of water-activities known as the “Magic Water Circuit”.

Lodging: Barranco’s Backpackers Inn


Day 3- Lima

*Huaca Pucllana – Hire a guide to walk you around these expertly constructed “earthquake-proof” pyramids from 200-700AD.Huaca Pucllana ruins Lima Peru
*Miraflores– Explore this trendy, colorful neighborhood on foot
*Plaza de Armas– Be sure to try some Peruvian specialties of cancha and empanadas, and take a sip of Inka Kola. If you’re feeling up to it- a shot of Pisco Sour can do the trick!
*Mercado de los Indios– Best place to souvenir shop! Here you’ll find artisan products and handicrafts.Mercado de Indios Lima Peru

Lodging: Barranco’s Backpackers Inn


Day 4- Cusco → Aguas Calientes 

*Book an early flight from Lima to Cusco. Once at Cusco’s airport, take a local bus to Ollantaytambo. If you have time, exploring these Inca ruins is well worth it!
*Hiram Bingham Express – Take this super scenic train ride through the Andes Mountains towards the small town of Aguas Calientes, the base for exploring Machu Picchu. 
hiram bingham express, train to machu picchu
*Aguas Calientes Town– Once settled, buy tickets for the entry and bus ride up to Machu Picchu for the next day. Explore the town and all its waterfalls, enjoying the mist over the River Urubamba. There are several great artisan markets here too, although very touristy. 
*Baños TermalesIn the evening, take a dip in the natural hot spring pools that the city was named for.
Photo courtesy of ticketmachupicchu.com

Lodging: Pirwa Hostel Aguas Calientes


Day 5Machu Picchu

*Bus– Get up around 4am and get in line for the bus up to the site! Be ready for a harrowing drive uphill through the Andes!
*Machu Picchu– Upon arrival, it’s a good idea to hire an on-site guide! If not, make sure to bring some sort of guidebook so you can fully appreciate what you’re seeing. Enjoy the awe while you explore this truly amazing structure, and watch out for spitting llamas!

Lodging: Pirwa Hostel Aguas Calientes


Day 6-  Aguas Calientes to Cuzco (Pirwa Colonial)

*Train– Ride back to Ollantaytambo. From here,take a public bus or share taxi back to Cuzco.
*Cuzco– Once in town, roam the side streets and find some empanadas for lunch. Watch out for the girls in traditional dresses carrying lambs! There are a lot of scammers in Cuzco, so be wary!
*Check out my list of the top things to do during your time in Cuzco!

Lodging: Pirwa Colonial Hostel Cusco


Day 7- Cuzco 

Click here for my lineup of things to do in Cuzco!
Or, check here for my list of what NOT to do in Cuzco

Lodging: Pirwa Colonial Hostel Cusco


Day 8-  Fly to Puerto Maldonado

*Fly– Take a cheap flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado, and arrive in this jungle town’s tiny airport. There, you’ll likely be picked up by your jungle tour operator (we went with Corto Maltes– an all inclusive 3 days tour for $299/pp!) We had a full-time guide, and were served delicious 3 course meals. However, remember that you’re in the jungle, so things will be a bit “rustic”. The beds have mosquito nets , there is no a/c, and no power after 10pm. However, we had a private cabin with balcony hammocks and a view of the river!
*Canoes– Take a narrow motorized canoe out on the Río Madre de Dios towards your jungle lodge!
*Nature Walk– Get your first glimpse of the wonders of the Amazon rainforest.
*Caimans– In the evening, hop on a boat with some flashlights and go searching!corto maltes puerto maldonada jungle peru

Lodging: Corto Maltes Amazonia Cabin


Days 9-10: Amazon Jungle

Chuncho Clay Lick– Early in the morning, hike out to see parakeets and macaws flock (no pun intended!) to the locally famous clay lick, and maybe even see a few tarantulas!
Monkey Island– An abandoned research facility, this building is isolated on a small island and is now a great place to come see these primates monkeying around! Nearby, there are several impressive and enormous kapok trees.
Tambopata Nature Reserve– To get here, be prepared for an hour long hike in knee-deep mud, all in a humid jungle! Once you’re there, canoe ride on Lago Sandoval (see monkeys, caiman, birds, bats), and maybe even eat lunch off of a giant leaf!
*Local Farms– Take another motorized canoe trip to local farm, where you can taste tropical fruits and talk with the families about environmental challenges
*Tribal Villages– Many of the lodges will have an option to visit a local tribe- this could be a neat opportunity to see how certain indigenous groups still live in the ways of their ancestors, but be sure it is “ethical”.
tambopata lake sandoval peru

Lodging: Corto Maltes Amazonia Cabin


Day 11Puerto MaldonadoCuzco → Puno 

*Puerto Maldonado Town– Ride your back back to the town for a “city tour“. Full of open air markets, this is definitely worth a quick visit.
*Flight to Cuzco– Once you arrive back in Cuzco, get on an overnight bus (8 hours) towards Puno (not fun- but hey, it’s all about the experience!)

Lodging: Overnight Bus to Puno


Day 12 Puno + Sillustani

*Puno– Explore the Plaza Central and the Cathedral of Puno, along with a quick view of the Arco Deustua.puno titicaca cerro huajsapata
*Cerro Huajsapata– Take a taxi up for this excellent viewpoint of the city and Lake Titicaca below!
*Sillustani Ruins– Find a bus and get out to these pre-Inca funerary towers (chullpas) overlooking a lagoon. Fun fact: when a king died here, they would his family and all his servants to join him in the tomb! Stop at a nearby homestead if possible, and check out the mud and clay homes. Many families have alpaca wool weaving demonstrations too, and you can see the sad but cute little guinea-pig (cuy) farms!
sillustani peru puno
Homestead near Sillustani

Lodging: Inka’s Rest B&B


Day 13- Puno: Islands of Lake Titicaca

Click here for my post on visiting the Floating Islands from Puno!

Lodging: Inka’s Rest B&B


Day 14– Puno, Peru → La Paz, Bolivia

*Bus to La Paz → The earlier the bus, the better! The border crossing into Bolivia can be very slow. Our route stopped in the town of Copacabana for a one hour break. Also, be careful- the local buses were very confusing, slow, and stressful in my experience, and I even speak fluent Spanish. They oversell them often, so don’t expect much personal space either.
*La Paz City– You might be immediately overwhelmed by the altitude of the world’s highest capital city, but keep your wits about you! Unique, beautiful, and a bit chaotic, this is the only city I’ve ever had a known pickpocket attempt on me happen!La Paz Bolivia
*Salt Flats Tour– We booked a last minute tour with a local operator we found a storefront for (we did not pre-book this as it is usually cheaper to buy a tour while in La Paz). That night we hopped on a “luxury bus” towards Uyuni.  Our tour was $95/pp for 3 nights lodging and all meals, plus a guide and jeep. If you are asked to pay too much more than this, keep hunting!

Lodging: Overnight Bus to Uyuni


Day 15-17 Uyuni (Salar de Uyuni)

*Uyuni Town– After a bumpy and rough overnight bus, we arrived into this small town on the outskirts of the famous salt flats of Uyuni. 
*Salar de Uyuni– Your salt flat tour operator will then get you out on the road to this supernatural seeming sight!Salar Uyuni Bolivia
Salar Uyuni Bolivia

To read in detail about the itinerary and sights you will see in the salt flats, read this post!

Lodging: Salt Hotel (part of our Salar tour group)


Day 17- Uyuni→ Oruro, Bolivia

Overnight bus– Once back in Uyuni town, book a local bus to Oruro. For me, this bus ride was absolute chaos and misery. There were people in the aisles, loud blaring music, bumpy roads, busted tires, and the worst part… no bathroom breaks! Be selective in what bus you choose! This ride will take most of the day (10-12 hours)
New friends on the journey

Lodging: Overnight bus to Oruro


Day 18- Oruro → Arica, Chile 

*Oruro– When you arrive, take a few hours and explore this small town with great food options!
*Bus to Arica– From there, we got on a second bus to Arica, Chile. After the border crossing out of Bolivia, it was night when we arrived in Chile. Another long travel day, but that’s how it goes!

Lodging: Arica Surf House


Day 19- Arica, Chile

*Arica Town– Visit the city’s main church (designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel) and its beautiful fountains. Also be sure to head up to El Morro for great views!
*Beach Time– Take a dip in the Pacific, and maybe see a few sea lions, but watch out for sea-urchins! The most popular beaches are El Laucho and La Lisera.
*Paseo 21 de Mayo – A very cute shopping area, this pedestrian only promenade is perfect for getting acquainted with the city.

Lodging: Arica Surf House


Day 20- Arica, Chile → La Paz, Bolivia 

*San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum – Home to the oldest mummies in the world!san miguel de azapa arica chile
*Bus Time– Take a bus to La Paz in the late afternoon. Be prepared for delays from the border crossing!

Lodging: Loki La Paz


Day 21- La Paz, Bolivia

*Plaza San Francisco– One of the busiest areas of the city, you can spend hours in this lively central square.
*Mercado de las Brujas-Known as the “witch’s market”, this fascinating street is full of herbs, potions, natural remedies, and dried llama fetuses. The local “witches” (yatiri) can also do healing rituals with you!witch's market la paz
*Black Market– Shop for some knock-off goods, but really…you never know what you may find!witch's market la paz llama fetus
*Cable Car– Take a ride on the Teleférico for epic views of the world’s highest capital city!

Lodging: Loki La Paz


Day 22- La Paz

*Open Bus Tour– Catch a double-deck open-top bus tour in Plaza Isabela. You can choose the route you like, and see all the plazas, statues and history this city has to offer.
*Killi Killi Mirador – One of the best viewpoints of the city!
*Plaza Murillo: See the Bolivian Presidential Palace, and buy some food from the street vendors.
*Valle de la Luna– Doing the “south circuit” of the hop-on bus tour, check out these crazy rock formations just outside the city! valle de la luna, moon valley, la paz, bolivia
*Oxygen Bars– If you’re feeling the effects of the high altitude, take a fun visit to one of many “oxygen bars”. Choose your flavor, and relax while enjoying views of majestic Mt. Illimani.illimani mountain la paz bolivia

Lodging: Loki La Paz


Day 23– Fly home from La Paz


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Peru and Bolivia on a budget for 10-21 days


As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. However, should you choose to book any of the above tours or hotels, please know I will make a small commission. 

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