This 10-day itinerary introduces travelers to two South American countries—Peru and Bolivia—and their top cultural and natural attractions. In addition to stops at classic sights like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, the trip takes you off the beaten path to see lesser-known destinations. Visit a crimson-hued lagoon, observe wildlife at a remote flamingo habitat, ride a cable car high over La Paz, see the desert that inspired the work of the great Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, and hike with llamas in a quiet mountain landscape: these are just a few of the experiences you'll enjoy on this unforgettable adventure.

Highlights

  • Discover Cusco's ancient cobblestone streets
  • Explore the mysterious citadel of Machu Picchu
  • Catch a once-in-a-lifetime sunset over the Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Visit the highest and driest desert in the world
  • Spot three species of flamingo around the crimson-hued Laguna Colorada
  • Hike with llamas in a gorgeous Andean landscape

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Sightsee in Cusco Cusco
Day 2 Tour Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero  Aguas Calientes
Day 3 Visit Machu Picchu Cusco
Day 4 Ride a Cable Car in La Paz La Paz
Day 5 See the Uyuni Salt Flats San Juan
Day 6 Explore Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve Huayllajara
Day 7 Enjoy a Tour to Geysers & the Dalí Desert La Paz
Day 8 Cruise Around Lake Titicaca Puno
Day 9 Trek With Llamas Lima
Day 10 Depart Peru, End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Sightsee in Cusco

Looking down at Cusco

Welcome to Cusco, Peru! This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries. 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. 

Today you'll tour Cusco and its surrounding area, starting with Sacsayhuamán and Quenqo, archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals. Although the site of Sacsayhuamán was religious, the Spanish considered it a military fortress because of its location and the way it was built. From here, walk through San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community. Continue to the Plaza de Armas, where you will be able to explore the Cathedral and admire its exquisite interiors and priceless paintings. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654.
 
Just a few blocks away, you will explore one of Cusco’s most impressive buildings, Qoricancha ("The Temple of the Sun"), with interior walls once covered in gold. The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438-1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards, it became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent. Your guide will point out smaller temples dedicated to the moon, rainbow, stars, lightning, and thunder, among others. From Qoricancha, you will head to the local San Pedro Market. The locals shop at this market every day to stock up on produce and groceries. Do as the Peruvians do and sample a fresh fruit smoothie from one of the market's many food vendors.

Day 2: Tour Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero 

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

Next, you'll stop for lunch, enjoying traditional Andean cuisine at a restaurant in a beautiful setting overlooking the Urubamba River. Then head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that have retained their 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.
 
Continue to Aguas Calientes in the evening and get some rest before tomorrow's exciting excursion to one of the top attractions on the continent!
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Day 3: Visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu in the early morning
Get an early start for the easy 25-minute bus ride up to Machu Picchu. The 15th-century Inca citadel is located at 7,970 feet (2,430 meters) 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
 
Built as a seasonal residence for the emperor's family, Machu Picchu was rarely home to more than 800 people; 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 from 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, you will have time to explore Machu Picchu on your own, then take the bus back to Aguas Calientes and have a late lunch or drinks in the picturesque town center. Then ride the train to Ollantaytambo and transfer to Cusco for an overnight.

Day 4: Ride a Cable Car in La Paz

Cable car above La Paz
A cable car above La Paz

Catch a flight across the border to Bolivia! Spend the day exploring La Paz. You'll have time to explore the popular Witches' Market, where you can purchase medicinal herbs, and visit the San Francisco Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the city. You’ll see the main square, Plaza Murillo, continuing onward to the southern neighborhoods and a fascinating geological anomaly called Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) because of its bizarre, moon-like surface. End the day with a cable car ride, taking in panoramic views of La Paz.

Day 5: See the Uyuni Salt Flats

Exploring the Salt Flats of Uyuni

First thing in the morning, you'll begin an unforgettable excursion through the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Start by visiting Uyuni's small salt museum (which was constructed with salt). Then you'll continue to tour the immense white expanse of the salar, or salt flat, stopping for one-of-a-kind photo ops as you go. Then you'll walk around the otherworldly Incahuasi Island. Covered in enormous cacti, it boasts amazing views of the flats. Continue onward to the salt-harvesting village of Colchani to see how the locals produce salt.

You'll visit the famed "train cemetery" that's filled with rusting train cars once used to transport minerals and people to and from Uyuni. You'll also have a chance to around the Salt Palace Hotel, the only one in the world built entirely of salt. Watch the dazzling sunset over the salt flats. You'll spend the night in nearby San Juan

Day 6: Explore Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve

Flamingos at Laguna Colorada

After breakfast, you'll enjoy a scenic drive with views of Ollague Volcano and several lagoons — Cañapa, where you can spot flamingos, and Hedionda and Chiarcota, where you will see a variety of birds and fauna. Then you'll arrive at Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve and visit the Desert of Siloli, the highest and driest desert in the world! Next, you will arrive at Laguna Colorada, a shallow salt lake in a spectacular setting. Here, with the deep crimson lake in stark contrast to the clear blue sky and the white snow on the distant mountains, you will observe three of the world’s six species of flamingo!

Day 7: Enjoy a Tour of Geysers & the Dalí Desert

A view of the Green Lagoon

Start early today with a quick breakfast and a visit to the Sol de Mañana Geyser. As the sun comes up, you’ll walk around the geyser's plumes and steaming craters filled with boiling mud. Continue to the open-air hot springs of Polques and go for a dip! Afterward, you will visit the Dalí Desert, where the great Spanish artist Salvador Dalí found visual inspiration for his work. You’ll then see the striking Green Lagoon at the foot of two volcanoes. Finally, head back to Uyuni, passing beautiful views along the way. Catch an evening flight to La Paz and get some rest before tomorrow's excursion to Lake Titicaca.

Day 8: Cruise Around Lake Titicaca

Sunset over the lake edged with reeds used for millennia to make fishing nets.
Sunset over Lake Titicaca

First thing in the morning, transfer to Copacabana. Enjoy a brief visit to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Copacabana, then board a catamaran on the shores of Lake Titicaca and sail to the Island of the Sun. On this legendary island, known as the cradle of the Inca Empire, you'll go to the Inti Wata Cultural Complex, the Pachamama terraces, a handicraft center, and several scenic lookout points. You'll also have the chance to sail on a traditional Totora raft. Then board the catamaran again, enjoying a buffet lunch and the majestic panorama of Lake Titicaca as you travel to the port. You'll spend the night in Puno.

Day 9: Trek With Llamas

A Bolivian woman with two llamas

A unique experience awaits you on the last full day of the trip. Start the day early, setting off on a scenic drive to Atuncolla. You'll be accompanied by llamas on a guided walk through the quiet Andean landscape, eventually arriving at the light blue shimmering lagoon of Uyumayo. Board a traditional boat to cross the lagoon on your way to the Necropolis Sillustani. The dead city from the pre-Inca period is full of tombs made with volcanic stone. Your guide will lead you through the necropolis, explaining elements of the Inca and Aymara cultures. In the evening, catch a flight to Lima. Enjoy one last Peruvian dinner before the trip is over.

Day 10: Depart Peru, End of Trip

Cusco's Plaza de Armas after dark

Today the trip comes to an end. You'll transfer to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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