During this 12-day journey, you will witness the rich culture, history, and landscapes across Peru and Bolivia. The first half of the trip is in Peru, where you'll explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ancient ruins in Cusco. Go on a Sacred Valley tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and — last but certainly not least — Machu Picchu. After seeing the floating Uros Islands, you'll cross the border into Bolivia and explore the city of La Paz, with day trips to the archaeological site of Tiwanaku and the Uyuni Salt Flats.

Highlights

  • Discover ancient Inca ruins and culture in Cusco
  • Delve into the secrets of Machu Picchu's ruins
  • Experience the magic of Rainbow Mountain
  • Learn about the culture and history of Lake Titicaca
  • Enjoy amazing views of the Uyuni Salt Flats

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima to Cusco, Exploring the City Cusco
Day 3 Sacred Valley Tour: Pisac - Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 4 Machu Picchu Excursion Cusco
Day 5 Rainbow Mountain Hike Cusco
Day 6 The Route of the Sun & Arrive in Puno Puno
Day 7 Lake Titicaca Tour: Floating Uros Islands & Taquile Island Puno
Day 8 Puno to La Paz La Paz
Day 9 Discover La Paz on a City Tour La Paz
Day 10 Tiwanaku Tour La Paz
Day 11 Tour the Uyuni Salt Flats La Paz
Day 12 Depart Bolivia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival 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. 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: Lima to Cusco, Exploring the City

A scenic shot of Cusco

In the morning, take a domestic flight from Lima 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. After arriving and checking into your hotel, head out to discover the city. 

Remember: you will be 11,000 ft (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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community.
  • Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, 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.
  • 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: Pisac - Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes

The amazing terraces of the Sacred Valley

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 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. 

From Ollantaytambo, board the scenic train to Aguas Calientes, the starting point for many Machu Picchu adventures. Stroll around the small town, grab some lunch, and relax in the healing hot springs. Get a good night's rest—tomorrow is a big day!

Day 4: Machu Picchu Excursion

The ruins of 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 Inca 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 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 of the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel. 

After the tour, you will have time to explore the citadel on your own, then take the bus back to Aguas Calientes and grab lunch in the picturesque town center. Connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and your connecting transfer back to your hotel in Cusco.

Day 5: Rainbow Mountain Hike

Rainbow Mountain

Today will begin with an early pick-up from your hotel in Cusco for the 3.5-hour drive to the start of the trek.

When you reach the trailhead, you'll enjoy some breakfast before starting the hike. After breakfast, begin the hike from Chillca, at 12,139 ft (3,700 m) elevation. From here, it will be a 4-hour uphill hike to reach the famous Rainbow Mountain.

Along the way, you will enjoy amazing views of the Andes, glacial peaks, red mountains, rocky hills, along with llamas and alpacas grazing along the valley. Once you arrive at the top of Rainbow Mountain, you will have enough time to absorb the majesty of the red mountains that surround this area. You will also see amazing views of the valleys and Ausangate Glacier Peak in front of you. Ausangate is the tallest mountain of the Cusco region (just under 21,000 ft elevation) and is part of the Cordillera Vilcanota Range.

After taking in the view, descend back to the car and driver for the drive back to your hotel in Cusco

Day 6: The Route of the Sun & Arrive in Puno

The Andean landscape

After breakfast at your hotel, make your way to the bus station to board a tourist bus to Puno—the ride lasts for about 10 hours with different stops along the way. Enjoy the Andean landscape out the window between stops at Pukara, La Raya, the border between Puno and Cusco, Raqchi, and Andahuaylillas, the "Sistine Chapel of America." 

Arrive in Puno around 5 pm and transfer to your hotel.
 

Day 7: Lake Titicaca Tour: Floating Uros Islands & Taquile Island

Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning: this full-day tour will last around nine 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 on Taquile. Afterward, explore the island: it's remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and as a result, Taquileños follow a specific way of life. On the island, decisions are made communally, there are no cars, and there is very little electricity—just the way the locals 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. 

In the evening, walk back to the main dock in Taquile and board a boat back to Puno. Then head to Juliaca airport for your flight to Lima, where you'll be transferred to your hotel.

Note that visiting Taquile requires a strenuous climb up 500 steps to the main part of the island. Elevation ranges from around 12,000 feet at the lakeshore up to more than 13,000 feet at the highest point.

Day 8: Puno to La Paz

An aerial of La Paz

Today, you will be transferred to a bus that will take you to La Paz. You will first travel from Puno to Copacabana, where you'll have some free time before changing buses. Then, you will stop in Tiquina and board a boat that will take you to La Paz, where you'll be transferred to your hotel upon arrival. 

Day 9: Discover La Paz on a City Tour

View of La Paz from a cable car

Today you'll go on a guided city tour. Take time to explore the popular Witches' Market, where you can purchase medicinal herbs, and visit the San Francisco Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the city. You’ll see the main square, Plaza Murillo, continuing onward to the southern neighborhoods and a fascinating geological anomaly called Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) because of its bizarre, moon-like surface. You will also have a chance to participate in an Andean cooking class at a local culinary school. End the day with a cable car ride, taking in panoramic views of La Paz. 

Day 10: Tiwanaku Tour

The archaeological site of Tiwanaku

After breakfast, travel to Tiwanaku, known as "the Cradle of American Man." This archaeological site is among the oldest in Andean history. Located near Lake Titicaca and partly surrounded by mountains and hills, the ancient city was built almost 13,000 ft (4000 m) above sea level, making it one of the highest urban centers ever constructed. Tiwanaku reached its peak between roughly 500 and 1000 CE when the population reached at least 10,000 people.

Only a small portion of the city, organized in a grid plan, has been excavated. You’ll visit the Pyramid of Akapana, the Temple of Kalasasaya, and the Door of the Sun. You will also have the opportunity to observe examples of ancient craftsmanship, including pottery from ceremonial vessels to incense burners.

Finally, you will return to La Paz, where you will be dropped off in the beautiful San Francisco Square near Sagárnaga Street. 

Day 11: Tour the Uyuni Salt Flats

Rusting train cars at Uyuni Salt Flats

It's an early start today as you head to El Alto International Airport for a short flight to the southern town of Uyuni, the gateway to the Uyuni Salt Flats and Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. You'll be picked up from the airport, and the journey will begin with a short visit to the famed train cemetery. It's full of rusting train cars that were once used to transport cargo and passengers to and from Uyuni.

You'll then continue to the salt-harvesting village of Colchani to see how locals harvest and produce salt. Later, you will reach the vast Uyuni Salt Flats. Visit Incahuasi Island, covered in enormous cacti, and enjoy amazing views of the flats. Watch an unforgettable sunset in the middle of the endless expanse of glittering salt and before returning to La Paz.

Day 12: Depart Bolivia

A pretty street in Lima

It's time to say goodbye to Bolivia. Head to the airport for your flight out. Safe travels!

More Peru and Bolivia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Peru and/or Bolivia? Check out these other Peru and Bolivia itineraries, including trips with outdoor adventures, cultural insights and best-of tours to hit a destination's highlights.

Or describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.