Witness the ancient beauty and natural wonders of Peru and Bolivia during this 9-day journey. Start in Cusco, where you'll explore the local markets, historic streets, and ancient ruins. Head to the Sacred Valley where you'll visit Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Fly to La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, and take day trips to the Uyuni Salt Flats and archaeological site of Tiwanaku. Head back to Peru via catamaran cruise ship to Sun Island, the birthplace of the Inca Empire, and finish your trip on the Uros Floating Islands and Taquile Island.

Highlights

  • Discover ancient Inca ruins and culture in the city of Cusco
  • Be dazzled by the beauty of the Sacred Valley
  • Delve into the secrets of Machu Picchu's ruins
  • Take in breathtaking views at the Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Board a catamaran and enjoy a cruise on Lake Titicaca

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima & Cusco: Free day Cusco
Day 2 Sacred Valley Tour: Pisac - Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 3 Machu Picchu Excursion Cusco
Day 4 Cusco to La Paz La Paz
Day 5 Tour the Uyuni Salt Flats La Paz
Day 6 Tiwanaku Tour La Paz
Day 7 Sun Island by Catamaran & Arrive in Puno Puno
Day 8 Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island Lima
Day 9 Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima & Cusco: Free day

A scenic shot of Cusco

In the morning, take a domestic flight from Lima 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. After arriving anc checking into your hotel, head out to discover the city. 

Remember: you will be 11,000 ft (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: 

  • Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The 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, home-style 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 2: Sacred Valley Tour: Pisac - Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes

The amazing terraces of the Sacred Valley. 

Meet your driver in the morning and head to the Sacred Valley, which contains many historical and archaeological sites, as well as small towns and textile markets. 

Your first stop is Pisac, famous for its bustling textile market. The textile artists in this area are renowned for their skill and craftsmanship. From cleaning and harvesting the wool, to creating intricate designs, the level of detail and attention in their work is unparalleled. Select from a wide assortment of colors, styles, and designs for gifts and souvenirs to take home with you. 

Stop at Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley, for a traditional lunch and a quick stop to see the remains of an Inca palace, located within the city. 

From here, head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo. The city's layout, streets, and some homes have been preserved since the time of the Inca empire. Look for single large lintel over a doorway, an indicator of importance which stems from the Inca. Explore the tranquil plaza and surrounding ruins, which offer an unparalleled view into the lives of the Inca. 

From Ollantaytambo, board the scenic train to Aguas Calientes, the starting point for many Machu Picchu adventures. Stroll around the small town, grab some lunch, and relax in the healing hot springs. Get a good night's rest—tomorrow is a big day!

Day 3: Machu Picchu Excursion

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 7,970 ft (2,430 m) and is a masterpiece of engineering that served as a sanctuary and retreat for the Inca 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 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 the citadel on your own, then take the bus back to Aguas Calientes and grab lunch in the picturesque town center. Connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and your connecting transfer back to your hotel in Cusco.

Day 4: Cusco to La Paz

Mount Illimani in La Paz

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bolivia. Today, you'll have your breath taken away at 12,000 ft (3,658 m) above sea level in La Paz. A colorful jumble of tradition and modernity where cholitas (Bolivian women in typical dress) travel in the world’s most modern urban gondola system, this one-of-a-kind city is a travelers' favorite. 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 with a cable car ride, taking in panoramic views of La Paz.

Day 5: Tour the Uyuni Salt Flats

Rusting train cars at Uyuni Salt Flats

It's an early start today as you head to El Alto International Airport for a short flight to the southern town of Uyuni, the gateway to the Uyuni Salt Flats and Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. You'll be picked up from the airport, and the journey will begin with a short visit to the famed train cemetery. It's full of rusting train cars that were once used to transport cargo and passengers to and from Uyuni.

You'll then continue to the salt-harvesting village of Colchani to see how locals harvest and produce salt. Later, you will reach the vast Uyuni Salt Flats. Visit Incahuasi Island, covered in enormous cacti, and enjoy amazing views of the flats. Watch an unforgettable sunset in the middle of the endless expanse of glittering salt and before returning to La Paz.

Day 6: Tiwanaku Tour

Tiwanaku

After breakfast, travel to Tiwanaku, known as "the Cradle of American Man." This archaeological site is among the oldest in Andean history. Located near Lake Titicaca and partly surrounded by mountains and hills, the ancient city was built almost 13,000 ft (4000 m) above sea level, making it one of the highest urban centers ever constructed. Tiwanaku reached its peak between roughly 500 and 1000 CE when the population reached at least 10,000 people.

Only a small portion of the city, organized in a grid plan, has been excavated. You’ll visit the Pyramid of Akapana, the Temple of Kalasasaya, and the Door of the Sun. You will also have the opportunity to observe examples of ancient craftsmanship, including pottery from ceremonial vessels to incense burners.

Finally, you will return to La Paz, where you will be dropped off in the beautiful San Francisco Square near Sagárnaga Street. 

Day 7: Sun Island By Catamaran & Arrive in Puno 

A catamaran cruise ship

Early in the morning, transfer to Copacabana Sanctuary for a brief guided visit. At the Copacabana harbor, you will board the catamaran cruise ship to sail to Sun Island, the birthplace of the Inca Empire. On this legendary island, you will visit the Inca Garden, Stairs, and Fountain. The itinerary continues with a visit to the Inti Wata Cultural Complex which includes two underground museums of archeology and anthropology, the Traditional Medicine and the Titikaka Reed Shipbuilders Display Centers, the Pachamama Agricultural Inca Terraces, a handicraft display, the Intica Lounge, and the Manco Capac which is home to a variety of Andean camelids.

The Inti Wata Complex is the main private tourist attraction in Bolivia and includes a unique sailing experience onboard a huge Titicaca traditional reed vessel for a panoramic visit to the Pilkokaina Inca Palace.

Afterward, board the catamaran cruise again to sail back to Copacabana while enjoying a buffet lunch. After getting back on land, you'll transfer to the city of Puno, arriving in the evening.  

Day 8: Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island

Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning: this full-day tour will last around nine hours. 

Your first stop will be to one of the floating Uros Islands. It is believed that the Uros were one of the first ethnic groups to populate the Andean region. The Uros people live on man-made floating islands, which are constructed out of the totora reeds that grow in abundance around the lake. During your visit to these islands, you'll learn about their everyday life and traditions.

After your visit to the floating island, you'll head to lunch at a local restaurant on Taquile Island. Quinoa soup, fresh fish caught in the lake, and vegetables are a typical lunchtime meal on Taquile. Afterward, explore the island: it's remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and as a result, Taquileños follow a specific way of life. On the island, decisions are made communally, there are no cars, and there is very little electricity—just the way the locals 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. 

In the evening, walk back to the main dock in Taquile and board a boat back to Puno. Then head to Juliaca airport for your flight to Lima, where you'll be transferred to your hotel.

Note that visiting Taquile requires a strenuous climb up 500 steps to the main part of the island. Elevation ranges from around 12,000 feet at the lakeshore up to more than 13,000 feet at the highest point.

Day 9: Depart Peru

A pretty street in Lima

Today is your last day in Peru! You will transfer to the airport from your hotel, where you will catch your international departure. ¡Buen viaje!

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