Sure, a One Week Adventure in Peru will not be enough for a lifetime. This country has a tremendous amount of places to see and activities to do. However, this itinerary will give you a glimpse of it while exploring the sites of the Inca Empire, including Machu Picchu, and sailing on the famous Lake Titicaca.
3 Reasons to go
- Machu Picchu. Yes, it’s a touristic site but it’s also a once in a lifetime experience, don’t miss it. Some say they might even limit the access to the public someday to prevent the deterioration due to the number of visitors (edit: check out the new rules here).
- Inca civilization. Simply fascinating, and you don’t have to be a History expert to appreciate its remains.
- Breathtaking landscapes. From the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, to the Altiplano and the Lake Titicaca, you will remember these stunning views forever.
Destination A: Cuzco
For a first trip to Peru, I advise you to skip the capital Lima and go straight to Cuzco the former capital of the Inca Empire. It’s a great city and a convenient location to start exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Destination B: Inca Valley & Machu Picchu
Unless you are going to Peru for the Inca Trek specifically (4 days hike to reach Machu Picchu), your best option will be to reach the site by train and bus through the Inca Valley.
Destination C: Lake Titicaca
Set at an altitude of 3812m above sea level, this is the largest lake in South America. Plus, you will get to see Bolivia on the other side!
How to book your vacation?
If you enjoy organizing your own trips.
Start booking hotels:
Day 1: travel & arrive in Cuzco
Depending on your landing time, take the rest of the day to relax and get used to the altitude.
Day 2: Cusco
Take the day to explore the city, pet some llamas and have a look at the old Inca stones which are still visible on some streets.
Day 3: Inca Valley
Catch a bus (colectivo) to Písac and stop there to visit the ruins. You can arrange with a cab to take you to the upper ruins and wait for you at the lower ruins for about 35 soles round trip.
Continue with another bus to Urubamba where you can easily switch and hop on a bus for Ollantaytambo. Spend some time onsite to visit the ruins before you get on the Perurail Train that will then bring you to your final destination for the day, Aguas Calientes (expect to pay a minimum of $50 US for the train ride which last one and a half hours. Book far in advance on perurail.com to get the best deals and schedule).
Day 4: Machu Picchu
From Aguas Calientes, you can either walk or take a bus to the Machu Picchu site entrance, it’s up to you. You can easily spend most of your day there, especially if you climb the Wayna Picchu.
Later in the afternoon you can visit the hot springs in Aguas Calientes before returning to the train station. For the way back, you can choose to go all the way to Poroy for a minimum of 50$ (and 3.5 hours). You then need a cab to cover the last 10km to Cuzco.
Day 5: Road Cusco – Puno
Many bus companies offer this as a day trip with multiple stops on the way. It is definitely a good option and will let you admire the wonderful landscapes of the Altiplano. Sure, the visits are not optimal, quite short and with everybody else from the bus. But at least you get a bit of information from the guide and you can stop and walk around a little bit (buy your ticket on your first day in Cuzco). Spend the night in Puno.
Day 6 – 7: Lake Titicaca
Another good excursion is to visit the islands on Lake Titicaca. Several local travel agencies offer this excursion which usually includes a stop on the Uros (floating islands built of reeds) and then a night in a family on the island of Amantani. The next day, after a stop and lunch on Taquile, the boat brings you back to Puno where you can take a comfortable night bus to head back to Cuzco. The tour with All Ways Travel costs $35 US per person for the 2 days.
On Amantani the profits are shared with the community and the number of tourists is restricted. Families rotate hosting the guests so they all benefit from the tourism flow.
From Cuzco, catch a plane to Lima to return home.
Tips & advice
- Make sure to take your time and get plenty of rest when you arrive in Cuzco. The city is about 3400m above sea level so some people can get symptoms of altitude sickness (known as soroche).
- Get a guide when you visit Machu Picchu, don’t be cheap! It’s true that this day will probably be the most expensive of the trip if you include the cost of the train to get there and everything, but since you spent so much money on it, make sure you get the most out of it. Peru is a historic destination and as much as Inca ruins are impressive on their own, your experience will be more complete if you understand the meaning of what’s standing in front of you.
- If you want to climb the Wayna Picchu (the summit that you see in all the Machu Picchu pictures) wake up very early and be there at the opening as space is limited. Go straight to the end of the ruins where the Wayna entrance is. The hike is not very long (about an hour) but quite challenging with hundreds of steps of every shape and size.