The Ultimate Itinerary: 9 Days in Peru
My first time exploring Peru was during a 9 hour layover in Lima back in January 2018. I really didn't know what to expect during my visit, but my short time there turned out to be so magical, I knew I would be back sooner than later. In celebration of my recent transition into a new career, I spent 9 adventurous and fulfilling days in Peru. I traveled in June and split my journey between Lima, Ollantaytambo, and Cusco, where we got to experience some of Peru's jaw-dropping landscapes, ranging from a desert oasis to mystical mountain ranges.
Here's my 9-day Peru itinerary, including a budget that I'm sure will leave you with an unforgettable experience in the country.
Day 1 (Lima):
Pisco Sour & Ceviche Cooking Class with the Lima Gourmet Company
Cooking Class Cost- $40
The class was held at a cevicheria at noon. Cevicherias have a rustic and open look modeled after traditional fisherman houses. Before the creation of refrigeration, Peruvians only ate ceviche during the day because fresh fish would go bad before nightfall. Till this day, the tradition remains, as the majority of Peruvians still eat ceviche only during the afternoon, and several of Lima’s traditional cevicherias only operate during lunch hours.
We started our class working in pairs to make pisco sour. If you never had a pisco sour, try one ASAP -- it's basically the equivalent of having happiness in your mouth. The cocktail consists of egg whites, simple syrup, lemon juice, and of course, pisco! Pisco is a brandy. There are eight kinds of grapes that make pisco. The grape varieties are classified in two ways: aromatic piscos, primarily used to clear the palate before a meal and to help with digestion after a meal, and non-aromatic piscos, which are used to make the pisco sour. Beware, one pisco sour has an alcohol volume of 42%! Unless you have an alcohol tolerance of steel, expect to be turnt after 1-1.5 drinks. There were also a variety of interesting ingredients available to infuse our cocktails with, but we decided to keep ours classic.
After making our drinks and getting a little toasty, we made ceviche. Prior to this, I've never had ceviche, so I didn't know what to expect. Ceviche is made from fresh raw fish cooked in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with chili peppers. We cooked the ceviche family-style alongside the chef. I was surprisingly proud of the way my ceviche turned out, and it tasted similar to the chef's!
Lima Gourmet's cooking class was the perfect way to start our Peruvian adventure. The staff was really fun and we got to keep our aprons as a souvenir. The next time I return to Lima, I want to check out their award-winning food tour!
Day 2 (Paracas & Huachachina):
Day Trip from Lima to Ballistas Islands & Huachachina with Peru Hop
Day Trip Cost- $119
Our day started at 6am with a 4-hour bus ride to the Ballistas Islands, a group of rocky islands that are off the Pacific coast near the town of Paracas. Ballistas Islands are known for their abundant wildlife. They have over 1,500 species of marine birds and a lot sea lions. We explored the islands for two hours by speedboat. Despite it being a gloomy day, I was enamored by the beautiful caves, arches, and soaring birds.
If you get motion sickness (something I'm notorious for), be sure to take a Dramamine. I was fine while the boat was in motion, but when we stopped to animal watch, I got really nauseous and felt like I was going to throw up (thankfully I didn't). I took one Dramamine pill, but the next time I'm on a speedboat tour, I will take two.
After the boatride, we quickly grabbed a snack and got on the bus for an hour bus ride to Huachachina, the only desert oasis in South America. While there, we went on a dune-buggy ride and sandboarding! We ate a light lunch at a restaurant called Desert Nights, which has the best view of Huachachina from its rooftop. I chose a salad because I didn't want to be too full before the bumpy dune-buggy ride.
The buggy ride was so exhilirating and fun, but I could have cut the time spent in the buggy in half. The ride was bumpier than I imagined, and I'm pretty sure all my organs shifted during this experience! But, I'm definitely glad I did it and they did a good job of breaking up the ride with rest stops/do it for the 'gram picture time.
If you have any health conditions that can be worsen with extreme motion, I would avoid doing the buggy ride. You will be shaken to your core!
Sandboarding was also a lot of fun. It was my first time trying and I was quite nervous after seeing how steep the first slope was. Our driver, David, gave us chalk to apply to our boards and gave us detailed instructions on how to properly ride the board. As first time sandboarders, we were advised to start on our tummies. We went down three slopes; after going down the steep one first, the other two were a piece of cake. The experience ended with us watching a lovely sunset.
Day 3 (Ollantaytambo):
Travel Day: Cusco to Ollantaytambo via Chinchero
Private Driver Cost- $33.58
Day 3 was a travel day where we flew from Lima to Cusco and then took a taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. Our two hour drive was broken up with a stop in Chinchero. Chinchero is a quaint town where its residents are very much routed in traditional Incan culture. We stopped by the Chinchero Weaving Factory and Demonstration Center to learn about how locals extract, clean, and dye alpaca fur and about the traditional weaving process. Once you're in Peru, you will immediately notice the beautiful colorful textiles and alpaca clothing everywhere! It was nice to gain insight into how these masterpieces are produced and to support the women by purchasing some items.
Day 4 (Aguas Caliente):
Day Trip from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Total Cost- $232.52
Machu Picchu Ticket- $48.52
Peru Rail Train Tickets (roundtrip)- $150
Bus from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu (round trip)- $24
Tour Guide- $10
Day 4 was a dream come true! We went to visit the iconic Incan city, Machu Picchu. It is known as the Lost City of the Incas because it was never discovered by the Spainards. Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. There is a lot that goes into arranging a trip to Machu Picchu. Stay tuned for a detailed guide focused specifically on how to make it happen.
Day 5 (Cusco):
Travel Day: Ollantaytambo to Cusco via Sacred Valley of the Incas
Total Cost- $110.56
Sacred Valley Admission- $21
Animal Sanctuary Admission- $4.56
Private Driver- $85
On Day 5, we hired a driver/tour guide and traveled from Ollantaytambo to Cusco via the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Sacred Valley was once the epicenter of the Inca Empire. This area includes the Andean mountains and the valley around the Urubamaba River. On our way back to Cusco, we stopped by the Ollantaytambo and Pisac Ruins. At the Ollantaytambo ruins, we purchased the 2-day tourist ticket that allows you to explore Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Chinchero, & Moray. I would have loved to visit all four of the sites included in our ticket, but we prioritized listening to our bodies and sleeping in a little later. There is also a 10-day tourist pass that allows you to explore Pisac, Chinchero, Moray, Saqsayhuaman, Tambomachay, Q’engo and Ollantaytambo and other museums and historical sites. These passes can be purchased with cash only at the entrances of any of these attractions.
The Ollantaytambo ruins is a must-see. Its large stone terraces are remarkable and the site is well-preserved. At the top of the ruins, we saw the most incredible view of the town.
Pisac has stunning large agricultural terraces surrounded by steep mountain drops. Within the stone crevices of the mountains, there is an ancient cemetery where about 3,000 Inca are believed to be buried. The best part about our visit to Pisac was the lack of tourists there! I was shocked but happy to have to experience without the typical huge peak season crowds. Also, I loved learning about how the Incas were able to create sustainable agricultural systems by working with nature and not against it.
The ruins are best explored with a local guide who can provide history and context. If you are pressed on time, you could potentially see Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Chinchero, & Moray if you start at 7am when the sites open. You can easily spend at least 2-3 hours in each place. If you have more flexibility in your schedule, I recommend focusing on 2 ruins per day and spending more time at each.
After Pisac, we went to visit the Santuario Animal de Ccochahuasi. It is a family-owned and operated animal sanctuary that rescues animals that have been abused or brought into the black market. They also protect endangered species.
Day 6 (Cusco):
Peru vs. Denmark World Cup Match & Spa Day
Massage Cost- $12
On Day 6, we had planned to see more ruins, but that was before we realized that Peru was playing against Denmark in the World Cup! They haven't been in the World Cup in over 30 years, so this was a huge deal. So we bought some jerseys and watched the game in Plaza De Armas. The crowd was massive and the energy was insane. Even though Peru didn't win, it was still a special moment to be a part of! After the game, we got a well-needed full body and hot stone massage near Plaza De Armas. It was one of the best massages I've had in a while.
Day 7 (Vinicunca):
Day Trip from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain with Wayna Peru Expeditions
Total Cost- $42.74
Rainbow Mountain Tour- $27.48
Rainbow Mountain Admission- $3.05
Horse rental one-way- $12.21
Day 8 (Lima):
Temple of the Sun Visit in Cusco & Travel to Lima
Admission Cost- $3.04
Before traveling back to Lima we went to visit the Temple of the Sun, Coricancha, which is said to be the most important temple in the Incan Empire. Not only did the temple honor the sun god, but it was constructed in alignment with stellar and planetary motion, which permitted for a precise stream of golden sunlight to beam through its windows every solstice for the Andean New Year.
The first thing I asked myself when I walked in the Temple of the Sun was, why does it look like a Catholic Church? That's because the Spanish colonists destroyed the temple and used its foundations to build the Church of Santo Domingo. We were one of the first people to arrive at the temple, and there weren't any tour guides available at that time. There also weren't many posted signs or placards to provide detailed information about the site. So we started talking to Mario, a gardener at the temple, who happily provided us with some interesting information about the temple's history.
Day 9 (Lima):
Travel Day- Lima to NYC
On day 9, we went back to NYC from Lima feeling super content! With its charm and mystery, Peru left a big impression on our hearts. Here's the total per person cost (based on a group of 3) for a 9-Day Trip to Peru:
Roundtrip flight from NYC to Lima in June- $679
Roundtrip flight from Lima to Cusco in June- $68
Private Driver from Cusco to Ollantaytambo- $11.19
Private Driver/ Guide from Ollantaytambo to Cusco via Sacred Valley- $28
Food & Drink- ~$150
Pisco Sour & Ceviche Cooking Class- $40
Day trip to Paracas & Huachachina from Lima- $119
Machu Picchu- $232.52
Sacred Valley Admission- $21
Animal Sanctuary Admission- $4.56
1-hour Full Body Massage- $12
Rainbow Mountain- $42.74
Temple of the Sun: $3.04
Have you ever been to Peru? Let me know about your experience in the comment box below!
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Lima Gourmet Company, Peru Hop, and Wayna Peru Expeditions, but all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you click a link and purchase something. I don’t promote items I don’t like, therefore if I am recommending a product/service it is because I truly like it and believe my readers will benefit from it.