Explore Peru's coast, mountains, and southern region in this 11-day trip. Start in metropolitan Lima, then continue to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, to explore archaeological sites and the stunning Sacred Valley. Visit the famed Machu Picchu citadel, then keep going south to Lake Titicaca—South America's largest lake—to explore cultures who predate the Inca by millennia. Take a tour onto the lake to see the floating reed islands, textile weaving, and ancient stone ruins. Whether by plane or bus, you will be amazed at how quickly the landscape changes as you discover Peru.

Highlights

  • Explore Lima's bustling nightlife and Cusco's ancient cobblestone streets
  • Visit Lake Titicaca see the famous floating reed islands and Suasi Ecological Reserve
  • Discover the secrets of Machu Picchu's ruins
  • Delve into the history and culture of Peru's Sacred Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima Exploration: History & Museums Lima
Day 3 Arrival in Cusco & Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 4 Ollantaytambo, Pachamanca & Train to Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 5 Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco Cusco
Day 6 A Taste of Cusco Cusco
Day 7 Cusco - Puno, stops at Tambo Queque Norte & Tinajani Puno
Day 8 Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands, Taquile, & Suasi Suasi
Day 9 Exploring Suasi Island Suasi
Day 10 Departing Suasi Island, returning to Puno Puno
Day 11 Sillustani Archaeological Site on route to Juliaca airport  

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: Lima Exploration: History & Museums

The beautiful interior of the Convento de San Francisco
The beautiful interior of the Convento de San Francisco

Take today to explore Lima's art, architecture, and history at your leisure. Head to some of Lima's best museums, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants.

Start your day with a visit to the historic heart of Lima.  Begin your scenic tour of the colonial downtown in Plaza Mayor, Lima's main square. From here, walk to several notable architectural landmarks, including the iconic bright yellow Basílica y Convento de San Francisco. 

Continue to the impressive Catedral de Lima, which contains several elaborate altars and the tomb of Franciso Pizzaro, one of Lima's most notorious conquistadores. You'll notice the elaborate architecture surrounding the square: the Moorish balconies of Palacio Arzobispal and the beautiful baroque Palacio de Gobierno, home of Peru's President. 

Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to one of his captains, Jerónimo de Aliaga. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family. Continue on to Iglesia de Santo Domingo, a beautiful 16th-century church which contains the relics of several saints. 

From here, travel to the Pueblo Libre district to visit 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. The only downside of the museum is its out-of-the-way location: you'll need another taxi to bring you to the bohemian seaside neighborhoods. 

Spend the afternoon walking along the bluffs in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood and relaxing in the lovely landscaped parks. Visit the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) or the restored pyramid of Huaca Pucllana, a monument to the pre-Inca Lima culture which juts up in the midst of leafy Miraflores.

Then, head next door to the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, an eclectic district popular with artists and creatives. The colorful neighborhood is famous for its array of unique street art and boutique art galleries. Catch up on some souvenir shopping at Dedalo, a chic store that specializes in high-quality Peruvian handicrafts. 

In the evening, enjoy dinner and a nightcap at one of the many open-air cafes or restaurants.

Day 3: Arrival in Cusco & Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Pisac - Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo village and Pinkuylluna Mountain
Ollantaytambo village and Pinkuylluna Mountain

This morning, you will be transferred to the Lima airport to catch your flight from Lima to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, you will be greeted and begin your Sacred Valley Tour.

Head to the Awana Kancha Llama Sanctuary, located halfway between Cusco and Pisac. Visit with the alpacas and llamas, then head over to the weaving and textiles exhibition. Local artists demonstrate the process of cleaning, spinning, dyeing, and weaving the intricate details on the colorful textiles. Afterward, browse the shop to select a piece of your own to bring home—each one is a unique and handmade treasure. 

Continue on to Pisac, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Here you'll explore the ancient Inca burial grounds, irrigation systems, and astronomy centers. Next, go down to the town of Pisac located at the bottom of the valley. This town is famous for its bustling textile market. Select from a wide assortment of colors, styles, and designs for gifts and souvenirs to take home with you. After taking some time to explore, we'll stop for lunch at a local restaurant. 

From here, head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo. Explore the tranquil plaza and surrounding ruins and Inca Fortress, which offer an unparalleled view into the lives of the Inca.

Day 4: Ollantaytambo, Pachamanca & Train to Aguas Calientes

Preparing the Pachamanca
Preparing the Pachamanca

After breakfast, walk from your hotel to the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, an impressive Inca complex that protected the area from invasions. These ruins are some of the best examples of Inca architecture, and the rest of the town is built in a similar style. After exploring the archaeological site, go for a walk on the cobblestone streets to experience the small-town charm. 

Afterward, you'll get a chance to experience a traditional cooking technique called Pachamanca, Quechua for "Earth Pot". This method of cooking uses preheated stones and banana leaves to cook food in a dug earthen pit. Typically, vegetables, grains, meat, and herbs are cooked together. After a delicious hot lunch, head to the train station to take the local train through the Urubamba river canyon to Aguas Calientes.

Day 5: 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 6: A Taste of Cusco

Hot brewed cacao drink, raw cocoa fruit, cacao beans, and caco nibs
Hot brewed cacao drink, raw cocoa fruit, cacao beans, and caco nibs

Depart from your hotel and head to the city center to start your Cusco culinary experience. 

Today you will learn about three key Peruvian specialties: chocolate, coffee, and pisco. Your journey begins at the Coffee Museum where you will learn about what makes Peruvian coffee so delicious and unique. At the end of your tour, you'll have the opportunity to sample several different varieties of Peruvian coffee. 

Continue your exploration of Peru's gastronomic delights at the ChocoMuseum. Here, you will learn about the chocolate production process starting with the cacao tree, and ending with a rich dessert. You'll also learn how to prepare cacao tea and hot chocolate, both of which played important roles in Incan culture. Finish up your tour by learning how to prepare your own chocolate! 

To cap it all off, pay a visit to Pisco Republic where you'll learn all about Pisco, Peru's signature drink. Conclude your tour with a pisco tasting accompanied by typical Peruvian dishes served as snacks. 

After your tour, return to your hotel and enjoy a relaxing evening in Cusco. 

Day 7: Cusco - Puno, stops at Tambo Queque Norte & Tinajani

View of Puno from Condor Hill View Point
View of Puno from Condor Hill View Point

You have a long drive ahead of you today as you travel from Cusco to Puno. You will be traveling in a private car, which allows you a lot of flexibility during this 250-mile (400 km) journey. The road takes you through little Andean towns, alongside herds of llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas, with breathtaking views of the snowcapped Andes mountains in the background. 

You will make two stops to break up the journey and stretch your legs. Your first stop will be Tambo Queque Norte, and old country manor at La Raya, which separates the regions of Cusco and Puno. Relax here, wander around the surrounding countryside, and enjoy a fresh lunch made with local ingredients. 

Continue to your second stop at the Tinajani Canyon in the district of Ayavari for scenic views of the remote landscape, then head to Puno and check in to your hotel. This journey will take between 8 and 10 hours, but don't worry—with all the stops, the journey won't feel long at all!

Day 8: Lake Titicaca Tour: Uros Floating Islands, Taquile, & Suasi

Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca
Uros floating island on Lake Titicaca

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning, as today's adventure will take all day. 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 in Taquile. After lunch, explore Taquile Island. This island remained mostly isolated from the outside world until the 1950s, and 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. Traditionally, the men spin the thread, and the women design and weave each piece. You'll have the opportunity to learn about the lives and traditions of the Taquileños and appreciate the stunning views of Lake Titicaca from the island's shores. 

From here, continue to Suasi Island. This island is considered a private and protected “Natural Ecological Reserve”, and is a great spot to see wildlife such as vicuñas, vizcachas, and many kinds of birds. You'll have a warm reception and lodging at the lodge tonight. 

*Note: Visiting Taquile requires a strenuous climb up 500 steps to the main part of the island. Elevation ranges from around 12,000 ft (3,660 m) at the lakeshore up to 13,000+ ft (3,960 m) at the highest point.

Day 9: Exploring Suasi Island

Edit caption
Edit caption

After breakfast, go for a walking tour to explore the island and to explore the local flora and fauna. This island is an environment of harmonic life between people and nature. Agriculture, crops, and livestock grow alongside wild animals on the rocky landscape. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn from locals and spend the day relaxing in the small community.

Day 10: Departing Suasi Island, returning to Puno

Colorfully dressed dancers at a street festival
Colorfully dressed dancers at a street festival

In the morning you will have the opportunity to explore the rocky shores and waters surrounding the island with canoes and kayaks. After lunch, head back to Puno. Spend the afternoon exploring the port city's small streets and culture before sitting down for dinner at one of Puno's many cafes.

Day 11: Sillustani Archaeological Site on route to Juliaca airport

Round stone tombs
Round stone tombs

In the morning head to Juliaca's airport to connect with your flight to Lima. Along the way, you will visit the Sillustani archaeological site and burial mound. Located on the shores of Lake Umayo, this site differs slightly from the sites at Lake Titicaca. The burial site is made of huge cylindrical tombs called chulpas, which date back to the pre-Inca civilizations of the area. After conquering the area in the 15th century, the Inca continued building the structures on the site. 

From here continue to the airport and your connecting flight home. Safe travels!