From the Nazca Lines to Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, and Machu Picchu, this 14-day itinerary takes you to Peru's major highlights. Spend some time exploring Lima before heading to the colonial city of Arequipa to explore one of the world's deepest canyons. Depart for Lake Titicaca, a place rich with history, culture, and natural beauty. Finally, head to the Inca capital of Cusco and explore colorful textile markets and small towns of the Sacred Valley, ending at Machu Picchu.

Highlights

  • See Andean Condors soaring over one of the world's deepest canyons
  • Explore the culture, history, and beauty of Lake Titicaca
  • Discover the secrets of Machu Picchu's ruins
  • Explore Lima's bustling nightlife and Cusco's ancient cobblestone streets

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City & Food Tour Lima
Day 3 Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour Arequipa
Day 4 Colca Canyon Tour: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde Cabanaconde
Day 5 Colca Canyon & Puno Arrival Puno
Day 6 Lake Titicaca: Taquile - Uros Floating Islands - Puno Puno
Day 7 Arriving in Cusco: Puno - Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Tour the Sacred Valley: Cusco - Pisac - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 9 Maras & Moray Tour Urubamba
Day 10 Machu Picchu Excursion: Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 11 Into the Amazon: Cusco - Puerto Maldonado - Refugio Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado
Day 12 Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald Puerto Maldonado
Day 13 Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour Puerto Maldonado
Day 14 Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Lima's Plaza Mayor

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore. 

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire. 
  • Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family. 
  • Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts. 
  • In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls.  The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 
  • Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.

Day 2: Lima City & Food Tour

Peruvian ceviche
Peruvian ceviche

Spend the day discovering Lima through its food. With a vibrant combination of Indigenous American, African, Asian, and European culinary influences, Lima is one of the world's most impressive gastronomic and cultural centers. 

Start the day early in Lima's Historical center to visit a local mercacado—a fresh food market—to taste the local produce and sample spices, fruits, and various baked bread. Taste different types of Piscos—a high proof brandy produced locally in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. Attend a cooking class and learn how to make ceviche, a fresh seafood dish marinated with salt and lime juice, and the traditional pisco sour—a Peruvian classic.  

Stop for lunch at one of Lima's top restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal on a patio overlooking the Pacific ocean. Stroll to the bohemian district of Barranco—a popular oceanside neighborhood for artists, tourists, and locals alike—for a relaxed afternoon drinking coffee and sampling Peruvian desserts.

Day 3: Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour

Arequipa's Plaza de Armas
Arequipa's Plaza de Armas

This morning you will be transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Arequipa. Upon arrival in Arequipa, you will be greeted and taken to your hotel to settle in.

In the afternoon, you will start your city tour with an escape to the past, walking through the Monastery Santa Catalina. Then continue the visit toward to the Compañia Church, famous because of its incredible Baroque style and the colorful Cupula of Saint Ignacio. Then head to Arequipa’s Main Square, visiting its peculiar Cathedral with their Neo-renaissance style. After, head towards the traditional district of Yanahuara, with its beautiful plaza and views of the volcanoes Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu. 

After your tour, head back to your hotel in Arequipa for the evening.

Day 4: Colca Canyon Tour: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde

Start the day early with a filling breakfast at your hotel in Arequipa before setting off on a scenic drive to Colca Canyon. This drive will last around 3 hours and will take you through spectacular landscapes featuring snowcapped volcanoes and quaint Andean villages. 

As the road climbs up to the Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguada Blanca, keep your eyes open for wild vicuñas (smaller cousins of the llama) and viscachas (small chinchilla-like rodents). At the highest point of your journey, you’ll reach Patapampa Pass, located at a breathtaking 15,300 feet (4,820 m) above sea level. Here, you'll visit Mirador de Los Andes (Lookout Point of the Andes) in Patapampa. This lookout point offers incredible views of the peaks of the various volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, including the Hualca Hualca, the Sabancaya, and the Ampato. 

Next, descend down into the town of Chivay, where you’ll begin to see pre-Inca agricultural terraces that characterize the landscape of the canyon. Upon arrival in Chivay, you'll stop in the main square to enjoy lunch.

After lunch, ride to the Calera Hot Springs, renowned for the therapeutic effects of its thermal waters. You can either take a dip in the natural baths or just take in the stunning scenery.

In the evening, transfer to your hotel in Cabanaconde to rest.

Day 5: Colca Canyon & Puno Arrival

Mirador Cruz del Condor
Mirador Cruz del Condor

Early this morning, you’ll meet your guide and drive to Mirador Cruz del Condor, one of the best viewpoints over the canyon and home to the famed condors that gracefully soar on the thermal currents. The road leads past picturesque villages and pre-Inca ruins dominated by the Ampato and Hualca glaciers, both visible in the distance. Once you reach Cruz del Condor, you can stand at the viewpoint and gaze into the depths of the canyon, which stretches nearly 4,000 feet below.

You will return to Chivay where you can enjoy lunch and browse the local market before starting the journey by land to your Puno hotel. Puno is located 5-6 hours from Colca Canyon by car, and you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Andes on the way.

Puno is at a higher altitude than Arequipa, and if you haven’t already sufficiently acclimatized, it is a good idea to take it easy after arrival.

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Day 6: Lake Titicaca: Taquile - Uros Floating Islands - Puno

Explore the famous Uros Islands
Explore the famous Uros Islands

Wake up early on Taquile Island to witness sunrise over the Andes. Enjoy breakfast with your homestay family, then leave the kayaks behind with your guide (who will take them back to Llachon), and take the ferry to the Uros floating islands.

Here, you’ll have a chance to tour the islands with a local guide. The floating islands provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the lake as well as the impact of tourism on cultural heritage, both positive and negative.

After the tour, hop on the ferry to return to Puno. The ferry takes about an hour, and you’ll land in Puno with enough time to explore the narrow cobblestone streets before settling in to your hotel for the night.

Day 7: Arriving in Cusco: Puno - Cusco

Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins
Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins

In the morning, transfer to the Juliaca airport for your flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries after conquering the Killke settlement on the same location.    

Remember: you will be 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, start your exploration of the narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a walk through the plaza — if the weather is beautiful, it's a perfect place to sit on a balcony and have a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun."  The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
  • See the Cathedral, the most imposing monument in the central Plaza de Armas and a repository for Cusco's colonial art. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654. 
  • Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of Cusco. Built by the Killke people, Sacsayhuamán is a marvel of ancient architecture, a monolithic fortress built from giant blocks of stone, the origins and assembly of which remain a mystery. 
  • Discover the elaborate Puca Pucara ruins—an architectural complex of alleged military use with multiple plazas, baths, aqueducts, walls, and towers. It is believed that the entourage of the Incan emperor used it while he stayed at Tambomachay, the elaborate estate and baths nearby. 
  • Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community. 
  • Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, breads, vegetables, and other necessities. 
  • Eat dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant and sample local flavors and cooking techniques—crackling pork, pickled vegetables, seasonal flavors, bread baked in earthen ovens, roasted vegetables, and sweet donuts make for a delicious and filling meal. 

Day 8: Tour the Sacred Valley: Cusco - Pisac - Ollantaytambo

Shopping in the market in Pisac.
Shopping in the market in Pisac.

We'll leave our hotel in Cusco around 8:30 am for our drive into the Sacred Valley en route to Pisac, a village known for its traditional market and immense Inca fortress. During our visit, we will have plenty of opportunities to stop for photos as we pass terraces, irrigation canals, and picturesque mountain views.

In the afternoon, we will depart for the town of Ollantaytambo, which contains some of the best-preserved Inca architecture in the entire Sacred Valley. Roam the winding alleys and vast plazas and gaze upon a marvelous llama-shaped ruin before heading to a local hotel for the night.

Day 9: Maras & Moray Tour

Terraces at Moray
Terraces at Moray

This morning, you'll depart from your hotel in Ollantaytambo for your journey to Moray. Along the way, you'll enjoy views of the Andes' snow-capped peaks, lush yellow fields of wheat, and small villages. Upon arrival in Moray, you'll see the three famous amphitheater-like terraces made by the Incas. These terraces are carved deep into the earth in the shape of a bowl. It is believed that the Incas once used these terraces as agricultural laboratories to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops.

When you are done exploring Moray, you will head about two miles away, to the salt mines of Maras. This village is known as a former salt-producing center and is thought to date back to pre-Incan times. There are over 3,000 salt pools carved into the mountainside, that are filled daily by a stream of water. This spectacular area is perfect for you if you wish to see something different than the ruins.

After exploring Maras, return to Urubamba for the evening. 

Day 10: Machu Picchu Excursion: Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu - Cusco

After breakfast, take the local train to Aguas Calientes, the base for most Machu Picchu adventures. The ride takes you through a valley and into the Urubamba River canyon, then into the cloud forest as you near the Machu Picchu sanctuary. 

Aguas Calientes contains the train station, a craft market, restaurants, and a variety of hotels for those who prefer to spend the night at the foot of the mountain and climb it early in the day. Stop here to eat before taking the 25-minute bus ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins. 

This 15th-century Inca citadel is located at 7,970 ft (2,430 m) and is a masterpiece of engineering that served as a sanctuary and retreat for the Incan Emperor Pachacutec and his royal court. Machu Picchu, which means "Old Mountain," is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. 

Built as a seasonal residence for the Inca family, Machu Picchu was rarely home to more than 800 people, and during the royals' absence, a mere 100 servants would remain at the site to maintain the grounds. Machu Picchu was abandoned 100 years after construction and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century. 

If there's time, hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain for a bird's eye view of the citadel. Afterward, a tour guide will show you around the site and explain the different buildings and curious corners of the building complex. Approximately one-third of the site has been reconstructed into its original structure, giving visitors a sense for the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel.

After the two-hour tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes to connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and your connecting transfer to Cusco.

Day 11: Into the Amazon: Cusco - Puerto Maldonado - Refugio Amazonas Lodge

 Deep in the rainforest
Deep in the rainforest

This morning you will transfer from your hotel to the Cusco airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado.

Upon arrival at the Puerto Maldonado Airport, an agent will meet you and drive you to the local office for luggage storage. Here, all of your extra luggage will be locked away in a secure safe for more convenient boat travel. After a quick walk through the garden for a preview of rainforest plants, it’s time to pack your necessities and travel into the Amazon.

Depart from the Tambopata port on a two and a half hour boat ride, and pass through the community of Infierno Reserve. Eat a packed lunch en route, and watch as the sunlight disappears behind the dense rainforest trees. The boat will take you to your home base for the next few days, the Refugio Amazonas Lodge.

The manager will welcome you before giving you an important briefing regarding navigation and security. Then, kick back and relax for the rest of your night after a day of traveling. If you'd prefer to get in a little adventure, you can go on a night boat trip to search for caymans. From the safety of the boat, shine your headlights and flashlights onto the riverbanks to spot their red eyes reflecting in the light.

Day 12: Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald

A relaxing sunset in the Amazon
A relaxing sunset in the Amazon

After a beautiful sunrise and an early breakfast, visit a local farm to learn local cultivation techniques and sample some of the produce.  Stop at the nearby botanical garden and discover the immense variety of medicinal plants used by the indigenous people of the Amazon. 

In the afternoon,  head back to the lodge to enjoy lunch. Afterward, you will be treated to a trip in a dugout canoe to see some more local wildlife. Photographers and naturalists will love spotting Amazonian species around the water, so don't forget your camera. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery while observing tropical birds, as well as an array of flycatchers and Gray-necked Wood-Rails.

On the way back, disembark at the remains of the Fitzcarrald steamboat, where you'll learn about its history and how it became part of the award-winning film "Fitzcarraldo."

Day 13: Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour

A brightly-colored Amazonian butterfly
A brightly-colored Amazonian butterfly

Today you will explore the lush rainforest around you in a series of short guided adventure treks. Start by heading to Tres Chimbadas, located 30 minutes by boat from the lodge. Explore the lake to search for the resident family of nine giant river otters and other local wildlife, such as cayman, hoatzin, and colorful tropical birds. This tour is best done in the early morning, as otters are most active from dawn to 8 or 9 AM. 

After, walk the short 20 minutes from the lodge to the Parrot Clay Lick. Take a comfortable seat behind a secluded blind and watch hundreds of vibrant parrots and parakeets descend onto the river bank to eat the mineral-rich clay. Brightly-colored species like the Yellow-headed Amazon, Blue-headed Parrot, and Dusky Headed Parakeet love to visit this location, and late morning is an ideal time to spot them. 

Take a break for lunch, then head 20 minutes downriver to a curated ethnobotany trail tour. Designed by the staff of Centro Ñape, a communal organization which derives natural medicines from plants found in the rainforest, this educational trail is designed to explain the uses of local Amazonian plants. 

After dinner, you have the option to go for a relaxing night hike during a time when most mammals are active. Listen to the chorus of from and amphibian calls, and bring a flashlight to try and spot the small animals as they camouflage in the vegetation.

Day 14: Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima

Sunset on the river
Sunset on the river

Enjoy your last breakfast at the lodge before heading back to the port in Puerto Maldonado. You will be transferred back to the local airport for your connecting flight back to Lima. From Lima, catch your flight home. Buen Viaje!

Map

Map of Best of Peru - 14 Days
Map of Best of Peru - 14 Days