Immerse yourself in the culinary delights, outdoor wonders, and cultural traditions of Peru during this 19-day trip. Start in the city of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you'll witness 16th-century monuments and take a food tour filled with Pisco sours and Peruvian sweets. Visit the city of Arequipa, which gets its "White City" nickname from buildings made of white volcanic stone, and explore the culturally rich islands of Lake Titicaca. See archaeological sites in the city of Cusco, such as the Coricancha or "Temple of the Sun." Then, do a hike of the Inca trail, which will give you sweeping scenic views and access to ancient ruins and landmarks, including Machu Picchu.

Highlights

  • Explore Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 
  • Visit the city of Arequipa made of white volcanic stone
  • See Cusco's Coricancha or "Temple of the Sun"
  • Hike the Inca Trail to see Machu Picchu

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival at Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City & Food Tour Lima
Day 3 Day at Leisure in Lima  Lima
Day 4 Lima to Arequipa Arequipa
Day 5 Free Day in Arequipa, Optional Tour of the Sillar Route Arequipa
Day 6 Free Day in Arequipa, Optional Tour of Colca  Arequipa
Day 7 Arequipa to Puno Puno
Day 8 Lake Titicaca: Uros & Amantani Islands

Amantani Island
Day 9 Taquile Island, Return to Puno Puno
Day 10 Puno to Cusco Cusco
Day 11 Full Day in Cusco Cusco
Day 12 Free Day in Cusco, Optional Tour of Maras and Moray  Cusco
Day 13 Inca Trail Day 1: Cusco to Yuncachimpa Inca Trail
Day 14 Inca Trail Day 2: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha Inca Trail
Day 15 Inca Trail Day 3: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna Inca Trail
Day 16 Inca Trail Day 4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 17 Free Day in Cusco 1/2 Cusco
Day 18 Free Day in Cusco 2/2 Cusco
Day 19 Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Photo taken by Lourdes E
The Cathedral of Lima (photo by Lourdes E)

¡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. 

Settle into your hotel before sitting down to a delicious meal. With some of the worlds' top restaurants and an eclectic mix of culinary styles, there is no shortage of delightful and exciting dining options. 

Day 2: Lima City & Food Tour

Lunch at Amaz | Photo taken by Katie H
A Peruvian lunch (photo by Katie H)

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: Day at Leisure in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor

Take today to explore Lima at your leisure. 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, as well as pieces of erotic art.
  • 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 4: Lima to Arequipa

Misti, a stratovolcano near Arequipa

This morning, you will be transferred to Lima Airport to catch your flight to Arequipa. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted, transferred to your hotel and then given time to settle in. 

Arequipa is located at an altitude of 7,627 ft (2,325 m) in the stark mountains of the Andes. This beautiful city is almost completely built out of Sillar, a type of white volcanic stone, hence Arequipa's nickname as the "White City." With its one million inhabitants, Arequipa is the second-biggest city in Peru, with over twice the population of Cusco. 

Depending on your arrival time, suggestions to make the most of your day include:

  • Admire the Iglesia de la Compania, an elegant Jesuit church with a beautifully carved facade that rightly ranks among Arequipa's main attractions.
  • Visit the colonial Monasterio de Santa Catalina to explore a large complex of rooms, secret plazas, and ornate gardens.
  • Explore the traditional district of Yanahuara, with its beautiful plaza and brilliant views of the volcanoes El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu.
  • Grab a snack or sit down for a meal at one of Arequipa's many street vendors or restaurants for a taste of one of Peru's most interesting regional cuisines. For a real taste of the Peruvian south, try the anticuchos—skewered beef heart served with potatoes, a popular snack that dates from the time of the Inca.

Day 5: Free Day in Arequipa, Optional Tour of the Sillar Route

Cerro Colorado, also known as Rainbow Mountain

Have breakfast at your hotel, then you have a full day ahead of you to spend as you please. You can continue exploring Arequipa, or check out an optional tour of the Sillar Route that is about 45 minutes away from the city. 

Sillar is the origin of the architecture of the White City, and its tourist route is developed in the district of Cerro Colorado. In addition to the natural landscapes of the area, you can observe the process of extraction, styling, and megatallado of the ashlar.

Day 6: Free Day in Arequipa, Optional Tour of Colca 

Watch condors soar over Colca Canyon

After having breakfast at the hotel, you have another day of leisure ahead of you in Arequipa. There are also a few options for a day excursion to Colca

The first is a tour of Colca Valley, going up the foothills of Chachani volcano and admiring the Misti and Picchu Picchu Volcanoes. Then, you'll cross the vicuñas reservation of Pampa Cañahuas where you can see them running free in the high Andean lands. You can visit thermal baths before heading back to Arequipa.

The second tour option is going to Condor Cross viewpoint. The condors are large Andean birds on the brink of extinction and are a symbol of the Andes Mountain Range. The view at Condor Cross allows you to appreciate the canyons depth, considered as one of the deepest in the world. You will then visit the towns of Maca and Yanque which still have colonial churches.

Day 7: Arequipa to Puno

Photo taken by Ayca A
Boats docked in Puno (photo by Ayca A)

You will start the journey overland to your hotel in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. Although many bodies of water exist at higher elevations, Lake Titicaca's surface elevation of 12,507 ft (3,812 m) makes it the highest lake in the world that is navigable by large commercial vessels.

Lake Titicaca is a hotbed of ecological diversity, archaeological ruins, tourism, and modern-day farming communities. The coastline outside of Puno is home to the Uros people, who live on floating reed islands made from the totora plant, a thick buoyant reed. Totora is used to make everything from homes and boats to the islands nearly half the size of a football field. The Uros people offer guided tours to their homes and sell traditional handicrafts to supplement their traditional hunting and fishing economy. 

Several other ethnic groups, most notably the Quechua and Taquileños, inhabit several of the other larger islands on the lake, the majority of which have no electricity or paved roads. Visitors are welcome to select homes on this island for homestays. 

Photographers and naturalists will enjoy seeing some of the many hundreds of aquatic and bird species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. 

It's a good idea to take it easy on your first day and get used to the elevation. Drink lots of water and make sure to rest. After arrival, check out some of the town's restaurants and cafés for a fresh and local dining experience. 

Day 8: Lake Titicaca: Uros & Amantani Islands

Amantani Island

Get an early start today for your exploration of Lake Titicaca's vibrant communities. After a 7:30 am pickup, head to Puno Bay to set sail for the floating reed islands of Uros. The Uros people, who have been constructing reed structures for hundreds of years, offer guided tours to their homes and sell traditional handicrafts to supplement their traditional hunting and fishing economy. These floating islands provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the lake as well as the impact of tourism on cultural heritage. 

After your visit to Uros, continue your journey to the island of Amantani for a delicious homemade lunch. Afterward, stretch your legs on a relaxing hike around the rocky island and enjoy spectacular views of Lake Titicaca. In the evening, join your homestay family for a demonstration of local songs, dances, and traditional clothing.

Day 9: Taquile Island, Return to Puno

Taquile Island

In the morning, after a simple but delicious breakfast, depart Amantani and head to Taquile. You will have most of the morning and early afternoon to enjoy this island and exploring its beautiful landscape and communities. 

Grab lunch at a local restaurant—quinoa soup, fresh fish caught in the lake, and vegetables are a typical lunchtime meal in Taquile. This island remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and as a result, the Taquileños follow a very different way of life. On the island, decisions are made communally, there are no cars, and there is very little electricity—just the way the Taquileños like it. Taquile is also famous for the exquisite weavings created by local artists. Traditionally, the men spin the thread and the women design and weave each piece. You'll have the opportunity to learn about the lives and traditions of the Taquileños and appreciate the stunning views of Lake Titicaca from the island's shores. In the afternoon, head back down the 535 stairs that will lead to the dock to board the boat back to Puno.

Arrive in Puno in mid-afternoon with enough time to explore the port city and enjoy dinner in one of the town's many cafes.

Day 10: Puno to Cusco

Photo taken by Christine J
Cusco city view (photo by Christine J)

This morning, after breakfast in your Puno hotel, you will make your way to the bus station in order to board a tourist bus to Cusco in the heart of the Andes. The journey is approximately ten hours and is known as 'the route of the sun' because it transports travelers from the edge of Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the sun in ancient Inca mythology, to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire.

Upon your arrival in Cusco, you will be transferred to your hotel, where you can take a well-earned rest before your next activity tomorrow.

Day 11: Full Day in Cusco

Stairway to Cusco overlook | Photo taken by Marianne H
Stairway to Cusco overlook (photo by Marianne H)

Cusco 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 ft (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and 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 "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, homestyle meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, breads, vegetables, and other necessities.
  • 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 12: Free Day in Cusco, Optional Quad Bike Tour of Maras and Moray 

A view from above of Salineras, a patchwork of stone terraces used to harvest salt. 

After having breakfast at the hotel, spend the day as you please.

There's an option to go on a quad tour of Maras and Moray. Get ready for a pulse-quickening day of activity as you are picked up and transferred to Chincheros, the base from which your quad bike tour to Moray and Maras begins.

You will get instructions on how to use a quad bike before setting off across rolling green farmland for the first of the two major sights on this adventure, Moray. This is an incredible and utterly distinctive complex of stone amphitheaters developed by the Incas, with the exact reason for their construction unknown. However, historians believe the Incas built Moray to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates. Arriving at Moray in this way, you are less likely to encounter many other tourists, the majority of which hike or get their own transport to the ruins.

Your quad bike tour now continues to the salt mines of Maras, a few miles from Moray. This striking patchwork of stone pools and paths was developed by the Inca as a way of harvesting salt. Having seen Maras, return by quad bike to Chincheros for your transfer back to the Cusco

Day 13: Inca Trail Day 1/4: Cusco to Yuncachimpa

Hiking the Inca trail

Start your morning early with a 5:30 am departure from Cusco to the Sacred Valley. Stop briefly in Ollantaytambo for breakfast, then continue to the start of the Inca trail, located at kilometer marker 82. You will meet the rest of the group here before beginning the trek. 

Cross the Urubamba river and head uphill for an easy trek, a good warm-up for the following days. Reach Miskay by lunchtime and stop for a picnic by a small river. After lunch, explore the nearby archaeological site of Llactapata, then continue the hike to Wayllabamba, located at 10,170 ft (3,100 m). From here, ascend 700 ft (200 m) to Yuncachimpa, your campsite for the night. Enjoy sweeping views of Willka Weqe Mountain (Mt. Verónica) and the surrounding landscape over dinner. 

Level of difficulty: Moderate.
Hiking time: 6-7 hours.
Total distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)

Day 14: Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha

Enjoy sweeping vistas

During the second day of the hiking on the Inca trail, you are free to walk at your own pace. Meet back up with the group for short rest breaks and on long ascents, but walk the rest of the day at your own leisure. 

Start the day by trekking through the Valley of Llulluchapampa 12631 ft (3,850 m), a steep 1.8 miles (3 km) through humid woodlands. From here, follow the path for another 2-3 hours to Warmihuañusca Pass at 11,3780 ft (4,200 m). Translated as "Dead Woman Pass," this section of the hike is the most difficult part of the trail.

After a break at the summit, continue the hike down a long and steep descent toward the Pacaymayo (Sunrise) River. Cross Runkurakay pass at 10,007 ft (3,050 m) before reaching Chaquicocha, your campsite for the night. Enjoy the stunning view of the Andes Mountains from 11,975 ft (3650 m) and relax after a hard day on the trail. 

Level of difficulty: Challenging
Hiking time: 8-9 hours.
Total distance: 9.3 miles (15 km)

Day 15: Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna

Flowers along the trail

The third day on the trail brings you through a variety of landscapes and Inca architecture. You will see a change in the ecosystem as you walk into the tropical forest of Wiñaywayna. Pass by several small lakes, through small Inca tunnels, and over a couple of 12,000-13,000 ft (3,700-3,950 m) passes before reaching the Wiñayhuayna ruins. Translated as "Forever Young," this elaborately engineered site is built into a steep hillside above the Urubamba river. Two separate building complexes are connected by a series of terraces, which were used for agriculture. 

From here, the Inca stairs turn into a zigzagging trail that ascends until you reach a white, red-roofed building—your last campsite. Relax into a hot bath and let your tired muscles rest. 

Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 5-6 hours
Total distance: 6.2 miles (10 km)

Day 16: Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Agricultural terraces surrounding Machu Picchu

Today you will get a very early start onto the trail to catch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. After breakfast at 4:30 am, head back onto the trail toward Inti Punku (Sun Gate) to watch the sun come up over Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. From here, descend one hour to the archaeological ruins to arrive around 8 am. 

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 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, explore the site on your own. Walk up to the Inca Bridge, discover various buildings within the site, or climb Wayna Picchu for panoramic views. Later, catch a bus down to Aguas Calientes and soak your aches and pains away in the town's hot springs. Depart from Aguas Calientes in the afternoon, and make your way back to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, check in to your hotel for some well-deserved rest. 

Level of difficulty: Moderate 
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
Total distance: 4.3 miles (7 km)

Day 17: Free Day in Cusco 1/2

Night views of Cusco

Today is a free day to explore Cusco and the surrounding ancient ruins. Explore the narrow cobblestone streets by foot, go for a short hike in the hills outside the city, or simply relax in the mountain sun. Go for a walk in the neighborhood of San Blas—it's popular with both locals and tourists for its scenic views and colorful buildings.

Day 18: Free Day in Cusco 2/2

The city of Cusco

After having breakfast at the hotel, do anything you still would like to see while in Cusco. Additionally, you can request a tour of inside or outside the city. 

Day 19: Depart Peru

Andean children in traditional dress

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima and then connect to your international departure.

¡Buen viaje! Have a good trip!

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