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Backpack Peru – With My One-Stop Travel Guide

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What would I say about Peru that hasn’t been said before?

I wouldn’t say that you have to be brave to backpack Peru, though that is what many aspiring tourists assume for the country still appear rural and rugged. But I would tell you that you have to be ready to experience some things that you have never seen before. The landscapes and the cultures that I will talk about in the guide will describe why I am preparing you to venture into the unknown open-heartedly.


Raw-rugged Andes peaks, turquoise glaciers hung atop, deep canyons thriving with life, thick Amazon rainforests spread throughout the country, an arid coast bordering the Pacific and the land, giant vultures flying above in the sky, hundreds and thousands of ethnicities and languages and beliefs, roasted guinea pig sold as a delicacy, a myriad of colors in a single piece of cloth, a mix of Catholicism and indigenous religion flourishing in households, a series of rulers only to be paved out by the Incas and then the Spanish, rich produce of bright fruits and vegetables, vast reserves of silver, zinc, gold, and more, a lake as giant as an ocean and as blue as a sky, penis temples next to courtyards, hundreds of years old ruins worshipped by the indigenous and visited by the world, simple people with taut skin trying to make ends meet — these are the things Peru reminds me of.

Though most of the travelers started visiting Peru when as per an internet poll held in 2007 Machu Picchu was voted as one of the seven wonders of the world, now visitors want to see the entire stunning Perú.  During the entire five weeks that I backpacked Peru, mostly the South, I was trying to comprehend the stupendous landscape that kept unrolling in front of me wherever I went in the country.

old+peruvian+man+rowing+puno+isla+amantani+lake+titicaca+peru+south+america whom i witnessed when i went to backpack peru
Does it get better than this?

Combined Read: My One-Stop travel guide to Chile and My Comprehensive travel guide to Bolivia.


Peru is a country like none other.

Red-tiled brick roof houses sit on the mountains carved into terraced quinoa and potato fields. Fat sheep and cute alpacas graze the slope of the hills oblivious of the beauty of the place they are in. Bulls and cows chill on the shore side of a deep-blue lake so big that you cannot even tell if it is an ocean or a lake. Indigenous communities live on isolated islands on this lake following the rituals they have been practicing for centuries. Some of them even remake their islands every fifteen days with seaweed else the island will sink. On the other hand, I worry while sitting down into a perfectly robust, though petite boat on the giant lake in which hundreds of people live on these makeshift islands. These are the same boats island people use to carry bulls and cows to the hills and pastures where they can graze.

Huge range of the Andes, the mountains many explorers have set out to win but have only been able to explore in parts, never leave your side throughout the country. If your plane fly above the Andes, make sure that you look down to see the triangular views from the top. The mountains below will blow your mind.

Incas, the rulers who overthrew all the previous kingdoms, are only remembered by their ruins now. One of their most significant remains is a royal city that they built on the top of the Andes, which the Inca believed to be gods. The citadel is Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. Travelers trek through the highlands, lush tropical rainforest, and other Inca ruins to reach this citadel sometimes in 4 days and at times in 7.

The Amazon jungle that covers 60 percent of the country houses unique plants and animals and mammals of which most of the biologists have never even heard of. If you go to these Amazon jungles ( I went to the Manu National park from Cusco) or as the locals call them el selva, the guides there will tell you that one day they saw an isolated tribe member near the Amazon river, who ran back into the thickets after he noticed the guide. Or the guide group tried to give bananas to these uncontacted tribe people and they came out in groups, all stark naked. You will not be told many such stories. Or a video of a jaguar from the forest will entertain you if the guides like you.

Peru was a dream that I never dreamt of. I happened to visit Peru because the visa process was easy and the country was close to Chile.

But after I visited Peru, I saw South America in a different light. Now I believe when people say that a lot of Latin America is still undiscovered by the world.

Mysterious stories, images of exquisite animals, the glory of tall peaks, and the rainbow of colors will follow you even after you have left the lands of Peru.

Now let us get started with the Peru travel guide for we have a lot of things to talk about.


sheeps+grazing+silver+lining+isla+de+ Amantaní +lago+titicaca+puno+peru+south+america
Just one of the regular scenes in Peru.


What does this Backpack Peru travel guide contain?

  1. Why is Peru called Peru?
  2. Where is Peru?
  3. How is the landscape and geography of Peru?
  4. History of Peru
  5. How is the political condition and economy of Peru?
  6. What type of government does Peru have?
  7. What is the population of Peru?
  8. How are the Peruvian people?
  9. What language is spoken in Peru?
  10. Is Peru safe to travel?
  11. What is the best time to visit Peru?
  12. How much time do you need to visit Peru?
  13. What are the best places to visit in Peru?
    1. Visit the historical town of Cuzco, Peru
    2. Go to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world
    3. Chill in Puno, a town on the shores of Lago Titicaca
    4. See Arequipa, the white city of Peru
    5. Explore Lima, the capital with neoclassical architecture and sunny beaches
  14. What are some of the optional things to do in Peru?
    1. Surf in Mancora
    2. Go sandboarding and buggy-riding in Huacuacina
    3. Fly over the mysterious Nazca lines near Huacachina
    4. Hike in the Cordillera Blanca or the white Cordillera near Huaraz
  15. What are the coolest and the most unique things to do in Peru?
    1. Hike the mighty Colca Canyon
    2. Go to the Amazon from Cusco or Iquitos
    3. Stay on the remote islands of Lago Titicaca
    4. Hike to Machu Picchu
  16. How to travel to Peru, South America?
  17. Do you need a visa to travel to Peru?
  18. What is the best way to travel around Peru?
  19. Is Peru cheap to travel to?
  20. How to carry money while traveling through Peru?
  21. What to pack for Peru? What to wear on your Peru trip?
  22. How to handle the altitude in Peru?
  23. Do you need a yellow fever vaccination to travel in Peru?
  24. How is Peruvian food?


Why is Peru called Peru?

Perú might have got its name from the mix of words Pelú and Berú. For centuries ago when Spanish came in the 15 century, they asked local fishermen on the banks of a river that where were they. The fisherman told them that the place was called Pelú, the local Quechua word for a river( Quechua was the language of the Incas). The fisherman’s name was Berú.

Thus the Spanish started calling the land Perú. But this is just one of the stories. I will tell you more tales about the origins of the name Peru if we have time while going through this guide.

Where is Peru?

Peru is a large country situated at the westernmost edge of the continent of South America. Bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, from the North to the South, Peru is flanked by the Pacific along its entire western length. 

peru located over the world map for a backpack peru travel guide


How is the landscape and geography of Peru?

Peru covers an area of almost half a million square miles, a little smaller than its neighbors Ecuador and Colombia combined and larger than Spain and France together.

The landscape of Peru is a treat to the eyes though being inconquerable most of the time.

A dry coast, thick rainforest, and imposing hills cover most of Peru. Along the West coast runs the 1,555 miles long desert which covers 11 percent of Peru but houses more than 50 percent of the population. The big cities of Peru such as Lima, Trujillo, and Tacna are situated along the coast.

The Andes, the second-highest mountain range of the world, runs throughout the length of Peru and can be divided into three parts: Northern, Central, and Southern. The Andes, also known as Sierra in Peru, might seem like cutting through the country to separate the coast from the Amazon.

The Northern Andes is narrower and lower. Sometimes the Andes are so close to the coastal desert that you can see the tall peaks from beaches.

The central Andes has high snow-capped peaks including Mount Huascaran which is the highest peak in Peru reaching up to 6,768 meters high. The Cordillera Blanca or the While Cordillera lies to the west of this central range housing many white glaciers that give the range its name. The (more than 70)peaks of white cordillera that go as tall as 5000 m are popular for hiking and are accessible from Huaraz, the town closest to the Cordillera and a popular center for hikers now. The main source if the Amazon river is also located close to the Cordillera.

The Southern Andes is broad and its western edge (near the coast) is flanked by a cluster of volcanoes, one of which is the Misti which you can see from the town of Arequipa, the white city popular amongst tourists. The eastern edge of the Southern Sierra, also known as the Cordillera Oriental, is high with peaks as tall as 5,800 meters. Urubamba valley (in which Machu Pichu and Cusco reside) is part of this section and borders the Amazon basin.

The central and southern Andes is dry, rugged, and inhabited as it is very high without any hopes of vegetation.

One the east of the Andes lies the Amazon rainforest which covers 60 percent of the country but houses only 5 percent of the population. Many undiscovered tribes live deep within the selva, the local name of the Amazon.

Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake shared between Bolivia and Peru, lies to the south of the country. It is formed by an altiplano that lies between the southern ranges and slopes southwards into Titicaca. From the Southern tip of the country also begins the Atacama desert which then sprawls into Bolivia and Chile. This lake is at a height of about 4000 meters.

From the Huacachina sand dunes to the mighty old Machu Pichu to the salt fields to Colca canyon twice as deep as the grand canyon to Inca ruins in which temperature changes up to a whopping 27 degrees if you go from the top to the bottom to the tall and untamed Andes to rainbow-colored mountain to farmers dressed in colorful traditional clothes working in the lush fields — you can find everything in Peru.

I have described the geography in such detail for it is otherwise difficult to make your way through the country’s zigzag landscape. And let me add, given the altiplano geography of Peru, most of the places you visit in Peru such as Cusco, Puno, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca are at an altitude of sometimes as high as 4000 meters and even more than that. I will talk about preparing for the altitude of Peru later in a separate section.


physical map of peru showing the vegetation climate geography and landscape of peru
Source- By CIA –, Public Domain,


physical map of peru showing the vegetation climate geography and landscape of peru
Image Source:

History of Peru.

Peru is a very old country. Inhabitants said to have lived in Peru as early as 15,000 years ago. The civilizations that thrived around 500 years ago were the Chavín, the Moche, and the Nasca though the world generally talks only about the Incas who ruled the country until 600 years ago.

Incas, who started rising in the 1200s and overthrew the earlier civilizations to become a giant empire by the 1400s, were defeated by the Spanish who invaded Peru in 1531. The Spanish persecuted the indigenous communities of Peru and kept Peru as their colony for about 300 years. in 1821, Peru overthrew Spain and became independent.

Moray terraces one of the archaeological site northwest of Cuzco form the Inca times near Maras cuzco in peru south america
Moray ruins near Cusco that were built by the Incas.


How is the political condition and economy of Peru?

After independence from Spain, Peru had territorial fights with many neighbors including but not limited to Ecuador and Chile. Once those settled, military regimes overthrew the constitutional government to rule Peru until 1980 and during this time the economy of Peru hit rock bottom. You can blame the poor economic condition and unemployment on the agricultural reforms brought in during the military rule or to natural inflation or to corruption or to natural disasters, but Peru’s situation continuously deteriorated.

Even though Peru has rich silver, gold, copper, zinc, lead, iron, oil, natural gas reserves, fish supply, and thriving textile industry, 54 percent of the population of Peru lives in poverty. Agriculture and tourism support the economy but aren’t able to carry the full weight of the economy on their shoulders.

The worsened social and economic conditions provided the perfect fermentation ground for the terrorist groups Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path) in rural areas and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in Lima. The drug cartels thriving in the Andes (Bolivia is one of the largest producers of coca which is the ingredient for cocaine) supported these terrorist groups.

After a series of presidents who failed to do Peru any good, created many hilarious stories, and some of them still serve the prison charged for human right abuses and corruption, Ollanta Humala now sits on the President’s seat and all hopes of the Peruvians are now on him.

carnival in plaza de arias or the central square in cusco Peru near the Iglesia de Compañía de Jesúsor the jesus church in Cuzco peru+south+america
This is not a political procession, but just a yearly carnival in Cusco. Though political protests are also common throughout Peru.

What type of government does Peru have?

Peru is a democratic republic, with a president, a congress, and a supreme court. Peruvians are required to vote by law. Unlike Bolivia where Morales will soon run for President the 4rth time, Peruvian Presidents can only be elected twice in a row and serve a five-year term.

What is the population of Peru?

Peru has 33 mn people. As I have discussed the demographical distribution in the geography section I won’t go into details here, but most of the Peruvians live on the dry coast, and Lima, the capital, is dense with more than half of the entire population.


people walking around in plaza de armas or the central square in arequipa town of peru south america
Arequipa is also one of the busy cities and attracts many tourists due to the nearby attraction Colca canyon.

How are the Peruvian people?

Hundreds of ethnic groups have lived in Peru since the earliest civilizations for the varied climatic conditions have given way to different beliefs and closed groups. Though Lima houses some of the most sophisticated Peruvians, you can find potato and corn farmers in the Colca canyon who sometimes have no water or electricity. If you go to the Amazons you might pass by a jungle beyond which an isolated tribe would be thriving but you will never know. While on the other side on the Lake Titicaca islanders would be busy laying fresh seaweed under their makeshift islands so to keep floating on the ocean-like lake, and further up shamans would be busy healing the travelers spiritually in the thickets of the selva.

As Peru has witnessed a plethora of rulers and civilizations over thousands of years, Peruvians are now a mix of indigenous, Spanish, Europeans, Asians, and Africans who follow mix Catholics and indigenous beliefs.

Many travelers told me and multiple bloggers have written that they didn’t like the service in Peru for people weren’t forthcoming. But I would say that Peruvians are warm and friendly people but sometimes you need to take the first step as they are shy.

Whether it was the old lady I met in Cusco restaurant or the little girl who played “hide and seek” with me on the Taquile island or the man on the Cusco square who let me play with his daughter, I felt at home with all of them for they kept talking and bantering casually. Of course, I could communicate with them in Spanish so if you are backpacking in Peru for the first time you might not be able to speak Spanish.

But even if you can say only a few words or just hi and hello, I would suggest you go up to your Peruvian host and speak up or smile at her or just acknowledge them around you. Or gesture with your hands if you have to, for that is how I first communicated in Chile when I couldn’t speak a single word of Spanish.

Things would smoothen out soon, I promise.

You should also check out my guide to learning a foreign language in which I have combined the 24 tips that will help you learn Spanish while traveling in South America. Also, read this collection of basic Spanish travel phrases (along with English and Hindi phonetics) that will help you communicate in Latin America irrespective of if you are in the rainforest or in Lima.


Peruvian girl in traditional peruvian clothes in carnival in cusco at plaza de armas cusco colonial peru south america
Do you see this girl standing with the most simple expression in the carnival at Cuzco? Most of the people I met in Peru were nice and innocent. Of course, the tricksters also exist.


What language is spoken in Peru?

Since we are on the topic of languages, let me tell you that apart from Spanish Peruvians also speak Quechua, the language of the Incas, and Aymara, the language in the highlands, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca area.

Similar to other Latin American countries, you shouldn’t expect the locals to speak English or Hindi(forget about it) unless they work in the tourism industry. Even the indigenous homestay owners or tourist guides on remote islands would only talk to you by gesturing with hands.

Are you, now, thinking of referring to the guides that I mentioned above, eh?

Here are the guides for your reference again: My experience of learning Spanish in Latin America, common Spanish phrases for travelers, and 24 tested tips to learn a new language on your own.


peruvian and quechua and aymara women weaving and sitting in a group in puno lago titicaca peru latin america
If you think these Aymara women will suddenly turn around and start speaking English, you are wrong. They are chilling and mostly speaking Aymara, for we are in Puno, Lake Titicaca, the highlands.

Is Peru safe to travel? 

Peru is safe to travel.

During my 5 weeks of traveling in Peru (solo apart from the times I met fellow travelers), I felt completely safe in the small towns, the big cities, and even in the jungle. Peru is considered to be pretty safe for solo female travelers.

Now having said that, I know that Lima, especially the areas of Miraflores, is considered to be prone to petty thefts and mugging. The notorious South-American “express kidnappings” where travelers are taken to an ATM and made to withdraw cash at gunpoint or by threatening with a knife is also heard in Lima and Cuzco sometimes. Though all the travelers I met who had been to Lima (I didn’t go there myself and I will tell you why later) confirmed that nothing happened with them. I spent two weeks in Cusco and didn’t see or heard of any ATM kidnappings what so ever.

Also, counterfeit notes are popular in Peru. Again, I never got them, but be careful while getting change.

Many blogs I read online say that Sacsayhuaman, an Inca ruins near Cuzco, is prone for muggins but I went there alone and felt completely safe.

People over the internet are divided over traveler safety in Peru but most of the people who say Peru is dangerous talk about something they heard of rather than experiencing something themselves. I was just reading a 60-year-old woman’s testimony who backpacks alone in South America that she felt secure and comfortable in Peru. She thrashed some young men who felt unsafe and said that they should at least used common sense.

I feel that big cities such as Lima are less safe as compared to smaller places like Puno. Delinquents and muggers rush around in cosmopolitan places for they think that they will have more prospective clients.

Following common sense while traveling is the best tip one can give you to stay safe, especially if you are by yourself. Avoid getting late out at night. Don’t wander in deserted streets. Use the ATM carefully in a crowded area, withdraw some cash, go back to your hotel, and put the extra cash and your card in a locker. Withdraw once a week or two weeks so that the chances of you being out with your card are least.

Be vigilant on the bus. Watch your luggage. Carry money in a security belt on your stomach. Don’t accept a drink from a stranger. Okay, I won’t kill the fun and sound like a mother but if you do accept a drink from someone make sure it is prepared in front of you.

These are some of the general rules to remember which I am sure you must follow in your home town, too. If you are aware of these simple precautions, I think you should be good to go.

Though Peru’s notorious drug traffickers, unstable political system, heavy cocaine production, civilian protests, and mafia gangs such as the Shining Path are known to create a ruckus every now and then, none of these directly impact any traveler as long as you mind your business and befriend peaceful and kind locals.

Here is a long list of possible scams if you want to read but remember that the aim of this article must have been to give exhaustive information as I am providing with this guide. Read at risk.

Also, get travel insurance. I know the world travelers reading this guide must already have insurance. But I am informing the new travelers that please get insurance for when things go wrong nothing sounds sweeter than telling yourself that you are insured.


What is the best time to visit Peru? 

I was backpacking through Peru in February and March and scuttled around the country covered in my extremely bright rain jacket for the clouds were pouring heaven and hell. But I love the rains so I enjoyed my trip without any regrets.

The winter lasts from May to September and is a dry season. The summer is from December to March. Though summers could be really pleasant in the highlands, Peru receives most of its rain during these dry months.

As Peru has myriads of geographies, the country is said to experience some 32 different types of climates. Having said that, if you want to hike the Inca trail(which closes down in February) or go to the Amazons, I suggest you go in the dry season, which is from April to October.


on boat from puno to taquile island near puno on lago titicaca in peru south america
How would you feel if you are cruising on this tiny boat on the giant lago Titicaca when rain starts pouring down. You have a stupid plastic to cover yourself with, winds are cruel, and you suddenly have an urge to pee. Think about it and then decide the time you want to visit Peru.


How much time do you need to visit Peru?

Well, how much time do you have?

I traveled for five weeks or a little more than a month in Peru, and I can’t wait to go back. But I am a slow traveler.

If you are any better than I am, you should still at least think of going to Peru for two weeks. If you are for two weeks in Peru, you can visit the South of Peru around where the major attractions of Peru are situated. Mostly you will land in Lima from where you can take a flight to Cuzco and save at least a day.

The ideal time to spend would be 4 weeks in Peru. A Peru itinerary for 4 weeks would give you sufficient time to hike the Andes, go to the Amazon, wander in the Inca ruins, stay on the Lago Titicaca islands, and experience the Peruvian culture by living with the locals.

But whatever time you have, make sure that you don’t try too much. Peru has a lot to see, and you can easily get confused if you want to do everything. Also, some of the activities, such as hiking the Inca trail or walking around in Puno, will leave you exhausted.

Relax and travel slow to fully enjoy this gorgeous country.


temple of moon or temple de la luna near cuzco in peru south america
Did you look at this landscape? It doesn’t sound right to rush through this beauty.


What are the best places to visit in Peru?

Let us do this in parts. First, let me talk about the best places to see in Peru and then I will tell you what are some of the best things to do in Peru (think hiking, going offbeat, running behind sloths and monkeys).

1. Visit the historic town of Cuzco, Peru 

Cusco was once the capital of Incas which makes it one of the most sought-after Peru destinations. Cusco is the city you need to head to if you want to see Machu Picchu, or if you want to hike the Inca trail (there are 3–4 other trails as well about which I will talk in the cool things to do in Peru section), or if you want to spend a few days in the villages and the sacred Inca remains near Cuzco.

Though Cuzco was crowded by tourists, the city has its own charm, and there are unlimited things to do in Cusco. Two main churches, the Cusco Cathedral and the church of the company of Jesus, sit on the plaza in all glory. You can see tourists flocking around the plaza like hundreds of pigeons that flutter at the water fountain in the center of the square. If you are lucky, you would be able to witness a religious festival or a yearly carnival that decorates the streets of Cusco every February. Even without any festivities, Cusco is a great city to walk around, eat local Peruvian delicacies, and meet travelers. Or just sit on the plaza(there are many smaller ones, too) and soak in the sun.

Tour companies line the streets of Cusco and the Plaza de Armas. You can almost sign up for any of the tours in Peru in Cuzco.

You can also visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Pisac among many others from Cuzco. Buy a boleto touristico, a ticket, which includes entry tickets to most of these historical sites and visit them one by one depending on the time you have. I went to all three that I mentioned above and had a nice time while discovering the history and culture of Peru.

If you have more time on hand, you can also stay in the sacred valley which comprises of Ollantaytambo. The Sacred Valley is popular for the pre-Hispanic archaeological ruins that were constructed or conquered by the Incas.

Take a collectivo or bus from Cuzco to reach all these ruins. If you ask at your hostel, they will tell you which is the closest place from your hotel to board one of these fun collectivos. Ollantaytambo was a bit far and we first took a bus to Moray and then went from there to Ollantaytambo in another taxi. Or you can make it easy by booking this full-day sacred valley tour to Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero village or this six-hour Moray and Salt mines tour.

You can also take a day tour to Palccoyo, an alternative to rainbow mountain from Cusco.

Visit the Centro Artesenal Cusco to shop for some of the best alpaca souvenirs and exquisite jewelry from the city. San Pedro market is your best bet to shop delicious fruits or eat local meals.

Hostels and hotels get busy so book a few days in advance. You might be the impromptu traveler like I am but I had to switch hostels 2–3 times just because I wanted to extend my stay on the last day, and the dorms and rooms were all booked by then.

I stayed at the Dragonfly hostel and had a great stay. The hostel is near the main plaza and provides all that you might need. Click here to book Dragonfly on Booking.

Must Read: My experiential guide to Cusco travel guide.


plaza de armas cusco central square Iglesia de Compañía de Jesús Church Society jesus church Cusco inca cusco peru
The gorgeous Plaza de Armas, Cusco.


beautiful ruins of Moray archaeological site northwest of Cuzco near the west village of Maras peru south america
Beautiful ruins of Moray near Cusco.


2. Go to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world 

Machu Picchu is the reason that most of the people go on a trip to Peru. I am sure I don’t need to tell you why.

Here I am writing down the option of visiting Machu Picchu on your own. First, you need to go to the town of Aguas Calientes (place closest to Machu Picchu), where you spend the night so that you can hike to Machu Picchu in the morning or take a bus to the top. Later in the cool things to do section, I will talk about the various hikes you can do to reach this royal citadel of the Incas.

You can book a bus with the many tour companies crowding the plaza or ask at your hotel. Then buy a ticket to the Machu Picchu site from the cultural center near the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco or buy them on the official site here or prebook the tickets to Machu Picchu here and to both Machu Picchu and Huyana Picchu here to be sure. In spite of what the internet says, tickets to the historical site are available until a few days from when you want to visit. Do carry your passport and Peruvian soles when you go to buy a ticket. 

You can buy the ticket to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes itself from the office Centro Cultural Machupicchu which is located a few steps from the Main Square (Plaza de Aguas Calientes). But I wouldn’t suggest you to delay buying the tickets until so late for they might be all sold out.

Your bus will take you to Hidroeléctrica from where either you can go on foot or take a train to Aguas Calientes. When you arrive at Aguas Calientes, check into any hotel or choose one on Booking from here which is what I always do. In Aguas Calientes, you can choose to take a bus to the top, in which case talk to your hotel and book a bus. Or get this one.

I took a bus until Hidroeléctrica, then walked on foot alongside the train track while singing songs and chatting with my Chilean and Argentinian travel friends to arrive at Aguas Calientes, then walked up to the top of Machu Picchu, and then took a train back to Hidroeléctrica from Machu Picchu to experience the train journey.

Go early morning to avoid the crowds and the sun. Machu Picchu, though a tourist destination, has all the right reasons for you to visit it.

If you are are looking for an all arranged comfortable trip to Machu Picchu, consider this all-inclusive tour.

I didn’t do one of the long multi-day hikes to Machu Picchu for I had just returned from the Amazon after a 4-day-long trip and wanted to do a shorter trip this time. Also, I had a month in Peru and out of which I spent 10 days in Puno, chilling near the lake, hiking in the unknown hills, and staying with Aymara people on remote islands. So I chose a quick trip to Machu Picchu leaving the hikes (will do Salkantay mostly) for the second trip to Peru (hopefully soon).

Must Read: My comprehensive travel guide to see Machu Picchu by yourself.


Machu Picchu the lost city of the incas near cusco in the andes mountains in peru south america
Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of the seven wonders of the world. This is a shot of the backside of Machu Picchu for I have already shown you the popular front in the feature image.


train to aguas calientes near machu picchu peru cuzco in south america

3. Chill in Puno, a town on the shores of Lago Titicaca 

Puno is a small city on the banks of Lago Titicaca, the highest navigable lake which Bolivia and Peru share. I have written about Puno and Lake Titicaca in the linked article. Puno is a special place if you are just looking forward to spending some days relaxing, hiking on your own in the countryside, eating delicious chifa, a combination of Peruvian and Chinese, gorge down on some fried trucha/trout, or just want to stay on a remote island with Aymara communities surrounded by colorful potato fields.

I visited Uros, Amantani, and Taquile island from Puno on two separate trips. Uros is an island that the indigenous communities restrengthen every fifteen days with seaweed as the bottom of the island go damp. You can combine the Amantani island trip with Uros. The tour will take you during the day to Uros and then later for a night’s stay to Amantani.

Eat delicious homemade vegetarian food, drink and dance with the community, and visit the Pachamama temple with the host family. I know that this experience sounds very touristy and I felt that, too. Though I am glad that I helped the local Aymara family by staying with them, I wanted to spend more time on the lake. So I talked to our favorite tour guide, told her I wanted to stay on one of the islands with no tourists, and she sent us off to a remote island. We stayed with her family, her cousin sister rowed us in a tiny boat to their house, and then spend the few days walking in the bright countryside, talking to the daughter and her youngest sister, eating potatoes, sitting at the shore of the pristine lake, and you know, just living. No internet.

In Puno, I stayed at Cozy hostel which I have mentioned in the things to do in Puno guide, but you can look at the other stay options in Puno here. Though a lot of places mention Uros in the name, I suggest you first go to a regular hotel or hostel for the night in the center and then go to one of the islands and live there. Real homestays with indigenous communities mostly aren’t listed online.

Related Read: My guide to Copacabana, the Bolivian sister town of Puno, will help you if you want to visit the Lago Titicaca from Bolivia.


view of fields terraced roofs from the taquile island near puno lake titicaca peru
Such were the views of the free to wander countryside of the Taquile island.


The floating Uros islands on the lake titicaca near Puno peru.
The floating islands of Uros on the Lake Titicaca.


4. See Arequipa, the white city of Peru

Arequipa in the South of Peru is also known as a white city for its buildings and houses are made of sillar, a white volcanic stone. You would have a lovely time walking in this colonial city if not for the tourist guides who keep pestering to take you to the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Later I will tell you why and how you should visit the canyon.

El Misti volcano stuns you from the background while you explore the gorgeous 17th-century neoclassical Basilica Cathedral at the plaza de armas, observe the archaic living style of nuns in the centuries-old Santa Catalina monastery, gaze at the sacrificed girl Juanita’s mummy in the Museum Santuarios Andinos, admire the juicy fruits and colorful potatoes in the Mercado San Camilo, devour an authentic Indian meal at the restaurant called India in Calle Bolivar, or take a free tour of the city.

Look for a nice hostel here and choose one with good reviews.

If you love to get a better understanding of this white city, book this four-hour tour that takes you through the city and the countryside with a local guide who explains it all. There are free city tours, too, but choose this one if you can’t find them(they generally start from the plaza near the museum) or want to get a view of the countryside, too. 


eating indian chicken curry in the Indian restaurant India in arequipa while backpacking in peru in south america
I know that the photo isn’t the best but kill me for I was craving for Indian food after traveling for months in South America and this plate was a 100 percent authentic chicken curry with rice. I slept peacefully that night.


neoclassical cathedral at plaza de armas top view in arequipa peru south america
Insider’s tip: Go to the top of a nearby building to see the top view of the plaza and the illustrious church.

5. Explore Lima, the capital with neoclassical architecture and sunny beaches —

I didn’t go to Lima but you should if you like beachy big cities. I heard mixed opinions about Lima — while some of the friends hated it, some of the travelers I know spent a month in this capital town of Peru.

Here is what it is. If you like beaches, trendy bars and pubs, tall buildings, and comfortable life, you will enjoy Lima. But if you are looking forward to exploring the more native and indigenous style of living, you would want to run out of Lima. Isn’t that the case with all big cities? I can say that about almost all cities except La Paz which though being the capital of Bolivia offered a lot of typical Bolivian activities to do and things to see.

Out of Barranco, Miraflores, and the center of the city, I have heard and read and researched that seaside Barranco is the safest and the most peaceful and artistic to stay. Plaza Mayor is where Lima’s beautiful buildings such as the Cathedral and the spectacular Palacio del Gobierno sit. If you have time, visit the Monastery of San Francisco where the catacombs of the richest Limeños now hustle for space though the idea of the (now) dead was to rest alone in their expensive plots. Go to the cultural center and check if there is a free city tour. Generally, these tours tell a lot about a place which we wouldn’t be able to figure out on our own.

You can easily spend two-three days in Lima to get the vibe, relax at the beach, and eat delicious ceviche, fresh fish cured in lemon juice and served with red onion and crunchy corn kernels. If you want to go biking in Lima to know the city better, this Barranco and Miraflores tour with a local guide is a good one. Don’t forget your sunscreen and ask away all the questions you have.

Look for a hostel in the Barranco area here on Booking and only book a place if you see good ratings for location, too.


black silver clouds over lago titicaca near puno on a trip to peru south america
I entered Peru via land from Chile and didn’t go up North until Lima for I spent a lot of time in Puno. How could i not? Look at the views. Also, I am not a big city person.


What are some of the optional things to do in Peru?

Listing some of the other places to go in Peru which I didn’t see but heard great things about. A few of the places that I mention here fall in the backpacking route, Peru, but that doesn’t mean you have to visit them. Read the description and see if they fit in your Peru itinerary.


1. Surf in Máncora —

Surf in Máncora — This surfing town is 17 hours further up from Lima but offers the best surfing waves during December and January. I have heard that the beaches near Trujillo are also good. If you are coming in from Ecuador’s side or planning to go there, it might make more sense to stop at Mancora.

2. Go sandboarding and buggy-riding in Huacuacina —

Go sandboarding and buggy-riding in Huacuacina — This is a little oasis in the desert near Ica, a town that is a few hours before Lima if you are heading up in the country. Huacachina is said to have the biggest sand dunes in South America. But I would only recommend this if you have a lot of time on your hand for I didn’t hear anything special about this place.

3. Fly over the mysterious Nazca lines near Huacachina —

Nazca lines are geoglyphs shaped as wildlife and some other geometrical designs and are visible even from the sky if you fly above the Nazca desert on whose surface they are sketched. Though the origin and creation of these Nazca lines are unknown, experts say that they are at least a 1000 years old. You can book a tour from Cusco, Peru, or Ica to visit them. (Frankly speaking, they didn’t sound that exciting to me but if you are into the study of historical and archaeological remains you might enjoy seeing them. If you do, consider this 35-minutes Nazca lines flight with a local guide.)

4. Hike in the Cordillera Blanca or the white Cordillera near Huaraz —

I have explained the geography of Peru in detail above and there I talked about the Cordillera Blanca. If you love hiking, make sure you keep some time to visit Huaraz in the North from where the Huascarán National Park which houses the 70 tall peaks we talked about and the 200 or so lakes.

One of the popular hikes in the region is the turquoise Laguna 69. Though this is the one most talked about on the internet, I am sure there would be many more hikes and trails to wander on. Go for it if you like to trek.

roadside peruvian farmers working in a field infant of the andes mountains as seen from a bus while backpacking peru
The Andes are beautiful and forever present in Peru.

What are the coolest and the most unique things to do in Peru?

1. Hike the mighty Colca Canyon —

If you are a fan of hiking, visit Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the grand canyon and home to the popular condors.

If you are in Arequipa, take a tour to the canyon or take a bus to Chivay and trek it yourself. I have written everything that you need to visit the Colca Canyon in this Colca Canyon hiking guide.


cloudy canyon del colca near arequipa peru
Look at the views in the Colca Canyon.

2. Go to the Amazon from Cusco or Iquitos —

Remember those NatGeo videos and Bbc documentaries about uncontacted tribes in deep forests, jaguars lurking in the thick jungle, rain pouring down incessantly for days soaking every inch and each leaf of the foliage, azure butterflies as big as the size of your palm flying in slow motion, red and blue macaws eating clay early morning, and deadly colorful frogs just leaping from one leaf to another — most of those videos have been shot in the Amazonas.

Peru’s 60 percent land area is covered by this selva, which is one of the best places to see in Peru. Given you are even a tiny bit fan of being in a jungle, you should go to the Amazon in Peru (especially if you won’t go to the Amazon from Colombia or Brazil).

I booked a four days-three nights trip to Manu national park, one of the deepest jungles accessible from Cusco. The tour picked me up from my hostel in the morning and off we went. It almost took us a day to reach inside Manu and then a day to get out.

We stayed at different huts each night. All comfortable, fit with hot water, mosquito nets, and ample food as the guides had their own chef. We saw macaws, trekked to the high peaks, went for night walks, spotted dozens of owls, eagles, birds, poisonous frogs, snakes, and even a jaguar and her baby jaguar’s footprints near our cottage.

I would have also loved to go into the Amazon from Iquitos, which is further deep inside the jungle and only reachable via flight or boat. Stay a day or two in the town of Iquitos, and then talk to a guide or tour agency there and book a trip for yourself.

Many people go to Iquitos and in the forest from there to do the ayahuasca healing. Ayahuasca healing takes a few days and is best done for the right reasons. I met many people who had tried this natural plant which has unique properties that make you sweat, vomit, and feverish. But there is much more.


river manu in manu national park in the amazon jungle selva in cuzco peru south america
River Manu in its full glory in the Amazon jungle. It rained that day and every leaf was crisp and fresh.


3. Stay on the remote islands of Lago Titicaca —

I have written about staying on Amantani and Taquile island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca above in the section about Puno from where these islands are (somewhat) easily accessible.

But Lake Titicaca has 41 islands. Go wild. Camp. Stay in a homestay. Take a boat ride to any one of these islands and pursue the family to let you stay.

Please note: I have talked about a few remote islands in this lake Titicaca travel guide.


4. Hike to Machu Picchu —

I climbed the stairs to Machu Picchu at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise behind the citadel with fewer people. I sweated, fretted, and got hot, but the climb is a nice build-up to the top. Getting up early and walking up to Machu Picchu made me feel as if I deserved to see the historical city on top of the invincible Andes.

Now there are four or five different treks to Machu Picchu, each lasting from a few days to up to seven days. Amongst those, the jungle trek, the Lares trek, the Salkantay trek, and the Inca trail are the most popular.

Inca trail is the one that takes you via Inca ruins, high Andes peaks, and lush forests to arrive at Machu Picchu. This trail is generally pre-booked in advance for there are only a limited number of people that are allowed on the trail at one time. Also, the trail closes down in the February monsoon. If you are planning to do this trek, make sure to check online for a tour company. Compare a few companies and email or call them for prices. Or book the trail from Peru as soon as you arrive there.

Salkantay trek is said to be one of the most gorgeous and a lesser popular trek than the Inca one. Taking you via lush lowlands and other scenic routes, Salkantay takes about five days. You can do this trek yourself also. I met many people who had all the things one needs for camping, and they were heading onto the Salkantay trail by themselves for the route is pretty marked.

The Jungle trek-includes biking and zip-lining and is otherwise similar to the rest. Do this one if you are looking for an adrenaline high. Though the hike to Machu Picchu might not be the best place to do these activities for you are there to see the greenery and the ancient remains of a civilization. The Lares Trek, which surprisingly begins at Lares, gives you a glimpse into the lifestyle of traditional Peruvian families. This one ends in Aguas Calientes. Book the Lares trek here.

I would suggest read more, don’t just go with what people do, and book a hike from Cusco a few days before unless you plan to do the Inca hike (in which case book a little bit earlier). The hikes are strenuous but even 50-year-olds have been doing them. So go for the hike even if you are decently fit.

I would do the Salkantay trek on my own the next time I travel to Peru.


alpacas grazing on Machu Picchu the lost city of incas in cusco andes mountains peru south america

How do you travel to Peru, South America?

You can take a flight from anywhere in the world to Lima.

I love overlanding so crossed into Peru via the Arica-Tacna border from Chile. If you also like crossing borders via land then here is how you can cross into Peru from its neighbors.

From Bolivia, you can cross into Peru from the Copacabana-Puno border.

From Ecuador, you can cross from Aguas Verdes into Peru. If you are in the Leticia in the Amazonas in Colombia, you can take a fast boat to Iquitos in Peru. But remember that both these towns are only accessible from the rest of their respective countries only by boat or air. So please don’t think of taking a bus to Leticia and then taking a boat from there. You will have to fly to Leticia.

From Brazil’s Rio Branco, you can cross into Peru’s Puerto Maldonado.

If you would love to take a train, you can get a seat in the Ferrocarril Tacna Arica which runs from Chilean border town Arica to Peruvian border town Tacna. This border is the one I crossed by hiring a taxi in Arica some of which just do this border crossing all the time.

Make sure while crossing into or out of Peru you don’t carry any fruits as Peru is a major cultivator and doesn’t others’ pears or avocados. And if you are an Indian, Peruvians will check your passport a few times and wonder what is this color and design.


chullpas ruins Sillustani Incan cemetery near Lake Umayo near Puno lago titicaca Peru south america
Ruins near Puno. Peru is totally worth whatever trouble you have to take to get into the country.

Do you need a visa to travel to Peru?

Peru gives a free visa on arrival to most of the countries. This visa on arrival is valid for 183 days.

But India was not on the list of those countries. So I had to take a Peru visa beforehand. Since March 2017, Indian nationals holding a minimum six-months valid visa or who are permanent residents of either US, Canada, UK, Australia, or any Schengen member country can also visit Peru for one-eighty-days (180) per year without having to get Peru visa(for tourism and business visits).

To read in detail about the requirements and validity of Peru visa, please read my complete Peru visa guide for Indians.

You can also check out the official website of Peru immigration.


What is the best way to travel around Peru?

The best way to traveling around Peru is to take a bus.

Buses in Peru are brilliant and feel more like a plane than a bus if only for the road they run on and not the sky route they could have taken. Peru Buses are spacious, comes with an attached toilet, a tv, music, a snack and juice, reclinable seats, and are clean. They even have a boarding system like you have one for a flight. Redbus, the bus giant which is perfect to book tickets and see the options, works well in Peru. Book tickets on Redbus here. Or you can also check out buses in Peru on Peru Hop, a trusted Peru bus company.

The different categories of the seats are Semi-Cama which is a recliner seat and Cama which is a (almost full) bed. But the cama seat in South America is nothing like the full bed option in India where you can actually lie down completely. The cama bus in Peru will let you push the seat to a large extent but still not at an angle of 180. Cruz del Sur(who also operates in Chile) is a reliable bus company. PeruHop is good but expensive.

Trains also run in Peru on the most scenic routes but the connectivity is limited.

You can also fly with any of the popular airlines in Peru which are Star Peru, LATAM, Avianca, Peruvian, LC Peru, and Via travel Peru.

You can hire a car and drive in Peru with your driving license. For according to Peru’s Ministry of Transportation (“Decreto Supremo Number 040–2008-MTC”): “Original licenses from other countries that are valid and which have been issued in accordance with international conventions signed and ratified by Peru may be used for a maximum period of six (06) months from the date of entry into the country.”

While traveling within a city in Peru, you can take a private taxi or get into a local bus or take a shared taxi, called Collectivos, which connects the entire city.

TuRuta app which finds the best route using public transport will help you in Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco.

You can also hire a bike and enjoy the scenic routes.

totoro reed handmade boat islas de uros indigenous man puno lago titicaca peru south america
I don’t have a photo of any bus journey but look how cool this handmade boat from seaweed is. On lake Titicaca.


Is Peru cheap to travel to?

Backpacking in Peru doesn’t cost much. The most expensive things to do in Peru would be going to the Amazon or booking the Inca trek. These are multi-day guided tours with guides, cooks, and gear.

Otherwise, the cost of backpacking Peru would be around 1500–2000 rupees/$20–30/70–80 soles per day if you stay in dorms, eat set meals, and travel around on your own rather than booking a tour for everything. In 10 USD/30 soles/600–700 rupees, you can get a very good bed in a dorm or for a little higher you can get a whole room. I am not a typical backpacker in any sense and don’t try to save every penny. So I keep switching between a private room and a dorm as per my mood, though I always eat on the street and in local restaurants for I like them more than the fine dinings. (I will talk about finding vegetarian food in the food section later.)

For $1–3 you can get a set menu, a fixed course and a soup, for dinner and lunch. Those meals are delicious, and I was never dissatisfied. A regular meal in a restaurant will cost a little higher but should be up to 10$.

A long bus journey in Peru will cost you around $8–15 and a shorter ride within a city will be for as cheap as 50 cents to 1 dollar.

As you can see, the cost of a trip to Peru isn’t much. But the overall cost of the trip depends on how you like to travel.

This delicious trout in Cusco only cost me around 10 rupees or 2 US dollars

How to carry money while traveling through Peru?

Peruvian ATMs dispense both Peruvian soles and US dollars. Please refer to the is Peru safe to travel section to read about the precautions you need to follow while withdrawing and keeping cash in Peru.

Carry your money in a money belt and keep only an approximate amount that you might need while traveling around Peru that day.


What to pack for Peru? What to wear on your Peru trip?

Peru is a cold and windy country for most of the year. Even the summers in Lima, which is on the dry and sunny coast of Peru, only go up to a maximum of twenty-four degrees on average. So make sure you have enough thick jackets and full-length wear.

Peruvians are mostly seen in their colorful traditional dresses. Though the younger generations and the working crowd in big and average-size cities wear jeans, t-shirts, skirts, and other western wear. But I never saw many Peruvians in very short clothing so you can maybe avoid too short clothes to mix with the crowd. Though I noticed people wearing shorts in a lot of places.

Having said that, I have listed some of the essentials you should pack for Peru for a comfortable and adventurous stay below.

  • A couple of dresses for women – Some long and short dresses are good for Peruvian weather. 
  • Short for women and shorts for men – For everyday travel in Peru.
  • good pair of jeans – Even though I am not a big fan of wearing jeans and love many other more comfortable bottoms, sturdy jeans will keep you warm in Peruvian Andes and the surrounding countries. I wore mine frequently.
  • Swimwear for women and swimwear for men – Peru has some good beaches to jump into.
  • good hiking shoes for women and good hiking shoes for men – A must-have in South America.
  • a rain jacket – Always carry one in the Latin-American countries for you never know when it might rain.
  • warm jackets for men and for women – You might even need these on a rainy day in the summer.
  • warm and waterproof gloves – essential for hiking and the outdoors.
  • woolen socks for women and for men – For hiking and to survive the chilly winds of Peru.
  • woolen sweater – You can also buy gorgeous and warm alpaca jumpers in Peru for cheap. I bought one in Cusco and another one somewhere else, and those red and white alpaca sweaters are the warmest pieces of clothing I possess. (See the difference between alpaca and llama to understand these Peruvian beauties better.) 
  • a scarf for women and for men – You can buy woolen ones in Peru. 
  • a pair of warm leggings or thermals for women and for men (I wore them under my dresses to stay warm.)
  • yoga pants for women and for men – suitable for long buses, which you will take many in Peru.
  • fanny pack to carry your passports and money. 
  • Also, bring a strong backpack as you would travel in weird weather and on rough routes – I have been using a North Face backpack for about four years now and have no complaints.
  • travel towel – Carry a light travel towel like this one for it will save you a lot of space.
  • Lifestraw water bottle – Comes with an inbuilt filter, and you can fill it anywhere. A filter water bottle is essential for you cannot drink tap water everywhere in Peru.
  • Memory foam travel pillow for a good sleep while traveling
  • A good camera – Nikon D3400 is a very good choice for the price. I use Nikon for all my photography now (the pictures in the article though have been clicked with my phone for I have been using Nikon only for the past nine months). This camera comes with two lenses, and the one with the higher resolution is perfect for bird photography if you are interested.
  • first-aid kit – Always carry one while traveling. Carry essential medicines as in the remote islands of Titicaca and while hiking in the Andes, you would not find any medicine shops.
  • Strong sunscreen – Andean mountains can be pretty sunny, and you would burn in a minute
  • Mosquito repellant – Much needed for Peruvian jungles
  • Altitude sickness pills – remember most of the Peruvian places are above sea level and sometimes as high as 4000 to 5000 meters.

This is my list of basic things to bring to Peru. As mentioned, you can buy some of the woolen and handmade items in Peru itself. Be careful while buying the Peruvian colorful bags for mine is already almost torn and the stitching has come out from every place.

And needless to say, you should carry a printout of my list of important Spanish travel phrases that will save you in South America (printable link in the guide).


The market scene in Cusco. I bought a very beautiful red alpaca jumper from here and a ring with Avalon shell, found a lot in Peru for good prices.


How to handle the altitude in Peru?

Read the geography section of this guide to understand that as the Andes are sprawling throughout the country, most of the places to see in Peru, especially in the South, are above sea level and sometimes as high as 4000/5000/6000 meters.

Take it slow when you arrive in Peru. If you take a bus from Lima to Cusco, your altitude will change a whopping 3000 meters. You might feel dizzy on the bus or be tired. Drink a lot of water, be light on alcohol, and sleep well. These are the best tricks to handle the high altitude.

You will be more exhausted while hiking than you are on a regular hike so keep enough protein and chocolate bars on any hiking trip. Drink coca tea and chew coca leaves like all the travelers and locals will suggest to you.

And if you feel sick, rest. Don’t worry about seeing it all. There is always more time 🙂

Though this scenery is gorgeous you are at a height of 4000 meters while climbing up and down this path to the temple of panchamama or the mother earth on isla amantani near puno on Lake Titicaca.


Do you need a yellow fever vaccination to travel in Peru?

You would need a yellow fever vaccination if you are visiting the Amazon near Iquitos. Apart from the Iquitos, you don’t need to have a yellow fever vaccination to travel around Peru.

Having said that, I can tell you that people have mixed reviews about the need of a yellow-fever vaccination while entering Iquitos. Some of the posts I read and the people I met told me that the vaccination wasn’t mandatory and many survived without getting one. A few got the shots in a precautionary manner.

I would suggest you get the vaccination if you want to travel to the Iquitos and the Amazonas there for your own safety. Also, remember that you need to get the shots ten days before your trip for the medicine needs 10 days at least to be able to protect you. Though Cusco and many other cities have free yellow-fever vaccination camps, you might want to get the shots in your home city as the shots have been known to give terrible side effects including but not limited to dizziness and fever.

I didn’t get a yellow fever vaccination for I didn’t go to Iquitos and the lack of the shots didn’t cause any problems in traveling around Peru or crossing into Bolivia.


How is Peruvian food?

Ooh la la! I keep my favorite section for the last.


After traveling and teaching English in Chile for six months, I traveled in Peru and suddenly my taste buds gone sterile blasted.

Unlike the rest of South America, or at least the parts that I traveled in, Peru is very experimental with spices and regularly use Kurkuma(turmeric), oregano, and paprika(similar to chilly but milder) in every preparation along with the occasional garnishing of coriander and lemon.

Insider Tip: Do read the Spanish phrases in this cultural guide that will help you say your food preferences and your vegetarian or non-vegetarian choices.

Peruvians are mostly non-vegetarians with their favorite meat being chicken, guinea pig (locally known as cuy), beef, and fish. People in Peru eat a lot of rice and quinoa in their soups. Generally, a dish is served with a bed of rice underneath. Let us not forget potato or known as papas in Spanish. Peru has 40,000 varieties of this carbohydrate that comes in the brilliant colors of red, purple, and even black, and Peruvians and tourists alike eat the varied preparations of papas heartily.


See that purple-pink thing peaking out of the ground?

I am listing some of the not to miss foods of Peru here. But I didn’t try most of them as I don’t eat a lot of meat and turning into a vegetarian. But these must-have items are the ones which any Peruvian or a traveler would drool over any time.

Here are some of the typical dishes to eat in Peru:

Ceviche — Raw fish cured in lemon juice served along with aji(a type of chili), red onions, corn kernels, and sweet potato. The vest version of this dish is found in Lima and near the coasts.

Aji de gallina( chicken dish)— A dish in bright yellow color and covered with a velvety sauce made out of peanuts and chili. The main ingredient is chicken and condensed milk. Aji de gallina is served with potatoes and rice with a boiled egg on top sometimes.

This is the same yellow sauce, typical of Peru, though this time I am eating it on top of a block of boiled and mashed potatoes. It was yum.

Guinea pig locally known as cuy — 

Cuy is a delicacy in Peru, and the pig is roasted over the fire. I never tried it and will not even in the future for I am now a weird vegetarian who only eats fish. But people say that the cheeks of this guy are delicious. But how can you?

Lomo Saltado (beef steak)— Again I never tried it but this is soy-marinated beef served with onions, tomatoes, and aji along with rice and fries. Travelers ran to the restaurant on the mention of Lomo saltado.

Chicharones — Fried chicken and lamb and beef and pork.

Chicha — Chicha is juice made with purple corn and cinnamon, cloves, apple, and pineapple or some other fruits are added to enhance the flavor. This juice is yum, and you can buy it on every corner in most of the cities of Peru. I used to fill a bottle with it and drink throughout the day. Oops.

Anticuchos — Cow heart marinated and then cooked over a barbeque. Peruvians say it is delicious but I have never eaten a cow in my life. Well, my father had two cows at home, and though I was scared of them how could I eat someone I grew up with?

Rocoto Relleno — A pepper stuffed with minced meat inside.

Fried Yuca — A sweet potato that is fried or shallow-fried, sometimes with cheese. Served in pieces or on cheese sticks. Yummy, and oh, fattening.

Papas Rellenas — A fried, stuffed potato with the stuffing of mashed potato, meat, and egg. I had this and it was yum.

If you are in Lima, have a look at this Lima old town walking tour by Lonely Planet that takes you walking through the old and new parts of the city with a local who explains the history, and recommend the local food and drinks. 

Vegetarians might have a difficult time in Peru as I found that mostly all the courses of a meal had at least one type of meat in them. But I also found a lot of soups that were just made out of quinoa. In the traditional Peruvian food, the main course is generally fish or chicken or beef or pork. So what do you do then? I say stick to soups or go to a chifa restaurant and ask for a vegetarian stir fry. Chifa is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine and is mouthwatering.

Also, don’t forget to ask your attendant about the presence of meat and egg in each dish separately, because sometimes people in South America don’t count egg or chicken as meat. They are not to be blamed for their eating habits are different and there is the language barrier.

You can also cook your own food for a majority of the hotels and hostels and homestays came with a fully-functional kitchen. Peru has a rich collection of vegetables and fruits and cooking there was a lot of fun.

Enjoy Peruvian cuisine and flavors.

Go to the local markets on the islands and in the cities, look for fried trout near lake Titicaca, dine at trendy Peruvian restaurants, try food from streetside stalls, buy yuca sticks and empanadas wherever you see them, and bite into some purple and pink potatoes.


A hearty chicken soup in Puno.


Fried trout with glazed bananas somewhere in Cusco.


Look at the assortment of spices at a market in Cusco!

Additional Information:

Visit Peru tourism official website if you are looking for some specific information. You can also find travel information by sending a Whatsapp message to944492314, an online service launched by iPeru.


I hope you have enjoyed this 10,000-words-long guide to Peru. As always, I have tried my best to tell you everything that you need to know as a traveler about Peru. But I have also covered a lot of information that you should have about the nation of Peru before traveling to the country.

Enjoy your journey, for Peru is a nation like none other. Let me know how it goes!



Did you like my Peru travel guide? If you have any questions, leave a comment. I always reply.


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25 thoughts on “Backpack Peru – With My One-Stop Travel Guide”

  1. Hey Priyanka, I loved reading your blog. Peru is a beautiful place but I never get a chance to visit yet. After reading this blog, I am all set to visit Peru this vacation. I’ll read this backpacking guide again when I’ll pack for my Peru vacation as I am not good at packing and I always end up packing unnecessary items in my bag. Thanks for sharing this travel guide to Peru.

  2. Great post! I’m hoping to visit Peru next year so this is super helpful! I want to visit Macchu Picchu but also want to visit some more of the country too! This has definitely given me some great ideas

    • Thanks Amy for your great comment. There is a lot more in Peru apart from Machu Picchu and you will surely enjoy your trip to Peru. Enjoy.

  3. Dangggg girl, that is a comprehensive guide! SO many good things in Peru and I was fortunate enough to be able to do many of these things!

    I had some amazing Peruvian food during our Salkantay Trek and spent soooo much time shopping at all the markets — really enjoyed my time there!

    • Thank you, Angela, for your appreciative comment. It made my day. I know Peruvian food is delicious and the markets can’t be more colorful.

    • Yay. That is why I write detailed posts so that people know the places in and out, well as much as they can from a distance by reading an article. I hope you visit soon and enjoy Peru 🙂

    • Thanks for the lovely comment and for sharing my guide Leslie. Enjoy your trip to Peru. Do let me know how it goes 🙂

    • Thank you, Sue, for your nice comment. I am thinking of creating an e-book out of my South America trip. Let’s see.

    • Yay. thanks Kasi. Your gracious comment means a lot. Chile is lovely and I really enjoyed my time there. Do visit Peru and let me know how it goes.

  4. I am impressed because I know how much work these types of posts are! I am saving this for when I go back to Peru. I only did Inca Trail so I have SOO much more to see in this country. Thanks!!!!


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