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Itinerary: Peru in 12 days

November 2018

Day 1: Cusco to Aguas Calientes

  • Wake up bright and early (welcome to your holidays – I’m talking like 5am) and head to a food cart to pick up a quinoa, kiwicha, or maca drink for breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch
  • Get your pre-organised ride (typically from the Plaza de Armas) to Hidroeléctrica
  • Arrive midday at Hidroeléctrica and have a bite to eat
  • Set off on the hike to Aguas Calientes (around 2-3 hours at a calm pace admiring the surroundings – can also get the train but we were on a student budget)
  • Check in to your accommodation and grab dinner at one of the many restaurants around town (go easy on the mojitos as you’re hiking a lot tomorrow)

Day 2: Machu Picchu

  • Wake up even earlier than yesterday (4:30am) to hike up to the entrance of the Machu Picchu site (you can also get a bus, but again, we were on student budgets)
  • Find a tour guide at the entrance of the site (many around forming groups) and be one of the first groups to head in at 6am
  • Walk around the site and go up the mountain/Huaynu Picchu at the allocated time if you have a ticket
  • Tip: We had an early ticket for the mountain and our guide said it wasn’t worth it as there are a lot of steps and the cloud and fog was too thick to see anything at that time. We decided not to go and saw the site at the best time (fog/cloud dispersion was amazing). To be honest there is also enough walking around to do around the site that the mountain would be too much, especially considering we hiked to Aguas Calientes and to the site entrance! If you get tickets though, don’t get morning tickets!
  • Get your tour guide to negotiate with the guards to let you overstay your allotted 4 hours at the site (ours offered to do this!)
  • Walk around, get your fill, and get your passport stamped with a cool Machu Picchu stand before heading back to Aguas Calientes for dinner

Day 3: Cocalmayo hot springs

  • Have breakfast and head off on the hike back to the Hidroeléctrica train station
  • Get in a taxi and head to the Cocalmayo springs (there will be loads of taxis near the station)
  • Enjoy a day of relaxation following all your hikes enjoying the baths of varying temperatures (there is a restaurant and changing facilities)
  • Get a taxi to Santa Teresa and have a bite to eat at a local restaurant before getting a taxi to Santa Maria
  • At Santa Maria find a van making the trip back to Cusco (more likely to get road transport here than in Santa Teresa but beware you will have to wait until the van is full)

Day 4: Sacred Valley

  • Join your tour bus in the morning from Cusco and set off for a packed day of seeing all the top sites in the Sacred Valley
  • Start of with the Moray archaeological site
  • Next head off to the Maras salt mines
  • Following this, roam around the Ollantaytambo ruins and markets
  • Finish off the day at the Pisac site (our group took so long that the site closed shortly after we got there unfortunately)
  • Tip: try space out your exploration of the Valley over more than one day if you have the time to ensure you have enough time at each site

Day 5: Rainbow Mountain

  • Set off (you guessed it) early on your tour van towards the Rainbow Mountain from Cusco
  • Stop at a restaurant pit stop to have some Coca tea before heading to the mountain to begin your hike
  • Hike all the way up to the peak taking your time so as to not suffer any altitude sickness (have plenty of layers at it is very cold at the peak)
  • Enjoy the view, take your photos, then head down again at an equally calm pace as the way down is where my altitude sickness hit!
  • Return to the restaurant for a well deserved lunch and then it is back on the van to Cusco
  • Dinner and drinks in any of the cool spots around Cusco

Day 6: Cusco

  • Finally enjoy a bit more of a lie in before you take the chance to roam around the streets of Cusco before you leave the beautiful city
  • Visit the various markets, including San Pedro, in order to find beautiful textiles, Peruvian chocolate, and much more
  • Get lost in the San Blas area of the city which has lots of cool quirky stores
  • Try and eat and drink away from the Plaza de Armas to avoid the tourist trap and get a more local feel
  • Get an overnight bus to Arequipa to avoid paying a night’s accommodation

Day 7: Arequipa

  • Drop all your stuff off at your accommodation and head off to explore the streets of Arequipa
  • Visit the colourful Monastery of Santa Catalina
  • Take a browse around the Santuarios Andinos museum where the mummy of ‘Juanita’ is housed
  • Roam around the markets (most things are cheaper in Cusco so hopefully you have bought anything you wante to there)
  • Enjoy sunset with a drink at a bar overlooking the Plaza de Armas
  • Organise a day trip to Colca canyon for tomorrow at one of the tour agencies in the Plaza de Armas

Day 9: Colca canyon

  • Head off early in the morning with your tour to the Colca canyon, stopping off at various viewpoints for stunning views
  • Spend some time at the Mirador Cruz del Cóndor to catch the Andean condor in all its glory
  • Enjoy last night in Arequipa with a nice dinner, some drinks, and some cheeky picarones for dessert
  • Get on another overnight bus this time headed for Lima

Day 11: Lima

  • Drop your stuff off at your accommodation and prepare to roam around the city
  • Do a free walking tour to get a good sense of the city and its history
  • Peruse the huge Mercado Central (central market)
  • Walk to the Magic Water Circuit and watch the water show
  • Tip: roam around the park following the show as there is more to see than just the main event
  • Dinner at a typical polleria

Day 12: Barranco & Miraflores

  • Get to Barranco by tram from central Lima
  • Roam around Barranco and take in the beautiful street art
  • Head down to the beach to relax with a beer as you prepare to say goodbye to Peru
  • Have a ceviche lunch in Barranco
  • Walk along the coast to Miraflores to check out the fancy part of Lima (full of expats)

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