Make the most of your time on this 5-day tour that focuses on one region of Peru. You'll base yourself in Cusco for most of the trip, sightseeing in the historic capital of the Inca Empire and day-tripping to fascinating destinations in the nearby Sacred Valley. Explore the archaeological site of Pisac, the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo, the striking terraces of Moray, and the innovative salt mines in Maras. No itinerary in the area would be complete, of course, without a full day exploring the "lost city" of Machu Picchu. All of that and more await on this short but sweet getaway.

Highlights

  • Wander through the colorful markets and historic monuments of Cusco
  • See the Sacred Valley's ancient ruins and beautiful landscapes
  • Enjoy a scenic train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes
  • Visit Machu Picchu with a knowledgeable guide
  • Discover Inca and pre-Inca sites at Moray and Maras

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cusco & Sightsee Cusco
Day 2 Tour Pisac & Ollantaytambo Aguas Calientes
Day 3 Visit Machu Picchu Cusco
Day 4 Discover the Moray Terraces & Maras Salt Mines Cusco
Day 5 Depart Cusco - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco & Sightsee

Private Transfer Cusco Airport (CUZ) - Cusco
Cusco, Peru

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. 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. 

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

Ruins of Pisac
Terraces in the Sacred Valley
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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. Later in the day, catch a train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. You'll have dinner in town before venturing to the site on day three.

Day 3: Visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu in the early morning
From Aguas Calientes, it's an easy 25-minute bus ride up to Machu Picchu. Get an early start to beat the crowds and get the best views of the ancient ruins. 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 back to Cusco.

Day 4: Discover the Moray Terraces & Maras Salt Mines

Maras Salt Flats
The salt flats of Maras
This morning, you'll sightsee in the Sacred Valley. On arrival in Moray, you'll see three famous amphitheater-like terraces made by the Incas. These bowl-shaped terraces are carved deep into the earth. It is believed that the Incas once used these terraces as agricultural laboratories to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops. When you are done exploring Moray, continue onward to the salt mines of Maras. This village is known as a former salt-producing center and is thought to date back to pre-Incan times. There are over 3,000 salt pools carved into the mountainside, filled daily by a stream of water. Return to Cusco for one last evening of exploring and dining on Peruvian cuisine.

Day 5: Depart Cusco - 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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