Standing on a rock to view the epic mountains

10 Day Itinerary Peru: Machu Picchu hike, Cusco, and Lima (2024)

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Peru is a truly magical country. From the delicious foods, rich Andean culture, and breathtaking landscapes, to visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Peru is filled with unforgettable bucket-list experiences. But with so many different things to see, it can be challenging to figure out how to properly plan your trip. As an experienced traveler with the knowledge of visiting the country thoroughly, below we share with you our ultimate 10 day itinerary for visiting Peru

Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Us standing with Alpacas at Palcoyo mountain

How many days do you need in Peru?

Peru is a country filled with so much culture, history, incredible hikes, and fascinating ruins that it deserves a minimum of 10 days. In fact, we feel that a two-week or 16-day visit would be ideal to see most of the main highlights around Cusco. 

With 10 days, you will need to miss out on visiting the Peruvian Amazon as it is more difficult and time-consuming to reach.

Another one of the main experiences in Peru is doing the hike to Machu Picchu which can take from 3-5 days. For this reason, you will require a minimum of 10 days to get a good taste of Peru. 

Below we have proposed an ideal 10 day plan but also included alternative options for organizing a 7 days or two weeks stay in case it is needed.

Local market with fruit stand in Peru

Complete Peru Itinerary (10 days)

In this itinerary, you will be visiting Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lima. These are some of the highlight experiences during the trip:

  • Cooking class in Cusco
  • ATV tour to Moray and Maras
  • Exploring the markets of Cusco
  • 4 days Salkantay Trek or Inca Trail
  • Visiting Machu PIcchu
  • Rainbow Mountain/Palcoyo Mountain or the Sacred Valley
  • Experiencing the food and art scene in Lima

Below we will break down how to plan each day and what activities to do.

Day 1: Arrival in Lima + flight to Cusco + Cooking class

Arrival in Lima

The majority of international flights arrive at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru’s capital. Rather than spending the day in Lima, we suggest staying at the airport and catching the next direct flight to Cusco. The reason for this is that traffic in Lima is pretty bad, and reaching the main neighbourhoods of Miraflores or Barranco can take close to 1 hour

Luckily, there are flights departing from Lima to Cusco practically every hour, making it convenient to reach your destination.

Arrival in Cusco

Once you arrive at Cusco’s airport (Alejandro Velsaco Astete Airport), you will be a quick 15-minute drive away from the historic center of Cusco. You can catch a taxi at the stands outside or book a transport ahead of time. The cost should be about 10-15 soles, or 3-5$.

Cusco Plaza de Armas historic district

Cooking class in Cusco

One of the best ways to introduce yourself to the history, culture, and get an inside scoop on the city is by doing a cooking class. You’ll start your journey at the local markets, where you’ll be introduced to the unique fruits and vegetables native to Peru. Gain insights into their remarkable agricultural history, which is a crucial aspect given that many of the ruins and attractions in the Sacred Valley are interconnected with their advanced knowledge of agriculture.

Once the produce is gathered, you will then head over to their private kitchen where you’ll learn how to prepare some of the highlight dishes of Peru. Our experience lasted 4 hours in total and included the preparations of a pisco sour cocktail, a Tiradito (or sometimes you’ll prepare ceviche), an Alpaca steak main course, and a fruit parfait dessert.

⭐⭐ Check out our recommended Peruvian cooking classes:

🧑‍🍳 High End Peruvian Cooking Class + Market tour: This is the cooking class we booked and had the best experience! the group is small (we were 6 in total) and the dishes we ended up cooking were so good that we would’ve ordered it at a restaurant! The tour starts at 3 PM.

🌽 Vegetarian Peruvian Cooking class + market tour: This tour is perfect for our vegetarian readers. You will be preparing dishes such as causa, vegetarian ceviche, tamal, and picarones while enjoying a glass of pisco sour.


Day 2: Stroll around Cusco, Acclimate, Visit local markets, Sacsayhuaman

Acclimating to the altitude in Cusco

The perfect way to spend your first full day in Cusco is strolling around the downtown area and giving your body the time to acclimatize to the altitude. At an elevation of 3400m above sea level, the first thing you will notice is that you will be out of breath doing any physical activity. We simply walked up the stairs to get to our hotel and had to stop to catch our breath. 

Nan posing in one of the streets higher up in Cusco

During most of your trip to Peru, especially in Cusco, the sacred valley, and Machu Picchu hike, you will be at risk of altitude sickness (”Soroche”). Fortunately, the locals have several local remedies that can help with the acclimation process including drinking coca leaf tea, garlic soup, Muna (mint leaf tea) or chewing on coca leaves

It is recommended that you have 2-3 days to acclimate before embarking on any strenuous hikes.

Stroll around Cusco historic center

Cusco previously served as the capital of the Inca Empire and today stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you stroll through Cusco’s cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial architecture, vibrant local markets, and bustling plazas. 

woman with colourful clothing walking in plaza de armas cusco

Due to its relatively small size, Cusco is easily walkable and most sights are reachable within a 20-30 minute stroll.

These are some of the main highlight things to see in Cusco:

  • 12-angle stone: Located on Hatun Rumiyoc Street, this famous stone wall showcases the remarkable precision of Inca stonemasonry. It is a gigantic stone with 12 different corner angles that was cut so perfectly to join the other stones that you can’t even slip a razor blade through the crack.  
12 angle stone in cusco
12 angle stone in Cusco. Look how precisely cut this huge stone is!
  • Plaza de Armas: the beautiful central square of Cusco, surrounded by colonial buildings and the Cathedral Santo Domingo.
  • San Pedro Market or San Blas Market: San Pedro market is the largest and most famous market in Cusco. You will likely be visiting this market during your food tour. If you are seeking a more local and authentic experience, make sure to visit San Blas Market. We were one of the only tourists there and enjoyed an amazing smoothie while chatting with the fruit vendor. 
smoothie drink in San Blas market, an off-the-beaten path experience during our 10 day itinerary peru
delicious fresh fruit smoothie
  • Sacsayhuaman: An ancient Incan fortress located on the outskirts of Cusco. It showcases massive stone walls that once again stands as a testament to their incredible engineering prowess.
sacsayhuaman fortress in cusco
Sacsayhuaman fortress walls. Look how huge the stones are!

💡 With such a rich history and so many stories behind each structure, it can be worthwhile to do a guided tour. Check out this half-day, small group, walking tour where you’ll visit the top Inca and Colonial sites in Cusco.


Day 3: ATV Trip to Moray and Maras, try Cuy for dinner

ATV trip to Moray and Maras

Moray is an archeological ruin located in the Sacred Valley and was believed to be an agricultural laboratory used by the Incas before the 15th century. One of the most remarkable things you’ll notice about Moray is the unique circular terraces built into the mountainside

Moray circular fields in sacred valley
The beautiful circular terraces were used for agricultural experiments by the Inca

Maras showcases thousands of small terraced salt pools used in the pre-Inca times and is still operational today. Moray and Maras are frequently combined together as a day trip and can be done by ATV tour or bus tour.

Nan at the lookout of Maras salt ponds
closeup of people working in the salt ponds of maras

We recommend doing the ATV tour since you will be able to see the Sacred Valley countryside as you ride along the agricultural fields. It is also very fun driving an ATV!

ATV tour to Moray and Maras

✅ Check out our recommended Moray and Maras tours:

🏍️ Moray and Maras ATV tour: This is the tour that we did and we had a blast! Riding an ATV is fairly easy and the guides will explain to you how to drive it before your departure.

🚌 Bus day tour to Moray and Maras: this is a bus tour that will bring you to Moray, Maras salt mine, as well as the Maras town. You will also have the opportunity to try out the local corn drink Chicha.  

🚐 Private day tour to Moray and Maras: If you prefer to go as a private group, this tour is perfect for you! In addition to Moray and Maras, you will also visit Chinchero. Chinchero is a picturesque town that is home to a collection of Inca-era walls and Andean textiles. 

🏔 Moray + Maras + Sacred Valley tour: If you would like to combine visiting Moray, Maras, and the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Pisac) in one trip, then this tour is perfect for you. We feel it may be too much crammed in one day but if you are short on time, then this could be a great option.

Try cuy for dinner

Cuy, or guinea pig, holds cultural and culinary significance in Peru, particularly in the Andean regions such as Cusco. In Cusco, cuy is a traditional dish that has been part of the local cuisine for centuries. Although this may not be for everyone, it is one of the unique experiences that can only be had in Cusco. 

Cuy, which is guinea pig, as a meal in cusco
Cuy, guinea pig
Alpaca steak meal in cusco
Alpaca steak

Several restaurants serve it around town and can be prepared in the oven or deep fried. We would recommend trying the deep-fried version as everything tastes better after being deep-fried!

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Day 4, 5, 6, 7: Salkantay or Inca Trail (4 day hike)

The biggest highlight of our trip to Peru was doing the 4 day 3 night Salkantay trail to reach Machu Picchu. While there are various methods to reach Machu Picchu, we consider the multi-day hike to be among the most rewarding and enriching experiences you can have in Peru. To reach Machu Picchu, you will have the option of the classic Inca trail or the alternative Salkantay trail

Nan sitting on rock at Laguna Humantay
The breathtaking Humantay Lake during our 4 day Salkantay Trek

Inca trail or Salkantay Trail?

The Inca trail is the historic and iconic route used by the Incas to reach the citadel of Machu Picchu. This sacred trek is filled with significant Incan ruins as well as beautiful mountain vistas.

inca trail to machu picchu
Inca trail hiking pathway

The Salkantay Trail is an alternative trek that focuses more on the natural beauty of the Andean mountain range and includes the breathtaking Laguna Humantay. You will also have the opportunity to sleep in a glass dome where you can watch the night sky lit with thousands of stars.

Stars in the night sky above the Sky Camp during the 4 Day Salkantay Trek
skycamp during the salkantay trek
Machu Picchu, one of the highlights of our 10 day itinerary peru
Machu Picchu

Both trails will reach Machu Picchu and can be done in 2-6 days, but they highlight different aspects of Peru. 

Learn more about the Salkantay Trek experience

To learn more about which hike to do or to see what you’ll experience on the Salkantay trail, check out our Salkantay hiking guide

4 day trek

⭐⭐ Click here to book your 4 day Salkantay trek experience.

In this 10 day itinerary, we feel that the length of 4 days hiking is ideal. This way you will have time to see some of the other main sites of Peru including the famous Rainbow Mountain and Lima.  However, If you are not interested in doing a 4-day trek, or would prefer a shorter hike, there are other options as will be explained in the “Shorter Stay” section below. 


This post is part of our series about Peru. If you want to learn more about Peru, planning your trip, and some of the best experiences there, check out the guides below:

Day 8: Exploration day in Cusco or Day Trips

After the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu, you will likely be fairly tired. Spend Day 8 slowly exploring some of the other sites in Cusco. These include:

  • Qoricancha: Incan temple of the sun
Qorikancha, sun temple in cusco
Qoricancha temple of the sun in Cusco
Coffee shop in San Blas cusco
the view at L’atelier Cafe
  • La Merced Church
  • Santa Catalina Convent

Alternative: Day trips from Cusco

If you still have the energy, then we would recommend doing a Sacred Valley Tour or going to the Rainbow Mountains.

Sacred Valley

In the Sacred Valley, you will see Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, which holds some of the most ancient Inca ruins. 

Sacred valley ruins
Rainbow mountain or Palcoyo mountain

If you are all ruined-out, then check out Rainbow Mountain or its alternative, Palcoyo Mountain. Here you can witness the stunning multi-coloured mountain slopes of Peru created by the presence of different minerals in the soil. 

Although the landscape is breathtaking, keep in mind that they are located about 3-4 hours drive from Cusco each-way. 

Check out these popular day trip options from Cusco:

⛰️ Sacred Valley Day tour: This 10-hour tour to the Sacred Valley includes visits to the Mirador of Taray, Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero. It does not include Moray and Maras as you have already visited them on Day 3. 

🌈 Rainbow mountain tour: This one-day tour will bring you to the beautiful rainbow mountains! Keep in mind that Rainbow Mountain is at a very high elevation so make sure you are comfortable with the altitude. You have the option to rent a horse (own expense) to help you if needed. 

🌈 Palcoyo mountain tour (alternative to Rainbow Mountain): Explore the less-trodden alternative to the prominent Rainbow Mountain by visiting Palcoyo Mountain. The journey to Palcoyo is also less demanding, requiring shorter and less strenuous hikes to reach the viewpoint.


Day 9: Explore the street art of Barranco, or try out Michelin star Maido

Take an evening flight on Day 8 or a morning flight on Day 9 to arrive in Lima. We would recommend staying in either Miraflores or Barranco. Both neighbourhoods are safe, beautifully situated along the coast, and have tons of entertainment.

Once you’ve settled into your hotel, you can spend the remainder of your day exploring the neighbourhood.

Barranco

Barranco is a Bohemian and artistic district filled with art galleries, colonial architecture, and charming restaurants. You can easily spend an afternoon roaming the street admiring the myriads of wonderful street art.

Street art in Barranco
coastal views in barranco

Also, make sure to explore the areas around the Bridge of Sighs as it is a very charming area and has some delicious restaurants. 

🍴 Recommended restaurants to try: Isolina and El Muelle, both in Barranco

calamari meal in Lima
Seafood meal in Lima

Miraflores

Miraflores is a more modern and commercial district known for its upscale vibe and vibrant nightlife. It is the perfect area to shop and has some incredible bars and restaurants with ocean views.

Coastal views in Miraflores

Make sure to spend some time exploring Malecón de Miraflores, a picturesque coastal boardwalk offering stunning views of the ocean and various art sculpture displays.

🍴 Recommended restaurants: If you are looking for a truly unique experience, try out Maido, one of the famous Michelin-star restaurants of Peru. They are renowned for their elaborate Japanese Omakase tasting menus. Make sure to reserve at least 2-3 months ahead of time though.

If you are looking for something less fancy and expensive, then check out Matsuei. These two recommendations are Japanese since Peru is known for their Nikkei food, a blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine.


Day 10: Explore Miraflores, Departure from Lima

Food tour or freely roam Lima

On your final day, spend the remaining time exploring what you were unable to complete on Day 9. Alternatively, you can embark on a morning food tour to discover some of the best Traditional Peruvian food that Lima has to offer. 

We did our food tour with The Lima Gourmet Company and felt the experience was excellent! It included 22+ tastings as well as several drinks over a period of 5 hours. You are driven from location to location and get to spend a good amount of time at each stop. The guide will also explain to you the history and culture of Lima as well as the story behind the dishes. 

ceviche in lima
octopus dish in lima

During our tour, we were referred to as her Limeñas! At first, I thought it meant Lemons, which was weird, but it turns out Limeñas are the native locals of Lima! Makes way more sense now…

If you want this incredible Food tour experience, check out Food Tour with Lima Gourmet Company!

Return to airport

Before returning to the airport, ensure that you allocate sufficient time for the journey, considering the potential heavy traffic congestion in Lima. And thus concludes your journey through the beautiful and fascinating country of Peru!


Shorter stay: Peru itinerary 7 days

If you only have 7 days in Peru, then I would recommend that you skip out on Lima, and reduce the hiking on days 4-7 to the shorter Machu Picchu trip of 2 days. Lima was our least favourite part of the trip since it is a fairly crowded city. The coastal views are beautiful and the food is amazing, but if pressed for time, Lima provided the least unique experience in Peru.

Salkantay Pass panoramic view

As for the hike, personally the 4 day Salkantay trek was the absolute highlight of our trip. If you wanted to still do the whole trek, then with 7 days, you only have time to arrive in Cusco to acclimate, maybe see one day’s worth of sites, and then embark on the hike. If this is your main objective in visiting Peru, then it is definitely doable in 7 days.

Machu PIcchu view from high above

Otherwise, if hiking is not a priority, but exploring Machu Picchu is, then you can either do the 2-day direct trip to Machu Picchu. To reach Machu Picchu, you will take the train to Aguas Calientes and then a bus up to the entrance. Ideally, if you just want to see Machu Picchu, you will need 2 days since the most beautiful views of the citadel are early in the morning. 

With the hike shortened, you will have two additional days to explore Cusco or spend 1-2 days in Lima.

Peru itinerary 7 days

A possible one week itinerary in Peru could look something like this:

  • Day 1: Arrival in Lima, flight to Cusco, cooking class
  • Day 2: Stroll around Cusco, acclimate, visit local markets, Sacsayhuaman
  • Day 3: Visit Moray + Maras, or day trip to Sacred Valley
  • Day 4-5: 2 day trip to Machu Picchu
  • Day 6: Day trip to Rainbow Mountain or Palcoyo Mountain, return by 5 pm, evening flight to Lima 
  • Day 7: Explore Barranco art district, or food tour, Departure from Lima

Longer stay: Peru two week itinerary

If you have more time in Peru, then I would highly recommend going to visit Tambopata National Reserve to experience the Peruvian Amazonia. Due to the park’s protected status and secluded location, It is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Here you can find thousands of species of butterflies, birds, and mammals including tapirs, otters, and even jaguars! 

aerial view of the amazon river through the forest

How to explore Tambopata National Reserve

The best way to explore this region is by booking a stay at one of the lodges located deep within the jungle. Staying in the jungle rather than in the main city of Puerto Maldonado will increase your chance of natural animal sightings and also enhance the immersive experience. 

Exploring Tambopata from Cusco is also easily accessible, thanks to the daily one-hour direct flights from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado (the main city hub of Tambopata). 

entrance of the amazon lodge
sitting on the canoe ride in tambopata

Once there, we would recommend staying for a minimum of 3-4 days. We ended up staying for 4 days and felt like this was the perfect amount of time to experience the Amazonia.

You also need to factor in the transport time from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, then the 1-hour drive to the river, and then likely a 1-2 hour boat road to reach the lodge.

During our trip planning research, fellow travelers agreed that allocating only two days would be insufficient, recommending an ideal stay of 3-4 days instead.

where to stay in Tambopata

There are several lodges available in the area ranging from very basic to very luxurious. The more basic ones tend to be located within Puerto Maldonado, the main city, whereas the more expensive ones are located remotely within the jungle, requiring a boat ride to reach. 

Given that the reason for visiting the Amazon is to fully immerse in the rainforest and see the animals, picking a location deeper in the jungle seemed the ideal option.

room in refugio amazonas
nan standing next to huge tree in amazon

After much research, we ended up picking Refugio Amazonas with Rainforest Expeditions. Their beautiful lodge is located deep within the rainforest and provides an all-inclusive and high-quality experience.  

Reserve your Refugio Amazonas Tambopata Lodge stay here!

Proposed two week itinerary peru

So for a 14 day itinerary in Peru, you would take the initial 8 days of our 10 day itinerary and then add on these modifications:

  • Day 9: Flight to Puerto Maldonado, transport to Amazon Lodge (lodge day 1)
  • Day 10: Explore the Amazon, Macaw Clay lick (lodge day 2)
  • Day 11: Explore the Amazon, watch tower and oxbow lake (lodge day 3)
  • Day 12: Morning explore Amazon, departure from Amazon Lodge (lodge day 4), flight to Lima
  • Day 13: Explore the street art of Barranco, Food tour in Lima or do it on your own, or try out Michelin star Maido
  • Day 14: Explore Miraflores, Departure from Lima
macaw within the trees of the amazon

Best time to visit peru

The optimal time to explore Peru is between May and September when the weather is moderate, dry, and the skies are clear. Given that one of the primary motivations for traveling to Peru is to experience Machu Picchu, it becomes crucial to choose a period when the visibility of the citadel remains unhampered by clouds or fog. Consequently, selecting months with the lowest average rainfall is advisable.

Machu Picchu View from the terrace

The peak season, spanning from June to August, experiences heightened crowds both in the cities and along the hiking trails. During this time, obtaining a permit to visit Machu Picchu can also be challenging.

For a more favourable experience, we recommend considering the shoulder months, specifically late April to May and late September to early October. During these periods, the weather remains pleasant, and crowd levels are comparatively lower, enhancing the overall enjoyment of your visit.

MonthAverage High (°C)Average Low (°C)Average Rainfall (mm)
January19°C6°C158 mm
February19°C6°C143 mm
March19°C6°C112 mm
April20°C5°C46 mm
May20°C1°C15 mm
June19°C1°C5 mm
July19°C1°C3 mm
August20°C2°C7 mm
September20°C3°C24 mm
October21°C4°C59 mm
November21°C5°C80 mm
December20°C5°C107 mm

Is peru expensive to visit?

We would consider Peru a very affordable country to visit in South America. Our accommodations cost around 30-40$ per night, meals ranged between 15-30$ for two, and transport was cheap. The most expensive activities will likely be doing the Inca trail/Salkantay trek or visiting the Amazon rainforest. 

As a point of reference, we paid around 500USD per person for the 4 day 3 night Salkantay trek. For the Amazon experience, we booked an exclusive lodge deep in the Peruvian Amazon called Refugio Amazonas.

alligator in the amazon

Their lodge is all-inclusive of the meals, lodging, and activities, and cost us around 1200USD for the two of us for 4 days 3 nights. This was during a black Friday sale though, so originally it would’ve cost close to 1800USD

This is certainly in the pricier range but is due to its remote location and high quality of service. You can always find cheaper options closer to the main city of Puerto Maldonado. 

Overall, we feel Peru is not expensive to visit and you get great value per dollar.


Summary: 10 day itinerary peru

Peru holds a special place in our hearts, and in the span of 10 days, you can explore the key highlights in the vicinity of Cusco and Lima. However, we highly recommend extending your stay to two weeks for a more profound immersion into the unique experiences that Peru has to offer. 

The adventure of reaching Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, through the 4-day hike is a journey that will forever be etched in our memories.

We hope you found this itinerary helpful and please let us know if any of the information is not up to date. Our goal is to provide you with the most complete and helpful travel guides!

Ryan and Nan sitting in the canoe on the amazon river

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