10 Day Peru Itinerary: Lima, Cusco & Machu Picchu
If you’re looking to find personal and professional inspiration to fuel your entrepreneurial life, look no further than Peru. Peru is a surprisingly nuanced hotspot for spiritual and physical rejuvenation. Having witnessed the country’s natural beauty and spirit of its growing economy, 10 days was just enough time to de-stress and recharge the creative mind amongst Peru’s array of diverse wellness offerings.
Many of you followed my adventures through Lima, Cusco, and the Inca Trail on social media. I hope to inspire you all to take a trip like this of your own. A hike up Machu Picchu is a travel bucket list must-do. Here is an itinerary that answers many questions about where to stay and what to do throughout Peru.
Peru Itinerary Overview
Day 1: Arrive in Lima, Check into JW Marriott LimaDay 2: Lima Walking TourDay 3: Arrive in Cusco, Check into JW Marriott CuscoDay 4: Cusco Walking TourDay 5: Tour of Town Market with Cooking Lesson, Evening Spa TreatmentDay 6: Sacred Valley Day of the Incas Trip (Pisaq, Ollantaytambo) and Maras/Moray Salt MineDay 7: Inca Rail to Machu Picchu, Check into Sumaq Machu Picchu, Mandor HikeDay 8: Machu Picchu Mystical Tour with Shaman BlessingDay 9: Intipata Ruins and Intipuncu HikeDay 10: Return Trip Home
Day 1–2: What to Do in Lima, Peru
Most international flights to Peru arrive in Lima, the capital city. Take an overnight flight to Lima so you have a full day to rest and relax.
Where to stay: If you are able to spend a little time in Lima, you must check out Miraflores — an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, with access to the best beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, department stores, and hotels.
This is where you can find the JW Marriott Lima with its prime oceanfront real estate and impressive glass frontage that sets it apart from other hotels on the strip. Elegant and classy, the JW Marriott Lima lets its location do the impressing. The hotel opts for windows over walls of artwork, encouraging guests to take in the beauty of the sprawling ocean instead of marveling at murals.
What to do: Everywhere you go in Lima you can see where the past meets the present. The city has a huge archaeological, historical and cultural past, and is currently in the midst of a business boom. JW Marriott Lima put together a custom walking tour of Lima that showcased the city’s thriving market and spirit of innovation and progress. Knowledgeable local guides show different areas of the city, explaining everything from the first inhabitants 10,000 years ago to how Lima became the 16th most populated city in the world.
Where to eat: Peru’s sensational culinary scene is an ode to the country’s unique biodiversity and ever-present cultural customs. Many of the top restaurants source the country’s native ingredients which are largely considered unknown thanks to the regions’ rich and varied topography. Miraflores is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Learn how Ceviche originated in Lima by having great ceviche at El Pez On. Amaz Restaurante showcases the cuisine from the Amazon jungle. Just outside of the Miraflores district is one of Lima’s most famous restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, whose kitchen is led by Gastón Acurio and his wife Astrid Gutsche, the architects and cheerleaders of the Peruvian culinary movement.
Though Lima is most often a starting and end-point in one’s journey through Peru, it deserves its own special time. The city’s massive growth and culinary/cultural fusion tells a story unto itself for those who can look past its metropolis exterior.
Day 3–5: What to Do in Cusco, Peru
From Lima, Cusco is a quick one-hour plane ride away. Cusco is a perfect starting point for many travelers making their way to Machu Picchu. A visit to this region transports you back in time, giving you a glimpse of ancient Andean culture with a hint of colonial Spanish conquest. As you acclimate to Peru’s high altitude, relive Inca history by visiting its temples, ancient cities and famous ruins.
Where to stay: Arriving at JW Marriott Cusco in the evening, allow a little extra time to settle in and acclimate to the new higher elevation of 11,152 feet. The hotel prepares for this ahead of time by cranking up the built-in oxygen system in your room ahead of time.
What to do: There’s a world of culture to explore in Cusco. Cobblestone streets lined with Inca walls connect all of the important sites like the Cathedral with the Temple of the Sun (Koricancha) found inside the church of Santo Domingo. JW Marriott Cusco set up a personalized walking tour of the city with a local tour guide who shared insight into the city’s history, culture, traditions, and daily life.
Where to eat: If you’re looking for a contemporary twist on Peruvian classics, you’ll want to make your way to Morena Peruvian Kitchen. This modern and bright restaurant is nestled in the heart of the ancient city of Cusco, and offers delicious flavors of Peru — from the coast to the Amazon right up to the Andes. Try the Lomo Saltado, one of Peru’s most famous dishes.
Inkazuela is a cozy restaurant strategically located in the central Plazoleta Nazarenas. The restaurant occupies an old colonial house with spectacular views of monuments, churches and the White Christ. Their specialties are stews and soups served in casseroles, with vibrant flavors ideal for the Cusco climate.
Chicha is regional food, taking the ingredients, customs and culture of Cusco and pairing them with the local produce and culinary techniques.
JW Marriott Cusco’s Qespi Restaurant offers a guided tour that starts at the local San Pedro market where Executive Chef Heivel shows you some of his favorite ingredients, and you can connect with local street vendors selling all finds of food, souvenirs, and gifts. Once back at the hotel, the chef teaches you how to cook ceviche with the market ingredients for lunch. The guided tour ends at night with a seven-course tasting dinner where Chef Heivel infused much of the country’s history, art, and culture into his dishes, to showcase the wholesomeness and diversity of the region.
Day 6: What to Do in the Sacred Valley
What to do: Located in the heart of the Inca Empire, the Sacred Valley is a must-see when visiting Cusco. JW Marriott Cusco can help you set up a private, guided day trip to view the town of Ollantaytambo with its imposing Inca fortress, Pisac’s impressive ruins, the salt flats of Maras, and the terraced, circular agricultural platforms of Moray. Ollantaytambo and Pisac are two of the most visited tourist sites in Peru, so it’s nice to have a highly knowledgeable local guide who knows their way around give a more personalized tour experience and who gives you a deep history of the Peruvian culture, which makes seeing the sites more impressive.
Where to eat: For those who visit the archaeological site of Moray, northwest of Cusco and west of the village of Maras, hungry travelers who make it to the top of the high plateau can be treated to an exclusive experience at El Mil. Owned by Virgilio Martinez, owner of the sixth-best restaurant in the world, Central, located in Lima, Mil is a hands-on experience inspired by the different ecosystems of the region. Everything is local, from the water collected from Andean snowmelt, to the Maras pink salt sourced from nearby ancient terraces. The eight-step menu focuses mainly on vegetables, tubers and grains to compliment the high altitude’s effect on appetite. The tour at Mil gives you a chance to look at the many varieties of potatoes that go into creating the perfect course. You also got a look at the preparation of cacao that becomes infused with the course pairings. Seeing the research and process that goes in to creating dishes that highlight the Peruvian culture, produce and identity gives a whole new level of appreciation for Andean cuisine.
Day 7–9: What to Do in Machu Picchu & Surrounding Area (Inca Trail)
Machu Picchu, also known as “The Lost City of the Incas,” is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is one of the most beautiful and impressive ancient sites in the world, invisible from the Urubamba Valley below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces and natural springs. To get there, Peru Rail’s Vistadome is just a short train ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu, offering panoramic views of the scenery that let travelers soak in the snow-capped peaks, lush landscapes, and winding river views.
Where to stay: Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is located in Aguas Calientes, adjacent to Machu Picchu and near the beautiful Vilcanota River — which allows travelers to explore the mountains and dramatic landscapes. Located at the foot of the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, when you step inside the luxury hotel you lose yourself to the mystical wonders of the region. Newly remodeled under the symbolic concept of the chakana, also known as the Andean cross, the four plants of the hotel have been represented by the four natural elements: air, fire, earth and water. Staying at Sumaq means you partake in the Incan culture in every way, from food to activities to relaxation.
What to do: After checking in to Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, take a hike through Mandor Valley guided by Peruvian Experiences Travel Company, Sumaq Hotel’s trusted tour partner. The local guide will share their knowledge to the many native plants on the trail, and hike lovers get ample time to appreciate the scenery and several waterfalls.
Hiking Machu Picchu, translated as Old Mountain, deserves a day unto itself. The citadel that sits at the top symbolizes the excellent technical skill, and ingenuity of the Inca Empire. The surrounding views are breathtaking, but they also served as protection. Full of cultural significance, its sites, complexes, monuments and citadels are still shrouded by mystery. In Inca times, ceremonies were held at the top of this peak. To get the full experience, a shaman can perform a blessing known to help travelers find their spirituality and help them connect with Pachamama, a goddess revered by the Incans, also known as the earth/time mother.
One of the lesser known things along the Inca Trail is Intipunku (Sun Gate) and the Intipata (Place of the Sun) Ruins. This moderately challenging hike was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. The hike follows the original Inca Trail that steadily climbs through Machu Picchu’s agricultural terraces. Many people miss the ruins because it’s hard to see at first, but come sunset, the platforms light up as the sun dips below the horizon. This place was a site of plant domestication and cultivation, where you can see over 150 types of plants, edibles and aromatics, including the most beautiful of all: The Orchids, with more than 200 types, making it the most famous plant in the Inca Trail.
The Andes mountains is a hiker’s paradise. Between Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, Mandor Valley, and other stops along the Inca trail, you can spend days hiking the countryside. The mysticism and grandeur of the Peruvian landscape alone offers rejuvenation. But at the end of the day, don’t forget to take care of your physical self. The popularized focus on wellness throughout Peru allows for many ways travelers can rest and relax. After hours of walking, relax at Sumaq’s Aqlla Spa where they combine relaxation, luxury and ancient Inca techniques for the body and mind in a healing atmosphere of light and floral essences.
Best Time to Go
Late September through early November is the best time to travel to Peru, as the weather is optimal and the tourist sites are typically less visited during these months.
Dry season begins May — October. A warmer wet season begins November — April. The wettest months are January and February, and the Inca Trail is closed in February for restoration.
The most popular time to visit Peru is between May and September. Trails and historical sites are very crowded with tourists during this time of year.
Sumaq Promotion Code: If you’re planning a trip to Machu Picchu, Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel offers a complimentary 30-minute massage if you book any room using the code “RB”. This really becomes valuable after a full day of walking and exploring the mountains!