Planning a trip to Peru but not sure where to start? Here’s my 17-day itinerary that can be tweaked down to 15 days or even 2 weeks! Get creative with it, and definitely don’t do what we did (hike the Inca Trail and then hike the Colca Canyon) lol. Choose one!
Peru is such a large country, something to keep in mind, so the more time you have, the better. 2 weeks would honestly be perfect. We spent a lot of time bussing around the country, but if you have less time, you can definitely fly between destinations as well.
Looking to hike the Inca Trail? We signed up to hike the Inca Trail through the trekking companyPERU TREKS, which I HIGHLY recommend. We visited Peru and hiked in November, which is the tail end of the dry season and the beginning of the wet season. Most of our trip was dry, but we did have a few days of rain sprinkled in.
Day 0 – Depart from your home airport (mine was SFO)
Our trip started off with taking a flight out of San Francisco airport with a layover in San Salvador, El Salvador. We ended up taking a taxi toEl Tunco (a beach town in El Salvador). This town was really cool, and if you have the chance, I recommend going here if you also have a layover in El Salvador.
Travel days can be exhausting, especially when hopping planes. But landing in Peru is so exciting! We land at Lima around 8:00 PM, just in time for a good night’s sleep. We took a taxi from the airport to our hostel, which is no longer open in Miraflores. We loved this area though, so if you can get a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb in this area, I recommend it! The trip from the airport took us about 45 minutes from the airport to our hostel. Be sure to research a bit about transportation to your accommodation before getting to the Lima airport!
Day 2 – Tour Lima
A foggy day in Lima. Good thing all the buildings are so bright
Lima is Peru’s capital, and there is plenty to do in this lively city. Grab breakfast at Homemade in Miraflores, and then you can walk to Parque Kennedy to meet your walking tour! I highly recommend taking a free walking tour around Lima. In fact, this is one of my favorite things to do when I visit a new country to get my bearings.
The tour will take you here but definitely spend some time walking around Lima’s Main Square, also known as Plaza de Armas, the birthplace of Lima.
If you are into Museums, visit Huaca Pucllana Site Museum. Here you can learn all about the ruins of a pre-Incan pyramid and the pre-Columbian period of Peru. You also won’t want to miss marveling at nature in the green space of Circuito Mágico del Agua. You can listen to the cascading fountains, which even turn into a light show at night.
If you want a fun, hip neighborhood, I highly recommend Miraflores. The cliffs along the edge of this neighborhood overlooking the ocean are incredible!
Also, if you can find it, be sure to get a churro from Churros San Francisco. I think they were the best I’ve ever had! For dinner, try Restaurante Al Fresco for ceviche, octopus, tuna tartare, Peruvian wine, and delicious pisco sours.
Day 3 – Fly to Cusco
Until next time, Cusco! Such a fun and vibrant town. Very touristy yet so beautiful!
Cusco is 11,152 feet above sea level and is located in the Peruvian Andes. At one point, it was the capital of the Inca Empire and is now the starting point for the Inca Trail. Many people come here and get altitude sickness, but if you’re going to hike the Inca Trail as we did, your trekking company will tell you to come to Cusco a few days before your trek to get acclimated. You’ll get there on a quick 1 hour 25-minute nonstop flight from Lima.
Cusco is a lovely place with plenty of things to do. I recommend stopping by one of their markets, like The San Pedro market, which is only ten minutes from downtown . It is a great place to grab and buy souvenirs to take home. If you are visiting on a Sunday, you can explore The Pisac Market too. Purchase weavings, ponchos, hats, and Andean instruments.
Want to turn your day trip into an overnight one? You definitely can as there are plenty of awesome hotels in Cusco! Here are my top three picks.
Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel: If luxury is more your style, then look no further than Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel. This chic hotel offers a spa and restaurant, all in the beautiful building of a five-century-old mansion. A perfect way to spoil yourself in South America.
Selina Plaza de Armas Cusco: Want a more affordable option? Then spend your night at Selina Plaza de Armas Cusco. This lively hostel is set in a Colonial-style building right in the heart of Cusco. You can even take tours in Cusco and to famous archaeological sites with their local tour guides.
Where to eat in Cusco
Grab yourself some authentic Peruvian food during your day trip in Cusco. Here are a few that were recommended to me.
Green Point Restaurants: This restaurant specializes in Vegan dishes, but you don’t have to be Vegan to enjoy them.
Morena Peruvian Kitchen: This gem offers up some Peruvian cuisine with influences from the Costa Sierra and Selva. All dishes are made with organic products from their orchard in the Sacred Valley.
Again, I am a huge fan of doing free walking city tours in new cities. We did a great tour in Cusco that showed us all over the city with beautiful views all around. You may also want to try guinea pig while in Cusco, a delicacy for Peruvians! We tried it at Pacha Papa, a fun outdoor little restaurant, and it’s a bit too fatty for my liking! 😉 If you’re not into guinea pig, try their Lomo Saltado!
While preparing for your trip, most of the Inca Trail trekking guides tell you that it is so important to stay two days in Cusco before starting your hike on the Inca Trail. This allows your body to acclimate to the altitude, as altitude sickness is a real problem when hiking the Inca Trail In fact, my brother got it so bad his lips were turning blue even though we grew up at a high elevation!
So while you are in Cusco, you might as well take advantage of the few extra days in Cusco to explore, especially if it means staying safe when hiking the Inca Trail.
Day 5 – Take a day trip to the Sacred Valley
If you feel up for it before your trek, you might want to take a day trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas as we did! You’ll visit ancient villages and ruins in the highlands like Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero. The only place I wish we would have gone that we didn’t was the salt flats in Moray!
The tour we did start in the morning and went on all day long. I was exhausted afterward, but we had time for a nice dinner and nice long sleep before hiking the Inca Trail the next morning.
Day 6 – Day 1 on the Inca Trail
We signed up to hike the Inca Trail through the trekking company PERU TREKS, which I HIGHLY recommend, and ended up with 14 people on our trek (ages 20-60 from all over the world), two guides, and 22 porters. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a total of 26 miles, and each day proposes its own challenges, but the entire hike takes four days. We had to wake up at 4 am to leave at 4:30 am with Peru Treks. It took us an hour and 30 minutes to get to Ollantaytambo where we started our trek.Here’s my recap of day 1.
Day 7 – Day 2 on the Inca Trail
Our guide Ernesto warned us the night before that Day 2 was the hardest day. He explained we’d be going uphill for the majority of the day, and then immediately, once we were to reach Dead Woman’s Pass (the highest elevation on the trek, 13,828 ft), we’d have to hike on “Gringo steps” (small steps not meant for westerners large feet) downhill for two more hours. I was pretty nervous as I went to bed that night, but I realized I had no other option, it WAS happening, and it was time to strap on my party pants! Read my full recap of day two here.
Day 8 – Day 3 on the Inca Trail
Day 3 was arguably less hard than Days 1& 2, but much longer and more tiresome. We woke up at 5 am from our beautiful campsite that was tucked underneath a waterfall and little stream. I had a seriously hard time getting out of the tent and was feeling extremely sore in the morning, but most of all, I was dreading walking to the bathroom because they were disgusting…probably the worst ones I’d seen on the trail.
We were told that today was going to be beautiful if the clouds parted, and we’d get to see a lot of amazing Inca sites. We started the trek uphill for 2 hours and stopped at our first small Inca site. The views were great, and it was fun to see we were getting closer to Machu Picchu from the number of Inca sites we started seeing! After continuing to hike uphill, we ended at another Inca site called Sayacmarca, which was tucked into the mountain and only accessible by climbing up 99 narrow steps. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy and foggy, so we couldn’t see the views from the site, but it was interesting to hear how they mummified the Incas, and it was fun to look at the different rooms. My legs were SHOT, so coming down from the narrow steps was a bit difficult! Read my full recap of day 3 here.
Day 9 – Day 4 on the Inca Trail
The last day of hiking to Machu Picchu started pretty miserably, unfortunately. We were woken up at 3:30 am by the porters in the pitch black to a torrential downpour. I’m not kidding, the raindrops were the size of snowballs, and there were literal rivers forming around the campsite. Because it was raining so hard, we had to move even quicker to pack up and get out of our tents so the porters could clean up and take them down. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do at 3:30 am while everything was wet.
3:30 am is the standard wake-up call for the final day of the trek. Some treks even woke up earlier! Even though it was raining, everyone still had a positive attitude and was ready to kickstart the final day! The good news is that we knew we’d be seeing Machu Picchu today, which kept everyone going. Here’s my recap of day four and my trip to Machu Picchu!
After the hike, we got foot massages in Aguas Calientes and then headed back to Ollantaytambo by train and then got a bus back to Cusco.
It is an honor to have the chance to complete this hike, as it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime trek for many. Wish me luck!
Day 10 – Travel to Lake Titicaca and Puno Village
The next day we work up at 5:30 am to get the Inka Express bus to Puno and Lake Titicaca in southern Peru. This bus ended up being a tour that stopped five times at different villages and monuments like the Andahuaylillas Church, Huarautambo Bridge, the Raqchi Inca ruins, La Raya mountain glacier, and Pukara, pottery museum, before ending in Puno.
Puno sits on Lake Titicaca, one of South America’s largest lakes (which we will get to in a minute!)! We planned to rest up from the trek and enjoy some Puervian food in Puno Village. However, every food place open was pizza, so we got pizza.
Day 11 – Travel to Lake Titicaca – Uros and Taquile Islands
From Puno, we had our tour company pick us up to travel to Lake Titicaca, where we visited Uros and Taquile Islands. Lake Titicaca sits between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains and is stunning. It is the largest freshwater lake in South America and the highest of the world’s largest lakes.
Taquile Island is a UNESCO world heritage site because of its rich history in knitting and weaving, and The Urus islands, or “floating islands,” are man-made islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. They float on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, a few miles from Puno. The Uros people have been living on the lake for hundreds of years, and while it’s a bit touristy now, it’s really interesting!
We took a boat to Uros and saw how the families lived and how they actually build the reed islands. They showed us inside their reed huts and how they fish and keep up the reed islands. Afterward, we took a 3-hour boat ride to Amantani island, where we did a family stay! Our stay was in one of the nicest houses on the island (it almost felt like a bed and breakfast), and we wondered if we were getting scammed again, but we couldn’t complain. On this island, we went to the Plaza de Armas and hiked to the Pacha Tata temple at top of the island. It was beautiful! We bought alpaca sweaters at the top and watched the sunset.
Day 12 – Lake Titicaca
We had one more day in the Lake Titicaca and Puno area. We woke up and said goodbye to our host family and then took a boat to Taquile Island! I loved this island because the men knit here, and the women weave. It’s also a beautiful island that I recommend spending time walking around and looking at the views! It reminded me of cliffs off of Greece!
Then it’s a 3-hour boat ride back to Puno, where we crashed pretty hard and booked our next excursion to Colca Canyon. Oh, and the only food we could find was pizza again! So weird.
Day 13 – Bus to Arequipa
After our visit to Lake Titicaca, we took a bus ride to Arequipa. This was one of our favorite towns and is also known as the “White City of Peru.” It’s also famous for having some of the best food in the country and a large population of ex-pats. We stayed at the hostel, Friendly AqP. Our favorite things to do in the city while we were there were visiting the Plaza de Armas, touring the Santa Catalina Monastery (it was beautiful), getting beer and chocolate on the rooftop at Chacqchao, and eating dinner at El Garaje!
Day 14 – Trek the Colca Canyon
I’m not sure what’s wrong with us, but we hiked the Inca Trail and then thought it would be a good idea to hike the Colca Canyon! It’s known as one of the deepest canyons in the world. We woke up at 2:30 am for our tour. It was similar to this one! If I had it to do over again, though, I’d probably do the 3-day trek because 2 days just make the days really long.
We arrived at the top of Colca Canyon, and it was breathtaking! Then we started our hike down the canyon. We weren’t expecting it to be so hard, but it was about 11 total hours of hiking downhill and uphill. You stop at the bottom of the canyon for an overnight stay and then hike back up the next morning!
Day 15 – Trek the Colca Canyon
The next day we woke up early to hike back up the mountain, but my friend and I were so beat that we had to rent a donkey to get up the canyon. I don’t usually recommend hiring these pack animals because many times they aren’t treated very well, but desperate times…
After the hike, it was time to head to Arequipa. The bus took us to see some beautiful terraces, archeological sites and canyon views. Then we stopped at Chivay, a town in the Colca Valley, before arriving back in Arequipa for the night!
Day 16 – Fly back to Lima
After our last night in Arequipa, we flew back to Lima for a final night before flying back home from Lima! Most of this day was spent packing back up for our journey home! Definitely try looking out the window to see if you can see the famous Nazca lines!
Day 17 – Flight from Lima to SFO
Our trip to Peru came to an end on Day 17. I feel like I could have planned over 30 days in this exquisite country. But 17 days was just perfect for us. I can’t wait to return and do the Amazon!
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 30 something from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. After a trip around the world, my heart chose Idaho. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography, and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.