If you wish to experience the Peruvian Andes with a private guide—and a touch of luxury—then this weeklong itinerary is for you. Starting and ending in Cusco, you'll tour the area's best villages and archaeological sites, take an epic hike to Machu Picchu, and visit a lesser-known Rainbow Mountain at 15,500 feet (4,724 m) above sea level. Of course, each day includes memorable meals on family farms, top-notch restaurants, and even a special train ride to round out this quietly sophisticated adventure.


  • Cycle along a rarely-used trail in the Sacred Valley of the Inca with an e-bike
  • Accomplish the 7-mile (11 km) Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with a private guide
  • Treat yourself to a ride—and dinner—on one of the most deluxe trains in the world 
  • Learn about local markets and cuisine with one of the most fun characters in Cusco

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cusco, Andean Lunch at Piuray Lake Sacred Valley
Day 2 E-Bike Tour to Taray, Pisac Archaeology & Village Tour Sacred Valley
Day 3 Hike to Machu Picchu on the Short Trail Aguas Calientes
Day 4 Machu Picchu Experience, Hiram Bingham Deluxe Train Journey Cusco
Day 5 Explore Cusco & Sacsayhuaman, Degustation Dinner at Map Café Cusco
Day 6 Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Tour Cusco
Day 7 Market Tour & Cooking Class, Depart Cusco  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco, Andean Lunch at Piuray Lake

Meet the residents at a local farm where you'll have lunch today

Welcome to the Peruvian Andes! This is the heartland of the Inca Empire—a place of rich history and dramatic beauty where Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and Cusco are located. Upon landing at Cusco's small airport, your private guide and local host will greet you in the arrivals hall with a sign. 

After a brief introduction, you will begin the drive to the Sacred Valley where you'll stay for the first two nights. Make your way through the dramatic Andean scenery as you look for rice fields, eucalyptus forests, small Andean villages, and the imposing peaks of the Vilcabamba mountain range. Because of its elevation at approximately 9,000 feet (2,743 m) and its peaceful atmosphere, this valley is the perfect place to enjoy your first days in Cusco while you acclimatize to the altitude. 

Your next stop is the home of a local family on Piuray Lake who has set up a private lakeside restaurant in its gardens. Here you'll enjoy a tasty Andean buffet lunch based on local produce from the surrounding communities (and maybe some wine, too!). Most of the meal is cooked in a mud oven located right next to the dining area to keep you warm, with a range of local vegetables, quinoa, chilies, cheeses, and one or two different types of meat. Chances are also good that you can meet some of the family's llamas and other farm animals that are usually in the vicinity. 
In the afternoon, you can choose optional visits to one or two peculiar Inca sites in the area: Moray, with its ingenious circular terraces, and Maras, a salt-extraction complex composed of thousands of small ponds. Each place can be visited for about an hour where you'll partake in some mild walking before checking in at your hotel.

Day 2: E-Bike Tour to Taray, Pisac Archaeology & Village Tour

Visit the archaeological site and village of Pisac after a bike tour

Cycling is a fantastic way to explore the Sacred Valley, and today you will cross fields and Andean villages on a guided bike route toward Taray using high-end specialized mountain e-bikes. The full route for today is about 24 miles (38 km) long, however, it is a flexible route and, if necessary, can be shortened by starting at other villages such as Yucay, Huayllabamba, or Huito.

The first few minutes of the journey take you along the main road of Urubamba, so you must be a little careful of traffic. After this, the fun begins as you pedal along a lovely, rarely-used trail that follows the Urubamba River. This dirt track undulates between local villages and haciendas, where you can see traditional farming methods that are still in use against the beautiful backdrop of glaciated mountains and Inca ruins. This dirt trail is mostly flat with some small ascents that are easy to accomplish with an e-bike. 

Today's lunch will be served at a special place called Hacienda Sarapampa, which is an old colonial farm owned by the Sumar family that produces giant Peruvian corn that is exported all over the world. Before lunch begins, you can join a member of the Sumar family for a brief tour of the hacienda to learn about its history and how the farm works in the present day. Lunch will be served in the beautiful gardens with home-style food inspired by family traditions and based on the fresh ingredients that are obtained from the hacienda and neighboring farms.

Next is a tour of Pisac village and its archaeological site, which is one of the most renowned sites in the region of Cusco—and for good reason. The colorful old Andean village is full of shops and artisan stands that are bound to catch the eye of any visitor. You can also try a tasting empanada baked in old colonial mud ovens in the village. Moreover, on the mountain slopes just above the colonial village, you'll find the original Inca settlement of the same name, which is also open to visitors who want to check out panoramic views. 

Day 3: Hike to Machu Picchu on the Short Trail

Snag incredible views of the site at the end of the Inca Trail

Get ready today for the ultimate day hike! The short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a beautiful yet moderately challenging 7-mile (11 km) route that takes you through a cloud forest that leads to the Sun Gate—the original gateway into Machu Picchu.

Rise and shine as it will be an early start as you need to catch one of the first morning trains from Ollantaytambo to Km 104, where the trail begins. You'll then check in at the national park office and cross the Urubamba River to begin the adventure. Depending on your hiking speed and interest, there are two Inca sites you can visit on your way to Machu Picchu: Chachabamba and Wiñaywayna. However, the main highlight of today is the trail itself (and the views), so there is no need to rush to try and see everything.

This trail is mostly uphill and the first segment can take up to four hours. At Wiñaywayna, you can have a well-deserved rest with a little time to explore one of the most beautiful places on the Inca trail, which includes an impressive cascade that falls just next to the site.

To reach the Sun Gate from here, you must hike another 2.5 miles (4 km) through the forest. The last 300 feet (100 m) includes a rather steep stone Inca stairway before being rewarded with the first breathtaking glimpses of Machu Picchu from Inti Punku—the original name of the Sun Gate. Then begin the final 1.2-mile (2 km) section of the hike, which is an easy downhill walk that should only take about 35 minutes. You'll eventually reach Machu Picchu and enjoy some of the most classic views from The Guardian's Hut before heading to your hotel for a well-deserved dinner.

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Day 4: Machu Picchu Experience, Hiram Bingham Deluxe Train Journey

Spend the morning and afternoon exploring different areas of this ancient site

The wake-up call will be at dawn today if you wish to be among the first people to enter Machu Picchu, since the gates open at 6 am. Once inside, your guide will find a good spot with views to provide an initial overview. There are four possible circuits and three optional viewpoints called Montaña, Huchuy Picchu, and Huayna Picchu with varying lengths and spectacular views.

After a morning filled with pinch-me-now moments, you'll want to take a lunch break. Due to its highly inaccessible location on the top of a mountain, there are few restaurant options if you wish to spend the entire day up at Machu Picchu. The best place, by far, is Tampu, located at the exclusive Sanctuary Lodge hotel. This is an à la carte menu, which means you can choose from a wide selection of dishes as you enjoy the views.
Post-lunch, you and your guide will take the opportunity to see anything you may have missed during your morning visit. If you completed circuits one or two—otherwise known as the high circuits—then you could opt for the lower circuits and include a short hike to Huchuy Picchu. This easily accessible mountain is open only in the afternoons and offers excellent panoramic views of the site. The hike itself is about a half-mile long (less than 1 km), though it does have some steep stairways that might be a challenge if you are afraid of heights.
In the late afternoon, you'll hop aboard the Hiram Bingham Deluxe Train and celebrate your accomplishment. This is much more than just your average train ride, as the exclusive experience harkens back to the classic style of the 1920s when Machu Picchu was rediscovered by the famous American explorer of the same name. The journey includes a range of special perks, including a gourmet three-course dinner, Peruvian cocktails, and live music. Upon disembarking at the train station, private transport will be waiting to take you to your hotel in Cusco.

Day 5: Explore Cusco & Sacsayhuaman, Degustation Dinner at Map Café

Spend the last few nights of the trip in the picturesque city of Cusco

Today, after a relaxing breakfast at your hotel, you'll have a leisurely day to explore Sacsayhuaman and Cusco during a half-day tour with a private guide.

The excursion starts with a 10-minute drive to Sacsayhuaman, a vast Inca complex that looks upon the city from above. The immense stones used to build Sacsayhuaman came from a quarry located about 20 miles (32 km) down the valley, and it's baffling to imagine how they were transported. Sacsayhuaman is not only an impressive Inca site but it also offers great views of the city below. After finishing the visit, you can choose to either walk back to Cusco's main square (about 20 minutes downhill), or return in a private vehicle.

Once back in the city, your walking tour can be adapted to your particular interests. Your guide can take you through some of the most emblematic sites in the city, such as the Plaza de Armas, the Cusco Cathedral, and the Koricancha Temple. You could also enjoy wandering through the narrow streets and old neighborhoods to feel the magic of this charming city. If you're interested in visiting some less conventional places, you can go to the San Francisco Convent, which includes small catacombs and interesting art, and various cafés that offer locally grown coffee and cacao grown near Machu Picchu.

After some time to rest, it's time for a memorable dining experience at Map Café. Hidden in the inner courtyard of an old colonial manor in the center of Cusco, Map Café is one of the best restaurants in the city. The old manor, which also houses the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art of Cusco, is located next to Nazarenas Square and can easily be reached by foot from any hotel in Cusco. You'll take part in a five-course degustation menu that allows you to sample a variety of classic flavors of Peruvian cuisine enhanced with original touches from the managing chef. 

Day 6: Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Tour

Explore a lesser-visited area of the Rainbow Mountains
Thanks to their unique coloration, the Rainbow Mountains are one of the most popular must-see attractions during a holiday in Peru. The well-known Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, for example, is visited today by up to 1,000 people every morning during the high season (June to September). Vinicunca is not the only option, though, and there are other equally impressive, yet lesser-known, alternatives such as Palcoyo.

Departing from Cusco, the journey to Palcoyo takes about 3.5 hours, which is about 30 minutes more than to Vinicunca. Upon arrival, you will be rewarded with a much less crowded environment that is just as awe-inspiring and colorful. You must hike along an easy 1-mile (1.6 km) trail that leads to the mountain at a striking altitude of 15,500 feet (4,700 m) above sea level. Your guide will lead you slowly up the mountain with plenty of time to rest if necessary. During hikes like these, an oxygen tank is available in your transport just in case. 

Once at the summit, you'll enjoy the surreal landscapes with views of the Ausangate mountain range (the highest snow peaks of Cusco) in the distance. For the more adventurous travelers, it is possible to hike uphill for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to reach a small rocky viewpoint called Stone Forest because of the peculiar rock formations. After the visit, you will stop at a tranquil location for a picnic box lunch before returning to Cusco. 

Day 7: Market Tour & Cooking Class, Depart Peru

Visit the local markets with a Cusco chef and help her cook lunch

Today you will have the perfect opportunity to learn about local cuisine in Cusco with an exceptional and charismatic local chef named Seledonia Montalvo. In the morning, she will pick you up from your hotel lobby to go for a stroll through Cusco's lively markets: San Pedro and Cascaparo. Here, you'll have the chance to see the vast variety of local produce that can be obtained from this mountainous region and the nearby Amazon, such as lucuma, guanabana, chirimoya, and granadilla, to name a few. 

Once Seledonia has completed her shopping list, you'll head to her restaurant's kitchen on Ruinas Street. This is where you can test your skills at preparing some Peruvian classics, or choose to get creative and prepare something new with local ingredients. This cooking class is all about having fun, learning about local culture, and tasting some delightful treats, The activity ends with an early lunch based on the dishes you created. 

Following your meal, it's time to say farewell to Cusco. A private driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the airport so you arrive two hours before your flight departs. Hopefully, you will leave full of happy memories, new friends, and great pictures from your epic adventure. Safe travels!

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