This 9-day Peruvian tour is perfect for travelers who have a thirst for adventure. After a night in the bustling capital, you'll head to the Amazon rainforest for two nights at a beautiful eco-lodge known for hiking and viewing wildlife. Then, head to Cusco and the Sacred Valley to discover colorful textile markets and monolithic ruins. Top it all off with a guided tour of Machu Picchu before finishing on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a spectacular Pacific coast sunset in Lima's upscale district: Miraflores
  • Take an exciting nighttime hike in the Amazon when most mammals are active
  • Visit a bohemian quarter in Cusco famous for its creative artisan community
  • Hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain for a bird's eye view of the famous citadel
  • Explore Lake Titicaca's floating islands and ethnic villages by foot and boat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima - Explore the City Lima
Day 2 Fly to Puerto Maldonado - Transfer to Refugio Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado
Day 3 Jungle Excursions in the Amazon Puerto Maldonado
Day 4 Fly to Cusco - Explore the City Cusco
Day 5 Sacred Valley Tour - Transfer to Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 6 Machu Picchu Excursion - Return to Cusco Cusco
Day 7 Fly to Juliaca - Transfer to Puno Puno
Day 8 Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island Puno
Day 9 Depart Puno  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Lima's Plaza Mayor
Welcome to Lima! This metropolitan hub is Peru's largest city 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. 

In addition, 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. 
  • 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 and continue 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. 
  • Head to the eclectic "Love Park" to enjoy 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 before dinner at an open-air cafe or restaurant.

Day 2: Fly to Puerto Maldonado - Transfer to Refugio Amazonas Lodge

Stay two nights in Peru's Amazon

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 embark on 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 3: Jungle Excursions in the Amazon

The Blue-Headed Parrot

Today you will explore the lush rainforest around you in a series of short guided adventure treks. Start by heading to Tres Chimbadas, located 30 minutes by boat from the lodge. Explore the lake to search for the resident family of nine giant river otters and other local wildlife, such as cayman, hoatzin, and colorful tropical birds. This tour is best done in the early morning, as otters are most active from dawn until 8 or 9 AM. 

From here, you'll walk the short 20 minutes from the lodge to the Parrot Clay Lick. Take a comfortable seat behind a secluded blind and watch hundreds of vibrant parrots and parakeets descend onto the river bank to eat the mineral-rich clay. Brightly-colored species like the Yellow-Headed Amazon, Blue-Headed Parrot, and Dusky-Headed Parakeet love to visit this location, and late morning is an ideal time to spot them. 

Take a break for lunch, then head 20 minutes downriver to a curated ethnobotany trail tour. Designed by the staff of Centro Ñape, a community organization which derives natural medicines from plants found in the rainforest, this educational hike is designed to explain the uses of local Amazonian plants. 

After dinner, you have the option to take a relaxing night hike during a time when most mammals are active. Listen to the chorus of from and amphibian calls, and bring a flashlight to try and spot the small animals as they camouflage in the vegetation.

Day 4: Fly to Cusco - Explore the City

Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins
Cusco from the Sacsayhuamán ruins

In the morning, transfer to the Puerto Maldonado airport for your 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: 

  • 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, bread, vegetables, and other necessities. 
  • Eat dinner 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 5: Sacred Valley Tour - Transfer to Ollantaytambo

Maras Salt Flats
Maras Salt Flats

After breakfast, you will depart from your hotel in Cusco for a tour of the Sacred Valley starting with 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 Maras 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. 

Spend the night in the small historic town of Ollantaytambo, high in the Sacred Valley. Explore the surrounding stone fortresses, archeological ruins, and cobblestone streets of the town, which remain remarkably intact similar to their original appearances after construction by the Inca.

Day 6: Machu Picchu Excursion - Return to Cusco

Breathtaking scenery at Machu Picchu

After breakfast, take the local train to Aguas Calientes, the base for most Machu Picchu adventures. The ride takes you through a valley and into the Urubamba River canyon, then into the cloud forest as you near the Machu Picchu sanctuary. 

Aguas Calientes contains the train station, a craft market, restaurants, and a variety of hotels for those who prefer to spend the night at the foot of the mountain and climb it early in the day. Stop here to eat before taking the 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 and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century. 

If there's time, hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain for a bird's eye view of the citadel. Afterward, a tour guide will show 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 two-hour tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes to connect to a train to Ollantaytambo. Then connect to your transfer to Cusco for your overnight. While here, take advantage of anything you may have missed earlier in the trip!

Day 7: Fly to Juliaca - Transfer to Puno

Pretty turquoise-blue water at Lake Titicaca

Today, you'll 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. This 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 fresh local cuisine.

Day 8: Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands & Taquile Island

Lake Titicaca's floating islands

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning as today's full-day experience will last around nine hours. 

Your first stop will be to one of the floating islands of Uros. 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* with quinoa soup, fresh lake fish, and vegetables. After lunch, explore the island, which remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s. 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. 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 9: Depart Puno

Goodbye, Puno!

Today is your last day in Peru! At the designated time, you will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Juliaca Airport, where you will transfer to your departure flight. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Peru Highlights & Jungle Adventure - 9 Days
Map of Peru Highlights & Jungle Adventure - 9 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Aug 1, 2019