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Get Peru-sing through this South American hotspot on a 21-day in-depth adventure with Lonely Planet, powered by Intrepid Travel. Setting off from its cultural capital in Lima, pass by Paracas, Nazca and Arequipa on your way to Cusco. Watch condors ruling the skies of Colca Canyon, follow the ancient trade route of the Inca on the legendary Inca Trail - finishing up at the breathtaking Machu Picchu - and get a feel for local life on a visit to Lake Titicaca's floating islands. You'll have a knowledgeable local leader alongside to point you in the right direction, plus plenty of freedom to tailor your own adventure, so what's stopping you from getting a feel for Peru.
Day 1: Lima
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru's coastal capital. Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. With no activities planned until then, why not take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches. After your important briefing, get to know each other better over dinner. Whether you dine with the group or sample the city's renowned food scene on your own, don't miss Peru's national dish: ceviche. If you're not a fan of seafood, there are plenty of other excellent options on offer – be sure to ask your local leader of their favourite dishes.If you arrive early, perhaps take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches.
Day 2: Lima
This morning, set out on a half-day walking tour of Lima's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces, and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Nearby is the San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains (entry is optional and at travellers' expense). Then go and browse the fresh produce on offer at Lima's central market, tasting fresh fruit and street food. Your walking tour wraps up in Lima's main square, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Later, perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Day 3: Paracas
Be ready for an early start as you head to Lima’s bus station around 6 am and hop on a local bus to Paracas (approximately 4 hours). During this journey it's unlikely the bus will make any stops, so please ensure you prepare yourself with water, snacks, and anything else you need. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. Once you’ve arrived, you'll have the option of visiting Paracas National Reserve today with a local guide. The duration of the tour is around 2–2.5 hours, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and expansive desert. For some local food specialties back in town, head to the boulevard near the beach and try some Tejas – small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Day 4: Nazca
This morning, there may be a chance to visit Islas Ballestas for an optional day trip. Here there will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions, and flamingos from a speedboat. Speak to your group leader about your options and when the best time to visit would be. Later on this morning, continue on to Nazca, travelling for around 3 hours and arriving in the early afternoon. Nazca is famous for the Nazca Lines – enormous designs inscribed into the desert floor. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them around 2000 years ago. For the best view this afternoon, consider an optional scenic flight to see them from the air – this lasts 30 minutes and covers most of the 26 impressions. Be wary though – the planes turn sharply from side to side for viewing from both sides of the plane, so it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Day 5: Arequipa
Enjoy a lazy morning in Nazca, then in the early afternoon, transfer to the local bus station and board a bus to Arequipa (approximately 11 hours, with no stops). Lunch will be served on board the bus, and later around dinner time, there will be a small snack. Don't forget to pack plenty of water, more snacks and a good book! You’ll arrive in Arequipa around midnight and transfer to the hotel. Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and oozing all that Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.
Day 6: Arequipa
This morning, head on a leader-led orientation walk with your group, where you’ll visit the main square and Mercado San Camilo. During your walk around Arequipa, you'll come to understand why it’s referred to as the ‘White City’. Built out of the pale volcanic rock, the old buildings shine brightly in the sunshine. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax and explore Arequipa. Perhaps start at Monasterio de Santa Catalina – this 16th-century convent has a unique history, having once only accepted women from high-class Spanish families. From here, drop by the Juanita Museum and take a look at the ‘Ice Maiden’ – the well-preserved mummified remains of a young Inca girl who died in the 1440s. Otherwise, while away the rest of your day in the cafes and restaurants surrounding the main plaza, tasting a rich Peruvian coffee.
Day 7: Colca Canyon
In the morning, around 8 am, venture out by private vehicle to Chivay (approximately 5 hours). There’ll be plenty of time to stop and take pictures along the way as you're likely to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas. You'll have the chance to try some coca tea – a local herbal variety made from leaves of the coca plant – from roadside tea stalls. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest point of your adventure, standing at 4800 metres above sea level), descend into Chivay town for a free evening. Choose to spend it soaking in the local baths, dining on Alpaca steak, or listening to live Andean music at a Pena (music hall). Your group leader will know all of the best spots to go, so be sure to ask them.
Day 8: Arequipa
Early in the morning, take a short drive from town into the renowned Colca Canyon. This river canyon in southern Peru is sprinkled with traditional villages, terraced agriculture and trekking routes, and is home to the predatory Andean condor. Witness the morning routine of this mighty ruler of the sky, gazing as they circle this extraordinary natural ravine. Depending on weather conditions you’ll head on a short hike around the area (approximately 45 minutes) before returning to Chivay town. In the afternoon, travel back to Arequipa (approximately 5 hours), and on arrival, relax into a free evening with your fellow adventurers.
Day 9: Arequipa - Overnight Bus to Cusco
Another day in Arequipa is a perfect time to get out your Lonely Planet app and see what highlights you can go out and explore today. For a bit of culture, why not stroll down to Casa Museo Villalobos for a look at the extensive art collection. If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, there are regular cooking classes in the city – be sure to speak to your group leader for their recommendations. Keep in mind that tonight (around 7.30 pm), you’ll transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Cusco (approximately 11 hours with no stops).
Day 10: Cusco
Arrive in Cusco on your overnight bus sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 am. On arrival, transfer to your hotel to drop your bags and head into town for breakfast. Afterward, your leader will give you the choice of heading straight out for an orientation walk or resting in the hotel for a few hours before a stroll in the afternoon. On your leader-led tour, you’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, local San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square, and San Blas Square. This afternoon, enjoy some more time at your leisure to explore Cusco. In the evening, join your group leader and fellow travellers for an Inca Trail and Machu Picchu briefing.
Day 11: Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days, you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or stay in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes.Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner.Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.Notes: The Inca Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.Route 3 Train:For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cusco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.
Day 12: Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately 5 hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres.Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the hike to Kuychicassa (approximately 2 hours); this is the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.Route 3 Train:Today, perhaps use your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cusco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops.
Day 13: Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending (approximately 2–3 hours) to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the descent down the Inca steps (approximately 2 hours), which takes you to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.Route 3 Train:In the morning we are transferred by car to Ollantaytambo town where we will take the afternoon train to the town of Aguas Calientes (approximately 1:30 hours) For those who want to, there’s time to see Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the start of the trip.
Day 14: Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option and Machu Picchu / Ollantaytambo
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am (the final checkpoint opens at 5 am). The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes approximately 2.5 hours meaning arrival time is not until approximately 7.30 am. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who took the train. If skies are clear, enjoy spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.Route 3 Train:In the morning, usually between 5.30 and 6.30 am, we take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for the Inca nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy some free time afterward to wander around on your own before heading to Ollantaytambo for the night.Visiting Machu Picchu:According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
Day 15: Sacred Valley / Cusco
Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the fertile Sacred Valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. This morning, venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and visit a few businesses, which may include a pottery workshop, a chocolate-making demonstration, or a local chicha brewery where you will learn about the traditional techniques that are still used to this day. During your community visit, enjoy an included lunch, prepared and cooked by local community members. If your visit coincides with market day, you could spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos. In the afternoon, take a bus back to Cusco for a free evening.
Day 16: Cusco
Enjoy some free time to delve a little deeper into Cusco. Those with weary legs might want to simply grab a coffee from a cafe at Plaza de Armas and do some people-watching. For those still seeking an active adventure, the hills that surround Cusco are well-suited for some mountain biking. Ask your group leader for advice on optional activities and how to make the most of your day. When you’re hungry, Manos Unidas Cafe is a great choice for a meal. In addition to serving up delicious food, this central pizzeria also provides vocational training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Day 17: Puno - Lake Titicaca
In the morning, travel by local bus through the Altiplano plateau to Puno (approximately 7 hours). There will be one brief stop along the way at La Raya mountain range where there will be opportunities for photos. Here you'll also have the chance to buy some snacks and take a toilet break. Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 18: Puno
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Enjoy a tour of the lake by slow motorboat (8 knots per hour), stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. Local Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. After your boat trip, transfer to the Llachon Peninsula to enjoy a local community homestay tonight. You’ll have the chance to help your host family with their daily activities or perhaps join a game of soccer or volleyball in the village with the local kids.
Day 19: Puno
In the morning, board a boat for a visit to Taquile Island – a great place to pick up some locally knitted goods. On the island, knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. An hour’s uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island. Explore the local markets before descending the 500 steps back to the boat. Afterward, return to Puno (approximately 3 hours) arriving around 3 pm. The remainder of the day is free.
Day 20: La Paz
At around 7 am, travel by local bus to Desaguadero (approximately 3 hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You’ll say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and meet your Bolivian leader. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office, and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border into Bolivia, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes 6–9 hours (depending on the border crossing time). You made it! In the evening, chill out with an optional dinner with your travel group.
Day 21: La Paz
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policy. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to come to an end though. La Paz is alive with colour and culture, no place more than the city’s renowned Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market). If you’d like to spend more time in La Paz, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
- Lima - Leader-led walking tour
- Colca Canyon - Guided tour
- Colca Canyon Condor Visit
- Cusco - Orientation Walk
- Guided visit of Machu Picchu
- Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
- Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
20 Breakfast(s) Included
5 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included
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Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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