- Walk the streets of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco
- Explore the beauty and culture of the Sacred Valley
- Hike the legendary Inca Trail
- Spend a day immersed in the history of Machu Picchu
- Spot Amazonian wildlife like macaws, cayman, giant river otter, and tapir
|Day 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City||Cusco|
|Day 3||Cusco City Tour||Cusco|
|Day 4||Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Urabamba - Ollantaytambo||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 5||Inca Trail Day 1/4: Ollantaytambo to Yuncachimpa||Yuncachimpa|
|Day 6||Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha||Chaquicocha|
|Day 7||Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna||Wiñayhuayna|
|Day 8||Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 9||Cusco - Manu National Park - Bambu Lodge||Manu National Park|
|Day 10||Bambu Lodge to Hummingbird Lodge||Manu National Park|
|Day 11||Hummingbird Lodge - Manu National Park - Casa Matshiguenka||Manu National Park|
|Day 12||Casa Matshiguenka - Maquisapayoj Lodge||Manu National Park|
|Day 13||Clay Lick - Boca Colorado - Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 14||Fly from Cusco to Lima, Depart Peru|
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. 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 the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants.
Suggested activities include:
- Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll 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 of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal 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.
- Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.
Day 2: Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
Head to the Lima airport for your transfer 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 on the same location.
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.
Suggested activities include:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 3: Cusco City Tour
Today's tour will begin at the local San Pedro Market. The locals shop at this market every day in order to stock up on produce and groceries making this market experience as authentic as Peru gets. The market is located indoors and includes many different food stalls and vendors. Be sure to try their endless selection of fresh fruit smoothies, which are the perfect refreshing treat.
From the market, you will head to the most important temple of the Inca Empire, the Sun Temple, known as Qoricancha. Here, you can observe detailed and intact architecture, and within the temple, you will see smaller temples dedicated to the moon, rainbow, stars, lightning, and thunder, among others.
From Qoricancha, you will walk to an important religious site called Sacsayhuaman, which features immense stones. Although the site was religious, the Spanish considered it a military fortress because of its location and the way it was built. After your tour, head back to your hotel for some rest.
Day 4: Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Urabamba - Ollantaytambo
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 famous 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.
In the evening, head to your hotel in Ollantaytambo to rest and prepare for the Inca Trail.
Day 5: Inca Trail Day 1/4: Ollantaytambo to Yuncachimpa
Start your morning early with an early breakfast in Ollantaytambo, then continue to the start of the Inca trail, located at kilometer marker 82. You will meet the rest of the group here before beginning the trek.
Cross the Urubamba river and head uphill for an easy trek, and a good warm-up for the following days. Reach Miskay by lunchtime and stop for a picnic by a small river. After lunch, explore the nearby archaeological site of Llactapata, then continue the hike to Wayllabamba, located at 10,170 ft (3,100 m). From here, ascend 700 ft (200 m) to Yuncachimpa, your campsite for the night. Enjoy sweeping views of Willka Weqe Mountain (Mt. Verónica) and the surrounding landscape over dinner.
Level of difficulty: Moderate.
Hiking time: 6-7 hours.
Total distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Day 6: Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha
During the second day of the hiking on the Inca trail, you are free to walk at your own pace. Meet back up with the group for short rest breaks and on long ascents, but walk the rest of the day at your own leisure.
Start the day by trekking through the Valley of Llulluchapampa 12631 ft (3850 m), a steep 1.8 miles (3 km) through humid woodlands. From here, follow the path for another 2-3 hours to Warmihuañusca Pass at 11,3780 ft (4,200 m). Translated as 'Dead Woman Pass', this section of the hike is the most difficult part of the trail. After a break at the summit, continue the hike down a long and steep descent toward the Pacaymayo (Sunrise) River. Cross Runkurakay pass at 10,007 ft (3,050 m) before reaching Chaquicocha, your campsite for the night. Enjoy the stunning view of the Andes Mountains from 11,975 ft (3650 m) and relax after a hard day on the trail.
Level of difficulty: Challenging
Hiking time: 8-9 hours.
Total distance: 9.3 miles (15 km)
Day 7: Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna
The third day on the trail brings you through a variety of landscapes and Inca architecture. You will see a change in the ecosystem as you walk into the tropical forest of Wiñaywayna. Pass by several small lakes, through small Inca tunnels, and over a couple of 12,000-13,000 ft (3,700-3,950 m) passes before reaching the Wiñayhuayna ruins. Translated as 'Forever Young', this elaborately engineered site is built into a steep hillside above the Urubamba river. Two separate building complexes are connected by a series of terraces, which were used for agriculture.
From here the Inca stairs turn into a zigzagging trail that ascends until you reach a white, red-roofed building—your last campsite. Relax into a hot bath and let your tired muscles rest.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 5-6 hours
Total distance: 6.2 miles (10 km)
Day 8: Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco
Today you will get a very early start onto the trail to catch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. After breakfast at 4:30 AM, head back onto the trail toward Inti Punku (Sun Gate) to watch the sun come up over Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. From here descend one hour to the archaeological ruins to arrive around 8:00 AM.
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 Incan 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 due to the Spanish conquest 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 for the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel.
After the tour, explore the site on your own—walk up to the Inca Bridge, discover various buildings within the site, or climb Wayna Picchu for panoramic views. Later, catch a bus down to Aguas Calientes and soak your aches and pains away in the town's hot springs. Depart from Aguas Calientes in the afternoon, and make your way back to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, check in to your hotel for some well-deserved rest.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
Total distance: 4.3 miles (7 km)
Day 9: Cusco - Manu National Park - Bambu Lodge
Get an early start this morning with a 5:30 AM pickup from your hotel in Cusco. Today you will drive 8-9 hours into the Amazon rainforest. Stop along the way at several architectural ruins and small towns to rest and eat lunch.
Your first stop is the Cullpas of Ninamarca, a Pre-Incan cemetery. Continue from here through alpine meadows to the town of Paucartambo, which sits at 9,510 ft (2,900 m). Paucartambo is a small town with lots of history and tradition and is known as the folklore capital of Peru. After a short stop in the picturesque town center, continue to Acjanaco, which marks the entrance to Manu National Park.
You will notice the landscape change as you enter the park. Keep a look out for vibrant rainforest birds, such as the Resplendent Quetzal, Toucans, and Tangara. Stop in San Pedro at the observation platform to spot the national bird of Peru—the Andean cock-of-the-rock. If you're lucky, you might see the charismatic monkeys and quiet spectacled bear that call the park home.
Continue on to the Bambu Lodge, where you will spend the night.
Day 10: Bambu Lodge to Hummingbird Lodge
After an early breakfast, head out by bus to Atalaya, located 2 hours away. Once you arrive, switch to a motorboat and head down the Alto Madre de Dios River for a 5-hour peaceful ride to reach the Hummingbird Lodge. Enjoy spotting local wildlife along the way—monkeys, capybaras, birds, and Cayman are plentiful on this stretch of the river. Eat lunch on the boat as you travel downriver.
Arrive at the lodge around 3:00 PM with enough time left to explore. The lodge is located close to the reserve and offers many trails and paths to explore the jungle.
Day 11: Hummingbird Lodge - Manu National Park - Casa Matshiguenka
Head out in the morning for an early 4-hour boat ride toward the Manu River and Limonal, the entry point into the Manu Reserve. Here the park rangers will check the permits and give helpful tips and advice for visiting the park. The rainforest here is full of fascinating wildlife—lucky travelers might see the shy tapir or reclusive jaguar.
Arrive at Casa Matshiguenka on the bank of the Manu River and stop for the night. In the evening, spend time with the Mattshiguenka family, who live around the lodge, and experience the rainforest lifestyle. Spend the night in the heart of the jungle.
Day 12: Casa Matshiguenka - Maquisapayoj Lodge
Today you travel from the reserve of Manu National Park to the buffer zone, known as the Maquisapayoj, or Manu biosphere. The ride from Casa Matshiguenka to the Maquisapayoj Lodge takes about 6 hours. Eat breakfast on the boat ride and enjoy the quiet morning river.
Reach the lodge around 3:30 PM and settle in to rest for the afternoon. In the evening, head out to see a clay lick, which wildlife use to get vital salts and minerals from the soil. Most animals visit the clay lick at night, so head out once the rainforest starts to transition to nighttime. Keep an eye out tapir, deer, porcupines, monkeys, and hundreds of colorful birds.
Return to the lodge for a well-earned rest.
Day 13: Clay Lick - Boca Colorado - Cusco
Get an early 5:00 AM start for the 1-hour boat trip to a clay lick to see parrots and other Amazon rainforest birds gather at the mineral-rich river bank. From a hidden platform, use binoculars and telescopes to get a good look at the birds without disturbing them.
Return to the lodge for lunch, then head back toward Cusco. Travel 3 hours downstream to the town of Boca Colorado, and say your farewells to your boat crew for the last few days. Here you will transfer to a taxi then continue toward Puerto Carlos, where you will transfer to a car which will bring you to Cusco. Continue the journey to Cusco on a 7-8 hour bus ride, reaching Cusco around 10:00 PM. Spend the night in Cusco.
Day 14: Fly from Cusco to Lima, Depart Peru
Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the Cusco Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima and then transfer to your international departure. Alternatively, stay and extend your time in Peru — there's so much to see and explore. ¡Buen viaje!