If you have an adventurer's heart, this 9-day exploration of Peru's jungles and mountains is perfect for you. Start in Lima and enjoy a diverse mix of architecture, world-renowned restaurants, and eclectic neighborhoods. Continue to Cusco—the capital of the ancient Inca empire—and explore narrow cobblestone streets, colorful markets, and ancient ruins. Get a rush of adrenaline as you bike, raft, and trek through Peru's mountains on your way to the Machu Picchu ruins—the iconic 15th-century royal Inca citadel. Continue to the Amazon rainforest for an unforgettable stay in a nature lodge deep in the jungle.

Highlights

  • Explore metropolitan Lima and ancient Cusco
  • Visit remarkably well preserved 15th-century Inca ruins
  • Experience the beauty and mystery of the Amazon Rainforest
  • See the famed Machu Picchu citadel
  • Challenge yourself as you bike, raft, and trek through the Andes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrival in Cusco, Inca Ruins Tour Cusco
Day 3 Cusco - Huamanmarca - Pispitayoc (biking, rafting, trekking) Pispitayoc
Day 4 Pispitayoc – Cocalmayo – Santa Teresa (trekking) Santa Teresa
Day 5 Santa Teresa – Hidro Electrica - Aguas Calientes (zip line, trekking) Aguas Calientes
Day 6 Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 7 Into the Amazon: Puerto Maldonado to Refugio Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado
Day 8 Refugio Amazonas Lodge to Tambopata Research Center Tambopata Research Center
Day 9 Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima  

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, Inca Ruins Tour

Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins
Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins

Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. After settling in, head out for your day tour of 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: 

  • Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun."  The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
  • Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of 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 a mystery. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 - Huamanmarca - Pispitayoc (biking, rafting, trekking)

An adrenaline-filled day
An adrenaline-filled day

After an early wake-up call around 6 AM, head to Ollantaytambo for a half-hour stop for breakfast and any last-minute items. From here continue by bus for 1.5 hours until you reach the Abra Malaga mountain pass, located at  14,200 ft (4,330 m). The road here winds through picturesque villages and the beautiful landscape of the Sacred Valley. At the pass, begin the first part of today's adventure: mountain biking. You'll receive all the appropriate safety equipment, as well as a safety briefing. When you're all set, hit the trail for a 3-hour exhilarating ride towards the jungle and the town of Huamanmarca. As you descend the 6,500+ ft (2,000+ m), you will notice drastic differences in the plants and climate—from arid mountains to humid forest. 

Once you reach the village of Huamanmarca, stop for lunch at the local restaurant. After a short break, hop on a bus for the town of Santa Maria and your second adventure: rafting. Similarly to biking, you will receive all the necessary gear and appropriate safety information. Depending on the time of year, the rapids will be between Class III and III+, with exciting speed and turbulence. A professional kayak rescue will also accompany you in case of emergencies. This adventure will last approximately 2-2.5 hours. 

After your rafting adventure, head by bus to the town of Santa Rosa and begin your rainforest hike toward your lodge in Pispitayoc

Day 4: Pispitayoc – Cocalmayo – Santa Teresa (trekking)

The Santa Teresa River
The Santa Teresa River

Enjoy a delicious local breakfast and a cup of locally grown and roasted coffee in the jungle, then start your trek around 8 AM. After hiking for 30-40 minutes you will reach the original paved Inca Trail. This section of the trail is an absolute highlight. You will see a variety of wildlife, fruit trees, and colorful bird species as you trek through one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. 

After 2.5 hours you will reach the small village of Quellomayo. Stop here for lunch and a rest. From here, continue trekking for 3 hours, crossing farms and rivers along the way. You will have to use a cable car to cross one particularly large river. Around 4 PM you will arrive at Cocalmayo, where you will pause for a well-deserved soak in the relaxing hot springs.

After soaking your tired muscles, continue for 40 minutes to the town of Santa Teresa, where you will spend the night. Enjoy dinner, explore the town, or just relax ahead of your next adventure. 

Trekking Distance: 7.4 miles (12 km)

Day 5: Santa Teresa – Hidro Electrica - Aguas Calientes (zip line, trekking)

A fun zip lining adventure
A fun zip lining adventure

Your day begins at 7:00 AM with a hearty breakfast. Get ready for an adrenaline rush as you head to the next part of your adventure—zip lining in the Sacred Valley. Afterward, head to the town of Hidroelectrico for lunch and a break. 

Continue your adventure with a walk along the railroad, enjoying the coffee farms and scenery along the way. This trek to Aguas Calientes will take 3 hours, and you will arrive around 4:00 PM. This small town is located at the base of Machu Picchu mountain and serves as the launching point for most visitors' trips to Machu Picchu. Enjoy dinner and a soak in the town's hot springs before getting a good night's rest. 

Trekking distance: 10 miles (16 km)

Day 6: Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Explore the ruins at Machu Picchu
Explore the ruins at Machu Picchu

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

This 15th-century Inca citadel is located at 7,970ft (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, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes for lunch and then board the train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, meet your driver for your transfer back to Cusco.

Day 7: Into the Amazon: Puerto Maldonado to Refugio Amazonas Lodge

Deep in the rainforest
Deep in the rainforest

This morning you will transfer from your hotel to the Lima airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado.

Upon arrival at the Puerto Maldonado Airport, an agent will meet you and drive you to the local office for luggage storage. Here, all of your extra luggage will be locked away in a secure safe for more convenient boat travel. After a quick walk through the garden for a preview of rainforest plants, it’s time to pack your necessities and travel into the Amazon.

Depart from the Tambopata port on a two and a half hour boat ride, and pass through the community of Infierno Reserve. Eat a packed lunch en route, and watch as the sunlight disappears behind the dense rainforest trees. The boat will take you to your home base for the next few days, the Refugio Amazonas Lodge.

The manager will welcome you before giving you an important briefing regarding navigation and security. Then, kick back and relax for the rest of your night after a day of traveling. If you'd prefer to get in a little adventure, you can go on a night boat trip to search for caymans. From the safety of the boat, shine your headlights and flashlights onto the riverbanks to spot their red eyes reflecting in the light.

Day 8: Refugio Amazonas Lodge to Tambopata Research Center

Spot howler monkeys in the Peruvian jungle
Spot howler monkeys in the Peruvian jungle

Wake up early for a 30-minute walk to the scaffolding canopy tower at Refugio Amazonas Lodge. After climbing up a 25-meter staircase to safely access the canopy, prepare for a view like no other. Watch flocks of toucans, macaws, and birds of prey fly above the treetops expanding past the horizon. Then, return to the lodge for breakfast, and trek to a brazil nut forest. Here, discover a camp occupied seasonally by a community of nut gatherers who have been harvesting for centuries. Understand the sustainable brazil nut process of collection, drying, and transportation.

Then, embark on the highlight of the day: a four-hour boat ride to the Tambopata Research Center. Leave civilization behind as you cross the Malinowski River confluence and into the heart of the reserve. Eat a boxed lunch and look around for capybaras (large jungle-dwelling rodents), macaws, geese, and other animals.

Arrive at the Research Center for a brief introduction, and hike another three to five kilometers for a spectacular view of Tambopata lowlands. Along the way, watch out for howler monkeys and dusky titi monkeys. Return to the Research Center for dinner, then learn all about the biology, feeding habits, breeding, population, and conservation threats of the macaw from resident scientists. Enjoy the sounds of the nighttime rainforest as you settle in to your rooms at the Research Center for the evening.

Day 9: Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima

Sunset on the river
Sunset on the river

Enjoy your last breakfast at the lodge before heading back to the port in Puerto Maldonado. You will be transferred back to the local airport for your connecting flight back to Lima. From Lima, catch your flight home. Buen Viaje!