1 Week in Peru and Machu Picchu

Marit wearing a white shirt under a brown vest posing on a cliff overlooking mountains.
Curated By

Marit Malewitz

Icon Share

SHARE

  • Peru

  • Lima

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • History

  • Local Culture

  • Architecture

Llamas at Sacred Valley
Curator’s statement

Peru is a special place to visit because of its rich history, diverse landscapes and vibrant culture. There is so much to see in addition to the masterpiece that is Machu Picchu. The ancient Inca ruins throughout the country, the Amazon Rainforest and unique culinary traditions. The blend of history and natural beauty made it a compelling destination that exceeded all my expectations.

The Fora Difference

Book with Marit to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

[object Object]
Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

[object Object]
Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

[object Object]
Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay

Previous slide

Sanctuary Lodge, A Belmond Hotel, Machu Picchu

Where luxury meets ancient wonder, the ultimate retreat at the doorstep of the Inca citadel.

Fora Perks
  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible

  • Breakfast daily.

  • $100 hotel/resort credit.

Sol y Luna

Overlooking the Andes, this all-casita gem is your gateway to Sacred Valley adventures.

Fora Perks
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability

  • Daily Buffet breakfast for two guests per bedroom, served in the restaurant

  • $100 Spa or Activity Credit

Hotel B

Where timeless elegance and modern comfort converge to create an unforgettable boutique experience.

Next slide
Marit wearing a white shirt under a brown vest posing on a cliff overlooking mountains.

Unlock perks by contacting Marit to book your trip.

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco

A man walking with a llama at Cusco.

Welcome to Cusco, a city full of rich and ancient history! You likely arrived in Cusco after transferring from the Lima Airport. I flew into Lima the night before and stayed at the Wyndham Hotel Costa del Sol so I was in an easy position to start my adventure into Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and then back to Lima!

We worked with a company called Condor Travel to provide transportation and private tours during our stay. They made every moment seamless and taught us so much about the history and culture along the way! We started with a private transfer to our hotel in the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is a great place to start your Peruvian adventure because it is higher in Elevation than Cusco so it is a great way to get acclimated to the higher elevations that you will experience at Machu Picchu.

On the way, we stopped in the traditional town of Chinchero at the Center for Traditional Textiles (CTTC - Home). Andean Peru is well-known for its beautiful, intricate and bright, colorful textiles. Since ancient times, Peruvians have used dyes made from local plants (and bugs!) to dye their sheep, llama and alpaca wools all hues imaginable. Cusco’s rainbow-colored city flag reflects the role and impact of the impressive textiles born from this land’s colorful resources. Here we watched a demonstration of the traditional weaving and dyeing methods. As a lover of art and design, this was so cool to see!

Upon arriving at the Aranwa Hotel in the Sacred Valley (Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness ES, we spent the day relaxing at the pool, enjoying the hotel cafe patio and ended our day with a 90-minute Andean Massage at the hotel spa. Our room was adjacent to the river and a small orchard where alpacas and peacocks are kept, a unique patio view. We are officially in vacation mode!

Day 2: Explore Archaeological Sites & Salt Mines

The sight of Salt Mines of Maras is amazing.

Have breakfast and start your day at the Moray archaeological complex. The drive through the sacred valley is gorgeous with panoramic views of the Andes Mountains. Once there, you will appreciate the concentric platforms that the Incas used as a botanical laboratory. There are many trails to walk on to see various Inca archaeological sites. Afterwards, visit the nearby Maras salt mines. Over 3,000 ponds, locally owned by 600 families, make up the picturesque Maras, all connected through an impressive underground network of canals that fill these pools with salt water. Over time, the sun slowly evaporates the water leaving behind the salt that is later extracted through ancestral techniques. It was a beautiful site and great history to witness. We enjoyed a walk down the valley to the river where our river met us. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure.

Day 3: Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is a stunning natural wonder known for its vibrant, multicolored appearance.

Rainbow Mountain was one of the most unique experiences I had on our trip to Peru. Locally known as Vinicunca, found in the Andes mountains, it is a two-hour drive from our hotel in the Sacred Valley. This hike takes you up to the same elevation as Mount Everest Base Camp! Our driver and tour guide from Condor travel picked us up, provided us with a sack lunch and we were on our way.

Passing by ancient Inca ruins on our drive, winding through the South Valley, towards Cusipata. We arrive and start the ascending route to the top. The place will amaze you with its vivid colors and natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. We even saw a few packs of llamas on our way. If you are not keen on hiking or are struggling with the altitude, you can pay for the local hike guides who can take you up the trail on horseback and you just have to walk back down. But, there are plenty of places to stop to rest along the way. Slow and Steady is the trick with the altitude. It was a really great experience so take your time and enjoy. Transfer back to Sacred Valley and enjoy the rest of your day.

Day 4: Machu Picchu

The beautiful view of Belmond Sanctuary.

The moment we have been waiting for, we are off to Machu Picchu! Due to our shorter trip, we opted to take the train rather than experience the multi-day iconic Inca Trail hike. If you have the time, I highly recommend this once in a lifetime experience to trek into Machu Picchu on foot. We were dropped off at the Ollanta Station to board the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes! It is a beautiful train ride through the mountains into the rainforest to Aguas Calientes.

Once in Aguas Calientes, have lunch and transfer via bus to the eco-friendly luxurious, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. The Belmond is absolutely incredible, a unique destination that I would always recommend! Staying here means you only have to take the bus up the very windy road to Machu Picchu only once :)

Let’s enter Machu Picchu! I highly recommend having a tour guide as you enter the ruins. You will learn so much more as you are guided through. If you do not hire one in advance, there are many available at the gate for hire. You do need to pick a circuit and a timeslot with advanced ticket purchase for entry. Some of the circuits allow less people in, like Huayna Picchu is only 200-400 people a day.

We chose to do two circuits. On the first day, we did the Citadel Circuit to get a lay of the land, history and of course, we were itching for photos at the iconic viewpoint at the Guard House. It is well worth your time to tour the ancient ruins, and meet the friendly llamas all while learning about each building and what its purpose was from your tour guide or self-guided tour. It truly is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

We came back to our hotel and we were greeted in our hotel room with a variety of Mini-Peruvian Desserts. Before dinner, we enjoyed a complementary 30-minute massage as part of our perk for booking with a Travel Advisor for the Sanctuary Lodge.. It was one of the best massages I have ever had! Then we headed to the bar for a complementary Pisco tasting before enjoying Dinner at Sanctuary Lodge. Hanging out in the lounge after, meeting other guests from around the world and enjoying the traditional, native flute music performed live by a group of locals from Aguas Calientes.

Day 5: Huayna Picchu

The Huayna Picchu Mountain hike is considered moderately difficult.

Waking up at the Belmond Sanctuary is a dream! I started my day with a coffee in the Gardens behind the Sanctuary Lodge, here you get a small view through the trees of Huyana Picchu and some of the Inca Ruins. It is a peaceful and meditative setting with many varieties of Orchids and other plants. Then we enjoyed a beautiful spread of breakfast in the restaurant before heading out to meet our guide for our second and final circuit: Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the taller of the two mountains that sit up behind Machu Picchu as you look at it from the entrance. A steep and, at times, exposed pathway leads to the summit. Some portions are narrow and steel cables provide some support during the one-hour climb. But the views are incredible once you reach the top!

A rewarding hike and was one of my favorite parts of our trip, we even saw a rainbow right over Machu Picchu.

We enjoyed our last moments at the Belmond Sanctuary over lunch…already scheming which of the Belmond Hotels we would like to experience next!

Take the 15-minute bus ride back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes and catch the train to Cusco! If you have time to spare while waiting for the train, I recommend shopping at the local artisan market right next to the station. I found a great hat and blanket.

After the scenic train ride back to Cusco, we were picked up by our Condor Travel driver and transferred to our Hotel in Cusco, the Aranwa Boutique Hotel. After check-in, we enjoyed dinner at Chicha por Gaston Acurio (Chicha), which was so delicious and just around the corner from the hotel. I enjoyed a Pisco Sour, a Guinea Pig appetizer (national delicacy and must-try Street Food!) and a Potato/Chicken traditional dish that was amazing.

Day 6: A Day of Leisure

Explore the streets of Cusco.

Waking up to a day of leisure at our own pace to explore Cusco! Starting with a lovely breakfast at the hotel.

See the various sites on foot: Plaza de Armas (many businesses inquiring on free walking tours, etc., so didn’t linger long here but a lot of amazing architecture surrounding the town square. San Pedro Market was amazing to walk through. Spices, cheese, veggies, textiles and more. Great people watching and shopping. I bought a cute little hand woven purse for 9sol so always make sure to keep a little cash on you for shopping in these markets. There was also a street Art Fair with vendors set up separate from San Pedro market. My mom and I both bought some hand painted art to bring back to the states.

Next, we saw the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the Qorikancha Museum which is a great history lesson on how the Spanish came and settled in the area after the Inca. It provides a good perspective on history.

We ventured up the hill to a Rooftop bar called Limbus Restobar for a cocktail onthe patio overlooking the city. They had very creative beverages in unique vessels.

Continue through the old, winding streets and stairs to the top of the town to see Cristo Blanco, overlooking the city. See the Sacsayhuaman Inca ruins as it is already included in the Cusco Museum Pass.

End your time in Cusco at a highly recommended lunch spot called Nuna Raymi, it was outstanding! They even gave us a block of salt to shave off our own sprinkling of salt on our food, straight from Maras Salt Flats! We enjoyed Pisco Sour and more traditional food with potatoes and trout!

We ventured back to our hotel and transferred to the airport for our flight back to Lima.

Day 7: Explore Lima

Barranco, Peru, is a bohemian seaside district in Lima, celebrated for its artistic vibe.

Waking up in Lima at the AC hotel is a wonderful location in Miraflores right along the Malecón. This is a picturesque coastal walk atop cliffs with stunning views and various points of interest along the way. It spans 6 miles from San Isidro to Barranco, with Miraflores in between.

Time to explore! We loved shopping at the Indian Market, gathering gifts to bring home to friends and family to share the love of Peru. Spend browsing without pressure from the vendors. a great variety of items to shop for from Antiques to fine art and clothes. Follow up with pastries and caffeine fix at El Pan De La Chola.

Explore the Barranco neighborhood: south of Miraflores, known as the bohemian quarters, with many cafes, restaurants, stunning old mansions and a lot of architecture to admire. Head to the rooftop at Hotel B for a drink and a great view.

For dinner, you cannot miss dining at Astrid y Gaston. It is truly a luxurious Farm-to-Table experience, don’t forget to make a reservation. We enjoyed a cocktail to start with the octopus appetizer then shared a nice bottle of wine and enjoyed outstanding Prawns, seafood platter.

Day 8: Museo Larco

Miraflores Pier is a scenic waterfront promenade.

Spend your final day in Lima at the famous Museo Larco. This museum provides an in-depth look at the Andean worldview: understanding the development of pre-Columbian societies. It is also known for its Erotic Collection, which is a collection of pre-Columbian erotic art which offers a unique perspective on ancient Peruvian sexuality. Not something you see in your everyday museum.

Enjoy a final meal before departing. I suggest Punto Azul which is an outstanding (and popular) Seafood restaurant. Enjoy Peru!

Marit wearing a white shirt under a brown vest posing on a cliff overlooking mountains.

Travel Advisor

Marit Malewitz

Get in touch with Marit

Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.

You can normally expect a response from Marit within a business day or so. You’ll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Juli Hall’s guide, A Family-Friendly Adventure To Machu Picchu, Peru.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Peru.