Amazing 7 Day Peru Itinerary: Inca Trek to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley

Looking to plan a perfect 7 day Peru itinerary? Peru is an incredible country full of gorgeous mountain ranges, amazing food, lush rainforests, and some of the most awe-inspiring archaeological sites in the world. 

With this itinerary, you can hike the entire Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, explore the Sacred Valley, and walk through the ancient cobblestone streets of Cusco. 

We’ve put together exactly what we did, and we hope you can experience this country’s magic for yourselves.  This may be the best trip Kendall and I have ever taken, and we hope to return many times.

Fly to Lima

We took an afternoon flight into Lima and arrived late at night.  We stayed at a nearby hotel offering a shuttle service to pick us up from the airport.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find our driver (not sure if they arrived late or if we just couldn’t see them), so we ended up paying for an airport taxi.  

We flew straight to Cusco the next morning and didn’t spend any time in Lima on this trip. Be sure to check out our article on the differences between Lima and Cusco. If you’ve got an extra day or two, some recommended places to visit in Lima are:

  • The Miraflores neighborhoods are beautiful, with shopping centers, markets, walking and bike tours, and beautiful parks.  It is also known as one of the safest zones in Lima. 
  • Visit the Mali Museum of Art
  • Visit the Huaca Pucllana ruins, a historical site right near Miraflores with pre-Incan clay pyramids. 

7 Day Peru Itinerary Day 1-Fly into Cusco, Explore Cusco

We took an early morning flight straight to Cusco and then another taxi to our Airbnb near the historical city center.  After meeting our Airbnb host and checking in, we spent the afternoon doing our own walking tour of the beautiful city of Cusco. 

There are so many incredible things to do in Cusco that we could have spent weeks, and we spent our first day taking a walking tour of the cobblestone streets. These streets are quite steep and narrow, and we found ourselves walking along a few roads with stairs alongside instead of a traditional sidewalk. 

We walked up to the entrance of the Saqsayhuamán archeological site but decided against paying the entrance fee as it was getting late in the afternoon.  Instead, we walked around a small church with a beautiful view overlooking the city and then headed back to the Plaza de Armas. 

We could definitely feel the altitude difference in Cusco on our way up to Saqsayhuamán and had to take frequent rest breaks.

Tourist sitting on a low wall at the San Cristobal Church; the plaza has fantastic city-overlook views
This was at the San Cristobal Church; the plaza has fantastic city-overlook views

Day 2- Zipline and Via Ferrata in the Sacred Valley

We did a zipline/via-ferrata combo tour with Natura Vive and loved it.  Apart from our cloud forest zipline experience in Monteverde, Costa Rica, this was the best ziplining I’ve ever done.

This was a fantastic way to see the Sacred Valley while doing something new and adventurous for us.  I loved climbing up the mountainside on the bolted-in metal rungs, and we felt very safe the entire time.

tourist on a zipline with an employee holding the cable

Part of the reason we planned to do this Sacred Valley tour before our Inca Trail trek was to be able to stay in nearby Ollantaytambo afterward, a smaller town located close to where we would be starting our multi-day hike to Machu Picchu the next day. This simplified our planning and made our trip to Machu Picchu worth it.

Day 3-First Day of Inca Trail Trek

This is a brief summary of our experience hiking the Inca Trail with Alpaca Expeditions.  They were fantastic and are still one of our top recommendations for Inca Trail tour companies.

Our first day of hiking consisted of 9 miles of mild to moderate uphill climbing.  The weather was hot and humid on this first day, so have plenty of water and sunscreen.  Our guide stopped often to tell us tidbits about Incan culture, which we loved, and we could see our first archeological site, Patallacta, from a distance.

Two tourists in front of the Inca Trail entrance sign
overhead view of the archeological site of Patallacta
Archeological site of Patallacta

Day 4-Second Day of Inca Trail Trek

The second day of our Inca Trek was by far the hardest and involved a LOT of stone steps.  We walked about 10 miles and ascended over 4,000 feet to the trail’s highest point, Dead Woman’s Pass.  The views from the top of the pass were incredible, and we loved watching the llamas grazing in these high-up mountain pastures.

The cool thing about this trek is that you get the chance to pass through various microclimates. This second day for us was cool, misty, and clouded over.

We did the Inca Trail in May, which is considered one of the best times of the year to hike to Machu Picchu. We had an awesome mix of weather along the way—no crazy rain or overly frigid mornings, just a nice balance.

This was a hard day of hiking, and we were glad we had acclimated in Cusco before starting. This is one of the best ways to stay safe in Cusco and on your trek.

tourist sitting on a wall overlooking a stone archeological site

Day 5-Third Day of Inca Trail Trek

This third day of hiking was my favorite.  The microclimate had changed from the cold and windy of Dead Woman’s Pass to lush and tropical.  We only hiked 6 miles on day three and stopped to visit the incredible archeological site of Wiñay Wayna.  This is another Incan site that is much less visited than Machu Picchu, and our tour group had the place to ourselves.

side view of terraced archeological site along the Inca Trail
The terraces of Wiñay Wayna

Day 6-Machu Picchu, Climb Huayna Picchu

Today, our tour guides woke us up VERY early (around 3:30 am) on our final day of trekking to be at the checkpoint to the famous Sun Gate right when they opened at 5:30. What an experience to walk through the Sun Gate right as the sun was rising! 

We reached Machu Picchu by 8 am, spent two hours on a guided tour of the site, and then hiked the (very steep) 2.5 miles to the top of Huayna Picchu, the pointed mountain behind the archeological site. 

Tickets to hike Huayna Picchu must be reserved in advance, which we had done through Alpaca Expeditions.  We had lunch in the town of Aguas Calientes before boarding the train that took us back to our Airbnb in Ollantaytambo.  

archeological site of Machu Picchu, as seen from above

Day 7–Explore Cusco and Sacsayhuamán

We had one more day to explore the city of Cusco, so we packed in as much as possible.  Our first stop was the impressive Sacsayhuamán ruins, an ancient Incan citadel built in the 15th century.  This fortress is made of HUGE carved stones that were fit perfectly together without using mortar.

tourist standing in front of the stones of Sacsayhuamán

After Sacsayhuamán, we briefly walked over to the 26-foot-tall Cristo Blanco statue.  We then found a taxi driver who was willing to take us to the surrounding archeological sites of Tambomachay, Pukapukara, and Qenqo.  

Tambomachay was my favorite of the remaining sites we visited; it consists of aqueducts and canals running through the rocks.  People aren’t sure if this site was used as a bathhouse, a military site, or some religious site.  But it’s cool because the water still flows even today from the nearby natural springs.   

The aqueducts at Tambomachay
The aqueducts at Tambomachay

After our morning exploration of the Cusco archeological sites, we had lunch at a local restaurant and then walked to Museo de la Coca(Coca Museum), located just a short distance from the Plaza de Armas. 

This is a very small museum, but the entrance was free, and personally, I loved it.  I thought it was quirky and fun, and so interesting to learn about the history of the coca centuries ago as well as in the present.

figurine at the Coca Museum of Cusco, one of the most unique things we did on our 7 day Peru Itinerary

We ended the day with dinner at another local restaurant, where we tasted beef heart kebabs and fried cuy (roasted guinea pig), and then headed to our Airbnb for the night.

We had been trying to decide between a trip to Peru vs Costa Rica for this year, and the cuisine in Peru is one thing that tops just about every other Central and South American country!

With More Time

With more time, consider adding some of these other popular activities.

  • Lake Titicaca
  • Visit Rainbow Mountain
  • Take an inner-country flight and visit the Peruvian Amazon
  • Visit the town of Pisac, located an hour from Cusco
  • Explore Lima, including the Miraflores neighborhoods
  • Colca Canyon

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