Visiting Peru? You're going to have a killer time! We spent 8 days in Peru and felt like it was the perfect amount of time to get a sampling of both the Lima and Cusco areas of Peru.
We flew to Peru with Spirit Airlines and opted to purchase one checked luggage for the trip which fit everything we need, including camera gear. There À La Smarte option really allowed for us to customize our journey our trip according to our needs. We didn't opt for seat selections and we were able to sit together on all legs of our journey. Spirit Airlines is the optimal airline of choice when you are looking to save money and have more money left over on your trip so that you have #MoreGo. You'll save 30% on flights on average as compared to other airlines!
I also love ordering a hot cup of cup of noodles during the flight! It's so soothing and reminds me of my childhood. For this trip, we flew from Los Angeles to Orlando, had a layover and then flew to Lima, Peru. We arrived in Lima around 10 PM and rested for the night.
We spent the first day of our trip to Peru with Spirit Airlines in the Lima vicinity. We booked a hotel in the upscale San Isidro district of Lima and went on a tour swimming with the sea lions of Peru.
1. Swimming with the Sea Lions in Callao Peru
We booked our tour with America Viajes, which picked us up around 9 am for the 25 minutes drive to Callao. If you are visiting Lima, you absolutely MUST swim with the sea lions in Callao, it's an epic experience. The water is freezing cold so be prepared! The tour company will provide you with a wetsuit, but make sure to bring your own towel. We recommend also bringing a Go-Pro to take unforgettable photos and an extra change of clothing and a big, warm coat.
Once arriving in Callao, you'll first transfer to a small boat, which will transfer you to a slightly larger boat for a 30 minute, bumpy boat ride down to Palomino Islands, where the sea lions abound. The tour guide will offer complimentary sea sickness pills so make sure to take those if you feel that you are at all at risk of getting sick. On the way to the main island, the tour guide will give a guided history and tour of the other islands on the tour and point out all the many birds, including Peruvian penguins, along the way!
One you reach Palomino Islands, you'll be shocked to see that the entire island is covered with 5000 sea lions! One you jump into the water, the sea lions will approach out of curiosity. If you stick out your feet, they will bop them with their noses and dive and swim all around you. It's totally safe because the sea lions of Callao have no natural predators.
2. Go Shopping in San Isidro
San Isidro is to Peru what Paris is to France and New York is to USA. It is the fashion capital of the country. The best designers and their shops in all of Peru are located here, in one great place for your shopping pleasure.
Go along any street in this bustling city, and you are sure to find a shop that sells great fashion or even Peruvian handmade crafts. You will find the most refined styles in fashion here-designers like Jessica Butrich, Claudia Jimenez and others have set up their own boutiques in this stylish city.
3. Visit Huaca Huallamarca
This is a landmark also known as the Huaca Pan de Azucar, and it is an archaeological site right in the San Isidro district of Lima. The museum is one large room filled with cool artifacts and history for you to take in during your visit.
This beautiful historical site served many purposes during its life-first it was a temple, then it was a cemetery, and finally, a human settlement. It is truly a unique and beautiful site in the well-developed city of San Isidro and serves as a nice change of pace to the bustling city life you will encounter.
4. Eat at Central - the #6 Restaurant in the World
If you've booked your plane tickets with Spirit, you've likely saved a chunk of money on your plane tickets, so you can invest your money towards eating at Central, one of the top restaurants in the world! It's actually pretty affordable for a Michelin starred restaurant.
Eating here would mean you would be eating at one of the top restaurants in the entire world. In 2018, it was ranked as No. 6 and was even featured in the show “Chef’s Table.”
Therefore, it must be done so as to enjoy the fine cuisine prepared by visionary Virgilio Martinez Veliz. He incorporates indigenous Peruvian food into the menu of the restaurant, giving it a wonderful native flair.
The restaurant has received numerous awards, including one for best sommelier. It is a young establishment, having been in existence since only 2008, and the artistry and taste of the food speaks for itself.
An open kitchen grants you the ability to watch the staff at work. The restaurant does an amazing job of bringing in little-known Peruvian foods for all to enjoy, including Arapaima, arracacha, and kushuru, among several others. The dish ceviche is a great start for those looking for a suggestion.
Today we'll be spending the entire day exploring Lima!
5. Visit the Plaza de Armas
To come to Plaza de Armas would be to come to the birthplace of the gorgeous city of Lima. It is a central tourist attraction with several great photo opportunities, and a great chance to learn about the history of Peru. You can take in the fabulous architecture of the Government Palace, which is the headquarters for the Peruvian President. V
isits are by arrangement only, but the changing of the guard ceremony is certainly worth a watch. The colonial-style balconies are a sight to behold at the Casa del Oidor, so be sure to bring a camera for that. Another lovely point is the Archbishop’s Palace, where the Archbishop of Lima lives out his days.
Lima Cathedral is another beautifully constructed house of worship, sitting right next to the Archbishop’s Palace. Go in the evening for a beautiful photo. It makes a great place to visit for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
6. Visit the Catacombs/San Francisco Convent
A city tour simply would not be complete without visiting the catacombs of San Francisco. The basement of this convent reveals the bones of wealthy Catholics who believe they had paid for an expensive grave plot. In those days cemeteries were built underneath the churches.
The Catacombs could not expand, and bodies were then left to decompose until they were just a pile of bones. Now they are arranged into neat piles and circular patterns so that they appeal to visitors.
7. Visit the Larco Museum
This museum is open from the hours of 9 am to 10 pm each and every day. You will enjoy the museum in its 18th century royal mansion that is built over an ancient pyramid from the 7th century. You will also enjoy the beautifully curated gardens that surround the structure.
Upon entering, you will be surrounded by Peruvian cultural and historical artifacts. This museum is home to the finest gold and jewels you will ever see, all from ancient Peru. The museum itself was founded over 75 years ago in 1926 and has the most renowned collection of Peruvian archaeological objects in the entire world.It is a fine look into the world of the Incas, whose culture was and still is rich and interesting. You can see thousands of years of history from the ancient days to the current, while simultaneously enjoying lovely gardens and even Peruvian food at the museum’s cafe.
8. Take a Food Tour of Lima
If you are a foodie, you simply must take a food tour so that you can enjoy the greatest food that Lima, Peru has to offer. The Lima Gourmet Company takes you to exclusive restaurants all through the trendiest areas of Lima.
You will first visit a coffee shop, where you can enjoy the finest in coffee and espresso beverages, and then head to a fruit tasting at a nearby market. After enjoying a delicious, sweet serving of fruit, go for the savory at the pico tasting, which is your next spot.
You will also create a meal of your own while you follow chef and make your own ceviche before sitting down and eating lunch while looking out over the pre-Incan ruins. You get the best food you can imagine, and even the chance to learn about the city and its layout as you cruise around to the stops. It is well-worth it at $135 US.You will then be let into the gardens where you can enjoy the sights of even more lovely flora and fauna. Not many people come here as you might think, so it is likely you will have the place to yourself. Enjoy some quiet meditation in nature, as well as the lovely birds that populate the area. Be sure to come hungry, as you will want more than one loaf. One comes at the price of 5 soles, and is so delightfully sweet, it seems more like a cake than a bread. You will certainly know where to go as a result of the brightly-colored road signs leading the way to the unique and special town.
9am Fly to Cusco
10am Arrive in Cusco, drive to Ollantaytambo (2 hours)
12pm Arrive in Ollantaytambo
Since you were able to save money on your Spirit Flight, you now have #MoreGo, and more of a budget to spend on plane tickets from Lima to Cusco and back. Tickets range from about $50-$100 each way, obviously the earlier that you book the tickets the better.
You'll return back to Cusco by the end of the trip but we planned this itinerary to head to Ollantaytambo first so you can start to get used to the high altitudes. The elevation in Ollantaytambo is 9,160 ft. I did get altitude sickness so make sure to take the necessary preparations for your trip.
9. Eat a Pachamancha Lunch
The El Alburque offers a delicious Pachamancha Lunch experience, so make sure to check it out while you are in Ollantaytambo. A pachamanca is a traditional dish which is cooked with hot stones in an oven built into the ground. It's one of the oldest culinary traditions in the world and its one of a kind experience. The meal is $44 a person and features beef, chicken, and cuy and a selection of fresh vegetables from the El Alburgue farm. The lunches take place daily at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm.
You'll also get a tour of the El Alburgue farm, featuring chickens, turkeys, rabbits, ducks, and more. Also included in the price are tastings at the Coffee Roastery on site and the Cañazo (sugar cane liquor) distillery.
10. Walk around Old Town Ollataytambo
After lunch, spend several hours strolling around Old Town Ollataytambo. There is lots to see, plenty of cheap souvenir shopping (make sure to be ready to bargain!) There are little tuk tuks that you can hire for quick rides, so cheap, the equivalent of 50 cents for a ride. In the middle of old town, it's pretty touristy, with tons of restaurants to choose from. Closer to the train station are super legit Peruvian places to eat, the places are obvious to spot, there are no tourists there! They are great if you are looking for a completely authentic food experience.
11. Eat Dinner at Chuncho
For a great sampling of the authentic flavors or Ollantaytambo, the Urubamba Valley, and the Cusco region, make sure to stop by for dinner at Chuncho. The restaurant features updated, traditional Peruvian native dishes and only local ingredients that are in season. There is a set menu that you are order from, which is totally recommended and make sure to also get the amazing alcohol pairing that comes with the meal.
On Day Four, you're going to start your journey to Machu Picchu! There are many options to visit Machu Picchu, including the traditional 4-day Inca Trail, or taking a bus to Machu Picchu (to save money!) Since you've saved money flying with Spirit, you can splurge on taking the train over to Machu Picchu. Around 9am, you'll depart from your hotel in Ollataytambo to take the Peru Rail over to Agua Calientes and hang out for the day. The train ride is about 45 minutes long.
10am arrive in Agua Calientes. Check into your Agua Calientes hotel.
If you're taking the train to Machu Picchu, you'll need to disembark the train at the Agua Calientes Station. Check in to your hotel and hang out in this sleepy tourist town for a day before heading out to walk Machu Picchu the next morning
12. Walk Around Agua Calientes
You'll probably be hungry after getting settled in and there are plenty of places to eat in Agua Calientes. There is plenty of souvenir shopping to be done. I would recommend eating near the entrance to the Hot Springs. Lots of the tourist traps in this area are overpriced but there are many restaurants offering set menus near the Hot Springs which include an appetizer, main course, dessert, and pisco sour for about $10 USD.
13. Visit the Agua Calientes Hot Springs
Located less than one kilometer from the city of Machu Picchu, you can find the most soothing thermal baths you ever knew. These thermo-medicinal waters serve as a place to rest and recuperate, where you can relax and gaze at the lovely mountains nearby.
You can simply follow the river that goes down the middle of Machu Picchu and in less than 15 minutes, you will have reached the baths. The water is of a volcanic origin, and comes from the underground before splashing onto rocks at very high temps. It is important to note that the water is yellow, but rest assured it is not dirty.
This is a result of the sulfur that colors the water. Temps range from 38-46 degrees Celsius, so it is certainly nice and hot! Visitors enjoy the healing properties of the water and the baths are open from 5am to 8pm each day.
14. Visit the Agua Calientes in Waterfall
The Mandor Waterfalls are truly a sight to behold. Getting there is nice and easy, too-there are no hills to climb, making it perfect for any mobility-challenged travelers. It is easy to find, and one only needs to talk to the people at the tourist information office to get the best information on the attraction.
You will enjoy the sight of lovely flowers as you hike up, and you will enjoy lovely birds and even a few coffee plants here and there. The fee to enter is 10 soles for non-Peruvians, and 5 soles for Peruvians.
15. Visit Machu Picchu
It's Machu Picchu day! We opted to go for the later visit at around 6am. If you want to see the sunrise, you'll need to wake up around 4am to make it. Once you are out of the hotel, you'll wait in line for the buses to Machu Picchu, than board for a scenic 20 minute ride up to the top. Once in, you'll be treated to one of the most magical destinations in the world. You aren't really able to visit Machu Picchu without a tour guide, so make sure to book a tour guide in advance. We opted to go with Inkyani Peru Tours, totally recommended!
We thought that llamas would be everywhere in Machu Picchu, but there are only really 20 who live in the area. Secret tip, bring some fruit, otherwise the llamas tend to walk away from you if you are trying to score the ultimate photo op!
After you are done hiking Machu Picchu, around noon or so, grab lunch, and head back to Ollataytambo on the train around 3PM
16. Go Glamping with the Misminay Tribe
After arriving at the Ollataytambo Station around 4PM, get picking up by Qhipiskay Glamping to head for a 30 minute drive up to the mountains to spend the night glamping with the Misminay drive! Its super high altitude so take any necessary preparations. Maria and Mario will host you on a gorgeous glamping tent on their property. Upon arrival, chef Mario will cook you a delicious two-course dinner, featuring local Peruvian favorites. It'll be cold at night, but settle into your super fluffy bed, the hot water bottle that is provided, and heater and you'll be super toasty all night long!
In the morning, you'll awake to the donkeys braying and be treated to a hot breakfast meal. Get ready to start the day as it'll be filled with fun local activities! Prices are $108 per night for two, including dinner and breakfast.
17. Hike to the Moray Viewpoint
Get your cardio going on a hike up to the gorgeous Moray viewpoint! This viewpoint is little known to tourists and absolutely great for some stunning photos for your Peru collection.
18. Visit the Maras Salt Mines
Still used today for salt, the Maras Salt Mines are an essential part of any Peru trip. These salt pans were dug into the mountainside. Here, shallow pools of salt form and then evaporate, which leaves behind crystallized salt. It is even more amazing that this practice has been in place for over 500 years!
The salt pans are man-made, but the salt itself comes the waters of a subterranean spring. This spring is mixed with salt from the deposits of salt lakes of the prehistoric era. Historians do believe that the salt pans were constructed by the Wari people, who preceded the Incas.
It is the Incas, however, who expanded the salt pans further up the side of the mountain. Today, local families own and operate a pan, scraping the salt from the earth surfaces it collects upon. It is then collected and sold in local shops and communities.
19. Take a Cooking Class
Mario from the Misminay tribe spent many years as a cooking on the 4-Day Inca trail to Machu Picchu! Take a cooking class with him and he'll teach you all about the local veggies grown by their tribe and he'll show you a step by step demonstration on how to cook a full meal of traditional Andean Peruvian favorites. Jump in and help cook the meal also!
Overnight in Glamping
9am Head to Cusco
11am Arrive to Cusco, check in to hotel
20. Day Trip to Rainbow Mountain
Today you'll spend the day at the spectacular and scenic rainbow mountain. It's a day trip from Cusco and you can visit on your own instead of signing up for a tour. You can hire a taxi as a private driver to pick you up from Cusco and drive to Rainbow Mountain ($75-100 USD). It'll take you about 2-3 hours to get there depending on traffic, so for this schedule, you'll depart around 11:30 am and arrive at Rainbow Mountain at about 2PM. It'll take about 2 hours to climb all the way up and about 1 hour to climb down.
Depart for Cusco 5PM
Arrive in Cusco for the Night 7:30PM, Overnight in Cusco
On your last day in Cusco, spend the day visiting some must-visit sites.
21. Visit Oropesa - The Bakery Town
If you love bread, and you want to taste the best bread you ever have, you must try the loaves that come out of Oropesa. It is a town of families that devote their lives to making bread the ancient way, using the methods of their ancestors. The bread takes hours to make.
Dough is prepared before it reaches the ovens for about three hours before baking. The bread itself is made from ancient, healthy grains like quinoa, barley, wheat and has a hint of sweetness from the honey used in production.
22. Visit Saylla - the Town of Fried Pork
In Saylla, you will find the most delightful and delicious fried pork you will ever eat. The pork is prepared by getting chopped into chunks. It is then salted and put into large frying pans with a little water. The water then boils out and begins to fry inside its own fat.
When complete, the texture is crunchy on the outside and tender inside, making for a delightful texture when eating. You will then enjoy your meat with fried potatoes, big maize kernels, and a salad of red onions, lime, and mint. It is truly a fresh taste that perfectly blends tons of different flavors. It is best enjoyed with a nice, cold beer.
There are over 20 restaurants in Saylla devoted to providing the best Chicharronerias a person could experience. You can get there by taking a combi bus to Saylla, Huasao or Oropesa from the city of Cusco.
23. Visit Tipon, The Town of Guinea Pigs
Cuy is one of Peru’s favorite foods, and it is fried guinea pig. It is national delicacy, and it is what the town of Tipon is known for. Citizens consider it the capital of cuy! Although you may be accustomed to eating chicken, fish and beef, do give guinea pig a try. The meat is tender, and the skin is crispy.
If you enjoy eating rabbit or chicken, chances are you will enjoy cuy. The streets are narrow and filled with vendors offering the delicacy. Do not be afraid-if you eat meat, just gather your courage and give it a try.
If you are not comfortable eating the cuy, you might consider paying a visit to the ruins of Tipon, where you can enjoy some beautiful Inca ruins while walking around outdoors. Many of the ruins focus on water which is harnessed from a natural spring. You can hire a guide or go by yourself.
6pm return to Lima
Overall, this is our ideal, recommended 8 day itinerary to Peru. It allows you to see all of the best of Lima and the Cusco area, including Machu Picchu. Pairing this trip with Spirit Airlines flights really allows us to have #MOREGO and plenty of money left over to experience Peru to the fullest!
Comment below and share your favorite sights in Peru!
Spirit Airlines provided our flights but as always all opinions are my own