From bustling cities to remote Inca ruins, this 10-day tour of Peru's highlights is perfect for adventurous travelers. Discover Peru's metropolitan culture in Lima, then continue to the Incan capital of Cusco. Tour the Sacred Valley before embarking on the Inca Trail, finish your trek in Machu Picchu. Finally, head to Lake Titicaca for cultural experiences among the lake's islands. 

Highlights

  • 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
  • Delve into the culture and history of Lake Titicaca

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City Cusco
Day 3 Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Urabamba - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 4 Inca Trail Day 1/4: Cusco to Yuncachimpa Yuncachimpa
Day 5 Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha Chaquicocha
Day 6 Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna Wiñayhuayna
Day 7 Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Arriving in Puno: Cusco - Puno Puno
Day 9 Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island Puno
Day 10 Fly from Puno to Lima, Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Lima's Plaza Mayor

¡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

Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins
Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins

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: Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Urabamba - Ollantaytambo

Llama and alpaca wool is used for textiles
Llama and alpaca wool is used for textiles

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, return to your hotel in Ollantaytambo to rest.

Day 4: Inca Trail Day 1/4: Cusco to Yuncachimpa

Hiking the Inca trail
Hiking the Inca trail

Start your morning early with a 5:30 AM departure from Cusco to the Sacred Valley. Stop briefly in Ollantaytambo for breakfast, 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 5: Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha

Enjoy sweeping vistas
Enjoy sweeping vistas

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 6: Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna

Flowers along the trail
Flowers along the trail

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 7: Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Agricultural terraces surrounding Machu Picchu
Agricultural terraces surrounding Machu Picchu

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 8: Arriving in Puno: Cusco - Puno

Lake Titicaca is the largest high-elevation lake in the world
Lake Titicaca is the largest high-elevation lake in the world

Transfer to the Cusco airport to catch your flight to Juliaca and transfer to the city of Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America. Although many bodies of water exist at higher elevations, Lake Titicaca's surface elevation of 12,507 ft (3,812 m) makes it the highest lake in the world that is navigatable by large commercial vessels.

Lake Titicaca is a hotbed of ecological diversity, archaeological ruins, tourism, and modern-day farming communities. The coastline outside of Puro is home to the Uros people, who live on floating reed islands made from the totora plant, a thick buoyant reed. Totora is used to make everything from homes and boats to the islands nearly half the size of a football field. The Uros people offer guided tours to their homes and sell traditional handicrafts to supplement their traditional hunting and fishing economy. 

Several other ethnic groups, most notably the Quechua and Taquileños, inhabit several of the other larger islands on the lake, the majority of which have no electricity or paved roads. Visitors are welcome to select homes on this island for homestays. 

Photographers and naturalists will enjoy seeing some of the many hundreds of aquatic and bird species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. 

It's a good idea to take it easy on your first day and acclimatize the elevation. Drink lots of water and make sure to rest. After arrival, check out some of the town's restaurants and cafes for a fresh and local dining experience.

Day 9: Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island

Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca
Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning, as this full-day experience will last around 9 hours. 

Your first stop will be to one of the floating Uros islands. It is believed that the Uros were one of the first ethnic groups to populate the Andean region. The Uros people live on man-made floating islands, which are constructed out of the totora reeds that grow in abundance around the lake. During your visit to these islands, you'll learn about their everyday life and traditions.

After your visit to the floating island, you'll head to lunch at a local restaurant on Taquile Island*. Quinoa soup, fresh fish caught in the lake, and vegetables are a typical lunchtime meal in Taquile. After lunch, explore Taquile Island. This island remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and as a result, the Taquileños follow a very different way of life. On the island, decisions are made communally, there are no cars, and there is very little electricity - just the way the Taquileños like it. Taquile is also famous for the exquisite weavings created by local artists. Traditionally, the men spin the thread, and the women design and weave each piece. You'll have the opportunity to learn about the lives and traditions of the Taquileños, and appreciate the stunning views of Lake Titicaca from the island's shores. 

In the evening, walk back to the main dock in Taquile and board a boat back to Puno. Upon arrival in Puno, transfer to your hotel for the evening. 

*Note: Visiting Taquile requires a strenuous climb up 500 steps to the main part of the island. Elevation ranges from around 12,000 ft (3660 m) at the lakeshore up to 13,000+ ft (3960 m) at the highest point.

Day 10: Fly from Puno to Lima, Depart Peru

Photo taken by Ayca A
Photo taken by Ayca A

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Juliaca Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima and then transfer to your international flight back home or to your next destination. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Inca Trail & Lake Titicaca Excursion - 10 Days
Map of Inca Trail & Lake Titicaca Excursion - 10 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Sep 12, 2019