Discover Colca Canyon - one of the deepest canyons in the world. Here, you'll find a canyon filled with rivers, verdant forests, and an ancient agricultural tradition. During the trek, you'll have the chance to interact with friendly Andean farmers and taste the typical foods of the region. Enjoy afternoon swims in natural pools and waterfalls before camping overnight in tents in beautiful natural campsites. After your time in Colca Canyon, head to the Inca capital of Cusco and explore colorful textile markets and small towns of the Sacred Valley. Next, embark on the Lares Trek, and hike the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Top it all off with a full day exploring the iconic Machu Picchu Ruins.

Highlights

  • Explore Peru's famous Colca Canyon in four days
  • Swim in the natural pools in Sangalle deep in the canyon
  • Catch sight of high-flying condors and other wildlife
  • Hike the Lares Trek & the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  • Spend a day immersed in the history of the fabled sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour Arequipa
Day 3 Colca Canyon Trek Day 1/4: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde - Llahuar Llahuar
Day 4 Colca Canyon Trek Day 2/4: Llahuar to Fure Fure
Day 5 Colca Canyon Trek Day 3/4: Fure to Sangalle Oasis Sangalle
Day 6 Colca Canyon Trek Day 4/4: Sangalle - Cabanaconde - Arequipa Arequipa
Day 7 Arrival in Cusco: Arequipa - Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Cusco City Tour Cusco
Day 9 Lares Trek Day 1/2: Huacawasi to Ipsaycocha Lagoon Ipsayccasa Lagoon
Day 10 Lares Trek Day 2/2: Ipsaycocha Lagoon - Patacancha - Pumamarka - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 11 Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 12 Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 13 Departing Cusco  

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: 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 3: Colca Canyon Trek Day 1/4: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde - Llahuar

Condors flying over Colca Canyon
Condors flying over Colca Canyon

Get an early start for your 3 am pick up from your hotel in Arequipa. After driving through scenic mountain scenery, you'll arrive at Cruz del Condor by 10 am. You'll have the chance to take a break and walk to a viewpoint to see condors in flight. You'll continue driving for a couple of hours as you take in views of the canyon on your way to Cabanaconde. From the mountain town of Cabanaconde, you will begin your trek at the trailhead.

Your hike will take you to spectacular vantage points of the Colca Canyon and also to the spectacular Oruro waterfalls. After a 5-hour trek, you will arrive at Llahuar, a typical village perched at 2,100 meters. In the afternoon, relax in the village's thermal baths, or take advantage of the surrounding alpine lakes and go fishing at sunset. After dinner, rest in camping tents.

Accommodation: Camping

Day 4: Colca Canyon Trek Day 2/4: Llahuar to Fure

Terraces leading down into the Colca Canyon
Terraces leading down into the Colca Canyon

After breakfast, you'll begin a 4-hour trek towards Fure where you'll pass by the small town of Llatica. Once you arrive at Fure (2,800 m), you'll stop for lunch. In the afternoon, it's another 2.5 hours of hiking to the base of the Oruro waterfalls. This is a great place for photos and a quick rest. After dinner, you'll spend the night in camping tents.

Accommodation: Camping

Day 5: Colca Canyon Trek Day 3/4: Fure to Sangalle Oasis

Sangalle Oasis in Colca Canyon
Sangalle Oasis in Colca Canyon

After breakfast, you'll begin a trek to Sangalle, known as "the Oasis". Along the way, you'll have the chance to stop and look at the local plants with your guide and learn more about Andean vegetation. You'll arrive at Sangalle, a place built by a small community of Andean farmers, to have lunch.

After lunch, enjoy a refreshing dip in the natural swimming pools. The temperature in the pools is around 64ºF (18ºC). After a relaxing afternoon, take a walk at sunset while dinner is prepared for you. Camp overnight in tents to experience Andean mountain life.

Accommodation: Camping

Day 6: Colca Canyon Trek Day 4/4: Sangalle - Cabanaconde - Arequipa

Scenery near Cabana Conde
Scenery near Cabana Conde

Today, you'll leave very early from Sangalle (about 5:00 am) to start your ascent to Cabanaconde. Today is your most challenging day of hiking because you'll be following a steep zigzag path that takes approximately 3 hours to climb. It is a long but rewarding journey. Once you reach the lookout mountain peak, begin walking down a steep trail that leads you to the town of Cabanaconde.

After a satisfying meal in Cabanaconde, we'll hop on a bus for our return to trip to Arequipa. We'll arrive in town at about 5:00 pm. 

Accommodation: Local hotel

Day 7: Arrival in Cusco: Arequipa - Cusco

Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins
Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins

After breakfast, head to the Arequipa airport for your transfer 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: 

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Eat lunch 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: Cusco City Tour

View of Cusco's Plaza de Armas
View of Cusco's Plaza de Armas

Today's tour will begin at the local San Pedro Market. The locals shop at this market every day in order to stock up on produce and groceries making this market experience as authentic as Peru gets. The market is located indoors and includes many different food stalls and vendors. Be sure to try their endless selection of fresh fruit smoothies, which are the perfect refreshing treat.

From the market, you will head to the most important temple of the Inca Empire, the Sun Temple, known as Qoricancha. Here, you can observe detailed and intact architecture, and within the temple, you will see smaller temples dedicated to the moon, rainbow, stars, lightning, and thunder, among others.

From Qoricancha, you will walk to an important religious site called Sacsayhuaman, which features immense stones. Although the site was religious, the Spanish considered it a military fortress because of its location and the way it was built. After your tour, head back to your hotel for some rest.

Day 9: Lares Trek Day 1/2: Huacawasi to Ipsaycocha Lagoon

View of the Urubamba Mountain Range from the Lares Valley in Peru
View of the Urubamba Mountain Range from the Lares Valley in Peru

You will be picked up very early from your hotel in Cusco to head to Huacawasi (Lares). Here, you'll learn about the local custom and traditions, many of which have remained unchanged since pre-Incan times. After this you will begin the trek, gradually ascending and passing by small populations that still use the very colorful clothing of their ancestors, as well as their herds of llamas and alpacas.

After ascending for approximately 3-4 hours, you will arrive at the highest point of the trek- Ipsayccasa (4,450 m). Here you will rest and take in the view of the snow-capped mountains, including the towering Nevado Verónica (5,750 m). After you are rested, you will descend to the Ipsaycocha Lagoon (4,350 m), a small lake with an abundance of high-altitude birds, including the Andean goose, the Puna ibis, and other aquatic birds that soar through the mountains. You will camp here, close to the lagoon of Ipsaycocha.

Accommodation: Camping

Day 10: Lares Trek Day 2/2: Ipsaycocha Lagoon - Patacancha - Pumamarka - Ollantaytambo

Village of Ollantaytambo
Village of Ollantaytambo

Enjoy an early breakfast surrounded by the mountains and the lagoon in all their splendor. Today, you'll start your trek with a descent toward the community of Patacancha (3,750 m), which is an ancestral community characterized by its woven textiles and rich culture. From here you will take a local vehicle for approximately 30 minutes to the archaeological site of Pumamarka (3,750 m), known locally as “The Pueblo del los Pumas” (The City of the Pumas), a mystical and magical place overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

After your visit to Pumamarka, you will have a delicious lunch and a nice rest. After lunch, you will start hiking again on one of the original Inca Trails. On this trail, you'll be treated to a number of archaeological sites, incredible landscapes, and impressive views. Your journey will end in the village of Ollantaytambo, where you'll check in to a local hotel and get some well-deserved rest.

Day 11: Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes

The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna
The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna

Early in the morning, we will take the train from Ollantaytambo to Km 104 where the short Inca Trail starts. By train, we see how the valley turns into a canyon and the scenery begins to alter as the cloud forests appear on our approach to Machu Picchu. We will disembark the train at Km 104 and start the hike along a challenging uphill path. 

Start the trek to your first archeological site—Chachabamba. This beautiful site is very well preserved thanks to its location in the valley and was likely used for religious purposes and as a gatekeeping point for this entrance to Machu Picchu. 

From here ascend for 3 hours to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna (2732 m / 8964 ft), an ancient rest area for travelers on the Inca trail. Here, we'll stop to enjoy our delicious boxed lunch, with superb views of the massive green mountains and native orchids.

The trail then becomes gentler and continues through the semi-tropical cloud forest to Intipunku (Sun Gate) where you'll enjoy your first panoramic views of Machu Picchu. Descend half an hour to the citadel for a short break and an opportunity for photos.

We won't be exploring the ruins today, as it will be getting dark. After passing through the Sun Gate, we'll cross the site to take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where you'll check into our hotel to rest and relax in anticipation of a full-day visit to Machu Picchu tomorrow.

Maximum Altitude: 2732 m / 8964 ft                     
Minimum Altitude: 2088 m / 6850 ft
Distance Travelled: 10.79 km / 6.67 ml (to Inti Punku)  
Approximate Walking Time: 7 hours

Day 12: Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Explore the ruins at Machu Picchu
Explore the ruins at Machu Picchu

Get an early start to beat the crowds and get the best views of the ancient ruins. From Aguas Calientes, it's an easy 25-minute bus ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins.

This 15th-century Inca citadel is located at 7,970ft (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 due to the Spanish conquest 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 for the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel. 

After the tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes for lunch and then board the train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, meet your driver for your transfer back to Cusco.

Day 13: Departing Cusco

Evening view of Cusco's Plaza de Armas
Evening view of Cusco's Plaza de Armas

This morning, depart your hotel in Aguas Calientes and make your way to the train station for your train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival, take some time to explore this ancient town, then transfer to the Cusco Airport for check in to your homeward-bound flight. ¡Buen viaje!

Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019