Trek through the Lares Valley, where you'll pass between glacier-capped mountains where llamas and alpacas graze in the surrounding hills. You'll visit the town of Lares, a colorful traditional town in the heart of the valley. Combined with the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, this is a trek that combines two wonderful valleys & mountain ranges with very different ecologies & landscapes. Next, enjoy a kayaking adventure on Lake Titicaca and delve into the beauty and history of the region. 

Highlights

  • Walk the streets of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco
  • Hike the Lares Trek & 1-day Inca Trail
  • Spend a day immersed in the history of Machu Picchu
  • Zip-line through the Sacred Valley
  • 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 Cusco City Tour Cusco
Day 4 Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure Cusco
Day 5 Lares Trek Day 1/2: Huacawasi to Ipsaycocha Lagoon Ipsayccasa Lagoon
Day 6 Lares Trek Day 2/2: Ipsaycocha Lagoon - Patacancha - Pumamarka - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 7 Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 8 Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes
Day 9 Via Ferrata & Ziplining Ollantaytambo
Day 10 Sacred Valley Tour: Ollantaytambo - Moray - Maras - Cusco Cusco
Day 11 Arriving in Puno: Cusco - Puno Puno
Day 12 Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Puno - Llachon - Amantani Amanti Island
Day 13 Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Amantani to Taquile Taquile Island
Day 14 Lake Titicaca: Taquile - Uros Floating Islands - Puno Puno
Day 15 Departing Puno  

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: Cusco City Tour

Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman
Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman

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: Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure

Enjoy a peaceful day of riding
Enjoy a peaceful day of riding

This morning, depart from your hotel in Cusco and head to the stables at Fundo Molleray, which are located nearby. After a safety demonstration, each traveler will have the chance to familiarize themselves with the horse and the equipment during a warm-up session. After that, it's time to hit the trail. 

Start the ride in the agricultural fields which surround the stable—a peaceful and easy ride past rows of barley, corn, and potatoes. Continue across several small rivers as you head into a eucalyptus forest and toward the agricultural village of Wilcarpay. Just past the village, you will reach an ancient Inca pathway where legend has it the legendary Ayar Brothers of Inca mythology traveled.

Continue along the trail to see the Inca Raccay ruins, then head uphill to the Puna Cancha pass. From here you will ride along the crest of the hill until you reach the Apu Wanakaure ruins. Spend the afternoon exploring the archaeological site and chullpa—religious site at the summit—where people have made offerings to the Apu. 

After a picnic lunch, ride downhill back to the stables and return to the hotel.

Day 5: Lares Trek Day 1/2: Huacawasi to Ipsaycocha Lagoon

View of the Urubamba Mountain Range from the Lares Valley in Peru
View of the Urubamba Mountain Range from the Lares Valley in Peru

You will be picked up very early from your hotel in Cusco to head to Huacawasi (Lares). Here, you'll learn about the local custom and traditions, many of which have remained unchanged since pre-Incan times. After this you will begin the trek, gradually ascending and passing by small populations that still use the very colorful clothing of their ancestors, as well as their herds of llamas and alpacas.

After ascending for approximately 3-4 hours, you will arrive at the highest point of the trek- Ipsayccasa (4,450 m). Here you will rest and take in the view of the snow-capped mountains, including the towering Nevado Verónica (5,750 m). After you are rested, you will descend to the Ipsaycocha Lagoon (4,350 m), a small lake with an abundance of high-altitude birds, including the Andean goose, the Puna ibis, and other aquatic birds that soar through the mountains. You will camp here, close to the lagoon of Ipsaycocha.

Accommodation: Camping

Day 6: Lares Trek Day 2/2: Ipsaycocha Lagoon - Patacancha - Pumamarka - Ollantaytambo

Village of Ollantaytambo
Village of Ollantaytambo

Enjoy an early breakfast surrounded by the mountains and the lagoon in all their splendor. Today, you'll start your trek with a descent toward the community of Patacancha (3,750 m), which is an ancestral community characterized by its woven textiles and rich culture. From here you will take a local vehicle for approximately 30 minutes to the archaeological site of Pumamarka (3,750 m), known locally as “The Pueblo del los Pumas” (The City of the Pumas), a mystical and magical place overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

After your visit to Pumamarka, you will have a delicious lunch and a nice rest. After lunch, you will start hiking again on one of the original Inca Trails. On this trail, you'll be treated to a number of archaeological sites, incredible landscapes, and impressive views. Your journey will end in the village of Ollantaytambo, where you'll check in to a local hotel and get some well-deserved rest.

Day 7: Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes

The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna
The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna

Early in the morning, we will take the train from Ollantaytambo to Km 104 where the short Inca Trail starts. By train, we see how the valley turns into a canyon and the scenery begins to alter as the cloud forests appear on our approach to Machu Picchu. We will disembark the train at Km 104 and start the hike along a challenging uphill path. 

Start the trek to your first archeological site—Chachabamba. This beautiful site is very well preserved thanks to its location in the valley and was likely used for religious purposes and as a gatekeeping point for this entrance to Machu Picchu. 

From here ascend for 3 hours to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna (2732 m / 8964 ft), an ancient rest area for travelers on the Inca trail. Here, we'll stop to enjoy our delicious boxed lunch, with superb views of the massive green mountains and native orchids.

The trail then becomes gentler and continues through the semi-tropical cloud forest to Intipunku (Sun Gate) where you'll enjoy your first panoramic views of Machu Picchu. Descend half an hour to the citadel for a short break and an opportunity for photos.

We won't be exploring the ruins today, as it will be getting dark. After passing through the Sun Gate, we'll cross the site to take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where you'll check into our hotel to rest and relax in anticipation of a full-day visit to Machu Picchu tomorrow.

Maximum Altitude: 2732 m / 8964 ft                     
Minimum Altitude: 2088 m / 6850 ft
Distance Travelled: 10.79 km / 6.67 ml (to Inti Punku)  
Approximate Walking Time: 7 hours

Day 8: Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes & 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 7,970 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, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes and relax in the hot springs.

Day 9: Via Ferrata & Ziplining

While climbing the via ferrata, a secure line keeps you safe
While climbing the via ferrata, a secure line keeps you safe

Today is an adventurous day full of unexpected views and fun challenges. This morning, depart from your hotel in Augas Calientes and travel to the train station to board the train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival, transfer to Pachar where you will climb 1,312 ft (400 m) up the side of the cliff on the via ferrataa series of metal steps built into the wall. From the top, descend into the valley on a series of exhilarating zip-line rides. You will then have lunch at the Skylodge Adventure Suite while enjoying the beautiful views of the Sacred Valley. After lunch, you will descend the mountain by ziplining or rappelling your way down before arriving safely at the valley floor far below you. 

Later, head back to Ollantaytambo to explore the local ruins and relax for the evening.

Day 10: Sacred Valley Tour: Ollantaytambo - Moray - Maras - Cusco

Maras Salt Flats
Maras Salt Flats

Today you will depart from your hotel for a visit to the village of Chinchero, believed by the Inca to be the birthplace of the rainbow. You will see extensive Inca terraces and several small colonial-era churches, before exploring Chinchero's famous textile production and weaving crafts. Tour a weaver's studio and learn about the process of cleaning and producing the wool, then browse the selection of vibrant textiles for the perfect handmade gift. 

Continue to Moray, a series of incredible stone amphitheaters built by the Inca. Considered one of the world's most innovative and architecturally advanced cultures, the Inca likely used these stone complexes for experimental agriculture in micro-climates.

From Moray walk (or take a bus) to the Salineras—the Moray Salt Flats—an intricate network of stone pools developed by the Inca to harvest salt through evaporation. These salt flats are still in use today and are carefully maintained by a close community with regulations and rules that date back to the time of the Inca. 

Afterward, continue back to Cusco to spend the night.

Day 11: 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 12: Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Puno - Llachon - Amantani

Traveler exploring Inca trails at sunset on Amantani Island
Traveler exploring Inca trails at sunset on Amantani Island

The best way to experience the islands is by kayak: You get to feel the vastness of the lake and connect with it in the same way that people have been doing so for centuries. Your local guide will arrange the transport, kayaking gear, and lead you through the history of the area during the paddling trip, as well as arrange accommodations and meals for you on the islands.

Start your journey in the village of Llachon, a small fishing and farming community on the Capachica Peninsula and a great launch point for kayaking to the islands. The peninsula can be reached overland or by a short motorboat ride from Puno. Leave early (7:00 am) so you have time for breakfast in the village before gearing up for your journey.

From Llachon, it is about a 3-hour paddle (10 km) to Amantani Island. Upon arrival, tie up the kayaks and enjoy a well-deserved rest on the beach. Have a picnic lunch and enjoy a swim if you don’t mind the brisk water temperatures.

From the beach, walk up terraced fields to a small cluster of homes where you’ll spend the night in simple, friendly, family accommodations. After meeting with your host family, feel free to relax and take some time to learn about the local way of life.

In the afternoon, hike to the top of one of the two peaks on the island for magnificent sunset views of the lake from a pre-Incan temple. Return to your host’s home and enjoy a home-cooked dinner of fresh fish and locally-grown vegetables from the terraced gardens.

Day 13: Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Amantani to Taquile

View of the coast from Taquile Island
View of the coast from Taquile Island

Enjoy a simple, hearty breakfast with your host family on Amanti Island before you embark on another paddle from to Taquile Island (3 hours, 10km). If you time your trip well, there may be a local festival underway on Taquile.

The local community on Taquile has several annual celebrations that they have been leading for hundreds of years. Colorful costumes, scary masks, and choreographed dancing characterize the festivals and provide a taste of how life is celebrated on the island. Best to check in advance with your local operator if any festivals are scheduled for your visits. 

Upon arrival, travel to your local homestay, and meet with your host family to learn about the local culture and traditions. Before dinner, be sure to hike to the island’s peak for another spectacular sunset view over the Andes.

Day 14: Lake Titicaca: Taquile - Uros Floating Islands - Puno

Explore the famous Uros Islands
Explore the famous Uros Islands

Wake up early on Taquile Island to witness sunrise over the Andes. Enjoy breakfast with your homestay family, then leave the kayaks behind with your guide (who will take them back to Llachon), and take the ferry to the Uros floating islands.

Here, you’ll have a chance to tour the islands with a local guide. The floating islands provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the lake as well as the impact of tourism on cultural heritage, both positive and negative.

After the tour, hop on the ferry to return to Puno. The ferry takes about an hour, and you’ll land in Puno with enough time to explore the narrow cobblestone streets before settling in to your hotel for the night.

Day 15: Departing Puno

View of Puno mountains from Lake Titicaca
View of Puno mountains from Lake Titicaca

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Juliaca Airport, where you will transfer to your departure flight. ¡Buen viaje!

Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019