Travelers short on time in Peru will love this six-day tour, which takes in many of the country's most essential sights and experiences. Head to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to be dazzled by its ancient Incan monuments, then to discover the secrets of Machu Picchu's ruins on a private tour. Spend some time in Cusco, one of the most historic cities in the Americas, and hike to the spectacular Rainbow Mountains, which need to be seen to be believed.

Highlights

  • Take in the spectacular views of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
  • Enjoy a private tour of Machu Picchu, Peru's most famous ruins
  • Hike to the spectacular Rainbow Mountains
  • Appreciate the centuries of history on display in Cusco

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Transfer to Cusco & Sacred Valley of the Incas Sacred Valley
Day 2 Explore the Sacred Valley & Surrounds Sacred Valley
Day 3 Machu Picchu Tour - Cusco Cusco
Day 4 Ancient City of Cusco Cusco
Day 5 Visit the Rainbow Mountain Cusco
Day 6 Adios Perú!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Peru - Transfer to Cusco & the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley of the Incas

Arrive in Lima, then catch a domestic flight to Cusco. You'll be met by a representative, who will drive you to the Sacred Valley. The elevation in the Sacred Valley is an average of 9416 feet (2870 m). The Sacred Valley was an agricultural, spiritual, and political center during the Incan Empire.

Day 2: Explore the Sacred Valley & Surrounds

Ollantaytambo

This morning, travel to nearby Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that has retained its original Incan urban planning. Walk through streets with Inca-era canals and see 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 quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. It’s amazing to think how far these large stones were transported, especially considering the Incas didn’t have pack animals strong enough to carry them. 

From here you'll continue to Moray, an incredible complex of stone amphitheaters developed by the Incas. While the exact reason for the construction of this site remains unknown, historians believe the Incas constructed them to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates. From Moray, continue to Salineras de Maras, an incredible patchwork of stone pools and paths developed by the Inca as a means to harvest salt. 

Day 3: Machu Picchu Tour - Cusco

Machu Picchu

Early in the morning, head to Ollantaytambo and enjoy a scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes. Appreciate Peru’s immense biodiversity as you see the landscape transition from green Andean fields to lush rainforest, descending alongside the Urubamba River. Upon arrival, take an easy 25-minute bus ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins. 

This 15th-century Inca citadel is located at 7,970 feet (2,430 m.) and is a masterpiece of engineering. It served as a sanctuary and retreat for the Incan Emperor Pachacutec and his royal court. Machu Picchu was abandoned 100 years after construction, and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century. Machu Picchu means "old mountain," and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. 

Your guide will lead you around the site and explain the history and significance of the different buildings. Approximately one-third of the site has been reconstructed into its original form, giving visitors a sense of the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel. 

After your tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes for some lunch in the picturesque town center, then connect to your train to Ollantaytambo, where your car will be waiting to take you to Cusco.

Day 4: Ancient City of Cusco

Central Cusco

Today you will have time to explore the historic city of Cusco at your leisure. Some suggested sights and activities include: 

  • The Qoricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun, was built by Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438-1572). After the arrival of the Spaniards, it became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
  • Walk to Sacsayhuamán and neighboring Quenqo, archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals. 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 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.
  • 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.

Day 5: Visit the Rainbow Mountain

Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, is in the midst of a land full of wild desert landscapes, snow-capped glaciated peaks, herds of alpaca, and pristine beauty. We will pick you up very early from your Cusco hotel (about 3 am) and drive through the South Valley. The drive to the trailhead at Quesiuno is around three hours long. You'll stop en route for breakfast.

Begin hiking, following a lovely stream. You'll travel on horseback for a portion of the trail, for about 20 minutes. Herds of alpacas and llamas are all around, and you can enjoy views of Ausangate Mountain. Pass through villages, where you'll get the chance to interact with the local residents. We will stop for a packed lunch along the way.

Back on the trail, encounter more unique flora and fauna. You may see chinchillas and vicunas. Vicunas are the only non-domesticated animal belonging to the llama family in Peru. The red-hued mountains are another highlight of this portion of the hike.

After around 2.5 hours you'll finally reach your destination, the incredible Rainbow Mountains (16,466 feet/ 5,020 m.). There will be time to explore the area and to take pictures, spending about 30 minutes at the top.

Hike back down the same way you came up, where your horses will be waiting for you. The way down will take about two hours. A van will be waiting to take you back to Cusco, where you'll arrive in the early evening.

Day 6: Adios Peru

Goodbye Peru

At the arranged time you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Lima. From there, connect to your international flight back home. !Buen Viaje!

Map

Map of Essential Peru: Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu & More - 6 Days
Map of Essential Peru: Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu & More - 6 Days