From Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon Jungle, this 14-day itinerary takes you to Peru's major highlights. Explore Colca Canyon, one of the world's deepest canyons, then head out to Lake Titicaca - a place rich with history, culture, and natural beauty. Next, travel to the Inca capital of Cusco and explore colorful textile markets and small towns of the Sacred Valley, and hike the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Finally, head east to Puerto Maldonado to spot Amazonian wildlife like macaws, cayman, giant river otters, and tapirs.

Highlights

  • See Andean Condors soaring over one of the world's deepest canyons
  • Explore the remarkable floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca
  • Walk the Inca Trail for a day, ending at marvelous Machu Picchu
  • Spot Amazonian wildlife like macaws, cayman, giant river otter, and tapir

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour Arequipa
Day 3 Colca Canyon Tour: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde Cabanaconde
Day 4 Colca Canyon & Puno Arrival Puno
Day 5 Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Puno - Llachon - Amantani Amantani Island
Day 6 Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Amantani to Taquile Taquile Island
Day 7 Arriving in Cusco: Puno - Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Chinchero - Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo
Day 9 Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes
Day 10 Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes
Day 11 Into the Amazon: Puerto Maldonado to Refugio Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado
Day 12 Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour Puerto Maldonado
Day 13 Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald Puerto Maldonado
Day 14 Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima  

Detailed Itinerary

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 in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour

This morning you will be transferred to the airport to catch the flight to Arequipa. Upon arrival in Arequipa, you will be greeted and taken to your hotel to settle in.

In the afternoon, you will start your city tour with an escape to the past, walking through the Monastery Santa Catalina. Then continue the visit toward to the Compañia Church, famous because of its incredible barroco style and the colorful Cupula of Saint Ignacio. Then head to Arequipa’s Main Square, visiting its peculiar Cathedral with their Neo-renaissance style. After, head towards the traditional district of Yanahuara, with its beautiful plaza and views of the volcanoes Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu. 

After your tour, head back to your hotel in Arequipa for the evening.

Day 3: Colca Canyon Tour: Arequipa - Chivay - Cabanaconde

Start the day early with a filling breakfast at your hotel in Arequipa before setting off on a scenic drive to Colca Canyon. This drive will last around 3 hours and will take you through spectacular landscapes featuring snowcapped volcanoes and quaint Andean villages. 

As the road climbs up to the Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguada Blanca, keep your eyes open for wild vicuñas (smaller cousins of the llama) and viscachas (small chinchilla-like rodents). At the highest point of your journey, you’ll reach Patapampa Pass, located at a breathtaking 15,300 feet (4,820 m) above sea level. Here, you'll visit Mirador de Los Andes (Lookout Point of the Andes) in Patapampa. This lookout point offers incredible views of the peaks of the various volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, including the Hualca Hualca, the Sabancaya, and the Ampato. 

Next, descend down into the town of Chivay, where you’ll begin to see pre-Inca agricultural terraces that characterize the landscape of the canyon. Upon arrival in Chivay, you'll stop in the main square to enjoy lunch.

After lunch, ride to the Calera Hot Springs, renowned for the therapeutic effects of its thermal waters. You can either take a dip in the natural baths or just take in the stunning scenery.

In the evening, transfer to your hotel in Cabanaconde to rest.

Day 4: Colca Canyon & Puno Arrival

Mirador Cruz del Condor
Mirador Cruz del Condor

Early this morning, you’ll meet your guide and drive to Mirador Cruz del Condor, one of the best viewpoints over the canyon and home to the famed condors that gracefully soar on the thermal currents. The road leads past picturesque villages and pre-Inca ruins dominated by the Ampato and Hualca glaciers, both visible in the distance. Once you reach Cruz del Condor, you can stand at the viewpoint and gaze into the depths of the canyon, which stretches nearly 4,000 feet below.

You will return to Chivay where you can enjoy lunch and browse the local market before starting the journey by land to your Puno hotel. Puno is located 5-6 hours from Colca Canyon by car, and you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Andes on the way.

Puno is at a higher altitude than Arequipa, and if you haven’t already sufficiently acclimatized, it is a good idea to take it easy after arrival.

Day 5: Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Puno - Llachon - Amantani

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

The best way to experience the islands is by sea 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 the island of Amantani

On arriving at Amantani’s south side, 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. Drop your bags and meet the family with whom you will be staying. 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 6: Lake Titicaca Kayaking & Hiking: Amantani to Taquile

Paved Inca Trail on Amantani Island
Paved Inca Trail on Amantani Island

Enjoy a simple, hearty breakfast with your host family on Amanti Island before you embark on another paddle from to the island of Taquile (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. If there aren’t any festivals happening, your homestay family may still be able to demonstrate some of the traditional dances and costumes.

Before dinner, be sure to hike to the island’s peak for another spectacular sunset view over the Andes. Sleep in the home of another local family and enjoy locally-grown, home-cooked meals.

Day 7: Arriving in Cusco: Puno - Cusco

After breakfast, take a boat from Taquile Island back to Puno. Upon arrival in Puno, transfer to the Juliaca 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, breads, 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 8: Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Chinchero - Ollantaytambo

Maras Salt Flats
Maras Salt Flats

This morning you will depart from your hotel in Cusco and travel to the town of Chinchero, which the Inca believed to be the birthplace of the rainbow. In this typical Andean village you can see extensive Inca terracing and some pretty colonial-era churches. The town is also known for its weaving studios – you'll have a chance to see the weavers producing handmade products.

From Chinchero you'll continue to Moray, an incredible complex of stone amphitheaters developed by the Inca. While the exact reason for the construction of this site remains unknown, historians believe the Inca constructed in order to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates.  

From Moray, you will walk through farmlands (or take a bus if you prefer) to Salineras, an incredible patchwork of stone pools and paths developed by the Inca as a means to harvest salt. Spend the night in Ollantaytambo, a historic town in the Sacred Valley, set on the Urubamba River, overlooked by massive stone fortresses. You'll have a chance to explore this charming village, its cobbled streets, and pretty central plazas.

Day 9: Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo - Km 104 - Aguas Calientes

The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca ruins of Winay Wayna along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

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 10: Machu Picchu Excursion: Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu

Agricultural terraces surrounding the ruins
Agricultural terraces surrounding the ruins

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 11: Into the Amazon: Puerto Maldonado to Refugio Amazonas Lodge

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 get in 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 12: Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour

A brightly-colored Amazonian butterfly
A brightly-colored Amazonian butterfly

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 to 8 or 9 AM. 

After, 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 communal organization which derives natural medicines from plants found in the rainforest, this educational trail is designed to explain the uses of local Amazonian plants. 

After dinner, you have the option to go for 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 13: Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald

A relaxing sunset in the Amazon
A relaxing sunset in the Amazon

After a beautiful sunrise and an early breakfast, visit a local farm to learn local cultivation techniques and sample some of the produce.  Stop at the nearby botanical garden and discover the immense variety of medicinal plants used by the indigenous people of the Amazon. 

In the afternoon,  head back to the lodge to enjoy lunch. Afterward, you will be treated to a trip in a dugout canoe to see some more local wildlife. Photographers and naturalists will love spotting Amazonian species around the water, so don't forget your camera. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery while observing tropical birds, as well as an array of flycatchers and Gray-necked Wood-Rails.

On the way back, disembark at the remains of the Fitzcarrald steamboat, where you'll learn about its history and how it became part of the award-winning film "Fitzcarraldo."

Day 14: Depart from Puerto Maldonado & Lima

Enjoy your last breakfast at the lodge before heading back to the port in Puerto Maldonado. You will be transferred back to the local airport for your connecting flight back to Lima. From Lima, catch your flight home. Buen Viaje!

Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019