Detailed Itinerary for 9 Days in Peru | Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Lima
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Peru is a destination unlike any other. There is an incredible number of varied landscapes – from deserts to rainforests to mountain highlands to stunning beaches. You could spend 2 months in Peru and still have sights you have yet to see. 9 days is a perfect amount of time to explore two or three regions of Peru and to get you excited about visiting the rest on future trips. This 9-day itinerary focuses on the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca regions – the two most popular destinations for first-time visitors to Peru.
Day 1: Sacred Valley (Ccochahuasi & Pisac)
5:30 am – Arrive in Lima
We took a red-eye flight from the USA to Lima before our connecting flight to Cusco.
7:30 am – Flight from Lima to Cusco
This is one of the most scenic flights I’ve been on. You are flying from Lima, which sits at sea-level, to Cusco, which is more than 11,000 feet above sea level. You fly across the beautiful Andes Mountain range and land in a bit of a valley among the peaks. This early flight was nearly completely empty. We shared a 175-person capacity plane with 20 other passengers.
8:45 am – Arrival into Cusco, picked up by Taxidatum
One of the smartest decisions we made when planning our trip to Peru was pre-booking Taxis through Taxidatum. It is not advised to drive yourself through Peru for practical reasons (distance between destinations), safety of the roads, lack of road signs, cost of renting a car, language barrier, etc. Taxis are relatively very cheap, even for full-day, multi-stop routes. While in the Sacred Valley, we used Taxidatum multiple times for getting around between Incan ruins. Since we had limited Spanish and most Peruvians have limited English, pre-booking taxis ensured that we got a ride for a fair price to the destination(s) we wanted to go to.
Once we got to the Cusco airport, we picked up our bags and withdrew Peruvian soles from the ATM. Most Peruvian ATMs give you the option to withdraw either US dollars or Peruvian soles. We had also brought some US dollars with us from home, as many places and individuals accept US currency (the exchange rate is very stable). To avoid having too much money on ourselves at one time, we withdrew 400 soles (about $120) for the first couple days.
For a breakdown of how much we spent, check out our post on Cost for 9 Days In Peru | Sacred Valley, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Lima
Our taxi driver was waiting just outside of baggage claim when we were ready. With a mix of English and Spanish, he went through the stops we wanted to visit before being dropped off at our hotel out in the Sacred Valley. After verifying the itinerary was correct, we were on our way.
9:40 am – Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary
Ccochahuasi is a privately-run animal sanctuary that cares for injured and rescued Andean species. They had Llamas, Alpacas, Andean Condors, Pumas, Tucans, and many others. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the entrance and was waiting for us once we exited.
10:15 am – Awana Kancha
Just a minute down the road from Ccochahuasi is the Alpaca farm of Awana Kancha. While not an animal sanctuary, Awana Kancha takes great care of their Llamas and Alpacas. You are able to feed the animals and watch traditional weavers use the wool to make intricate items (available to buy at the shop on site).
For more details, read our post on 3 Days in Peru’s Sacred Valley
11:00 am – Pisac Ruins
High above the town of Pisac are the ruins of an old Incan village. The ruins are remarkably intact and a great first Inca site to visit. The ruins include agricultural terraces, grave sites, trade buildings, and homes. Prior to entering the ruins, you will need to buy a Cusco Tourist Ticket at the office before the main parking.
12:00 pm – Pisac Market
After heading back down the hill from the Ruins, you will come upon the small town of Pisac. Pisac’s claim to fame is a daily market held for both locals and tourists. You can get a wide range of locally made souvenirs or just enjoy walking through the stalls.
2:00 pm – Arrive at Hotel
We stayed at Tierra Viva Valle Sagrado Urubamba, which is in between Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. This was a great hotel, although a bit remote, that offered incredible rooms, a great breakfast, and beautiful scenery.
Unless you are coming from a similar elevation, you will likely experience some level of altitude sickness. We had moderate altitude sickness that left us exhausted from the little bit of walking we did this day and with no appetite. We had brought and eaten some granola bars, but were not hungry for anything else. We also ended up falling asleep early (7pm) due to exhaustion (from the red-eye flight the night before and the altitude sickness) and because we were waking up early the next day. Be cautious with how much you plan for the first day as you get used to the altitude.
Where to Stay: Ollantaytambo or Urubamba (for days 1-3)
Day 2: Sacred Valley (Maras, Moray, & Ollantaytambo)
6:30 am – Breakfast
Most Peruvian hotels will serve a breakfast buffet that typically includes a mix of Peruvian and American style foods.
7:30 am – Picked up from the Hotel by Taxidatum
We booked a taxi through Taxidatum to take us around more sights in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We scheduled an early pick-up to beat the crowds at the first few sights. Like before, the taxi driver spoke little to no English but we were able to communicate through our extremely basic Spanish and hand gestures. The drive itself through this area was stunning and a bit terrifying (many switchbacks up and down the mountain). Our driver stopped twice at spots with a great view over the valley below.
8:15 am – Chinchero
Chinchero is a small Andean village with an ancient plaza surrounded by an ornately-painted church and Incan Ruins. The plaza hosts a daily textile market with local vendors. The Chinchero ruins are included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket.
Read our post on The 10 Best Inca Ruins to Visit in the Sacred Valley and Cusco
9:30 am – Maras Salt Mines
The Maras salt Mines are one of the most unique sights in the Sacred Valley. Hundreds of salt mines, covering the side of the mountain, have been cultivated in this place for hundreds of years by local families.
10:45 am – Moray
The Incan ruins at Moray include several terraced circular depressions believed to be used as an agricultural experiment.
12:00 pm – Ollantaytambo
Just to the west of the town of Ollantaytambo are the incredible Incan ruins with the same name. These well-preserved ruins used to be a defensive fort for the Incas against the Spanish conquistadors.
1:45 pm – Pick up lunch
With plenty of restaurant options in Ollantaytambo, we picked up lunch at Sunshine Cafe to take back with us to our hotel.
2:15 pm – Arrive back at Hotel
Our taxi driver picked us up outside of the Ollantaytambo ruins and drove us back to our hotel. The altitude sickness was much improved after our lengthy night sleep before, but walking up and down the steep steps at many of the ruins still can easily take your breath away. We also still had a low appetite and after a large breakfast and lunch, we were not hungry for dinner at the end of the day. Another early night sleep to be up for Machu Picchu the next day.
Where to Stay: Ollantaytambo or Urubamba (for days 1-3)
Day 3: Machu Picchu
6:20 am – Breakfast
6:50 am – Taxi to Ollantaytambo Train Station
We arranged for a taxi through our hotel the night before to pick us up at 6:50am. The taxi arrived on time and we were charged a very reasonable rate.
7:30 am – Enter Ollantaytambo Train Station
You will need to bring your passport to both get on the train to Machu Picchu and get into Machu Picchu itself. We booked a Vistadome carriage seat from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu with Perurail. The vistadome train has larger windows to see the Andes as you journey to Machu Picchu and slightly better amenities.
9:30 am – Arrive at Machu Picchu Station
The entry/exit of the Machu Picchu station is connected to a large covered market, which is quite tricky to navigate. The train drops you off in Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu town, which sits below the mountain-top destination of Machu Picchu. This town is here to cater towards visitors coming to see Machu Picchu. While a very touristy town, it is enjoyable to walk around for a bit.
For everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu, read our Post on taking a Machu Picchu Day Trip from Ollantaytambo, Peru
11:00 am – Bus up to Machu Picchu
To get up to Machu Picchu, you will need to take one of the frequently running buses. The line to get on the bus can be very long depending on the time of day. You will want to get into line early to make it up the mountain with enough time. The ride up the mountain takes 20-30 minutes.
12:00 pm – Machu Picchu
To reduce crowds, Machu Picchu is currently allowing visitors in two shifts – morning and afternoon. If you are just doing a day trip to Machu Picchu, you’ll want to get an afternoon ticket that allows you entry at 12:00 pm (in actuality, they let you in 15-30 minutes before noon).
We explored Machu Picchu on our own, as the tour guide rule has yet to be enforced, and in a lot of detail. We expected to spend a lot longer at the Incan town than we did. After 3 hours of circling around the sight, we had seen it all.
3:00 pm – Bus back down to Machu Picchu Town
The line for the bus down to the village was almost an hour long. The buses were running about every 5 minutes but so many people were trying to get down at the same time. You will need a bit of a buffer in your day at Machu Picchu to account for the lines and waiting for trains.
4:50 pm – Enter Machu Picchu Train Station
On the way back to Ollantaytambo, we went with the lower-class Expedition train since it would be too dark to see anything. The train ride back is 2 hours, rather than an hour and a half, since it is going up in elevation.
7:00 pm – Arrive back in Ollantaytambo
Compared with the taxi ordered by our hotel, getting a taxi from the drivers outside the station was pricey. Even after multiple rounds of haggling, the taxi back to our hotel was 1.5x the price of the taxi from the hotel. Many of the taxi drivers waiting outside of the station live in Cusco and are looking for passengers who want to go back to Cusco so they can end their day. There are still taxi drivers willing to make the shorter trips, but the prices are a bit higher than you’d expect.
Where to Stay: Ollantaytambo or Urubamba (for days 1-3)
Day 4: Cusco
8:00 am – Breakfast
8:30 am – Taxi to Cusco
We had our hotel call a taxi for us to Cusco, about a 1.5-hour drive, depending on traffic around Cusco.
10:30 am – Check into Hotel
We stayed at Hostal Corihauasi, which was just a 2-minute walk down to Cusco’s historic Plaza de Armas. Many of their rooms, ours included, offer incredible views of Cusco.
11:30 am – Walk up to Plaza San Cristobal
For more expansive views, you can walk up to Plaza San Cristobal to look upon Cusco below.
12:15 pm – San Blas
This traditional old neighborhood is one of the most picturesque areas in Cusco with its colonial buildings and steep streets. There are many shops around the area with handicrafts and delicious restaurants.
On the walk down to Plaza de Armas, you will pass the Twelve-Angled stone. It is part of the Incan stone walls and its twelve sides perfectly fit with the stones around it. It is hard to miss with the souvenir vendors and tourists stopping at it.
12:45 pm – Plaza de Armas
All Peruvian towns have a main square, or Plaza de Armas, at its historical center. Cusco’s is one of my favorites. The square is surrounded by dramatic cathedrals, restaurants, and shops. It is also filled with people and the site for the many festivals throughout the year.
Read our Post on 11 Things to Do in Cusco, Peru
2:00 pm – Lunch at Organika
4:00 pm – Chocolate Making Class
Peru is known for its amazing chocolate coming from the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon. At a chocolate making class, you can learn how chocolate is cultivated, how Incan and Mayan people drank Cocoa in the past, and how to make your own chocolate bars.
Where to Stay: Cusco (For Days 4-5)
Day 5: Cusco Ruins (Sacsayhuaman & Puka Pukara)
8:30 am – Pick up from Hotel
We spent the previous four days exploring many important Incan archeological sites with some basic knowledge of the history but little details. To reduce costs and to have flexibility, we had avoided any guides. However, we did want one day with an informed guide to lead us through Incan sites and give us a more detailed background on what we were potentially missing. We got a private guide to take us around Cusco and the nearby Incan ruins. While the tour was a bit pricey by Peru standards, it was more cost-effective than taking multiple group tours every other day. We learned a great deal about the history of the Inca and what their day to day life was like that gave us a greater appreciation for what we had been seeing.
9:00 am – Tambomachay
Tambomachay was an important bathing site for the Inca. The Inca were very skilled in providing fresh water throughout their empire and this place is a great example of that.
9:30 am – Puka Pukara
Across the street from Tambomachay is Puka Pukara, an Incan fortress that was used for military, trading, and as a mail post. The views from Puka Pukara are spectacular.
10:00 am – Q’enqo
Q’enqo was a religious site for the Inca. Many rituals and sacrifices were performed here. Most of the site is destroyed or underground, but there are still caves that you can walk through.
10:30 am – Sacsayhuamán
Sacsayhuamán is the largest and most popular Incan ruin in Cusco. This complex used to be the capital of the Inca empire. You can walk by the old Incan well, through their underground tunnels, out into the main square, past their grain reserves, and get a view of Cusco below. The previous three ruins are rather small in comparison to Sacsayhuamán.
11:30 am – San Pedro Market
San Pedro Market is one of the larger markets in Cusco for locals to shop and get their groceries. There are vendors for everything – fruits and vegetables, cooked meals, and beef hearts. We walked around the area surrounding San Pedro Market to see a side of Peru notably different than the touristy and historic areas.
12:00 pm – Cusco Cathedral
The massive Cusco Cathedral might have a lot of Spanish influence, but it is unlike anything you’d see in Europe. The full name is the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin. You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but be ready for gold-covered everything, huge paintings done by captured Inca unfamiliar with many of the images in the bible, and a more South American view of catholicism. Home of the black Jesus.
12:45 pm – Lunch at Nuna Raymi
1:45 pm – Qorikancha Sun Temple
Qorikancha was once the religious center of Cusco during the Inca times. The building now is a mix of Incan walls and colonial architecture. The temple acts as a museum, showing some of the religious and scientific work of the Inca.
Where to Stay: Cusco (For Days 4-5)
Day 6: Lake Titicaca Train
7:20 am – Arrive at Cusco Train Station
After an amazing time in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, we were ready for our next destination – the islands of Lake Titicaca. There are a few ways to get between Cusco and Puno, but we decided to make a full experience out of it and take the train.
Read our Post on the Best Way to Get from Cusco to Puno, Peru
Known for being one of the most scenic train rides in the world, most of the 10-hour train ride was spent in the observation car or looking out the window. We were also given 2 gourmet meals and a bit of entertainment, in the form of Peruvian dancers and a fashion show. The train made one quick stop at the highest elevation point on our journey through the Andean highlands. We were able to get out, stretch our legs, take some pictures, and then return to our seats.
As a sucker for train travel, this was one of my favorite days on the whole trip. It was a relaxing way to see much of rural Peru that most people don’t get to see. We passed through both small and large towns that tourists never visit.
For more details on our train Journey, check out: Luxury PeruRail Lake Titicaca Train Ride: Cusco to Puno
6:00 pm – Arrive in Puno
Puno is 12,556 ft above sea level – 1,500 ft above Cusco. We were not expecting that extra elevation gain to have such an impact, but it did. Some of our mild altitude sickness symptoms from before came back and it was an early night.
In Puno, we stayed in Tierra Viva Puno Plaza. It is part of the same brand of hotel that we stayed at in Urubamba. We really enjoy their hotels for the comfortable rooms and great breakfasts.
Where to Stay: Puno (For Days 6-7)
Day 7: Lake Titicaca
6:20 am – Breakfast
6:45 am – Pick up from the Hotel
The thing to do in Puno is to get out on Lake Titicaca and visit a couple of the islands on the highest navigable lake in the world. To get out to the islands, you’ll need to be a part of a tour. The tours are relatively inexpensive for being a full-day tour with hotel pick-up, lunch, and admission to the islands included. The indigenous groups on Uros and Taquile islands regulate who can come on their islands and charge a fee for maintenance.
7:30 am – Uros Island
The Uros Floating Islands are just a 20-minute boat ride from Puno. The Uru people have been living on floating islands made from totora reeds for hundreds of years. They use the reeds for the construction of the islands and all of their buildings and ships. The boat drops you off on one of the 120 floating islands that is home to one or two families.
9:00 am – Boat Ride to Taquile Island
Lake Titicaca is a massive lake that serves as part of the border for Peru and Bolivia. It is about a 2-hour boat ride to get to Taquile Island, which is still part of the Peruvian side of the lake. Be sure to bring headphones or something to keep you occupied on the boat ride to and from Taquile island.
11:30 am – Taquile Island
While Uros island has the novelty of being made of floating reeds, Taquile island is by far the more beautiful. Getting around the island requires some steep climbs (made harder by the elevation of Lake Titicaca), but it is so worth it for the views.
The inhabitants of the island descended from the Inca and run their island based on community collectivism. Most of the island is made up of agricultural land. Taquile is where you will have lunch on your tour, typically at one of the local’s homes. With all of the homegrown ingredients, this was one of our favorite meals in Peru. It started with some bread and salsa, then quinoa soap, and the main course was either an omelet or fish.
2:30 pm – Boat back to Puno
5:00 pm – Dropped off at Hotel
Where to Stay: Puno (For Days 6-7)
Day 8: Puno –> Lima
11:30 am – Taxi to Juliaca Airport
Puno does not have an airport, despite being an important city for tourism. We took a 45-minute taxi to the Juliaca airport to catch our flight to Lima. The airport is quite small (two gates) and the security is lax. There are no restrictions on liquids and you likely won’t have to take out any large electronics from your bags.
1:30 pm – Flight from Juliaca to Lima
3:30 pm – Taxidatum to Lima Hotel
Like in the Sacred Valley, we pre-booked a taxi with Taxidatum to take us from the Lima Airport to our hotel in San Isidro. You may get overcharged if you try to get a taxi straight from the airport once you arrive.
We stayed at the Hyatt Centric San Isidro Lima, a new hotel with great amenities and restaurant attached.
5:00 pm – Dinner at Hotel Restaurant
6:00 pm – Uber to Circuito Magico del Agua
Uber is available only in Lima. We had a great experience with Uber when leaving someplace with little crowds. Uber prices are typically cheaper than taxis, but it may be difficult to find your Uber if you are trying to be picked up from a large square in the heart of the city. We used Uber when traveling from our hotel.
6:15 pm – Circuito Magico del Agua at Parque de la Reserva
Every day from Tuesday to Sunday, the Park of the Reserve has an amazing water show for locals and tourists alike. The park has over 20 light-up fountains and one large fountain and laser show. The price is pennies (4 soles or US$1.20) compared to what this would cost anywhere else in the world. We visited early on a Sunday and the place was packed with locals.
8:00 pm – Walk back to Hotel
Our hotel was just a 20-minute walk from the Parque de la Reserva. Despite being dark and walking on less populated streets, we felt extremely safe in this area of Lima.
Where to Stay: Lima (For Days 8-9)
Day 9: Lima
9:00 am – Walk along Miraflores’ clifftop parks
Miraflores is a high-end neighborhood of Lima with expensive homes and beautiful parks. There is a stretch of connected parks along the top of the cliffs with a walking trail overlooking the beaches below. You can see paragliders, tennis matches, gardens, and great architecture. You’ll want to stop at the Park of Love or Parque del Amor, the most famous of Miraflores’ parks to see the statue of the couple embracing.
Read our Post on How to Spend 24 Hours in Lima, Peru
10:30 am – Parque Kennedy
From the Parque del Amor, we walked to Parque Kennedy. This park is known for the hundred resident cats.
11:30 am – Taxi to Lima’s Historic District
12:15 pm – Plaza San Martín
Plaza San Martin is a popular spot for people watching and enjoying the business of the city. It is also a great place to start for exploring Lima’s historic district. From this plaza, you can walk down to Plaza de Armas.
1:00 pm – Plaza de Armas
Lima’s Plaza de Armas (also called Plaza Mayor) is the founding square of Lima. The plaza includes the Cathedral of Lima, city hall, and the Peruvian governmental palace.
2:00 pm – Church and Convent of San Francisco
Rather than spending the money to enter the Cathedral of Lima, I’d recommend visiting the Church of San Francisco. This is one of the most popular places to visit in Lima due to the catacombs beneath the church.
3:30 pm – Taxi back to Hotel
From the historic center of Lima, we got a taxi at a local taxi stand to our hotel. After collecting our luggage and hanging out a bit, we got a Taxi to the airport.
5:00 pm – Taxi to Airport
We left for the airport during rush hour and what should have been a 45-minute drive took double that.
6:30 pm – Arrive at Airport
10:00 pm – Flight Home