Peru is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and a place worth visiting more than once. Check out our itinerary to help inspire and plan your own trip to Peru. Our journey took us to the beautiful city of Cusco where we explored its wonderful combination of Spanish and Incan architecture. From there we ventured out to explore the nearby Sacred Valley before heading out to journey through the Andes as we hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The Goal of Our Trip to Peru
Our trip to Peru centered around seeing Machu Picchu. After some research, we decided that the best way to see Machu Picchu was to do the Inca Trail. In order to the Inca Trail it is recommended you arrive in Cusco at least 2 days prior to starting your trek in order to give your body a chance to acclimate to the altitude.
In order to give our bodies time to catch up to the altitude, we arrived in Cusco 3 days before our trek departure and spent that time exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley. I’d heard a number of people say they loved Cusco and could easily have spent a week just exploring that area. I’ll be yet another person saying Cusco and its surroundings are incredible – you really can spend a week or more.
After 3 days of acclimatizing and exploring, we started our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. The 4th day of the hike was mostly spent enjoying Machu Picchu (and summiting Wayna Picchu) as well as spending some time in the city of Aguas Calientes. The 4th day of the Inca Trail, was also our last day in Peru as we flew out early the next morning. We were sad to go, Peru is such an amazing place.
8 Day Itinerary for Peru
Arrive in Cusco
Our trip to Peru revolved around seeing Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. So day 1 consisted of us going straight to Cusco (from Brazil) landing just after 4pm. From the airport we headed straight to our hotel – the Cusco Hotel Plaza de Armas – which was the absolute perfect place to stay (right on the Plaza de Aramas – one of Cusco’s main attractions).
After dropping off our stuff, we head out to explore the Plaza and all its shops. While out on the town we picked up a few essential gear items for our upcoming trek of the Inca Trail and then made our way to find something to eat. Peru is considered one of the culinary capitols of the world – and it showed! We had a delicious dinner at Uchu and then headed back to our hotel for a good nights rest.
Sacred Valley Tour
Our second day in Cusco is the only day we had completely open, so we decided to do a full day tour of the Sacred Valley. We chose to do a privately guided tour with Inca Challenge Peru and boy were we glad we did! While the private tours do cost more than a group tour, they are so much better. While everyone was being crammed into giant buses and constantly stuck in a large crowd, it was just the two of us and our guide. Always one step ahead of the big groups, we got to enjoy the ruins mostly to ourselves. The best part, was the the attention to detail we received from Bryan, our guide. He knew everything there was to know, and was incredibly passionate about sharing his love of Incan history.
The day started with getting picked up from our hotel at 8 AM where we headed to Pisac archaeological site as well as its markets. Afterwards we stopped for lunch at a great buffet with delicious food before continuing on to Ollantaytambo to walk by its magnificent structures and beautiful water fountains. From there we started to head back to Cusco, stopping at Chinchero – a nice town on the highlands where we visited the Catholic Cathedral, Incan ruins, and textile market.
By 7 PM were back in Cusco in time for dinner.
Cusco City Tour
For our third and final day in Cusco we were required to meet up with Llamapath at 5pm for a pre-Inca Trail meeting. Because we had such a great experience with Bryan and Inca Challenge Peru the day before, we decided to join him again for another private tour – this time a Half Day Cusco City Tour. The tour included viewing some more beautiful Inca sites such as Qoricancha (temple of the sun), Sacsayhuaman, Kenqo, Pukapukara and finally the spring shrine of Tambomachay. Starting our day at 9AM and finishing by 3 PM, we were amazed at how much we had managed to fit in!
Once the tour ended, we grabbed a quick lunch and relaxed at the hotel before heading out to meet Llamapath at 5 PM. After a 45 minute discussion about everything we needed to know about the Inca Trail, we headed out to enjoy one more evening in Cusco.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The next 4 days we spent hiking amidst the gorgeous Andes scenery taking in all its natural beauty and appreciating many Incan sites along the way. Hiking the Inca Trail was an experience of a lifetime and a must do if you plan on making your way to Machu Picchu. The experience of the trail far surpassed our expectations and was much more incredible than Machu Picchu itself. There is an air of magic about the Inca trail that cannot be described in words; it must be experienced.
Thousands of people hike the ancient Inca trail every year, walking through the awe inspiring Andes mountains and cloud forests to arrive at Machu Picchu. The extraordinary ecology, rich biodiversity, impressive archaeological sites, and exotic vegetation make this hike an incredible journey.
Our day started waking up at 4 AM to throw on our clothes, grab our packs, check out of our hotel, and then head over to meet up with the Llamapath bus. By 430 AM we were all on the bus, making our way to the start of the trail.
The first day of the Inca Trail is fairly easy going, giving you a chance to settle in to the trek. We covered about 9 miles of the trail as it gently climbed up the Cusichaca Valley, passing by the Inca site of Llactapata, all the while enjoying gorgeous views on the Andes mountains and beautiful ecology.
By 4 PM we reached our campsite for the night is at Ayapata (which was a little further along the trail than most of the other groups). This campsite was fairly separated from the rest of the groups which was great for enjoying the peaceful tranquility of the Andes.
The second day is by far the hardest. Summiting to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass (~3000 ft summit) and then descending back down 2,000 ft to have lunch. After lunch, we had another summit ahead of us, this time only about 1,500 ft of gain, and then back down another 2,000 ft.
The second day has some fantastic views of the high mountain ranges and includes the chance to visit 2 Inca sites (Runcuraccay and Sayacmarca). Our campsite was once again further than the other groups – stopping at Chaquicocha giving us another peaceful night away from the larger groups.
The 3rd day of the hike took us down a 3,000 ft descent while passing us through the lush and verdant cloud forest. Along the way, we visited 2 more Inca sites before heading to our campsite at Winay Wayna. After spending some time relaxing at our campsite, we left our bags behind and headed out to the gorgeous Winay Wayna to explore its beauty all to ourselves.
Winay Wayna was easily my favorite of all the Inca sites – Machu Picchu included. Its private viewing and gorgeous scenery make it an absolutely amazing place to visit. We got extra lucky with the recent rains that formed a beautiful rainbow in front of the site, giving us the chance to really understand the aptly named Temple of the Rainbow.
The fourth and final day of the trek started with an incredibly early wake up (3 AM) to have a quick breakfast and head straight to the checkpoint to enter Machu Picchu. The reason for the early wake up was to be the first group to get to the checkpoint, where we would wait for about an hour before the gate was opened. Once the gate opens at 5, each group checks in one by one and is then allowed to continue onwards to the Sun Gate.
The Sun Gate is where we got our first fantastic view of Machu Picchu from a distance. We were the first to the Sun Gate (since we were first to the check point) so we got to enjoy it’s beauty for a minutes before the other groups started to show up. After spending some time enjoying the view, we continued our way to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Once we arrived at Machu Picchu, we started with a two hour tour of the site during which our guide explained to us about the Incas and took us to see all the most important areas of the citadel. After the guided tour, we were dropped off at the entrance to Huayna Picchu where we spent the next 2 hours summiting to the top, enjoying the gorgeous view, and then heading back down to eventually meet up with our group in Aguas Calientes for lunch.
After lunch we took the train back to Ollantaytambo where a Llamapath bus picked us up and took us back to Cusco. Once back in Cusco, we had enough time to get dinner and back to the hotel to pack up our stuff, shower, and get ready for our flight the next morning.
The 8th day was really just spent sitting on an airplane. Our flight left Cusco at 7:30 AM, so we woke up at 4:30 AM and were at the airport by 5. We arrived home (California) just after midnight.
What to Pack for Traveling in Peru
Below is a quick packing list for what we brought with us. If you’re planning on doing the Inca Trail, check out our complete pack list for what to bring on the Inca Trail.
- Your Passport – Don’t forget this! Also be sure to keep the white slip you receive from customs when you enter, you’ll need it when you leave.
- 32L Backpack – I use an ultralight style backpack from Gossamer Gear because most of trip revolved around camping and hiking.
- Daypack – Light and easy to pack away – I love my Osprey Daylight.
- Water Bottle/Hydration Reservoir – (2L) I carry my water in a reservoir for easy access.
- Dry Bag/Stuff Sack – This is a great waterproof sack to keep your stuff dry.
- Sleeping Bag – We hiked the Inca Trail and brought our own gear. I used a women’s mummy bag rated for 26F and was plenty warm during the cold nights.
- Compression Sack – Stuff your sleeping bag into a compression sack and you’ll be amazed at how small it can get! I use Sea to Summit’s compression sack.
- Trail Running Shoes/Hiking Shoes – I like to hike with these shoes from New Balance (Women’s) (Men’s)
- Merino Wool Socks (4 pair) – I used these (Women’s) (Men’s).
- Long Pants (2 Pair) – I absolutely love these pants by Outdoor Research (Women’s) (Men’s) – would recommend them to anyone.
- Shorts (2 Pair) – I use these shorts made by Columbia because they’re lightweight and affordable (Women) (Men’s) – and I can’t bring myself to wear convertibles.
- Sandals/Flip Flops – It’s nice to have something other than shoes to wear, and sandals can pack down well.
- T-Shirts (3) – Merino wool, or anything that’s a blend will serve you well when traveling.
- Warm Jacket – Layering is your friend. I use The North Face’s Thunder Jacket (Women’s) (Men’s). Fleece are also a good option but don’t pack down nearly as well.
- Swimsuit – Depending on where you’re going, it’s nice to have in case you want to swim.
- Beanie – For the colder nights. We bought alpaca beanies while in Cusco.
- Hat – Whether it’s a baseball cap, or a full brimmed hat, choose what works best for you.
- Sunglasses – You definitely don’t want to forget these!
- Camera + Memory + Charger – You definitely want a way to capture all the amazing sights you’re about to see.
- Flashlight/Headlamp – I prefer headlamps over flashlights.
- Sunscreen – You’re going to be out in the sun all day enjoying it.
- Basic First Aid – Basic items include aspirin, ibuprofen, bandaids, antacids, TD Medication, cough medicine, throat lozenges, Neosporin, and moleskin.