Let me start this post off by saying if you can spend more than 10 days in Peru, by all means, do it! There is SO much to do and see in this amazing country. However, if you’re on a time constraint like I was, this itinerary will help you plan your Peru adventure and see as much as you possibly can in your 10 days! (I’ll also share some suggestions if you’re on an even tighter time constraint.)
*Please note – you will be backtracking at points in the itinerary. That is because there are not direct routes to and from all of the places mentioned.
How to Spend 10 Days in Peru – The Ultimate Itinerary
Time of year we visited: September (This was great because there were not too many crowds and the weather was quite comfortable!)
Day 1 – Arrive in Cusco and get acclimated
Overnight in Cusco
Cusco is 3,399 meters (or 11,152 feet) above sea level. Chances are when you first arrive, you’re not going to feel the greatest. Be sure to drink lots of water and coca tea, move slowly and avoid alcohol.
We leisurely walked through Plaza de Armas this first day, found some food and went to bed early. It was incredible how much the altitude got to me! However, my husband was totally fine.
Day 2 – Hike Rainbow Mountain
Overnight in Cusco
Hands down, hiking Rainbow Mountain was my favorite part of our trip. I can’t recommend this enough! It’s not a particularly strenuous hike. However, the altitude will once again be a factor. Click here to read my tips for this hike.
Day 3 – See the Sacred Valley and hop on the train to Aguas Calientes
Overnight in Aquas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu)
Aquas Calientes is the closest city to Machu Picchu. The best way to get there is by train. So, what we did was take a tour through various ruins in the Sacred Valley on our way to the train station in Ollantaytambo. We visited Pisac, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo before boarding our 4:30 train. We had taken the Peru Rail Expedition Train. *Click here for more information on this day.
*Another option is to book a full day tour of Machu Picchu straight from Cusco. Click here for a a tour + train service. Click here for a luxury train + private tour service. And the most luxurious service is the Hiram Bingham Train.
Day 4 – Machu Picchu
Overnight in Cusco
Today, you’ll want to wake up bright and early and get in line for the bus to Machu Picchu as early as possible! (You can also order your tickets ahead of time.) Click here for all my tips for visiting Machu Picchu.
(After your visit, you will get back on the train to Ollantaytambo, from here you can take a bus or hire a service to get back to Cusco.)
Day 5* – Visit Moray, Salt Mines and Chinchero
Overnight in Cusco
These were perhaps my favorite ruins to visit in the Sacred Valley. The Salt Mines were especially cool to see! Click here for info on this day.
Day 6* – Scenic bus ride to Puno
Overnight in Puno
The reason you would want to go to Puno is to see the Islas Flotantes de los Uros (a.k.a. the Floating Islands). Now, I did not particularly care for this portion of the trip. If I were to do it over, I would skip Puno and the Floating Islands altogether. However, most folks absolutely loved the Floating Islands and have told me it was the highlight of their trip, so, I’ll let you decide for yourselves! Click here to read about this bus ride from Cusco to Puno.
*If you are on a tight schedule, skipping this portion could save you 3 days. And if I were to do this over, I would consider visiting the Amazon (and staying at Treehouse Lodge or any of the other Rainforest lodges) for these 3 days instead. But again, to each their own!
Day 7 – Floating Islands & Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca
Overnight in Puno
Again, I was not terribly impressed with either of these places. But this is just my opinion! This could be because we were on a large tour for this day as well. In retrospect, perhaps doing a private tour or simply forgoing the tour and just boarding a boat in Puno to the Floating Islands and Taquile Island would have made the day more enjoyable.
Day 8 – Express bus back to Cusco & free afternoon in Cusco
Overnight in Cusco
Catching an express bus back to Cusco is what we did to catch our flight out of Cusco the next day. However, you could also get a flight from the Juliaca airport (an hour away from Puno) to Lima. Or there is a bus from Puno to Lima, if you don’t want to go back to Cusco.
Day 9 – Check out San Pedro Market!
Overnight in Lima
At some point during your Peru trip, you have to make a point to experience San Pedro Market in Cusco. It is HUGE, and there are so many crazy things to see and try here. We had to catch a flight, so we didn’t spend more than a couple hours here. However, you could seriously make a day of San Pedro Market. Click here for more info on San Pedro Market.
If you’re not going back to Cusco, though, I would suggest squeaking San Pedro Market in after you visit Moray, the Salt Mines and Chinchero. None of these places take terribly long to visit, and you could get a few hours in at the market before it closes.
Then, catch a plane to Lima!
Day 10 – Lima
Overnight in Lima or flight home (we flew out at 10 pm)
There was a point in our trip planning where we had considered not visiting Lima at all. Boy, would that have been a mistake! Lima is a beautiful city with absolutely incredible food. Give Lima at least a day out of your trip – you won’t regret it. (I spent the day eating as much food and trying as many beverages as I could, haha. Click here for more info on how I spent my one day in Lima.)
It’s a good idea, no matter where your adventure takes you, to have travel insurance. You never know what might happen! Whether you get sick before your trip and can’t go, or you become sick or injured while on your adventure – being covered with travel insurance is a must. Some credit card companies do provide this (check with yours), or you can get a free quote from travel insurance companies such as RoamRight to find the best plan for you and your adventure.
To check if your country requires a Visa for traveling to Peru, click here.
Update: Hotels – Where We Stayed
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where we stayed on this trip! We used Marriott and Sonesta Inn points for this trip. So, in Cusco we stayed at the JW Marriott. (LOVED it! They have an incredible spa and restaurant on-site and the service is phenomenal!) My friends had stayed at the LLipimpac Guesthouse and had nothing but great things to say (especially for the price).
We stayed at the Wiracocha Inn for Machu Picchu. This was a budget-friendly, no frills stay that was conveniently located near the bus stop for Machu Picchu.
In Puno, we stayed at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Puno (was undergoing renovation at the time, but was still a fantastic hotel! There were also wild guinea pigs running around the grounds!), and in Lima we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Miraflores (fabulous location and hotel)!
Update: Intrepid, G Adventures or Contiki Group Travel Addition
And if this all sounds like a lot of work and stress – you can also book a group tour with a very similar itinerary via Intrepid Travel. Click here to see it. And click here to see all of their Peru trips.
Another great option is booking through G Adventures… they have a TON of different Peru trips to choose from, depending on your preferences. Click here to see their options.
Or, if you are between the ages of 18-35, you can check out Contiki’s group Peru tours. Click here to see their Peru trips. (These tours are only available to travelers between the ages of 18-35.)
Other Cool Tour/Places to Consider in Peru
If you have the time or some of these places just don’t sound all that great to you, here are a few more incredible places to explore in Peru!
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:
- Inca Trail Hiking adventure from Cusco – if you have the time and are physically capable, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Note: you do need to hire a guide in order to hike the Inca Trail.)
Cool day trip from Cusco – Humantay Lake:
- This full-day hiking tour will take you to Humantay Lake from Cusco.
Cool day trips you can take from Lima:
- Discover the Ballestas, Nazca Lines, & Huacachina Oasis on this day trip from Lima.
- A private full-day tour of the Ballestas and Nazca Lines on this private tour from Lima.
Want to spend some time in Arequipa? *Click here for hotels and check out tours, below.
- A full-day, guided tour of the Colca Canyon from Arequipa. Experience breathtaking views of the canyon from the Mirador Cruz del Cóndor viewpoint and follow the flight of the condor.
- White water rafting tour on the Chili River!
Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you narrow down your Peru travel plans!
*To see all of my Peru travel posts, click here.
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