โ›ฐ๏ธ 10 Amazing Days in Peru: An Efficient, Active Itinerary

The blog's author standing in front of a mountain view with massive ruins on them.

Peru is one of the 20 biggest countries in the world and is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Ten days is enough time to visit the remarkable Machu Picchu, eat your way through Lima, and see other top natural attractions.

I spent an adventurous ten days in Peru, and here, I share amazing things to do and tips to optimize your trip itinerary. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 10-day optimized itinerary
  • ๐Ÿ“ Best destinations in Peru
  • โญ๏ธ Top attractions in the country
  • ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ Peru map with key places
  • ๐Ÿ  Where to stay
  • โœ๏ธ Peru trip planner

Planning a trip? Here’sย what to know about Peru.

Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

Peru Itinerary Route

This itinerary takes you to some of Peru’s best places:

  • Machu Picchu โ€“ one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Lima โ€“ the gastronomic capital of South America.
  • Huacachina โ€“ the only desert oasis in South America.
  • Sacred Valley โ€“ a lush and picturesque region.
  • Rainbow Mountain โ€“ a natural wonder.

About This Peru Itinerary

This Peru itinerary efficiently sequences attractions and activities the country is famous for. It gives you the opportunity to:

  • Hike the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu
  • Sandboard down massive dunes in a beautiful desert
  • Eat culinary delights in the metropolis of Lima
  • Visit beautiful landscapes like Rainbow Mountain
  • See Inca ruins, temples, and terraces
Two people standing and facing a vast valley.
Hiking the Inca Trail.

7 Essential Tips for Visiting Peru

Before getting into the itinerary, here are practical tips to know when traveling to Peru.

Most of these tips were provided by my childhood friend, Isabela, a Peru local of over a decade.

โœŠ๐Ÿป 1. Check for civil unrest.

Unfortunately, civil unrest and protests are common in Peru. I visited Peru during two temporary strikes that significantly impacted my trip.

You can’t always predict or avoid protests but know they generally happen during Peruvian holidays. Strikes are frequently planned during busy travel times to give the group on strike more negotiation leverage.

๐Ÿ’ต 2. Withdraw soles.

Peru’s economy is primarily based on cash transactions, so bring a minimum of $50 worth of cash per day.

US dollars and Peruvian soles are widely accepted, but you may not get a favorable exchange rate if you use the former.

Learn more cash-related tips for Peru.

๐Ÿš— 3. Be careful when crossing the streets.

Unlike in the United States, pedestrians do not have the right of way. There are no cultural norms to stop for pedestrians in Peru.

As my local friend said, “This is not New York City. Peruvians will run you over.” I learned from personal experience that stop signs are treated as suggestions.

๐Ÿ’ฌ 4. Download WhatsApp.

Like other countries in South America, most people and businesses in Peru use WhatsApp to communicate.

Download WhatsApp (iOS, Android) before traveling to Peru to communicate with small businesses, tour companies, restaurants, etc.

๐Ÿ’ฐ 5. Don’t excessively haggle.

Peruvians are generally kind people who will try to help you. But Peru is also one of the poorest countries in South America, so they will upcharge or rob tourists if the opportunity presents itself.

Haggling is expected, especially in tourist places like Cusco, but don’t overdo it. Since you’re traveling to Peru, your earning potential is likely much higher than the average Peruvian seller.

Woman standing in front of a dry fruit market stand.
At a local market in Cusco.

๐Ÿ˜ฃ 6. Prepare for an upset stomach.

Peru’s food tends to be very well-seasoned and can use ingredients foreign to your body. It’s not rare to get an upset stomach or food poisoning (one of my travel companions got sick).

Don’t drink tap water and avoid raw vegetables in Peru.

If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid street foods and consider bringing Pepto Bismol tablets.

๐ŸฆŸ 7. Bring insect repellent.

Peru has mosquitos, and some areas have high risks of diseases like dengue, Zika, malaria, and yellow fever. Mosquitos are especially prevalent in the Amazon Rainforest and rural areas of Peru.

Mosquitoes are also most prevalent during the rainy season, typically from November to March.

I’m a mosquito magnet, and while I didn’t see many mosquitoes in cities like Lima and Cusco, I did see them at the beginning of my Inca Trail hike. It’s a good idea to pack insect repellent.

A view of traditional architecture with a mountain in the background.
A rainy day in Cusco. (Photo by my friend, Shannon Tsai.)

Learn other practical tips when traveling to Peru.

Peru Map

This map has all the recommended places in the Peru itinerary below.

10-Day Itinerary for Peru

Below is a great way to spend ten days in Peru.

The Peru trip planner has this itinerary prefilled with details.

Day 1โ›ฐ๏ธ Explore Cusco
Day 2๐Ÿงฃ Sacred Valley Day Trip
Days 3-5๐Ÿฅพ Hike Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Day 6โ˜€๏ธ Explore Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes
Day 7๐ŸŒˆ Rainbow Mountain Day Trip
Day 8โœˆ๏ธ Explore Lima
Day 9 ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿป Huacachina Day Trip
Day 10โœˆ๏ธ Depart from Lima

All prices mentioned in this post are in USD ๐Ÿ’ต .

Cusco (Days 1 & 7)

Fly into Cusco’s airport and start your Peru trip there.

๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Why Visit Cusco?

Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, is today the gateway city to Machu Picchu and two other top Peru attractions: Rainbow Mountain and the Sacred Valley.

Cusco’s proximity to several of Peru’s best attractions makes it an ideal starting point. It is itself a vibrant city with well-preserved Inca archaeological sites and local markets.

A small town with an old building and mountains in the background.
A sunny day in Cusco, Peru.

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Cusco

Cusco is located in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, a mountain range that cuts across seven countries.

The best way to get to Cusco is to fly to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ). The short flight from Lima takes less than two hours and typically costs less than $100.

In comparison, a bus from Lima to Cusco takes over ten hours. It’s cheaper and has more scenery, but it’s nowhere near as efficient as flying.

๐ŸŒŸ Top Attractions in Cusco

The small city of Cusco features several main attractions, including:

  • Plaza de Armas โ€“ the city’s main square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • San Pedro Market (Mercado Central de San Pedro) โ€“ a bustling market offering fresh produce and local crafts

When visiting a Peru market, consider trying a local fruit. Some of my favorite fruits are guanabana, cherimoya, and granadilla.

  • Qorikancha โ€“ an Inca temple dedicated to the Sun God

Cusco is also known as a great place to try cuy, a Peruvian delicacy made of guinea pig. The city has historically raised guinea pigs, and eating them has environmental benefits.

Four people about to eat a dish holding a whole roasted guinea pig.
Eating cuy in Cusco.

๐Ÿ  Where To Stay in Cusco

If this is your first time visiting Cusco, stay in or near the city center, Centro Histรณrico, which is within walking distance of many attractions.

For a luxury hotel, stay in Aranwa Cusco Hotel Boutique. They’re one of the few hotels that pump oxygen into the rooms to help combat altitude sickness. My travel companies stayed there and highly recommend them.

For a more mid-range option, I stayed near the Cooper Hotel Boutique. I found the location convenient and lively but not loud.

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Cusco

Cusco is a charming place to explore, buy souvenirs, and walk freely at night without being too concerned for safety. Here are my general tips for visiting this city:

  • Take some time to get acclimated โ€“ Cusco is 11,000 feet above sea level. Spend your first night here getting used to the high altitude to combat altitude sickness.

Cusco is higher than Machu Picchu, so it’s an excellent place for hikers to acclimate.

  • Spend half a day in Cusco โ€“ Cusco is primarily known as the gateway to Machu Picchu and other natural wonders, but the city itself is worth at least a half-day of your trip.
  • Come prepared with cash โ€“ Cusco does not have a good Wi-Fi infrastructure, and I found that some ATMs were not well-stocked.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Sacred Valley (Day 2)

On your second day in Peru, head to the nearby Sacred Valley.

๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Why Visit Sacred Valley?

Sacred Valley, called “Valle Sagrado” in Spanish, is a lush and picturesque region nestled between mountain ranges.

The area was culturally significant to the Inca civilization and features ruins, temples, terraces, and local markets.

Sacred Valley is 9,000 feet above sea level, so it should be easier to acclimate there than Cusco.

A small mountain with Inca ruins on them.
Pisac Archeological Site. (Photo by my friend, Marshall Carpenter.)

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley is an hour and a half north of Cusco. Most people get there via an organized Sacred Valley day trip that visits the various attractions in the large region.

Alternatively, you can get to Sacred Valley through a combination of train, taxi, and bus.

๐ŸŒŸ Top Attractions in Sacred Valley

The region of Sacred Valley is fairly vast and features several main attractions, including:

  • Pisac archeological site โ€“ renowned for its Inca ruins
  • Moray โ€“ an archeological site known for its unique circular agricultural terraces
  • Salinas de Maras โ€“ a visually-fascinating salt pan
  • Chinchero โ€“ a traditional village known for its textile production
  • Ollantaytambo โ€“ a town and Inca site that hosts the famous Temple of the Sun

While many textile souvenirs in Cusco are mass-produced, those in Chinchero are authentic. Local artisans there employ generations-old weaving techniques.

A view of large amount of salts in rectangular areas nestled between valleys.
Salinas de Maras in Sacred Valley. (Photo by my friend, Shannon Tsai.)

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Sacred Valley

I didn’t make it to Sacred Valley due to my Peru trip being disrupted by protests. My travel buddies made it, and these are their tips:

  • One full day in Sacred Valley is sufficient โ€“ It’s a diverse and large region with much to offer. You can spend more than a day in Sacred Valley, but one day is long enough to see the main hits.
  • Don’t buy souvenirs in Cusco โ€“ One of Sacred Valley’s highlights is the traditional textile production process in Chinchero. This is a great place to buy authentic souvenirs.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Machu Picchu (Days 3-6)

On your third day, you should be more acclimated to the high altitude and can visit one of Peru’s most famous places.

โ›ฐ๏ธ Why Visit Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous archaeological site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s hard to call a Peru trip complete without it.

It’s the most significant Inca ruin that showcases the ancient civilization’s advanced engineering. The ruin’s backdrop of Huayna Picchu mountain is an iconic symbol of the country.

A massive Inca ruins complex on a mountain on a clear day.
Machu Picchu, Peru.

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Machu Picchu

To get to Machu Picchu, you need to start in Cusco. From Cusco, you can visit Machu Picchu in two ways:

๐ŸšŒ Option 1: Train and Bus

The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then a bus to the ruins.

A typical Machu Picchu tour takes about five hours if you get there by bus and train.

๐Ÿฅพ Option 2: Trekking

The more adventurous and breathtaking way is to hike the multi-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The hike ends in Aguas Calientes, where you can catch the train back to Cusco.

Here’s how to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Two people standing in front of a stairs of ruins that run very high with grass growing on top.
Intipata Ruins on the Inca Trail.

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Machu Picchu

I did the four-day Inca trail hike to the ruins of Machu Picchu, and it was the highlight of my Peru trip. It’s the most impressive ruin I’ve ever seen in South and Central America.

All of my Machu Picchu hiking tips are in this Inca Trail guide.

If you’re not planning on hiking, I recommend hiring a Machu Picchu tour guide. Having a knowledgeable guide walk significantly increased my appreciation for the Inca’s remarkable engineering.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Rainbow Mountain (Day 7)

After the hike to Machu Picchu, visit Rainbow Mountain or spend a rest day in Cusco.

๐ŸŒˆ Why Visit Rainbow Mountain?

Vinicunca, nicknamed “Rainbow Mountain, ” is a unique, multi-colored mountain whose vibrant colors come from mineral deposits.

It’s a beautiful destination for hikers, photographers, and those interested in interacting with some of the local Quechua-speaking locals.

A colorful mountain with maroon, light blue and green colors.
Rainbow Mountain. (Photo by my friend, Marshall Carpenter.)

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is a three-hour drive southeast of Cusco.

Visitors need to get there by vehicle, and the easiest way to do so is to book an organized tour that provides transportation. Otherwise, you’ll have to rent a car or travel by taxi and bus.

Here’s a five-star guided tour to the summit of Rainbow Mountain.

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is a beautiful landscape that’s worth the trip.

  • Get acclimated in Cusco first โ€“ Rainbow Mountain is located over 16,000 feet above sea level, so make sure you’ve had the chance to get used to the high altitude in Cusco first.
  • Be mentally prepared โ€“ The mountain is most often visited as a full-day trip from Cusco, but it’s pretty far, so make sure you have the time and energy for it.

Avid hikers can camp overnight near Rainbow Mountain and hike for over ten hours. This is why the mountain is sometimes considered an alternative to hiking to Machu Picchu.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Lima (Day 8)

After a week in the Cusco region, take a short flight to Lima to see the coastal side of Peru.

๐Ÿฆ Why Visit Lima?

The capital city of Lima is Peru’s largest and most metropolitan city, acting as the country’s economic hub.

Lima is particularly known for its culinary scene and is considered the gastronomical capital of South America.

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Lima

Lima is home to Peru’s main international airport, Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), so most foreign visitors fly into Lima. For this itinerary, fly into Lima from Cusco, which is a short hour-and-a-half flight.

The best way to get around Lima is by taxi or Uber.

Lima’s traffic is notoriously bad. Even if you see districts located right next to each other on the map, it might take longer to travel than you think, so budget extra time for transport.

๐Ÿฅฉ What To Eat in Lima

The culinary experience in Lima ranges from delicious, local food to relatively affordable upscale dining experiences.

Traditional Peruvian food that my local friend recommends trying include:

  • Lomo saltado โ€“ a stir-fry with sirloin steak. You can get these in many traditional Lima restaurants, including the affordable restaurant chain Tanta, founded by a famous Peruvian chef.
  • Anticuchos โ€“ beef heart skewers. This is a must-try, and you can find many good places that serve them in Lima.
Two plates, one with beef heart and another with beef and rice.
Anticucho and lomo saltado in Lima.
  • Ceviches โ€“ usually made of raw fish and shrimp marinated in citrus. Seafood is common in Peruvian cuisine, and many local restaurants in Lima, particularly ones in Miraflores, serve them well.

Peru’s most famous alcoholic drink is the pisco sour. This refreshing drink consists of lime juice, pisco, egg whites, and sugar.

Some great upscale restaurants to try in Lima include the following:

  • Maido is a famous Nikkei restaurant- a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine- that requires about two months of advanced reservations. Since I couldn’t get a reservation at Maido, I ate at Osaka instead, and it was divine.
  • Central is one of the most popular upscale restaurants in Barranco that serves traditional Peruvian food.
A black plate holding cured salmon dipped in a citrus sauce.
Nikkei dish in Lima.

One way to sample Peruvian food is through a highly-rated Lima food tour.

๐ŸŒŸ Great Things To Do in Lima

If you have one to two days in Lima, my local friend and I recommend the following:

  • Walk around Miraflores and Barranco โ€“ Miraflores is a beachfront district with parks, shops, and gardens. Barranco is an artistic, upscale district that’s pretty at night. The latter also has paragliding.
  • Go to Museo Larco or Centro Histรณrico โ€“ Museo Larco is a beautiful art museum with a cafe and garden. Centro Histรณrico is a crowded city center surrounded by museums, food, and architecture.

Museo Larco and Centro Histรณrico are popular destinations, but they are far enough apart that you likely cannot visit both if you are in Lima for less than two days.

  • Visit Chinatown (maybe) โ€“ Lima’s Chinatown, unlike many in the United States, doesn’t have Chinese residents, so walking around it can be a unique experience.

My local friend warns that Lima’s Chinatown is an impoverished area that many locals tend to avoid, so watch out for pickpockets and petty theft.

๐Ÿ  Where To Stay in Lima

For this itinerary, I recommend staying in the Miraflores District. Miraflores is one of the nicer neighborhoods in the capital. It has walking access to a few places and is not prohibitively far from the airport.

I stayed near Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro, located near Kennedy Park. I could walk to Lima’s coastal park within 15 minutes and felt safe at night.

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Lima

My local friend took me around Lima, and here are some of our tips on visiting the capital city:

  • Spend only a day in Lima โ€“ You can spend anywhere from one to three days here, but I recommend prioritizing other places that make Peru truly unique. Lima can feel like another big city.
  • Prioritize good food โ€“ One of the best things you can do in Lima is eat at various places and try different cuisines.
  • Avoid dangerous areas in Lima โ€“ Lima has affluent and poor districts like many big cities. I enjoyed walking around Miraflores both during the day and at night, as it felt safe. However, do your research and avoid dangerous areas of Lima.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Huacachina (Day 9)

On your second day on the coastal side of Peru, head south to a special place.

โ˜€๏ธ Why Visit Huacachina?

Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America. A trip there can feel surreal, as you’ll see massive sand dunes surrounding a small village with a natural lake.

A woman standing in a desert holding a sand board.
Sandboarding in Huacachina.

๐Ÿ“ Getting to Huacachina

Huacachina is about a five-hour drive south of Lima. The nearby town of Ica does not have an airport, so you need to get to Huacachina by vehicle.

The easiest way to get to Huacachina is through an organized tour, which typically also stops at the mysterious Nazca Lines and interesting Ballestas Islands.

You can also hire a private taxi, take the public bus, or book a rental car.

See details on how to get to Huacachina.

๐ŸŒŸ Top Activities in Huacachina

The small village of Huacachina is primarily known for its scenic desert landscapes, so the top activities there are sandboarding, sand skiing, and dune buggy riding.

Thanks to its large sand dunes, Huacachina is known as one of the best places to sandboard in the world.

๐Ÿ€ My Tips for Huacachina

Huacachina was one of my favorite places in Peru. The giant sand dunes were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Sandboarding and dune buggy riding were also thrillingly fun, and the sunset was stunning.

All of my tips for this unique place are in this Huacachina guide.

A sun setting over a vast desert with sand dunes.
Sunset in Huacachina.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Depart From Lima (Day 10)

After your full day in Huacachina, head back to Lima. If you have time, eat at another great restaurant and explore one more district.

Remember to budget travel time to Lima’s airport with the city’s heavy traffic.

How much will a trip set you back? I share my travel expenses in this Peru budget breakdown.

With More Time: 2 Weeks in Peru

Peru is one of the 20 largest countries in the world, so there will be plenty to do if you stay longer than ten days.

If you want to visit more areas in Peru’s northern and southern regions, you’ll need two to three weeks in Peru.

With more time in Peru, you can visit other top attractions like:

  • Lake Titicaca โ€“ This is South America’s largest lake, known for its stunning natural beauty. Visitors can hike, take a boat to the floating Uros Islands, and attend festivals.
  • Arequipa and Colca Canyon โ€“ The canyon is another natural wonder known for its breathtaking panoramic views. It’s popular for hiking, bird-watching, and visiting hot springs.
  • Puerto Maldonado โ€“ This city in southern Peru is the gateway to the Amazon rainforest and one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Visitors can go on multi-day jungle trek tours to see exotic wildlife and plants.

Peru Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Peru trip planner.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

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