- Explore charming colonial Cusco
- Visit the scenic Sacred Valley
- Wander through the famous ruins of Machu Picchu
- Visit llamas, flamingos, and condors at an animal sanctuary
- Enjoy a gourmet farm-to-table meal in Ollantaytambo
|Arrival in Lima
|Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
|Cusco: the Inca heartland
|Scenery, culture, and history in the Sacred Valley
|Ruins, weavers, and a functioning Inca factory
|Gourmet Farm-to-Table Experience in Ollantaytambo
|Explore Machu Picchu
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
¡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, as well as pieces of erotic art.
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 to Cusco, Exploring the City
Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Incan 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.
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: Cusco — The Inca Heartland
Spend your morning driving above the town for sweeping views down into the city. Then visit the ceremonial sites of Sacsayhuaman and Qenqo, where pilgrims prepared themselves to arrive in the sacred city in decades past. In the afternoon, explore the vibrant town center, attend a traditional ceramics workshop, indulge in a chocolate-making class, and test your culinary mettle with a cooking lesson where you'll prepare an exquisite dinner and a cocktail to wash it down.
Day 4: Scenery, Culture, and History in the Sacred Valley
On your third morning in Peru, make your way to a private animal rescue sanctuary where you can get up close and personal with flamingos, lynxes, pumas, tapirs, and condors. Don't miss the textile center where you can feed friendly llamas and see the beautiful things local weavers make out of their wool. From here, head onward to a magnificent Inca fortress where a gourmet picnic lunch awaits.
After lunch, explore a famous handicraft market that sprawls through the cobbled streets of tiny Pisac. And then continue onward for a stunningly scenic drive through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the rural riverside resort where you'll spend the night. Enjoy a massage or spa treatment before turning in.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Ruins, Weavers, and a Functioning Inca Factory
Spend your fourth morning visiting local artisans and the region's most charming Spanish colonial church in Chinchero. Take some time to wander through park-like Inca terracing with stunning views of the surrounding hills. Then, make your way to the mysterious, thought-provoking Incan ruins of Moray and the surreal mosaic of dammed natural salt springs at Salineras, which has been operating commercially since Inca times. At the end of the day, relax with a massage or spa treatment at your five-star hotel.
Day 6: Gourmet Farm-to-Table Experience in Ollantaytambo
Wander through the narrow streets and sun-soaked plazas of the Incan village of Ollantaytambo — known for being the best example of Inca irrigation in Peru. Learn about Andean agriculture and some of the area's unique products in an organic market garden and pick some vegetables, which a chef will then whip up into your very own garden gourmet lunch. In the afternoon, board a train for a scenic ride to Aguas Calientes where you'll spend the night in another five-star hotel.
Day 7: Explore Machu Picchu
An early start will reward you with a stunning sunrise over Machu Picchu — an unforgettable experience for anyone. The spectacular stone city of Machu Picchu, surrounded by remarkably steep, green mountains, needs no introduction and is deservedly considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Your trip leader will take you on a guided tour — an essential start to help orient you in this massive site — and then you’ll have plenty of time to explore the ruins and some of the surrounding peaks on your own. Later, enjoy another gourmet dinner on the luxury Hiram Bingham train back to Cusco.
Day 8: Depart Peru
Spend your last day in Cusco exploring the markets, relaxing at a spa, shopping in the colorful boutiques, and admiring the charming colonial architecture before catching your flight and heading home.