10 Days in Peru - The Ultimate Itinerary
By Sydney Tong on May 08, 2017. Read time: 6 min.
Adventures are endless in Peru, and there is an expedition for every strain of traveler. The explorer, the foodie, and the historian will all find something to satiate their interests. This country is rich with a multitude of jaw-dropping landscapes ranging from dense green forests to arid stretching deserts. Extraordinary coastal beaches sweep the west coast while the Andes Mountains pierce the sky.
Naysayers may say that ten days is not enough time to fully appreciate this expansive country. We had ten days to split in Lima and Cusco, and we did not leave unfulfilled. The truth is, a traveler could spend a month in Peru and still want more time to delve deeper. Peru will fill your journal with unforgettable memories regardless of the amount of time you have here.
Create the perfect itinerary by researching the activities, sights, and restaurants that excite you. Prioritize what you want to do. Plan your days around the do-not-miss-experiences and then fill in the rest of your time with the lesser priority and less time-consuming experiences. After doing this, you should have a good idea of how many days you need in each city. This method is an excellent starting point for planning any trip.
The scenic route to Machu Picchu
Day 1 - Explore Barranco, Lima
Most flights get into Lima very late at night. We didn't arrive at our guest house until 1:00 am in the morning. Due to exhaustion, we took our first day slow and explored Barranco, the bohemian district of Lima. Brightly graffitied walls frame the colorful colonial-style buildings that line the streets.
We spent our time in-and-out of boutique shops admiring the work of local artists. Lima has a diverse variety of coffee shops all serving high-quality Peruvian coffee, and we found ourselves drinking a lot to keep up with the energy in the district. The best ceviche of the trip was at Canta Raña; I recommend ordering this lightly spicy dish here. Afterward, we walked down the Malecon, and people watched as the day finished.
Things to do in the Barranco District: Malecon, Parque Municipal, Museo de la Electricidad, Mate Museum, Museo Pedro de Osma, Plaza Chabuca/La, Ermite, Puente de los Suspiros, Bajada de Baños, Artesanos don Bosco, Av. Saenz Peña, Museo de Arte, Contemporaneo, Boutique Shopping
Plan wiggle room for a sick day, whether it's altitude sickness or food poisoning.
Beautiful Boho Streets
Day 2 - Explore Miraflores, Lima
For our second day in Lima, we checked out the Miraflores district. Talented painters line the outside of Kennedy Park, showcasing their expertise on easels. Groups of people can be seen dancing to fierce rhythms at all hours of the day.
We visited the Huaca Pucllana ruins to appreciate the enormous clay pyramid preserved in the middle of the city.
Of course, we ate. Lima is perfect for the foodie traveler, and we chowed heavy. Peruvians know how to eat so put the diet on the back burner. We ate at Punto Azul and paid the bill completely satiated.
Locals and tourists head to Parque del Amor to watch the sun set over the ocean. The park stretches along the coast, so there is always a view. It was one of those moments that let me know I was in the right place at the right time.
Things to do in the Miraflores District: Huaca Pucllana, Larcomar, Parasailing, Indian Market, Parque del Amor, Museo Larco, Kennedy Park, Casino Atlantic City, Parroquia Virgen Milagrosa, Playa Redondo.
Sunset from Parque del Amor
Day 3 - Explore Downtown Lima
While many people think that the city of Lima is "grimy", we love the grit and rawness. We are so glad we did as each district in Lima deserves a designated day.
Downtown Lima is vibrant, active and exciting. Performers, markets, restaurants, historical buildings, and museums fill the streets. It is easy to get immersed in Peruvian culture while peru-sing this busy district.
Things to do in Downtown Lima: Jiron Carabaya, Jiron Junin, Pasaje del Correo Central, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Jiron Conde de Uperrunda, Pasaje Santa Rosa, Jiron de la Union, Lima Main Square, Presidential Palace, Museum in the Convent.
Day trips from Lima to Pisco, Ica, Nazca or Huacachina are all brilliant options.
Just a taste of Plaza de Armas
Day 4 - Travel day to Ollantaytambo
Gabe started to feel the effects of food poisoning the night before so we took this day slow as he was trying to recover. We took the first flight from Lima to Cusco and then immediately took a minibus to Ollantaytambo. The flight is only an hour, and the minibus is a two-hour ride. These quick trips gave us plenty of time to settle into Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is in the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Aguas Calientes. It often gets overshadowed by Cusco and Machu Picchu but there is so much to do here, and we highly recommend considering staying here.
Things to do in & around Ollantaytambo: Pinkulluna Ruins, Pukarumi Ruins, Moray, Maras Salt Mines, Inca bridge and valley hike, Temple of the Sun, Chocolate Museum, Craft Market.
Day 5 - Ollantaytambo
By this day, Gabe had started to feel healthy, and we decided to hike up to the Maras Salt Mines, which is accessible from Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. It was an all-day excursion for us, and it was one of the highlights of our trip.
Tours can be arranged to visit both Maras and Moray. We also saw mountain biking tours in this area if that seemed like a good time. There is an outstanding amount of things to do here.
Day 6 - Travel day to Aguas Calientes
The train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes is a 2-hour ride, so we got good half-days in both cities. The Pinkulluna and Ruins of Ollantaytambo can be reached by foot from Ollantaytambo, perfect for half-day adventures.
We highly recommend arriving in Aguas Calientes the night before exploring Machu Picchu. The gates to Machu Picchu open at 5:00 am and close at 5:00 pm. Make sure to book seats on Inca Rail or Peru Rail when you book your tickets to Machu Picchu. Train tickets book up fairly quickly.
Things to do in & around Aguas Calientes: Machu Picchu (duh!), Thermal baths, Cemetary, Main Plaza, Epic soccer field, Handicraft Market.
Inca and Peru Rail only allow each passenger to bring a small bag on board with them. Hotels in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba are accustomed to this and allow guests to leave larger bags and suitcases with them at no extra charge.
Aguas Calientes is from a different planet
Day 7 - Machu Picchu
Adventuring Machu Picchu was our longest and busiest day in Peru. We woke up at 3:45 am to have breakfast and begin hiking to Machu Picchu. We wanted to do as much as possible in the little time we had so we did two hikes and explored the ruins. By the time we caught our train back to Cusco, we were thoroughly exhausted. We didn't get to our hotel until 1:30 am. I recommend leaving Aguas Calientes before 7:00 pm or staying an extra night there and leaving to Cusco in the morning.
Day 8 - Exploring Cusco
We woke up feeling drained from the day before, but we only had one day in Cusco and needed to maximize our time. There is so much to do in Cusco, and we loved checking out all the different markets and the chocolate museum.
My favorite thing is Cusco were the markets. Check out the San Pedro Cusco Market which is near Plaza de Armas. After checking out that market, walk down the street to the locals market which lines the streets to experience local living. If you decide to go to this area, it is a good idea to keep valuables hidden. Police officers patrol the area to make sure everyone is safe.
Things to do in & around Cusco: San Pedro Market (and the local market down the street), Museo Inka, Cooking Class, Rainbow Moutain, Pisac, Sacsayhuaman, Museo de Arte Precolombino, Plaza de Armas, Tambomachay, Pikillaqta, Huchuy Qosqo, Coca Museum, Templo de la Merced del Cuzco.
The busiest place in Cusco
Day 9 - Travel day to Lima
We left Cusco in the morning to head back to Lima. It was our last full day in Lima, so we spent the day trying to eat everything. We encountered a beer tasting at the Larcomar Mall. A dozen tasting stands were set up to let people try a beer from all of the local breweries.
In hindsight, it would have been great to take a day trip outside of Lima on one of the first days in Peru and then leave this day to explore one of the districts. Nazca, Pisco and Huacachina and the sand dunes are outside of Lima.
Day 10 - Travel to Santiago, Chile
We left Lima in the morning to head for Chile. We loved our time here so much that we can't wait to return.
I hope you can use our itinerary as a guide to decide how to structure your trip. Arrange your days for your available time and to accommodate all the things you want to do. Peru is for every traveler, every budget, and every dream. We hope you book your tickets soon.
Ten days in Peru is not nearly enough time. We spent so much of our time traveling between cities which meant less time exploring them. We had a full list of things we wanted to do and our itinerary didn't leave any space for food poisoning.
Map of cities and districts in Peru
Follow our itinerary throughout Peru. These mark the more popular cities and districts. They are meant to give a visual idea of where everything is.
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