• Claire

EPIC 1 Month Backpacking PERU & BOLIVIA Itinerary!

Updated: Jun 16

South America has long been on my bucket list and I knew I had to take the opportunity to spend some time in the continent while I was relatively close in Central America - so I booked flights in and out of Lima, Peru with just under a month in-between. I arrived in Peru with 28 days and virtually zero plans, ready for an epic adventure.



Unfortunately, a fair amount of my time in South America was marked by sickness. For the first two weeks, I was sick with the flu/throat infection and towards the end of my trip, I got struck with food poisoning. I tried not to let this stop me from doing everything I wanted to do, but I did miss out on a couple of things like hiking the Colca Canyon in Arequipa and taking a dune-buggy ride/sand-boarding in Huacachina. However, I still had a great time and LOVED South America. Bolivia has since become one of my favourite places in the world.


I began my trip in Lima, Peru and made a kind of loop down the Peruvian coast, into Bolivia and back up to Cusco before flying out of Lima. I packed a lot into my 28 days - there's just so much to do in this region. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to make it to the Amazon Rainforest - but that just gives me an excuse to come back!


Peru


I arrived in Lima, Peru in mid-February. February is the quietest month of the year for tourism in Peru as it is the height of the rainy season. I realised this after I'd booked my flights and I was worried that the rain would interrupt my trip. But it actually ended up being great! - I only experienced a couple of rainy days during the month, there were a lot fewer tourists and many hostels/activities were discounted! I arrived in Lima, Peru with two nights of accommodation booked and just kind of winged it!


Lima (2)


One of my first interactions in Peru was with the sleepy, non-English speaking taxi driver that picked me up from Lima International Airport at 4 am in the morning. The one-hour-long ride consisted of me waking him up every time he fell asleep at a red light. Thankfully, I made it to my hostel in Lima's Miraflores neighbourhood in one piece.


Interestingly, Lima is the world's second-biggest city in the middle of a dessert (after Cairo, Egypt), although, in the midst of the urban sprawl, you could never tell. I had one full day in Lima and spent it taking a free walking tour around the city. While the tour was informative, Lima was just too much of a big, dirty city for my liking.


I stayed at Pariwana Hostel which is in a perfect location in Lima's Miraflores tourist district.


Lima, Peru

Paracas (2)


My second stop was a four-hour bus ride south of Lima to Paracas. Paracas is a beach town which is the setting-off point for tourist boat tours to the to 'the poor man's Galapagos' a.k.a the Ballestas Islands. There's not much to do in the town itself, but the boat tour is really worthwhile. The Ballestas Islands are an uninhabited reserve home to sea lions, pelicans and Humboldt penguins. The boat trip takes you past a huge prehistoric geoglyph of a candelabra etched into the side of the sand dunes and gets you close to the wildlife without actually leaving the vessel.


I stayed at Kokopelli Hostel in Paracas.


Ballestas Islands, Peru

Candelabra, Paracas


Ica / Huacachina (1)


The city of Ica is an hour south of Paracas and a short taxi ride will get you to into the desert oasis of Huacachina. Aside from getting a pretty epic Instagram snap from the top of one of the surrounding sand dunes, you can also go sand-boarding or take a buggy thrill ride here - apart from that there's not much else to do in this tiny town and I wouldn't really recommend staying for more than one night.


I stayed at the Wild Olive Guesthouse hostel in Huacachina.


Huacachina, Peru

Huacachina, Peru


Arequipa (3)


I was quite sick in Arequipa so I didn't do very much during my three days here. I did really like the city, the colonial feel reminded me a lot of Antigua, Guatemala. The Colca Canyon is located four hours away from Arequipa and is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Peru. It's possible to do 1, 2 or 3-day tours to the Canyon from Arequipa.


I stayed in Arequipay Backpackers hostel. It was one of the friendliest hostels I've ever stayed in!


Arequipa, Peru


Puno (1)


Puno is a city located on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca - the world's highest navigable body of water. I personally didn't really enjoy Puno that much. Most tourists use the town as a base for visiting the floating Uros Islands. I went on a half-day tour of the islands but found it to be a bit of a tourist trap.


Uros Islands, Peru

Uros Islands, Peru


Bolivia


I crossed the border from Peru into Bolivia at the Kasani migratory office, not far from the town of Copacabana. The border crossing was super easy, just make sure you get an exit/entry stamp from each country!


Peru/Bolivia Border


Copacabana (2)


Copacabana is located on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. I took a boat trip out to Isla del Sol (island of the sun) and Isla de la Luna (island of the moon) for the day. The islands are super beautiful and I really enjoyed hiking the trails through the tiny villages - even though they left me out of breath at an elevation of nearly 4,000m!


Strangely, there aren't many hostels in Copacabana. All available rooms were sold out when I tried to book so I ended up treating myself to a cheap private room in a cute family-run hotel called Hostal Florencia.


Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Bolivia


La Paz (3)


La Paz is possibly one of my favourite cities in the world. There is a ton of cool stuff to check out in the city. I wrote an entire blog post on the city and my favourite things I did there. See:


5 Top Things to do in La Paz, Bolivia | The World's Highest City


I Survived Death Road in Bolivia! Mountain-Biking Down 'The World's Most Dangerous Road'


La Paz, Bolivia

Death road, Bolivia

Death road, Bolivia

Chalcataya, Bolivia



Uyuni (3)


I caught a seven-hour overnight bus ride from La Paz to the town of Uyuni in southwest Bolivia. Uyuni is the gateway to the world-famous Bolivian salt flats. The dusty town centre leaves much to be desired but the adventure is only a short drive away.


I joined a 2 day/3 night 4WD adventure tour which took a group of us to the salt flats and through the incredible Bolivian altiplano. The scenery was so incredibly spectacular. We saw beautiful coloured lakes, wild flamingos and stunning snow-capped mountain landscapes. This trip was one of my most favourite travel experiences. I booked with a company called Quechua Connection which I would highly recommend.


Salt flats, Bolivia

Salt flats, Bolivia

Salt flats, Bolivia

Salt flats, Bolivia

Altiplano, Bolivia

Altiplano, Bolivia

Altiplano, Bolivia

Altiplano, Bolivia

Altiplano, Bolivia

Geysers at the Bolivian Altiplano

Altiplano, Bolivia


Peru


From Uyuni, I took an overnight bus to La Paz and then an overnight bus to Cusco that went via Copacabana and Puno. It was a long journey.


Cusco (7)


I had seven days in Cusco, but I would have loved to spend a lot more. There's so much to do and see in this ancient Inca Empire capital. Although my ability to sightsee was limited slightly by food poisoning, I tried to do as much as possible. I took a great traditional Peruvian cooking class and learnt how to make chocolate at a Choco Museo class. I hiked to Rainbow Mountain and Lake Humantay and did a walking tour of the city. Cusco has great nightlife and many incredible restaurants - Green Point vegan restaurant was so good. I stayed in Dragonfly Hostel while in Cusco which I would highly recommend.


Obviously, you can't visit Peru without stopping by Machu Picchu. Cusco is generally the starting place for tourists visiting this incredible wonder of the world. There are a number of ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco ranging from 5-day adventure hikes to a first-class hour-long train journey. I would have loved to do the five-day Salkantay Trek but I didn't have the time. I weighed up my options and decided to choose the 'backpacker option' and go by van to Hydroelectrica and then hike the three hours into Aguas Calientes - the tiny town near to Machu Picchu. I stayed in the Eco Packers Hostel there for a night and caught the shuttle up the mountain to the site entrance at 5:30 am in the morning. My experience at Machu Picchu was incredible and I plan to write an entire blog post about it. The remoteness and grandeur of the high altitude mountain setting and mystery of the abandoned Incan citadel were like nothing I've ever seen before.


Cusco city

Cooking class, Cusco

Chocolate making class, Cusco

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Hike to Aguas Calientes, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Lake Humantay, Peru

Lake Humantay, Peru


Lima (1)


From Cusco, I took a cheap flight back to Lima and stayed one night at the Red Llama Eco Hostel before my flight to LA the next day.





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You can read more about my adventures in South America on my blog or by following either of my Instagram accounts: claire_brack / chasingafterclaire