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Peru Itinerary

Machu Picchu is an essential part of any Peru itinerary

Machu Picchu, of course

Peru was our first-ever trip to South America. We didn’t really know what to expect but ended up loving every minute of it. In our short, 10-day Peru itinerary, we saw numerous ruins throughout the Sacred Valley, the imposing Machu Picchu, islands in Lake Titicaca, and the sights of the larger cities of Cusco and Lima.

Day 1: Arriving in Lima
This day was primarily travel from the US, arriving in Lima in the evening and spending the night at the hotel airport.

Day 2: Ruins and culture on the outskirts of Cusco
Day 2 of our 10 days in Peru brought an early-morning flight to Cusco and the real start of our Peruvian adventure. The first stop on our Peru itinerary was the ruins at Sacsayhuaman in the Sacred Valley, northwest of Cusco. In the afternoon, we headed to the Living Museum of Awanakancha, a collective that features local weavers and craftspeople making indigenous items. About 25km from Cusco, they also have a large group of llamas and closely-related animals such as vicuna and alpaca. We fed the animals and watched them run wild before heading to the Sonesta Posada del Inca Yucay Hotel in Urubamba for a much-needed good night’s rest.

A visit to the Pisac market is a fun addition to a Peru itinerary

The amazing colors of the Pisac market

Day 3: Pisac and Ollantaytambo
The morning began with a 45-minute drive north to Pisac. At over 11,000 feet, the Pisac ruins tower over the valleys below. We spent several hours hiking among the footprints of the stone buildings and over the agricultural terraces before heading in to the main town. Note that if you live at sea level or aren’t in the world’s best shape, this hike could be a bit challenging (it was for us). It was a market day (markets take place on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday), so we spent a long time wandering the aisles of textiles, souvenirs, fresh produce, and meat, even trying a few fruits that don’t grow in North America.

After a stop for lunch, we drove 1.5 hours northwest to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. In the 1400s, these ruins were the Incan emperor’s estate. The storehouses and terraces are spectacularly preserved.

Days 4-5: The majesty of Machu Picchu
One day isn’t enough for Machu Picchu and, for many people, this is the most important stop in Peru, so we dedicated portions of two days to this magnificent site. In the morning of Day 4, we took Perurail to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) where we boarded the bus bound for the main archaeological site.

Machu Picchu itself is stunning and better than any photo you’ve ever seen of the ruins. After a quick break for lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, we spent much of the late morning and afternoon wandering among the buildings. In the evening, we returned to our hotel in Aguas Calientes. Day 5 of our Peru itinerary brought a similarly lovely adventure with another trip up to the ruins and several hours walking around before taking the train back to Cusco.

The city of Cusco, Peru, from above

The city of Cusco from above

Day 6: A walking tour of Cusco
Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire and receives a steady stream of millions of tourists each year for good reason. It is full of history, beautiful buildings, and good food. Spending the day wandering through the town was one of the highlights of our 10 days in Peru.

Day 7: Driving from Cusco to Puno
The seventh day of our Peru itinerary brought a long drive south from Cusco to Puno, a town at the edge of Lake Titicaca. We stopped several times along the way at various ruins to break up the journey. Our stops included:

  • Archaeological park of Pikillaqta, a pre-Incan development of the Wari peoples
  • Church of San Pedro of Andahuaylillas, a 16th century church with what is considered the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas”
  • La Raya Pass, a mountain pass with amazing views
  • Archaeological site of Raqchi, which contains the remains of the massive Temple of Wiracocha as well as 200 stone storehouses
  • Pukara, a museum and 6000-year-old archaeological site
La Raya Pass on the drive from Cusco to Puno, Peru

La Raya Pass on the drive from Cusco to Puno

Day 8: The islands of Lake Titicaca
The next stop was Puno, Peru, to visit Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable body of water in the world. More specifically, we were visiting the Uros islands and Taquile in this massive lake. From Puno, it was a 10-minute drive to the pier and an hour on the boat to the manmade islands of Uros. From Uros, we headed out across Lake Titicaca to Taquile, a nearby natural island. Our boat dropped us off on the south side and we climbed to the top, stopping for lunch along the way. At the end of the day, we headed back to our hotel in Puno.

Day 9: Sick Day
Day 9 was intended to include a flight back to Lima and some time exploring the capital city. Instead, we spent the day dealing with Lance’s food poisoning and reorganizing our flights for later in the day. By evening, we had managed to make our way back to Lima.

Day 10: Back in Lima
Since we lost a half-day in Lima due to being delayed the previous day, our time was short, so we tried to make the most of it. Our walking tour of Lima included Plaza Mayor, the main square, and the catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco. After some time strolling the malecon, it was time to board our late flight bound for the US after a great 10 days in Peru.

Travel Recommendations

Tour Operator: While we normally plan all of our trips independently, for our 10 days in Peru we went with a specialist in the region, Kuoda Travel, which offers luxury private tours in Peru. There are also some great Peru tours with Intrepid Travel or find the right Peru tour for you.

Hotels: Peru has a staggeringly broad range of accommodation options. We recommend looking at for a comprehensive selection of Peruvian lodging options.

Travel Insurance: Visiting Peru and Machu Picchu is a trip of a lifetime. Given the relative cost of 10 days in Peru, this would be one instance where we’d buy travel insurance. We bought our travel insurance from Travel Guard.

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Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru

Lima’s Plaza Mayor