Divide your time between two of South America's most beautiful countries — Peru and Bolivia — on this thrilling 9-day itinerary! Begin in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, an ideal jumping-off point for exploring ancient ruins, the Sacred Valley, and the mysterious "lost city" of Machu Picchu. Then cross the border to La Paz, sightseeing in the lively Bolivian city before day-tripping to the majestic Uyuni Salt Flats. You'll spend two days exploring Lake Titicaca, cruising in a catamaran and touring floating islands, before having one last night out on the town in the foodie hot spot of Lima.

Highlights

  • Discover ancient Inca ruins in the imperial city of Cusco
  • Enjoy the peace and natural beauty of the Sacred Valley
  • Learn about the secrets behind Machu Picchu
  • Soar high above La Paz in a cable car
  • Take once-in-a-lifetime photos at the Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Sail around Lake Titicaca and visit floating islands

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 La Paz
Day 6 Explore the Ruins of Tiwanaku  La Paz
Day 7 Cruise Around Lake Titicaca Puno
Day 8 Discover Uros & Taquile Floating Islands  Lima
Day 9 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!

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 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, 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. Finally, 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 fly back to La Paz in the evening.

Day 6: Explore the Ruins of Tiwanaku 

Sculpture at Tiwanaku
Ancient monuments at Tiwanaku

Today your guide will take you to the ruined city of Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will see the main temples, some of which are still under excavation, including the Pyramid of Akapana, Kalasasaya, and Puma Punku, and the inspiring Gateway of the Sun and Gateway of the Moon. In addition to these traditional examples of Tiwanaku's architecture, giant monoliths and figurative representations are scattered throughout the archeological complex. Their construction remains a mystery: huge stone blocks (the heaviest weigh 45 tons each!) were placed with such precision that not a single gap exists between them. In the evening, head to your hotel in La Paz to get some rest.

Day 7: Cruise Around Lake Titicaca

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

Today you'll move on to the glimmering shores of 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 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 8: Discover Uros & Taquile Floating Islands 

Reed boats in Lake Titicaca near Puno.
Reed boats on Lake Titicaca 

Today you will visit the floating Uros Islands, home to the Uros indigenous people, believed to be one of the first ethnic groups to populate the Andean region. The Uros live on manmade floating islands, constructed out of reeds from a local plant, on Lake Titicaca. Your nine-hour tour embarks from Puno by boat to one of these floating islands to learn about the life and traditions of the Uros. Following this is a visit to Taquile, a small, non-mobile island. At a local restaurant, a traditional lunch of quinoa soup and fresh-caught fish will be served, then there will be time to explore the island. Taquile is unique in that it remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and as a result, the Taquileños enjoy a different way of life. Decisions on the island are made communally, there are no cars, and there is little electricity, which is just how the residents like it. The island is also famous for the exquisite weavings created by local artists. Catch a flight to Lima in the evening and enjoy one last night in Peru.

Day 9: 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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