If you're looking to combine some adventure with a tour of Machu Picchu at the end, consider this three-day itinerary. The Sacred Valley is a hotbed of great day adventures, given its steep terrain along the Urubamba river and dramatic scenery. Choose from a selection of activities — from zip-lining, ATVing, single-track mountain biking or paddle-boarding before your visit to Peru's most famous ruins.

Highlights

  • Descend on the world’s longest zip-line into the heart of the Sacred Valley
  • Take an ATV to the mines of Maras and explore thousands of salt pools
  • Finish with a guided tour of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley’s crown jewel
  • Enjoy a train ride along the Urubamba river back from Machu Picchu back to Cusco

Overview map

Overview map
Overview map

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, 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 Cusco, Exploring the City

Cusco's Plaza de Armas
Cusco's Plaza de Armas

Head to the Lima airport for your transfer 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 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 to Ollantaytambo

Stone house of the Incas
Stay at a restored Inca home in the heart of the village (© Nicole Koch)

Your trip starts off with an adventure. At 8 am, you’ll get picked up at your hotel and will head out for an ATV and Zipline tour. Above the Sacred Valley, you will go down a two-kilometer zip-line, the longest in the world.

Then, you’ll hop on an ATV (four-wheeled quad bikes with a driver) to see the amazing countryside of Peru. You will see people pasturing their animals, working their farmland with wooden plows and bulls, and often collecting firewood on their backs for their homemade stoves at home. After exploring around, you will drive the ATVs down to the salt mines and also over to the Moray ruins.

After the tour, you will be dropped off in the town of Ollantaytambo where you will stay in a beautifully restored Inca Canchon (stone house for the Inca) in the heart of the village. It has a 3000 sq. foot garden with plenty of room to relax after your tour.

Day 4: Ollantaytambo (day visit to the village of Pallata)

Ruins of Inca Terraces in Ollantaytambo
Terraces descending down the ruins of Ollantaytambo 

In the early morning, ascend the ancient ruins of Ollantaytambo for spectacular views of the valley and town at sunrise. By going early in the morning you’ll avoid the crowds. After lunch, head up the valley from Ollantaytambo (either by car, foot or horseback) to a local village, where you can see a traditional way of life.

Day 5: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
The iconic ruins of Machu Picchu

Today, you’ll head out early for your train to Aguas Calientes. After about a one hour and 40-minute train ride, you will arrive in Aguas Calientes where your guide will be waiting for you at the train station. He will explain to you when and where to meet for your shared tour of Machu Picchu. From there, either hike up to the ancient citadel or grab a bus ticket at the counter nearby. Your guide can point you in the right direction.  

After your guided tour of Machu Picchu, enjoy the ruins on your own and relax in this amazing sanctuary. In the afternoon, head down for your train back to Cusco. At the train station in Poroy, a driver will be waiting for you to bring you back to your hotel.

Day 6: Departing Cusco

Evening view of Cusco's Plaza de Armas
Evening view of Cusco's Plaza de Armas

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco Airport, where you will transfer to your international departure. ¡Buen viaje!