Peru is a treasure trove of sights and experiences for the international visitor. With less than 2-weeks to spend, you’ll want to prioritise your most wanderlusted-after places to visit. This 10-day Peru itinerary is a slightly abbreviated version of our bucket-list trip. Though there is much more to see, we cherry-picked the highlights just for you.
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Best time to visit Peru
Peru experiences two distinct seasons: a wet (May to September) and dry (November-March).
Visitors prefer dry season which coincides with the winter months, May to October. You will experience the most reliably sunny skies but coolest temperatures (particularly in the mountains) between June and September. This is also the recommended time to visit the Amazon jungle, as there are fewer mosquitos and wildlife remain closer to riverbanks.
April and October are considered the shoulder seasons, when you may find lower crowds and prices but mixed weather.
Peruvians themselves travel in abundance in late July around their Independence Day holiday on the 28th. Finding accommodation availability tends to be more challenging and therefore also more expensive at this time.
10-day Peru Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Lima, Peru
Most international travellers will arrive in Peru via the country’s capital, Lima and stay in the seaside district of Miraflores. Take a half-day tour of the city including its most important monuments: The Plaza Mayor, Government Palace, the City Hall and the Cathedral. Along with Torre Tagle which houses the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and Palacio de Osambela which is a venue for art exhibits and cultural events. Also, visit the Larco Herrera Museum, which houses the most important archaeological collection from the north coast of Peru.
Where to stay in Lima: Casa Andina Miraflores Centro
Day 2 – Begin your Peruvian Amazon experience
This morning, fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. There are a few options for eco-lodge stays in the Rainforest. We highly recommend Sandoval Lake Lodge in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve. The Lodge is joint owned by a nonprofit conservation group and five indigenous families.
To reach Sandoval Lake Lodge is a bit of a journey, but an enjoyable one that adds to the experience. First, you will take a half-hour boat trip down the Madre de Dios River (described to us as a tributary of a tributary of the Amazon River). Next, you will hike roughly 3.2km (2mi) flat but somewhat muddy path (rain boots are supplied) through the forest to a small canal. Next, you will board canoes and will be paddled 200m (660ft) through a flooded forest of towering Mauritia palms and across Lake Sandoval to the Lodge.
Now, we were convinced this journey was all dramatized and part of the “tourist experience” and there was some secret road into the back of the Lodge. This is absolutely not true, and Lake Sandoval is a completely authentic rainforest experience. Supplies etc all take the same route in and out as the staff and guests at the hotel. This is genuinely an isolated location in the Amazon Rainforest.
Due to its remote nature, the accommodation is basic but very comfortable. Things to note:
- You will take an overnight bag into the Rainforest and your main luggage will be kept in a secure location in Puerto Maldonado. You should not leave any valuables in your stored luggage.
- Electric generators are only run 3 times a day around the time that the kitchen prepares and serves meals, so this is also the time that hot (make that warm) water is available to have a shower. Don’t worry, it’s the tropics, you won’t be looking for a steaming hot shower.
- Lodge rates include full board and the food is terrific. Many of the vegetables are grown onsite in a kitchen garden and fish is caught from the nearby waterways.
Day 3 and 4 – Sandoval Lake Lodge
You will quickly relax into the chilled pace and tech-free nature of the Lodge. It is the best kind of nature escape. While enjoying the hospitality of the Lodge, you’ll take Lake excursions and short forest walks led by naturalist guides looking for giant otters, monkeys, macaws and caiman to name a few. Spending two nights at the Lodge allows you to get out into nature early in the morning, early evening and even after dark when different animals are active, giving you the best chance of seeing a variety of wildlife.
Where to stay in the Amazon: Sandoval Lake Lodge
Day 5 – Make your way to Cusco
Today on this 10-day Peru itinerary, we wave a reluctant goodbye to the Amazon and head for the Andes. Retracing our steps across the Lake, forest and river to Puerto Maldonado, we board a flight for Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire.
The rest of this day is for gentle exploring as you acclimatize to the high altitude in preparation for your trek. A few ideas for your time in Cusco include:
- Sightseeing around the city’s Cathedral and Koricancha, previously the Inca Empire’s richest temple turned church.
- Browsing the Pre-Columbian Art Museum and its archaeological collections.
- Discover Sacsayhuamán, translating to “satisfied falcon” in Quechua, located on the outskirts of town. This ruin is thought to have been of religious and military significance in the Inca hey-day.
Where to stay in Cusco: San Agustin International
Day 6 – Discover the Sacred Valley
Make your way to the Sacred Valley of the Incas (aka the Urubamba Valley) which is about 20km (12mi) out of Cusco. The Valley is known for its maize cultivation, natural resources, picturesque colonial towns and Inca remnants.
Tour the Pisac Markets and shop for local handicrafts. Sundays are the best day for the markets when local indigenous communities known as Quechua, come from the surround highlands to peddle produce and stock up on supplies. Don’t worry if that doesn’t work with your timing, there is a scaled-down version of the Market on other days of the week.
From Pisac, follow the Urubamba River as it winds its way to Ollantaytambo. Explore these magnificent Inca ruins. From here, take the latest train available to Aguas Calientes and spend the night.
Day 7 – Machu Picchu
This is the day you’ve been waiting for, as you get to fully explore Machu Picchu. It’s recommended you get a super early start and get to the ruins when they open at 6am. Take a 2-hour guided tour and explore on your own, before returning to Aguas Calientes to catch your train back to Cusco.
Note, some trains only go as far as Ollantaytambo and you will need to book a bus or private vehicle transfer back to Cusco.
Day 8 – Cusco to Puno
Hop on a bus that will take you across the altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The tourist bus, Inka Express, is a full-day affair but stops at a number of interesting sites including the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”, San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas. The bus also makes a short pause for photos at the highest point – 4321m (14176ft) – at Abra La Raya mountain pass where there is a roadside marker for photos.
Where to stay in Puno: Casa Andina Tikarani
Day 9 – Lake Titicaca
Take a morning tour on Lake Titicaca and visit the unique, man-made floating islands, home to the Uros Indians. Though the tourist display feels a little contrived, the Uros people genuinely live on these reed islands which is absolutely fascinating and worth witnessing.
Where to stay in Puno: Hotel Rosario Lago Titicaca
Day 10 – Departure
The final day of your itinerary may be a return flight to Lima and onward, or you might continue your journey southward by road to Bolivia. Bolivia itinerary coming soon… in the meantime get inspired with these images of the Bolivian Altiplano.
The nearest airport to Puno is Juliaca’s International Airport Inca Manco Cápac (JUL), which offers regular domestic flights to Lima, Cuzco, and Arequipa. The airport is located 5km out of Juliaca City and 44km (27.3mi) north of Puno.
More places to visit in Peru
If you’re fortunate enough to have more time on your hands, consider adding these to your itinerary:
- Arequipa – Peru’s second-largest city, surrounded by 3 volcanoes, offers historic sights, markets and Spanish colonial architecture.
- Colca Canyon – Near to Arequipa, is one of the world’s deepest canyons in the world (almost twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon).
- Huacachina– Take a day trip out of Lima to the sand dunes and oasis of Huacachina. Here you can try sandboarding or ride a dune buggy.
- Nazca Lines – Take a scenic flight over these giant, pre-Colombian geoglyphs carved into the desert of southern Peru.
10-day Peru itinerary notes
Here are a few additional tidbits that you should note about this itinerary.
- Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) in Cusco charges a domestic departure tax of USD5-10 depending on your destination. If you are booking through a travel agent, this fee may be included, so check with them in advance.
- From your time in Cusco onward, you will be over 3000m in altitude where oxygen levels in the air are lower, and therefore you can get what is often referred to as altitude sickness. Speak to your doctor prior to departure to discuss symptoms, risk factors and preventative measures. It is advised to keep hydrated, rest and drink the local coca tea ‘mate de coca’, to assist your body in adapting to the high altitude.
- Always ask before taking photos of locals and respect their response if it is no. Those in highly touristed areas such as Pisac Market, may expect payment of 1 sole (USD0.35) for their cooperation.
I hope you enjoy this Peru itinerary and the wonderfully diverse experiences this South American nation has to offer.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,