This itinerary offers an ideal, 100% independent trip of Peru in 3 weeks. Highlights include visiting the historical sites and museums of the former Incan capital of Cusco, exploring the archaeological wonder of Machu Picchu, soaking up the cosmopolitan flair of The White City of Arequipa, hiking among the natural beauty of remote Colca Canyon, indulging in the vibrant food and culture of Puno, and experiencing a magical homestay on the unique islands of Lake Titicaca. Enjoy your wanders in Peru!
Cusco: 5 days + 1 travel day
Machu Picchu: 2 days
Ollantaytambo: 1 day
Arequipa: 3 days
Colca Canyon: 2 days
Puno: 3 days
Lake Titicaca: 3 days + 1 travel day
Days 1-6: Cusco
Upon arrival in Cusco, take care to acclimate to the high altitude. Enjoy the ancient historical sites, majestic cathedrals and famous museums of this former Incan empire. Catch a colorful festival in the Plaza del Armas. Grab a freshly prepared hot lunch with locals at San Pedro Market. Browse the trendy, Bohemian neighborhood of San Blas. Spend the day in the countryside visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Outside the city, explore Tambomachay, the military ruins of Puca Pucara and the amazing walled complex, Sacsayhuaman. For more details, visit our post on Cusco, Peru.
Days 7-8: Machu Picchu
From Cusco, take the train to Aguas Calientes in the Urubamba River Valley. This is the gateway to Machu Picchu, the famous Lost City of the Incans. After a good night’s rest, wake up early (4am) and get in line to take the bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Once in, take a moment to savor the beauty of this special place before the onslaught of tourists arrive. Head to the trailhead of Huayna Picchu (the peak shown in the photo below) to enjoy an amazing hike offering a view of the ruins below. For more details, visit our post on Machu Picchu, Peru.
Day 9: Ollantaytambo
From Machu Picchu, consider stopping in Ollantaytambo, a little village in the Sacred Valley of south Peru. Shop for handicrafts at a local market. Spend a couple of hours visiting the ruins of Pinkalluna, an enormous Incan complex. Wander the cobblestone streets and see if you can spot a red plastic bag on a stick. This signals a venue serving Chicha, a traditional Peruvian corn beer. For more details, visit our post on Ollantaytambo, Peru.
Day 10-12: Arequipa
From Ollantaytambo, return to Cusco to catch an overnight bus to Arequipa. Explore the white-washed buildings of Barrio de San Lazaro, the oldest quarter in Arequipa. Wander through the suburban neighborhoods of Cayma and Yanahuara. Here, catch panoramic views of El Misti, the city’s active guardian volcano. Stroll the grounds of Selva Alegre park and enjoy a hot buñuelo, Arequipa’s version of a fried donut. If you’re here in October, don’t miss the Lord of Miracles, a Catholic festival dating back to the 17th century. For more details, visit our post on Arequipa, Peru.
Days 13-14: Colca Canyon
From Arequipa, if you’re looking for an adventure, opt for a local bus to Cabanaconde, the town closest to Colca Canyon. After a stroll through the main square, enjoy views of the canyon at Achachihua Viewpoint. Take a bus to Mirador Cruz del Condor, the most popular viewing point. Hike the nearby trails and see if you can spot the area’s elusive condors. Check out the Tapay viewpoint as well. For more details, visit our post on Colca Canyon, Peru.
Days 15-17: Puno
From Colca Canyon, take a local bus to the small town of Chivay. From there, transfer to a tourist bus for Puno. Enjoy people-watching in communal areas like Pino Park and outside Puno Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. Make the long hike up to Condor Hill for panoramic views of the city and Lake Titicaca. If here in October, don’t miss Puno Day, a now week-long celebration of the city’s founding. For more details, visit our post on Puno, Peru.
In Puno, arrange overnight homestays with families on the islands of Amantani and Taquile in Lake Titicaca. By going through a local organization with no government or private corporation involvement, a majority of the revenue will go to the families. The public boat system offers transportation to the islands including a stop-over at the Uros floating islands. Return to Puno to complete your trip in Peru or continue on to Bolivia. For more details, visit our post on Uros, Amantani and Taquile. Or visit our Bolivia Itinerary: The best of Bolivia in 3 weeks — coming soon.