See the best of Peru's culture on this 11-day itinerary, from the Inca ruins of the Sacred Valley to a family stay on Lake Titicaca. Start your exploration in Lima for bustling markets and museums, then continue to Cusco to see Machu Picchu. End the trip with a visit to Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain.

Highlights

  • Explore the ancient ruins of Cusco & the Sacred Valley
  • Experience a day with a local family on Lake Titicaca
  • Hike on the colorful hills of Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain
  • See the Machu Picchu citadel

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima - Bienvenidos! Lima
Day 2 Arrive in Cusco & Free Day: Lima - Cusco Cusco
Day 3 Cusco City Tour & Cooking Classes Cusco
Day 4 Pisac & Ollantaytambo Tour: Overnight in The Sacred Valley Sacred Valley
Day 5 Visit Machu Picchu: Sacred Valley - Aguas Calientes - Sacred Valley Sacred Valley
Day 6 Huilloc Community: Kusiruna Experience Cusco
Day 7 Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Trek Cusco
Day 8 The Route of the Sun & Arrive in Puno Puno
Day 9 Cultural Llachon Community & Visit to Uros  Llachon
Day 10 Cultural Llachon Community & Visit to the Chullpas of Sillustani: Back to Lima  Lima
Day 11 Adiós: Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima - Bienvenidos!

Lima coastline in the evening
Lima coastline in the evening

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population.

Upon your arrival at Lima Airport, you will be welcomed by one of our representatives, who will take you to your hotel in Miraflores/San Isidro. You will have the remainder of the day free to relax and get acquainted with the city at your own pace.

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. 

Depending on your arrival time, we have plenty of suggestions for you so you can make the most of your day in Lima.

Suggested activities: 

  • 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: Arrive in Cusco & Free Day: Lima - Cusco

Cusco skyline

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Cusco. Upon your arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel.

Spend the day exploring the city. Remember that Cusco is at 11,000 feet (3000 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 gentle 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: 

  • Visit the Qoricancha, 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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, bread, vegetables, and other necessities. 

  • Eat lunch/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 3: Cusco City Tour & Cooking Classes

Exploring alleyways

This walking tour will take you back in time on a trip through Inca history. You will learn about Cusco’s original urban layout, with its buildings, streets, and squares. Continuing on, enjoy an entertaining cooking class, in which an expert chef will teach how to make ceviche, followed by a delicious lunch a la carte.

The tour starts at Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, the ancient main square of the Incas, who called it Plaza Haukaypata. This was the starting point where the four main roads that connected every corner of the Empire originated.

Next, head to Plaza Regocijo, formerly known as Plaza Kusipata, where we will learn about the Incas’ day-to-day lives, their customs, activities, and the festivities that were held here.

The tour will then take us to Plaza San Francisco. Along the way, make a brief stop at the Casa de Garcilaso to pay tribute to Garcilaso de la Vega, also known as “El Inca,” a 16th-century nobleman and writer whose literary works attest to the culture and traditions of the Incas and other peoples of ancient Peru. At the Plaza San Francisco, you will see the church, the arch, and the Colegio Nacional de Ciencias, one of the oldest and most iconic schools in Cusco.

Next up is a visit to the San Pedro Market, where your guide will help you discover a wide range of traditional regional goods and observe how Cusco’s inhabitants buy and sell today. From here continue to Qorikancha, or the Temple of Gold — considered the most important Inca spiritual and religious center. This was the residence of the Willac Umuc, the Incas’ highest-ranking priest and a member of the royal family.

From here walk along the Calle Loreto to the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun, or Acllawasi. Along the way, you will learn about the techniques used by the Incas to build a wide variety of constructions. Your final destination is the neighborhood of San Blas, also known as the artisans’ quarter, with its peaceful, narrow streets. Along the way, you will make a brief stop at the famous 12-angled stone.

After your walk, head to a well-known hotel for a master class on how to make ceviche, one of Peruvian cuisine’s most iconic dishes. This is followed by lighthearted competition among the group, with the winner receiving complimentary pisco sour. 

Day 4: Pisac & Ollantaytambo Tour: Overnight in The Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

This morning you will depart from your hotel in Cusco and travel to Pisac, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Here you'll explore the ancient Inca burial grounds, irrigation systems, and astronomy centers. Next, continue to the town of Pisac located at the bottom of the valley. This town is famous for its bustling textile market. Here, you can select from a wide assortment of colors, styles, and designs for gifts and souvenirs to take home with you.

Stop for lunch, and enjoy a traditional Peruvian - Andean cuisine at a restaurant in the same Urubamba, conveniently located in a beautiful setting overlooking the Urubamba River. 

From here, head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that have retained its original Inca urban planning. Walk through the streets with Inca-era canals and view the ancient houses still in use today.

Climb the agricultural terraces where you can enjoy an Inca’s-eye-view of the valley. From the top, you’ll be able to see some of the quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. It’s amazing to think how far these large stones were transported from, especially considering the Incas didn’t have pack animals strong enough to carry them. 

Stay at the Sacred Valley for the night.

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Day 5: Visit Machu Picchu: Sacred Valley - Aguas Calientes - Sacred Valley

Inca terraces

Early in the morning, enjoy a scenic train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. This train journey is a spectacle in itself! You will be able to appreciate Peru’s immense biodiversity as you witness the landscape transition from Andean green fields to lush rainforest, descending alongside the Urubamba River.

At arrival, you will take an easy 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. 

Your guide will lead 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 of the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel. 

After the tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes and grab lunch in the picturesque town center.  Connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and your connecting transfer back to your hotel in The Sacred Valley.

Day 6: Huilloc Community: Kusiruna Experience

Spend the day with the community

Today you will visit the community of Huilloc and experience life the way that it was centuries ago.

Start your day with a pickup from your hotel, then make your way to Huilloc. Here you will be able to share an ordinary day at the Huilloc community, participating in the agricultural work at the chakra (farm).

You'll spend the day as a member of the community and will live their way of life and the ordinary life of a “Runa” (Andean farmer).  As a community member, you will dress in a typical Huilloc poncho and use traditional tools as you work in the field and the kitchen. Your experience ends with joining the ritual celebrations, with music and local dances.

Finally, you will enjoy a typical lunch and transfer to your hotel.

Day 7: Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Trek

Rainbow Mountain Palcoyo

The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain is only about 12.5 miles (20 km) from its famous sister Vinicunca. While Vinicunca attracts thousands of visitors, its smaller sister Palcoyo (16,000 ft/ 4,900m) has fewer crowds with no less beauty. This mini trek is perfect for travelers who want to view the colorful rainbow mountains in a relatively shorter and more gentle trek, and a great option for those traveling with kids.

Start the morning with an early pickup at 6:00 AM, stopping for breakfast along way. 

Your drive this morning will be along the Red River, with plenty of opportunities for photos and stops. The drive will take roughly 3.5 hours, after which you'll arrive at the starting point of the short hike. From here, the hike is approximately an hour via a short, relatively flat path. Along the way you'll see llamas, sheep, vicuñas, and alpacas. The summit lies about 16,404 ft (5,000 m) above sea level. Once you reach the top, you'll have time to enjoy the panorama and take pictures.

At this point, it is time to hike downhill.  Once you reach the bottom, start the 3.5 hour drive back to Cusco, stopping along the way for lunch.

Upon arrival to Cusco, you'll be dropped off at your Cusco hotel. The approximate arrival time is 5:00 PM.

Day 8: The Route of the Sun & Arrive in Puno

Ancient templtes

After breakfast in your hotel, make your way to the bus station in order to board a tourist bus to Puno

During the 10-hour journey you will have four excursions and guided tours to the Temple of Andahuaylillas or Sistine Chapel of America, the Inka temple of Raqchi, the Raya Pass, and the Inka Aymara Museum of Pukara. Each tour lasts 20 to 40 minutes, with time to explore on your own after. 

Upon your arrival in Puno, transfer to your hotel.

Day 9: Cultural Llachon Community & Visit to Uros (1st Day)

Enjoy a day in Uros

Your adventure begins with the pick-up from your hotel in Puno.

Board the boat and head go to Uros. It is believed that the Uros were one of the first ethnic groups to populate the Andean region. The Uros people live on man-made floating islands, which are constructed out of the totora reeds that grow in abundance around the lake. Upon your arrival at these islands, you'll learn about their everyday life and traditions.

After your visit to the floating island, continue by boat on the shimmering blue Lake Titicaca until you reach the Peninsula of Llachon. On arrival in Llachon, you are welcomed by your host families who will show us their houses and your accommodations for the night.

In Llachon the time has stood still and you can still observe the traditional way of life of the inhabitants of Lake Titicaca. In the afternoon, your family will show you the traditional fishing techniques in small rowboats. You will also get to see the peninsula with its terraces and temples. After watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca, end the evening with a hearty dinner.

Day 10: Cultural Llachon Community & Visit to the Chullpas of Sillustani: Back to Lima 

Views of the lake

After a traditional breakfast with our host family, say goodbye to your host family and head to the Lagoon of Umayo. Here you'll find tombs known as Chullpas that were built by Collas, used to bury the most important personalities of the time. 

From here, continue to the airport for your flight to Lima, then transfer to your hotel.

Day 11: Adiós: Depart Peru

Adios Peru!

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the airport, where you will catch your international departure.

¡Buen viaje!

 

More Peru Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Peru? Check out these other 11-day Peru itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen. 

Map

Map of Best of Peru's Culture: Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Titicaca Lake - 11 Days
Map of Best of Peru's Culture: Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Titicaca Lake - 11 Days