Peru is such an underrated gem of a country that even if you spend 2 weeks traveling between the highlights, you’d have barely scratched the surface! That’s why we have another, longer itinerary ready for you. It just might persuade you to take a bit more time off. Come on, you know you deserve it!
But if you can’t or don’t want to spend 4 weeks in Peru, which, in my humble opinion, is the better option, feast your eyes and brain on this fantastic 2-week trip plan:
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Ah, Lima, you terrible beast. It’s one of those places you have to either love or hate, and, since I attempted driving in Lima, I’m leaning on the hate side. Without the driving, I’d be hovering around neutral.
Once you leave the most frustratingly slow airport I’ve ever met, you’ll be happy to find that the airport isn’t located out in no man’s land, and you’ll be doubting your decision to go to Lima in the first place in the comfort of your own hotel room in only about 15 minutes.
Ditch the rental, get a taxi and “enjoy” the ride from the airport with your life and sanity in someone else’s hands. Get the Cabify app on your phone and always choose the best class of car available, because anything less than luxury and you’ll be glad the car has doors, let alone seatbelts. It’ll set you back about USD 18. Getting a regular taxi that is waiting at the airport will cost a little more, around USD 25.
Tip: Don’t get a Peruvian SIM card at the airport. The prices are extremely high compared to what you get in town. This and other tips you need to read before you go to Peru in another article.
Get a hotel in the fancy Miraflores neighborhood so you can walk around at any time of day or night without feeling like someone is always lurking in the shadows watching you.
If you’re flying into Lima early and my description of Lima doesn’t entice you, you can see the main bits of Lima on arrival day and get the heck out of there the very next morning. Otherwise, leave day 0 as a travel day and see some of the (admittedly good) things Lima has to offer the next day in a more relaxed manner.
We’re recommending only staying in international hotel chains in Peru, because everything else is hit and miss. This isn’t our usual tip, but in Peru, we felt like Hilton Hotel representatives. You know what to expect, you don’t have to worry about the standard and staff always speak English.
The Hilton Lima Miraflores has some fantastic rooftop pools that’ll fix your first impressions of Lima faster than you can say cocktail. The breakfast is wonderful, the shower was probably the best we had in Peru and as an extra bonus, the hotel is QUIET. You can’t hear the horns of the crazy drivers. It’s like your own little sanctuary.
If you like to be a little funky, are artsy, or consider yourself a cool cat, you should check out the Radisson Red Miraflores. It has a very trendy, colorful design. The colors being black, white, and, how unexpected, red. Think street art meets modern art gallery. Rooftop bar with great drinks, comfortable beds, friendly staff.
Note: The hotels we recommend in this, or any other article are hand-picked by us. We’ve either stayed in them ourselves and were happy with our experience or they were in our top selection when we went on our trip.
We have hotel recommendations in all of our articles.
If you book any hotel through our links (and it can even be a different hotel than we recommend), we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for using our links!
For sightseeing in Lima, you’ll need to take a taxi to the Plaza de Armas in the historic district. A taxi between districts won’t cost more than USD 3–4.
You’ll see Lima’s typical yellow buildings with their dark wooden covered balconies, otherwise known as spy boxes for the rich. Wander around the historic district and tour the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco. It’s a whole religious precinct right by the Plaza de Armas.
Tickets for the guided tours are on a first come, first served basis and come s/15. Tours are available in English and Spanish.
If you want a good coffee, choose something hipster-looking, otherwise it’ll taste like dirty water. More on what’s good to eat and drink (and what isn’t!) here.
The highlight of Lima is the Larco Museum. It’s in a gorgeous mansion, it’s well organized, the descriptions are clear and informative, and you learn tons about the history of ancient Peruvian civilizations. A must at the beginning of any trip to Peru.
Take a taxi there from Plaza de Armas and allocate at least 2 hours for the tour unless you love these kinds of museums and want to read each and every sign, in which case set aside 3. Tickets cost s/35.
Plan on spending the late afternoon and evening in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood. It sits to the south of central Lima atop the cliffs over the ocean with tons of restaurants, shopping, top hotels and great views from the boardwalk/sidewalk atop the cliffs. The sunsets here are spectacular.
For more detailed Lima travel tips, head over to our article about the top things to do in Lima.
Now you can rent a car and off you go to a town called Paracas, home of the Paracas National Reserve. It’s also the starting point of the boat trips to the Islas Ballestas, which is in plan for tomorrow.
Most rental places we tried in Peru sucked even though they were part of the biggest brands of rental companies. More on renting cars and driving in Peru here. Instead, read reviews online and don’t be afraid to rent through a local agency with high ratings.
Renting a car in Peru isn’t cheap. The actual rental price of USD 50–70 per day for an SUV or similar vehicle is ok. But add on collision insurance and you’ll double the price.
From Lima, Paracas town is a 3-hour, 250 km (150 mile) drive on the Pan-American Highway. The trip is long but the road is good and hey, you drove on a small part of the world’s longest road!
You can stop for a lunch and drop off your bags in your hotel. You have to take our advice here and book yourselves into the Doubletree Resort by Hilton. We have a love affair with this hotel, see below. Of course, its restaurant, El Pardo al Mar, is fantastic as well.
You’ll spend most of your afternoon in the Paracas National Reserve. The desert here is vast and beautiful, and, coupled with the blue and turquoise shades of the ocean, is truly a memorable sight.
And guess what?! More time in the car! You’ll need 4 hours to drive the 23 km (14 miles) route in the national reserve, including stops to take in the views and fill your Instagram.
You buy your tickets and get your map at the main entrance on the road just south of Paracas town. The road is easy to navigate. Tickets cost s/11.
Before you get to the last stop on the map you’ll find an area with a bunch of ocean-side mom and pop restaurants. Our favorite was Cevichería La Tia Fela. The chairs were plastic but the fish were super fresh!
Read our article about the top things to see in Paracas for all the details of the individual stops and more tips.
The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paracas was a-mazing, as we’ve very happily mentioned throughout our Peru articles. Right on the beach with ocean views from our room, amazing pool, breakfast, and staff at a standard every other hotel in Peru needs to take note of. Not to mention the hundreds of flamingos as neighbors and the free kayak and paddleboard rentals.
And since we like to give you a choice, and if for some reason you have something against Hilton Hotels, you can opt for the Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort. The property is immaculate and just oozes relaxation. There are pools inside and out and plenty of places to laze away the little downtime you have in Paracas. This property is closer to Paracas town than the DoubleTree Resort, but further from Paracas National Reserve.
Another day of no sleeping in! Where’s the vacation?!
The Islas Ballestas, or Ballestas Islands, are a popular tourist destination in Peru just off of Paracas. It’s a small group of rock formations jutting out from the sea. They’re famous for the thousands of birds that congregate on the rocks and make them nice and poopy and ready for guano mining. You’ll also get to check out tons of seals, sea lions and penguins.
To get to the Islas Ballestas, you’ll need to go on an organized boat tour. And since the sea is much calmer in the mornings that in the afternoons, that’s the time we recommend going.
Group tours go for about 25 USD per person, and may or may not include the s/13 entrance fee to the national reserve. If the price doesn’t include the fee, you will pay it at the pier. Hotel pick-up and drop-off can also be extra.
Tours take 2 hours start to finish. Details are available in our full Islas Ballestas article.
After your boat trip, you’ll have the afternoon to either spend time at your hotel, try your hand at paddleboarding or take a side trip to some of the places within an hour from town. There’s sandboarding at Huacachina or pisco tasting at Ica, to name a couple of options.
If you just want to stay put, take out a paddle board or kayak. Our favorite DoubleTree Resort by Hilton “rented” those out to guests free of charge. Or just sip your cocktails by the pool, spying on flamingos.
Today you will hate me. But it’s not my fault that Peru is so damn huge!
You’ll be driving back up to Lima and then flying down to Arequipa. It seems like backtracking but it’s either that or driving for 13 hours covering 780 km (480 miles) from Paracas to Arequipa. A hard pass on that from me.
First, drive 250 km (150 miles) from Paracas to Lima, drop off your rental car, and then reach for the sky!
There are over 60 flights from Lima to Arequipa a day. They take 1.5 hours and plane tickets cost USD 50.
Get a rental car at the airport. Use Alkila Rent a Car and be prepared to pay upwards of USD 100 per day.
I’m not actually recommending “our” hotel in Arequipa because I got food poisoning there and I am butt hurt about it... ok, fine, the Sonesta Hotel Arequipa was pretty fabulous until I wanted to puke my guts out all the way to and from Colca Canyon, which is a long-ass way. I am resentful.
Instead, check out the ones below. You’ll need to book into whichever hotel you choose for 4 nights.
The CIRQA - Relais & Châteaux is in the heart of the city and if the natural tones and stone walls won’t calm your soul, I don’t know what will. A peaceful haven in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Arequipa. The reviews don’t lie!
If you don’t want to be in the center but still like to be walking distance from everything (and love a pool!), check out the Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa. A totally different vibe than the aforementioned CIRQA: more fancy Spanish farm than chilled-out nun. Reviewers commend the professional staff and the great bathtubs.
It’s time to slow down for a bit. With no driving and no big adventures today, you’ll have enough time to take in the whiteness of the White City of Arequipa. Everything here is built from the white volcanic rock called sillar, giving Arequipa a unique, bright appearance.
You’ll also be starting your acclimatization process. Arequipa sits at 2,300 m (7,600 ft) above sea level, which is nothing compared to Cusco’s 3,400 m (11,000 ft). This is why I recommend going to Arequipa first and to Cusco second, getting used to the thinner air bit by bit, or else facing the wrath of altitude sickness. The side trips out of Arequipa will take you to very high altitudes, too, so having a lower ground to retreat back to is a plus.
You can walk everywhere in Arequipa’s city center. I didn’t exactly feel safe in the outskirts, so maybe don’t go there, or, if you must, take a taxi. Also, driving in Arequipa is almost as crazy as in Lima. Read our guide to driving in Peru for more information on that. You’ll be glad you have a car though during the day trips on the following days.
After plenty of beauty sleep and a hearty breakfast, take a walk around the Plaza de Armas. The main square is the nicest I’ve seen in all of Latin America. It’s full of cafes and shops. El Misti Volcano looms in the background just asking for tons of photos.
The massive, white Basilica Cathedral is an obvious standout in the city center. It’s right on the Plaza de Armas. To visit the cathedral, you’ll need to buy your ticket for s/10, which includes an hour-long guided tour (you can’t visit on your own). Be sure to dress appropriately—cover knees and shoulders. The views from the cathedral’s rooftop are pretty spectacular!
Refer to our list of favorite restaurants in Peru to see which ones we liked best in Arequipa, and choose one for lunch.
Spend at least a couple of hours walking through the neighborhoods of Santa Catalina Monastery that used to be like the Monaco of monasteries. Easy to visit on your own, though guides are available. Tickets cost s/40.
Continuing up a bit further north is the Mundo Alpaca, a museum where you’ll learn the difference between alpacas and lamas and learn all about the textile industry that these animals have help create.
Entrance is free but you’ll be sure to drop a dollar at the museum shop. Sweaters for everyone!
Head over to Pasta Canteen for dinner and create your own pasta dish. For more dining options in Arequipa, check out our article about our favorite restaurants in Peru.
Our top tips for 2 weeks in Peru: Peru is huge. Flying between destinations is time-saving and cheap. Two weeks in Peru is not enough. If you can go for 2x2 weeks, do it. Stay in international hotel chains. Not something we usually stick to, but in Peru, everything else is just low value. Don’t forget you need to book your Machu Picchu tickets months in advance. Rent a car at Alkila Rent a Car in Arequipa and Cusco, the only rental company that didn’t try to scam us. The international companies here are a joke.
No more of this lazy business, today is the day you see some salty flamingos!
You’ll be visiting Laguna de Salinas, the most beautiful nature reserve I’ve seen in a long time. Like ever. The mix of the wetlands with tons of lamas, alpacas and flamingos and the snow-covered peaks of the mountains above, makes for a landscape like no other.
The drive to Laguna de Salinas is 60 km (38 miles) from Arequipa and takes 2 hours one way. You’ll be climbing up to Laguna de Salinas‘ 4,300 m (14,000 ft), continuing your acclimatization efforts.
Spend an hour or two taking way too many photos, trying to position yourself for that perfect shot with El Misti in the center and a flamingo cuddling a llama mirrored in the lagoon.
Take note that during the dry months of May to November, there is no lagoon to speak of, instead leaving behind a salty crust on the ground. With no water, there are also much fewer animals, so keep that in mind if you’re visiting in the wrong part of the year.
If you are in Peru during the dry months and don’t feel like getting car sick just to see some salt on the ground, opt for some whitewater rafting on Rio Chile instead. Actually, you could do both in one day if you’re that kind of over-active type!
We absolutely loved our rafting experience. The rapids were real, not letting us rest the whole 1.5 hours we were on the water. Read about our trip in our Arequipa article.
The rafting part of the trip starts just 20 minutes outside of Arequipa’s city center and takes a total of 3 hours including transportation, wetsuiting up and instructions. Most companies have 2–3 departures a day. Prices start at USD 25.
If you need something to fill in the last hours of the day, take a look at Ruta del Sillar.
It’s a sillar quarry where you can go and see a variety of statues made of the volcanic rock. A 30-minute drive awaits you if you head over from Arequipa’s center. Again, we give you the deets in our 10 Best Things to Do In and Around Arequipa article.
Tickets are just s/5 and you will probably only spend 30–60 minutes at Ruta del Sillar.
Today you’ll take on Colca Canyon, the second deepest Canyon in the world that cuts 3,400 m deep into the mountains.
In all honesty, today’s driving is an undertaking to say the least—4 hours one way (with some short breaks). But you’ve come this far, don’t give up! It is 120 km (75 miles) from Arequipa.
Colca Canyon is the biggest reason people even come to Arequipa, so you gotta go. Plus, there are condors! Otherwise known as the huge, ugly-headed birds that gave name to the most famous lookout point, Mirador Cruz del Cóndor. Many treks start from this point. You can continue to Cabanaconde for more viewpoints.
You can spend as little or as much time as you want at Colca Canyon. We were happy with just the viewpoints, but by all means, take a hike.
Colca Canyon is pretty high up, with the Cruz del Condor viewpoint at an altitude of 3,700 m (12,000 ft). You might want to stock up on some coca just in case you get signs of mountain sickness.
Colca Canyon will take up all day. Head to dinner and hit the sack.
More details on how to see Colca Canyon are in our Things to Do in Arequipa article.
Get ready for Inca-overload! Flights to Cusco from Arequipa take an hour and cost around USD 100. Once you disembark your plane, you’ll be breathing heavier since you’re now in 3,400 m (11,000 ft).
If you come to Cusco directly from Lima, you’re almost certainly getting altitude sickness. If you took our advice and spent time in and around Arequipa first, you might get lucky and get altitude sickness a few days later once you head higher into the mountains.
Rent a car. You can again do that at Alkila Rent a Car. Alternatively, a taxi from Cusco airport to the city center is USD 25. You can use the Cabify app in Cusco as well.
Cusco is one of the very few cities in the Americas that I think warrant a two-day stay. In this case it’s great because you might be feeling a little blah because of the altitude, so getting two days of “just” sightseeing in town will be just what your body needs to get back up to speed again.
First stop: the Inca Museum. Learn about everything you’re going to be seeing in the next few days. The Incas were a fascinating people and getting to know as much as you can about them will elevate your experiences from the ruins you’ll be visiting.
Definitely opt for a guide since the museum isn’t really that great when it comes to signs in English. Our guide was fantastic and really made our visit worthwhile.
Expect to spend at least 1.5 hours at the Inca Museum. Tickets cost s/10.
The Inca Museum is right by the Plaza de Armas, so spend some time there and at the massive Cusco Cathedral. It has three parts and includes a museum with hundreds of artifacts, sculptures and paintings, the most famous of which is Marcos Zapata’s Last Supper where guinea pig is served as the main course.
You’ll need an hour to properly look around. Tickets cost s/30.
By this point you’ll have worked up an appetite. Luckily, Cusco has fantastic eateries. We stumbled into Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse by accident and had the best chicken of our lives. See more restaurant tips in our dedicated Cusco article, or in our Best Restaurants in Peru article.
Walk through the side streets of Old Town. Don’t forget about Calle Hatunrumiyoc and Calle Inca Roca to check out the walls made of the Incas’ precisely cut stones. You really don’t need to do much, just walk and enjoy.
Then climb up to the viewpoint at San Cristobal Church and ooh and aah over what if in front of you: the Plaza de Armas surrounded by the red rooftops of Cusco, bordered by the magnificent Andes in the background. Priceless.
It’s a short (15 minutes max) but steep walk from Plaza de Armas. Your ticket from Cusco Cathedral automatically gets you into the San Cristobal Church if you’re interested. It’s nothing that special, the views of Cusco are the real attraction here.
Another day, another Hilton? It sure was for us, and we can’t complain! The Hilton Garden Inn Cusco had super comfortable beds, wonderful staff and though it’s located a 10-minute walk to the Plaza de Armas, the bonus is that it is quiet. The spa is so good, they even have a special acclimatization massage. Add one of our favorite restaurants in all of Peru, the Garden Grille, and you have one of the best hotels in Cusco.
The Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott is right in the city center, basically calling itself neighbor to Qoricancha (see tomorrow’s activities). You’d be staying at an old Inca palace, which is pretty much all you need to convince you that this hotel is amazing. There’s a harpist that plays during breakfast... nuff said.
Book your hotel in Cusco for 3 nights.
Today you get to see more of Cusco, learn more about Incas, and visit another very Peru-specific museum.
First, head over to the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art of Peru right by the Plaza de Armas. It’s part of the Museo Larco group (the Museo Larco that knocked our socks off in Lima), meaning it’s very modern and up to European museum standards.
This museum presents the art and cultures of central Peru from the Mochica civilization to the Incas. You’ll need about an hour to go through the ten rooms of the museum. Tickets cost s/20.
You can also learn about another staple of the region: coca. Just remember not to buy everyone at home souvenirs from the Coca Museum, it’s illegal to take that stuff out of the country! It’s fascinating to learn about the plant that might just save you from altitude sickness on more than one occasion while you’re traveling in Peru.
For lunch, how about something healthy? Have you ever had flowers on a pizza? No? You can at Organika.
After lunch, head to Qoricancha. It was the most important temple in Cusco during the Inca Empire. Though once the Spaniards took over, they took it apart and built a church on the leftover base, which is what you’ll see there now. There’s also a museum on site.
You’ll need at least an hour on the site and in the museum. Qoricancha is part of Cusco Tourist Ticket circuits 2 and 3 (both cost s/70). You cannot buy a separate ticket just for this one place. More about the Cusco Tourist Ticket in our article about Sacred Valley.
Qoricancha is right in the center of Cusco, so you’re still walking distance for everywhere and you can spend the rest of the afternoon around Plaza de Armas.
In the evening, have a pisco sour or three at Hilton’s Garden Grille Restaurant or another one of the many bars and restaurants in town. The Garden Grille has the most fantastic views over Cusco though!
For more details on things to see in Cusco, see our complete Cusco guide.
Today you’ll be taking a look at the Inca sites around the city. Take your car, because most of them are outside of town.
The first site you’ll be visiting is Sacsayhuaman. It was an important fortified Inca complex, so it sits atop a steep hill, right above the San Cristobal viewpoint. It’s a massive site with not only Inca ruins but also great views of Sacred Valley and even Ausangate, the sacred mountain of the Incas.
You need an hour at the site. Tickets are not sold separately. You need the Cusco Tourist Ticket circuit 1 (s/130) or 2 (s/70). More about how and where to buy tickets in our Sacred Valley article.
Plan your day so that you can have lunch after you see Sacsayhuaman, since after this, you’ll be heading out into the boonies.
Tambomachay, Qenco and Puka Pukara are next on your Inca itinerary for the day. They are all to the north of town. Qenco is right in the outskirts of Cusco while Tambomachay and Puka Pukara are a few kilometers outside of town, about 10 minutes by car.
A water worship center, a mummification area and an entry checkpoint into Cusco are what you’ll be seeing. You’ll probably be content with 30 minutes at each site.
They’re all conveniently on Cusco Tourist Ticket circuit 2 which is only valid for one day, so you have no choice but to group them together during one outing. More about how and where to buy tickets in our Sacred Valley article.
For more information about all of these Inca sites, see our article titled The 10 Things to Do In Cusco That Are Actually Worth It.
You’ll be driving through the heart of the Inca Empire today—Sacred Valley. It’ll be a whole lot of Inca ruins, but maybe even more exciting is the scenery. Peru ‘s Andes Mountains are awe-inspiring, and you’ll be awe-ing at every stop you make.
All the places you’ll want to hit—Chinchero, Maras, Moray, Ollantaytambo and Pisac—are conveniently part of the Cusco Tourist Ticket’s 4th circuit, except for Maras. Get your Maras ticket separately at the entrance.
We have a whole article about the Top 9 Places to See in Sacred Valley, so you can get all the details about each stop and the tickets there.
First, drive 40 km (25 miles) to Pisac. It’s not far, but you’ll need an hour for the trip. This isn’t a highway! Once there, you might overlook the Inca ruins and just stare at the views. But the ruins of the fortress are vast, so they’ll require at least an hour or two of your attention.
Then you’ll head to Chinchero, a picturesque town where the locals still dress in traditional clothing. If you can come here on a Sunday you’ll experience a very nice market, not as touristy as most others. The drive between Pisac and Chinchero is 1.5 hours and about 75 km (45 miles).
Time for lunch! And we have a secret gem for you: Make sure to stop by the very local and very cute restaurant called El Maqt’a. It’s a gem we found on the road between Chinchero and Urubamba. See here for the location of El Maqt’a and don’t expect them to have a website, but do expect the pink corn beer, chicha. More details in our Best Restaurants in Peru article.
Continue 15 minutes from the restaurant to Moray, where the Incas experimented with growing different crops, and the circular sunken terraces are a very cool leftover of that agricultural laboratory.
You’ll be using your Cusco Tourist Ticket for Moray. You will spend up to an hour at the site.
Twenty minutes further and you’ll be stopping at Maras, which is a whole side of a mountain filled with thousands of salt evaporation pools. This is the spot where you’ll be buying a separate ticket at the entrance for s/10. Allow 30 minutes for your visit.
We have a dedicated Moray and Maras article for these two sites.
Last but not least, drive 30 minutes to Ollantaytambo. This is the place where you’ll alight your train to Machu Picchu tomorrow, but first, check out some of the best-preserved Inca ruins in all of Peru. If you want to know all about the ruins and Ollantaytambo town, read our Ollantaytambo article. You’ll want to spend an hour or two at the ruins.
Since you’re heading out to Machu Pichu Pueblo tomorrow morning, it makes no sense to go back to Cusco for the night today. Instead, stay at one of the hotels in Ollantaytambo. There are spectacular resorts there and especially around Urubamba.
At the Vertical Sky Luxury Suites, you can choose to sleep in a glass pod hanging above the valley floor that you get to by walking, strapped in, mountain climbing-style, to the ledge of the mountain, before getting into your “room”. You get your own Jacuzzi up there, too. Or, you can choose the more spacious and less hanging glass dome. You still get views for days, but it provides more comfort, like an actual floor you can walk on.
Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado: bringing guests closer to nature
At Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado, you get not only luxury everything, an exceptional spa and pool, but staff are also happy to share their Inca knowledge. It’s like nothing is impossible at Tambo del Inka.
The first part of your day is going to be spent getting to Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. You’ll want to go relatively early in the morning, because you have a big day ahead of you—Machu Picchu!
The train trip from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes takes 1.5 hours, costs USD 120 one way, and takes you through more stunning scenery, as you’ve probably gotten used to in Sacred Valley by now. There are two train companies to choose from: Peru Rail and Inca Rail.
You’ll want to buy your train tickets directly from the company websites right at the time you buy your Machu Picchu tickets, which should be up to 6 months before your visit. For instructions on how and when to buy tickets, read our All You Need to Know for Visiting Machu Picchu article.
Once in Aguas Calientes, head over to the bus ticket office, Consettur, to get your tickets for the bus. Those cost USD 24 return.
The bus tickets to Machu Picchu aren’t time stamped, so you’ll need to line up and hope to get on a bus at the time you want. Don’t worry though, because unless you want to be the first one there (in which case, have fun getting in line at 4 am!), there usually isn’t much of a wait. The bus trip up to the actual Inca city takes 20 minutes.
Because of how the Machu Picchu ticketing system works, you can choose a ticket to just Machu Picchu, or to Machu Picchu and a hike. We think it’s worth doing both, because if you buy the combination ticket, you can’t go on the best route through Machu Picchu city. And that kinda sucks.
For this reason, I recommend buying two separate tickets: one with a hike, one without, and see Machu Picchu on two separate visits.
This afternoon, you’ll be seeing Machu Picchu city on the comprehensive circuit 1. It has a set time limit of 4 hours per visit and costs USD 40.
Our All You Need to Know for Visiting Machu Picchu article explains everything from costs and tickets to getting there and if and how to get a guide. You can also find a map showing all the routes. In a separate article, The Best Time to Visit Macchu Picchu, we discuss rainy season vs. dry season and why we think seeing the sunrise at Machu Picchu is overrated.
While there are several fantastic hotels to choose from in Aguas Calientes itself, consider staying at the wonderful Sanctuary Lodge, A Belmond Hotel, which is up on the actual mountain near Machu Picchu itself. Since you’ll be returning to Machu Picchu tomorrow morning, it saves you a couple of bus trips up and down the mountain.
You can spend the evening at the fantastic restaurant or take a little wander around the manicured grounds with ponds and hummingbirds. The best part is that you get direct views of Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain you’ll be hiking in the morning, right after you wake up in your silk bedding. Bliss!
The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, located in Aguas Calientes, pulls out all the stops, with terraced hills, stone paths, waterfalls and villas in lush gardens that will make you want to stay another day.
This is your second day at Machu Picchu. We did the Huayna Picchu combination, and it was fantastic. Not too strenuous or long but recommended as the most spectacular of all the hike options.
No matter which hike you choose, the combination tickets are only available for the mornings. “Our” Huayna Picchu hike and city tickets costs USD 53 per person. They let you explore for up to 6 hours, including one of the lesser routes within the city.
Getting up to Huayna Picchu is an adventure, with narrow pathways and super steep stairs that’ll make you climb them on all fours. Whatever you do, don’t look down! Until you get to the top, that is.
There are no facilities at Machu Picchu, so you’ll need to wait with your lunch until you get your butt over to a restaurant in town again.
Once you get back down to Aguas Calientes, spend an hour of four at one of our favorite restaurants in Peru, Chullos. We could’ve (and literally almost did) spent the entire afternoon on their balcony overlooking the Urubamba River. If the views and divine food isn’t enough to persuade you, know that they serve their own beer and it’s fantastic!
You’ll need to head back to Cusco in the afternoon by spending 1.5 hours on the train back to Ollantaytambo and then driving 60 km (37 miles) to Cusco.
You’re back in Cusco and you’ll be staying for 2 nights. You can either choose one of the hotels that we recommended for your first stop there, the Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel or the Hilton Garden Inn Cusco.
Or, check into somewhere new, like the former monastery Monasterio, A Belmond Hotel. It’s right in the city center and is spectacular! The gorgeous rooms look out into the perfect courtyard or out onto Cusco’s red-roofed houses. The staff are praised for being professional and very accommodating.
Get ready to drive for way too long and walk in way too thin air. Today you’ll get an answer to the burning question: Have I acclimatized enough?!
You’ll hike to the incredible Rainbow Mountain. Located at an altitude of 5,200 m (17,000 ft), it’ll be a miracle if you aren’t grabbing for several cups of coca tea in hopes to cure your mountain sickness.
There are a few different routes you can take to see Rainbow Mountain aka Vinicunca (or the alternative Palccoyo).
The standard route to Rainbow Mountain is called the Cusipata Trail. You start hiking at 4,600 m (15,000 ft) and continue for 3 km (1.8 miles) with a total elevation gain of about 400 m (1,300 ft), and then back the same way. So it’s not that long, but it’ll take you 2 hours to get up there and another 1.5 hours back down because you will be taking breathing breaks every 20 m (65 ft). The cost is s/40.
The shorter Palccoyo Route is only 2 km (1.2 miles) long and takes you to a different rainbow mountain (several, actually) than the popular Rainbow Mountain. It's an easy hike of about 40 minutes. The cost is s/10.
Read our Rainbow Mountain article to see which one is right for you.
No matter which starting point you decide on, you’re looking at a 3–4-hour drive from Cusco one way, so get up bright and early. It’s 100 km (62 miles), and at least half of that will be spent on mountain dirt roads.
There are a couple of places worth a stop in the towns at the foot of the mountain, check out the whole Rainbow Mountain article to see if you’d like any of those.
Spend a leisurely morning sleeping in, having a grand breakfast, and then getting to the Cusco airport for your flight to Lima. There are many departures throughout the day and tickets cost around USD 100. You’ll be in Lima in no time... if you consider 1.5 hours no time.
Once in the city, you’ll probably only have enough energy left for a nice dinner and cocktails. Check out our favorite restaurants here.
You can take one last look at the sunset at the Miraflores boardwalk, called the Malecón, that takes you to the cliffs over the ocean. After sunset, head inland to one of the top bars in Miraflores called Open Tapas Bar, and reminisce about your trip, lamenting about how you should’ve stayed longer.
Because you will wish you had more time. There is so much more to see and do in Peru. Or, since you’re still planning your trip, check out our 4-week itinerary for Peru. Amazon jungle, anyone? More hikes? Straw islands on Lake Titicaca?
Both hotels we stayed at in Lima, the Miraflores Hilton Hotel and the Radisson Red Miraflores were good, so take your pick. You won’t be disappointed in either one, though the Hilton is certainly the more sophisticated one. The staff were exceptionally pleasant and we had no complaints whatsoever.
There’s nothing left to say, you’ll need to come back to Peru another day! Hasta luego!
And remember, if you have more time, you can double your stay in Peru. Check out our 4-week Peru itinerary and fill your days with some jungle, sandboarding and the world’s highest lake!
We’ve put together a ton of information about visiting Peru. Not only destination guides, but also travel tips and tricks that we’ve learned the only way you can—by having traveled to Peru. Read these before you go so you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest:
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If you only have 3 days for Sacred Valley and Cusco, you’ll be missing out on some good places. But, I’ll try to be a silver-lining kind of guy this time and smash as much as possible into those 3 days in Cusco.
Peruvians are some of the kindest, most helpful and courteous people I’ve met during my travels. Until you put them in the driver’s seat. Then they turn into aggressive, angry, idiotic monsters. Especially in Lima.