Peru is a fascinating country with a rich history, spectacular ruins, and amazing natural wonders. Travelers planning a trip to Peru frequently wonder how much they can realistically squeeze into a limited time frame. With Machu Picchu as a prime focus and a decent budget for air travel, travelers can combine a visit to the Inca citadel with a fairly complete exploration of the Andean region. Travelers will be able to get an overview of the region's highlights, including Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Lake Titicaca.
The first step on Day 1 in to get to Cusco, whether from Lima or other destinations in Peru. Multiple flights arrive daily to Cusco from Lima, Juliaca, Arequipa, La Paz, and other cities. After arriving in Cusco, you can spend the rest of the day acclimatizing, resting, and exploring all there is to see and do in Cusco, which includes museums, galleries, plazas, restaurants, and nightlife.
Day 2 is the day for an organized city tour of Cusco, and these can be done in private or group. Private tours offer flexibility in itineraries and start times. The city tour includes stops at the Cusco Cathedral and the Qoricancha or Temple of the Sun. Both sites will give travelers insight into the process by which Spaniards imposed religion and customs on the conquered Andean people. The tour also includes stops at the most important Inca ceremonial sites near Cusco, including Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachy, and Qenko.
Day 3 features the Sacred Valley, just outside Cusco and on the way to Ollantaytambo, the train station to Aguas Calientes. This tour stop in Pisac, which has a local market and ruins above the town, as well as Ollantaytambo, ruins that climb up the top of the hill. The town is also an original Inca city and travelers can appreciate the precise layout of the town's street. Travelers have the option of staying in Ollantaytambo, a nearby Sacred Valley hotel, or catch a late train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu village.)
On Day 4, hop on the train to go to Aguas Calientes, or if you're already in town, wake up early maximize your time in Machu Picchu. After a tour of Machu Picchu, you can plan to hike to Huayna Picchu, the Sun Gate, or the Inka Bridge. Return to town for the train ride back to Cusco.
Transport to Puno on Day 5 can be arranged by bus, train, or plane. Air travel is the fastest, whereas bus and train travel to Puno will take about 8 hours and pass through gorgeous Andean landscapes until reaching Lake Titicaca. The rest of the day can be spent at your leisure.
Day 6 is a full day tour of Lake Titicaca. Tours can be customized, but usually include visits to the floating islands of Uros, which are made and remade by hand out of weeds, as well as Taquile Island. Navigating through the water of the deep blue Lake Titicaca is sure to be a spectacular experience. Back in town, the town of Puno is small but has an excellent selection of restaurants.
The last day, Day 7, will be your departure from Puno. From here, you can return to Lima or continue your Peru vacation to destinations such as Arequipa, Paracas, Puerto Maldonado, or Mancora.