- Spend time in metropolitan Lima and historic Cusco
- Visit the famous Machu Picchu Citadel
- Walk in the footsteps of Inca travelers along the trail
- Explore ancient architecture in the vast Sacred Valley
- See the colorful Rainbow Mountain
|Day 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Fly to Cusco, Exploring the City||Cusco|
|Day 3||Sacred Valley to Santa Teresa Jungle Lodge||Santa Teresa|
|Day 4||Coffee Farm Tour & Llactapata Inca Trail||Santa Teresa|
|Day 5||Machu Picchu Excursion: Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu - Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 6||Rainbow Mountain Trek||Cusco|
|Day 7||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.
- 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: Fly to Cusco, Exploring the City
In the morning, take a domestic flight from Lima 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. After arriving anc checking into your hotel, head out to discover the city.
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: Sacred Valley to Santa Teresa Jungle Lodge
Start your morning with a pickup from your hotel in Cusco. Head to the Sacred Valley, where you will spend the first half of the day touring archaeological sites.
Stop by the village of Chinchero, believed by the Inca to be the birthplace of the rainbow. You will see extensive Inca terraces and several small colonial-era churches, before exploring Chinchero's famous textile production and weaving crafts. Tour a weaver's studio and learn about the process of cleaning and producing the wool, then browse the selection of vibrant textiles for the perfect handmade gift. Continue to Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley for a quick stop to see the remains of an Inca palace, located within the city.
From here, head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo. The city's layout, streets, and some homes have been preserved since the time of the Inca empire. Look for single large lintel over a doorway, an indicator of importance which stems from the Inca. Explore the tranquil plaza and surrounding ruins, which offer an unparalleled view into the lives of the Inca.
Continue your trip over the Malaga Pass, high in the Andes mountains, and arrive in Santa Maria in time for lunch. After lunch, embark on an afternoon hike along the ancient Inca trail, reaching your lodge in the jungle by dinnertime. Relax after dinner and enjoy the peaceful nighttime sounds of the rainforest.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Coffee Farm Tour & Llactapata Inca Trail
After an early wake-up and a hearty breakfast at the lodge, head by car to the start of the Llactapata Inca Trail. Walk from here to the coffee farm for a tour of the property and to see the coffee growing process. Local coffee experts will explain the techniques used in sustainable growing practices, and of coffee's role in Santa Teresa's social and economic revolution.
After enjoying a hot cup of delicious local coffee, continue uphill towards Llactapata Pass. Reach the 8,900 ft (2,700 m) mountain pass after 2-3 hours of hiking for a unique view of Machu Picchu from the southwest—one which few tourists ever see. Explore the Llactapata Ruins, which have recently been restored to give visitors an inside look into how the buildings looked half a millennium ago. Eat a picnic lunch, then start your descent to the Aobamba River. Enjoy the views as you hike 2-3 hours through lush bamboo forests, fields of orchids, and coffee plantations.
Once you arrive, head to the hot springs for a well-deserved treat for tired muscles, or simply relax in a hammock at the lodge and enjoy the sounds of nature around you.
Total hiking time: 6-8 hours
Hiking level: moderate to challenging
Day 5: Machu Picchu Excursion: Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu - Cusco
After breakfast, take the local train to Aguas Calientes, the base for most Machu Picchu adventures. The ride takes you through a valley and into the Urubamba River canyon, then into the cloud forest as you near the Machu Picchu sanctuary.
Aguas Calientes contains the train station, a craft market, restaurants, and a variety of hotels for those who prefer to spend the night at the foot of the mountain and climb it early in the day. Stop here to eat before taking the 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 and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century.
If there's time, hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain for a bird's eye view of the citadel. Afterward, a tour guide will show 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 two-hour tour, take the bus back to Aguas Calientes to connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and your connecting transfer to Cusco.
Day 6: Rainbow Mountain Trek
Start your morning early with a dawn pickup for the 3.5-hour drive to the beginning of the trek. Once you reach your destination, you will pause for breakfast before beginning the hike.
Start from Cillca, located at 12,139 ft (3,700 m). From here it's a 4-hour uphill trek to reach the famous Rainbow Mountain. As you hike, take in the sweeping views of the Andes mountains, glacial peaks, and herds of alpacas and llamas. Once you reach the top of Rainbow Mountain you will have unparalleled views of the vibrantly-colored soil, surrounding valleys, and the 21,000 ft (6,400 m) Ausangate Glacier rising in front of you.
Make your way back to the base of the hike and return to your hotel in Cusco.
Day 7: Departing Cusco
Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the Cusco Airport, where you will transfer to your international departure. Alternatively, stay and extend your time in Peru — there's so much to see and explore. ¡Buen viaje!