Oh Peru! A country abound with beauty, a landscape more diverse than anywhere you have been, a culture and people filled with kindness and generosity, filled with delicious food and unforgettable experiences! As travel opens back up post pandemic, make sure Peru is on your travel list!
My husband and I had the chance to take a wonderful trip to Peru at the end of June in 2019 and it was an unforgettable experience. It took a long while to plan and organize the trip, especially with so many itinerary options out there. Overall, we did a mix of cheap stays to luxury stays, to guided tours and do it yourself tours. Here’s our itinerary, some helpful tips and tested recommendations for planning your next Peruvian adventure.
Your Peruvian Adventure Awaits
To do the Inca Trek or Train to Machu Picchu
Before we dive in, there is an important decision to be made before your big Peru trip. Machu Picchu is considered one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a must see attraction in Peru, but how do we get there? The tricky question to answer is do I trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu taking up extra days of my trip or do I take the train so I can squeeze in other activities? I struggled for years on this decision when planning our trip and here is what I recommend. If you are capable and able, do the trek. Here’s why, along the Inca Trek you see many ruins, you get to breathe and live in Inca footsteps, you are eating local food and learning about local culture for four days, you bond with strangers around the world and you make an unforgettable memory. The trek is challenging, but I saw all ages and fitness levels doing it. There is something about the challenge of a four day trek that makes the memory that much sharper, that much more impactful. Of all the trips I have ever taken to epic places, the trek to Machu Picchu may just be the most memorable and I believe it was because of the challenge, because I breathed Inca air for 4 days and nights. We did the classic Inca Trek with Peru Treks & Adventure (we used porters to carry some of our things) and I would highly recommend them!
Here’s the thing, although I highly recommend the trek, you really can’t go wrong with your trip to Peru if you choose the train or the hike. Machu Picchu is a truly incredible historic site to behold in person and in the end you should follow your gut on which to do.
Peru Packing List
12 Day Peru Itinerary
Lima > Cusco > Machu Picchu > Cusco > Puno > Lake Titicaca > Puno > Lima
Check out our Peru trip in this 4 minute video. Scroll down for a detailed day by day itinerary!
I have accounted for an extra travel day at the end of this itinerary. If coming from the US, you will likely fly from Miami to Lima. We stayed a night in the Lima airport hotel, then woke up early to catch the first flight to Cusco through LATAM airways.
Our original flight was actually cancelled. We had an overnight flight and planned to spend a day in Lima and learn surfing, unfortunately that did not work out, so we caught the first flight out the next morning. We were disappointed, but the trip was incredible regardless. My tip to you is to always build in a buffer day! Travel life means you must be prepared for surprises, disappointments and frustrations. Be flexible and let things go when they don’t work out as planned, you will still make plenty of incredible memories nonetheless, I promise.
Day 1 – Cusco
- Fly in to Cusco in the morning
- Schedule a Hotel Shuttle or Taxi
- Explore Cusco
- Pay for Inca Trek reservation
- Check out the Plaza de Armas de Cuzco
- Get acclimated to the altitude
- Scope out train stations, etc.
- Find an ATM and get a couple hundred dollars worth of Peruvian Soles to go shopping or pay for taxi rides, etc.
- Inca Trek payment – Peru Treks requires an in-person cash payment (USD) 2 days prior to the trek. The building is tricky to find, use your offline GPS and walk around buildings to look for numbers
- Try some Coca tea at the hotel to help alleviate altitude sickness (know that it is considered illegal in the US)
- In foreign countries, always have your first night hotel include breakfast, this will alleviate some of the first day stress
- Delicious Empanadas: La Valeriana
- Our Hotel: Ramada by Wyndham Costa Del Sol Cusco — They will hold your extra luggage while you are on your trek!
Day 2 – Cusco
- Take a hike over to the historical Inca site Sacsayhuamem (“sexy woman”) a UNESCO world heritage site
- Stop at San Pedro Market
- Bring soles ($), as there is a small fee to enter Sacsayhuamem
- Bring water and take your time up the climb. This is great prep for your trek, but you are still getting acclimated to the altitude
- We stumbled upon a huge festival in the Plaza. It was incredible! Learn about June Cusco Festivals
- Dinner: Morena Peruvian Kitchen
Day 3 – Inca Trek Day 1
- Get picked up from Hotel for Inca Trek with Peru Treks (2.5hr drive to start of trek)
- Day 1 of Inca Trek (7.5miles) – pace yourself and take lots of pictures!
- Ollantaytambo to Wayllabamba
- Our pick up came an hour late because they had a flat tire, stuff happens, try not to freak out, but have phone numbers handy and have the hotel call just in case
- We hired porters to carry our sleeping bags (rented) and extra items, I highly recommend
- Meeting everyone day 1 and instantly becoming “family”
- The food the cook porters made along the way was incredible!
Day 4 – Inca Trek Day 2
- Tough trekking day all uphill to Dead Woman’s Pass (~7.5 miles)
- Wayllabamba to Pacamayo
- It’s the toughest day of the trek, but it is not a lot of miles considering you are starting early in the morning. Take your time and enjoy the trek you trained for
- It’s cold and windy, layer up!
- Coffee delivered to my tent and all the delicious meals
- Getting a picture at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass!
- Hearing all the porters cheer as the listened to a fútbol game on their portable radio
Day 5 – Inca Trek Day 3
- Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna (about 9 miles)
- See the impressive Inca ruins of Runkuracay, Sayacmarca, and Phuyupatamarca
- Take your time and enjoy the sites!
- Go to sleep early, as you will be waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow
- Meeting llamas on the trail
- A rainbow appearing over the Andes and nearby ruins and we were all in awe
- A special mountain ceremony led by our guide
- A cake made special by the Chef for our 1 year anniversary
Day 6 – Inca Trek Day 4
- Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu (~3 miles) – wake up insanely early for the porters to catch the train
- Arrive via the sungate
- Check into Aguas Calientes hotel and get train tickets for tomorrow afternoon to Ollantaytambo
- Explore Aguas Calientes
- Realize that a bunch of new people will show up on the trail for the 1 day Inca Trek
- Don’t race, you wont catch it before sunrise anyways
- No backpacks or food allowed in Machu Picchu – grab a snack, bring a water bottle and put on sunscreen
- Machu Picchu will be crowded
- Hotel: Tierra Viva Machu Picchu
- Arriving at the sungate to see Machu Picchu below
- Being in awe and curiosity of the wonder of Machu Picchu
- Celebratory pizza in the town and a shower at the hotel
Day 7 – Wayna Picchu & Aguas Calientes
- Wayna Picchu – I highly recommend going back to Machu Picchu a second day and doing the Wayna Picchu hike
- Catch the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and then a bus ride back to Cusco
- Machu Picchu the first day is so exhausting, this second day was so peaceful and we truly got to take it all in
- Make sure you book Wayna Picchu well in advance
- Catching the bus back to Cusco from Ollantaytambo was crazy, it was so hard to figure it out, plus our driver was a maniac. Bring your google translate and maybe do some research on the best way to get back
- Getting Machu Picchu to ourselves before the crowds
- Shopping and dining in Aguas Calientes
- Hotel: Ramada by Wyndham Costa Del Sol Cusco
Day 8 – PeruRails Train Ride
- Wake up early to catch the PeruRails – Train ride to Puno
- Enjoy an unforgettable cultural and beautiful 10 hour train ride filled with delicious food and entertainment
- Check into hotel and find dinner in Puno
Day 9 – Lake Titicaca
- Get picked up for our reserved tour through All Ways travel
- Tour of Lake Titicaca – Uros Floating Reed Island
- Meet Homestay family on Amantani (Quechua speaking, Spanish will work)
- We did the Cultural Amantani Island Tour, but I believe it has changed in recent years
- Bring Google Translate to help communicate to your host family
- Accommodation: homestay through the tour
- Bring a nice sole ($) tip for the family letting you stay in their home
- Seeing the floating reed islands
- Hiking to see the sunset on Amantani Island
- Seeing a full starry night and milky way on the highest navigable lake on the world with no electricity nearby
- Getting dressed up in cultural dress and learning their dance
Day 10 – Lake Titicaca
- Buy a souvenir here! The Weaving done on Taquile Island is considered UNESCO protected!
- Bring a tip for your guide
- Hotel: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza
- Quinoa pancakes with homestay family
- Learning about the incredible UNESCO weaving and what all the cultural hats symbolize in the community
- Learning about the historical and current political landscape with our tour guide
Day 11 – Travel Day
- Get a ride to Juliaca Airport
- Fly Puno to Lima
- Relax and take your time to wind down
- You can fly straight back home today or relax in Lima
- Hotel: Lima Airport
Day 12 – Buffer Travel day
- Travel Lima to Home
- Use as buffer Travel Day, day one travel and flight delays, etc.
Safe Travels and Enjoy!
Reach out to me for any questions about your next Peru Adventure or comment below some of your tips!
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