Peru is the most complicated destination I’ve ever had to pack for – so I want to help you avoid the stress with some tips on what to pack for Peru! This country has hot coastal beaches, wet Amazon rainforest, a mostly temperate capital city, and very cold destinations in the Andean highlands. That’s not to mention the specific gear you need for the many amazing treks and camping opportunities in the mountains. So how do you fit it all in one suitcase? You have to be strategic! Here are my top tips on what to pack for Peru!
What to Pack for Peru Travel
Think layers, sporty, versatile, and practical.
My trip was a bit tricky since I travel full-time, I only always have the same things in my suitcase. I knew I didn’t have all the necessary things since I don’t often visit places that are cold enough for winter gear. But I had done my research and knew it was possible to buy a lot of things in Cusco or even rent gear. So know this is an option for you if for some reason you can’t bring everything with you, or if you end up forgetting something.
Also, if you just don’t have the space to bring a big item like a down jacket, you can rent this for the days that you need them from one of the many trekking shops in Cusco. I did this since I don’t have room in my suitcase to constantly travel with a down jacket, and it worked out great.
I stayed in Peru for 7 weeks, but I always have about a weeks worth of clothing with me, and then I do laundry at the end of each week. No matter the length of your trip, I recommend you bring clothing for 7 days. It’s really easy to do laundry anywhere in the country. In Cusco you’ll find several laundromats on every block since trekking is so common in this region and tourists end up with sweaty/dirty clothing! You can drop it off and pick it back up later in the day: cleaned, folded, and ready to go.
So here’s what you should pack in your suitcase for your trip to Peru!
You’ll want these for walking around Lima and Cusco and can pair them with a dress if you want to “dress up” a bit.
Good athletic shoes or hiking boots
One question I had before I went was – would my athletic shoes be sufficient for some of the difficult treks I’d be doing? I had booked tours to hike the Inca Trail for 2 days as well as the 2-day hike to Rainbow Mountain. My tour company advised that many people, the co-owner included, do these hikes regularly in athletic shoes and think they are sufficient.
I did both hikes in my athletic shoes and it was 100% fine. I was comfortable, didn’t feel unstable, and my feet weren’t sore afterward. Just make sure they have good treads on the bottom, are broken in, and give good support. If you have really weak ankles or are trekking during a rainy season, waterproof hiking boots might be more comfortable for you.
Teva athletic sandals (if you’re heading to beaches or the Amazon)
You only really need these if you’re heading to any of the hot areas like the northern beaches or the Amazon, or maybe Lima in their summer (January-February).
3 good pairs of long wool hiking socks
Do not underestimate the importance of good socks when heading to Peru! They make a huge difference in comfort. Remember that it’s quite cold in the highlands and warm socks will be a lifesaver.
Be sure to have 3 pairs of long warm socks – preferably wool. You’ll want to wear this on cold weather treks and to bed every single night.
4 pairs of regular socks
You might want to wear this around the city, or on warmer weather treks like the Inca Trail, etc.
1 pair of jeans
Even if you are a dress kinda girl, you’ll be mostly wearing pants and activewear while traveling in Peru. Jeans will be handy for city walks or anytime you’re not hiking.
1 pair of athletic pants or comfortable fabric pants
1 other pair of pants – either athletic pants or some comfortable fabric pants to wear on treks and layer thermal leggings underneath for especially cold places or camping in the mountains.
1 pair of leggings
Leggings will be your best friends on this trip! Pack at least one good pair.
1 pair of thermal leggings
Absolutely bring a pair of thermal leggings. You will want to wear this on especially cold treks like hiking in the Ausangate range. You might also wear them to bed every night in the highlands.
1 pair ONLY if you’re heading to beaches or the Amazon. You absolutely won’t need them otherwise.
4 versatile t-shirts
Make these shirts a mix of comfy t-shirts that can be worn layered on treks, to bed, or around the city.
1 or 2 Dresses
You might want to bring 1 or 2 dresses for a change of pace, going out in Cusco, or strolling the streets in Lima. But you really don’t need more than 1 or 2! You will most likely be dressing in active clothing for most of the trip.
Uniqlo Heattech Thermal long sleeve shirt
This is an important one! Having a warm base layer under your other layers will make you much more comfortable when hiking, camping, or sleeping in Cusco. I used a Uniqlo heat tech shirt and it worked wonderfully. It’s so small and thin, but really keeps you so much warmer and is easy to layer.
Having a warm hoodie is important in the chilly highlands. You’ll want to layer this with t-shirts and your thermal long sleeve shirt when it gets especially cold. This can also be nice to throw on as a light jacket in temperate places like Lima.
A Down Jacket
A down jacket will make you so much more comfortable during the Peruvian winter, and on highland treks. I did most of my trip without one since I don’t want to travel with one all the time. But I knew I absolutely needed one for my Rainbow Mountain overnight trek (where temperatures can get down to 10 degrees F at night!). So I rented one from a trekking shop in Cusco for the 2 days for $6 a day. It was totally worth it!
Rain jacket – and/or poncho
These are more must-haves. Even if you’re traveling in dry season, the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Don’t be caught out in the open on a trek without some protection.
Pack a lightweight rain jacket – it won’t take up much space and will keep you comfortable in a storm. Also consider bringing a big rain poncho to put overtop yourself and your backpack. This will keep you extra dry and keep your things from getting wet while you’re trekking. If you don’t have one to bring with you, you can find these for cheap in any tourist area.
A pair of gloves
Gloves will make you much more comfortable while hiking. I wore a versatile pair that was fingerless but had a mitten flap that folded over. This made it easy for me to take pictures, but then pull the flap over when I needed extra warmth.
A scarf will be a welcome layer when doing high altitude hikes or even in Cusco in the evening.
A must-have for warmth when trekking or even at night in Cusco.
Baseball hat/hat with brim
This is super important for any hikes. The sun is strong at this altitude! Can also come in handy if you’re lounging on a beach.
This is probably only necessary if you’re heading to the beaches, but there are also some hot springs in the highlands that you might want to visit after a difficult trek!
You’ll definitely want proof of all the beautiful places you go! Whether it’s your phone, or something more substantial, be sure to pack this. I like to travel with a Lumix mirrorless camera – it’s fairly small and lightweight, but takes great photos.
A portable charger like this one by Cheerois always a lifesaver for me when traveling, but even more so when doing overnight treks or long tour days. My phone will run out of battery fast when I’m taking a lot of photos, or if you’re camping in the wilderness, you won’t be able to recharge overnight unless you have one of these with you.
It’s very very dry in the highlands. You’ll want to use more lotion than normal!
Some of the highlands like Cusco are too high in elevation for bugs, but Machu Picchu is lower, and has lots of mosquitos. You’ll also find mosquitos in the Amazon and on the beaches.
The sun is strong! You’ll want to make sure to apply sunscreen often when you’re out on treks or tours.
What NOT to Pack:
The last suggestion is actually what NOT to pack. You’ll want to be sure to leave extra empty space in your suitcase before you arrive in Peru because this country has some of the most beautiful textiles in the world! You’ll be tempted to buy lots of alpaca sweaters, knit hats, colorful blankets, and other beautiful things. Do yourself a favor and leave yourself room to pick up things as you go.
And that’s it! Everything you need for a trip to Peru for any length of time.
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