Beginning your Peruvian odyssey in the cosmopolitan capital of Lima, this 8-day itinerary will see you first travel to jungle metropolis Iquitos before embarking on a trip down the Amazon river. You will use a jungle lodge as your base for jungle adventures including night-time rainforest hikes and meeting indigenous communities. You will next travel up into the stunning Andes, to ancient Inca capital Cusco, before venturing into the Sacred Valley: a journey that culminates in the ultimate Inca citadel, Machu Picchu.

Highlights

  • Wander the Miraflores clifftops in Lima, dining at a celebrated city restaurant 
  • Hike and float through the Amazon jungle, spying spectacular flora and fauna
  • Explore dramatic Sacred Valley Inca ruins like Pisac
  • See the splendid Inca citadel of Machu Picchu 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrive in Iquitos, Speedboat transfer to Heliconia Amazon River Lodge: Jungle Hike & Night-time Boat Trip Heliconia Amazon River Lodge
Day 3 Birdwatching, Indigenous Community Visit, Fishing Trip & Night Walk Heliconia Amazon River Lodge
Day 4 Lake Boat Trip & Return to Iquitos Iquitos
Day 5 Flight to Cusco; Free Afternoon Cusco
Day 6 Pisac & Ollantaytambo tour; Arrive in Machu Picchu Town Aguas Calientes
Day 7 Visit Machu Picchu: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu & Back; Return to Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Adiós: Flight from Cusco to Lima & Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima

Lima coastline in the evening
Lima coastline in the evening

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one third of the country's population.

Upon your arrival at Lima Airport, you will be welcomed and taken to your hotel in the neighborhoods of either Miraflores or San Isidro. You will have the remainder of the day free to relax and get acquainted with the city at your own pace.

Depending on your arrival time, suggestions to make the most of your day in Lima 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. And visit Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by conquistador leader Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the one of the best-preserved houses from that era, and the only one still belonging to the same family!
  • Browse the Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, a splendid privately-owned museum in Pueblo Libre and 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. 
  • Wander along the cliff tops in Miraflores, heading to the "Love Park" where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls. The walk, known as the "Malecón" runs along the high and dramatic cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 
  • Enjoy a drink or meal in Miraflores at the neighborhood's great selection of highly-regarded bars and restaurants. See here for a list of the best places to eat in Lima.

Day 2: Flight to Iquitos; Speedboat Transfer to Heliconia Amazon River Lodge; Jungle Hike & Night-time Boat Trip

A hidden river in the Amazon jungle

Today, in the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Iquitos, the capital of the North Peruvian Amazon.

Once in Iquitos, you will be met and welcomed at the Iquitos International Airport, then transferred to the tour office in central Iquitos. After a briefing about what to expect during your stay and the do’s and don’ts of a trip to the jungle, you will transfer to the port in Iquitos, where you will board a speedboat which will take you to Heliconia Amazon River Lodge on the Amazon River, northeast and downriver from Iquitos.

During the boat ride to the lodge, observe the dramatic convergence of the brown turbid waters of the Amazon River with the darker waters of the Nanay River and enjoy the spectacular jungle landscapes with traditional rustic houses peppering riversides where alligators, monkeys, capybara (the world's largest rodents) and other fauna can be spotted.

You will have a short stopover on Monkey Island, a social enterprise focused on conserving endangered monkey species in the Northern Amazon. The goal is to enlighten rainforest guests on the effort to reintegrate monkeys into the jungle. The reserve's monkeys are not in captivity; their temporary stay here depends on their capability to adapt back to jungle habitats. If your visit is during the dry season, you will visit Fundo Pedrito, a reserve where cayman and other fish and lizards are protected.

After a 60-minute boat ride, arrive at the Lodge where you will be welcomed with an exotic jungle drink, then given time to check in and settle in your room, at your leisure.

In the afternoon, after a typical lunch of Amazonian cuisine, you will embark on your first excursion: a jungle hike into the Yanamono primary rainforest reserve. The hike will last approximately two hours, and you will be accompanied by our expert guides who will point out and identify different flora (such as heliconia flowers, medicinal plants, and giant trees!) and fauna (such as the turkey vulture and perhaps monkey species like marmosets and squirrel monkeys.

You will then return to the lodge for relaxation time, before being enthralled by your first Amazon sunset of the trip: an un-missable experience. In the evening, after darkness has fallen, it will then be time to take a night-time boat ride along an Amazon tributary. In the darkness, the jungle flora and fauna comes alive along the river´s edge. Your expert guide will take you to the best places for appreciating the magical sounds of the jungle and, if it is a clear night, you will also be able to observe the stars and constellations. Afterwards you will return to the lodge to relax before an early start the next day.

Day 3: Birdwatching, Indigenous Community Visit, Fishing Trip & Jungle Night Walk

Fishing the traditional Amazonian way

This morning, you will rise early for some birdwatching, witnessing birds flocking together during their morning feeding time in vivid displays of color. For this activity you will travel by boat to one of the several streams to look out for a number of variety of Amazon birds, such as the tuki, ringed kingfisher and black-collared hawk.

Afterwards, you will return to the lodge for an energizing breakfast and brief relaxation, before preparing to visit a riverside village to see an indigenous community of the Yaguas people. You will have the opportunity to learn about the way of life of the Yaguas along the Amazon River. You will see their homes, school, church, and shops, have the chance to interact with the people, learn their techniques of fishing and farming and observe their customs and tradition.

In the afternoon, it will be time to try your hand at traditional fishing the way local communities do it. Make an expedition onto one of the small tributaries of the Amazon River to learn age-old indigenous fishing techniques and try fishing for piranhas. You may have your catch cooked for lunch, after which you return to the lodge. During the trip, watch look out for glimpses of the pink river dolphin: a beautiful sight along waterways here.

This evening, you will have the option of a night hike. This enchanting evening trek within the vicinity of the lodge lets you witness the transformation from daytime to night-time in the jungle, and the corresponding changes in nature. By night, the rainforest takes on a very different character. This is the best time to see tree frogs, many snakes, and other nocturnal rainforest creatures. The hike lasts approximately 30 minutes, after which you return to the lodge for dinner.

Day 4: Lake Boat Trip & Return to Iquitos

The giant water lilies of the Amazon

This morning, after breakfast, you will take a boat trip to a lake on Yanamono Island. Here, you will be able to glimpse the Giant Water Lily, the “queen of water lilies”. This stunning native flora, found in the shallow waters of Amazon River basin oxbow lakes and bayous, are big and strong enough to support a small child! You will return to the lodge for lunch and check-out. After lunch, you will transfer by boat to Iquitos and your hotel. Should you have time and energy, suggestions for spending your time in Iquitos include:

  • Walking along the Malecón, the lovely riverside promenade
  • Visit the city's several good museums, such as the Museum of Historic Boats situated upon an historic steamboat.
  • See the resplendent tiled mansions dating from the late 19th century rubber boom.
  • Sample Amazonian cuisine at a typical Iquitos restaurant.

Day 5: Flight to Cusco

Mighty Inca ruins in Cusco

Today it is all change as you swap the sweltering, low-lying jungle for the heights of the jagged Andes mountains. In the morning, you will head to the local airport for your flight to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco! Upon your arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is then yours to rest, acclimatize or to explore the capital of the Inca Empire at your own pace. Remember that, due to the considerable change in altitude to almost 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level in Cusco, you should take it easy to avoid the affects of altitude sickness. Remember to drink lots of water! 

If you do choose to explore the city, know that Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, and so this is the best way to get around the historic center. Activities could include:

  • Visiting the Qoricancha complex, also known as the Templo del sol (Temple of the Sun). The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and became one of the Inca Empire's major centres of worship. After the arrival of the Spaniards, it then became the basis for the construction of the Convento de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Convent), a 17th-century Baroque Church that is a telling example of the clash between Andean and western cultures.
  • Walking up above the city to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from central Cusco. 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 shrouded in mystery. 
  • Having a coca tea to adjust to the altitude on the pretty Plaza de Armas, then walking up the cobbled streets to the district of San Blas, one of the city’s most attractive areas with beautifully restored buildings, artesanía (handicrafts) workshops and stores where you’ll find high-quality crafts and quaint little restaurants serving traditional Andean cuisine.
  • Experiencing the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro (central San Pedro Market), 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. 
  • Eating dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant to sample the distinctive local flavors and cooking techniques of the Peruvian Andes. See here for more on the typical dishes of Peru and where to try them.

Day 6: Pisac & Ollantaytambo Tour; Arrive in Machu Picchu Town

The Sacred Valley is flanked by fascinating ancient Inca ruins

This morning you depart from your hotel in Cusco to travel into the scenic Sacred Valley. Your first stop will be Pisac, where one of the region's most important archaeological sites awaits. Here at Pisac Citadel you will explore ancient Inca burial grounds, irrigation systems, and astronomy centers. Next, you will head down into Pisac town, located at the bottom of the valley. This town is famous for its bustling textile market, and at the market you can choose from a wide assortment of colors, styles, and designs for gifts to take home with you.

Afterwards, you will stop for lunch, partaking of traditional Peruvian-Andean cuisine at a restaurant in the town of Urubamba, with a beautiful setting overlooking the rushing Urubamba River. 

This afternoon, you continue deeper into the Sacred Valley to the ancient Inca settlement (and still-thriving town) of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that have retained its original Inca urban planning. Walk through the streets lined with Inca-era canals, built to Inca layouts and with Inca foundations to many of the ancient houses still inhabited today. Climb the impressive agricultural terraces from where you can enjoy an Inca’s-eye-view of the valley. From the top, you will be able to see some of the quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. 

From Ollantaytambo, you will then travel by train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) where you will be staying tonight. The town has many fine places to eat, and you may like to try one of them to recharge your energy levels for tomorrow's adventure.

Be sure to get your sleep tonight. Tomorrow you will be exploring what most people deem the highlight of a trip to South America: Machu Picchu.

Day 7: Explore Machu Picchu; Return to Machu Picchu Town & Back to Cusco

Magical Machu Picchu

Staying in the closest town to Machu Picchu, after breakfast it is time to get an early start this morning to beat the crowds, guaranteeing the best possible views of the ancient ruins. From Aguas Calientes, it is an easy 25-minute bus ride up to the entrance of Machu Picchu citadel.

This 15th-century Inca citadel, located at 7,970 ft (2,430 m), 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. Yet this incredible complex was abandoned just one century after its 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 complex. Approximately one-third of the site has been rebuilt to 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 the citadel independently.  

You will next take the bus back to Aguas Calientes. Take time to grab your own lunch in the town center before connecting to your train to Ollantaytambo, and then your transfer back to your hotel in Cusco. 

Day 8: Adiós: Flight from Cusco to Lima, Depart Peru

Andean children in traditional dress

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima and then connect to your international departure.

¡Adiós! (Goodbye!)

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