How Many Days in Peru? How to Plan your Perfect Itinerary

Are you wondering how many days in Peru are enough to see the best of this incredible country? We recommend at least ten days so you can trek to Machu Picchu, explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and spend a few days in the capital of Lima.

With more time, you’ll be able to see even more of this incredible country, including the Peruvian Amazon, Arequipa, and the Nazca lines.

Let’s jump into how to prioritize your trip depending on how much time you’ve got so you can make the very most of your time in South America.  

So, How Many Days in Peru Do You Really Need?

Here’s the bottom line: We think you need at least 7-10 days in Peru to really enjoy the very best sites (Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley). If you want to visit other areas of Peru, such as the Peruvian Amazon, you’ll need at least two weeks. 

Things to Keep in Mind Before Planning Your Itinerary

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a very real thing, and you’ll want to acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco before doing any hiking to Machu Picchu or other more strenuous activities.

It’s always a good idea to take things slow and avoid alcohol during your first few days in Cusco. 

Best Time to Visit

You’ll want to think carefully about the best time to visit Machu Picchu, as the site can get very crowded depending on the season.

The dry season in Peru runs from May to September, which is also the peak tourist season.  However, the shoulder season months of May and September tend to see fewer tourists.  Kendall and I went in May and thought it was the perfect time to visit. 

Incan site with beautiful sunny weather
We had incredible weather and fewer crowds when we hiked the Inca Trail in May

Southern Peru vs Northern Peru

Southern Peru is the most visited half of the country, with the famous sites of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley near the ancient city of Cusco and Lake Titicaca further South.  

Unless you’ve got at least two weeks in Peru, we recommend focusing your travels on the southern destinations.  This will allow you to see the best of the best and save significant travel time. 

Northern Peru also has some incredible destinations, like sandboarding at Chachapoyas and visiting the town of Iquitos, but you’ll really have to consider the travel time involved. 

4-Day Peru Itinerary

3-4 days in Peru is really not enough time, in our opinion.  There is so much to explore in this incredible country, and with four days, you’ll only have time to quickly fly through the capital city of Lima and visit one destination.  

However, we realize that sometimes reality is reality, and if you truly only have four days in Peru: here is what we recommend. 

Day 1: Fly into Lima and Then Straight to Cusco

Most flights into Peru land in the capital city of Lima, but with only a few days, you’ll want to continue straight on to Cusco.  There are multiple domestic flights from Lima to Cusco, so pick the one that will get you there the quickest. 

Where to Stay in Cusco

We recommend staying close to the central Plaza de Armas.  Peru, in general, is a very affordable country, and there are all kinds of great options for both hotels and Airbnbs.

You’ll want to be close to the central Plaza as this is the hub for most tours and other activities both within Cusco, and to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. 

man sitting inside an Airbnb
We stayed in a fantastic Airbnb on Avenida El Sol, just a five-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas

Day 2: Explore Cusco

There are so many things to do in Cusco, that you could spend weeks here.  However, in only one day, we recommend visiting the huge stones of Sacsayhuamán and checking out the San Pedro Market.  These were two of our favorite activities in the city.

A ticket to Sacsayhuamán can be purchased as part of the ‘Boleto Turistico.’  The full Boleto Turistico includes many archaeological sites and other things in and around Cusco, but since you’ll only be spending one day, we’d recommend the cheaper ‘Circuit I’ ticket.  It’s valid for one day and will give you access to Sacsayhuaman and three other nearby sites (Qenqo, Tambomachay, and Puka Pukara). 

The San Pedro market is just a 10-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas and is such a fun place to spend a few minutes. You’ll be able to walk through rows of vendors at this local market. They’ve got a section dedicated to meats, a section with fruits and juices/smoothies, and small order-from-the-counter-style restaurants serving all kinds of traditional dishes.

large plate of fried fish, potatoes, and rice
Kendall purchased a huge plate of fish and rice for just a few soles.

Day 3: Machu Picchu Day Trip

Day three will be a long day trip to see the incredible Incan site of Machu Picchu. Many great companies, such as Machupicchu Inka Trek, will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco.  

From there, you’ll be transported by vehicle to the Ollantaytambo train station, where you’ll board the train to Aguas Calientes. Once in Aguas Calientes, you’ll take a short bus ride to the site of Machu Picchu.  

Most day trips will offer a guided tour for 2-3 hours, and then you’ll have plenty of time to take photos on your own before heading back down to Aguas Calientes. 

front view of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background.
Most guided tours take around two to three hours, and then you’ll have time to explore and take photos

NOTE: some Airbnbs in Cusco are very difficult to reach via vehicle.  The roads in Cusco can be narrow and winding.  If you choose to stay in an Airbnb that is difficult to reach, you may very well need to walk a few minutes to a nearby meeting spot for your tour pickup. 

Day 4: Head Back to Lima and Fly Home

For your final day, you’ve got two options. You can take advantage of this last day to explore more of Cusco, or you can take an early-morning flight to Lima, see the Miraflores, and try the incredible cuisine before taking an evening flight home. Your choice!

One Week in Peru Itinerary

One week in Peru still makes for a very rushed trip, but at least you’ll be able to explore the Sacred Valley, visit Machu Picchu, and check out the best things to do in Cusco.

Day 1: Fly into Cusco, Plaza de Armas, and San Pedro Market

With one week in Peru, we’d still recommend flying straight to Cusco from Lima without spending too much time in the capital city.

After checking into your hotel, walk to the central Plaza de Armas.  The plaza is a fun hub of souvenir shopping and is right next to the Cusco Cathedral as well as the Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesus.

tourist in front of the Plaza de Armas cathedral
The central Plaza de Armas in Cusco is the central hub for tours and is right next to La Iglesia de La Companía de Jesus and the Cusco Cathedral.

We recommend taking an hour to do a self-guided tour of the Iglesia de La Companía de Jesus.  Tickets are inexpensive, and the inside of the church is beautiful.  We really enjoyed learning about the Jesuits in Cusco and the influence of Spanish architecture. 

After the Plaza de Armas, walk the 10 minutes over to the San Pedro Market.  This is a hopping hub of local vendors selling their wares.  Be sure to check out the fruit and juices section and buy a fresh smoothie.    

Day 2: Sacsayhuamán, the Statue of Christ, Coca Museum

On day two, you’ll head out early for the impressive ancient ruins of Sacsayhuamán. This impressive site is about a 10-minute drive or a 30-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. Kendall and I simply walked, and we loved wandering through the steep streets of Cusco.

If you’d rather drive, taxis are easy to find near the Plaza de Armas. Just make sure that it’s a registered taxi (they will have a registration number on the side) and that you negotiate a price beforehand. This, as well as keeping your valuables out of sight, is the best way to stay safe in Cusco. 

After Sacsahuamán, walk over to the nearby statue of Christ.  This is a smaller version than the famous statue in Brazil but is still worth a visit and has great overviews of Cusco along the way.

If you’ve purchased the Circuit I Boleto Turistico, you can ask your taxi driver to take you to the other three stops (Qenko, Tambochay, and Puka Pukara). These are other, smaller Incan sites that are interesting to visit if you have the time.

Front view of the fountains of Tambochay
The ancient site of Tambochay, with its still-running fountains. We did this as part of our ‘Circuit I’ tourist ticket.

In the afternoon, we recommend walking over to the Coca Museum and checking out the nearby San Blas neighborhoods.  

The Coca Museum is small, but there is no entrance fee, and we thought the displays were fascinating.  You’ll learn all about the ancient and modern uses of the coca plant, including its transition to being used in cocaine.  Really interesting stuff. 

Days 3-5: Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

While the Machu Picchu archeological site is incredible, our favorite part of visiting was our trek along the Inca Trail to get there. If you’ve got the time, we always recommend doing the trek, even if it’s a shortened version, and that’s what you’ll be doing today.

Alpaca Expeditions offers a two-day trek to Machu Picchu. This allows you to experience hiking this incredible route but in a shorter time frame. 

Days 6-7: Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley is incredible and something that you should prioritize during your Peru trip.  

On your first day in the Sacred Valley, take a full-day tour like this one from Tarvos Perú Tours, which will take you to all the best spots. 

You’ll stop at the archeological center in the town of Chinchero, then head to Moray, and then visit the famous Maras Salt Mines.  From there, you’ll have a lunch stop in Urubamba, head over to the fortress of Ollantaytambo, and finally make the drive over to Pisac.  

On your second day in the Sacred Valley, we recommend doing a Via Ferrata and Zip Line tour over the Urubamba River.  This is a great way to see some fantastic overhead views. 

two tourists doing a Via Ferrata and zip line tour over the Urubamba river in the Sacred Valley
Our Via Ferrata and zip line tour over the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley.

10 Days in Peru

With ten days in Peru, you’ll be able to spend a day in Lima, visit Arequipa, Colca Canyon, and Lake Titicaca and still have time to complete the Inca Trail.

Day 1: Lima

If you want to see the beach while in Peru, Lima is the place to do it.  Near Lima, you can take a boat tour to the Palomino islands or out to the Paracas National Reserve.

And we always recommend taking some time to explore the beautiful Miraflores neighborhoods. 

Day 2-3: Fly/Bus to Puno, Lake Titicaca

From Lima, you’ll take a 1 hr 35 min flight to Juliaca and then a 1-hour bus ride to Puno.  From there, there are a whole host of Lake Titicaca tours to choose from.  You can kayak, do a boat tour or a full-day tour that includes seeing the floating islands.  

airplane wing over the clouds
Juliaca is the closest airport to Puno, the best starting point for visiting lake Titicaca.

Days 4-5: Arequipa and Colca Canyon

On day four, you’ll wake up early and either take the 1-hour bus ride back to Juliaca and then a flight to Arequipa or a 5-hour bus ride straight from Puno to Arequipa. 

Once in Arequipa, you can either spend one day exploring the beautiful town and then one day taking a day tour to Colca Canyon, or you can spend your entire time here doing a two-day, one-night Colca Canyon trek. Your choice!

Day 6: Fly to Cusco, Explore the City of Cusco

With one day in Cusco, we recommend prioritizing the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán.  These huge stones set together without mortar are super impressive.  In the afternoon, head down to the central Plaza de Armas or the San Pedro Market. 

The impressive stones of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress.
The impressive stones of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress.

Days 7-10: Inca Trail

Doing the full Inca trail or one of the Inca Trail Alternatives is truly the best way to see Machu Picchu.  The archeological site itself is amazing, but it will be packed full of tourists.  Hiking along the Inca Trail through the Andes Mountains was incredible, and we were able to see many other less-visited sites along the way.

And, if you go with a group like Alpaca Expeditions and arrive at Machu Picchu early in the morning, you’ll have plenty of time to climb Huayna Picchu after your guided tour.  

This was one of my favorite parts of our trip and something we highly recommend.  The views from the top are incredible, and it’s one of the best places to get some great overhead photos of Machu Picchu.

Huayna Picchu Mountain, as seen behind Machu Picchu.  The decision to hike this mountain is one factor in how many days in Peru you'll need.
Hiking up Huayna Picchu Mountain takes a few hours; tickets must be booked in advance.

Please remember to book your Huayna Picchu tickets in advance with your tour company; they cannot be purchased on-site. 

With More Time

Two weeks or more in Peru gives you the opportunity to see some of the incredible places that you won’t have time to fit into a 7-day or 10-day itinerary.  In addition to the Inca Trail, you’ll be able to visit Rainbow Mountain and the Amazon rainforest via Puerto Maldonado. 

If you have a month or more in Peru, you can explore the lesser-visited towns and parks of northern Peru. Some of these include the town of Trujillo, the Huascarán national park, and Paron Lake.