Discover the best of Peru and Bolivia on this 12-day tour that features stops at Machu Picchu, the Uyuni Salt Flats, Lake Titicaca, and so much more. Begin the trip in Lima, then head to Cusco, an ideal jumping-off point for exploring the Sacred Valley, the lost city of Machu Picchu, and the colorful "Rainbow Mountain." After several days of tours and hikes in the region, you'll move on to Lake Titicaca for a full day of sailing around the lake's famous floating islands. Travel overland to the border of Bolivia and base yourself in La Paz for the rest of the trip, side-tripping to the majestic salt flats of Uyuni, walking around the ruins of Tiwanaku, and riding high over the city in a cable car.

Highlights

  • Discover ancient ruins in the imperial city of Cusco
  • Learn the secrets behind the lost city of Machu Picchu
  • Hike through vibrantly hued landscapes at Rainbow Mountain
  • Sail around Lake Titicaca and visit floating islands
  • Take in otherworldly views at the Uyuni Salt Flats

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima & Sightsee Lima
Day 2 Explore Cusco Cusco
Day 3 Tour Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero  Aguas Calientes
Day 4 Visit Machu Picchu Cusco
Day 5 Trek to "Rainbow Mountain" Cusco
Day 6 Follow the Route of the Sun to Puno Puno
Day 7 Sail Around Lake Titicaca Puno
Day 8 Cross the Border to Bolivia La Paz
Day 9 Explore La Paz & the Valley Of the Moon La Paz
Day 10 Discover the Ruins of Tiwanaku La Paz
Day 11 See the Uyuni Salt Flats La Paz
Day 12 Depart Bolivia - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima & Sightsee

Lima coastline in the evening
Lima in the evening
Welcome to Lima, Peru! The country's largest city is home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous settlement, 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 makes it a perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of many award-winning restaurants. Explore the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Walk over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire. Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family.
 
Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum, housed in a beautifully restored mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts. In the evening, head to the eclectic Love Park in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls.  The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 

Day 2: Explore Cusco

An outdoor market in Cusco

This morning you will fly to Cusco.  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 3: 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 4: 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 5: Trek to "Rainbow Mountain"

Rainbow Mountain
Vibrant colors at Rainbow Mountain

Rise and shine! You'll start the day with an early morning pick-up. Enjoy a scenic drive to the start of the trek. When you reach the trailhead, enjoy some breakfast before starting the hike. You'll begin at Chillca, hiking uphill to reach the famous Rainbow Mountain. Along the way, enjoy amazing views of the Andes, glacial peaks, red mountains, and rocky hills, along with llamas and alpacas grazing along the valley. Once you reach the top, you'll have time to rest and take in the scenery. You will also see amazing views of the valleys, Cordillera Vilcanota Range, and Ausangate Glacier Peak, the tallest mountain of the Cusco region. Drive back to Cusco in the evening.

Day 6: Follow the Route of the Sun to Puno

Beautiful landscapes on the road between Puno and Cusco

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer to the bus station to catch a bus to Puno. During the journey, which takes about ten hours, you will enjoy several excursions and guided tours. You'll stop at the pre-Inca museum in Pukara, the high-elevation Raya Pass, and the Temple of Raqchi. You'll arrive in Puno in the evening. Have dinner and get some rest at the hotel before tomorrow's excursion.

Day 7: Sail Around Lake Titicaca

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

Lake Titicaca, the largest freshwater lake in South America, straddles the border between western Bolivia and southern Peru. 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. 

Today's nine-hour tour leaves 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. Board a boat back to Puno at the end of the day. 

Day 8: Cross the Border to Bolivia

Looking down at Puno

Today you'll cross the border to Bolivia. Leave Puno in the morning for the 3-hour ride to Copacabana, where you'll make your connection to La Paz, crossing the Tiquina Strait on a ferry. Spend the afternoon exploring La Paz. You'll have time to walk around 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 also see the main square, Plaza Murillo. Get some rest at your hotel in the city center.

Day 9: Explore La Paz & the Valley Of the Moon

A cable car ride in La Paz

Today you will discover more of La Paz. Venture up to the Killi Killi viewpoint in the morning for a panoramic view of the city and the snow-covered mountain of Illimani. Continue to a fascinating geological anomaly called the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) because of its bizarre, moon-like surface. End the day with a cable car ride. Established in 2017, the transit system features a network of lines that criss-cross the city. It's a thrill riding high above the busy city framed by the dramatic peaks of the Andes! The evening is free to explore and dine on Bolivian cuisine in a local restaurant.

Day 10: Discover 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 back to your hotel in La Paz to get some rest.

Day 11: 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. 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 also have a chance to around the Salt Palace Hotel, the only one in the world built entirely of salt. Watch the dazzling sunset over the salt flats before you fly back to La Paz in the evening.

Day 12: Depart Bolivia - End of Trip

View of the Andes mountains outside La Paz
View of the Andes mountains outside La Paz

It's time to say goodbye to Bolivia. Head to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

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