How to Make the Most of Your Machu Picchu Vacation

Surrounded by mountain peaks rising from the clouds and stunning aerial views of the Andes combined with its many agricultural terraces and mystical stone constructions – it’s easy to see why Machu Picchu reigns the penultimate destination for many travelers headed to South America. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu attracts millions of visitors each year curious to experience history far beyond a textbook.

But despite all Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail have to offer, your South American adventure doesn’t have to end there. With the culture of Cusco, the growing gastronomy scene of Lima, the folkloric traditions of Puno, and the diverse geographical features, Peru offers endless experiences waiting to be discovered.

For the adventurous at heart, it’s the perfect destination. And no matter how long your vacation may be, there are ways to experience Peru beyond Machu Picchu.

For a 5-Day Trip

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco
Day 2: Climatize to the altitude while sight-seeing Cusco
Day 3: Train to Aguas Calientes; hike or bus to Machu Picchu; stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 4: Train back to Cusco for additional sight-seeing
Day 5: Depart Cusco

Note: If you want a bit more adventure and don't mind traveling at a slightly quicker pace, there’s an alternate Day 3 / Day 4 option. On Day 3, take the earliest train to Aguas Calientes, hike or bus to Machu Picchu, and take the latest train back to Cusco. On Day 4, spend a full day touring Rainbow Mountain. This option allows you to explore beyond Machu Picchu.

For an 8-Day Trip

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco
Day 2: Climatize to the altitude while sight-seeing Cusco
Day 3-6: Go on a 4-day/3-night Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu from Cusco
Day 6: Tour Machu Picchu, then take the bus down to Aguas Calientes; stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 7: Train back to Cusco for additional sight-seeing
Day 8: Depart Cusco

OR

Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day 2: Sight-see Lima; take a Peruvian cooking class by day, and go on a Lima food tour by night
Day 3: Fly from Lima to Cusco
Day 4: Climatize to the altitude while sight-seeing Cusco
Day 5: Train to Aguas Calientes; hike or bus to Machu Picchu; stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 6: Train back to Cusco for additional sight-seeing
Day 7: Go on a full-day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco
Day 8: Depart Cusco

For a 10-Day Trip

Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day 2: Sight-see Lima; take a Peruvian cooking class by day, and go on a Lima food tour by night
Day 3: Fly from Lima to Puno; climatize to the altitude while sight-seeing Puno
Day 4: Go on a full-day Lake Titicaca / Uros Floating Islands tour from Puno
Day 5: Fly from Puno to Cusco
Day 6: Sight-see Cusco
Day 7: Train to Aguas Calientes; hike or bus to Machu Picchu; stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 8: Train back to Cusco for additional sight-seeing
Day 9: Go on a full-day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco
Day 10: Depart Cusco

Note: If your trip is 12 days long, consider sandboarding in Huacachina or visiting the Nazca Lines which can both be done with a day trip from Lima.

For a 14-Day Trip

Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day 2: Sightsee Lima; take a Peruvian cooking class by day, and go on a Lima food tour by night
Day 3: Go on a full-day Huacachina or Nazca Lines tour from Lima
Day 4: Fly from Lima to Iquitos
Day 5: Sight-see Iquitos
Day 6: Explore the Amazon Rainforest
Day 7: Fly from Iquitos to Puno; climatize to the altitude while sight-seeing Puno
Day 8: Go on a full-day Lake Titicaca / Uros Floating Islands tour from Puno
Day 9: Fly from Puno to Cusco
Day 10: Sight-see Cusco
Day 11: Train to Aguas Calientes; hike or bus to Machu Picchu; stay overnight in Aguas Calientes
Day 12: Train back to Cusco for additional sight-seeing
Day 13: Go on a full-day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco
Day 14: Depart Cusco

Note: If you’d like to tweak the 10-day or 14-day itineraries to include an overnight hike to Machu Picchu but aren’t sure if you want to use up four full days, consider choosing a shorter overnight hike option. Many tour companies provide various hike durations ranging from 2-day/1-night hikes to 7-day/6-night hikes. We recommend hiking Machu Picchu at the end of your trip in case you endure any elevation or fitness-related complications.

Any of the above itineraries can be altered based on preference, but this day-by-day plan is a good place to start. Truth be told, unless you have a month-long vacation, you probably won’t “see it all,” but that’s okay. Whether you have five days or two weeks, Peru is a country you’ll want to visit time and time again. Contact your Ensemble travel agent to start planning – your Peruvian adventure awaits.

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