Note: The 3-day group departures listed above include the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu exploration portions of the itinerary below (days 3-5). Our specialists can help you plan the rest of the trip around your chosen departure date.
- Shopping for handicrafts in the charming village of Pisac
- Exploring the cobbled alleyways and stone homes of ancient Ollantaytambo
- See garments produced in the weaving studios of Chinchero
- Wander the spectacular salt pans of Salineras
- Visit Machu Picchu, South America's most impressive archaeological wonder
This short trip includes some of the best sights that Peru has to offer, including the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. You'll visit small villages with cobblestone alleys, handicraft markets, workshops and ancient sites built by the Inca. The journey begins and ends in Cusco, which is connected by flight from Lima (1 hour). You can easily combine this trip with a few days in Cusco, plus a day or two in Lima.
|Day 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City||Cusco|
|Day 3||Pisac and Ollantaytambo||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 4||Chinchero, Moray, and Salineras||Aguas Calientes|
|Day 5||Machu Picchu!||Cusco|
|Day 6||Departing Cusco|
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 Cusco, Exploring the City
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, 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: Visit the Sacred Valley - Pisac and Ollantaytambo
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located on a scenic floodplain between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. You'll set off early from Cusco, stopping first at Pisac, a colonial village of cobbled streets and bustling markets. You will visit the Pisac handicraft market and the huge Inca fortress in the hills above the village before continuing further up the valley.
As you drive toward the Sacred Valley you will pass still-working Inca terracing, irrigation canals, fertile farmland and awesome mountain vistas. Stops will be made along the way for detailed exploration of these sites. Tonight you arrive at Ollantaytambo, a charming and well-preserved Inca town where getting lost in the maze of cobbled alleyways is half the fun. It's a wonderful place to step back in time, exploring the ancient stone buildings, the sunny plazas, and the irrigation canals that date to the time of the Incas.
Tonight you will stay in a cozy, family-run run hotel in the village.
Day 4: Explore Chinchero, Moray, and Salineras
Your day begins in Chinchero, a quiet little town where you can visit weaving studios that produce the sweaters and other garments found in the nearby markets. You will also visit a terraced Inca ruin and an intricately-frescoed colonial church. Next, you'll visit Moray – three massive Inca amphitheaters of incredible engineering precision and stern, magnificent beauty.
After a break, you will walk through the rolling farmland with the Andes in the distance. Our destination is Salineras, a spectacular area of salt pans created by the Inca for salt extraction. Driving to Salineras is also possible. Your final excursion of the day is an exciting train ride through the mountains to Aguas Calientes, jumping off point for Machu Picchu, where you’ll spend the night.
Day 5: Machu Picchu!
An early start rewards us with sunrise at Machu Picchu. This spectacular stone city, surrounded by steep green mountains, needs no introduction and is indeed the top archaeological site in South America. A guided tour is a good idea to help you familiarize yourself with the magnificent ruin, after which you can explore on your own. The royal tombs, temples, plazas, terraces and surrounding mountains will keep you busy for the day. In the afternoon you will take the train back to Cusco and complete this exciting three-day journey.
Day 6: Departing Cusco
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!
Note: The 3-day group departures listed below include the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu exploration portions of the itinerary above (days 3-5). Our specialists can help you plan the rest of the trip around your chosen departure date.