Please help me fill in my Peru itinerary

Old Jan 19th, 2019, 06:58 PM
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Please help me fill in my Peru itinerary

My two teenage kids are each spending three weeks in Peru this summer on service programs run by an agency. They will spend all their time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley working in schools and health clinics, but on the weekends the agency takes them to Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, and a few other destinations. My wife and I are planning to meet them in Cusco at the end of their programs, which end a day apart from each other, after which we will head to Iquitos to spend a few days in the Peruvian Amazon. Airfare is already booked to coordinate with my work schedule and their programs, so I have to plan several days for my wife and I in and around the Cusco region. Of course we want to see MP and Rainbow Mountain. We are in our late 40s and in good shape, active and adventurous, but we are not into roughing it - my wife likes 4-star or better accommodations.

Here is what I have planned, with the inflexible parts in bold, and my current ideas for the rest in regular text:

Saturday: Arrive Cusco (via Bogota) about 10:30 am. I was thinking we would spend the day and night in Cusco and head to the Sacred Valley for a tour on Sunday. But perhaps it would be a better use of time and for acclimation purposes to head straight to the SV and spend the night there. If so, what town would be the best base for a tour of the SV on Sunday?
Sunday: Tour of SV, either leaving from Cusco or from a town in SV if we went directly there upon arrival Saturday. Evening train to Aguas Calientes at Inkaterra Machu Picchu
Monday: Early morning tour of MP with hike up Montana MP, spend evening at Inkaterra.
Tuesday: Explore Inkaterra grounds in morning, train to Cusco in afternoon. Open to ideas here - is more time in SV warranted, or better to get to Cusco early to explore? Plan to spend night in Cusco.
Wednesday: Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco. Have to pick up our daughter in Cusco between 3 and 9 pm.
Thursday: Humantay Lake hike from Cusco maybe? Our daughter will have been in Cusco for 3 weeks so will want to get out and do something different. Have to pick up our son in Cusco between 3 and 9 pm.
Friday: Morning flight to Iquitos, transfer to Treehouse Lodge
Saturday: Treehouse Lodge
Sunday: Treehouse Lodge, evening flight back home via Lima.

What do folks think about this itinerary, and how would you fill it in? I would appreciate comments, suggestions and feedback from the Fodorites who have been there recently.

Also, we like booking the excursions with tour companies so things are well organized and we have good guides. We prefer very small groups or private tours though, as I am a landscape photographer and like to have some freedom for photography without being rushed along where possible. Any suggestions for tour companies? I have read good things about Exploor Peru but they have not been responsive to my emails or answered their phone when I called with WhatsApp, and that makes me very nervous.

Thanks in advance!
bendivertx is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2019, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by bendivertx View Post
Open to ideas here - is more time in SV warranted, or better to get to Cusco early to explore?
It depends on what you want to see and experience! There's certainly more you could explore in either.

If you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my (long) trip report:
Praise for Peru A report of my solo month in this amazing country

kja is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2019, 12:05 AM
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Firstly, that is not a lot of time to explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley but clearly, you have to work with what time you have. I think there are one or two ways in which you could make your itinerary a little more "efficient".

Acclimatisation - you would be better leaving Cusco until the end when you are better acclimatised to the altitude. Stay your first night (it is the sleeping altitude that is the key issue) in either Ollantaytambo or Urumbamba. Ollantaytambo is a very pretty Inca village with stunning ruins. The accomodation has improved radically in recent year but is still mainly small hotels and Guesthouses. The 4/5* hotels are to be found in Urumbamba. It is a working town with little of interest for the tourist. Most of the trains to MP leave from MP.

The best way to see the main sights of teh Sacred Valley are en route to or from Ollantaytambo / Cusco. A taxi tour stopping at the main sites like Chinchero, Moray, Maras takes 4-6 hours and is easily arranged. Personally, I would do it on the way back when not tired/jet lagged but I suppose it depends on your schedule.

There is a lot of detail and photos on that SV tour on our blog @ - one day in te Sacred Valley. Also some stuff on Ollantaytambo .

"Of course we want to see MP and Rainbow Mountain" MP I get entirely, but Rainbow Mountain, maybe not. You don’t have a huge amount of time and clearly only you can prioritise what interests you. However, I would not short change Cusco as there is a huge amount see actually in the city and close by. The stunning ruins of Sacsayhuaman are just outside the town. Pisac is a bus or taxi ride away and there is a great hike from Tambo Machay back to Cusco via Sacsayhuaman. ( also covered in our blog) .

The other issue with Rainbow Mountain is that I believe it it’s a quite high elevations - 4000 to 5000 metres. That is going to be tough with only afew days acclimatisation. Levels of fitness have little to do with how one copes with altitude. It takes time to adjust. One way of coping though is to ask your GP re a prescription for Diamox which can help a lot.

Some info on altitude issues @

In addition to kja’s report above, also have a look at the excellent TR Marigross is in the process of writing about her recent trip @ Picture Perfect Peru: 4 Weeks of Slow(ish) Travel

Can’t help with tour operators as we never use them but this is a useful resource for operators in Cusco Cusco Tour Operators

There also used to be a guy called David Choque who used to run private tours in and around Cusco and the SV and who use to get great feedback. Not sure if he is still operating but you could try googling him.
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2019, 04:38 PM
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crellston obviously meant most trains to MP leave from Ollantaytambo.

I am less a fan of Cusco than some. It seems much of what people like about Cusco is actually not in the city center, but some of the ruins outside. Even so I'd spend a full day in Cusco itself, but at the end of your stay.

Prefer the Sacred Valley towns..such as Ollantaytambo or even Pisac, and it's easier to sleep at those lower elevations. Yes accommodation and tourism have exploded since crellston and I first visited. The upside is more options for where to eat and sleep..downside is, more people and locals being displaced from housing in Ollanta.

Since you are arriving on a Saturday, I would spend that night in Pisac. Then you can visit the Sunday market there (walking or moto taxi back to hotel) and if you feel okay, go to the top of the ruins. I stayed a bit outside of town (about halfway between town and the ruins). On Sundays it easy to get taxi up to the top of the ruins from town..there were tourist police around to help. For me the Sunday market is less about buying souvenirs (which you can do in multiple tourist markets ) and more about the Sunday local's market and the Quechua Mass and procession of villagers. In fact I found the morning leading up to the market more interesting..watching people from the villages coming into town to set up or shop, or buy an ice cream. If you are fit enough and not affected by the altitude on that first day you can also walk down into town from the ruins..but be sure to rest up on the Saturday when you first arrive for a few hours.

Agree that I'd have a look at trip reports from kja and marigross..both recent.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 21st, 2019 at 04:56 PM.
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Old Jan 24th, 2019, 11:35 AM
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Just wanted to chime in to say that the restaurants at the Inkaterra are uniformly excellent- we had one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner (as well as staying there - we loved it).

In Ollantaytambo, we stayed at El Albuergue and also loved it and it’s restaurant ( they grow their own vegetables in a garden behind the building)

We visited Cusco, Pisac and Ollanta before heading to Aguas Calientes, and liked all of them!
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