Peru's spectacular scenery takes center stage on this far-reaching 15-day itinerary. Setting off from the capital of Lima, you'll discover a land of towering mountains, arid deserts, and lush cloud forests. Take to the skies to view the mysterious Nazca Lines, travel across the Andes to Arequipa, and spot soaring condors over the vast Colca Canyon. Your journey ends in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco—where you'll take a scenic train into the Sacred Valley, watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu, and hike the rainbow landscapes of Palcoyo Mountain.

Highlights

  • Tour the vibrant capital of Lima
  • View the incredible Nazca Lines by plane
  • Explore the dramatic vistas of the Colca Canyon
  • Discover the ancient secrets of the Sacred Valley
  • Visit the iconic citadel of Machu Picchu
  • Trek the "Rainbow Mountain" of Palcoyo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City Tour & Larco Museum Lima
Day 3 Bus Transfer to Nazca Nazca
Day 4 View the Nazca Lines by Air, Overnight Bus to Arequipa Arequipa
Day 5 Free Day in Arequipa Arequipa
Day 6 Colca Canyon Tour Day 1 Colca
Day 7 Colca Canyon Tour Day 2, Return to Arequipa Arequipa
Day 8 Fly to Cusco Cusco
Day 9 Moray Terraces & Maras Salt Mines Tour Cusco
Day 10 Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero Tour Cusco
Day 11 Transfer to Ollantaytambo, Train to Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes/ Machu Picchu
Day 12 Visit Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco Cusco
Day 13 Free Day in Cusco Cusco
Day 14 Palcoyo Mountain Trek Cusco
Day 15 Transfer to Cusco Airport, Fly to Lima & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima

Pacific views from Lima's Miraflores neighborhood

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Upon arrival, you'll be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel in the Miraflores/San Isidro district.

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. 

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it perfect to discover on foot. After settling in, head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants. 

Day 2: Lima City Tour & Larco Museum

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Get ready to explore Lima and all it has to offer today, with a guided tour of the city's ancestral, colonial, and contemporary influences.
 
Start with a panoramic view of the Pucllana Pyramid, a magnificent ceremonial and archeological center built in the 4th-century BCE and considered a sacred village by the Incas. Next, you'll head to the city's historic center to see its many colonial monuments and grand buildings such as the Paseo de la República, San Martín Square, the Government Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cathedral Basilica, and the City Council Palace.
 
After a visit to the Museo del Banco Central De Reserva to admire a glittering collection of gold, ceramics, and textiles from different pre-Columbian cultures, continue to the monumental San Francisco Convent to view the largest collection of religious art in America and descend underground to explore the catacumbas (catacombs).

The day comes to a close with a visit to the Museo Larco and its extensive private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Discover more than 4,000 years of Peruvian history through its vast displays of ceramics, textiles, pottery, metalware, and other excavations.

Day 3: Bus Transfer to Nazca

Travel south along the coast to Nazca
After breakfast, a transfer takes you to Lima's bus station where you'll bid the capital farewell and depart on a scenic, seven-hour journey down the coast to Nazca. Upon arrival, get checked into your hotel and spend the evening at your leisure.

Day 4: View the Nazca Lines by Air, Overnight Bus to Arequipa

Aerial view of the Nazca Lines

This morning's adventure starts with a transfer to the local aerodrome, where you'll take to the skies to view the sprawling Nazca Lines. On the 30-minute flight, you'll get the chance to see many of the ancient and mysterious geoglyphs, including the hummingbird, dog, tree, whale, lizard, and more.

The massive images, the longest of which are 1,200 ft (370 m), vary from geometric lines to figures of animals and people. Due to the stable environment of the Nazca desert, the geoglyphs—which were created by removing the top layer of iron-oxide coated pebbles to reveal the light-colored clay underneath—have been remarkably well preserved.  

In the evening, you'll transfer to the bus station and continue your journey south to Arequipa on the night bus. 

Day 5: Free Day in Arequipa

Evening view of Arequipa's Plaza de Armas
Evening view of Arequipa's Plaza de Armas

Arrive early this morning in Arequipa, 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 one million inhabitants, Arequipa is the second-biggest city in Peru, home to twice the population of Cusco. 

Some 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 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 6: Colca Canyon Tour Day 1

Today's excursion starts early, with a scenic morning drive to Colca Canyon. This drive will last around three hours and take you through spectacular landscapes featuring snowcapped volcanoes and quaint Andean villages. 

As the road climbs up to the Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguada Blanca, keep your eyes open for wild vicuñas (smaller cousins of the llama) and viscachas (small chinchilla-like rodents). At the highest point of your journey, you’ll reach Patapampa Pass, located at a breathtaking 15,300 feet (4,820 m) above sea level. Here, you'll visit Mirador de Los Andes (Lookout Point of the Andes) in Patapampa. This lookout point offers incredible views of the peaks of the various volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, including the Hualca Hualca, the Sabancaya, and the Ampato

Next, descend into the town of Chivay, where you’ll begin to see pre-Inca agricultural terraces that characterize the landscape of the canyon. Upon arrival in Chivay, you'll stop in the main square to enjoy lunch before transferring to your hotel.

The rest of the afternoon will be free to take advantage of the hotel’s amenities, enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings, and simply rest and rejuvenate for tomorrow.

Day 7: Colca Canyon Tour Day 2, Transfer Back to Arequipa 

Groupal 2D Colca Canyon Tour : Arequipa - Colca - Arequipa 2/2
Watch condors soar over Colca Canyon
Early this morning, you’ll meet your guide and drive to Mirador Cruz del Condor, one of the best viewpoints over the canyon and home to the famed condors that gracefully soar on the thermal currents. The road leads past picturesque villages and pre-Inca ruins dominated by the Ampato and Hualca glaciers, both visible in the distance. Once you reach Cruz del Condor, you can stand at the viewpoint and gaze into the depths of the canyon, which stretches nearly 4,000 feet (1,219 m) below.

Return to Chivay where you can enjoy lunch and browse the local market before starting the journey by land back to Arequipa.

Day 8: Fly to Cusco

Private Transfer Cusco Airport (CUZ) - Cusco
Fly to historic Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire

Today starts with a transfer to the airport, where you'll catch a short domestic flight 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 in the same location. After arriving and checking into your hotel, head out to discover the city. 

At 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, it takes time to adjust to the altitude—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. 

Day 9: Moray Terraces & Maras Salt Mines Tour

Maras Salt Flats
Visit the spectacular salt flats of Maras
This morning you'll travel into the famed Sacred Valley of the Inca, stopping first in Moray. Here you can marvel at the incredible series of stone terraced amphitheaters carved deep into the earth in the shape of a bowl. The exact reason for their construction is unknown; however, historians believe they were built to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates. 
 
When you are done exploring Moray, you will head about two miles away, to the salt mines of Maras. This village is known as a former salt-producing center and is thought to date back to pre-Inca times. There are over 3,000 salt pools here, spectacularly carved into the steep mountainside over a millennium ago.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Cusco and have the rest of the day to relax or discover more of the city.

Day 10: Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero Tour

Terraced hillsides in Ollantaytambo

This morning, you will depart from your hotel in Cusco on another day's exploration of the Sacred Valley. Your first stop is Pisac, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Explore the ancient Inca burial grounds, irrigation systems, and astronomy centers at Pisac Citadel, then descend to the valley floor to visit the town of the same name. Here you can browse its bustling textile market and shop for gifts and souvenirs.

Stop for lunch in Urubamba, where you'll enjoy traditional Peruvian Andean cuisine in a beautiful setting overlooking the Urubamba River. 

In the afternoon, you'll continue to the ancient Inca settlement of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that retains its original Inca grid plan. Walk canal-lined streets, view ancient houses still in use today, and climb the agricultural terraces to enjoy an Inca’s-eye-view of the valley. At the latter, you will be able to spy some of the quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. 

After a stop at Chinchero, where you can explore more ruins and a small but charming Andean town, it's time to make your way back to Cusco for a well-earned rest. 

Day 11: Transfer to Ollantaytambo, Train to Aguas Calientes

A scenic train journey connects Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes

After a leisurely morning in Cusco, you'll be transferred to the train station at Ollantaytambo to board the scenic train to Aguas Calientes, the starting point for many Machu Picchu adventures. Upon arrival, stroll around the small town, grab some lunch, and relax in the healing hot springs. 

Day 12: Visit Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco

900
Discover Machu Picchu up close today with a guided tour

A spectacular stone city surrounded by steep, lush mountains, Machu Picchu needs no introduction. Today you'll discover the grand main citadel, find hidden nooks and crannies, and experience breathtaking views from this mysterious wonder of the 15th-century Inca Empire. Located at 7,970 ft (2,430 m), the ancient citadel is a masterpiece of engineering that served as a sanctuary and retreat for 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. 

Rise at sunrise and be rewarded with a guided tour before the crowds arrive. After the tour, you will have plenty of 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 13: Free Day in Cusco

Views over Cusco and the surrounding hills

Today you're free to explore more of Cusco at your leisure. 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 14: Palcoyo Mountain Trek

Admire the rainbow colors on show from the top of Palcoyo Mountain

Palcoyo Mountain is only about 12 miles (20 km) from the more famous Vinicunca, but while the latter attracts thousands of visitors, the 16,000-foot (4,900 m) Palcoyo is still a hidden gem with no signs of over-tourism. Today's mini trek is perfect for travelers who want to view Peru's colorful Rainbow Mountains on a relatively shorter and more gentle excursion, and a great option for those traveling with kids.

Rise early for your dawn transfer, stopping for breakfast en route. The journey takes you along the spectacular Red River for about 3.5 hours to arrive at the starting point of the short hike. From here, the 50-minute trek follows a short, mostly flat path, where you have the prospect of seeing llamas, sheep, vicuñas, and alpacas. Upon reaching the summit, you'll have plenty of time to relax, take photos, and enjoy the sweeping panoramic views.

After the return downhill hike, you'll head back to Cusco for the afternoon.

Day 15: Transfer to Cusco Airport, Fly to Lima & Departure

Sunset over Cusco
It's time to say your goodbyes to Peru this morning, as you transfer to Cusco Airport to catch a flight back to Lima and connect with your international departure. ¡Hasta luego!

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